Simon Thacker’s Ritmata release their debut album “Taradh” via Slap The Moon Records on 30 November, and already before its official release one work from this album, Quadriga in 5, was recently nominated for The Ivors Composer Awards, the most prestigious in the UK.
Whenever you get a new album by Simon Thacker to review, you always know that it is going to be a musical mystery box to open up as you put it into your CD player as Simon is a fluidly inquisitive composer/musician who is always exploring new areas of inspiration for his music. This curiosity to what is out there in the “worlds of sound” means that no two albums are ever alike and this one, Taradh is no exception.
On this project, with an experienced musical collective, Simon has brought together three of Europe's leading musical improvisers in Paul Harrison (piano), Andrew Robb (bass) and Stu Brown (drums), and the result is a work that, as always with Simon’s music, defies being defined into one genre. Here amidst often complex compositional structures and intricate layers of sound, Taradh is a work that on the surface sounds very Jazz orientated, but just start to listen a little deeper and the musical heartbeat of many different cultural influences becomes apparent, and opens up further the more that you listen. Special guest Angeles Toledano (cantaora) on “Muero Yo De Amor” adds her own very distinctive vocal sound to this project.
The “Jazz Feel” to much of the music on this album would not be out of place being performed by Simon Thacker’s Ritmata in the best and coolest of Jazz Clubs, but there is somehow this strange “ripple in time” at play here as you can imagine some of the great pioneers of Jazz and Avant Garde music discovering for the very first time some of these cultural influences on their music, and like Simon Thacker incorporating them into their music and making something new out of everything.
I have a personal belief that sound is one of the great building blocks of creation and the universe around us. Sound is not only around us everywhere in music and voice, but in nature itself, and is potentially a key to different layers of reality that are normally hidden from our restricted view of what is really out there. Simon Thacker is, I think, someone who understands not only the importance of sound, but its place in the greater scheme of things, and the ability of sound to be a key to take you, if even for a very short time, into a different “layer” of reality. Perhaps this is why some of the very old and at times almost primeval sounds that are at the core of this complex musical structure that Simon has created are always there for us to hear if we are prepared to listen to them. These are timeless sounds, and that is also perhaps why Simon Thacker seems to be able to create “timeless” music.
The name “Taradh” is associated in Gaelic with witchcraft, and especially sound and, here, Simon Thacker is the conduit for unlocking not only the sounds of our traditional collective memories, but also those across the west and moving into Eastern philosophies. This work is somehow tapping into a sound that seems to be at the root of so many philosophies and belief systems around the world, something very old, and very instinctive to all of us.
Along our travels, we incorporate and absorb many musical styles, ranging from classical, to jazz, flamenco to Indian, and many more.
As always with Simon’s work, the whole has to be viewed rather than the individual, and the nine works on this album fit together more like movements of a classical piece than individual items, but it is easy to see why the last piece, Quadriga in 5, has earned its place in the nominations for The Ivors Composer Awards in the category of Jazz Composition for small ensemble. Selecting a favourite from a work like this never feels appropriate but, if I have to, then for me it is “Consus” with some fine and delicate work playing at times with natural harmonics.
Although I have listened to this album a few times now to write this review, I somehow also keep hearing it played on different instruments than those featured and imagine how it can take on a completely different sound and feeling but somehow still retain its core structures.
To give enlightenment into the journey to this album being made and the music on it, there is also a very informative booklet with the album.
SIMON THACKER’S RITMATA: TARADH
RELEASE DATE 30th NOVEMBER 2019
- Honour The Treaties
- Aurora Consurgens
- Des oge mais
- Muero YO De Amor
- Quadriga in 5
Review by Tom King