Since early 2017, Pete Cunningham, who you may better know as Ishmael, has been cultivating an extremely impressive project. Debuting as a troupe on “Songs for Knotty”, Ishmael Ensemble have since gone on to release three records. Two in 2018 and one forthcoming in January of 2019, all of them on Cunningham’s Severn Songs imprint, named after the river itself. The Bristol-based outfit has been praised by the likes of Dan Snaith aka Caribou, Tom Ravenscroft, The Vinyl Factory, Gilles Peterson and also recently performed for the latter’s UK Jazz Special on BBC 6 Music.
The third and concluding release on Severn Songs, aptly titled “The River”, will be the final chapter in the series. Collaborating with jazz trumpeter Yazz Ahmed on the release, the two songs are a fitting tribute to the impressive river. Keyboardist Jake Spurgeon, who has featured on all Severn Songs releases to date, recorded sounds from another famous river, the Ganges. They feature prominently in the background of the impressive release, perfectly setting the mood as the percussion and keys slowly escalate and then ebb to give room for Ahmed’s haunting trumpet to take centre stage. As the drums increase in intensity and the percussion billows, whirling trumpet trills and swelling synths take us into the climax before receding into the background and the gentle sounds of the river lapping end our journey just as it started.
Capping off an impressive 2018 with the announcement of “The River” and the reprise on the flip, an equally tense yet gentler take on the original, we’re looking forward to what 2019 brings. Be sure to catch Ishmael Ensemble live as they continue to tour and keep your ear to the ground as there’s a rumoured album on the horizon, too. Pre-order Severn Songs 3 here.