Featured artists: Steve Broomhead | Teea Aarnio | Nathanaël Larochette | Exowst Scotland
In this ADA update of bite-sized reviews, we take a snapshot of just some of the albums, EPs and singles to land at TPA:
• Steve Broomhead – Solo 2 [EP] | The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky [EP]
• Teea Aarnio – Väki
• Nathanaël Larochette – Old Growth
• Exowst Scotland – 20231532 | 202353 | 20233 [Singles]
Around this time last year I came across a rather delightful EP from composer, guitarist and singer Steve Broomhead. Now this being one of our shorter ADA reviews, I’ll skip the introductions and point you to the review link for Solo 1, which gave a little background to Steve Broomhead, and an opportunity to listen to the three superb tracks housed therein.
So, one year on I wander over to Steve’s Bandcamp site to see if there has been a follow up, and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover there is, and in fact there are two, Solo 2, released in July and The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky released earlier last month.
Solo 2 immediately resonates and feels like a companion EP, which in many respects it is, as Steve ‘puts to bed’ tracks that have been in the offing for a number of years, and which he now feels are ready for release. Once again acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars form the foundation for the songs, complemented and embellished by rich, multi-tracked layers of electric guitars, keyboard strings/choirs/drones, Mellotrons, synth leads, and neatly anchored by the drums. All of which can be heard across the three track EP – and as a taster here is the close out track I Am God…
Released in September 2023, Steve Broomhead describes the four tracks that make up The Night the Stars Fell from the Sky EP as ‘more downbeat songs’. Well that’s as maybe, however I can assure you the EP still retains a rich tapestry of sounds, Steve’s warm vocal delivery, and all captured in the opening track Dollar Signs. With a fragile vocal and melancholic melody, Steve’s lament is touching, whilst the end guitar break demonstrates his undoubted skills, bringing to mind Andy Latimer and/or David Gilmour.
Sun/Moon and Willow take a contemporary approach to songs that could well have been released half a century ago. The latter, with its sitar and Mellotron sounds, hinting at The Beatles perhaps, or Matthews Southern Comfort? Closing out the EP is the emotive title song, wonderfully understated and a stunning end to the EP.
Steve has indicated it’s likely that there will be a third and final Solo release. Let’s hope so. Until then all three EPs are available on Bandcamp (linked below). Thoroughly recommended!
Over the past fifteen years or so, Finland’s Eclipse Music label has been a continuing source for creative music, covering jazz, progressive, and as we have here, contemporary singer-songwriters, and all hailing from their home country. With the release of her debut album, Väki, Teea Aarnio joins Eclipse’s impressive roster.
Väki features thirteen tracks, with eight songs linked by four short connecting passages and one instrumental track. Musically we have a tasteful blending of ethereal folk, with accessible jazz arrangements, along with strong pop sensibilities. I have no idea why, and without particularly sounding like either, both Joni Mitchell and Carole King frequently crossed my mind whilst listening to this album.
To give you an insight, take a listen to Löyly, featured in the video below. Not only is it an infectious song, it’s cleverly arranged and performed by an impressive array of musicians – note on this track for Antti Kujanpää on piano and Jouni Järvelä on sax. Fundamental to the album and along with the session musicians on album, a particular mention to US-based, international music producer Jukka Backlund, who has been greatly involved with the writing and programming aspects of the album, as well as adding keyboards and backing vocals.
As with the album as a whole, Teea performs the songs in her native tongue, Finnish, and with no translated lyrics it is difficult to offer any guidance as to the theme of the album. The accompanying literature however suggests that “the album is an inspiring journey through the depths of the earth, to different seasons, to playful midsummer festivities.” A detailed explanation can be found on Teea’s website. Regardless of language, Teea Aarnio engages the listener throughout. Väki is a charming and enchanting album and in the true spirit of the singer-songwriter genre.
In 2021, and purely by chance, I came across Canadian trio Musk Ox and subsequently reviewed their captivating third album Inheritance. I was so taken by the atmosphere of the album I went on to explore the side project releases from the band members. Also released in 2021 was cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s enthralling Worlds Within Live, and back tracking to 2016 I came across Nathanaël Larochette’s absorbing ‘two part’ debut, Earth and Sky, comprising of six solo classical guitar pieces Earth, and concluding with the expansive forty minute post rock epic, Sky. At that time I made a concsious note to look out for any subsequent releases.
Released in July 2023, Old Growth comprises fourteen solo classical guitar pieces, which Nathanaël recorded live “in a woodland cabin on the shores of White Lake, Ontario”. Now shame on me, but initially I thought Old Growth might sit comfortably as background music, however less than halfway through Roots, the album opener, my attention was fully engaged and whatever ‘pressing’ matters I deemed I had, simply faded into the aether. Clocking in at an average length of just over two minutes, the album’s fourteen pieces simply work their way into the psyche, and very soon the world seems a less chaotic and more tranquil place. Sadly, and all too soon, the half-an-hour of music has passed. Of course there is always the option to repeat.
Exowst Scotland is back! TPA are back!
Staying with the concept, which started back in January 2022, Exwost Scotland, performed by Snow (Alan Emslie), continues to release a single track, each month, and throughout 2023 – collated here at TPA in a series of quarterly ADA updates. 2023’s first round-up, covering January, February and March are located HERE.
As with all previous ‘singles’ they are simply denoted by a number. The significance of the numbers is open to any number of interpretations, and across the series of quarterly updates I have attempted, rightly or wrongly, to have a stab at possible interpretations. So far this year each track has been denoted by an additional 2023 – no interpretation needed there ( 😉 ).
April’s 20231532 offers the now familiar live takes performed on drums, 8-string guitar and synthesisers. 20231532 is accompanied by a short tale, and despite the narration which speaks of death calling on a reclusive cave dweller, the music remains skilfully upbeat…
In complete contrast, May’s 202353 is performed on a grand piano (a Berchstein) and synths. Rising from silence, then single held string notes, the track develops into a dynamic and grandiose piece. The accompanying film is one of a graveyard (a common theme for the Exowst visuals), this time around a winter setting with snow covering the ground. Later the music is pulsed by Vangelis styled synths, whilst the video depicts a figure approaching – could this be more ‘Snow’? At a little over two-and-a-half minutes, 202353 is a short track but chock full of ideas.
Again, released at the end of the month and the conclusion to this second quarter we have 20233. Short and to the point – deep droning synths, sweeping pads, with wordless vocals embedded, down-tuned guitar, and all held together by the restrained and metronomic drums…
Well, a bit later than planned, and it’s likely that the final track for the third quarter has now been released, so I had better get my finger out for part three…