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Album reviews Album reviews with IAN SINCLAIR: February 12, 2024

A slick blend of jazz and hip-hop, reinvigorated Radiohead and unhurried icy duets: reviews of Foreverland, Wall Of Eyes and Touch Of Time

Keyon Harrold
Foreverland
(Concord Jazz)

★★★

FROM Stetsasonic to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, jazz and hip-hop have long had a symbiotic relationship. On Foreverland, his third studio album, trumpeter-composer Keyon Harrold does an impressive job of melding the two genres.

Having been a session musician for stars including Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna and Erykah Badu, Keyon is clearly very talented, and fans of Miles Davis and Terence Blanchard will find much to enjoy here.

Joined by pianist Robert Glasper and British singer Laura Mulva on opener Find Your Peace, the St Louis native delivers a dense, philosophical rap, while the hushed atmospherics and heavenly vocals of Pictures reminds me of Frank Ocean’s Blonde record.

The lonesome hornwork combined with beats and piano will do doubt find a big audience, though the highly produced set may be a little too slick for some.

The Smile
Wall Of Eyes
(XL)

★★★★

THE second album from The Smile begins in a surprising way — with some bossa nova-ish acoustic guitar. It’s a red herring, of course — Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood (still taking time off from Radiohead) are masters of creating a sense of alienation and dread. 

Joined once again by Tom Skinner on drums, Wall Of Eyes feels a little more expansive, looser than the group’s 2022 debut A Light for Attracting Attention.

There’s a lot going on. Under Our Pillows and the second half of Read The Room include some funky guitar noodling from Greenwood, while Bending Hectic is an eight-minute tour de force about a car accident in the Italian mountains that starts slow and quiet before bursting into flames.

Were Radiohead beginning to sound a little tired? If so, Yorke and Greenwood sound suitably reinvigorated here. 

Arve Henriksen and Harmen Fraanje
Touch Of Time
(ECM)

★★★★

WHAT a pleasure this album is — the first from Arve Henriksen and Harmen Fraanje working as a duo.

Having met at ECM’s 50th anniversary celebration, Norwegian trumpeter Henriksen and Dutch pianist Fraanje recorded the instrumental jazz set at the Auditorio Stelio Molo in Lugano, Switzerland, at the start of last year.

Fraanje’s work is understated and subtle, with the whole record epitomising the quiet, minimalist music the German label is renowned for. What makes it distinctive is Henriksen’s signature playing, in which he fashions a muted flute-like sound unlike any other trumpet player I can think of. 

For me there is a certain icy feel to proceedings, though others may zero in on the contemplative and unhurried melodies the two players conjure up (Henriksen also contributes some electronic effects, which only add to the overall ethereal atmosphere).

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