When looking for some smart music, reach for the second release by IQ, my shortened acronym for the Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet’s, a collaboration between drummer Asaf Sirkis and vocalist Sylvia Bialas. Formed in 2014 among four creative musicians exploring the ties across multiple genres, one can easily hear how the quartet has been strongly influenced by the subsoil of their regional musical cultures.
Released in October 2019, “Our New Earth” crosses outside the borders of jazz into fusion, progressive rock, contemporary classical, Polish folk, and world beat influences from South India and the Middle East. Followers of the MoonJune record label know that this single man label operated by Leonardo Pavkovic has traversed the globe seeking out adventurous new music to bring to audiophiles ears in high resolution audio, and I am sure listeners quickly will discover that Our New Earth absolutely excels in this area.
What intrigues me the most about Sirkis/Bialas IQ is the ease that the group moves across genres touching lightly on the most delicate passages on through to high-energy electrifying peaks. Yet, among all of this, the wonderful flair of the eloquent vocals of co-composer Bialas, sung in Polish and her tonal melodies that defy translation while so easily conveying incredible emotion and evoking stories filled with colorful imagery.
When fans purchase the CD through Bandcamp, they can download a 96kHz/24-bit lossless file in stereo WAVE or FLAC, and it is this hi-res version that is reviewed here. I found the album to be extremely natural sounding with a club like quality surrounding the drums that spread across the stereo field. Cymbals brilliantly splash with great ease providing exquisite overtones and the balance of the kit is strikingly present. Underneath the bottom is driven by the bass which pushes the music forward, underpinned by the rumbling affects that shakes deep into the ground on the opening track “If Pegasus Had One Wing.” This opening sounded similar to a space train arriving at a station, which goes on to lead into the progressive melody that soars into the jazz world wherein Frank Harrison’s piano sparkles up and down the scales.
The somber and smoky “Land Of Oblivion” is revealing at all levels. English speakers will need a translator for the Polish lyrics that float over the open piano and soft drum work which journey into a remarkable atmospheric space. I can hear Flora Purim coming through on “Letter To A.” wherein the tonal vocals of Bialas conjure up a deep connection that is carried by the remainder of the group. Each nuance is clear with nice dynamics that elevate her vocals over the organ and gentle touch of the cymbals and snare. The crotales shimmer and emit rich overtones that are a perfect demonstration of the strength of high resolution recordings and the mastery of recording and mixing engineer Christoph Reiss.
As the album forges forward listeners will find a nice intro solo drum section that spreads widely across the stereoscape. The smooth and dynamically rich pieces are a fantastic treat for the ears, lighting up the soul with their melody. The balance is excellent, likewise the channel separation is very good with a crisp focus and overall lifelike transparency. There is intensity, mystery, and spirit that joyously drives this music. Each song has a unique identity, yet all of the tracks work well together as a unified album. There is an unmistakable emphasis on band interaction which celebrates the music from both Sirkis and Bialas, who note that they offer this music as a reflection and wish for the reconnection with nature, plus a kind of a prayer in music for a better world for all of us.
What I distinctly love is the konnakol integration on the title track which flows from this Southern Indian vocal patter into a medium hall with a church organ, only to flow onward into progressive and jazzier sections with a vigorous solo from bassist Kevin Glasgow. Each section ties together perfectly with the ambient space opening and closing as if to emphasize the mood and character of that part.
Digging in further, very near the end of the album is the amazing fusionesque piece “Spooky Action at the Distance” which features the unusual waterphone instrument played by Bialas. The unknowing may think the sounds emitted by the waterphone were created by an electronic device, such as a keyboard. However, this crystal clear recording shows off this acoustic instrument, along with the entire band as they grind in deeply with the purist of sonic qualities. I became so interested in the waterphone, that I have included a demonstration of the instrument from a YouTube video which is not related to this album but included here for your reference too.
Our New Earth is a spell bounding release that I strongly recommend for fusion and jazz enthusiasts. The album goes far beyond these core genres, and fans of progressive, contemporary classical, world beat, folk and avant-garde will likely find a home here too. It is a very well recorded release with wonderful mastering by Alex Klebl at the Marell Music Group, and certainly worthy to add into any hi-res collection. Likewise, I also suggest checking out “Come to Me” the Sirkis/Bialas International Quartet’s debut 2014 release.
Double CD and Hi-Res 96k/24-bit WAVE or FLAC download via BandCamp.
Get your copy here: