…this is music to savour and enjoy in an album that reveals its many delights over repeated hearing.

Pig Records PIG15

Kevin Figes (Saxes, flute, voice, composition); Brigitte Beraha (Voice); Jim Blomfield (Keyboards); Ashley John Long (Bass); Mark Whitlam (Drums)

Recorded 26-29 January, 2023

This is a wonderful second album of Wallpaper Music from Kevin Figes and his band. Importantly, and integral to music of this kind, is the constant personal with the band line up remaining the same as their debut album from 2021.

The music ranges from a wonderous cacophony of sound one minute to solos of exquisite beauty the next. Complex and intricate rhythms alternate with thumping bassline and thundering drums supporting original music with lyrics that can abstract or poignantly direct.

As a saxophonist, Figes learned his craft by studying with UK legend Elton Dean before attending the Guildhall School of Music, and it is perhaps the influence of Dean that looks down on this music as opposed to the more scholarly approach of formal music tuition.

As a composer, Figes wrote all the music on the album, the saxophonist allows his musical interests free reign and the influences of Robert Wyatt Kevin Ayres, Art Bears and contemporary classical composer Bruno Maderna are discernible.

To Figes credit, while discernible the influences do not dominate, and the composer has found his own writing style for this unique band, and it is fascinating to hear how the music has evolved from the earlier recording.

The bass and drums team of Ashley John Long and Mark Whitlam are a tight unit with a flexibility to switch from rock laden groove to s more fluid time feel in a heartbeat, while Jim Blomfield’s keyboards occupies a territory that hovers between duties within the rhythm section and providing texture and colour alongside Figes and Brigitte Behara.

This relationship between saxophone and voice is becoming something very special. The two ‘voices’ work together beautifully, and pieces such as ‘Black Out The Night’ and ‘The Time Has Come’ highlight this perfectly. The latter has a beautiful melody and Behara switches between wordless vocals and the written lyrics seamlessly, and Figes soprano is a perfect foil.

The music can be wildly dramatic as evidenced on ‘Dot Dash’ with squalling sax over keyboards and vocal, and on the atmospheric and disturbing ‘Patterns of Decay’; and spring back to the fickleness found in human nature in ‘Fear of Fiasco’ but the music is not allowed to linger or outstay its welcome. Figes has the knack of knowing when the song is done and has the discipline to then leave it be.

Brigitte Behara never ceases to amaze. She has the ability to seemingly fit into any context without compromising her own distinctly individual voice. I am yet to work out whether she does this by being incredibly adaptable or adept at finding her own place in the music and making it sound as if it was written it were written especially for her.

How ever Kevin Figes has managed to bring this music together, the ensemble is creating music of originality, and it will be interesting to hear how he continues to develop the music moving forward. In the meantime, this is music to savour and enjoy in an album that reveals its many delights over repeated hearing.