Brigitte Beraha – Blink

Posted: 1 June 2022 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Let Me Out Records – 20th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The connotations of jazz are myriad and varied, and it’s also perhaps – not coincidentally – one of the most divisive genres, even after all this time in existence. It’s also one of the hardest to really pin down, largely because it spans such an expanse. On the topic over a pint a few nights back, a friend of mine was telling me how he had become quite partial to jazz, which he was best able to describe as (I paraphrase) ‘random notes that don’t join up… but work’. He’s right and he’s wrong, of course: there’s avant—jazz and freeform jazz that very much is in this vein, but then there’s that kind of slick, smooth jazz, and the kind of jazz you used to get either mega-late at night or on a Sunday evening in a smoky basement bar – the kind of jazz there’s likely a proper term for, but which I refer to as ‘background’ jazz, played in the kind of setting where it’s actually Ok to chat while the music’s playing.

Brigitte Beraha straddles a number of these fields, and Blink is kinda smooth, kinda background, and kinda cool – not in an overtly slick, smooth, nauseatingly muso way, but very much laid back and sultry nevertheless. Her vocal is breathy and intimate at the start of the title track, which sashays between a stop start rhythm and something altogether smoother, and the sound swells and rolls through a succession of passages over its seven and a half minutes that carry you along and make you forget yourself as you’re carried beyond the confines of conventional song structures.

“I love Doors… Everything about them. Well, almost everything,” Beraha reveals on ‘Doors’, seconds before a cascade of calamitous percussion rains down onto ringing chimes. “Light… heavy… ones that resist pressure…very well-oiled ones…” Ah yes, Doors. Not The Doors. I didn’t used to like The Doors, but came to appreciate them in my mid-teens, before realising that no, they were as crap as I had originally thought. I much prefer the wooden slabs these days, particularly over veneered chipboard or MDF: they may or may not be “fascinating pieces of history,” but they tend to be functional in the main, and while they can be frustrating if they don’t close properly or keep blowing shut, they’re not self-indulgent toss.

There are other unexpected insights to be found over the course of Blink, although most are musical rather than lyrical, and tend to be fleeting flickers whereby the listener gets to peer in between the wavy lines that drift effortlessly as a piano tinkles behind quavering woodwind, and see snippets of another world.

The thirteen-minute ‘Modulo 7’ is breezy, and skips along lightly for the most part, starting sparse and strange, and through twists and turns the layers build over and across one another, a serpentine melange of parts that spread and circle in different directions, landing in precisely the terrain that people find difficult to navigate, particularly as it’s both busy and smooth at the same time – and then, abruptly, it halts, and we’re plunged into darkness, and a deep throb murmurs ominously. The pace quickens and the tension rises: the last thing you’d be expecting is pulsating dark ambience with an industrial edge in the middle of this album. The oscillating waves and echoic brass that drifts from the darkness is compelling, and in places calls to mind some of Throbbing Gristle’s exploratory works.

That it’s hard to really summarise or even reasonably convey an album that carries such contrasts with the sparse-tone challenging ‘Too Far to Hear My Singing’ skipping and swooning between moods in a moment, and it’s perhaps futile to even contemplate doing so while wrestling with the idea that some note sequences simply shouldn’t exist, while other still don’t sound like they’re possible or within the realms of music. But they do, and they are, and they’re here, woven into the complexities of an album that’s intricate yet sounds deceptively simple, leaving plenty to ponder.

AA

Blink front cover 3000 px RGB

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