Label: Wayward/DJA Album release date: June 16 Single Lightshaft CD/DigitalCat: Wayward705
Former Tinariwen producer, Brian Eno & Robert Plant collaborator steps into the light with an angelic slice of transcendental experimentalism
Ribbons is the latest installment in the unpredictable, left-of-centre and borderless work of the British producer and guitarist Justin Adams. Inspired by the work of painters such as Rauschenberg, Pollock, Miro and Motherwell, the 11-track album stutters and glides, with trance-inducing guitar motifs from North Africa weaving around the vocals of Norwegian singer and actor Anneli Drecker, best known for her work as singer with Scandinavian electronic duo Royksopp.
Adams set out to make music that abandons traditional structure; using a mixture of rhythmic pulses and accidental or spontaneous elements, giving him the kind of freedom modern, experimental composers thrive on and allowing him to recontextualise trance music from Morocco and beyond. The graphic and video elements were realised by visual artist John Minton, creative director of Portishead's live shows.
At times Ribbons sounds like Tuareg rockers Tinariwen have switched off their amplifiers for a sunrise desert jam under the guidance of American composer Steve Reich. Yet in reality the solo recording took place in Justin's West Country studio over six months in 2016 with Anneli Drecker's vocals recorded in between her studio in Tromsø and Justin's studio in Bath.
The long player nature of Ribbons is a key component to the concept. It radiates but without big crescendos .The music has the effect of shifting colour and light, creating atmosphere; the passage from one track to another is of equal importance to passages within individual songs. Ideas and phrases are layered and repeated, often in a random order. Just as Rauschenberg viewed the walls beyond his paintings as part of the work itself, the ever-changing canvas etched by Justin Adams provides a sonic environment for life to continue around.
Drecker's vocal contribution comes in the form of wordless sounds without literal meaning. She has a form of synesthesia, meaning that she sees sounds as having specific colours, which made her a perfect collaborator. Living in Trömso in Arctic Norway, she became a celebrated voice in the electro- pop world with her ongoing contributions to Röyksopp's output. After many successful years as lead singer of Bel Canto and with stature as an actor in Norway, she's currently releasing solo albums as well as researching a Phd at the Arctic University on ancient and traditional singing styles. 'Lightshaft' is an example of how Anneli has incorporated Tuvan throat singing into her huge range of vocal sounds and textures.
For somebody whose first exposure to Justin Adams lies herein, you'll probably be aware of Tinariwen, the Tuareg group that shook up the niche concept of 'world music' at the start of the century with their funky, north African rock. Justin Adams produced their debut album 'The Radio Tisdas Sessions'
and their critically acclaimed third album 'Aman Iman'. If not, the likes of Sinead O' Connor, Brian Eno, Seun Kuti and Robert Plant will surely be familiar names, all of who Justin has worked with over this thirty plus year career. He's well recognised for a string of award winning albums recorded on Real World Records with Gambian griot, Juldeh Camara, known collectively as JuJu,as well as his production credits for Tuareg group Terakaft , Rachid Taha, Lo'jo and others.
In the early 1980's when Justin was part of a scene based around West London's squatting community, balancing his art history University studies and his ongoing involvement in bands, he soaked up the vibrant post-punk sounds of the time. As a regular visitor to Rough Trade Records in Kensington Park Road he was absorbing the throbbing experimental noise of artists like Pere Ubu, This Heat, early Public Image and the eccentricity of bands like of Can and Faust. West London was immersed in dub and so Lee Scratch Perry provided him a saint. But unlike his peers and band members of the time, Justin Adams became fascinated with the music from the Arab world - significant as he spent his childhood in the Middle East. It was 1986 when Justin met Jah Wobble who shared an interest in Arabic and North African rhythms and melodies. Justin and Wobble co-wrote three albums including 1994's 'Take me to God' which is when Justin and vocalist Anneli Drecker first worked together.
For the past three decades Justin Adams has been immersed in the musics of North and West Africa. Taking inspiration from the rule-breaking passion of the post-punk aesthetic, his music has referenced blues, psychedelia, dub and electronics, and as a guitarist he has thrived on developing his own distinctive and personal style. An innovator, he continues to break down barriers and ignore borders, reframing modern, global music.
As a child living in the Middle East Justin remembers his brothers and sisters remarking on a rhythmic tic he had, constantly humming to himself. "The cyclical sound of this record was a way for me to bring that tic, going around in my head, to life" says Adams.
Justin Adams will perform at this year's Roskilde Festival as part of an ongoing collaborative project with Moroccan Gnawa master Hamid El Kasri. He will guest with Terakaft and Afel Bocoum at various festivals and he continues to tour internationally with Robert Plant.
The lead track 'Lightshaft' has been visualised by artist John Minton.