Back in 2008, trumpeter, composer and arranger, Mathew Halsall founded Gondwana Records, cutting a new path for the UK jazz scene – A label that’s foundation pivoted on supporting Manchester musicians and exposing new directions in style and ability. Ten years on Gondwana has absorbed an impressive roster of artists and a sublime catalogue of releases.
On the 21st September, Allysha Joy’s debut long player landed, taking a solo excursion away from her best known work with Melbourne Hip Hop collective 30/70 over the past two years. Drawing you in with her alluring husky vocal style with tones that are simultaneously raw and smooth, Alysha also lays down the keys and adds intricate poetry to her amalgamation of folk, soul, jazz and beats.
The record opens up with ‘FNFL’ – An introduction of spaced out synths and vocal chants leads quickly into a deep uptempo bass loop, sprinkled with creeping rhodes and Alysha’s melancholic attack on the verse. An intimate yet large sound rolling over crunchy hi hats and popping snares, gradually evolving into a luscious downtempo groove. The mood shifts into lower gear with ‘Selfish’, a breezy head nodder showcasing Allysha’s accomplished vocal stance, laced with chunky bass licks and floating keys. ‘Honestly’ follows suit with its sense of a softly spoken word lullaby blended with a bubbling low key soundscape.
The album meanders through shifting tempos and moods, yet always focuses on a tight and compact rhythm. A stripped down sound with a big and bold impact. Allysha adds a sense of yearning and progressive energy, taking us on a musical journey of uptempo rides and laid back detours. This is all pieced together with atmospheric interludes such as the horn swelling, percussive and tribal vibes of ‘Doom’, or the simple shuffle and lazy off-beat of ‘Eagle’ with its squelchy keys and poetic rap. ‘Know Your Power’ is the stand out track here for me, with its propulsive rhythm conjuring connections in my mind with Art Ensemble Of Chicago, lacing spiritual jazz of the past with Allysha’s soaring vocals adding a modern expression amongst a horn heavy, bass driving, drum shuffling hypnosis.
This album highlights to me, a new breed and connection of what is happening now in jazz, soul and hip hop. Arrangements that respect an mpc sampled beat as much as they do a jazz kit. Basslines that are as happy looped as they are played live and direct. Vocals that breathe on jazz pioneers of the past yet stand distinctive and truly strong in a new generation of musicians.
Allysha’s upcoming tour starts off in Australia in late September, finding its way to the UK on October 20th at The Roundhouse in London as part of the Gondwana Records 10 Year celebrations, followed by a show at The Soup Kitchen in Manchester on the 21st.