Travelogue: A Gondwana Records Sampler

Gondwana Records is an independent record label founded in Manchester, England by composer/musician/producer Matthew Halsall in 2008 to shine a light on the talent he heard in the local clubs. Since then, it has become blossomed into a genuinely international label with additional offices in Berlin and London and a roster that boasts such well-regarded artists as GoGo Penguin, Chip Wickham, Hania Rani, Mammal Hands, and Portico Quartet. The spring and summer of 2022 has been an especially fertile period for Gondwana and featured here are three outstanding releases that I have scarcely been able to stop listening to. I have no doubt many of you dear readers will feel the same and hopefully it will spur you on to continue to explore their superb catalog.

Svaneborg Kardyb – Over Tage

Video: Kristoffer Juel Poulsen; Audio: Simon Wetterstrøm Mariegaard

Svaneborg Kardyb are the multi award-winning Danish duo of Nikolaj Svaneborg (Wurlitzer, Juno, piano) and Jonas Kardyb (drums, percussion) based in Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city. The by-product of fruitful early morning sessions caffeinated with “the blackest of coffee”, Over Tage (‘over roofs’) marks their Gondwana debut and what a good one it is. Drawing on both Danish folk music and Scandinavian jazz influences, their music is a nimble blend of catchy grooves & melodies with organic textures, and tasteful electronica. Their minimalistic approach leaves ample space for improvisation and the sheer “joy of playing together” (which the label rightly touts) to shine through. This is easy to see watching Nikolaj and Jonas face each other to perform lead-off track “Op” in the video above or listening to the marvelously inventive and impossibly infectious “Orbit” which I have had on repeat all summer.

We explored whatever sounds and musical structures our duality gave birth to and through long jam-sessions we found small seeds of ideas that turned into tunes. Danish traditional songs, community singing and hymns are a big inspiration too. Both the tonal language, the lyrical melodies and the way generations can gather around the music, is something that is close to our hearts.

Over Tage will be released on the 4th of November in both limited edition clear and standard black vinyl LP editions as well as CD and digital featuring artwork & design by Daniel Halsall and photography by Michell Smedegaard Boysen.

Links: Bandcamp | Pre-Orders | Svaneborg Kardyb | Gondwana Bio

Jasmine Myra – Horizons

Filmed at The Nave, Leeds by: Luca Rudlin & Rich Williams

Jasmine Myra is a saxophonist, composer and band leader based in Leeds who makes her debut on the label supported by an ensemble of talented young musicians from the north of England. Citing influences ranging from Bonobo and Olafur Arnalds to the late Kenny Wheeler, her nomination for Jazz FM’s Breakthrough Act of the Year award is an indication that the music skews more toward the latter whose work was once described as “clear, relaxed and lyrical”, a phrase one could easily apply to the euphonious, uplifting music of Horizons. It is a vibrant record that is as cerebral as it is free-spirited and permeated with a positive vibe that welcomes the listener along for the ride across a broad sonic spectrum from painterly vignettes to euphoric jams.

I realized that my aim was to start writing music that made people feel happy and uplifted. Writing is one of my biggest passions, but I also love performing. Playing live and seeing the audience connect with my music and have a positive experience brings me so much joy.

Horizons was released July 15 on CD and vinyl LP. At this writing, a repress of the standard black edition is available while the limited transparent Curacao edition remains sold out.

Links: Bandcamp | Jasmine Myra | Gondwana Bio

Vega Trails – Tremors in the Static

Filmed at St Thomas’ Church, Londona by Luca Rudlin & Rich Williams

Vega Trails is a new project formed by members of bands that have previously appeared on the label – double-bassist & composer Milo Fitzpatrick of Portico Quartet and saxophonist Jordan Smart of Mammal Hands and Sunda Arc. According to the label, the project which takes its name from Carl Sagan’s science fiction novel ‘Contact’ was born out of a desire to bring the elements of bass and melody to the foreground in their rawest form. The journey began during the lockdown period with Fitzpatrick immersing himself in music that had “space and sparseness” such as Swedish fiddle music and Indian Classical, but we learn that it was only after listening to a Charlie Haden album of duets that Vega Trails came into focus as a duo. The fluidity of the musical dialogue that develops between Fitzpatrick’s viscerally expressive bass and Smart’s dazzling peregrinations on tenor & soprano sax, bass clarinet, and Ney flute make Tremors in the Static a captivating and deeply engaging record.

There is so much in just one musician’s sound; the emotional, the intellectual, the vulnerability and power of their character. But often these delicate nuances can be submerged in the quest for a group sound. In Vega Trails I wanted to grant the musicians space to breathe and be heard and for the listener to witness the intimacy and depth of a conversation between two voices, bass and melody.

Tremors in the Static was released May 6 on CD and two vinyl editions – clear and black – both of which are sold out at this writing.

Links: Bandcamp | Vega Trails | Gondwana Bio