Phillip Bracken – The Opole Session (Independent)
Australian singer-songwriter, Phillip Bracken’s debut album was recorded live in the studio under quite extraordinary circumstances. While in Poland – whether touring or just traveling, I’ve no idea – he met, by chance, four Polish musicians, who he spent two days with, rehearsing his songs, and recording the eight tracks on “The Opole Session”. For those for whom geography is not a strong subject, Opole is a city in southern Poland, situated on the Oder River.
The four Polish musicians, Jacek Mielcarek (saxaphone and duduk), Jacub Mielcarek (contra bass), Mateusz Szemraj (electric guitar), and Jarek Korzonek (drums) bring an urgent enthusiasm to the table and I’m reminded a little of Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” record; certainly the process and vitality inherent in the recording.
Considering the unfamiliarity of the material to the majority of the musicians, and the live setting in which it’s presented, the results are incredibly cohesive, and not at all basic or lo-fi. Indeed, opening track “It's Not Too Late / Ishmael” is beautifully structured, building slowly and surely, with Bracken in fine voice, and “The Storm” impresses with its European gypsy jazz rhythms and the whole band providing energy and flow. “Les Moustiques” continues the trend, and it’s a wonderful track. It’s almost certainly Bracken’s finest moment here, and the musicians weave complex magic in support.
Thankfully, Bracken will be back in Europe to play some shows later in 2013.