05 Colin FisherReflections of the Invisible World
Colin Fisher
Halocline Trance HTRA017 (haloclinetrance.bandcamp.com)

Colin Fisher has been a dynamic and industrious part of the Canadian music community for 20 years. He is a multi-instrumentalist with remarkable facility on saxophone, guitar, drums, electronics and other musical objects. With Brandon Valdivia he formed Not the Wind, Not the Flag, fronts the Colin Fisher Quartet and has played in many other groups and produced solo projects like his Gardens of the Unknowing.

The new vinyl and digital-only release, Reflections of the Invisible World, is another solo project with Fisher playing guitar, saxophone and electronics. Each of the seven pieces creates its own sonic environment and the tone and architecture is determined by the structure of the electronic sounds. The guitar and saxophone performances waft amongst the walls and corridors of those sounds which are sometimes melodic, other times primarily rhythmic. Salient Charm begins with a pulsing rhythm which develops into wafting, ephemeral melodies where the saxophone is barely discernible as a colour. Double Image has a moody, noir vibe with some edgy background sounds, while Fisher’s tenor saxophone plays great jazzy longer tones with just a touch of vibrato and eventually works into some full-blown wailing. It could be an updated Blade Runner soundtrack, though more experimental than Hollywood usually ventures. The sounds and shapes in Fisher’s album drift between ambient and arresting with each “reflection” offering its unique glimpse of another “invisible” world.

06 Kind MindKind Mind
Josh Cole
Independent (kindmind.bandcamp.com/album/kind-mind)

Kind Mind is Josh Cole (bass), Karen Ng (alto saxophone) and Michael Davidson (vibraphone). Recorded live on January 4, 2020 at the Open Waters Festival in Halifax, the music wastes no time getting straight to the point. The opening track, Inside Voices, begins when you press play. There is no prolonged silence and no gradual introduction of each musical element. There is Cole alone for exactly a second, and then the ensemble takes off. 

One thing that stood out for me is how effectively space and subtlety are used throughout the duration of this project. Despite being a trio, there are long stretches where only one or two instruments can be heard simultaneously. Phrases often seem deliberately tentative, and exclamations sometimes evaporate into question marks. Part of this phenomenon comes from impeccable listening on the part of all three players. The sparsity seems even more intentional when you hear the end of each idea, as the musicians step aside, allowing the person behind them to take centre stage. Karen Ng, especially, proves to be a master of restraint, really only contributing texturally at many points, and her astonishing timing is really the adhesive that makes this recording so seamless. The group’s use of space allows for their improvisations to possess distinctive shape and structure, so that when Kind Mind goes full throttle the element of surprise is on their side.

07 Brandi Disterheft CoverSurfboard
Brandi Disterheft
Justin Time JTR 8626-2 (justin-time.com)

The theme of bassist/vocalist Brandi Disterheft’s fifth album as a leader, Surfboard, is ostensibly Brazilian jazz, but this writer finds the recording’s second underlying theme to be a love note to New York City. This could be a projection on my part, but hear me out, as it nonetheless provides an interesting lens through which to listen. Disterheft, special guest drummer Portinho, and pianist Klaus Mueller are all transplants to this “jazz mecca.” The move is a logical choice for many musicians, in this case Disterheft hailing from Canada, Mueller from Germany (via Asia and South America), and Portinho leaving Brazil in the 70s for the U.S. The second featured guest, Memphis born saxophone legend George Coleman, who made a name for himself playing with B.B. King, Ray Charles and later Miles Davis, is a veteran New York resident.  

Portinho, representing all things Brazil, and Coleman being an ambassador for the New York side of things, give Surfboard a sense of balance that allows it to contain 14 unique tracks without ever becoming monotonous. Its title work, an upbeat piece by Antonio Carlos Jobim, is balanced by an interlude to the rhapsodic Coup De Foudre, which continues the Brazilian theme and introduces Coleman’s playing. Coleman shines on the fourth track My Foolish Heart, which continues the theme of alternating straight-eighths numbers with swung ones. These alternating themes curate a unique album that’s “radio friendly” while maintaining its artistic integrity.

Listen to 'Surfboard' Now in the Listening Room

08 Larnell LewisRelive the Moment
Larnell Lewis
Independent LLM 002 (larnelllewismusic.com)

Born and raised here in Toronto, internationally famed drummer Larnell Lewis has released a scintillatingly snazzy new album of funk and neo-soul goodness that has the power to bring any listener right out of the day-to-day rut brought on by everything that’s going on in the world right now. Featuring legends such as fellow Snarky Puppy band members Mark Lettieri and Shaun Martin, as well as renowned names like Robi Botos and Rich Brown, the album has a star-studded lineup that carries Lewis’ compositions to new heights. The record acts as a “reimagining of six compositions from [his] debut album In The Moment,” in Lewis’ own words, with most pieces having updated drum tracks recorded and only one composition being completely new. 

Right off the bat, the first track, Rejoice, starts the listener off on a funk-filled journey with Andrew Stewart’s catchy bass line and Lettieri’s soulful guitar riffs taking us to a higher musical dimension. No Access takes a different turn, diving full force into modern jazz with soaring trumpet melodies courtesy of William Sperandei and Botos’ pianistic skills being brought clearly to the forefront throughout the fast-paced piece. Closing out the album is the aforementioned new composition, The Forgotten Ones, a piece that is essentially one long drum solo showcasing the drummer’s percussive talents and highlighting an Afro-Caribbean drum groove that serves as a fitting end to a stunning collection of compositions.

09 Jesse RyanBridges
Jesse Ryan
FWE Culture (jesseryanmuzik.com)

People call upon music for a multitude of reasons. Those reasons can take the form of motivation, social fulfillment, spirituality, intellectual stimulation and/or therapy. Trinidadian-born Toronto saxophonist Jesse Ryan’s debut recording as a leader can serve all of these purposes. As far as I’m concerned, music doesn’t get much more mood-enhancing than this. First and foremost, Ryan’s compositions are consistently melodious, meticulous and memorable. Perhaps too consistently, as singling out a highlight has proven to be a difficult undertaking. 

The music is never challenging per se, but Ryan shows an incredible range as a writer and evokes a variety of moods throughout. Each track is well thought out, and the amount of labour that went into the arranging is quite evident. The unison lines written for the rhythm section are a great touch, as they provide each passage with an extra layer of vitality. Overall, I find that the rhythm section is the main driving force behind what makes this music so mesmerizing. There are three guitarists on the record, each with distinct musical personalities that complement Ryan’s sound perfectly, in different ways. Vocalist Joanna Majoko also shines, especially her harmonizations on Zambian Offertory

Ryan’s debut features an incredible roster, showcases his ingenious approach to songwriting and is profoundly enjoyable. It is everything a debut should be.

10 David RestivoArancina
David Restivo Trio
Chronograph Records CR-082 (chronographrecords.com/releases/arancina)

Arancina is jazz pianist and composer David Restivo’s album about “meditations on home” and includes stops in Italy (Sicilian Suite), Nova Scotia (Raven’s Wing) and more metaphoric inspirations like Baby Steps (based loosely on Coltrane’s Giant Steps) and It’s You or No One (a standard which showcases his “bebop roots”). There are also two songs co-written with Fawn Fritzen (and featuring her exquisite vocals). Kintsugi and Bittersweet Goodbye originally appeared on Fritzen’s own release, How to Say Sorry and Other Lessons.

Arancina’s strengths include its originality, diversity of the works and the supportive musical family Restivo has collected to perform. Some highlights include Sicilian Suite which has four movements exemplifying different scenes inspired by travelling through that area: Train to Catania begins with a lilting and circular melody and works into some fast and nuanced keyboard gymnastics, as if the train is picking up speed. It then has a rest stop with a thoughtful bass solo from Jim Vivian before returning to the melody. Palermo Street Scenes does a great job of reflecting the busy bustle of an urban centre and begins and ends with invigorating drum solos from Alyssa Falk. 

Kintsugi – the Japanese word for repairing pottery – is a beautiful meditation which delicately and poetically extends that image to describe a failing relationship and hope for an artful rebuilding of love. Restivo balances a fine jazzy solo with an accompaniment that throws in some subtle pop licks; and Restivo even provides a nice harmony vocal part. Arancina is an Italian snack which can include different combinations of ingredients, so it is an apt metaphor for this compelling collection of music and musicians.

11 Allan GillilandDreaming: The Prague Sessions
Allan Gilliland
James Campbell; PJ Perry; Chris Andrew; Neil Swainson; Dave Laing; Prague FILMharmonic Orchestra; Raymond Baril
Bent River Records BRR-202001CD (allangilliland.com)

Approaching through-composed music with an improviser’s bent of mind can prove to be quite a daunting task, especially when composer and improvisers are separate entities. Allan Gilliland is, however, eminently qualified to make this work with first-hand knowledge of both aspects of the musical process. This he certainly does on Dreaming: The Prague Sessions, featuring a Canadian quintet and the Prague FILMharmonic Orchestra.

Dreaming of the Masters I and Dreaming of the Masters IV suggest that Gilliland is drawn to the heritage of jazz music from New Orleans Second Line to swing and the legendary idiom of bebop. But these compositions are much more than trace elements of historic African American music melded together with orchestral music. Gilliland also makes clever use of contrafacts in Dreaming I, for instance, and he also goes further in Dreaming IV by building into that composition some very challenging rhythmic variations. 

While Gilliland had access to an orchestra of conservatory-trained musicians adept at reading, he also landed in Prague with a highly literate Canadian jazz quintet comprising clarinetist James Campbell, saxophonist PJ Perry, pianist Chris Andrew, bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Dave Laing. Both quintet and orchestra seem made for each other. The result is thoughtful, melodic soloing bolstered by superb ensemble playing. A considerable degree of balance and integration of melody, harmony and rhythm, of composition and improvisation, of exploration, individuality and tradition are also impressively maintained throughout.

12 JCA OrchestraThe Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra – Live at the BPC
JCA Orchestra; String Theory Trio
JCA Recordings JCA1805 (jazzcomposersalliance.org)

Founded in 1985, the Jazz Composers Alliance (JCA) Orchestra feeds off the inspirational energy of its founder and director, Darrell Katz. However, over the years it has also played host to an impressive roster of (other) composers from Muhal Richard Abrams to Wayne Horvitz, thus earning itself an impressive reputation for growing and enhancing the art of orchestral jazz music.

This live recording from the Berklee Performance Center features repertoire that is an extraordinary testament to the lengths to which this collective will go to bring each contemporary large-ensemble work to life, while blurring boundaries between genres and challenging its musicians to interiorize music with a view to expressing what they play with idiomatic grace and power.

The performance is bookended by two compositions by Mimi Rabson: Romanople a mesmerizing and rhythmically challenging tale of the two cultures of Rome – Latin and Byzantine – and the rhapsodic Super Eyes – Private Heroes, which closes the set. Meanwhile, more magical moments come to life during each of the works in between; David Harris’ inspirational melding of jazz and the sounds of a gamelan orchestra on The Latest; Bob Pilkington’s The Sixth Snake that marks his 60th birthday, Japanese Kanreki-style; Harris’ mystical Orange, Yellow, Blue which pays tribute to composer and revolutionary conductor Butch Morris; and Katz’s reworking of his iconic composition A Wallflower in the Amazon, a remarkable musical setting of the late Paula Tatarunis’ poem, eloquently sung, aria-like, by Rebecca Shrimpton. A rather compelling album indeed.

13 Alexander HawkinsTogetherness Music For 16 Musicians
Alexander Hawkins
Intakt CD361 (intaktrec.ch)

A six-part work composed by British pianist Alexander Hawkins, Togetherness Music synthesizes multiple methodologies, from free improvisation to orchestral composition, with Aaron Holloway-Nahum conducting an ensemble that includes the string quintet Riot Ensemble, several improvising soloists of note and a further assortment of strings, winds, percussion and electronics. A distinguished improviser himself, Hawkins appreciates the distinct qualities of his soloists, sometimes matching complex, varied improvisations against clarifying structural elements.  

The opening movement, Indistinguishable from Magic, begins with one of Evan Parker’s spectacular soprano saxophone solos, combining circular breathing with multiphonics to suggest a flock of birds in a dome. He’s eventually joined by a cluster of electronics and strings that gradually ascend in pitch, creating tremendous tension. Sea No Shore foregrounds the varied timbres and attacks of percussionist Mark Sanders and trumpeter Percy Pursglove with a series of brief and melodic string figures that later reappear fully developed in Ensemble Equals Together. Hawkins wittily plays with expectations in Leaving the Classroom of a Beloved Teacher, setting his own kinetic piano improvisation against a wobbling “walking bass” with uneven rhythms and spontaneously determined pitches played by the Riot Ensemble with additional bass and cello. The composed materials of Ensemble Equals Together return in the concluding segment, layered with improvisations. 

Compositions melding diffuse methodologies are increasingly common, but Hawkins’ effort is a fully realized work, a celebration of possibilities by a musician versed in diverse musical dialects who is finding new ground in the mix.

14 Erwan KeravecGoebbels/Glass/Radigue
Erwan Keravec
Buda Musique cd 860368 (budamusique.com)

Having unshackled Breton bagpipes from its role in traditional music by creating settings for choreographers and dancers, improvising alongside free players and interpreting notated sounds,  Erwan Keravec takes the next step and commissions works for solo bagpipe from modern composers. This CD preserves his newest iterations as the French innovator premieres dedicated originals from German composer Heiner Goebbels (N°20/58); French composer Éliane Radigue (OCCAM OCEAN OCCAM XXVII); and recasts for bagpipes American composer Philip Glass’ piano continuum Two Pages.

Goebbels’ piece is the most challenging since it was recorded outdoors with Keravec’s stridently pitched drones and eerie chanter whistles sharing space with, and reacting to, aleatoric insertions of pouring rain and thunder claps. As focused bagpipe variations trill, the percussive external forces are solidly subsumed by Keravec’s shaking drone. Bagpipe buzzing is omnipresent on Radigue’s extended composition as well, since the initial crackling textures are soon replaced by a sturdy drone which undulates without pause, until a brief final transformation into a more distant dissident motif. Glass’ repetitive theme is craftily adapted to bagpipes with Keravec using the properties of the instrument’s airtight bag to continuously echo the note pattern. Eventually, by also emphasizing the bottom drone, he enlivens the initial theme with fiddle-like sweeps, adding kinetics to minimalism.

Creating a unique and compelling solo recital, the bagpiper confirms the 21st-century shibboleth that any instrument can actually perform any type of music.

15 Klaus TreuheitPrickly Tenacity Sublime Sensations; Serracapriola - Live
Klaus Treuheit Trio with Lou Grassi
Independent KPMP 2020 CDD (klaustreuheit.de)

The physical qualities of time – that indefinite, continuous progress of existence from past to future – seem ever-present in the conception and execution of the art of Klaus Treuheit. You hear it in the sound and silent spaces of his soundscapes, as the black dots of the page leap and gambol in linear and elliptical arcs, propelled forever forward. As a highly imaginative thinker, Treuheit utilizes form and space to innovatively develop musical architecture seemingly created in spectral dimensions. 

Sound also has a natural momentum in Treuheit’s world; dynamism seems to grow out of his atomic pianistic pulses. All of this is superbly reflected in the music of Prickly Tenacity/Sublime Sensations and Serracapriola - Live, a double album he shares with the deeply empathetic percussion-colourist Lou Grassi, who sounds as if he has a similar philosophical bent of mind. 

Treuheit is also supported on Prickly Tenacity/Sublime Sensations (the first of the two discs) by Georg Wissel who is known to be a master of sculpting compressed air by means of reeds and other devices. Grassi plays drums, cymbals and miscellaneous percussion on this trio disc. The repertoire here is split between the six movements constituting Prickly Tenacity, followed by four sections that form Sublime Sensations. A kind of invisible propulsive force shapes the massive architecture of the music. 

Grassi and Treuheit return to perform an extended, live duet in Serracapriola (disc two). This improvised musical dialogue, is created in the spur of the moment by two like-minded artists. Grassi bends and shapes time with sticks, mallets and brushes, alternately caressing the skins and stirring up moments of rumble and thunder on a myriad of drums and orchestral timpani, his phrases often punctuated by the sizzle and swishing of cymbals. Treuheit joins in the proceedings on an organ producing cascades of tumbling arpeggios, great wheezing, thumping chords and short stabbing gestures  which punctuate the music. Together, the musicians challenge us to listen, with wide-open ears, to music that references the past, but is rooted in the moment, while all the time charging relentlessly into the future. 

This is truly impactful and memorable music by Grassi and Treuheit (with Wissel’s contributions on disc one). It is an idiomatic musical palimpsest; a triumph of time created with uncommon musicality and delivered in performances of monolithic, yet superbly dynamic power.

Listen to 'Prickly Tenacity Sublime Sensations; Serracapriola: Live' Now in the Listening Room

16 MolecularCD002Molecular
James Brandon Lewis Quartet
Intakt CD 350 (intaktrec.ch)

With musical impulses directed towards both exploratory improvisation and the modern mainstream, tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis seems destined to be one of jazz’s defining musicians during the next decade. On Molecular, the Buffalo-born saxophonist’s 11 originals work within the standard quartet configuration of piano (Aruán Ortiz), bass (Brad Jones) and the percussion of his longtime associate Chad Taylor, following the double helix concept expressed in varied rhythms and harmonies.

More esoteric in theory than practice, frequent walking bass lines and drum backbeat keep the tunes ambulatory and chromatic, while only on one tune does a tinge of Ortiz’s Cuban background affect his comping. What’s more, Lewis’ reed excursions usually remain as flutter tongued sheets of sound. with smears and vibrations extending the melodies. Though many tunes flourish with a steady groove and recapped heads, the composer also displays his command of atmospheric and mercurial writing. In fact, An Anguish Departed is the most outside track, with Ortiz kinetically smashing bottom-pitched notes while swirling elevated tones, Jones projecting isolated buzzes, Taylor popping rebounds with Lewis shrieking split tones ricocheting from doits to scoops with plenty of echoes. More restrained in development, Helix also stands out since its powerful theme stretches far enough to allow for defining solo breaks from each quartet member.

Swinging, sensible and stropping, Molecular is one definition of high-quality contemporary jazz, showcasing a quartet of players whose careers should be followed from now on.

13 lunar album frontAyelet Rose Gottlieb – 13 Lunar Meditations: Summoning the Witches
Ayelet Rose Gottlieb; Jay Clayton; Choeur Luna; DB Boyko
Orchard of Pomegranites (ayelet.bandcamp.com/yum)

Jerusalem-born, Montreal-based composer and vocalist Ayelet Rose Gottlieb’s latest release is a landmark, female-centric project with breathtaking scope. Gottlieb approached over 20 women and girls from around the world, and asked them to contribute their poetry, with a loose theme of the moon as a female symbol. Co-producers Gottlieb and DB Boyko have also included an improvisational choir and the talents of acclaimed free-jazz vocalist/educator Jay Clayton. With poetic and musical contributions from nine different countries, this compelling project is an acoustic exploration focusing on the moon and our relationship to it. Gottlieb has said, “The moon speaks to the universal and to the intimate female presence.”

Boyko also serves as conductor here, and the double LP was expertly recorded by Padraig Buttner-Schnirer. The impressive musicians include Eylem Basaldi on Turkish violin, Aram Bajakian on guitar, Stéphane Diamantakiou on acoustic bass and Ivan Bamford on drums. The improvisational Choeur Luna is comprised of a number of guest voices in combination with the Joker Choir, Elements Choir and Choeur Maha. Of the 13 works, first up is Lotte and the Moon, with poetry by New Zealand’s Anna Smaill, in which Gottlieb and Clayton negotiate their entwined voices around quirky, soulful, exotic motifs and mesmerizing percussion work. A true highlight is Venus and the Moon, with poetry by Australia’s Bes Davies. A lilting melody, Gottlieb’s delightful vocal, a stirring bass solo by Diamantakiou and some sweet spoken words make this track highly memorable. 

Patience, with poetry by Turkey’s Sems-i Tebrizi, evokes visceral images of jinn moving through skeleton-like trees, while spirits and desires form out of mist and moonglow. Moon Over Gaza/Almost Summer/I Come From There, with poetry by Israelis and Palestinians, is a groovy, bop-ish, irresistible, three-movement piece, in which Clayton shines. The song cycle is punctuated by tasty guitar licks from Bajakian that eventually metastasize into a primal scream for mutual human respect and oneness.

Listen to 'Ayelet Rose Gottlieb – 13 Lunar Meditations: Summoning the Witches' Now in the Listening Room

02 A Muffled SnoreA Muffled Snore
Friendly Rich; David Sait; {An} EeL
Independent (friendlyrich.bandcamp.com/album/a-muffled-snore)

Three Ontario artists collaborate in this exciting COVID isolation-time project of 12 attention-grabbing, twisted, out of this world contemporary tracks.

This is strange, dreamy, dramatic and intriguing music. Friendly Rich speaks and sings ten tracks composed by musician David Sait to dadaist lyrics/texts by {An} EeL. Creepy opening track, The Dainty Dandies, features Rich’s resonant spoken text, Sait’s 12-string guzheng and closing sound effects, opening the sonic door to the subsequent tracks which also include piano, guitar and percussion. Grumpy vocals and tempo-setting, single-tone strings drive Dig. Eerie Higgily Piggily Rig answers my question of what COVID-19 sounds like with low-pitched words, taps and echo effects. Loud, disturbing Lick Your Eyeballs has such angry spoken words as “I wanna taste the dirt” reinforced by Sait’s held sonic sounds and effects. Dramatic closing track Take Time reinforces the previous tracks’ sounds with more clear spoken words, string vibrations, electronic sounds and tonal touches until the so memorable closing line “Will always love you.”

{An} EeL performs lyrics by Friendly Rich, set to music by Friendly Rich and Cheldon Paterson, on two tracks. Love the extremely avantgarde You Smelt It, We Dealt It with its delicious crunchy potato-chips-munching sound effects, low vocals and string twangs, heavy metal touches and short “flavourful” sung melodies.

As Sait wrote: “We all recorded alone in separate locations and corresponded online.” Their combined creative musical, performance and technological expertise make this a unique must listen!

03 Eliana CuevasEl Curruchá
Eliana Cuevas featuring Aquiles Báez
Alma Records (almarecords.com)

With her sixth release, luminous Toronto vocalist and composer, Eliana Cuevas, has crafted a celebration of Venezuelan music and culture – replete with fresh, creative, acoustic arrangements of much-loved Venezuelan popular songs. This song collection (from primarily the past 30 to 50 years) reflects traditional Venezuelan music as Cuevas experienced it on the radio, and in singing and playing with her family and friends growing up. A solitary voice and solo instrument duo is a bold choice – but a powerful one, and is a manifestation of the type of recording, instrumentation and content that Cuevas had envisioned. In an inspired pairing, Cuevas is joined by iconic, internationally respected Venezuelan guitarist, composer and national hero, Aquiles Báez.  

The title track has special meaning for Cuevas, in that her late father frequently grabbed his cuatro and launched into this tune at family gatherings. Written in 1928 by Juan Bautista Plaza, this folk song was written in the joropo tradition, and is presented here at a quicksilver pace with Cuevas and Báez flying through space-time. Cuevas’ breathtaking vocal skill takes the listener on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and intensity. Flor de Mayo is heartbreakingly beautiful and Caramba easily conveys its message of melancholy passion. Among the 13 delights here (well-produced by Jeremy Ledbetter), Báez has contributed one original tune, the delightful San Rafael (one of the most exciting tracks on the recording), and Cuevas contributed a fresh, more elemental version of her previously recorded composition, En un Pedacito de tu Corazón.

Other triumphs include Acidito, where Cuevas’ sumptuous, warm, pitch-perfect voice and stunning, sibilant Spanish connects with Báez’s sonorous and dynamic guitar work on every level. The musical, interpretive and artistic skill of Cuevas and Báez on this recording surpasses any written descriptives, and welcomes us “con un abrazo grande” to lavish in the full spectrum of the diverse musics of Venezuela.

Listen to 'El Curruchá' Now in the Listening Room

04 Sue SmithTonight We Sail
Sue Smith and The Potion Kings
Independent SS002 (suesmith.ca)

Singer and songwriter Sue Smith is an accomplished and multi-faceted artist based in Guelph, Ontario. Together with remarkable instrumentalists The Potion Kings, a collaboration of contrasts develops on Tonight We Sail, where her attractive, reserved vocal presentation receives fluent and sometimes even aggressive backing. For example, in the introspective If I Am Sleeping, masterful electric guitar work builds up the song through an increasingly fiery night world to daylight and renewal. Nine of the 11 songs are original. Musically they source familiar genres of blues, rock and pop, but here they are also adorned in striking clothes and evoke unusual time frames. Patient, spare lyrics are given plenty of time in their musical settings to reverberate in the listener’s mind.

On the opening track, Night Skies, images of nature gradually accumulate toward the refrain – “Night skies, come closer” – which binds the song together and reinforces its hypnotic feel. The images are archetypal and we can, without difficulty, place our own experiences around them. One of my favourite songs is You Come Calling, an affecting, spiritual track with searching lyrics given an extra edge by indistinct fuzz-tone support. The last two songs, Beloved, Scorned and Church of Beauty also seem oriented to a spiritual journey. It took a while, but I find the disc grows on me and look forward to more from Sue Smith and The Potion Kings: Jeff Bird, Kevin Breit, Randall Coryell and Howie Southwood. Highly recommended.

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