Emanative ‘Earth’ LP/CD/DIG (Jazzman) 4/5

Brainchild of drummer, percussionist and producer Nick Woodmansey, Emanative have been releasing music for a decade since their debut on Futuristica in 2008. This 11-track album, the first for Jazzman Records, follows on from the successful ‘The Light Years Of The Darkness’ (2015) on Brownswood and treads similar ground but on a larger scale with a line-up of 21 members. Nonetheless, the LP centres around a core group of eight which includes many UK Vibe favourites including Jessica Lauren on keys, Tamar Osborn (baritone saxophone and flute), Ben Hadwen (bass clarinet, flute, tenor saxophone), Suman Joshi playing upright bass, and three percussionists: Sarathy Korwar, Phillip Harper and Vince Vella. Stylistically, the album utilises an array of sonic and aesthetic influences, from Afro beat, Indo jazz, modal jazz, fusion and ambient textures, with specific guests added to compliment the temperament of particular individual tracks.

‘Dawn Child (Sunrise)’ is an introductory piece with lush synth pads, underlining sarod textures and fluid saxophone lines providing a gateway to the rest of the album. ‘Heaven’s Mirror’ features Idris Ackamoor and David Molina of The Pyramids for a melodic but loose composition which initially has quite a funk feel rather than an Afro beat quality. The track length is a useful 11 minutes long with the final 4 minutes moving into a drum-less spiritual jazz framework, said to be inspired by author and ‘unconventional thinker’ Graham Hancock and his work – who I bizarrely met in the late 1990s.

Vocalist, keyboard player and one-time Egypt 80 member, Dele Sosimi, guests on ‘Iyaami’, which edges into Afro beat territory after five minutes, continuing from the balafon based first third intro of this 14-minute epic. ‘Spice Routes’ features UK legend Nat Birchall on a more cosmic trajectory and is possibly my personal favourite here. The most DJ friendly piece is ‘New Day’ with guest Ahu, a previous Jazzman 45. Ahu is Turkish vocalist who unfortunately seems to be quite sporadic with her collaborations that have previously included Flying Lotus and Grooveman Spot on one of my regular DJ additions, the neo boogie ‘Affection’ (2010). The closing piece of the set, ‘Raga Requiem (Dusk)’, provides a worthwhile coda to the collection with light percussion and tabla infused with digital delay handclaps and French spoken word.

The earth day concept with its dawn till dusk timeline provides the perfect narrative for the album, which at first may not be successfully appreciated if experienced in segments. This is an album designed to be absorbed in full – which is difficult in this era. And initially when playing the record I focussed on the less successful elements such as ‘To Midnight For This Planet’ and its annoying 808 cowbells; but luckily it’s a short 2’48”. But with repeated plays one does develop a more holistic understanding of ‘Earth’ and its story. And it needs to be noted that the previous Emanative album was comprised entirely of cover versions but this contains entirely new material, and thus, the blending of various disparate but connected musical aesthetics here is difficult but mostly successful. Fusing Middle Eastern, African, Asian and African-American components does sound like a recipe for disaster or a contrived musical experiment, but the large array of guests and the obvious extensive knowledge of the artist stop that from happening.

Damian Wilkes