Is it unorthodox to start a review with an appreciation of the recording quality? Yet without the technical skills of Matt Robertson and the sheer genius of the mixing by August Wanngren, we’d not have this album. Without those engineers, the energy, the passion and the sheer life-grabbing urgency that always characterises live performances by Phronesis, only a few hundred people would have experienced this extraordinary trio live, in the round, at The Cockpit in November 2013.
So we have the best of both worlds in this wonderful album – Life to Everything – the sheer joy and expansiveness of live performance fused with recording-studio sound. Of course, if you were not there you would not know that Anton often plays with cutlery, that Ivo sits so quietly at the piano, you think he is asleep, and that Jasper moves with his bass like a dancing partner. And the result of these things is that unmistakable Phronesis sound! As the audience we responded with whistles, whoops and gasps and that is what you will do at home, you will feel you are there. The bustle, the clatter, the dancing-down-the-street feel of Anton’s compositions such as Herne Hill is balanced by the ethereal, symphonic beauty of those of Ivo where he takes us into space and deserts, and explores the unspoken strength of deep friendship in Phraternal, the life-changing experience (for him and us) that is called Phronesis. And Jasper’s strong, instantly hummable tunes provide the sinew that runs through it, his bass playing is so delicate and responsive it drives the Phronesis machine as if it were a high-powered car – which it is.
Phronesis’ fifth album, Life to Everything is quite simply one of the best albums you will hear this year! And their best!
Available here from Edition Records.
Mary James 6 April 2014