It’s the sounds of Nala Sinephro‘s cosmic jazz ensemble letting loose – the tiny vocal “wooo” in the background on ‘Space 5’, the snappy, gnarly percussion on ‘Space 3’ – that ground this record in an intractable, boundless and piercing sense of spontaneity. It’s a rich and deeply affecting continuation of the arresting energy, uniqueness and virtuosity that this group of leading lights, from Steam Down and other pockets of London’s jazz scene, are quietly notorious for. And it’s among the elements that power Space 1.8, the deeply healing and always beautiful debut album from harpist and modular synth player, Nala Sinephro.
Throughout its transfixing 45 minutes, Space 1.8 is stirring and emotional in ways that can feel so subtle and hard to identify, as gently healing as watching waves rise and fall. This comes, no doubt, from Sinephro‘s meticulous application of her practice as a composer and musician. It’s an approach that’s rooted in her study of frequencies, physics, and the nurturing properties of sound. How she integrates this into her unique production and mixing of live instruments, modular synths and multilayered audio processing here, is astounding.
On the track ‘Space 6’, there’s tight, driving percussion, mixed alongside a patient, gentle two chord vamp on the sax and a see-sawing synth, that melds to create an intensely soothing, breath-like sound. On the subsequent track, Sinephro’s dreamy manipulation of the modular synth mimics the gentle, circular whirring of a spaceship, which zigs around before being gently overpowered by delicate harp.
There are antecedents to Sinephro‘s sound: aspects of Dorothy Ashby’s Afro-Harp, Alice Coltrane, and Pharoah Sanders are audible here, but she moves far beyond just referencing her influences. It’s Sinephro’s practice, and production here that set this album apart. Very few records have this capacity to make you temporarily fearless, but on Space 1.8, Sinephro harnesses the power of sound to move and heal the listener in ways that are real, and expansive.
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