Emanative – Space
Nick Woodmansey is a British drummer/percussionist and producer. Emanative is his space-jazz project, and Space is the debut LP that recently dropped on Futuristica Music. There needs to be a fuss made about Emanative and this LP, and I’m gonna tell you why.
There are a group of contemporary producers who are switching things on their head – whether it be a conscious thing or not, it’s happening, and I like it. I’m talking about modern sounds and techniques influencing old – so where as usually it’s things like jazz and funk influencing hip-hop, these guys are doing it the other way round. Eric Lau is producing soul music with hip-hop foundations, 2tall is exploring multiple genres from his roots as a scratch DJ, Dusty is making jazz music with a breakbeat/nu-jazz edge, and then we have Emanative. Firstly, this 14 track LP is simply beautiful – there’s just no escaping that notion, it really is incredible. It’s jazz with a hip-hop inspiration, but in the most subtle of ways – think of Madlib producing a Sun Ra album and you might be getting closer. But loose comparisons aside, Emanative stands alone with its unique execution and aural delivery. Any regular reader will know I’m extremely fond of ‘complete’ sounding albums that take the listener on a journey, and Space does this more so than any other new album I’ve heard this year.
01. Petite Planète
03. We Travel The Spacebeats
04. Wind, Sand & Stars
06. Space In Veda
08. Snare Of The Venus Fly-Traps
09. Low Motion
10. When On Earth
11. In Orbit
12. Stars Collide
13. Lights On
14. Intersteller Outerlude
Petite Planète initiates the one hour, five minute spectacular that is Space. From ethereal strings in the background, to the precise, yet loose, percussive arrangement, this track sways like a soothing jazz orchestra. Introducing warm bass and clarinet, the beauty is within the exquisitely arranged stanzas – peaks and troughs in just the right measure to ensure a fluent journey through bass and tone. The soft melodies cant hide the substance and attitude of this track – it’s fantastically crafted and rates up there with the likes of the Cinematic Orchestra as far as a complete and enriching organic sound is concerned.
Brass and vocals make themselves present in Illusions. There’s a fantastic energy to this track – the rhythms suggest an uptempo affair, but there is still a very pleasing anchor in place in the form of these steady beats and brass stabs, keeping things in check. Science determines that this genuinely is around 160bpm in places, but the mood to the track takes it beyond simply being an uptempo jazz track. As will no doubt prove to be a theme through this album, it appears to be the orchestral elements that help to create actual stories out of the tracks, rather than simply being mere ditties or introductions to what they perhaps could be. This is the real deal.
We Travel The Spacebeats exhibits the first obvious hip-hop essences on the record. Understated, yet heavy beats combine with an array of instrumentation to create a steady instrumental piece with delicate strings, some wood and subtle keys. Everything is crafted so beautifully – the layers fit seamlessly and entwine with one and other to output an extremely pleasing musical delight. It’s laid back, but meaty – never dull and constantly throws your ears more morsels to get your teeth into – there’s so much going on, but at no stage do you ever feel as if it’s too much, in fact it is in embarrassingly good measure.
It takes something quite spectacular to make the hairs on my arms stand on end, but Wind, Sand & Stars does it every time. The piano, the gentle rhythms, the flute, the sax, oh and those vocals by the delightful Heidi Vogel are perfect! This piano driven track is infectious – it’s contemporary jazz at its finest. If you like Nostalgia 77 Octet or Cinematic Orchestra, well Emanative just raised the bar, and I don’t say that lightly. This is no carbon-copy though, the ethereal stylings and space-jazz atmospherics ensure this greets your ears with unadulterated freshness – hear for yourself…
Invaderlude continues the space-jazz journey, but with an electronic edge. Nearly two and a half minutes containing deep bass tones, static-tinged melodies and an array of other spacey effects – think Daedelus, Radiohead, Four Tet. Think Emanative!
With its chilled out beats and soothing double bass, Space In Veda provides a delicate culmination of warm jazz sounds. The modern production techniques, including subtle cuts and scratches, are blended exceptionally well into what is otherwise an extremely organic composition. A well produced (nearly) instrumental track, featuring delicate, hushed vocals from Deborah Jordan, positioned neatly between the first and second thirds of the album – truly exceptional.
Flip-Flop proceeds with laid back lounge stylings, perhaps in the vein of some of The Herbaliser’s more jazzy pieces. It’s both rich and soothing, exhibiting a plethora of sweet sounds. The introduction of hammond over flute and double bass, whilst matched with keys and steady percussion, encapsulates the mood perfectly. It’s a blissful track that invites the listener to invest their ears as much as they are willing – offering real depth, but with no pressure to take it, it’s up to you, but it’s all there if you want it.
Whipping us straight back into space, Snare Of The Venus Fly-Traps is a brief uptempo affair with an eerie sense and atmosphere – no doubt designed to maintain the mood of the album. I’m a huge fan of ‘complete’ albums, where the listener is taken along a journey, and it’s the little, yet appropriate, touches like this that help to build such an experience.
Low Motion balances bassline and melody with infectious breakdowns and jazz rhythms. It’s a great example, on the album, of the combination between the electronic and organic sounds – not that such a thing is a new revelation in music itself, but the pairing within this album is indeed a successful one – everything in its right place, as they say. I really appreciate how delicate and intricate the assembly of this track is. It seems obvious that great effort must have gone into such a creation – dare I suggest that Mr Woodmansey may be a perfectionist?!
The longest track on the album, When On Earth, goes from eerie space-bass tones and builds slowly, introducing more percussion and adding depth to the timbre before the fantastic piano, drums and beautiful vocals from Liz Elensky and Deborah Jordan enter the fray. I don’t wish to fill my review with comparisons, but I feel like this is the direction that Zero 7 never managed to turn to, or even people like the Quantic Soul Orchestra – not that the aforementioned haven’t had their own successes regardless, just a certain angle of potential was perhaps never realised (maybe just in my mind, of course!). Anyway, the point is; this sounds incredible. Layered spectacularly, I can visualise each element of the track dancing around the next – it builds, it breaks and drops, then it builds again – frankly, blissful.
In Orbit is a short track showcasing wild brass and steady bass. An interlude of sorts, it goes further to keep the mood of Space – unmistakeably jazz, in both sound and structure, like most of this album it is extremely visual. I appreciate that such a thing would be very much down to the individual, but if you like jazz and are willing to fully immerse yourself in what you are hearing, then I think you too will understand where I am coming from.
Call it a reprise of the opening track, Petite Planète, Stars Collide is brilliantly placed near the end of the record, like a reminder of what we’ve heard so far. As I just suggested, there’s a relation to the opening track, and at around the same length as the aforementioned track, it brings back the ethereal sounds via strings, bass and percussion. But now there’s vocals from Deborah Jordan and the fit is phenomenal – providing depth, whilst remaining sweet and sincere, it’s a true pleasure for the ears.
Lights On is an incredible instrumental track encompassing a hypnotic steady rhythm with flutes and strong brass. It’s very much a downtempo affair and actually sounds like it would go well with female vocals also. Alas it is instrumental and quite short, and as such works wonderfully as the beginning of the descent from Space, as it were, as the penultimate track on the album.
The final track is Intersteller Outerlude, and it acts as just that, an outerlude. It actually reminds a bit of Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and The Wolf with regards to the style of composition, although the arrangement is indeed of the jazz ilk. It’s an apt finale to a wonderful album and steadily coaxes the listener to the end of their aural journey – no doubt a more enriched being for it – it’s definitely the feeling I was left with.
Clearly it’s no secret that I think a great deal of this album. I actually envy all those people who are yet to hear Space for the first time, because although I do believe that this album has great potential to grow and grow on the listener with each listen, it also strikes one mighty chord pretty much immediately. Forgetting genres or classifications, stylings or influences, it’s just amazing music and I’d pay good money to see an orchestra perform it in a concert hall – it’s that good. This is easily one of the best albums of 2009 and nothing could possibly make me think any differently. Each person has their own taste and takes pleasure from music in different ways – I personally love music with fantastic depth and arrangement that allows you to immerse yourself fully and be taken on a journey, and Space doesn’t just do this, it does it with style and grace. At the start of this review I claimed that there needs to be a fuss made about this release, and I hope you now understand why I would say this – everyone needs to hear this album… now.
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