Szun Waves - New Hymn to Freedom

by Bill Golembeski Rating:9 Release Date:2018-08-31
Szun Waves - New Hymn to Freedon
Szun Waves - New Hymn to Freedon

The great Kevin Ayers had a song on his Joy of a Toy album called “Song for Insane Times.” Well, this should be called A Record for Insane Times. I say that because it’s forty minutes of very British improvisation, which creates moments of absolute beauty in the midst of three musicians playing live, with “no edits or overdubs.” These guys prove that with musical magic, beauty (and perhaps a bit of sanity) can be found in these Insane Times.

Luke Abbott wobbles his synths all over the grooves; Laurence Pike is responsible for the sympathetic percussion, and Jack Wylie plays and distorts his sax in total telepathic twists and turns with his cohorts into weird corners of very circular tunes. This is a lovely record.

I’ve read comparisons with Sun Ra and Alice Coltrane. But there’s a strong echo of fellow Brit John Surman, especially on his solo records like On Reflection, Road to Saint Ives, Private City, and The Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon (with John DeJohnette), albums all in which he blends his sax with colorful synthesizer sounds. However, while John Surman uses synths as a foundation, Luke Abbott’s keyboard playing is an equal partner in this triad. And, in a way, this does remind me of that chamber jazz vibe of Manfred Eicher’s ECM label. And I do believe (and I’ve said this before) that Manfred Eicher with his catalog of great records that practically invented world music, should rightfully be canonized by just about every religion in the universe.

The first song, “Constellation,” dances with Abbott’s synth lines, until a gorgeous sax lingers its way through a melodic corridor, while the drums quickly tumble the tune. This is, indeed, rather freeform and abstract music; but it is, as suggested, a beautiful sound for these insane times because this is such lovely chaos.

“Fall into the Water” is slow and ponderous, I suppose, a bit like evolution, with synth sounds of German electronic rock. This is the kind of stuff some tangerine might dream. The three players blend into a unified wave pattern that circles a life-giving sun that shines a light on the water falling over the melody in this music.

“High Szun” is simply euphoric. It recalls the instrumental beauty of an Island period Jade Warrior record like Kites or Floating World (without, of course, Tony Duhig’s guitar). This is the Szun Waves jazz rock perfected.

Now, this album has very little to do with rock music. I mean, nobody is going to mistake this for Free’s “All Right Now” or Bad Company’s “Can’t Get Enough.” But back in the 70’s, especially with the Canterbury bands like Egg, Gilgamesh, or National Health, this was accepted as viable music by the same people who loved the strut of Free’s All Right Now” or Bad Company’s Can’t Get Enough.” Rock music had a broad canvas back in those days.

“Temple” is forlorn and distant. It echoes the sound of King Crimson’s title track from their great album Islands, which has such a weather-worn and faithful Penelope waiting for Odysseus Mediterranean idyll.  

“Moon Runes” is the most cosmic tune, the keys sound like the classic prog organ as it duels with the sax, without the obvious percussion that stakes the other songs down to terra firma. Ths one does linger out there a bit more than other songs, but it’s a great moment of space travel that leads into the final cut, “New Hymn to Freedom,” an eleven minute plus piece that is a three-way powerhouse roar that is, at least to these old ears, wonderful progressive rock. It’s certainly outside of the Yes, Genesis, ELP template, but this escalates and rattles the final grooves of the record.

Some time ago, I reviewed a great album called Muck by The Evil Usses. I began with the line, What a heavenly racket! (Do I need quotation marks if I cite myself?) Well, as Herman’s Hermits once sang in their song “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”: “Second verse, same as the first.” So yeah, this is a jazz/prog/space record that is yet another bit of wonderous heavenly racket. And, as stated, this is music that creates circles, circles that, oddly enough, have weird and ancient corners that are tucked away within their modern and very jazzy circumference.

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