Friday, September 27, 2019

Led Bib "It's Morning"

Country: UK
Genre(s)Jazz-Rock, Fusion
Label: RareNoise Records
Format: CD, digital, vinyl
Release date: September 27, 2019
1. Atom Story – 2:47
2. Stratford East – 5:32
3. It's Morning - 0:39
4. Fold – 11:08
5. Cutting Room Floor – 3:54
6. To Dry In The Rain - 6:43
7. O – 4:40
8. Flood Warning – 3:30
9. Set Sail – 1:28

Sharron Fortnam (North Sea Radio Orchestra) - vocals
Chris Williams – alto saxophone
Pete Grogan – alto and tenor saxophone
Elliot Galvin – keyboards and piano
Liran Donin – bass, backing vocals on track 2
Mark Holub – drums
Jack Hues – vocals
Susanna Gartmayer – bass clarinet
Irene Kepl – violin
Noid – cello

From the Homeric invocation of ethereal opener “Atom Story,” it becomes stunningly clear that It’s Morning, the latest album from the uncategorizable UK ensemble Led Bib, is meant to take the listener on a journey. The wide-ranging and evocative set is also a testament to the distance the band has travelled on its own evolutionary path. If not the endpoint, it at least sits at a far-flung guidepost along a transformative odyssey undertaken by the eclectic ensemble.

Led Bib has long been renowned for its skronky, livewire fusion of exploratory jazz improvisation with the brute force of heavy rock and the labyrinthine architecture of prog. It’s Morning retains an identifiable sense of adventure and virtuosity while marking a vast departure from previous recordings, veering into the realm of elusive, poetic narrative and lysergic beauty.

The most immediately apparent change from past Led Bib outings is the addition of vocals, folding the band’s boundary-stretching vocabulary into gorgeous if complex song forms.

Bookended by a pair of atmospheric miniatures that frame the album as an imaginative Odyssey, It’s Morning embarks on an immersive quest over psychedelic seas.

In a very real sense, It’s Morning is a reaction to the turbulence of the modern day, from the cautious optimism of its title to the otherworldly sensation of its music. Holub tentatively refers to the set as “protest music” – not that there’s a single lyric that directly addresses the politics of the day, but in the sense, which has always characterized Led Bib’s output, that the band is swimming against the currents of the mainstream.
In retrospect, Holub finds the roots of It’s Morning in his formative listening to bands like Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead. The influence isn’t literal; there’s nothing on the album that directly echoes the work of Jerry Garcia or Syd Barrett. What Holub learned from those bands is a sense of what he reluctantly terms authenticity, the idea of following one’s own instincts however far afield they may lead.

The mystical “Atom Story” leads into the distorted urban groove of “Stratford East,” with Hues’ lyric conjuring past civilizations paved over by concrete slabs, wistfully recalled as the violin of Irene Kepl leads the band into a combination of Afrobeat funk and quirky angular melodies reminiscent of Deerhoof and its ilk. Modern life intrudes in the brief interlude of the title track, with Fortnam’s lament over the ubiquitous digital screen accompanied by the moaning bass clarinet of Susanna Gartmayer.

By far the album’s most sprawling piece, the 11-minute “Fold” implores listeners to “Change the storyline” following a cosmic group improvisation redolent with the interstellar questing of the Floyd’s most outré excursions. The pulsating minimalism of “Cutting Room Floor” accompanies Hues’ instructions to “Let the film run backwards,” giving perspective a 180-degree twist. Sense itself becomes lost as the two vocalists mutter simultaneously in stereo, a device recalling the Velvet Underground’s brain-splitting classic “The Murder Mystery.”

The intimacy of a cloud-shrouded cityscape is summoned in Fortnam’s introspective lyric for “To Dry in the Rain,” which builds from hushed contemplation to explosive intensity before fading back into Galvin’s elegiac solo, which segues into the vox humana throb of “O.” The abstract clamour of “Flood Warning” finally gives way to the closing moments of “Set Sail,” which casts its gaze to future wanderings on the far horizon.
While a definite departure for the band, It’s Morning is more the exception than the rule in being an unexpected turn for the always unpredictable Led Bib.

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