The Belgian-Caribbean pedal harpist, synth player, and composer Nala Sinephro, part of London’s burgeoning and bubbling jazz scene, has come up with a deeply healing debut album. She has played with south London collective Steam Down and won early praises from the likes of Gilles Peterson. With the London Contemporary Orchestra, she played at King’s College in 2020 and also managed to crack the list of “50 New Artists for 2020” by The Guardian.
She also worked as an engineer and studied physics, frequencies and the effect it can have on the sound. I guess that’s why it really enhances the overall mood here, the spacy sound. There are field recording adds on “Space 5” for example which, together with a rainforest-sounding backdrop, really strengthen the first impression that here is a dream-like meditation going on. Her virtuosity continues to shine on the percussion/sax-led “Space 6”, sort of mimicking a heartbeat at first, with layers of modular synths contrasting the energy which sax and drums convey and thus, making this one of the most driving pieces on the album. “Space 4” starts off with exceptionally warm keys before heavenly drums, bass, and sax join in to create another atmospherically dense tune. It is one of the album’s many highlights.
Soothing and healing vibes commence the LP (yes it is out on vinyl) with “Space 1” and “Space 2” with delicate keys and a fearless sound, echoing Alice Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders, sometimes adding folk-like elements here and there too. It’s a spacy, out of this world soundscape. The pedal harp is the focus on the short “Space 7” before she maneuvers into the 17-minute plus “Space 8”, an utterly expansive (not only in length) and overpowering composition, a mystical and boundless piece of art which never really breaks off, but rather encompasses the overall zen-like nature of this beautiful debut. After 17 minutes and 32 seconds, it’s like you wake up from a peaceful, calm and balmy dream. Shortly before the piece is over, you’ll get a sort of soft wake-up call.
The album features Nubya Garcia, the London-based saxophonist with more and more accolades to her credit, guitarist Shirley Tetteh, drummer and producer Jake Long, or pianist Lyle Barton. Nala plays St Matthias Church (yes that’s the proper name) this Friday and is also scheduled to play the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona next June.