Sone Institute - A model life (Front & Follow)
It was 2010 that I first came across Sone Institute, which is largely one man, Roman Bezdyk. His album that year, Curious memories, was a masterful set of Burt Bacharach leaning tunes (in terms of their laid back atmosphere only), put together using samples and cut and paste wizardry. (In fact, I featured a tune from it in the recent Trumpets special, 'On tree hill' which samples the iconic trumpet part from the Bacharach-produced, Gene Pitney classic '24 hours from Tulsa', alongside a frantic Bollywood sample) This follow up shares the beauty and enigmatic qualities of the previous album, but adds a more organic feel, possibly due to the host of collaborators on show - among them Nils Frahm, Katie English of Isnaj Dui and Dale Grundle of The Sleeping Years.
'Frozen leaves/Falling from trees' superbly maps the space between an Eden Ahbez-style cosmic lounge (bongo and flute are prominent) and studied post-jazz instrumentals. 'Back at yesterday' has a similar feel of dreamy exotica about it.
'Struck by a rock' has what sounds like tap dancing shoes as a backbeat, the most laconic of male-female vocal duets and a resilient banjo pattern at the centre. At times, it seems about to fall apart (in fact, winningly, falling apart is a lyrical conceit in the song), but it keeps a brilliant, blurry focus to completely seduce in the most unusual and innovative fashion.
'Scuppered flow' harks back to Curious memories a little, with its irresistibly wonky combination of guitar and string samples, swinging this way and that. When the drums join on a competing half-beat, it shouldn't all work, but somehow it all does. You've heard of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music); this could be ICOM (Intelligent Chill Out Music).
'Cars and rain' strikes a reflective note, as field recordings combine immaculately, and poignantly, with piano and ambient electronics. I also love 'Tradition and dream', a gorgeous, back of the room piano tune, augmented with swooning strings, French horn and female aws, which is thrown off-kilter by something like an audio acid flashback, only to recover itself for the glorious outro. At its sweetest, it retains an intangible strangeness; at its most disorientating, it's still effortlessly beautiful.
An intriguing and beguiling album, you could try it in the background at dinner parties but it would quickly muscle its way forward and disturb the entrées. Which is a sign of quality in itself. Another tiny triumph for the Manchester "cottage" label, Front & Follow, which is a seemingly bottomless treasure trove.