The world turns, a series of revolutions; minutes pass, lives wend and leap; music is born and set free into the world, which turns, a series of revolutions. Life is a series of revolutions, and music is a revolutionary force. Life is music, music is life.
Here at PROLE JAZZ we’ve spent the past couple of weeks reflecting on this year of life, this year of music. We’ve been talking with cats, star clusters, lumps of quartz; communing with musicians, emcees, rhythmatists; consulting voodoo charts and making lists.
In today’s episode of From the Mouths of Babes notepad-wielding gonzo troubadour Captain Jack Avery chatted with the lambent and wonderful Bex Burch of world-gaze spirit jazz outfit Vula Viel. Bex told him about her year in music: release highlights, a mountain range of live pinnacles, and what the future holds.
Jack: Bex! This year has been a revelation musically. Hit me with your top records of 2019…
Bex: Kit Downes Dreamlife of Debris.This beautiful record really moved me… the live version which I was lucky enough to see in London even more so. Incredible band. Incredible music…
Jaimie Branch Fly it Die II bird dogs of paradise. I know everyone’s shouting about this so doesn’t need the hype, but when I play it, it’s mine, and only mine. A record that makes you feel like that is a beautiful thing. Intimately communicating something shared.
Okumu/ Herbert / Skinner Live at the Crypt. Please. Just. Listen. Beautiful record from three heroes of the UK scene. Hope to see this band live one day. The record takes me there though. 4 sides. I’m in their world, or are they in mine?
Ill Considered 8. Ok, Leon Brichard, what a musician! I love what this band and producer makes.. This band makes Muuusic. 8 for me is all about movement of energy… Sometimes only this record can do. Dive into the Ill Considered catalogue for all the feels.
Jack: Yes these are fantastic choices! I particularly love the Jaimie Branch record, it’s all ludic possibilities and distant lands, reveried ruminations of sounds from the weird landscape of the human heart. So how about live shows? Tell me all about your highlights of the year.
Bex: 2019, Incredible year. Starting in January with the stunning Peter Zummo – we have so much to learn from the elders. Meeting Peter set my life on a different direction this January. I’m super happy about where it’s going. He is so open. Open and Great. Really Great. Robert Stillman’s album launch in spring was Melodic! Need to see that band if they play live again.. Robert, Tom Challenger, Tom Herbert, Tom Skinner, Alex Hawkins… just joyful melodic dancing beauty. Kit Downes and Tom Challenger had a support slot at a sold out Barbican earlier this year… two bodies on a BIG stage. Without any frills, no dramatics, they let their music and relationship fill the space and our hearts. These two together is magical.. and Tom’s playing – words don’t do it justice. I’ve known and heard Tom since I was 18 and even then, there was something that made me stop and breathe it in.
Meeting and hearing Mariá Portugal in Moers Festival, Germany – incredible music and big heart on stage! Live highlight was with the Global Improvisers Orchestra. More elders highlights with Evelyn Glennie, Charles Hayward, Kuljit Bhamra at Cafe OTO in the summer. Evelyn I know, as the first female percussionist, made my career possible in so many subtle ways, but meeting her and playing with her too (which happened when myself, Sam Beste and Dean Valentine Smith joined the elders on stage) was a dream come true and a big lesson. More listening. MORE! Like with Peter Zummo, Evelyn altered my course and saved me a few years of less than. Beanie Bhebhe – this man I only met by chance (and he not being free for something through someone so I happened to be on an email thread so I asked if he could do another thing and he could…) But wow, Beanie’s MUUUSIC though!!! Incredible touch on the drums, he’s a drummer who can be really playing but still be quiet. Got some crazy bounce in it. Live highlight was at Union Chapel with myself and the INCREDIBLE Tom Herbert who together with Beanie lifted that beautiful church and painted God in the air. Ruth Goller Skylla– Cafe OTO Just this December! Ruth’s playing surprises and touches me every single gig I’ve played with her. But watching her solo project live with Alice Grant and Lauren Kinsella was something else! I have no idea how this woman thinks. But I love what comes out. The live version is beautiful, vulnerable and big too. A magical moment.
Kit Downes and Tom Challenger get another spot in December’s Dreamlife of Debris album launch. Lauren Kinsella featuring again and as with Ruth’s gig, Lauren amazes me by elevating music I already loved, somehow making it more Kit’s or more Ruth’s in the process. An incredible musician who I hope to see more of live.
Finally I just moved to Belfast and earlier this week put on a new Improvised music night called ‘Hand Made Music’ with Adam Pulze Melbye– Adam is a true gem of a bassist!!! 2019 has been a year of amazing bassists, how can I still meet one more and be blown away?!!! Also playing was Steve Davis (2019 has been a year of drummers… how can I still hear new tunes and fresh feels on skins and metal???) and Shane Latimer! Great night, and lovely to start to meet the Belfast scene.
Ok ok… I can’t actually leave this section without Vula Viel mention. Because as incredible as one gig and single experiences are, touring my own music with Jim and Ruth in 2019 has been deeper and more meaningful on a personal level. Inner inspiration and outer from the incredible crowds we’ve had. The band has grown up, I’m glimpsing what our sound is, what my own voice is, and I’m excited. Every single gig has been amazing. I’m not exaggerating. Jim has a sealed envelope with a letter I wrote to myself stating that we would never have a flop gig. He will never give me that letter. I know this. I am so grateful to Ruth, Jim, their huge power and heart and soul they bring to this band on stage and off. Every single gig though!!! This is not a drill. This band is real. Grateful for every promoter and venue for having us and every member of every audience for sharing this year.
2020, we ready.
Jack: Amazing! So much crazy good music and wild creativity in the aether of 2019, inspiration is literally everywhere for those open to find it… Tell me more about the year to come, what have you got planned for Vula Viel? What excitements and trepidations are on the horizon for you all?
Bex: Mega excited for Ruth Goller and Jim Hart – my band mates in Vula Viel, both have new projects of their own coming out in 2020! Jim’s is with Ivo Neame and called Multiverse, produced by the super star Math Calvert. Each voice here is so different; the coming together alongside individual characters is for me what Multiverse celebrates. Ruth’s solo project, Skylla is a totally unique and incredible body of work! Her live show with Lauren Kinsella and Alice Grant I already mentioned. This record is so individual to Ruth and her unique mind / musicianship, I feel like I am only just getting to know who Ruth is.
Another album coming out in 2020, and one not from my own band mates is Tamar Osborne’s Collocutor record. I’m lucky enough to have heard this a little bit along the journey and WOW! An incredible record. An incredible composer, player, band leader, Tamar. Strong.
Also continuing working on Drummers Inc on Worldwide FM; curating 2 hours of music, massive fun, and wonderful to be part of the WWFM growth and story, these guys are doing the right stuff for the right reasons.
So for me, to be honest and answer this question, I do have to mention my own stuff. To celebrate my life and what I have chosen to be in my life and what has been given to me! Peter Zummo AND Evelyn Glennie are both featuring in my 2020. I’m going to Ghana again and dreams=true, might involve some time with another of my elders, Koo Nimo! Hand Made Music night in Belfast, Adam and myself curating some music in the intensely vibey Accidental Theatre. And Vula Viel. VV, what can I say? good is good? Do not be afraid? Ok ok… are you alive? Are you loved? What’s Not Enough About That?! Yes new album. Out Feb 7th 2020. Yes love for my band in helping create this one. No producer. We did it ourselves. Featuring Koo Nimo and Peter Zummo, Mixed by Dilip Harris. Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid, supported by PRSF and Sound and Music, mega team Quinton Scott, Francesco Soragna, Louise Boer, all my live team Peter Conway, Tobi Schuster, Kati Van de Velde.. Jim, Ruth, Tom Herbert and Dave Smith too… 2020: I mean, seriously, What’s Not Enough About That?
Bex Burch plays gyil and percussion with intrepid avant-jazz sorcerers Vula Viel. Keep track of their movements on Facebook and buy their incredible music on their Bandcamp page.