Recorded when she was just 22, Nala Sinephro's debut album casts a potent spell, animating her harp, guitar and modular synth compositions with sturdy rhythms and horns. It's jazz that exists very much in the present, as much related to Rune Grammofon and ECM's surreal minimalism as Alice Coltrane's devotional bliss. V good!
London-based Sinephro can rightly be identified as a prodigy. The tracks - numbered from one to eight and all simply called 'Space' - feel like chapters in a book, each part of a living, breathing whole. They might introduce new sounds or feature different guest players, but the vision is Sinephro's, and she channels her interest in electronic music as well as in vintage and contemporary jazz into a record that's complex, physical and absorbing.
Fascinated by spontaneity and psychoacoustic recording techniques, she refused to use a set tuning or BPM to keep the album as raw as possible, and used frequencies emitted by a black hole (a Bb note 57 octaves below middle C, if yer interested) to guide her concept. So the title is layered, it speaks to her cosmic interests as well as the recording process, leading the album to sound like a meditation on the sounds around us and our preconceptions of jazz. It's not an album that's capsized by experimental posturing though, it's a warm embrace and as loose and jubilant as '50s harp legend Dorothy Ashby.
From the sunny electronic ambience and birdsong of opener 'Space 1', Sinephro brings in Lyle Barton’s evocative piano expression, low resonant tenor sax from James Mollison, and Shirley Tetteh's gentle guitar. On 'Space 3', we shift gears with a clip from a three-hour (!) improv with Sons of Kemet drummer Eddie Hick, all fractured rhythm and gurgling sci-fi synth mayhem that sounds like a lost session from Italian giallo synth prog legends Goblin. 'Space 5' is more psychedelic and soupy, layering loops and electronic drones over fragrant harp improvisations and uneasy, filtered rhythms.
Everything builds slowly and cautiously until the album's epic 17-minute final track, 'Space 8', where all of Sinephro's ideas and compositional idiosyncrasies are laid bare. A blend of lilting romance and stargazing wonder, it cautiously melts from warm ambience into melancholy, horn-led psychedelia.