Track To Check Out: Song For Knotty (Banoffee Pies)
Supporters: Tom Ravenscroft, Thris Tian, Alexander Nut
This week, we take a look at the latest effort from MoodFix favourite and recent guest, Ishmael. The Ishmael Ensemble’s debut release dropped on Thursday via Banoffee Pies Records - an exciting, Bristol based label that definitely deserves your attention. It’s a beautiful, contemporary jazz exploration, all dedicated in loving memory of Josh Edward Pearce. Throughout the 4 tracks of Songs For Knotty, Pete Cunningham lets the DAW take a back seat and live instrumentation take centre stage.
Highlights include; a stellar vocal performance from Holly Wellington on the laidback grooves and arpeggiated accompaniment of Bembe. Then, of course, there is that moment on Song For Knotty. When the bass begins to growl and then the drums shuffle into place after a patient, atmospheric build. It’s a sublime moment in a gorgeous and triumphant track that, like the rest of the record, treads a fine line between reflection and urgency. During that track in particular the Ensemble sounds like a more expansive version of Gogo Penguin, which in my eyes is no mean feat. The album’s opener, Kito’s Theme, is very reminiscent of early noughties Four Tet. You Could Ruin My Day anyone? However complete with a pretty hefty sounding xylophone, it sets you up perfectly for a luscious, diverse and subtle 22 minutes of music.
The UK jazz scene is looking mouth-wateringly healthy at the moment and it’s increasingly hard to make a record that stands out. It is therefore increasingly easy for reviewers to make unhelpful, throwaway comparisons. Songs For Knotty is definitely no Elaenia or Black Focus but then again was it ever meant to be? In an interview with Thris Tian on Worldwide FM, Cunningham described the record as "the most honest thing I’ve ever done." It is this honesty that really holds the listener as the Ishmael Ensemble carve out their own patient, mature and heartfelt niche. It is by no means perfect, there are moments that feel a little unpolished. However, from complex soundscapes to sumptuous saxophone lines, Songs For Knotty has a lot going for it. It’s an assured start from a collective that I’m intrigued to hear more from.
Ishmael Ensemble - Song For Knotty
Keep your eyes on the prize, you might be seeing Ishmael (and his ensemble) return to brum sometime soon...