Bex Burch’s performance, “There Is Only Love and Fear,” is a review of messy minimalism that still manages to groove intensely.


Minimalism is often associated with being calm, detached, effortless, and formulaic. However, percussionist Bex Burch’s music defies these characteristics. She refers to her style as “messy minimalism,” which shares some similarities with the works of Steve Reich and John Adams. But unlike traditional minimalism, Burch’s music is not afraid to break a sweat and get down and dirty (literally, as she creates her own instruments from scratch). Her main instrument is the gyil, a percussion instrument similar to a marimba that she learned while studying music in Ghana. While playing, she moves and dances with wild energy, which is fitting since her music has a strong groove and draws influence from Mali, Bali, and Latin America.

The artwork for There Is Only Love and Fear.

After residing in London, Berlin, and Utrecht and collaborating with electronic musician Leafcutter John, Burch’s debut solo album brings her to Chicago where she joins forces with local jazz innovators such as trumpeter Ben LaMar Gay, woodwind player Rob Frye, and members of Tortoise. At times, the music bears resemblance to a more grounded version of Philip Glass, as heard in “Dawn Blessings” where Burch’s dreamy, two-note gyil pattern blends beautifully with violinist Macie Stewart’s harmonies. In “Don’t Go Back to Sleep,” Burch’s gyil weaves in and out of sync with a synthesizer, creating a hypnotic yet disorienting minimal techno sound.

Different paths become more intense. There are groups of people playing drums, using water drums, and mimicking birdsong; paths that take advantage of the acoustics of a California canyon. Pardieu transforms a three-note riff on the xylophone into a captivating funk beat; Fruit Smoothie With Peanut Butter is a delightfully chaotic drum circle that manages to sound melodic despite the absence of any tuned instruments. The standout track, however, is You Thought You Were Free?, where the clanging percussion is layered over the wailing siren of a tornado warning from Chicago, creating a bizarre blend of the Master Musicians of Joujouka and Fela Kuti.


Additionally released this month:

Hania Rani, a composer from Poland, has gained a large following for her solo piano pieces. She will be performing at London’s Roundhouse on October 26th. Her newest album, Ghosts (Gondwana), explores a more soothing and melodic pop sound, featuring soft vocals and captivating melodies on tracks like “Hello,” “Don’t Break My Heart,” and “Dancing With Ghosts.” The album also includes collaborations with Ólafur Arnalds, Duncan Bellamy, and Patrick Watson.

Barcelona duo Raül Refree & Pedro Vian have created a wonderful piece of electro-acoustic music with Font de la Vera Pau (Modern Obscure Music, 27 Oct): a captivating mix of strings and analogue synth drones which sometimes flirts with Alice Coltrane-ish spiritual jazz.

The latest album from Galya Bisengalieva, a Kazakh violinist based in London, is called Polygon (One Little Independent) and draws inspiration from a tragic event in north-eastern Kazakhstan. This event involved the Soviet military testing numerous nuclear weapons, resulting in harm to the environment and many people being poisoned. Similar to Hildur Guðnadóttir’s soundtrack for Chernobyl, the album utilizes haunting echoes and the sounds of geiger counters. However, Bisengalieva also incorporates rich string arrangements that add to the eerie and unsettling atmosphere of the tracks.


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