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Bruise Blood


Artist: Nori
Label: Nori
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 30 November 2018

Nori is a jazz quintet from Austin, Texas. Part jazz, part folk, and part world, the music is diverse as the makeup of its musicians. Enriching an aesthetic deeply rooted in American jazz and folk music, the ensemble playfully weaves together a myriad of global influences giving rise to a seamless synthesis of sound...

Bruise Blood is Nori's latest release, following on from their previous album World Anew. The name Bruise Blood is a reference to Steve Reich’s 1960’s composition 'Come Out'. Reich’s medium is a tape-loop based on the spoken words of Daniel Hamm, a young man from Harlem wrongly accused and convicted of murder. After police officers tried to brutally beat a confession out of him, Hamm made a desperate attempt to show his need for immediate medical treatment – “I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.”

Politically, this album explores this subject, reflecting on America's own blood bruise festering and clotting under the skin.

The album opens with ‘The Dream’, a song that introduces a contemplative tone with a stately three-note motif and slowly devolves into a chaotic roar of unresolved doubt. ‘Wildfire’ is about an arsonist setting blaze to our future and revelling in the “flames of hate.” When the smoke clears, a fearful mother ponders the world she has brought her child into in the introspective ‘Crash and Burn’.

Motherhood is further explored in ‘Undertow’, a song that flows with a sweeping string arrangement and unpredictable rhythm. ‘The Walk’. It is a protest song written from a woman’s perspective. The lyrics are vivid. The march-like cadence is strong and deliberate. Elsewhere on the album, tracks such as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ provide context for a bruised and divided nation (the lyrics come from an unofficial fifth verse written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. during the American Civil War) against frenetic free-jazz passages; whereas ‘Amends’ is a song in search of a way to stop the bleeding.

The album closes with ‘Decay’ (in two movements): ‘Prelude’ is a dark and mysterious first movement arranged for string trio; ‘Ballad’, the second movement and final song of the album, leaves the listener wounded, lamenting that “you can’t see the part of me that’s you.”

It's an interesting experiment, but I'm not entirely sure Nori really managed to succeed in pulling this off. Personally, political aspect aside, I didn't feel that the album worked well in the order it was presented. Some tracks work, others sound like they need a little work.


Nick Smithson

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