Led by clarinettist and composer Aidan Pearson (who wrote all the music here) but very much a collective affair, the excellent Floating Circles Quartet is a young London-based ensemble. All the members are alumni of the city’s Guildhall School of Music and this is their second release, following the digital-only EP Eleven Yesterdays Ago.
As a player, Pearson has worked with luminaries such as Gary Crosby and Marcus Roberts. As composer, he has collaborated with both wind quartet and full orchestra and all his pieces here show a thoughtful, spatially aware approach to matters of melodic exposition and development, fluid voicings and overall dynamic and harmonic finesse.
But for all the thoughtfulness, this is music with plenty of bite and attack, including some telling moments of electronically treated sound. Throughout, Hurley, Wickham and Newell are right on the money: the band could just as well have been called Burning Circles.
Sample the purposive and delicious bounce and groove of the opening drum and bass clarinet interplay on Brockley ‘N’ Peas – or the sensuous ska-touched ostinato pulse of much of the curiously (and somewhat misleadingly) titled White ‘N’ Fluffy, with Pearson again on pumping bass clarinet and Hurley laying down some tough, clipped and soaring figures on electric guitar.
The presence of violinist Johanna Burnheart on three tracks brings a further and well-integrated dimension of both floating and swinging élan (Brockley ”N’ Peas, Caravan Curtains) and Celtic reflection and affirmation (Wading Through The Mist). All in all, this is a pleasingly literate yet freshly engaging album: if you’re partial to Andy Sheppard or Louis Sclavis, Oregon or Sons of Kemet, you won’t want to miss it.
(1) Brockley ‘N’ Peas; (2) Beyond The Mountains Of Aria; ((1) Caravan Curtains; (2) White ‘N’ Fluffy; (1) Wading Through The Mist; (2) Galactic Pedal Boat Rescue Trip (40.10)
(1) Aidan Pearson (cl, bcl); Matt Hurley (elg); Johanna Burnheart (vn); Jonny Wickham (b, pc); Arthur Newell (d). (2) Burnheart out. London c. 2020.