by Ian Mann
June 01, 2022
"Beraha continues to push her voice to the limits & receives excellent support from three gifted & highly empathic instrumentalists". Ian Mann on the second album from Brigitte Beraha's Lucid Dreamers
(Let Me Out Records LMOCD003)
Brigitte Beraha – voice, electronics, toys, George Crowley – tenor sax, clarinet, electronics, Alcyona Mick – piano, synths, noises in piano, Tim Giles – drums, percussion, electronics
“Blink” is the second album from vocalist, lyricist and composer Brigitte Beraha’s Lucid Dreamers quartet, with personnel as detailed above.
The Lucid Dreamers band was first brought together as a trio (Beraha, Crowley, Giles) for a performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 2019 EFG London Jazz Festival. The success of that inaugural performance saw the group expanded to a quartet with the addition of pianist Alcyona Mick and the music on the “Lucid Dreamers” album was documented at a live performance on 15th January 2020 at the Iklectik venue in Waterloo, London.
The album “Lucid Dreamers” was released later in 2020 with the album title quickly becoming adopted as a band name. The album was arguably Beraha’s most adventurous release thus far as a solo artist and mixed acoustic and electric elements with Beraha, Crowley and Giles all credited with “electronics” in addition to voice and conventional instruments.
“Blink” sees the Lucid Dreamers quartet continuing their experiments with voice, acoustic instruments and electronics, but this time in a studio situation. The group wished to maintain the spirit of spontaneity that informed their début album and the music on “Blink” features three group improvisations alongside five compositions from the pen of Beraha.
Beraha states that it was the intention to create music based on a spirit of “communication, interaction and honesty with the surroundings, through playfulness, chaos or silence”. She cites the influence of Basil Kirchin, Steve Lacy, Robert Wyatt and the rock group Talk Talk.
“Blink” was recorded in June 2021 as the country began to emerge from the second Covid lockdown. But Beraha had been busy during the imposed hiatus, continuing her vocal and electronic experiments on the solo album “By The Cobbled Path”. Recorded between November 2020 and July 2021 this was true solo project and a genuine product of lockdown. In a sense it represents the bridge between the two Lucid Dreamers albums and is a recording born out of the same experimental spirit. My review of “By The Cobbled Path” can be found here;
My review of the first Lucid Dreamers album can be found here;
This review is the source for the following biographical details regarding Beraha;
Born in Milan to British/Turkish parents Beraha was subsequently brought up in Monaco. She moved to London in 1996 to study music at Goldsmiths College before moving on to the Guildhall School of Music and eventually settling in the English capital. Her international upbringing has contributed to an ability to sing convincingly in a variety of different languages.
She first came to my attention with the release of her second solo album “Flying Dreams” back in 2008. This was an album of quietly lyrical, but subtly adventurous, original material. Her début, the standards based “Prelude to a Kiss” had first appeared in 2005.
Strongly influenced by the great Norma Winstone Beraha has since blossomed into one of the UK’s most adventurous and accomplished vocalists who has performed as a very welcome guest on recordings by pianists Ivo Neame and Geoff Eales, trumpeters Andre Canniere, Andy Hague and Reuben Fowler and saxophonists Ed Jones and Kevin Figes among others. She is a key member of the co-operative ensembles Babelfish and Solstice and also of Riff Raff, the sextet led by bassist and composer Dave Manington. She has also worked with the trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed.
A particularly prolific collaboration has been with the pianist and composer John Turville, the pair releasing the duo album “Red Skies” in 2013 and also touring extensively. “Red Skies” also included a guest appearance on tenor sax by the late, great Bobby Wellins while the duo’s live performances have sometimes featured contributions from George Crowley.
Beraha has also been part of another voice / piano duo, this time with Frank Harrison, the pair releasing the album “The Way Home” in 2018.
2018 was a particularly productive year for Beraha and also saw her guesting on “Criss Cross”, a duo album from pianist Alcyona Mick and saxophonist Tori Freestone. She also appeared at Cheltenham Jazz Festival as part of the all female ensemble Interchange, founded and co-ordinated by saxophonist, composer and educator Issie Barratt.
Beraha has been an important member of the Loop and E17 musicians’ collectives and is generally a busy and creative presence on the UK jazz scene. As well as being an enterprising and versatile vocalist she is also an accomplished song writer and lyricist who has had a considerable creative input to the recordings with which she has been involved, often adding her lyrics to the music of others.
Another project with which Beraha has been involved is the all female folk-jazz trio Orenda, featuring Mick and saxophonist Josephine Davies.
A musician capable of working across a variety of musical genres Beraha was part of a project that interpreted the music of drummer and composer Basil Kirchin as part of Hull City of Culture in 2017. The following year she was involved with the “Raising Hell with Henry Purcell” performance at Kings Place, London, a project co-ordinated by former Bad Plus pianist Ethan Iverson. Beraha has also been part of former Loose Tubes flautist Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble.
She has been nominated at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards and the Ivors Composer Awards and Holds teaching posts at Trinity Laban and The Guildhall in London and the RWCMD in Cardiff.
Turning now to the music to be heard on “Blink”, which commences with a group improvisation appropriately titled “Opening”. Crowley’s wispy tenor is joined by the sounds of Beraha’s ethereal wordless vocals, Mick’s sparse piano, sometimes with the strings dampened, and chilly, ambient electronics. It’s an atmospheric introduction to Beraha’s lucid dreamworld and one that has evoked comparisons with a kind of aural seascape – at least in the album’s press release.
The title track follows, a song written by Beraha that features her voice and lyrics, the words expressing the transience of life - “you blink so fast, it’s gone so fast”. At times it almost resembles a conventional jazz ballad as Beraha’s Norma Winstone like vocalising is superseded by Crowley’s tenor sax solo, his sound eventually subject to a little judicious electronic manipulation. Beraha’s voice returns to reflect that the more determinedly one seeks the meaning of life “the more incomprehensible it becomes”. The watery lyrical images continue - “nothing left upon the sea, nothing left for s to see” and Mick adds a gently rippling piano solo in the song’s closing stages, accompanied by the sound of whispering voices and ghostly electronica.
Incidentally Blink is also the name of an excellent trio that featured Mick on piano, Robin Fincker on reeds and Paul Clarvis on drums and percussion that was active around 2008.
“Lullaby” is another comparatively conventional song in terms of construction. It appears to tackle the subject of dementia and its affect on family relationships - “Father your mind is on vacation, you and I might never get to know each other” sings Beraha tenderly. The highly personal lyrics receive sympathetic musical support from Mick’s lyrical piano, Crowley’s fluent tenor and Giles’ sparse but effective drumming.
“Wait For Me” is the second group improvisation and marks a return to the electronic soundscapes that distinguished this quartet’s début. An electronic pulse runs throughout the piece, suggesting the influence of techno music. Abstract wordless vocals swirl around this rhythmic core as the music becomes increasingly eerie and unsettling.
“Doors” first appeared on the “By The Cobbled Path” album and was a genuine solo performance, albeit with a significant amount of post production work being added by Beraha’s remote collaborator, guitarist, sound artist and producer Chris Sharkey.
For this latest album Beraha has brought the song to the Lucid Dreamers band, who proceed to put their own stamp on it. Giles’ drums and percussion play a particularly vital role in the new arrangement, weaving their way around Beraha’s semi-spoken vocals. Using doors as a metaphor her words combine childlike wonder with eternal truths - “time watches them crack little by little, whilst behind them humans live and die”.
At over thirteen minutes in duration “Modulo 7” is the lengthiest track on the album and is perhaps closest in spirit to the music of the début. Vocally generated wave like noises lap around the sounds of piano and tenor as the piece unfolds slowly and organically with Beraha deploying her voice as an instrument in a series of exchanges with Mick and Crowley, subtly underscored by Giles. Crowley then reaches out for the sky as the music gathers pace, power and momentum, his spiralling tenor shadowed by piano, drums and the leader’s soaring wordless vocals. Having reached a peak the music dissipates, temporarily replaced by noises replicating the sound of gunfire. This signals the arriving of an ominous sounding section that includes the throbbing and bubbling of synths, disembodied sampled voices and periodic percussive explosions. There’s a creepy, sci-fi atmosphere suggestive of a future dystopian landscape, or even contemporary Ukraine - although the recording session pre-dates the current war. Crowley’s tenor then begins to walk this barren terrain, joined by the voice of Beraha who sounds as if she might be singing in French as the music builds to a second peak. There’s a strong narrative throughout this consistently impressive piece.
“Too Far To Hear My Singing” also appeared on the “Cobbled Path” album and is expanded upon here, the voice, piano and electronica of the original now augmented by sax and percussion. Written during lockdown the piece remains intimate, still conjuring up images of isolation and of chilly winter landscapes, but with Crowley’s tenor bringing a welcome splash of warmth amid the gently swirling electronic soundscape.
“Remembering” closes the album and is the last of the collective improvisations. In effect this is an improvised song with Beraha actually singing and speaking words, these sounding as if they are being dragged from her sub-conscience. Combined with Mick’s glacial piano, the quasi military rumble of Giles’ mallets and an underlying electronic glitch there’s an undeniable dream like quality about the music, albeit an ominous one. A “lucid dream” dream if you will, but a somewhat disturbing one.
“Blink” represents the successful continuation of Beraha’s experiments with vocals and electronics, both solo and as a member of this excellent quartet. Despite the electronic element this is a sound that is still intimate and very human, with the music on “Blink” ranging from the beautiful to the dark and unsettling. Beraha continues to push her voice to the limits and receives excellent support from three gifted and highly empathic instrumentalists.
There are still a handful of dates remaining on the quartet’s current tour. Please visit https://www.brigitteberaha.com/live for details.blog comments powered by Disqus