Skip to main content

Shamin - Fine Gnaw (2019)

LISTEN

NINE/FOUR

Shamin is the cleverly titled collaboration between percussionist Benjamin SHAnnon and pianist Sophie MIN (get it?). The duo began playing together in Martin Kay's wonky third-stream jazz ensemble Forage, splintering off last year to focus on personal composition.

I've since caught a few of Shamin's shows and they were totally unhinged, in the best way possible. The group's templates covered everything from glacial chord suspensions to syncopated rhythmic thunderstorms and lopsided melodic funk. After watching Ben and Sophie workshop these pieces for recording, I wondered how their fiery live performance would translate to a digital format.

Nine odd tunes make up debut fine gnaw, refining Forage's off-kilter chaos into something more focused and direct. Shannon's tumbling grooves scatter and form beneath Min's erratic swathes of tonal colour. I mentioned compositions earlier on but sparse, improvised soundscapes are a large part of Shamin's DNA. Distinguishing what's written or improvised often feels impossible, creating an atmosphere of anxiety-inducing tension as Sophie and Ben sit sonically at each other's throats. fine gnaw thrives here, where two improvisers revel in the uncertain.

Though what's tension without a pay-off? Shamin's duality is that of delicate textures ruptured by atonal clusters and visceral polyrhythms. That might sound messy on paper but there's a certain freedom enjoyed by improv-heavy duets. For a non-jazz listener it's best compared to conversation. Three, four, or even five friends can comfortably have a discussion, but nuance and flexibility is lost as more people join.

Jazz duets are heartfelt confessionals with your close friend. A fluid exchange of ideas that allows Shamin to weave webs of unresolved tension while coordinating cathartic release. Some of these payoffs fall disappointingly flat though. returning and round sight are clouded by Ben's obsession with irregular rhythm, relentless syncopation distracting from crucial interplay. Thankfully these moments are far from common and most of fine gnaw's 50 minute runtime remains rather impressive.

It's also worth highlighting Min's unbelievable virtuosity from front to back: constructing lush, textured ambience before unleashing manic, Cecil Taylor-esque outbursts to tear it all down. I'll give Ben credit as well for his use of found percussive objects to create strange timbres during slower sections. I was a bit underwhelmed by this live but the recording's intimacy and quality help bring his ideas to life.

While I'm talking about recording quality,  fine gnaw's mastering is great. It's easy to isolate Min and Shannon's solo contributions while the faint gap between stereo mixes leaves them ample room to combine. Although a lesser mix wouldn't have been detrimental, it's just a cherry of polish atop an already strong release.

All in all, I'm proud to have Shamin as part of our local jazz scene. I've previously been less engaged by Sophie and Ben's other projects despite their obvious talent, but hearing them play together was a revelation. Although fine gnaw isn't exactly accessible, the sheer skill level on display should guarantee an interesting listen regardless of your taste.

Personally though? It's hard not to be excited by Shamin, and I'm ready to call fine gnaw one of Australia's strongest experimental jazz releases in years.

7.5/10

Originally published 17/4/19 on 4ZZZ's New Releases Show
https://www.4zzzfm.org.au/reviews/album/shamin-fine-gnaw 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Mansur Brown - Shiroi (2018)

LISTEN Lo-fi Jazz Funk Beats 24/7 I always find it interesting when a jazz musician steps into the spotlight for their own project. At just twenty-one years of age, guitarist Mansur Brown has already made a name for himself within London's bustling jazz revival. Fans of the scene will recognise his aggressive yet dynamic playing from Yussef Kamaal ’s seminal Black Focus album. On that project, Mansur showcased incredible technical range, moving from Hendrix -like soloing to laying down ghostly ambience without breaking a sweat. His ability to balance fiery aggression with a delicate sense of melody helped establish a unique voice for Brown within an over-saturated landscape of guitar players. (dont get me started) It's this duality which defines Shiroi , Mansur's debut released on Black Focus Records. However, unlike the funk jams we've heard Brown on before, Shiroi is as much an instrumental hip-hop album as it is a jazz one. Most tracks stru

Justice Yeldham Interview - The World's Best Broken Glass Player

THE WORLD'S BEST BROKEN GLASS PLAYER Lucas Abela has always been a hard man to ignore. Even before adopting broken glass and the Justice Yeldham moniker, he was destroying records with power tools, attaching effects pedals to trampolines, and 'banging on metal' as a self-described Gold Coast teenage goth. I sat down with Lucas and his 2 year old son Ernie (a budding noise artist) to snack on carob and chat all things glass biting, instrument building, free improvising, and expectation subverting. The musical snippets bookending each section are taken from Justice Yeldham's forthcoming release on Feeding Tube Records . Justice Yeldham is playing a FREE show at The Foundry this Thursday May 9th, supported by Barbry Allen, Wrong Man, and Lilith. Check out the Facebook event for more details. Early Years Lucas spent his high school days bouncing between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, channeling teenage angst into primitive sonic explorations. These year

Sophie Min - SOLO VOL. 1 (2020)

LISTEN As the world continues to spend days apart, it seems an opportune time to review some solo improvisation. The past few years have seen local pianist Sophie Min become an ever-more established name in Australian jazz. Endlessly prolific, her growing catalogue boasts collaborations with some of Brisbane's most exciting players: the likes of Ben Shannon , Helen Svoboda , and Tim Green . With an orchestral project still in the pipeline, Soph has seen it fit to release curt, solo renditions of original compositions as SOLO VOL. 1 . While I've been an avid follower of Min's improvisational exploits, her playing style sits firmly straddled between the worlds of classical and jazz. GBDE 's childlike innocence recalls the early Romantic period while knottier (k)numbers like Just Exploded evoke Debussy's sombre approach toward ruminative registers. It's these aspects of impressionism that see Sophie skirting the framework of her compositions, chipping away