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Led Bib


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4 stars Led Bib is a RIO/Avant Prog band that was founded in the UK in 2003. Their music takes on an experimental jazz style that has been recognized in the past by winning the Peter Whittingham jazz award for their debut album in 2005. Their 7th full length album, released in September of 2019, is called 'It's Morning' which consists of 9 tracks and has a total run time of just over 40 minutes. The core band for this album consists of 6 musicians, namely Sharron Fortnam of North Sea Radio Orchestra on vocals, Chris Williams on alto sax, Pete Grogan on alto and tenor saxes, Elliot Galvin on keys and piano, Liran Donin on bass and Mark Holub on drums. Guest musicians also include Jack Hues on vocals, Susanna Gartmayer on bass clarinet, Irene Kepl on violin and Noid on cello. This is the bands first time using vocals on their albums.

'Atom Story' (2:47) begins with oscillating keys playing a slow and sustained melody that almost sounds hymn-like and warped. Sharron's beautiful mezzo-soprano voice comes in half way through, maintaining the pensive softness of the track with the addition of more keys and piano, a bit of unsettling dissonance in the peaceful track. 'Stratford East' (5:32) contrasts the beauty of the first track by starting with a low frequency synth melody, thumping drums and a fast violin which echoes the melody and then embellishes on it. Soon the drums start to echo the notes of the violin, then a linear sounding vocal comes in following the violin note for note. The music takes on an eclectic jazz style showing off the bands penchant for the art jazz sound they are famous for. After the vocals break, a wild sax comes in spurred on by bass and wild drumming, and then another sax joins in takes a turn, while later they play together in contrasting and resolving lines. This continues when the vocals come in and the saxes begin to protest while another one follows the vocal melody note for note. It turns out to be quite a rousing affair of contrasts by the end.

'It's Morning' (0:39) consists of a tonic poem with bass clarinet and vocals. This short track is followed by the longest and most epic piece on the album 'Fold' (11:07). A simple melody from the synth is joined by a fuzzy drone and soft effects giving everything a pastoral and minimal feel. Unsettling effects start to threaten the simple tones. Contrasting layers build as bass notes and piano flourishes encourage the odd effects, and things turn full-on avant-garde as individual layers fight for control. The brassy sounds of the reeds fade in together sounding like they mean business, but instead of trampling on everything, they just take over meandering about. Soon, the other lines come back in as they all mix together again. The music remains quite loose and improvisational sounding, several lines of music where there is no one in particular in control, and this soon leads to a more chaotic sound as it goes on. This goes on until the 8 minute mark when things suddenly quiet down and vocals come in for the first time on the track. The non-melodic vocal starts a bit quiet and hesitant, but then gets support from instruments as they add in one by one, now following the vocal line and making sense out of it all. The vocals end but the music continues feeling now like it has had guidance from the vocal line, and that ends the track.

'Cutting Room Floor' (3:53) begins with a rat-a-tat percussion sound that gets joined by keys and sax, then vocals later. The track is a bit more melodic, in a traditional sense anyway, but is still anything but traditional. Then a spoken word section starts with male and female vocals speaking layered on each other as the music flows along underneath. The vocal melody returns later, and the music remains mostly soft and minimal, but then increases for a more climactic ending. 'To Dry in the Rain' (6:43) begins with slow piano and soft, jazzy vocals. The music takes its time and stays quite laid back as the vocals wander around a bit accompanied by a more rhythmic feel from the keys. Percussion provides a stable foundation after 3 minutes and that brings in the reeds. Layers upon layers build and the peacefulness turns into chaos taking the vocals along with them until they are swept away completely while the music continues, and then calms down leaving only a piano playing a lovely interlude by itself for the last few moments of the track.

'O' (4:39) takes the piano chords from the previous tracks and continues with them creating high-pitched shimmering sounds and oscillating synths to lay a foundation for new vocals. The piano-led track soon builds as drums and saxes come in and follow the vocal melody. The music thickens and teeters on the line of becoming chaotic, but not quite tipping over before it calms again and ends quickly. 'Flood Warning' (3:30) uses simple tonal percussion and a more upfront vocal. Odd drumming and other percussive instruments and saxes build the music without really solidifying it and avant jazz improvising cause the reeds to swirl around. This one becomes a bit more chaotic as the same melody continues in the vocals while the chaos rules the horns. 'Set Sail' (1:28) ends the album as it began, with a short, lovely vocal track underlayed by oscillating minimal synths.

This album is full of quirkiness and avant-jazz style minimalism interspersed with chaotic outbursts. The music is definitely progressive and different, following the impressionistic style, but adding good doses of improvisation based on modern- classical modes and scales. It all becomes a very unique sound, and the addition of Sharron's vocals in all of the tracks only add to the excellence of the entire package. Those that like their music dissonant and experimental will enjoy this, but it is probably a little too left of center for lovers of traditional sounds. I find it quite intriguing and am attracted to it's quirkiness, and the musicianship involved definitely make this a strong 4 star album.

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Posted Sunday, September 29, 2019 | Review Permalink

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