Simon Thacker's Ritmata: Taradh (Slap the Moon/digital outlets)

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Taijasa
Simon Thacker's Ritmata: Taradh (Slap the Moon/digital outlets)

Scottish guitarist Simon Thacker has appeared a few times at Elsewhere and we have always been pleased to draw your attention to him, and proud too that we reviewed his last project with his Svara-Kanti group very soon after it came out . . . and it went on to win universal acclaim and not a few awards.

Thacker is a cross-genre artist who has studied classical and flamenco guitar but his real passion is exploring the music of India, as he does with that acclaimed Svara-Kanti ensemble.

This album however shows another side of his multiple musical personalities which pulls on sounds and styles from sources as diverse as Moroccan and Sephardic music, flamenco and Gaelic traditions.

One of these pieces, the 11 minute-plus Quadriga in 5, has been nominated for the Ivors Composer Award.

Ritmata is Thacker on classical guitar, pianist Paul Harrison, acoustic bassist Andrew Robb and drummer Stu Brown. The vocalist on Muero Yo De Amor is Spanish singer Angeles Toledano.

Given the breadth and depths of Thacker's abilities and conceptions, many of these pieces slip effortlessly between styles and influences, and at various points in the nine minute opener, the raga-inspired Asuramaya, you might feel an Indian or Spanish influence, or jazz from along the spectrum between ECM/Bill Evans poise and a swinging quartet in a New York club.

At the other end of the spectrum is his short solo piece Consus which at times displays fiendishly difficult technique, but wraps it in the warmth and heat of Mediterranean styles, notably those of North Africa.

It leads to the complexities of the epic, time-signature changing Quadringa in 5 which is a shape-shifting essay in intensity, elevating and energetic melodies driven by percussion and Thacker's exceptional playing . . . but listen too for how Harrison delivers a remarkable solo passage which is almost a stand-alone work in itself within the whole.

Local interest will alight on the piece Honour the Treaties which, in the handsome and informative booklet (book?) which comes with the CD, Thacker says was written before his 2015 New Zealand tour and took as its inspiration and musical source Native American cultures he heard at a pow wow.

The determined pulse of drum and bass allude to this (Brown's almost military precision on the fills is quite something to hear) but again there is a jazz spirit at work . . . and yet the dialogue between Thacker and the others, again notably Brown, is more akin to the closing passage of a raga.

The keening and yearning voice of the remarkable Toledano from Cordoba brings Sephardic drama to this version of Muero Yo De Amor (“I die of love, I feel pain, pain”).

As with Thacker's previous albums, this is music which takes no prisoners among casual listeners but exists somewhere between a master class and masterful originality, and reinvention of traditions.

The posted track Taijasa is your easy entry.


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