Up next on the Bucketlist docket is a supremely tasty album of funk-infused jazz by Asheville, NC trio Sister Ivy. Modern Myth, released independently on June 16th, sees lead singer and keyboardist Rachel Waterhouse expertly weave the best of prog and trip-hop into a hypnotizing tapestry of jazz.
Opening track “Imbolc (feat. Marc Hennessey)” kicks things off with a modern electric jazz feel and otherworldly vocals that borrow heavily from trip-hop acts such as Portishead and Morcheeba. This ethereal blend sticks around throughout the record. Sister Ivy’s sound is powered by a supple rhythm section composed of bassist Asher Hill and drummer Paul Gladstone, who methodically complement Rachel’s voice while maintaining their rightful places as lead players. Indeed, this blend of jazz, soul and funk relies heavily on rhythm players, whose instruments actively accompany the lead singer rather than just providing a back track.
This band’s playful rhythmic structures and melodies are sometimes reminiscent of the greatest prog-rock bands and guitar heroes. For instance, the musical structure in “Yellow Brick (feat. Jacob Ables & Alex Bradley)” reminds me of the weirdest moments in Gentle Giant’s seminal 1974 record The Power and the Glory, while guest guitarist Jacob Ables sounds suspiciously like Steve Vai, in a good way!
Many other tracks on Modern Myth also feature guest performers, which makes this record ebb and flow through different sounds. There is a smooth and gradual shift happening between songs, on the spectrum from smooth, chill jazz to nervous, funky and playful numbers. The guest musicians, be they brass or string players, lend their own flavour to select tracks to emphasize these shifts. As a result, Sister Ivy sounds bigger and fuller than just a three-piece.
In short, what stood out to me in this record can be summed up in three main elements:
- Hypnotism – Rachel knows just how to craft her melodies in a trip-hop style hypnotic way. This may be Sister Ivy’s greatest strength.
- Varied and often daring musical structures; this band doesn’t scare away from taking chances with their compositions, even at the risk of losing less savvy listeners.
- Excellent musicianship, with instrumentalists actively participating in the music rather than just supporting the singer.
Therefore, I think you should listen to this one! At the risk of getting lost in the complexity of prog/jazz structures, I believe most listeners will nevertheless have a pleasurable listening experience with Sister Ivy’s Modern Myth.
Written by Henri Brillon
*Edited by Dominic Abate