Album of the Week \\ ‘Sunny Side Up’ is a vibrant portrait of Melbourne’s Jazz-tinted scene

19th July 2019
Brownswood Recordings’ reveal ‘Sunny Side Up’, the Melbourne answer to 2018’s London-focused ‘We Out Here’ 

Words: Emma Finamore

Shades of deep house, broken beat, cha-cha, samba, p-funk and soul, hip-hop and R&B, all folded together with a Jazz mind-set: welcome to Melbourne, welcome to the Sunny Side. 

Brownswood’s latest compilation – like last year’s ‘We Out Here’ un-peeling the layers of London’s new Jazz – shines a bright light on a fizzing, dynamic music scene. Similar to the label’s previous project, ‘Sunny Side Up’ reveals the sounds of a city unhindered by the narrative of a Jazz past. Melbourne is free of specific Jazz customs and traditions to follow behind, leaving musicians liberated to incorporate hip-hop, house, broken beat or R&B, all via a Jazz mindset.

The sheer space and topography of Melbourne means the music made there is different to that of places like London. Artists have rehearsal and recording space in their sprawling back yards or big house shares – makeshift home studios in garages, sheds, basements and spare rooms – and they often hone their skills and develop their sounds at the town’s frequent free and easy house parties, volume turned up to the max and going on till dawn. 

It’s a freedom to stretch out and experiment that’s afforded to them by the space of their city, unlike London’s cramped living, where neighbours are often squeezed up not just either side of one another, but above and below too. 

In pure Melbourne style, this compilation itself was recorded in one of these sprawling DIY spaces. ‘Sunny Side Up’ was created over a week at The Grove, a fabled house-cum-studio in the North Melbourne suburb of Coburg, where nine of the city’s young luminaries laid down their own take on a musical form rooted in Jazz. Engineered by Nick Herrera (who’s worked with the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, Nai Palm, Allysha Joy and 30/70 Collective) and directed by saxophonist and producer Silentjay, the result is a vibrant portrait of what’s bubbling up in the city.

Opener ‘Banksia’ offers up a dreamy, glittering introduction to the project, transporting us straight to the sunny side. Using hypnotic percussion layered up with snaking, meandering keys and clarinet, band leader, solo artist and percussion virtuoso Phil Stroud conducts a winding spiritual meditation; proving why his Perth imprint Good Company has picked up fans like Rhythm Section’s Bradley Zero and Osunlade

In direct contrast, this is followed by the up-tempo spirited Jazz-funk infusion of ‘Pick Up/Galaxy’ from Dufresne Dufresne, a multi-instrumentalist member of the Mandarin Dreams collective, who recently arranged horns for Sampa The Great’s live show. It’s all juicy Flea-esque bass lines and wah-wah, before the funk gives way to a disco-inflected, feel-good refrain and horn arrangement. 

Elsewhere, Horatio Luna’s ‘The Wake-Up’ builds to Daft Punk levels of pulsing funk – one of the most infectiously foot-tapping tracks on the compilation – and Zeitgeist Freedom Energy brings broken beat chopped up with flighty skippy clarinet on ‘Powers 2 (The People)’.  

‘Eternal/Internal Peace’ changes up (or down) the pace of the record, putting Silentjay’s sampling and beat-making prowess to good use – bird song and flute-like vocals intersperse with soft samba percussion and watery, bubbling synths. 

The vocals are as varied as the tunes on this compilation: Kuzich’s ‘There Is No Time’ features a deliciously bizarre, trippy, woozy refrain, while Audrey Powne‘s ‘Bleeding Hearts’ brings heavy-lidded neo-soul to the mix, and there’s the sensual, breathless Allysha Joy with deep, ruminative spiritual Jazz closer, ‘Orbit’.

An essential primer on a buzzing, vital Jazz scene: make ‘Sunny Side Up’ a go-to record this Summer.

‘Sunny Side Up’ is released via Brownswood Recordings on 19 July – order here

Come to our COOK OUT ft IGBO, Sly5thAve and food from Caribbean Kitchen

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