Articles by Phil Barnes

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Album Review

Nick Malcolm: Real Isn't Real

Read "Real Isn't Real" reviewed by Phil Barnes


There's always a temptation to describe things we like as “the real jazz/soul/music..." out of a passion for a new musical discovery, but what does it actually mean? At the level of pure pedantry no piece of music can be more “real" than any other, yet what this unfortunate formulation is meant to signify is that the mother-lode of the inescapable quintessence of a particular type of music, the right stuff, has been found--the cat's pyjama's, the dog's (ahem) 'cojones' ...

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Album Review

Various Artists: The Sea at the End of Her String

Read "The Sea at the End of Her String" reviewed by Phil Barnes


Genre is increasingly a problem in our modern musical world--it is all pervasive yet meaningless at the same time. If the internet only gives us what we search for, then a classification that is predicated on a formulaic 'if you like that then you'll love this" algorithm is never going to be good enough. Music as an art form is not specific, it implies emotion and feeling through the notes, tones and chords rather than itemising or cataloguing what a ...

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Interview

The Spike Orchestra and John Zorn's "The Book Beriah"

Read "The Spike Orchestra and John Zorn's "The Book Beriah"" reviewed by Phil Barnes


Sam Eastmond is the composer, arranger, and trumpet player best known for his work as bandleader and co-founder of the Spike Orchestra. That UK based large ensemble has released two studio albums to date, Ghetto on their own label followed by Cerberus as part of a collaboration with the legendary John Zorn on his Masada Book Two project.Great though Ghetto was, Cerberus has proved to be the more significant both in terms of creative development to date and ...

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Album Review

Erica Bramham: Songs From A Midnight Room

Read "Songs From A Midnight Room" reviewed by Phil Barnes


Social media engagement can make all the difference for young artists seeking to build a following, but it can also distract. The virtual world demands constant novelty and 'events' and if you enter that maelstrom there is the ever-present fear of being forgotten as your posts slip off the bottom of your followers' phone screens. One artist looking to make sense of all this is Australian singer songwriter Erica Bramham, who you may remember from her exemplary 2016 debut Twelve ...

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Album Review

Walter Smith III: Twio

Read "Twio" reviewed by Phil Barnes


The awareness of an audience or home listener is a key rite of passage in the creative development of an artist. Its something that usually becomes an issue as a performer moves beyond that initial creative surge of their early work, that build-up of compositions that led to initial success and attention has been exhausted and audience expectations have grown. So Walter Smith III's decision to revisit classic jazz tunes on this collection was not one that initially quickened the ...

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Album Review

Nils Frahm: All Melody

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As we try and make sense of our world there is always a temptation to simplify the complex, to set parameters or limiting factors on a choice or decision to make it manageable. For many this translates into only feeling successful if particular pre-conditions are met--say if a particular person or clique acknowledges our worth, maybe it is by purchasing the latest shiny gadget or simply through winning some irrelevant competition with our peers. Hard won experience teaches us that ...

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Album Review

GoGo Penguin: A Humdrum Star

Read "A Humdrum Star" reviewed by Phil Barnes


If 2016's Man Made Object, their first for Blue Note, was an exercise in consolidating past triumphs while signposting potential ways forward, then there can be no doubt that with A Humdrum Star GoGo Penguin have stepped into a version of that future. Ostensibly the title is a self-effacing reference to a Carl Sagan TV series “Cosmos," emphasising how small and insignificant our world is and by extension our own petty concerns are. The quote reads “We find that we ...


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