There’s a certain resistance involved in listening to voices , whether spoken or sung , in their most vulnerable, unscripted and unwavering form. Almost as if meeting a stranger for the first time and allowing for a conversation to unfold without the small talk. It’s not easily done ,and since this pandemic encroached and invaded life as we know it, it’s led us to believe that more than ever we need to allow for a space in which to jump straight into the soul baring stuff that makes us human. In a nutshell, this is what’ Remembering’, a groundbreaking vocal collective composed of versatile vocalists is all about. It is only natural that this is an entirely improvised album, recorded live. It quite magically coerces ( and I use that word intentionally ) you to ‘remember’ the things we lost , the hopes we gained, and the life we remembered .
The vocal collective is led by 6 UK based Vocal improvisers including Briony Greenhill, Guillermo Rozenthuler, Jaka Škapin, Kate Smith, Marcia Willis and Sylvia Schmidt . To say they effortlessly weave between soundscapes at times ethereal like trakcs ‘ Please can I ‘ and ‘ I’m Ready- this River we sing upon ‘ to the angst and dissonance of ‘How does it feel ‘ and ‘ Too many people’ is an understatement. It is common misconception to attribute the art of improvising to either instrumentalists, and more specifically to the very large but often misunderstood ‘Jazz ‘ umbrella. Perhaps this collective of talented individuals, all from various musical backgrounds and leaders in their own right strive to make this clear: improvising is an art form as old as time, and therefore , knows no rules. That said, each tracks feels like a deliberate shift in consciousness to make us recollect how each of them felt in a moment in time. The initial track, aptly titled after the album , invites us in to their inner circle, both symbolically in their creative home and literally, by reminding us of the fact that lockdown removed the physical aspect of singing in the same room altogether. Conceived in the summer of July 2020, one can safely say that the entire album and theme begins to unfold from the very first verse of ‘Remembering’ : “
“Tender bodies with voices inside
Uncurling my voice after time without space to sing
Learning again to listen to you
Learning again to trust the void
Remembering how to give voice to what comes through “.
The album begins to unfold with vocal gems of hockets ( repetitive phrases sung in canons ), long, dramatic notes extending as drones often used to support the solos from some of the vocalists and fantastically creative vocal percussion to instigate a change in dynamics in each and every song. ‘ Don’t tell me’ and ‘ Soy Say Hey’ is a perfect example of all singers demonstrating their ability to support each other , to the point where you can’t tell who’s singing what. The two standout tracks, purely from a vocal prowess point of view and certainly a masterful creation from all include the anguished cry for space with ‘ Too Many People’ and the innocent, pure lament of ‘ Please Can I’. The soloists on both tracks take their time to introduce their ‘ moments’ as it were , whilst the rest of the Collective respond beautifully in a manner that is equally stunning and refreshingly supportive . What I admire most about this record , on that note, is the fact that the producer , singer Jaka Škapin and sound engineer David Holmes deliberately ‘polished’ the record to make sound ‘unpolished’. Barely any reverb, sleek delays , none of that jazz. Just pure, unaldurated vocals , baring the soul of each of its members. It marries perfectly with the collective’s ability to truly tell a story with each track, including ‘ How does it feel ‘ and the blues infused ‘ I’ve been searching ‘. By that track in the album I found myself immersed in a world where I could truly connect to each singer, because no matter who was soloing they all served a purpose, a reminder of how as a unit, we sometimes function better as humanity. Leave it to musicians to deliver that message ay?
It does come across quite clearly that these improvisers have known each other quite a while. So ultimately, their album feels all the more authentic and rather timely as a self-released record , recorded as mentioned during the first ‘summer’ of the pandemic. I for one am curious to hear their follow up, as I believe I want to hear what happens after ‘Remembering’ all those moments we desperately wanted to share. Perhaps it will center around the need for ‘Being’ in the moment, after we’ve experienced it.
A delectable , original and evocative kaleidoscope of soul -baring stories from 6 beautiful human beings. Available on Bandcamp here. Do yourself a favour friends- indulge in the unexpected; you might find the unknown quite familiar.