WHAT YOU EARS SAY & WHAT THE COVER LOOKS LIKE
WHAT WE SAY
Wind down the week with Awkward Corners & his decidedly lazy, exceedingly cultured classic chill out beats & Eastern evoking sounds given 2021 relevance, timeless quality and a deep fluid musicality by the languid spiritual jazz courtesy of some choice collaborators for Shapes Of Rhythm
WHAT THE RELEASE NOTES SAY
Amateur Dramatics is Awkward Corners AKA Chris Menist’s second LP in the space of a year.
In 2020 – a time when the global pandemic gave artists more time and space to think about their music – Chris took his collaborations and compositions to a different level. Having already collaborated remotely with Sarathy Korwar, as well as Kitty Whitelaw through Karthik from Flamingods’ Isolate/Create/Collaborate community, Chris turned his thoughts towards a new project.
Amateur Dramatics is influenced by the events of early 2021 and alludes to the general atmosphere of political life in the UK right now where we are chivvied along by people who seem woefully unqualified to be commanding authority. Musically, the LP builds on foundations of the meditative, devotional electronic aspects of previous LP Dislocation Songs but this time frames it more in a jazz context with significant collaborations with Collocutor and Maisha’s Tamar Osborn on four tracks. Vocals (from Kitty Whitelaw) feature on an Awkward Corners track for the first time, as well as double bass provided by David Leahy.The result is a thoughtful and deep listening 40 minute listening experience.
Opening track Paragraph One (after the rain) almost picks up from where Dislocations Songs left off by way of introduction. We’re re-associated with the bedrock of the Awkward Corners sound: 808, percussion & Illimba interact with a repetitive electric piano chord sequence.
Marshland Lullaby – marked as the second single from the LP, features the ethereal voice of Kitty Whitelaw. With a vocalising technique the lyrics build layer upon layer as they drift through the mix very much as the title suggests, as a lullaby. David Leahy provides a slow and hypnotic Double Bass rhythm, and a lolloping acoustic drum kit features, not often heard in Chris’ music. This track is the first hint that this is a much more ambitious and collaborative project to Dislocation Songs and works towards a slightly different palette of sounds.
Partial Recall brings back another Awkward Corners stable sound, that of the Pakistani/Japanese Shahi Baaja stringed instrument. Woozy synths swirl and swell in response to the rhythmic cycles. Small snippets of Shahi slip in and out of the composition and the overall feeling is of a peaceful vibration.
No Words is the LP’s first single and heralds the first collaboration with Tamar Osborn. With a rhythmic bed of Tamar’s Bass Clarinet and Chris’ electric piano, the space is there for Tamar to grab an Alto Sax and solo over the top. As we reach the centre of the composition, the Clarinet steps out of its loop and begins to engage with the Saxophone. This is one of the LP’s stand outs and really underlines the change from Dislocation Songs to a more collaborative, and detailed approach with deeper levels of instrumentation.
When There Are No Birds is the second collaboration with Tamar (on Tenor) this time seeing Chris take to the Piano. Inspired by a poem No Bird On My Bough by Poet Tess this is one of the LP’s most sparse tracks. We hear strings for the first time in an Awkward Corners composition as bowed Bass sounds add a real sense of melancholy and lament.
As we move to side two of the LP, Paragraph Two employs two instruments seldom heard in tandem, the Double Bass played again by David Leahy, and Chris on the buttons of his booming Roland 808. This again highlights the invention and freedom of the Awkward Corners sound. A cowbell taps out a guiding melody, whilst an Illimba playfully pops in and out of the composition.
Not Now Karen is led by handclaps drenched in space echo, this is another reflective piece with mellow keyboard sequences, soloing Illimbas whilst Chris takes to the Congas.
The wrly-titled Men Bearing Lanyards is the LP’s third single and sees Tamar Osborn and David Leahy collaborate again to create a composition that moves away from the repetitive rhythmic themes of parts of the LP. Tamar solos on Clarinet, again swinging the Tenor Sax in, almost duetting with herself.
Time To Clear Away Your Toys is the LP’s resolution and closer. Underpinned by two single piano chords, once again Tamar and David use that base to take flight with solos. As the LP drifts off, bells and Illimbas pepper the mix. Interestingly, the Illimbas are used as texture rather than in a melodic way.
Summed up, Amateur Dramatics is a thoughtful and thought-provoking series of remotely-composed collaborations. These are set in the context of Chris’ trademark electro-acoustic textures and tones but expanded on with Tamar’s instrumentation, taking the LP into Jazz territories.
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OUR MISSION STATEMENT GOES SOMETHING LIKE THIS
Lazy Days, Hazy Moments & Dancing to a Slower Groove