Released: October 2022
Label: Leaving Records
Within the last 4 years, Sam Gendel has evolved through woozy soundscapes, meticulously chosen collaborations, soundtracks, and bold interpretations of jazz standards - reimagining their structure, sonics, and harmony in ways absolutely avant-garde yet neither free nor abstract.
On his latest project, the vivid and contemplative ‘blueblue’, Gendel partially rejects his ‘devoid of attack’ affected saxophone chord swells and leans more into broken classical guitar, the lo-fi warblings of which are reminiscent of the now ancient Windows Sound Recorder. Alongside the saxophone (an instrument that amidst so many other skills one forgets he was once primarily known for) and the long-distance contributions of drummer Craig Weinrib, he presents fourteen sublime tracks, each of which corresponds to a pattern within the traditional style of Japanese embroidery ‘Sashiko’.
Twilit chord progressions and swooning saxophone circle drums that weave in their shared understanding of a complex calm, eerily similar to the repetitive stitching patterns they aim to represent. These mesmerising compositions utilise tranquillity and stillness to display the now unornamented bare harmonies and awkward melodies across all his albums. Whilst precision and thoughtfulness is present throughout Gendel’s discography, ‘blueblue’ is undeniably better built for satisfying full-length listens, generously devoid of the provocative stylistic shifts his early projects thrive on.
The hazy hypnosis of the album allows Gendel's trademark sonic dysmorphia to remain in play without preventing his compositions from taking centre stage; the presence of Sashiko as a concept has eclipsed some of his previous work by absolutely perfecting this single, thought-provoking idea. Still weird, and still entirely lovely, ‘blueblue’ is yet another dazzling entry in Gendel's fascinating discography, his exploration of just a single mood unearthing the most profound music he's released in some time. Whilst his more obvious boundary-pushing projects are a joy to listen to, the way ‘blueblue’ has combined only three or four elements with the remaining space filled by restraint and passion brings a surreal serenity like nothing else this year.