Nick Malcolm: Real Isn’t Real

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This is Nick Malcolm’s third album. His debut, Glimmers (FMR, 2012) was well-received and the follow-up, Beyond These Voices, was released on the trumpeter’s own Green Eyes label in 2014.

The angular, slightly erratic, opening track “Spiral I – Assemble”, punctuated by acerbic trumpet, belies the relatively mellifluous content of the ensuing numbers. Interspersed within the intriguing Spiral suite are four tracks featuring a guest vocalist in each. These add a totally different dimension to the more abstract alternating five-part composition.

The vocal showpieces of the album are positively transformative. “Silent Grace” with Marie Lister is a soulful groove-infused foray, embraced by a warm ensemble arrangement and would be worthy of a chart single. Malcolm’s brief trumpet soloing is both nimble and articulate. “Floating Earth” with Emily Wright is more ethereal, Olie Brice adding essential resonant counterpoint to the crystalline, floating vocals. Alexander Hawkins plays pump organ on the baroque-sounding “Grass Remembers” featuring Josienne Clarke. But the title track is adorned by the exquisite vocals of the redoubtable Lauren Kinsella, her voice gradually ascending into a sonic semi-spoken stratosphere. 

The final track of the album, “Spiral V – Dissolve”, begins instrumentally but towards its conclusion involves unidentified voices, presumably samples of some or all of the four vocalists, in a mélange of trippy sound overlaid with voices occasionally harmonising with the trumpet melody. The overall effect of the track is totally mesmerising.

Whilst there is a question as to some of the album’s compositional consistency, what is emphatically unquestionable is that where the music succeeds, and this frequently occurs, it does so with superlative panache. Malcolm has the potential for serious greatness, both as a musician and as a composer, and he should be revered more widely.

Discography
(1) Spiral I – Assemble; (2) Floating Earth; (1) Spiral II – Encircle; (3) Silent Grace; (1) Spiral III – Ascend; (4) Grass Remembers; (1) Spiral IV – Blues; (5) Real Isn’t Real; (1) Spiral V – Dissolve (54.30)
(1) Malcolm (t, p, elp, kyb, v); Alexander Hawkins (p, elp, org); Olie Brice (b, electric sit); Ric Yarborough (d).
(2) as (1) add Emily Wright (v).
(3) as (1) add Marie Lister (v); Will Harris (elb).
(4) as (1) add Josienne Clarke (v).
(5) as (1) add Lauren Kinsella (v). Llandrindod Wells, no date.
Green Eyes Records 002