Stuart McCallum – City
(Naim Jazz Records naimcd219). CD Review by Peter Jones.
Some music is at its best after dark; after all, night is the time for introspection, and this, guitarist Stuart McCallum’s second album for Naim Jazz, is a case in point: we’re truly talking about 3.00am levels of introspection.
McCallum has used a rock line-up, merged with subtle electronica. The vibe is thrillingly slow, rich, sensuous, dark and mellow, one might almost say druggy. There are echoes not only of McCallum’s band The Cinematic Orchestra, but of the late lamented Durutti Column, with shades also of the Cocteau Twins, Massive Attack, Plastyc Buddha and Zero 7 – downtempo, chill-out, call it what you will. And before the jazz police come knocking (perhaps looking for the aforementioned drugs), I should add that there are clearly improvised elements to the music, with echoes of Emily Remler in McCallum’s beautiful, plangent guitar work.
As well as himself on both acoustic and electric guitars, the band consists of Robin Mullarkey on bass, Sean Foran on Fender Rhodes and most significantly of all, Richard Spaven on drums, synths and electronics. Spaven, who has contributed so much to José James’s sound, should really be co-credited with McCallum, having shared the writing and production duties with him. A variety of vocalists have been used, not in a conventional way, more as additional tones used like instruments in the overall mix.
It’s tough to pick out individual tracks: these don’t feel like conventional ‘tunes’ or ‘songs’ but looping, dreamlike pieces that flow from one to the next. But if I were compelled to mention any in particular, Mk II and Inhale are gorgeous, McCallum’s chiming guitars underpinned by Spaven’s signature broken-beat drumming to create a very fresh, contemporary sound picture. Lushly romantic as it is, it’s romance with a somewhat bleak northern aspect, in the best ‘ECM’ sense.
Frustratingly, Stuart McCallum has no plans to gig down south following his one London date last July, but the northern half of the country is in for a real treat.
Meanwhile City is available on 180gm vinyl as well as in CD and digital formats.
Stuart McCallum’s live dates are as follows:
Sept 24 – Grumbles, Stafford;
Oct 7 – Lescar, Sheffield;
Oct 8 – Mash Guru, Macclesfield;
Oct 9 – Cafe Lento, Leeds;
Oct 10 – Zefirellis, Ambleside
Oct 11 – Marsden Jazz Festival, West Yorks