Time Out London review – Distilled

Posted: October 16th, 2011

“dusting gritty club grooves with his own epic brand of folk-edged melancholy”

View FULL review HERE

Music OMH review – Distilled

Posted: October 16th, 2011

“Distilled takes you through 10 chilled-out cuts in which jazz is welded firmly to electronica.”

Cinematic Orchestra stalwart Stuart McCallum has gathered together an atmospheric collection of solo tracks for this release. Distilled takes you through 10 chilled-out cuts in which jazz is welded firmly to electronica. These influences make for an intriguing album where an ideal setting is more likely to be a shimmering sunset rather than the smoky confines of a basement bar.

Fans of the Porticos and Simcocks of this world will find this a welcome addition to their MP3 players. The electronic approach ensures a smooth, clockwork, and almost mathematical sense of progression through the tracks – it’s the domain of twinkling lights punctuated by the throb of deeply strummed bass. Distilled has plenty going on – there are glimpses of strings and orchestral flourishes as well as dream-like harps and Spanish guitars. It’s a rich and potent mix that involves a degree of delving in, due to its lack of immediate melody and its rich atmosphere.

Before we reach the last third of the album there’s a danger that things are beginning to sound a little too similar, but any doubt is dispelled with album highlight Lament For Levenshume, a track which begins with more brooding, dark overtones before blossoming into something richer and more uplifting. The disc’s closer, Distilled, tricks you with a more traditional electronica break before jumping into a tropical samba-esque beat. It’s another a standout moment, as is the two-parter Hillcrest, which starts languidly before ending up with the kind of guitar work that would do most stadium acts proud.

This disc might not be to all tastes – the electronic elements sometimes overwhelm the jazz and the synthetic nature of the compositions means that there is little space for the organic roughness that some jazz purists may crave. The instrument that gets to improvise the most is the guitar and on the moments when it’s allowed to free associate there’s a slight threat of cheesy noodling in the air. However, this is always brought back in check by the near-perfect bass and ongoing pace of the underlying tempo.

The album’s title implies an intoxicating shot of spirit, but it’s also highly refined and filtered. Those with a penchant for more idiosyncratic overtones may be left wanting, but this album nonetheless does a sterling job of encapsulating the cutting edge of the UK Jazz scene – even if it feels a little too polished at times.

To view FULL review visit Music OMH

BBC MUSIC review – Distilled

Posted: October 16th, 2011

“Phrases resound with a shimmering vibration, underscored by sympathetic arrangements.”

Manchester’s Stuart McCallum is already familiar as The Cinematic Orchestra‘s longtime guitarist, but he has recently been cultivating a solo profile that lies even further inside the borders of jazz. This is his third album, apparently arrived at through a compositional technique of self-sampling previous works. In the end, its reality sounds nowhere near as radical as this method would suggest.

McCallum’s chosen sound possesses an orchestral character, an aura that spreads out to the governing sonic world of his compositions. His phrases resound with a shimmering, tiered vibration, underscored by the sympathetic arrangements of a sampled string section.
McCallum immediately imposes a wide-angle vista which remains throughout what sounds like a suite, or at the very least a would-be film soundtrack. This might be another way of observing that the pieces herein suffer from an incremental sonic uniformity.
The choral guitar hovers, layered into a string section of its own, reverberating like something from The Edge. Washes of colour pervade, but always with a sprightly drumming backbeat. McCallum’s signature sound is part jazz, part rock and part surf. This material doesn’t clutch, it caresses and enfolds. This might be to its disadvantage, as the 10 tracks sail ever onwards.
All instruments apart from Dave Walsh’s drums are at the service of the surge. McCallum’s palette embraces elements of the acoustic and the electric, but seems to hold the advantages of neither. Fokey Dokey is the ultimate in mountain stream music, but Vital Space follows with a rare active guitar solo. Lament for Levenshulme is the best tune, breaking into a skipping climax, where it concludes with bittersweet strings. For the final (title) track, an electronic frisson intrudes, these oscillations matched with tidal strings and another, less passive, guitar solo. The album isn’t quite reclined enough to follow the rules of ambient chill. Instead, it could simply be the imagined sound of Pat Metheny on Valium.

View full review at BBC Music



Record Collector review – Distilled

Posted: October 16th, 2011

“Mood music of a more hypnotic and ruminative hue can be found on the lovely album Distilled”



BBC Music Direct Review – Distilled

Posted: October 16th, 2011

“it’s an album that’s worth investing time in”

Manchester – based guitarist Stuart McCallum has risen to prominence in the Cinematic Orchestra, a group already known for its ambient jazz soundscapes. This is his third release as a headliner and the title Distilled is deliberately apt, as his approach to music-making hangs somewhere between jazz and electronica. Taking elements of contemporary dance music production, he builds up a yearning atmosphere of improvised guitar soloing. For some jazz listeners the result may be a bit taxing, weighed down by its very weightlessness. The emphasis on building soundscapes requires a listener’s patience, and while there are some straight-in highlights – such as ‘Hillcrest Pt 2′ and shades of Bill Frisell on opener ‘dR Doctor’ and elsewhere – the improvised pay-offs can take a while. That said it’s an album that’s worth investing time in. ‘Part 3′ stands out, taken from a festival piece written for John Surman.



Great CD review…

Posted: September 26th, 2011

Distilled is a beautifully atmospheric recording, the third album from Stuart McCallum, best known for his work with the Cinematic Orchestra. The Manchester-based guitarist/composer knows how to combine established and contemporary sounds, making them into music that is never less than fascinating and, at its best, a thing of breathtaking beauty.

Read more:

New Album Out Today!

Posted: September 26th, 2011

Jazzwise interview out today!

Posted: September 22nd, 2011

Hi, for all you jazz fans out there – there’s a 2 page interview with me about my new album ‘Distilled’ in this month’s Jazzwise.

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