Sirkis Bialas IQ – Our New Earth [MoonJune, 2019]
Our New Earth is like an aerial trip over the Earth, zooming in and zooming out over seas and moutains, glancing at a map from the distance, thoughtfully watching cultures mixing, languages colliding and speaking each other. Our New Earth takes its time to develop, to meticolously craft the painting of our planet through multiple interweaving themes. Everything in Our New Earth rounds relentlessly, constantly at its own pace, almost like in a medidative dance, even in the frenzier moments. Our New Earth, the title of the second album created by Sirkis Bialas IQ, is just in time, not ahead nor behind, to describe the current moment we are in.
Sirkis Bialas IQ is the name drummer Asaf Sirkis and singer Sylwia Bialas chose for their International Quartet way back in 2014. The release of their debut album, Speak To Me, showcased a dynamic band, made of refined and polished jazz melodies with a somber attitude, almost an ECM-like feeling pervading the entire work. Asaf Sirkis, now a longtime member of roster of Leonardo Pavkovic‘s record label MoonJune, is a well-estabilished drummer in the jazz and improvisation scene. And it is quite uneasy to label a drummer who seamlessly combines technique, ear for the improvisation, a singing beat with an attitude for fine composing. Add Sylwia Bialas, a singer with a similarly highly-skilled ability to tackle intricate passages under the cover of soulfoul melodies, with an experience in European jazz -namely German pianist Michael Wollny among the others. Completing their line-up, pianist Frank Harrison and eletric bassist Kevin Glasgow, the last being one-third of the jazz trio Preston Glasgow Lowe and debuting in Our New Earth.
The thundering chord over an airy soundscape that opens the first track, If Pegasus Had One Wing (He Would Fly In Spirals), paves the road for a powerful and off-metered descending theme, sung by the wordless vocals of Sylwia Bialas and fuelled by an energetic Asaf Sirkis. The fusionesque intro camouflages into a gypsy jazz section before the main theme enters, a catchy and intricate melody that seems apparently imbued of both Indian classical music and Eastern European folk. But it’s just the start of the winding solo by Frank Harrison, who amazingly puts on display an array of off-kiltered phrases and Lyle Mays-influenced counterpointing chord progressions. The breathtaking opening track moves, then, to a delicate and balanced vocal section, sung in Polish, until the fierceful finale, an almost minute long unison, an highly technical, Indian influenced rollercoaster.
Yet If Pegasus Had One Wing (He Would Fly In Spirals) is somewhat the exception in the album, a track with an impressive urge to communicate and concatenate multiple thematic developments in the shortest timeframe. Like an ouverture to a symphony that sums up what we are going to listen, the rest of the two discs set is pervaded by a slower focus to develop the thematic material. If the first track was written by Bialas, surprisingly it is a delicate ballad, that allows the intimacy of the singer’s voice, to shocase Sirkis‘s writing skills. Land of Oblivion allows medidative routes, with an extensive opening by Kevin Glasgow on the electric bass, who indulges on chords, stops to ponder on each single consonance, catches the listener’s attention thanks to his unusual chordal ability -not any news he indicates guitarist Allan Holdsworth among his biggest influences.
The middle of the over 80 minutes journey is taken by the Earth Suite, divided in two parts, the first being written by the vocalist and the second by the drummer. The minor mood driven by the piano drives the elegiac vocals by Sylwia Bialas in the first. Not any musical element hastens toward a modulation or change, even when Asaf Sirkis momentarily charges up the energy for some bars, or when Kevin Glasgow adds a slowly moving solo. It all conjures for the only moment of the record without any drum beat, when the listener holds the breath listening to the superb konnakol duo by Sirkis and Bialas. Then it’s moment of Harrison to take the stage to show his skills at organ in an extensive solo, before the band comes all in for a spiralling and intricate chord progression.
There’s a weird sense of intimacy in Spooky Action at a Distance, a track that slowly builds up until the entrance of the voice in with a myriad of odd-metered bars under the surface of calm and intricate chord progressions. That’s another face of the emotional intensity in Letter to A., opened by an amazing organ intro by Frank Harrison, which recalls the ineffability of Olivier Messiaen. Whether it is due to Sirkis creating subtle layers of polyrhythmic nets or to the juicy solos by Harrison or the highly refined vocals by Bialas, everything in Our New Earth moves in the same direction, creating a sense of cyclical come-back between the first and last track.
Moving between soft-spoken jazz ballads to European folk and then coming back to Indian classical music, take the pinnacle of the tension in the closing Picture from a Polish Wood, Our New Earth keeps its promise to drive us in a journey through the world with highly crafted compositions, a cohesive intimacy between the musicians and catchy harmonic progressions. Soothing and meditative at same time, never self-indulgent, this recording is a portrait of a new Earth.
1.If Pegasus Had One Wing (He Would Fly In Spirals) 06:10
2.Land Of Oblivion 08:17
3.Letter To A. 08:56
7.Our New Earth 11:17 video
8.Message From The Blue Bird 05:45
9.Spooky Action At The Distance 08:03
11.Picture From A Polish Wood 07:36
SIRKIS/BIALAS IQ – Our New Earth
ASAF SIRKIS: drums (all tracks), crotales (3, 6, 7,10), konnakol (7, 11), Manjira (7), frame drums (7)
SYLVIA BIALAS: voice (all tracks), waterphone (7, 9), overtone singing (6), lyrics (1, 2, 5, 10), konnakol (7)
FRANK HARRISON: piano (1, 2, 4, 5, 6 ,8, 10), keyboards (1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 11)
KEVIN GLASGOW: six string electric bass (all tracks)
Tracks 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 11 composed by Asaf Sirkis. Tracks 1, 4, 5, 6, 10 composed by Sylwia Bialas. All arrangements by Asaf Sirkis & Sylwia Bialas, all lyrics & vocal arr. by Sylwia Bialas.