England is currently in the midst of a full-blown jazz renaissance, and the talent pouring out of this cultural eruption has a knack for bridging the gap between different strains of broken-beat music. Simiah & The Phantom Ensemble is an open-ended jazz ensemble that folds together live sampling, keys, saxophone, and a bevy of guest instrumentalists in the live sphere. On February 15th, they unveiled their debut LP Connections, establishing their particular fluidity in the studio format. The blend of sampled percussion and zoned-in conventional tones creates a smoke-screened aesthetic behind the eyes, gently touching on the senses.
Simiah is the boom-bap trooper with a vigilant duty to break the beat any way he can. Utilizing a classic MPC to channel drum lines and percussive jaunts, his control of the stereo space throughout the album is entangling, just as alive as the purebred instrumentation that rests atop it. The finger-drummed mechanics of velocity and tension are ever present, ebbing the soul of the tracks back and forth from organic to mechanic. Manning the keys with ever the careful touch, Dan Somers fleshes out vibes in every direction imaginable, blending like butter into the arrangement and mixdown of every song. Without so much as a stutter, his dexterity and precision note-to-note forms the veritable glue of the record.
Craig Crofton does justice on a moment-by-moment basis, rocking the saxophone with a sensuality that bleeds through the open space in the mix. A touch here, and riff there, all washed with a careful balance of spatial effects that soak into the tone of the brass. Altogether, this trio absolutely smashes all expectations and standards with their vibrant compositions and time-tested musicianship.
Prior to the release of Connections, the Phantom Ensembles embraced the addition of two new instrumentalists; Harriet Riley, a vibraphonist and percussionist, and the Bristol-based guitarist Chalky White, a Rust fan favorite. Upgrading the Ensemble to a five-piece was a bold endeavor, surely changing the fundamental chemistry of the band. By all accounts, especially the response to their recent live performances, these additions have been like perfect ingredients spicing this already sultry dish.