Weaving an intricately detailed tapestry of meditative, spiritual jazz and dream electronics, Maxwell Sterling’s astonishing second album ‘Laced With Rumour: Loud-Speaker Of Truth’ blooms in the gaps between Don Cherry, Talk Talk and Kara-Lis Coverdale, gently coaxing us into a trance- like reverie where the real and artificial morph into one pulsing organism.
Originating as a multi-channel installation commissioned by Nottingham Contemporary in 2018, the four extended pieces here were recorded at home in Morecambe Bay and then subsequently placed in a room alongside works by Moki Cherry (spouse of Don, mother of Neneh and Eagle-Eye Cherry), Penny Slinger, and a collection of static musical instruments the piece was intended to complement. As a follow-up to Sterling’s 2017 cult hit ‘Hollywood Medieval’ for The Death of Rave, ‘Laced With Rumour’ works with notably more fluid and gently psychoactive structuring that takes in seemingly disparate influences - from Roman mythology to Nottingham’s Lace industry - that results in a sprawling but intimate world of sound, characterised by aetheric arrangements that effectively elide the disciplines of spiritual jazz, chamber music, and art installation into something altogether new.
Much like Kara-Lis Coverdale’s converging interests in traditional vs hyper-modern, acoustic vs artificial and synthetic modes of sound, Sterling’s work here is fluid and unorthodox, but rooted in a deep understanding of convention which he proceeds to bend and re-shape at will. The album opens with a slowly contemplative and almost solemn drift between ‘Laced’, which features samples of Don Cherry weft into its tingling fray of electro-acoustic timbres, alongside the breezy chamber strokes of ‘With Rumour’, the hallucinogenic qualities of ‘Loud-Speaker’, and the darker revelation ‘Of Truth’, which concludes with a transition from mired murk to tones that channel Maxwell’s refined cinematic nous.
One of those albums that seems impossible to fully absorb in one sitting, listening to ‘Laced With Rumour...’ takes you from a swirl of brushed cymbals into harpsichord shimmers, passages of solo piano brushing up against the deepest subs - like a more bruised and flipped Sakamoto + Alva Noto collab, to Arthur Russell’s ‘World Of Echo’ slowly descending into synthesised madness. It’s a rich and stunning meditation for our time.