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Portico Quartet

Memory Streams

    Portico Quartet return with Memory Streams, their fifth studio album and one that continues the journey that first started with 2008's Mercury nominated debut Knee Deep in the North Sea. It's a creative path that has seen the band embrace new technology and explore ambient and electronic influences alongside minimalism, jazz and beyond. It is a process that has encouraged change. Each album has seen the band expand its palate or explore new trajectories. From the gentle charm of their breakthrough's inimitable mix of jazz, world and minimalist influences, to the tight-knit brilliance of Isla, the electronic infused eponymous Portico Quartet to 2016's return Art in the Age of Automation (the band's most electronic statement to date) they have never been a band to look backwards. Each record has been its own world, its own statement and offered its own meaning. It's the mark of a band that has always both stood apart from any scene and been prepared to challenge its self and find new things to say and to push the limits of what they could do.

    It is an approach that has encouraged the band to plough their own furrow. Drummer Duncan Bellamy notes that "For better or worse I think we have always been quite an isolated band. Perhaps that comes from never feeling like we really belonged to or fit in to a scene when we first started making music" While for saxophonist Jack Wyllie " I feel more connected to other musicians these days and those relationships influence the sound we have in some way. But I wouldn't say we feel a part of scene, it still feels quite out on its own, which is cool, because it helps the music feel unique"?

    The band's new album, Memory Streams is part of the same continuum and yet, as the name hints, there is a sense here of a remembering, shards of past influences, hints of ideas re-forged. For Wyllie, Memory Streams "feels in some ways about the identity of the band, about the records we've made before, and the memory of them" whereas for Bellamy it suggests "a torrent of imagery, accessing and reliving archived memories, perhaps not even your own".

    Sonically, the album embraces the classic Portico Quartet sound pallet of drums, saxophone, bass and Hang- Drums, but nonetheless the sound has modulated, become more modern, whilst still channelling the beauty and mystery which has always marked the very best of Portico Quartet's music. It's the sound of a band at ease with its self who after a dozen years of recording and playing together are able to simultaneously explore and embrace their own identity.

    Memory Streams also marks a return to a more predominantly band orientated sound than AITAOA and its partner release, the mini-album Untitled. Bellamy says "we wanted to create something that had texture, fibre and space to it. Something that felt vivid, real and alive". During recording the band re-amped a lot of the sounds on the record, a process which lends a sense of depth and spaciousness to the sound. Wyllie adds, "We tried to reduce the pallet to what really identified the band and also as a way to help us write - it's not easy if you have unlimited possibilities. But it was also was an interesting challenge as it was about writing something new, that felt like a development, whilst also drawing on the past".

    Memory Streams opens with With, Beside, Against which has an expansive, quietly unfolding quality that makes it the perfect album opener and was also one of the first tracks they wrote for the album. Signals is a creeping, mysterious track that captures the spirit of the record. It's hypnotic, rolling quality builds throughout with shades of a classic Portico Quartet tune but with a 'tougher' edge. The outstanding Gradient is a more produced piece. Mixing lo-fi and beautifully recorded acoustic parts together it grows from a simple, repeated Hang-Drum motif, outwards into a searching hypnotic crescendo. Ways of Seeing is a synthesis of minimalism and more dancefloor-oriented rhythms. A lone pulse from the drum machine cuts through a haze of chiming, swirling Hang-Drums and pads built from shards of looped saxophone. Memory Palace is a distant echo of the motif from Gradient, and is a bare, slow piano piece shrouded in a mist of saxophone noise. The punchy Offset is all about motion and tension and Bellamy's drums pound in response. Dissident Gardens is an intricate, hypnotic track in 3 parts. Almost prog like in rhythm but has a strong minimalist element to it with Farfisa organs as the repetitive top lines. Double Helix begins with string swells, it stops and jolts as if someone is switching TV channels before locking into a deep groove. The beautifully sparse, emotional heft of Immediately Visible sits in a powerful lineage of Portico Quartet tracks such as Line, Rubidium and Beyond Dialogue. It was largely improvised in the studio and offers the perfect ending point for the album with its sense of journey and deep well of feeling. An album that locates their music in an age where we have unfettered access to a vast and ever expanding archive of imagery and ideas, Memory Streams both embraces and builds on Portico Quartet's own unique music and legacy and locates their music firmly in the present.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Portico Quartet return with their stunning album Memory Streams, which is an sublime Neo-Classical, and prominently Jazz album. It blossoms into soaring highs of emotion and delves into the past and focusing on memories, the band wanted to create something ‘vivid, real and alive’ and I think they’ve just done that with this timeless album. And, I might be the only one here but when track as beautiful as ‘Immediately Visible’ makes your heart ache a bit, that’s when you know the song is going to stay with you for some time.

    FORMAT INFORMATION

    Dinked Edition LP Info: Translucent blue vinyl LP.
    Poster of album artwork designed by Duncan Bellamy.
    Spot gloss cover.
    Limited to 500 copies.

    A collection of unreleased meditative, spiritual jazz from the Gondwana archives in a 3xLP vinyl set

    Complete info to follow

    Hania Rani is a pianist, composer and musician who splits her life between Warsaw, where she makes her home, and Berlin where she studied and often works. She has written for strings, piano, voice and electronics and has collaborated with the likes of Christian Löffler, Dobrawa Czocher and Hior Chronik, and released an album with her Polish group tęskno last year. She has performed at some of the most prestigious venues in Europe - from the National Philharmony in Warsaw, to Funkhaus in Berlin, to The Roundhouse in London (where she made her debut at the Gondwana 10thanniversary festival last October) and at festivals such as Open'er, Scope Festival and Eurosonic. Her compositions for solo piano were born out of a fascination with the piano as an instrument, and her desire to interpret its sound and harmonic possibilities in their entirety and in her own way. "I think I am the same as an artist and as a person. Music is my way of communication and I see the art, the music as a whole thing, with no borders, divisions, or even genres."

    Esja is her debut solo album and for Rani it is her first, real, personal statement as an artist. "No hiding behind the "collaborations" or "projects" anymore. For the very first time, finally - just me, as I am".

    Recorded at Rani's apartment in Warsaw (the piano room has a beautiful reverb and the space has become part art studio and part sound laboratory for Rani) and at her friend Bergur Þórisson'sstudio in Reykjavik, Esja is a series of beautiful melodic vignettes. Sensual, sensitive, rhythmic, atmospheric, free but harmonious, beguiling and hypnotic, collectively they project a sense of unlimited space and time.



    Almost a year to the day since the release of their acclaimed third album Shadow Work, Mammal Hands share a new EP entitled Becoming.

    Recorded from the same extensive studio sessions,Becoming is a seen as a brooding companion to third album Shadow Work, offering three new pieces self-produced by the trio. It opens with the bold title track Becoming, a hugely dynamic and diverse composition that begins with a rhythmical piano and saxophone line, building gradually with textural layers and flourishes before reaching a climatic end reminiscent of math-rock. It highlights the groups continued skill and playful ability to improvise and experiment with structure and mood.

    "Becoming has a lot of different influences in it. The opening section has a hip-hop inspired feel, the middle section breaks into a more minimalist/electronic theme before cutting to a heavier/gutturalfeel for the last sections"reveal the trio.

    Second track "Refuge" opens and closes with a calm and gentle melodic pattern led by the drums, evolving with subtle rhythmic saxophone lines before erupting into more explosive group playing, then returning to the melody and a place of calm. On tour it has often been the trio's favoured live opening piece.

    "This is a track we wrote together where we wanted to approach things in a slower, more harmony-driven way. We were trying to create an atmosphere where the listener is drawn in and then carried along with the movement of the piece. We felt that it provided a calm and gentle opening that we hoped would draw people into our world in a gentle way with something a bit mysterious and dark instead of a louder, more obvious opening statement"

    Closing the EP is track 'Shimmer', a dark and moody piece where the piano and drums explore dark cinematic scenes and textures. With around an hour left whilst recording at 80 Hertz in Manchester, the trio decided to put down some final takes and making a deliberate decision to play and record their instruments at low volume. The result is a concluding piece that features a hypnotic extended section of piano soloing with repeated rhythmic patterns and minimalist style passages.

    "Playing at such low volumes was a really nice way to bring out some of the more subtle colours of our sound"


    The minimal artwork created by Daniel Halsallfeatures three flying birds as a focal point which subtly encompasses the connection between Becoming and Shadow Work.


    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Mammal Hands have gifted us with this beautiful new three track EP. Distinctive and minimalist, 'Becoming' holds the type of tracks that make your heart feel heavy (in a good way), fans of Phil France and Gogo Penguin rejoice, this is beautiful.

    Caoilfhionn (pronounced Keelin) Rose is a singer, songwriter and producer from Manchester. Emerging from a diverse music scene, she ties together remnants of Manchester's musical past with its evolving present. She has collaborated with musicians from around the world and is perhaps best known for her work with Vini Reilly of Durutti Column: Collaborating on four songs on The Durutti Column - Chronicle LX:XL album. She grew up surrounded by music (dad loved jazz and mum was a massive folk fan) but it wasn't until her late teens that the muse took hold: "I've always been interested in music but I really started to get into it after a period of illness when I was 17. It was music that made me begin to feel like myself again. Listening to my iPod, everything felt new and exciting and yet vaguely familiar and nostalgic." A year or so later, during her recovery she started to write songs again on the piano and started performing in Manchester, graduating through open mic slots to her own shows.

    Caoilfhionn's music draws on a diverse range of influences from The Mummers, to Rachel Sermanni, Melody's Echo Chamber and Broadcast. She also professes to a love for beautiful, stripped back, piano based music, such as Dustin O'Halloran and Peter Broderick. Vini Reilly from The Durutti Column is also a big influence and inspiration. "We're friends now after collaborating a few years ago and I have become a big fan of his music. It is intricate and detailed but spontaneous and free." Another inspiration is her immediate environment. With Manchester's Fletcher Moss Park especially inspiring. And it was what led her to Gondwana Records, Matthew Halsall, when she heard his 2012 album Fletcher Moss Park. She reached out and shortly afterwards he went to see her perform at The Art of Tea Cafe in Didsbury Village. Blown away by the fragile beauty of her music he offered to produce a recording for his label.

    Awaken, is Caoilfhionn's debut album, co-produced with Matthew Halsall, guitarist Rich Williams and Matthew's brother Daniel Halsall (artistic director of Gondwana Records) she describes it as a deeply collaborative effort. Expansive, fragile and experimental it's a rich tapestry that draws on folk, psychedelia and subtle electronica influences. For Caoilfhionn it represents a busy mind, change, and an up and down life. "It is an honest and personal account, full of memories and mumblings to myself that I hope other people will relate to or at least understand". It's also a deeply collaborative album featuring songs developed with her band mates, Matthew Halsall and one song, Wild Anemones, even features her grandmother! And the title track of the album sums up the whole body of work. It's a positive song about looking outward, forwards and all around. It marks the beginning (like waking up) and feels like the starting point of a lot more music. "It was the song that pushed me and moved me out of my comfort zone. "Having played solo as a pianist for a couple of years, it inspired me to work with new sounds, musicians with a different approach to making music.

    Singer, pianist, writer, poet and creative being, Allysha Joy, is a key member of Melbourne collective, 30/70. Their growing success over the last two years has led her to further challenge her expression in a project of her own, pushing boundaries as a female keys player, poet, singer and producer. Whether performing solo on Fender Rhodes or accompanied by her band, Allysha's steady groove, husky vocal tone and unique style of writing emanates her own personal truth and illuminates a powerful feminine energy learning to be peaceful, giving and considerate of others.

    Allysha grew up listening to jazz, soul, hip hop and RnB. Her sound is dynamic and raw, real and complex. "As a performer I look to people that present their genuine self on stage, reaching for something beyond the present moment, beyond themselves, being a vessel for something greater. I always try to take the audience on a journey".And as a song-writer Allysha draws from her own experiences and the empathy she feels for the world and its inhabitants. "I write as a way to process the emotion that consumes me in day to day life, otherwise I'd explode".


    For Allysha, Acadie : Raw signifies a moment in time: "from beginning to completion of creating this music, it has been a chance to express a deeper, more personal side of self and to take full control of the vision and the music. This record has allowed me to dive deeply into my creative expression and is just the beginning". The album features members of 30/70, the collective born from the creative music scene in Melbourne: "I play both solo or with my 30/70 family, Henry Hicks, Ziggy Zeitgeist, Josh Kelly and Danika Smith. I feel super blessed to have met this crew, we've been playing together now for four years and for me this record is just another extension of the 30/70 collective, constantly unravelling and branching out".

    It is the heartfelt mix of love and power, of desire and wonder, anger and faith and hope for change that underpins Acadie : Raw and marks Allysha Joy out as a future star telling her tales and spreading her wings to bring the joys of life to us all.



    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: Brand new from the Gondwana label is Allysha Joy's Acadie: Raw, the album has a bold powerful presence and her style is refreshingly original, different to anything else out there right now. Her vocals are beautifully husky and you can feel the emotion weaved throughout the album. This is up there with the best jazz record of this year.

    Originally from West Yorkshire, but now resident in Manchester, composer, bassist and producer Phil France is probably best known as a key collaborator alongside Jason Swinscoe in the Cinematic Orchestra, where he co-wrote, arranged and produced on classic albums including Everyday, Man With The Movie Camera, Ma Fleur and also the triple award winning soundtrack for The Crimson Wing nature documentary. In 2013 France released his debut solo album, The Swimmer (GOND016), an emotive, epic record influenced by the great second wave of film composers including John Carpenter and Vangelis, as well as minimalist composers such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass

    Five years later, France presents the follow up, the enigmatically titled, Circle, which again represents a very personal journey for the artist. For France the album is an extension of work he began on The Swimmer. A process he has described as: " blocks of sound containing intricate minimal arpeggiated patterns and electronic textures that develop and shift in subtle, original and melodic ways. The trancelike quality, mood and electronic character of title track Circle led France to think of the circular patterns which eventually became a potent concept for the album. "Ideas and fashions repeat themselves in cycles. Events are said to travel 'full circle' and this is important to me because it represents my own recent personal and musical journey after 15 years touring as bassist and composer with The Cinematic Orchestra. I consider circles to be a strong symbol of unity, strength and inclusiveness and ultimately I've aspired to make something beautiful with those values at its heart".

    The album opens with the title track, Circle, built on a minimal looped pattern with melodic embellishment and shifting additional harmonic textures. Bells was developed from the arpeggiator and offers a nod to the melodicism and atmosphere of French electronic music. The Jackal features an idea originally developed for The Crimson Wing score but which finally bears fruit here. Cathedrals features an improvised intro, Philip Glass inspired organ and vocal textures inspired by the work of Colin Stetson. Finally, the album ends with a reprise of Circle this time featuring layered pianos. But it isn't the conclusion of the journey, for France: "The Circle is infinite - During the process of making this record, I have been constantly reminded that nothing ever stays the same and that all is in constant flux. The challenge for me is always to respond positively, be aware of and seize the opportunity for progression constant change provides" And it is that sense of movement and flow, but also calm and beauty that permeates Circle and make it such a worthy successor to The Swimmer.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: Beautifully ethereal electronic pulses, rippling arpeggios and skittering machinated percussion are woven through organic drums and reverbed Balearic basslines. Stunningly emotive but with enough momentum to find a home in the front room or in the crepuscular haze on a sandy beach. Stunning.

    Matthew Halsall first met the La-based, spiritual jazz vocal legend, Dwight Trible(Kamasi Washington, Pharoah Sanders and Horace Tapscott) at the Joy of Jazz Festival in South Africa back in 2015, when a chance encounter backstage led to Trible sitting in with The Gondwana Orchestra for an impromptu reading of the classic Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas anthem 'The Creator Has A Master Plan'. In 2017 they released the deep, soulful Inspirationsalbum together (GOND017) but inspired by their first meeting Matt arranged some classic Pharoah tunes for Dwight to revisit. This then is The Gondwana Orchestra featuring Dwight Trible, Colors: a 4 track vinyl and digital only EP featuring brilliant new versions of Colors,The Creator Has a Master Plan, Love is Everywhereand You've Got to Have Freedomand featuring the Gondwana Orchestra with pianist Taz Modi, bassist Gavin Barras, drummer Jon Scott, harpist Rachel Gladwin and Matt himself on trumpet.

    Packed in a distinctive bright orange Gondwana Records sleeve this is the second in a collectors series of spiritual jazz limited-edition EPs set for release in 2018 as part of Gondwana Records' 10th anniversary.



    STAFF COMMENTS

    Millie says: A beauty from The Gondwana Orchestra, let the jazzy piano notes sweep over you as this twelve is one to sit back and relax to. Soulful harmonies and featuring Dwight Trible on each track is a joy to listen to. Don’t let this record slip you by.

    Portico Quartet

    Untitled (AITAOA #2)

      Portico Quartet has always been an impossible band to pin down. Sending out echoes of jazz, electronica, ambient music and minimalism, the group have created their own singular sound.And while their new music mixes dense layers and textures with electronic and acoustic instruments the sound remains uniquely, recognisably their own.

      In 2017 they released their fourth studio album in a decade, Art in the Age of Automation, on Gondwana Records. Released to a chorus of acclaim, the album marked a triumphant return for the Quartet after a brief hiatus as the three-piece, Portico, and marked a welcome return to the stage for the foursome with sold-out shows across Europe including the Roundhouse, London earlier this year.

      Untitled (AITAOA #2) was largely recorded at the same sessions as Art in the Age of Automation at Fish Factory Studios in London and Portico Quartet's own studio in East London. Like it's predecessor, the album was mixed at Voxton in Berlin. It is intended as a companion piece to last year's AITAOA. But works equally as well as a stand-alone album and explores similar areas of enigmatic, widescreen minimalism alongside the more hard-hitting sounds that have become a notable part of their live shows. There is no lessening of quality here, album opener, Double Space, Index, View From A Satellite and Berlin were all originally slated for AITAOA, before being held back as the band's vision of that album came into sharper focus. The insistent groove of Unrest and cinematic beauty of Celestial Wife were enhanced with further recording sessions till the band felt they were complete. The artwork is by Duncan Bellamy for Veil Projects.


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