Album of the week: Various artists – We out here

Something is rumbling in the subterranean depths of London, and it’s not the underground. Ambling out from the sunken basement venues located deep within the city’s bedrock, a harmonious racket has returned to the streets of the capital city, reverberating with the echoes of a distant past and modulating with the present in a newfound fervour. 

It’s the sounds of Jazz and it has been a while since London has experienced this style of music quite so intensely. All around the city a new generation of musician and artist has breathed new life into the genre appropriating it for their own unique devices through a modern, ephemeral perspective.

Just a few weeks back we featured the latest Kamaal Williams LP as a sliver of this new scene and you can definitely hear traces of it correlating on Leon Vynehall’s last album. Together with the likes of the Ezra Collective, Moses Boyd and Shabaka Hutchings, these young musicians and artists are currently re-writing the soundtrack to London’s nightlife and it was only a matter of time till somebody was going to compile and catalogue it. 

“We out here”, a project that sprang into existence out of Brownswood Recordings  brings these artists working largely independently of each other together for the first time to document the origins of this new movement and spread the sound beyond London. Recorded over three days in a London studio, it captures a zeitgeist in a capsule of frozen sonic time, invoking the spirit of Jazz for a new younger audience. 

Dusting off the stale connotations it has garnered through a couple of decades of self-indulgent technical prowess,  “we out here” and this new generation of Jazz performer is re-contextualising the genre within the effervescent melting pot that is London. Through the dialogue of a group dynamic and in the spur of the extemporised moment these artists and musicians gathered to re-create some of their live material for the recording.

The compilation is based on a fusion, freeform tradition of Jazz, but as much as it reflects the various diaspora musical traditions from Africa, the Caribbean and Asia through its unique compositions, it also reflects the contemporary musical landscape of London.

Theon Cross’ “Brockley” and its melismatic semaphore brass stabs lends as much from urban musical forms like Grime as it does from the shattered polyrhythmic foundations of Jazz. On Shabaka Hutchings’ “Black Skin, Black Masks” elements of Ethiopia pulse through the cornucopia of clarinets at the centre of a maelstrom trying to re-assemble broken percussive arrangements and swirling piano incantations. Kokroko create an assemblage of southern African tropes in their contribution, “Abusey Junction” but repurpose it in a distinctly Caribbean and Latin flavour, a feedback loop that bounces between origins in the way on London could inspire.  

Tracks like “Black Skin, Black Masks” and the Ezra Collective’s “Pure Shade” feed off an intensity boiling over just beneath the surface that ebbs through the entire compilation. It burbles, often literally with the social tensions of the city, but at the same time it can be heard as a celebration of the unique diversity that London boasts. It’s in this fusion of diverse musical languages that “We out here” appeals and this is also the decisive point of unification between all these artists and their music.

It’s a diverse collection of music forged within the cauldron of a city with a complex social identity that can only ever really be communicated through the abstract language of art and music. 

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