Contours: Balafon Sketches LP

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Fresh Stockport label Net Of Gems springs into action with the crucial vinyl run of Contours’ highly-praised self-released 2020 cassette Balafon Sketches.  Long incubated over a series of visits back to his Cumbrian homeland, Manchester producer Contours joins the dots between deep 4th world percussion, classic minimalism and spiritual jazz through this collaboration-heavy release.  It’s a seamless mix of traditional and electronic elements, taking heavy hints from Balinese gamelan and Central African polyrhythms yet steeped in a sense of introspection owing to the deep, isolated soundings in which it was conceived.  Collaborating with local instrument builder / ceramist Seth Sutton, the pair drench a set of balafon pieces in heavy tape delay and reverb pedals, recalling the ethno-percussion trips led by Futuro Antico, whereas ‘Keld’ (featuring renown Cellist Abel Selaocoe) sinks skimming, minimal flute notes into pacifying polyrhythms and stark plucked improvisations that edge towards something more spiritual.  Equally heady is the closer ‘Okutama’, with heavily dubbed chords and hand-drumming immersed in dense field recordings of insect orchestra and nature.  Considering the very home-brewed and DIY nature that underpins the thing, Tom Contours & Co have seriously outdone themselves here and having spent the best over a year now relistening, reabsorbing and getting to know this work inside out, it has every feel of a future classic - a deeply transcendent, organic body of music borne out of spontaneous experimentation with friends.  Manufactured by Pallas - original lithograph artwork by Kitty Hopking.

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