Floating Circles Quartet – Humble Travelers
(Available on Bandcamp. CD review by Jane Mann)
Humble Travelers is the first CD from Floating Circles Quartet – a group of recent Guildhall School of Music graduates led by clarinettist/composer Aidan Pearson.
It’s an engaging collection of charming tunes, all composed and arranged by Pearson, with contributions from the other members of the band, Jonny Wickham on bass and percussion, Arthur Newell on drums, and Matt Hurley on guitar. Pearson himself plays clarinet and bass clarinet on this recording. The band cite Sons of Kemet and Oregon as their main influences and I can hear other echoes in here, of Andy Sheppard at his most cheerful, and the easy minimalism of Mammal Hands. There are folk and classical elements too.
Pearson writes that the album title Humble Travelers comes from the recurrent themes of travelling and movement. The album begins with the upbeat Brockley ‘N’ Peas, a piece about his commute, which has a pleasant melodic drive and some fine drumming and percussion from Newell and Wickham. The combination of bass clarinet and violin, from guest performer Johanna Burnheart, is pleasing. Next up is the dreamy Beyond the Mountains of Aria, a metaphor for the journey of life, according to Pearson, which reminded me of Anouar Brahem with its Eastern cadences and hypnotic rhythms.
My favourite track is the delightful Caravan Curtains, an ode to remembered childhood caravan holidays, again featuring Burnheart’s violin, and an opportunity for Wickham to show us his precision and agility on the double bass. The other two travel-related tunes are Wading Through the Mist (about learning from experiences that life throws at you) and, final track, Galactic Pedal Boat Rescue Trip. The former features another lovely melody, lively violin work from Burnheart, a collision of folk, jazz and classical influences and a chaotic middle section (the Mist?) before surfacing into calm again. Galactic Pedal Boat Rescue Trip is an enchanting conclusion to the album. It has a carefree melodic line over a beautiful sparse arrangement, gentle guitar accompaniment from Hurley and a lyrical bass part. The piece showcases Pearson’s exhilarating playing, which is beautiful throughout the album, whether on clarinet or bass clarinet, with a gorgeous tone.
The only non-travel-related title is the single of the album, White ‘N’ Fluffy, which, according to Pearson, is either a reference to his “black and white cat, with its playful and unpredictable nature, or a pot of rice boiling over”. It’s a spiky piece with a very catchy riff.