Ringmaster Rory Simmons returns with Brass and Beats as the Trumpet, electronics and imagination of the man out front weave into a new jazztronic and cinematic blues [of sorts]. Get this!
Favorite track: Heksen Romance.
Rory Simmons - trumpet/flugelhorn electronics/synths
Jon Scott - drums
Chris Montague - electric guitar acoustic guitar
Mixed by Rory Simmons & Jon Scott
Mastered by Red Red Paw
Produced by Rory Simmons, Jon Scott
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
Graphic Design - Lewis Kay Thatcher
released October 22, 2021
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Trumpeter, producer and composer Rory Simmons summons his iconoclastic musical vision on the latest genre-blurring Monocled Man album, 'Ex Voto'. Here, the omni-appreciative trio (Simmons, Chris Montague and Jon Scott) travel down a groove-adjacent pathway in search of solemn industrial soundscapes.
Simmons’ cultural inquisitiveness forms a treasure-trove of musical touchstones, which he uses to sculpt a sound that’s truly his own. 'Ex Voto' (‘an offer given in order to fulfil a vow’) represents another idiosyncratic journey, this time inspired by Victorian novelist Samuel Butler and his work of the same name. The themes found in both Ex Voto and Butler’s magnum opus Erewhon punctuate the album, as the trio conjure visceral musical excitement from base ideas on dystopia and politics.
'Ex Voto' is an opportunity for Monocled Man to tread new ground. Close collaboration between Simmons and Scott prompted a creative shift with more emphasis on both groove and production value. “A lot of the touchstones for the record are cinematic, ambient, industrial soundscapes,” Simmons explains. “I still wanted it to sound English too, whilst tipping European noir.”
‘End Signs’ opens; solemn and dark, it’s partly inspired by Mexican author Yuri Herrara’s novel ‘End Signs Preceding The End Of The World’. A noisy bedrock rumbles, while Kenny Wheeler meets Tomasz Stańko in the melody flying overhead. Russian explorer Nikolay Przhevalsky inspires the second track, as Simmons pits M-base, Prince-like neo-soul against glitching samples and synths. ‘Gem’ is more angular, but groove still features in industrial-sounding looped beats – “melodically, it’s like a Dave Douglas track wrapped in noisy industrial samples.”
Butler’s eerie influence is never far away, not least in ‘Tin Skulls’ (as close to a ballad as Ex Voto gets). Here, Montague finds a brittle, county/post-rock acoustic sound that becomes one of the album’s essential timbres. ‘Heksen Romance’ references a different aspect of Butler’s work – a nod to the imagery of 20th Century Scandinavian witchcraft and early Swedish cinema, the psychedelia of Can and Tortoise comes to the fore on a track driven by Scott’s powerful playing.
Expansive production gives ‘Siler Woods’ unexpected depth, hazily wafting along with notes of Mary Halvorson. Montague’s high-intensity soloing climaxes on ‘Sense’ (“this is Chris’ moment to tear it apart”) – and more gnarly guitar sounds emanate through ‘Shores’ – “this started like a contemporary jazz track, that gradually returned to contemporary production.” ‘Natural 93’ conjures more vivid cinema – think ‘This is England ‘90’ – where breathy autotuned voices are weirdly distorted, evolving almost indiscernibly. ‘Amongst the Machines’ relates back to Butler’s writing on technology, and the album closes with ‘Siler Woods Reprise’ – Montague’s wild, Bailey-like acoustic shredding as snatches of sound are stitched together, edges exposed.
“I wanted to make a record that was darkly cinematic and ambient but with big washes of industrial sound,” Simmons says. “I didn't want to make a record based on how I would play it live, I wanted to make something I could sculpt, and create something really original.” Simmons continues to find new ground through his thought-provoking, uncategorizable music.
"'Ex Voto' weaves a tapestry of beautiful melodic and haunting stories without ever missing a beat."
"Montague is a great guitarist, Scott is one of the more forward-looking drummers on the scene and Simmons is equally impressive here – great tone, amazing range."
Bebop Spoken Here
"This is an album that defies genre categorization, it is cinematic in scope, ambient in sound; it is well constructed and well played."
Simply Jazz Talk
I investigated WTB after hearing an, as yet untitled, piece on BBC3’s J to Z.
I was instantly taken with it and reminded of the music of National Health.
It’s a wonderful album. I listen through ear buds, via Bluetooth speaker and put through the AVR to fill a room. All are immersive, while different. khawaja