Saturday, October 17, 2015

Where has all the idealism gone?

The point of this story is this: why (when there are people prepared to do almost anything for a recording contract or a Queen Elizabeth Hall date) are we releasing this new Nick Drake album, and (if he wants to make another one) - the next? Because, quite simply we believe that Nick is a great talent. His first two albums haven't sold a shit. But, if we carry on releasing them, then maybe one day someone authoritative will stop, listen properly and agree with us. Then maybe a lot more people will get to hear Nick Drake's incredible songs and guitar playing. And maybe they'll buy a lot of his albums, and fulfill our faith in Nick's promise. Then. Then we'll have done our job.
That is how Dave Sandison, the press officer for Island Records, signed off the Melody Maker release advertisement for Nick Drake's Pink Moon album in February 1971. Sadly, there were no more Nick Drake albums; but two decades after Nick's tragically early death in 1974 his record label's idealistic faith in his promise was rewarded. Now, in age where social media approval, chart position and sales are all that matter, idealism has all but disappeared. Can you imagine Max Hole tweeting it is cool that that two of Deutsche Grammophon's contemporary music albums haven't sold a shit? However, thankfully, idealism does live on in a few small record labels. One example is the French independent Accords Croisés; I buy all their releases sight unseen; because they unlock valuable discoveries in the way that the corporate labels, radio and social media should, but no longer do.

Particularly noteworthy is the new Accords Croisés CD seen above. Henri Tournier is a classically trained flautist who has embraced Eastern versions of the flute, particularly the bansuri, the transverse bamboo flute that is a distinctive feature of Indian music. On his new album Souffles du Monde (Breath of the World) he is joined by no less than ten outstanding vocalists from around the world - six of them women incidentally. Each track is an improvised dialogue between flute and vocalist in which each soloist is an equal partner. The soloists include Dominique Vellard (France), Dorsaf Hamdani (Tunisia), Alireza Ghorbani (Iran), Abida Parveen (Pakistan), Ustad Farida Mahwash (Afghanistan), and Etsuko Chida (Japan). On an album of such richness and diversity it is invidious to highlight individual artists. But I will: Enkhjargal Dandarvaanchig's Mongolian throat and overtone singing is a revelation, while the idealism of Henri Tournier and Accords Croisés in putting this prodigously rewarding project together also deserves the highest praise. I suspect that, to use Dave Sandison words, Souffles du Monde won't sell a shit. But is that the best measure of artistic merit? Experience Enkhjargal Dandarvaanchig and Henri Tournier's revelatory music-making via this link.

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