MadOnJazz maestros, Thea and Mark played a track from the LP on the superlative sound system at Brilliant Corners during their Autumn session. Its impact stung a need and I set off from the evening to feast on repeated listens that raised ‘Things that Grow’ to the summit of this year’s crop.
Cara Stacey creates a terrain far beyond genre. Time relative to spaces is a theme that crosses the fluid compositions and improvisations gravitating around the core of Cara’s flowing bow music. The album is a stand-alone, singular vision on which Cara plays umrhubhe, uhadi, (bows) alongside Shabaka Hutchings (clarinet, tenor saxophone), Seb Rochford (drums), Ruth Goller (bass), Crewdson (concertronica), and Dan Leavers (synths/production).
A little investigation to displace my ignorance of the bows revealed that Cara is a scholar of these instruments and their cultures. The academic understanding of their use and traditions seems necessary to their application in a fresh reinterpretation however the World that Cara gives life to is from an outstanding creative vision.
‘Things that Grow’ rolls in over with fairy tale odysseys over ocre burnt and barren plains, familiar meditations and the recall of distant dreams rolling across Cara’s pitched backdrop for the umrhubhe, and uhadi bows new chapters to root.
Cara initiates the scene for her odyssey as ‘Oscillations’ drifts on to the horizon with its hypnotic meditations, magically absorbing, blowing oscillating gusts across the subtle textures, evoking private festivals in the darkness, distant sounds of closeness carried over gnarly, misty fells, barren and oppressive night falls.
The meditative groove of ‘Dark Matter’ has Ruth Goller’s commanding bass that transports Shabaka and a shipment of percussion out of reach. Cara punctuates the melody with folklore and magic. Stirring the mix, hypnotizing, creating worlds for stories and myth to tumble and a backdrop for Shabaka to enchant.
‘Sunbird’ is nestled on earthy tones resonating from Cara as the dreamy synth glides over vast territories, drifting and meditative, experimental glitches warp the landscape into the alien horizon, as sunbird rises through darkness above.
Light touch of industrial machinations bringing a sharp focus to the microscopic lens searching inner space.
The orbiting movement of ‘Circadian Clocks’ is summoned and steered by Shabaka, with Cara’s bows racing into the fading night. Rhythmic intensity connects the motion across dark worlds and the breaking day.
‘Theta Waves’ brings the apex of the album, driving rhythm and warmth. Shabaka playfully demonstrates a new generation of improvisation heading out from safety, syncopating ideas and breaking new textures. There’s a depth to Cara’s work reminiscent of Dollar Brand at his most spiritually shamanic. It’s no surprise that Cara is a classical trained pianist, cultural anthropologist, ethnomusicologist and Phd candidate as she literally breathes her compositions to life with the alchemy of cultural knowledge, myth, art and spirituality stirred with fresh for the canon.
An opposition of extremes, ‘Duvee’ brings us the album at it’s most stripped back, exposing a central vocabulary to the work a feeling that ties the directions together and connects imaginary places of tension and isolation. Fern and bracken wilds of Sun starved northern territories to the vast, baked plains of her instruments and origins.
Towards the final chapter a friction grows on a changing landscape. Interplay between the rooted, earthy tones and the heavenly electric collide on ‘Music of Spheres’ with Cara providing the centrifugal spine that her bow work ruggedly punctuates.
The intensity of ‘Fox’ at the curtain drop is provided by Rochford & Shabaka leading the slow exit dance, flirting around the end as the hunt Peters out across Cara Stacey’s mapped territory of sound.
‘Things That Grow’ by Cara Stacey has been the revelation of 2015.