Tuesday 8 December 2020

Change is Coming: Alastair Penman's 'Do You Hear Me?'


Alastair Penman - Do You Hear Me? - Sospiro Records
Alastair Penman is a young saxophonist and composer whose debut CD, Electric Dawn, I reviewed in 2015. His latest EP, on Sospiro Records, Do You Hear Me? has a distinct point to it and is a reflection on the environmental catastrophes which are engulfing the planet. Penman's statement, on the EP's home page, concludes with a declaration of intent, 'This EP reflects on the climate emergency we are living through and the changes we must make to prevent the end of life on earth. In the words of Greta Thunberg, “Our house is on fire,” so we must do everything we can to halt and reverse this disaster.' and 50% of the of proceeds from the album will be donated to two environmental charities, Clean Air Task Force and Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

There are four tracks on the album, Do You Hear Me?, Our House is on FireIgnorant Complicity and Change is Coming. All four are written by Penman and feature the composer on saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), clarinet, bass clarinet and keyboards as well as midi programming. Track one, includes the voice of Annabelle Broad set against a driving musical backdrop which combines saxophones and electronics in a striking way. The second track explores similar ideas, driving rhythms, intense textures and a rather catchy way of combining everything, whilst the third, Ignorant Complicity is sparer and somewhat disturbing with hints of modern jazz in the mix. The last movement is more relaxed, with a lounge-jazz style riff yet still with that sense of impulse in the rhythms underneath, so the result is nowhere near as comfortable as you might expect. With this, and in other places, Penman builds his layers to gradually assemble a striking structure.

This is music that I enjoyed, whilst being aware that the jazz and rock influences which seem to permeate it are things that rather go over my head. It is music which might have an important point to make, but seeks also to entertain rather than knocking you over the head with politics.

Alastair Penman - Do You Hear Me? - Sospiro Records

The title track is released on 11 December 2020, with the full album on 18 December 2020. There will be videos from Tom Gimson to accompany them, so keep an eye on the album website. The album is available to pre-order from the Proper Music website.

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