Jazz album of the month, 4/5 MOJO
“A gleaming universe full of wonder, possibility and galactic freedom” – Electronic Sound
“Undoubtedly one of the true highlights of 2018” – 9/10 Drowned in Sound
“Excellent… Luke Abbott’s synth/sax/drums trio illustrates the links between London’s fertile jazz scene and longstanding psychedelic traditions in six vibrant, unedited improvisations” – Pitchfork
“A beautifully crafted, exploratory piece of work” – Album Of The Week, the Quietus
“Bridging the electronic-acoustic divide with synthesiser, saxophone and drums, Szun Waves have created a remarkable record” – The Vinyl Factory
“Here the woozy, dream-like electronic meditations of Portico Quartet saxophonist Jack Wyllie and synth player Luke Abbott are brought to life by Laurence Pike’s fluttering, fizzing drums” – The Guardian
“These six pieces reveal the occasional trio’s telepathic sense of harmony, and and strike that broad sweet spot between James Holden’s rural exotica and Sun Ra’s tropical vibrations” – Uncut
“A spellbinding testimonial to the hypnotic potential of improvised music This is a record that seems torn between electronica, free improvisation, ambient mood music or forward-gazing modern jazz, and sounds all the fresher for this indecisiveness… The result is that rarest of things: an improvised album that sounds so perfect, you’d think it was all planned” – The Line Of Best Fit
“If you dug James Holden’s The Animal Spirits, this trio – led by fellow synth wrangler Luke Abbott – forge a similar path to psych-jazz valhalla” -Uncut
“That really has such a magic” – Mary Anne Hobbs, BBC 6 Music
Szun Waves landed with a bang on 2016’s At Sacred Walls, a spiritual quest born of improvised sessions between Norfolk synth voyager Luke Abbott, Portico Quartet saxophonist Jack Wyllie and PVT drummer Laurence Pike. While that album twisted Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra’s celestial jazz into otherworldly forms, New Hymn To Freedom rockets further afield.
Sometimes in improvised music there can be a distance between listener and players, a sense you’re sitting back and admiring their interplay and abstraction – but with Szun Waves’ second album, you’re right in there with them, inside the playing, experiencing the absolute joy the three musicians feel as they circle around each other, exploring the spaces they’ve opened up.
The three members already have sparkling pedigrees of their own. Norfolk’s Luke Abbott is well known for his explorations of the zones between pure ambience and the leftmost fringes of club culture. With Portico Quartet and Circle Traps, Jack Wyllie has been in the vanguard of UK fusions of jazz, classical and club music. Australian drummer Laurence Pike has likewise found a unique voice in improvised and experimental music-making, whether in the bands Triosk or PVT, or as a solo artist (his debut album Distant Early Warning was released in March 2018).
The trio’s musical relationship has grown naturally and steadily, and it shows. From Wyllie adding shimmering sustained sax notes to Abbott’s gorgeous ambient pieces in 2013, Szun Waves emerged when Pike was added to the mix, energising the sound but still keeping its levitational qualities. Their 2016 self-released debut album hit a natural groove – it was a “proof of concept” as Abbott says – and now they’re in a place of pure spontaneity: New Hymn To Freedom is a document of six entirely live improvisations –“no edits or overdubs”– and its title couldn’t be more apt.
In some senses this is jazz, and in its ripples, sparkles and waves of rhythm will certainly chime with anyone turned on by Don Cherry, Alice Coltrane or Sun Ra. But just as much it’s in the British electronic tradition of artists like James Holden (in whose studio the first album was recorded), Four Tet and Nathan Fake that Abbott has emerged from – only now instead of his synths echoing Norfolk’s wide open pastoral landscapes, they’re depicting altogether more celestial vistas. Indeed, the drifting ecstasies of this record take you to dimensions that only the most genre-free musicians can reach: you might hear hints of Can, Ryuichi Sakamoto or even Liars.
But really, this isn’t the sound of any influence other than the influence the three players are having on each other, and how happy that makes them. “It still feels to me like a mystical adventure when we play,”says Abbott, “but there’s a musical language developing between us, we’re starting to make more sense together.”
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