In a national crisis, overt nationalism is never the answer; it only ramps up racial tension.
This was too easy though.
John Zorn ft Pat Metheny: Mastema (preview)
From Tap: Book of Angels vol. 20, a whole album of Metheny playing Zorn (OMFG). Something about the groove and melodic lift of this tune is reminiscent of the late great Michael Brecker.
Last time I posted one of these I said I’d try start doing it weekly. A fortnight interval is like half-achieving that, which is better than nothing, right?
15 May, Assembly Hall, Islington
Given how short London Grammar’s gig list is, the crowd’s reaction to their emergence from the wings tells of their rapid projection to acclaim. A triptych of vertical projection screens stand behind, upon which (apt and never overbearing) montages of London scenery are VJ’d into live closeup feed. Prologued with that familiar pretty image of starlings congregating, and an alap of drones and vocal echoes, the mesmeric hit Hey Now is gradually revealed, eventually starting proper to the audience’s noisily expressed delight. The set runs through their brief but determined catalogue of songs, occasionally drifting into bluesier territory with songs like Flicker. The poignant Help is, after the opener, a spine-tingling highlight. My only quibble is that the soon-to-be-released Wasting My Younger Years should’ve been treated with similar unwavering tenderness: the addition of four-to-the-floor thud in its chorus detracts from its bare melodic sophistication and Reid’s singing.
Whilst most of their stylistic tics are distinctly precision-rock (most noticeably guitar-wise), London Grammar so far outdo The XX on at least one count: where the latter took their insistence upon understatement too far (arguably all the way to its wallpaper conclusion), there’s audible soulfulness to the newer trio’s performance. In particular, the range — both in pitch and timbre — of Reid’s lustre voice is the beating heart of their allure, her capability to escalate from soft throatiness to soaring lines with imperceptible transition an adhesive for the simple but attentive instrumental elements. They close with the hooky Metal & Dust (the literal flipside of the opener). There are raucous encore calls, not met supposedly for lack of material.
Perhaps crucially, there were times when the music transcended its setting: it’s so stadium-suitable that I momentarily forgot the hall’s sub-500 scale. That they’re already crowd-proven anthemic makes it a privilege to’ve seen them in as charmingly compact a venue as Assembly Hall. But on stage, there remains some polishing to do: a few issues with sound being muddied. Better clarity and spacing of timbre would go a long way to realising their fine songbook to its deserved standard. But it’s indiscernible exactly how much of this may be at the fault of in-house PA rather than the band. In any case, they’re solid operators for an outfit so obscenely young. The path to myriander arenas may well be paved at their feet. ★★★☆☆