Her new album, There is only love and fear, is driven by what she calls ‘messy minimalism.’
You should go deep with the percussionist Bex Burch’s new album, There is only love and fear. Maybe start with “Follow me I make you happy” just to get a sense of whether or not the artist, an expert xylophonist, can accomplish what she claims in the title.
Once settled — this is blissful, tingle-inducing work — start from the first moments of the first piece, “Dawn blessings,” which opens with birdsong, footsteps and Burch dotting out a motif on her hand-made xylophone.
As noted in the fascinating release notes:
Burch lived in Ghana for three years, including an 18-month apprenticeship in instrument-making, in the Upper West of Ghana with master gyil player Thomas Sekgura. The new instrument isn’t of a particular tradition, indeed the harmonics are tuned to maximise the resonance and was made in collaboration with Jamie Linwood in Stroud, in the south west of England. “The question ‘what sounds do I like today?’ brought up harmonics, and this is the first instrument I’ve made because of what I want to hear. This record happens to be the first that features it.“
The record is also Bex’s debut solo album after earning attention through her work with the group Vula Viel and collaborations with key players in the avant-jazz scene including Peter Zummo, Tamar Osborn, Leafcutter John and Evelyn Glennie. The result of a chance meeting with International Anthem’s Alejandro Ayala at Le Guess Who? festival in 2021, There is only love and fear was recorded in Chicago alongside instrumentalists including Tortoise drummer Dan Bitney, percussionist-bandleader Ben LaMar Gay, and woodwind player Rob Frye — as well as post-production augmentation from bassist Anna Butterss and violinist Macie Stewart.
“What has come through in this album,” Bex says in release notes, “is a more domestic style of music: the simplicity of life and sound-making. The word I’m shy to use is ‘feminine’ but it’s true, and I reclaim it in all its power.”
Below, the musician took time to highlight five albums that shaped her listening.
I’ve been really getting to know my sound this year in a new way by working on a solo set. Who I am without the influence of others. And I just found out that this set starts out in the London/Euro improvised world that I’ve been playing in, but then becomes something entirely different.
So here’s a nod to where I’m coming from, all old albums, all part of me, before the self-consciousness of making my own stuff, and a joy to find them in what I’m making now. Full circle.
Just my love of albums.
Michael Jackson – Bad
“This was the first album I bought, and the tape got so worn through it took on a whole warped sound! My appreciation of these tunes, which worked their magic on me even in childhood, has only grown as I understand more of the language Quincy Jones was using. Great songs, expertly communicated!”
Skunk Anansie – Stoosh
“I grew up in the guitar band era, and first played drums in a punk band called Pornographic Sheep. I was honestly always drawn to the less heavy songs, and this album by Skunk Anansie got deep inside my heart with incredible hooks and melodies along with the energy and heaviness that had me bouncing, literally, off the walls in my bedroom listening to it. Skin is my hero.”
Big Science – Laurie Anderson
“Pop as art, actually calling it art. This is the time, and Big Science is the record of the time, every time I hear it. Thanks to my old friend Brendan Beales for buying me this CD when I was 15. I think it gave me permission, early on, to be more than one thing, and to find the art in whatever I was doing. Laurie Anderson made this for me.”
The Charming Transport Band – Family Connections
“I love this concept of giving you 5 albums, and perhaps telling is that my experiences of albums are all pre-DSP’s. I realise writing to you that Oren Marshall’s Charming Transport Band was my first taste, purely from an album, of the London scene – before I knew what that was.
I have since met and become friends with Oren, and he even played on my new record for a moment. Also have some overlap with our experiences living in Ghana. So now I know him and understand in a different way what he was doing in this album. It is just more and more wonderful for me, joyful, reaching music.”
The Beatles – The White Album
“My dad was Beatles mad, and I liked some albums more than others, but I was really drawn to The White Album as a kid. Before all of the above and before I had a tape player of my own, I had The Beatles. And this double CD album had everything the young experimental weirdo in me needed to bounce around and sing along and imagine.
It was many many years later that I realised I’d always liked composing music. I didn’t know that’s what it was called: making up weird songs, repeating lines and strange worlds. It was fun! This album was that childish imagination world for me.”