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New Music: May 2024 - Curated by Sharon O'Connell

Sharon O’Connell selects four standout albums to listen to this month including Jacken Elswyth, Jimi Tenor & more

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Jacken Elswyth

At Fargrounds

Jacken Elswyth has grown a distinctive solo profile through her banjo playing, which takes an experimental approach to traditional UK folk techniques and focuses on the instrument’s drone qualities. She’s also a member of the boundary-pushing Shovel Dance Collective.

Her third solo album, At Fargrounds, features eight reworkings of historic songs plus four live improvisations, with guest contributions from Kate Gathercole (on fiddle and harmonium) and Mark Waters (double bass).

The album brims with soul and beauty, injecting new meanings into old structures and the creation of unfixed new forms. Highlights include the hypnotic finger-picking and drone interplay of the bluegrass-toned ‘Lost Gander’, the courtly ‘Sussex Waltz’ (which dates from the 18th century) and the irresistibly keening swells of ‘A Fisherman’s Song For Attracting Seals/Full Rigged Ship’. Of the live improvisations, ‘Who Remembers’ is the most startling, with its almost cacophonous combination of sawing, plinking and scraping. The closing ‘Coffin Maker’ is the set’s triumph: a spare, beautifully judged conversation between banjo, upright bass and fiddle that suggests Dirty Three recording for ECM.

Out now.

Label: Wrong Speed

Jimi Tenor

Is There Love In Outer Space?

Finnish singer, composer and musician Jimi Tenor (real name Lassi Lehto) is known for his dedication to the groove. He uses the saxophone, flute and keyboards to conjure a retro-futurist ambience, cast along jazz-funk and soul lines and steeped in a kind of yearning. 

Tenor has worked on numerous collaborations over the decades, in addition to solo projects. His latest album features backing from the Timmion studio’s house band, Cold Diamond & Mink, whose ’70s aesthetic ranges from beachified to lo-fi intergalactic and spy-flick languorous. 

The title track opening sets the astral scene with curlicues of lazily twanging guitar, thick banks of gushing, sci-fi synths, Tenor’s gently meandering sax and his falsetto musing on galaxies beyond our own. The two-part epic ‘Gaia Sunset’ offers a different kind of trippy, with Tenor repeatedly murmuring “burning – and dying” while heavy wah-wah and reverbed synth combine to suggest a Thai-pop ode to the goddess of life. ‘Laputa’ is a sunny daydream of an instrumental with delicate vocables at its close, whilst final track ‘What Are You Doing?’ presents a radical switch in mood, priming listeners for dancefloor action via a blend of Afrobeat, funk and R&B.

Released May 31st.

Label: Timmion

Yaya Bey

Ten Fold

It’s puzzling that Brooklyn singer and songwriter Hadaiyah Bey isn’t yet a bona fide star. She made her debut in 2016 with a mostly acoustic set inspired by the writings of Audre Lorde, before moving into personal expression and developing her own captivating take on neo-soul and future R&B a style she consolidated in 2022’s fantastic Remember Your North Star

Ten Fold builds on this to deliver even greater emotional impact. Here, producers including Corey Fonville and Jay Daniel add progressive jazz, house and mutant funk to an alluringly washed-out palette. 

Across 16 short tracks, Bey zeroes in on love in all its facets, demonstrating a laser-like focus and featherlight touch. The dreamily swinging ‘Chrysanthemums’ reflects on her love for her art, and the fulfilling of potential, while other tracks focus on love for those she’s lost (her father died the year before the album’s recording). In ‘Carl Thomas Sliding Down The Wall’, she reflects on allowing access to her heart following past pain. Highlights include ‘Chasing The Bus’, whose vibes-dappled sensuality belies its concern with being taken for granted, whether romantically or professionally and ‘I Love You Frankie Beverly’, a languid, jazz-piano hymn to life’s daily life struggles.

Out now.

Label: Big Dada

Group Listening


Stephen Black has been making plaintive yet uplifting alt-pop for around 20 years, drawing on the pathos of everyday life under the moniker Sweet Baboo. Throughout the last decade, he has collaborated regularly with Paul Jones, an acclaimed jazz pianist, orchestral arranger and composer. Together, Jones and Black have released two collections of ambient works rearranged for clarinet and piano, but Walks is their first co-created set of original compositions.

As before, the pair are concerned more with the poetry of interior/fictional worlds than environmental actuality, however, this theme is approached quite differently for Walks. This time, they trawled through their archives of voice notes, field recordings and home demos, then worked up song ideas which were traded and built upon – Black on clarinet and wind synthesizer, Jones on electric and digital pianos and synths. 

The influence of US leftfield saxophonist Sam Gendel and Japanese ambient/new age music from the ’80s is evident, but Walks sees the duo venture into pastoral and dreamily psychedelic landscapes of their own imagining. Standouts include the elegant, quietly bustling ‘New Brighton’ and epic closer ‘Welcome To Denge’, with its pellucid piano peals and drifts of divinely woozy synth.   

Out now.

Label: PRAH

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