Mar 7 2018
It’s been raining here a bunch lately. Most days, by necessity, my reaction must be whatevs, because I’ve got stuff to do and places to go and other mundane phrases representing mundane tasks. But not this day. Today, I’m going to spend the day on my sofa, surrounded by cats, and just stare out the big windows of my home at a foggy, gloomy rainy day enveloping the quaint downtown skyline.
Here’s two albums that snap right into place with that kind of day. I listen to them plenty on other other occasions, too, but it wasn’t until today’s overcast skies and patter of raindrops against the window pane that their perfection for just such moment crystalized in my mind.
Phil France – The Swimmer
As part of the Cinematic Orchestra, Phil France has displayed a talent for manipulating the equation that binds a pretty melody with captivating imagery and the freedom to roam. He applied those same principles to his 2013 release The Swimmer (re-released by Gondwana Records in 2017), but where his Cinematic Orchestra produced music that captured the beauty of still life in a frozen moment, France’s solo project is the motion of road trips through the countryside. The warmth of string sections and blasts of furious percussion add some warmth and edge to all of the massive beauty, and, thankfully, gives it some personality that is occasionally a bit unhinged and not so predictable. The pulsing keyboards are like raindrops, and the string harmonies are a cloud front that ripples like the sea and fills the entire sky with infinitely different shades of grey. The music is moody and active, just like scene outside the window.
Your album personnel: Phil France (keyboards, synths, bass), Stuart McCallum (guitar), Richard Spaven (drums, percussion), Daniel Bridgewater-Hall (violin), Sernay Wu (cello), Vincent Helbers (drums), Susannah Simmons, Adam Robinson (violins), Naomi Koop (viola) and Patrick Carpenter, Phil Kay (production & effects).
Trigg & Gusset – Adagio for the Blue
There’s just a hint of space jazz on this 2015 recording by the duo Trigg & Gusset. Pianist Bart Knol and saxophonist Erik van Geer layer electronics and effects under, over and all through this laid-back session, and give peaceful music energetic undertones… like ripples disturbing the serenity of a lake’s surface just enough to add distinction and texture. They have a series of guests that add even more texture, with instruments like flamenco guitar, trumpet, double bass and electric guitar. The effect ranges anywhere from sparks flying to moonlight settling in for the night.
In more than a few ways, it reminds me of Galaxies Like Grains of Sand by Hampshire & Foat. It, too, possessed a vague space jazz sound and resilient tranquility, as if a soundtrack for astronauts watching shooting stars on a lazy day on Mars.
Your album personnel: Bart Knol (piano, Fender Rhodes, electric guitar, synths, beats, samples), Erik van Geer (tenor sax, bass sax, bass clarinet, flute) and guests: Dominique Bentvelsen (double bass), Midas Ghijsels (acoustic & flamenco guitars), Just Lavooij (double bass), Coen Hamelink (trumpet), Matthijs Blom (electric guitar).