Scrimshire: Nothing Is Like Everything – album review



Scrimshire: nothing looks like everything

(Albert’s favorites)

LP | DL

Released on October 15, 2021

Buy vinyl and download here

Stronger than the war bomb Note 4.5

Scrimshire’s atmospheric and orchestral sixth album, Nothing Feels Like Everything, is more thoughtful and laid back than its predecessors. With exceptional collaborations, it is a fusion of jazz and soul that really hits the mark. Gordon Rutherford’s reviews of Louder Than War.

Inflation, fuel shortages and soaring energy prices. Empty supermarket shelves and systematic failures within the country’s largest police force. The poison of racism more endemic than ever. Incompetent political leaders who lead us ever closer to the rocks of economic and social catastrophe. Seventies or Twenties? This is a music review, not a political article, but I emphasize the above and compare the respective decades for two reasons.

First off, Nothing Feels Like Everything, the new album from the very talented musician / songwriter / producer Adam Scrimshire, smells of great soul / jazz music from the 70s (and, at times, 60s too). There is a thread that is woven throughout this collection that is absolutely reminiscent of this decade. Yet at the same time, it’s as fresh as this morning’s milk. There is a nice cue from the Sopranos when an irritated Tony spits out “remember when is the lowest form of conversation”. Rest assured, this album is not a flashback; at no time does it come close to kitsch or retro. Instead, it sounds contemporary and modern; absolutely times and for times. The influence of the 70s may be there, but it’s tunes that resonate with the angst of today’s Britain.

The second good reason to make comparisons with the 1970s has everything to do with the power of protest. Edwyn Collins lamented that there are “too many protest singers, not enough protest songs”. However, this has not always been so. In response to centuries of injustice, musicians, especially black musicians, produced some of the most incredible social commentary of the early 1970s. Think of the powerful works of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. The centerpiece of Nothing Feels Like Everything is a protest song of this ilk. Similar to SAULT’s powerful and prolific production, particularly on Untitled (Black Is), The Pile is a passionate and powerful song that eloquently, thoughtfully and directly addresses the issue of black oppression. It’s a protest song for today, a pretty wonderful composition that urges the need for immediate change.

This collaboration between Scrimshire and British jazz and soul legend Cleveland Watkiss is an astonishing eight minutes of music. Imagine a song sung by Curtis Mayfield, with lyrics by Gil Scott Heron and music by Bobby Womack. Yes, it is so good. As always, Watkiss’ sweet soulful voice is a total joy to behold as she floats above the exquisite string arrangement of Frank Moon and Bev Lee Harling. The base of it all is Scrimshire’s infectious bassline. “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” Watkiss proclaims. “How could you not notice who is sitting at the bottom of the pile?” The seventies and twenties. Different numbers, same problems. It’s a nominee for Best Song of the Year, not just because of the power of the message. Perhaps he qualifies for this epithet purely on a musical basis.

Fittingly, The Pile announces that nothing looks like everything. As well as being the opening track for the album, it was also the single that preceded the album. What a way to set the scene. It’s a high platform, but, incredibly, Nothing Feels Like Everything manages to maintain that standard throughout the rest of the album. He never falters, not a single misstep. As we move into the following tracks, it might not be so overtly visceral, but the quality is sustained.

Nothing Feels Like Everything is Scrimshire’s sixth album. We should therefore not be surprised to discover when listening that it has evolved. Last November (Black Friday if I remember correctly), in those same pages, I described his 2020 album, Believers Vol. 1, like a “wellness album”. And it was. It was a magnificent fusion of nu-soul and contemporary jazz that was perfect for the time being. Conversely, the whole atmosphere around Nothing Feels Like Everything is different. Believers Vol. 1 was warmth, optimism and hope – precisely what we needed to get through a winter of confined discontent. Here we are now, after the lockdown, and Adam Scrimshire has a different perspective. Hell, who doesn’t. This album examines in a forensic way how the absence of something, whether it’s physical contact and interaction, love or respect, can be overwhelming. Isolation has affected the vast majority of us. John Donne’s famous 17th century poem proclaimed that “no man is an island”. He happened to be talking about a different kind of isolationism (hello, Brexit), but even four hundred years later, it still holds. Scrimshire’s latest album seeks to sum up all of these feelings musically and it does so by creating an incredibly atmospheric and moving experience. It’s introspective, introspective. We may have danced on Believers Vol. 1, but nothing looks like everything is more meditative, giving us the space to reflect on everything that’s going on around us and figure out how to deal with it.

Earlier I spoke about the collaboration between Scrimshire and Cleveland Watkiss on The Pile. Scrimshire fans will know he loves such collaborations, with personalities like Emma-Jean Thackray, Omar and Georgia Anne Muldrow, all featured in his back catalog. This time around, however, while eight of the album’s nine tracks feature a collaborator, there are only four vocal contributions, making Nothing Feels Like Everything Scrimshire’s most instrumental collection to date. In a way, it seems to amplify the reflective nature of the music.

It’s one of those vocal collaborations that follow The Pile. The utterly divine Heron, with the lavish tones of Miryam Solomon, represents a change of gears from the opening track. The first thirty seconds are like the soundtrack to a spy movie from the sixties. It’s all about suspense and anticipation before the Spanish guitar from Scrimshire takes over. Solomon’s voice, like pure honey, joins. The combination – voice and well articulated guitar – is reminiscent of the genre of folk / jazz so brilliantly served by Terry Callier in the early 1970s, you guessed it. The trail turns into the coolest, laid back slice of bossa nova this side of Rio. It’s a sheer smoky nightclub before it shatters again; conjuring up images of a split screen with two distant lovers chatting wearily on a long distance phone call.

Heron leads to our first instrumental, the first of two featuring Idris Rahman of Soothsayers. In Circles is an elegant and grandiose melody that perpetuates the atmosphere of the soundtrack of a 1960’s arthouse film. Rahman’s flute leads beautifully alongside radical orchestration. Horn player Soothsayers returns later in the album to another highlight of the album, Love In Dreams. Here he brings a powerful saxophone to the ‘Trane which takes us by the hand and leads us through a kaleidoscopic garden of colors. At the same time, Scrimshire’s synthesizer distorts and beeps wildly. There is an incredible depth in this particular composition, because, like the strata, the sounds overlap. It’s a bit chaotic, but never anything other than controlled. Just before the four-minute mark, the song reaches its crescendo with the melody rising repeatedly as Rahman takes us to the heavenly skies, rapidly stepping all over the place. It’s a mind-blowing composition of Scrimshire and Rahman that has been perfectly captured here.

The horns play a pretty big role in Nothing Feels Like Everything. Returning to the first side, we have I Hear You, I See You, with the distinctive soprano saxophone of the great Nat Birchall. Its melody dances happily throughout this tune, like a pipistrelle in the twilight. Scrimshire’s Latin percussion nails the track, while Faye Houston’s witty vocals selflessly serve the song. A dramatic orchestration introduces the next track, the Within Without cinematic, before Jessica Lauren announces her arrival with a smashing chord on her Fender Rhodes. I love the unique bluesy feel of this particular keyboard and here it is in the hands of a virtuoso. While Lauren thrills us with that distinctive sound, Chris Boot applies a dazzling, almost military rhythm to the kit.

Boldly introduces Ursula Rucker, swaying between spoken word passages and a moving voice as she delivers an uplifting and encouraging message; imploring us to “keep moving forward”. Musically, it’s stripped down and minimalist, drawing on Scrimshire keyboards. The beautiful and dreamy Morning Affirmation is also uncluttered. It’s also the only track on the album where Scrimshire does it all. Album Closer, Discussion, presents Pie Eye Collective, fresh off the release of their debut album, Salvation, on Albert’s Favorites last month. In case you didn’t know, Pie Eye Collective is the project of sound scientist Matthew Gordon and he brings weird, otherworldly electronics to accompany the distant Fender Rhodes of Scrimshire. It has the feel of a Kid A / Amnesiac era Radiohead track and is the perfect closest to Nothing Feels Like Everything. The vast space of this room acts as a perfect invitation for us to reflect once more.

This review began with a comparison of close history. It’s relevant because Nothing Feels Like Everything evokes the music and messages of that time. However, it is categorically an album for today; one that gives us the space and encouragement to reflect on current events and issues we face in our daily lives. Plus, it’s a technically flawless album and while that description can make the music seem cold at times, this collection is not. Each note conveys authenticity and warmth. Skillfully fusing jazz, soul, and elements of folk, with these perfectly crafted and executed collaborations, Nothing Feels Like Everything should be on everyone’s list to check out. Because adding this to your life will make the coming winter of discontent a little warmer.

~

Scrimshire can be found here. You can also find it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Albert’s favorites can be found here. They are also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

All the words of Gordon Rutherford. Other Gordon writings can be found in his archives.

Gordon is also on Twitter as @ R11Gordon and has a website here: https://thedarkflux.com



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