Szun Waves - New Hymn to Freedom

Bandcamp Daily

Portico Quartet’s Jack Wyllie, Triosk’s Laurence Pike, and synth composer Luke Abbott make a record that highlights their individual and collaborative strengths.

Thu Sep 06 15:43:01 CEST 2018

A Closer Listen

The concept of the ‘super-group’ is one that, thankfully, remains confined to rock-centric circles; it is, in a nutshell, a loose partnership of musicians from other bands who aren’t quite able to scratch the itch where they are at the moment; usually the singer and guitarist with the rhythm section plucked from who ever is available. Whether or not the results of these collaborations are worth the time of day is not for me to say – you can disappear down that particular rabbit hole here if you are so inclined. But it is a phenomenon that tends not to exist among musicians who operate in other genres: otherwise it’s a safe bet that Szun Waves would be featuring on that Wiki page.

The trio was brought together by Luke Abbott, probably best known for his pastoral techno album Holkham Drones and his dancefloor-blitzing pseudonym Earlham Mystics. Abbott had worked with Jack Wyllie, the saxophonist of the Portico Quartet previously but they linked up with Laurence Pike, drummer with PVT (who we’ve featured previously) to create Szun Waves. The simple act of replacing the discipline of programmed beats with Pike’s fluid, jazzy drums brought a whole new dimension to Abbott’s analogue synths.

On the first album, the trio sounded like a continuation of Abbott’s previous work, and that was understandable as he was the driving force behind the collaboration and was responsible for the editing and mix, and all three were finding their feet. The return fixture sets its stall out as a more confident and balanced work from the opening bars of “Constellation” which is all Wyllie’s reeds and Pike’s percussion, Abbott happy to provide the background atmospherics. It’s an approach that they stick to throughout most of New Hymn To Freedom which means it is very much part of the new wave of British jazz rather than an electronic album with extras.

At Sacred Walls was a solid album, sure, but New Hymn To Freedom has been visited by the muse, and is a truly inspired and inspirational work. Edited and assembled from hours of improvisation, it could have easily tipped over into direction-free indulgence but it never feels as if it’s slipping out of control – Pike and Abbott find a groove on “Temple” that enables Wyllie to explore, but he always comes back to his theme. What could be a difficult work – and I realise I’ve used several words that could put people off, like “jazz”, “improvised”, and “analogue synths” turns out to be a very approachable record. They may not be listed as a super-group but they have created an album that fits the bill. It is superb. (Jeremy Bye)

Available here

Fri Nov 02 01:01:33 CET 2018


Drowned In Sound

For those with even a passing interest in the British underground the cast list behind Szun Waves is already enough to make New Hymn to Freedom a must-listen. A collaborative project between Luke Abbott, Jack Wylie (Portico Quartet, Circle Traps) and Laurence Pike (PVT, Triosk), Szun Waves’ first effort – 2016’s At Sacred Walls – was a promising, if on occasion slightly tentative, exploration of the hinterlands between contemporary jazz and electronica.

New Hymn To Freedom by Szun Waves

New Hymn to Freedom is altogether a more consistently confident affair. The six tracks here – all recorded live, leaving room for improvisation – each showcase a trio in perfect sync. This is, for want of a better term, ‘ambient jazz’ – in that there’s a distinct lack of the latter genre’s tendency for virtuosic intensity – but that is not to say that there’s not much going on. Opener ‘Constellation’ is demonstrative of the trio’s ability to craft a comprehensive musical landscape using the tools of minimalism. Over the course of its five-and-a-half minutes the piece swells with a majestic swagger, both encapsulating everything the trio do well and hinting at the more grandiose gestures to come.

Fourth track ‘Temple’ might just be the standout. During the track’s jaw-dropping central section Abbott’s rippling electronics and Pike’s percussion take the lead. Wylie’s saxophone navigates, and then safely emerges from, the background, like a lost boat returning to the harbour from stormy seas. The epic closing title track is also a true tour de force. If much of the album feels reminiscent of musical worlds to come then ‘New Hymn to Freedom’ itself is the sound of that future arriving prematurely and declaring war on the bloated remnants of post-rock in the process. It’s a soaring, almost brutal, closer to a predominantly peaceful.

Whilst the names of Jon Hassell and Arve Henriksen (both legendary figures who, incidentally, also have excellent new albums out) may provide the more obvious touchstones here, for this listener Szun Waves capture the spirit of late period Talk Talk. The hymnal qualities of Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock may not find vocal expression on this record but they are present in the album’s glorious atmospherics. This comparison also underlines the fact that New Hymn to Freedom is – like the work of Portico Quartet, Wylie’s better known band – not exclusively recommendable to those ensconced in the world of jazz. There is a sonic universality to Szun Waves’ sound that makes it accessible as well as beautiful.

Of course, ultimately it is very much the beauty of New Hymn to Freedom that really makes it stand out. This is a superb album by three supremely talented musicians. More than that, it is an ideal reminder of the perfection that – even in today’s digital climate – can still be reached through letting three such talents simply play in a room together. Undoubtedly one of the true highlights of 2018.


Thu Sep 06 16:53:25 CEST 2018



Luke Abbott’s synth/sax/drums trio illustrates the links between London’s fertile jazz scene and longstanding psychedelic traditions in six vibrant, unedited improvisations.

Wed Sep 05 07:00:00 CEST 2018