Pre/review: John Law’s New Congregation, These Skies in Which We Rust

Law_RustThese skies in which we rust, the latest release by the prolific and unfailingly creative pianist John Law, takes it’s title from a phrase in a poem by Law’s daughter Holly.  He’s taking the repertoire on tour, starting tonight at Bristol’s BeBop Club and, with a London launch next week at Pizza Express, a quick review of the album and preview of the gigs is timely.

Tapping a range of sources for inspiration is a thread throughout this double CD offering. Contemporary rhythms and grooves from the world of dance and machine generated music, transmuted into an acoustic piano trio setting, underpin many of the layered, frequently odd-meter  motifs and melodic hooks that loop and evolve.  Law  cites Radiohead’s music as informing his choices and there’s no escaping the pervasive influence of classic music, both in the fluid lyricism of Law’s playing and appearing explicitly in the title track with a sample from Brahm’s Requiem setting the scene. There are plenty of  changes of atmosphere from the stomping, tense Seven Ate Nine to the limpid delicacy of I Hold My Soul To The Wind.

If rhythm and locked, looping sections are at the heart of many of the compositions, the life and energy is breathed into them by the formidable line-up. The bass chair is occupied by long-time collaborator Yuri Goloubev delivering singing, flowing lines and Laurie Lowe on drums is all taut energy and electrifying propulsion.   The trio is augmented by Josh Arcoleo‘s tenor on four tracks, producing soaring sometimes hoarse throated cries and keening multi phonic wails,  at others burning gritty solos. . Through it all, whenever space clears for soloing, Law’s flowing  lines, instinct for building tension melodically as well rhythmically, lift the music and deliver an emotional charge.

This is a listen again (and again) album and for the tour, Law has assembled a shifting cast of the finest musicians in the land to work it over.   Tonight in Bristol, Goloubev is on bass but the incomparable Dave Hamblett is on drums and the feisty Sam Crockatt, who has himself just released a very fine album (my review is here) is on tenor.  On other dates, Lloyd Haines pops up on drums and bass duties are split between Ashley-John Long, James Agg and Oli Hayhurst.   Whatever the line-up, this will be an exciting live experience and wherever you are there’s probably a date somewhere close. Check the itinerary here.



  1. […] I wrote about John Law’s New Congregation ahead of their BeBop Club gig and the event didn’t disappoint. Word was out and The Bear’s back room was packed, standing room only at the back. The musical territory was the same as the album even if more than half the tunes were not, there’s a continuing flow of new tunes from the leader’s pen. What stood out even more than on the album was the strength of the melodic hooks. Rythmically dense and complex the music may be, but the peer-less musicians, (Laurie Lowe on drums and Yuri Goloubev on bass are surely hard to top as rhythm section) negotiated it at will and played beautifully and freely.  Sam Crockatt on tenor was outstanding, never overplaying, his developing phrases and hooks glowed and took flight, delivered with a rough edged warm tone.  Another Friday night treat. […]

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