Emiliana Torrini & The Colorist Orchestra

Bella Union are thrilled to announce the signing of Emiliana Torrini & The Colorist Orchestra whose new album Racing the Storm is due out next year via the label.

There’s something almost magical about a great collaboration. When two artists are able to synchronize on an infinitesimal level, where each note and breath and strum aligns to create a perfect whole. The Colorist Orchestra know how to do this — in fact, they’ve made it their speciality. Since 2013, the Belgian duo, comprised of multi-instrumentalists and long-time friends Aarich Jespers and Kobe Proesmans, have made a career out of reimagining the discographies of a wide array of artists, using their background in pop, electronic, and world music to transform the songs. Recently, they have reconnected with acclaimed Icelandic singer-songwriter Emilina Torrini, with whom they first collaborated in 2018 on the album The Colorist Orchestra & Emiliana Torrini. This time, however, their project exceeded even their own expectations.

Next year Emiliana and The Colorist Orchestra will release Racing the Storm, a collaborative record that takes both artists to towering new heights. An album of all original material, it melds TCO’s classical chamber pop roots with the power and fragility of Emiliana’s understated songwriting.

The album’s first single, “Right Here”, is also one of its most immediately ear-grabbing tracks, an atmospheric and arresting pop song that gives a delightful taste of what’s to come. Commentating on the track Emiliana says: “Lyrically, the song comes from a daydream space, a safe haven from the everyday craziness of the world — and ends in the silence and serenity of the night. A love song, it speaks about what it’s like to endure and then finally thrive in a long-term relationship.”

Of the song’s inception Kobe adds: “It’s funny that this song, which was one of the first demos on the work table, became the song that moved last from the work table to the mixing table. So many versions of this song have been made, even a collaboration with the Japanese KODO in a search for the right angle. Time and again it remained an inspiring search but when this version, very close to the original, finally saw the light of day, a kind of enlightenment fell over us. Sometimes you have to travel far to know what’s in front of you.”

The Natural Lines

“Maybe the problem is me,” the artist formerly known as Matt Pond PA sings on the inviting opening track from First Five. At once clearly Pond’s work, yet a huge leap forward in its measured songcraft, melodic immediacy, collaborative detail and wryly questioning lyrics, the result is a gorgeous collection of intimate reflections and personal accountability from a relocated, renamed, revivified talent. Here, The Natural Lines paint a picture of the internal conflict, comedy and ultimate acceptance inside all of us.

Pond-watchers might wonder why the name change. Recorded with close collaborators and friends over a period that saw Pond make vital adjustments to his life, The Natural Lines’ stealth emergence reflects his desire to set a fresh pace for himself and come from somewhere new, somewhere more open. “I quit lying,” he adds. “I checked my harsher tones. I cut my drinking down. I went to therapy and stopped shouting at cars.”

Now, the name change honours his collaborators. Among a revolving cast, one constant presence in his work has been Chris Hansen, who plays guitar, bass, keys, saxophone and sings. Singer-songwriter Anya Marina, shines on “In The Dark” and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins / Bella Union) lays down a lush bass on this tale of hide and seek with true connection. Other band members number Hilary James (cello/vocals), Kyle Kelly-Yahner (drums), Louie Lino (keys), Sarah Hansen (horns), Sean Hansen (drums/bass), Andy Dixon (drums), Kat Murphy (vocals) and, also on vocals, 17-year-old MJ Murphy, for whom Matt brims with praise: “She can do anything she wants to musically.”

Sophie Jamieson

In the hazy aftermath of its completion, London-based singer-songwriter Sophie Jamieson noticed that water was a recurring theme throughout her long-awaited debut album Choosing. Though it was never a central part of her thinking while writing the eleven songs that make up the album, water appears in various forms, from raging storms with lashing rain, through the eeriness of vast expanses of still water, to overflowing bathtubs and the creeping ripples of a broken surface. Even in more ambiguous terms, it feels ever-present, the album detailing Sophie’s own long and punishing struggle against the tide, constantly reflecting on the binary choice of whether we allow ourselves to sink or choose to push ourselves above the surface.

Released via her new home at Bella Union, Choosing is a strikingly personal document of a journey from a painful rock bottom of self-destruction, to a safer place imbued with the faint light of hope. Focusing on the bare bones of each song, and taking inspiration from the direct and melodic work of songwriters such as Elena Tonra, Sharon Van Etten, and Scott Hutchison, it’s an album that sings openly of longing and searching, of trying, failing, and trying again – and always and throughout, the strength of love in so many varying forms.

Following on from the pair of EPs she released in 2020, Choosing finds its own shape by a subtle reforming of Jamieson’s sound. Where those EPs flirted with playful experimentation, here the overriding sound is both organic and simpler – live drums, bass, cello, and piano are used across the album – allowing space for Sophie’s mesmerising voice to take the spotlight, the songs delivered with the most direct and intimate impact.

Sophie describes the songs on those two EPs as “black holes” and while Choosing covers similar ground it never takes its eye away from what lies beyond, never fully releases its grip even when everything is telling her to let go. “The title of this album is so important,” Sophie explains. “Without it, this might sound like another record about self-destruction and pain, but at heart, it’s about hope, and finding strength. It’s about finding the light at the end of the tunnel, and crawling towards it.”

The journey of the album starts with a bad drunken night (‘Addition’) and ends with another (‘Long Play’) but the passage between is anything but stable, never linear. The opening six tracks take us on a blurry search for home in the wrong places: lead track ‘Sink’ was written as a love letter to alcohol amid an increasing dependence upon it, informed by a recurring image Sophie had of herself on a desert island, a quiet, calm place that was too good to be true. Throughout, the voice is underpinned by a playful piano line that lingers with an eerie sense of detachment before expanding into a wide ocean that engulfs the tired, repeated line: “I don’t need you to sink me”. “Sink presents a purgatory between being able to choose and begging not to be pulled under,” Sophie explains. “It’s about teetering on the edge, looking over the cliff, asking not to be pulled over before realising you only have to choose not to jump.”

Produced and engineered by long-time collaborator Steph Marziano (Ex:Re, Lapsley, Hayley Williams) and mixed by Isabel Gracefield, Choosing often feels like it’s on the precipice, ready to collapse at any moment, before finding strength in simply never giving in. By allowing just a slither of light in, it finds a new path for itself, one that begins to move from the depths of despair to something kinder. “The few times I have listened to this album from start to finish, I have realised that there is a huge amount of love in it,” Sophie says. “I think there is a strong potential for real, healthy, healing love. It’s like a line of relief that runs along through all the songs. It’s never unleashed, it hasn’t yet learned how, but it’s present in an underlying tension and potential.”

That tension fills Choosing with a dramatic strength, one which asks the listener to look deep within their own selves, to show them that they can take whatever pain they’re experiencing, and choose, to some extent, how they let it affect them; whether they let it burn them down or whether they choose to look it straight in the face. “The songs are bursting with something, and that energy just needs to be reshaped into love for the self,” Sophie explains. “I can say this from a place of having learned now how to love and care for myself. The love that reverberates through this album is like the green shoots of something I have happily learned to nurture into my present day.” By never trying to hide behind the music, never flinching despite the size of the journey that lies ahead, Sophie Jamieson has crafted an album of genuine durability. It might not sound hopeful but the small ripples of hope – and love – continue only to spread wider and wider.

All In One

In late 1968 or early 1969, a six-piece group walked into a Chicago recording studio to record an album. As they weren’t signed to a label, they had made the booking themselves. The group featured three singers, all female. One of whom also played acoustic guitar. There was also double-bass player and a drummer, both male. A female guitarist filled out the band. After the tapes had finished rolling, what was recorded was quickly pressed onto an album: a private pressing, organised and paid for by the band. Not many copies were made, perhaps 100, maybe 500. The albums were sold at live shows or given to friends and relatives. And that was it.

The band was called All In One, and the outline of their story is similar to many do-it-yourself musicians from the Sixties and later who wanted to document their existence, what they sounded like. It’s good to have a physical object saying “here we are, this is what we do.” During the Seventies punk era, it’s what Buzzcocks did with their Spiral Scratch EP. Taking the DIY path had precedents.

It was an approach which meant there was no mediation. Control was in the hands of those being recorded. Naturally, these obscure and rare records can attract interest. Some Sixties examples, like All In One’s untitled album, are great and need to be heard more widely. This first-ever reissue reveals the band to have been mysteriously spectral, with an intensity which would have been reined in had they been on a mainstream label and given a regular production. The rough edges would have been smoothed off. From its opening moments, the album telegraphs that All In One were uncultivated: a band in the raw, and one with its own ideas of its identity.

The recording took place at Boulevard Studios, on the edge of central Chicago (early on, the building housed the Chicago Historical Society: it was constructed in 1892. In the second half of the 1980s, it housed The Limelight Club). Boulevard itself was independent and on the edge of Chicago’s music business. Anyone could hire the facility and All In One were amongst the clients who walked through the door. Vee Jay Records used it in the 1950s, as did the blues-jazz-vocal label United. Rockabilly singer Sparkle Moore recorded there too. The Crestones’ 1964 garage rock classic She’s A Bad Motorcycle was made at Boulevard. The Chicago religious publisher F. E. L. Church Publications Ltd hired Boulevard in 1968 to make Sarah Hershberg’s Women Of The Old Testament album.

Boulevard had no tie-in pressing facility, so the band would have organised that themselves. The plain orange front cover of the original album suggests the budget was limited. Why orange? Why not put the photos of the band on the front rather than the back? Yet despite what can be gleaned about All In One and their world, they remain out of reach, ultimately unknowable, as enigmatic as the album’s cover. Presumably they were from Chicago. Maybe all five band members look back fondly on their album and time in the studio. Perhaps the reappearance of their affecting album will jog memories? It is feasible that All In One may, now, step out the shadows to become tangible.

Blue Luminaire

For Nick Martin, writing a song is an act of catharsis. It’s a way of untangling the uncertainty of a new beginning, while honouring the shadow of the past. It’s a means of piecing together the patchwork of experience to understand the present, and it’s a route into the next phase: the rise of the moon, and the glow of dawn. As Blue Luminaire, Martin interrogates transitions, cycles and fresh starts with a tender and empathetic lens. On their debut album Terroir, the Oxford-born, Copenhagen-based composer utilises their classical music training to create a unique and otherworldly sonic experience where past selves collide, and the universality of heartbreak, familial patterns and grief permeate.

Growing up in Bedford, Martin was surrounded by classical music. Their father was a classical pianist, and Martin found themselves shunning the mainstream pop that filled the airwaves, and instead gravitated towards obscure 19th century Russian composers and Brian Eno LPs. This early obsession formed much of Martin’s musical language, and soon they started crafting their own original compositions and experimenting with their vocal range. With interrogation came revelation, and Martin began drifting from the confines of traditional classical music to create something entirely their own. Hovering between worlds, and embracing their love of alternative rock, funk, fusion and jazz, Blue Luminaire is the sound of the in-between.

Terroir marks a transition for Martin. Previously releasing a range of instrumental-only EPs, composing and directing a group of classical musicians, this debut full-length album sees the songwriter step into the spotlight as a performer. “I’ve moved away from the norm of classical music where there’s very rarely emphasis on first person,” they say. “I never feel like it’s direct, or like a singer is singing about themselves. It’s always performed like an actor. Here, I can be myself and address a listener as me.”

The album title stems from the word terre, meaning soil, and is used to describe the natural environment in which a specific wine is produced. Connecting to this idea that we carry the weight of our original, formative environments and relationships, Martin wanted to interrogate how they shape our sense of self, and impact our ability to connect with one another. While navigating a new path in the wake of a difficult break-up, and confronting their complicated relationship with their family, Terroir is the result of leaning into vulnerability in search of self-compassion and growth.

Martin wrote Terroir while working as a cleaner and assistant at a music venue in Copenhagen. Inspired by the performances they witnessed, and privy to the nights in which no one was scheduled to appear, Martin took to one of the hall’s pianos and started sketching out the melodies and lyrics that would soon become the album. “It was never the intention to make something,” Martin says. “All the material for this record came within a three month period; it was such a fruitful time.” Beginning in 2018, Martin then made a demo with a group of seven players in 2019. In 2020, right before the pandemic, Martin, along with 14 instrumentalists and sound engineer Pape Arce, recorded Terroir in just two days in the music venue where it all began.

The sonic universe of Terroir stretches across time to create an ever-moving, cyclical experience. Each song is intended to take place at a specific time of day, moving from the pale pinks and lavenders of dawn and into the deep rusty oranges and indigo blues of dusk. Opener ‘Our’ laments “tangled worlds dance in each other’s shadows,” pointing to the nonverbal, emotional mother-and-child relationship, while closer ‘Falling’ speaks of the “violet hour.” ‘Let Go’ introduces Martin’s ethereal and delicate vocal, as harpsichord and piano tentatively unfurl alongside gentle strings. “In choir, I sing bass: this deep, bellowing voice, whereas on this record, I’m singing in my head voice, which is much higher,” Martin says. “I naturally sing like that when I’m alone, so to do it on a record for the first time feels surreal. I’m still a little shy about it, but I want to do it a lot more.”

Later on ‘Held’, Martin welcomes Lo Ersare, a.k.a. ‘Lucky Lo,’ to produce a hauntingly arresting composition, where several repeating phrases morph into mantras. “Let go”, the pair urge, later reminding us that “…we are held, by ourselves.” “This is really a song about finding those resources from within to hold and carry oneself,” Martin says. “The reason I choose people to sing with me, is that it somehow bridges the gap between my own private experience and then a listener going through other people’s experiences as well.” On the climactic closer ‘Falling’, Martin also shunned the spotlight and welcomed singers Hanne Marie le Fevre and Jakob Skjoldborg, after originally performing it themself. “When you make something from a very personal place, and then you give it to someone else to voice, there’s a powerful, universal connection between the artist and the listener that allows it to steer away from being too self-absorbed,” they say.

Terroir’s expansively meditative, mantra-like exploration of the self opens a soothing portal that urges connection in a world that aims to distract and deter. While working on the album, Martin was focused on the beneficial effect of music for mental well-being, and found a certain solace through Terrior’s benevolent and exploratory nature. “Many of us are drawn to music, art and writing because of the need to get something out,” they explain. “That thing you might carry around and feel like is this huge, dark, horrible thing you don’t want anyone to see or hear. And yet when you do it, it feels good.” Terroir is proof that healing can flourish, even in our darkest moments.

Wren Hinds

Hailing from the South-east coast of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, Wren Hinds grew up with a musician for a father and a landscape painter for a mother. As a kid, watching his dad recording and overdubbing inspired Wren to keep a tape recorder with him, recording whatever and wherever he could. Later, he would compare the layering of instruments and textures to the mediums and paints of his mother’s chosen artform. For Wren, songwriting became “painting with sound”, using light, shade and a sense of space to communicate powerful impressions and feelings.

Wren brought this schooling to gorgeous fruition across his first three albums, initially available on Bandcamp and now released on vinyl through Bella Union Private Pressings. Made with an eco-friendly manufacturing company, each record will be available as a special edition limited to 200 copies, available through mail order and the Bella Union store. Either way, the trilogy plots the growth curve of a major talent, released in readiness for the now Bella Union-signed artist’s incoming fourth album. The first of the three retroactive releases will be “A Child’s Chant For The New Millennium”.

Wren Hinds brought fresh thematic cogency to his third album, recorded in early 2020. The linking matter is his unerring ability to apply himself to each new situation, in this case a longing for connection – to humanity, nature – in a world tilted towards digital disconnection. While the lockdowns intensified the album’s dystopian fears, the beauty and artistry in Wren’s songcraft counterpoint the shadows eloquently. The title-track laments “digital modification” over gamelan-ish flutters across six delicate minutes. All spectral voices and pining, ‘Sign of Life’ yearns for “some act of human kindness” to a wind-caressed cowboy lollop. ‘The Pearl’ longs for blissful quietude, while ‘Wrenbird’ evokes Sam Beam at his dreamiest. ‘River’s Song’ adds soft, sure layers of accordion and guitar, before ‘The Path’ marshals misty harmonies and finger-picked guitar for a gentle declaration of resistance. “Bang your freedom drum,” sings Wren, mapping out a singular path with understated assurance.

“A Child’s Chant For The New Millennium” is available HERE.