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Album reviews Album reviews with IAN SINCLAIR: May 20, 2024

New releases from Jessica Pratt, Oisin Leech and Bill Frisell

Jessica Pratt
Here In The Pitch

(City Slang)
★★★★

 

 

 

JESSICA PRATT has previously been labelled as part of the Freak Folk movement. If that was ever true, her fourth record offers so much more. 

Coming five years since her last album, the US singer-songwriter says her new collection attempts to capture “big panoramic sounds that make you think of the ocean and California.” Opener Life Is sets the stage with its Phil Spectoresque intro and ’60s orchestral pop feel (Ryley Walker guests on guitar). Elsewhere Pratt’s distinctive vocals and the nocturnal ballads she sings brings to mind Weyes Blood, and Astrud Gilberto on the bossa nova-stylings of Get Your Head Out. 

With lyrics about being “out of luck, and out of time” there is a melancholic, slightly lost feel to proceedings. 

An enchanting set destined to end up in the best albums of the year lists.

 

Oisin Leech
Cold Sea

(Outside Music)
★★★★

 

 

 

AS one half of Irish folk duo The Lost Brothers, Oisin Leech has released seven albums since 2008. Cold Sea, recorded in Co. Donegal on the north coast of Ireland, is the singer-songwriter’s captivating solo debut.

With US guitarist and songwriter Steve Gunn working as producer, there is a fabulous quietness and warm atmosphere to the set, with Leech’s acoustic guitar overlaid with restrained synths, strings, bouzouki — and double bass played by Bob Dylan sideman Tony Garnier. 

Lyrically, Bruce Chatwin’s 1987 travelogue Songlines is cited as inspiration, along with the poetry of Seamus Heaney. “Rolling home, adrift and alone,” Leech laments on opener October Sun, conjuring up feelings of thoughtful solitude. Local geography threads its way through the songs, from the finger picked Trawbreaga Bay to Maritime Radio and its vocals provided by the Irish shipping forecast. 

 

Bill Frisell
Orchestras 

(Blue Note)
★★★

 

 

NOW 73 years old, US jazz guitarist Bill Frisell has been recording as a band leader since the early 1980s — first with ECM, then Nonesuch, and now Blue Note. 

As the title suggests, this new double album of instrumental music finds Frisell’s trio — bassist Thomas Morgan and Rudy Royston on drums — pairing up with two orchestras: the 66-piece Brussels Philharmonic and the 11-piece Umbria Jazz Orchestra, both arranged by English composer Michael Gibbs.

After initially sounding like a bit of an awkward coupling, the Belgium ensemble starts to spread its wings. Halfway through Rag the music shifts gear into a delightful Tex-Mex jamboree, while Electricity is a playful march that continues to surprise after many listens.

The second set ends with an evocative, somewhat ramshackle version of We Shall Overcome — a fitting end to a charming aural collaboration. 

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