littlebow – Pi Magpie (Second Language)

This is an intoxicating album of playful, (mostly) instrumental tunes from Kieron Phelan and Katie English (their second as littlebow, both for Second Language), combining avant garde foundations with a great accessibility – a fair reflection of both of their previous work across a broad range of musical contexts. As mentioned in other reviews, there is more than a shade of children’s tv themes about a lot of this album which should give a wide entry point for many people – it certainly floats my boat.

I particularly love the beautiful jazz drone with shimmering keys, with the embedded-in-the-mix flute melody of ‘Part time blind’.

Fans of Gamelan music might recognise some if its beautiful, compelling structures and textures in ‘The pin point night’ (Katie English, I’ve learned, is a member of at least one London-based Gamelan ensemble, among her many other activities).

But I find I keep coming back to the same three tracks again and again.

The title track opener with its gorgeous haze of pizzicato this and repeating pattern that (and as for that section of organ pulse with chimes hovering above, what an arrangement); ‘For the song’ with its hints of jazz and Steve Reich, but also reminiscient of Lalo Schifrin a little (that insistent, propulsive 5/4 time signature maybe); and the more obviously ryhthmic ‘Joe Caligula’, another brilliantly warm combination of keyboard pulses and dropped beats.

All the while, English’s flute flutters above or around proceedings with the grace and lightness of a bird. In concert with Phelan’s sensitive keyboard style, they forge a delicious form of progressive exotica, lying somewhere between Eden Ahbez and Tortoise.

Really, there’s a warmth and engaging quality to this album that is so endearing. I hope that doesn't come across as patronising. This is music you will come to love and you need it in your life.


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