One would be hard-pressed to find a handful of albums released this year more beautiful than the sounds recorded on Sospiri by The Winston Jazz Routine. Combining hushed tones and majestic swells, a wealth of rich instrumentation with delicately unobtrusive vocals, the lyric playing of strings, woodwinds and brass with handclaps and plinking pianos, the album’s principal architect Nathan Phillips draws on a unique blend of elements to create the achingly gorgeous atmosphere achieved here. Aided by numerous contributing players, Phillips has crafted an album seamless in its direction and subtly striking in its effect. Sospiri (a form of the Italian word for “sighing”, which is a fitting representation of Phillips’ subdued vocal timbre) often relies on shifts (some subtle, some sweeping) in accent, mood and color as means to a radiant end; nowhere on the project is this more compelling than on tracks like “Peter and the Water” and “The Physician”. The former is a quiet piece which gradually and sublimely expands, the latter an almost free form exercise which vacillates between quirky stop-start rhythms and extended melodic passages. The couplet which closes Sospiri also provide some of its most stellar moments as the extended instrumental opening of “The Conductor’s Regress” gives way to cascading vocals which carry the built momentum into the gentle lilt of the title track. While the album’s consistently plaintive vibe might cause some listeners to grow weary by this point, Phillips and company experiment with and exercise enough sonic variety to keep things interesting.
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