Album reviews

Roamer – ‘Lost Bees’

Roamer – Lost Bees

(Diatribe Records – DIABOK040. Album review by Jon Turney)

A midge caught in the eyelash

neither of us sure who is more afraid

Roamer is “a quartet of Ireland’s most internationally recognised improvisers”, according to co-leader Matthew Jacobsen. That’s a fair judgment as it joins Jacobsen on drums with electric bassist and guitarist Simon Jermyn (now resident in the Cologne), Berlin based Matthew Halpin on tenor saxophone and flute, and the marvellously distinctive vocalist Lauren Kinsella.

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If I could write

 into the most

 unpermitted place I know I could find you

The additional ingredient is Kinsella’s close artistic relationship with poet Cherry Smyth. Working with composer Ed Bennett in 2019, they created a searingly memorable words and improvisation performance about the lived experience of the Irish famine. 

When I went for a walk, the earth took me

solidly, separately on its surface,

an outcrop in gravity’s line

Roamer begin with Smyth’s more diverse poems, which are available as a separate printed booklet from Diatribe records (the music is download only). But they are taken as musical prompts rather than cues for setting words to music. Sometimes, as on the title track, Kinsella delivers a single stanza of a longer poem, with care and precision, as a prelude to dreamily elegiac improvisation. On the gently grooving Fairy Tale we hear selected lines, the poem recomposed to fit the music, and Haiku gets a similar treatment. Shore, credited to Kinsella, is a wordless bass and sax duet and Jacobsen’s Suspensions features wistful solo guitar.

The guardsmen are soft with solstice, 

careless with so much darkness

The whole set might be regarded as a series of translations, if you like, from one artistic mode to another rather than between languages. The task is to maintain emotional tone and feeling while moving beyond the original texts. Kinsella does this unobtrusively well as she moves seamlessly from text fragments into gorgeous free vocalising, but the other three players contribute equally to making music that speaks to the poems. All the words I’ve quoted come from the booklet. On the recording, perhaps, they may still be heard, but they remain unspoken. This oblique approach to Smyth’s poems feels like an adventurously executed success, with a pleasing unity of mood and approach. And where Kinsella and Smyth’s Famished was, quite properly, stark, harrowing and enraging, this selection is supple, musically lyrical, and more calmly reflective. The four musicians are perfectly attuned to one another throughout. The recording, is a modestly proportioned, beautifully atmospheric delight.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol (Website / Twitter)

LINK : The album on Diatribe

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