JOHANNA BURNHEART is something of a rarity in the jazz sphere, as her aural device of choice is the violin. She is, you could perhaps say, sat inside a niche inside a niche, looking out.
Of course, observing from such a vantage point can give you perspective, a way of seeing things anew; as you will definitely find in the experimental earworm of the singe she’s dropped, “Silence Is Golden”, the video for which you can watch below.
You’ll find a sonic aesthetic which is very much off to the left of jazz, pulling in influences from the Berlin techno scene which she’s been so absorbed in; the space and textures of electronica; the modality and polyrhythmic expression of jazz.
The track builds ever so slowly out of tronica into a skittering, addictive chant that will remind you of Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner’s tUnE-yArDs, before fully fleshing out into a cool, Herbie Hancock piano-funk – with, of course, weirder touches.
Johanna’s taken an intense and global route through her formal musical education, beginning in Northern Germany, spending time as specialist musician at Wells Cathedral School, participating in summer jazz programmes at Berklee and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London: total immersion.
Two years subsequently studying in Berlin led to a burgeoning love for the city’s club scene and a new sonic fusion for her chosen path. She was then the first jazz violin undergrad back at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, just as the British jazz scene began its renaissance.
She says of “Silence Is Golden” – which teases for her debut album, Burnheart, out this Friday on Ropeadope – “The melody of this track appeared to me while cycling. The metre of this melody proved to be almost like a game – which is fitting as the song reminds me of some sort of nursery rhyme accompanied with a clapping game.
“I incorporated some of this imagery in the video in the form of each member of my band clapping on the wall with the sequence I developed. It is also a portrayal of the lockdown at that point.
“The other scenes in the video were artistically directed by Sorcha Kennedy, who tied in the imagery with the artwork she made for this single specifically. The cage-style top I’m wearing was handmade by her for the original photoshoot of the album artwork.
“I like to use my voice as an effect rather than the focal point and I find that blending it with the violin sometimes creates a synth-like sound.”
Johanna Burnheart’s Burnheart will be released by Ropeadope this Friday, October 30th, on digital download, CD and vinyl; pre-order your copy at her Bandcamp page, here.