Forgiveness / Next Time Could Be Your Last Time / Gondwana Records – By Cal Gibson

Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ (John Keats)

If there is one record label currently living up to Keats’ incisive dictum on what really matters in life, then Gondwana might just be the one. They’ve recently been on something of a creative hot streak, firing out cosmic fire-bringers from the likes of Phi-Sonics, Portico Quartet, Vega Trails and the forthcoming quiet storm banger from Jasmine Myra: a body of work that is as broad as it is cohesive, flitting between genres and creative pathways, guided only by the crystalline nature of the musicians’ imagineering (to borrow a phrase from Nightmares On Wax).

Forgiveness nestle right in alongside the aforementioned big hitters with an album that flutters serenely in between the gaps left by musical pigeon-holing. This is bold, confident music-making, a trio of musicians (Jack Wyllie, JQ and Richard Pike) letting their collective consciousness reverberate – employing tropes from jazz, ambient, and electronica, and shaking them gently. Creating an interplay between genres that comes up smelling of something altogether new.

Mushroom Umbrella opens up with a pitter patter of melody, a nod and a wink to Phillip Glass perhaps, before teetering off down its own acoustically treated alleyway: a cosmic rain squall, a mournful flute summoning up ancestral presences – synths sighing in the background, a soft beauty hanging in the air. Deliciously different.

Dying In Eden continues in the pastoral vein – warm clouds of synthetic chords brush by, keys dropping in and out, the fate of the planet echoed in the stately surroundings of the composition. A lament for human stupidity and greed, a cry from the punctured heart of us all. We’re nearing the edge, peeking over the abyss into a world we have all but destroyed. The beauty will break your heart, every time.

Transparent offers up more cinematic touchstones: a looping ominous synth riff anchors a more fractured soundscape – this is the montage sequence for when the hero lies bleeding, the pointed chords arching out of sight, the dark undertow to lives lived fearfully. With Vangelis recently having passed you can imagine this tune playing him out, a transitional composition for those on the cusp of mortality.

Chameleon is another highlight on an album that is frankly full of them: another piece that unfurls itself slowly, burrowing into your ears – this is early morning headphone music for tracking dawn’s new arrival: hopeful synth melodies playing off the reeds, swooping synths undercutting it all, expertly mixed and collaged together. Yes you can hear echoes of ECM and Miles Davis as the press release suggests, but they are echoes that are transformed by minds formed by today’s harsh realities. Music for mystical moods, crafted by musicians armed with buckets of (quiet) soul.

An album to dive into repeatedly, then: a collection of unassuming, understated beauty that John Keats would surely have appreciated. A collection written in water, tracing that elusive undercurrent of goodness that we all crave – now more than ever. Forgiveness is always an admirable quality: chalk up another surefire winner for Gondwana.

Forgiveness` Next Time Could Be Your Last Time will be released on June 10th, care of Gondwana Records.

You can hear some fine soulful musical selections from Cal Gibson, the first Tuesday of every month, between 4 – 6PM UK time, on his Holy Rollers Radio Show, for Universal Rhythms. If you can’t catch it live, you`ll can find it archived here. 

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