Last we heard from Stuart McCallum was in the highly effective duo setting of Beholden slipped out quietly last year.
McCallum’s new album City to be released at the end of August couldn’t be more different. On it the guitarist turns firmly towards his more accustomed direction of electronica intricately recorded at a number of studios in Amsterdam, London and Manchester co-produced and co-written with drummer Richard Spaven.
Liberally coated in jazz, chill-out and even folky atmospheres City is a record that also has a strong vocals element. Beginning with the swirling soulful title track opener, Spaven’s broken beats style gives way eventually to a huge chunk of tumbling Wes Montgomery-rooted guitar.
A little more concise than earlier album Distilled, there’s more of an acoustic beginning to ‘Inhale’ and then a poignant theme to the piece, guitar jutting up against guitar as the melody spools into a bespoke pastoral vision a northern dream away from a Pat Metheny sound.
Also with McCallum on the album are bass guitarist Robin Mullarkey returning from Distilled, Aussie EST-influenced Trichotomy pianist Sean Foran here on Rhodes electric piano plus an array of input from guest singers, JP Cooper, Sharlene Hector, Fridolijn Van Poll and Sophie Barker.
McCallum journeys well away from his jazz roots on the eerie ‘Effergy’ and on ‘Trio Seven’ draws on a sample of Kris Drever from Lau, folding in the folky side for a neat fit. ‘Said and Done’ is the most ethereal of the vocals, an Enya-like float to Sophie Barker’s vocal inescapably drawn to mind.
Ultimately Spaven’s fractured drum style is an important foil to McCallum particularly on the track ‘Mk II’, a dimming and alternating glare of electronics here that by turn shimmers and dazzles amid the hurtling shuffles and fills, guitar embracing pastoral jazz Americana like nobody’s business but their own personal sound.
Hear McCallum at the jazz:refreshed Mau Mau Bar show in west London on Thursday 23 July