Soulstatejazz – Annwn – Banoffee Pies

Tom Ellis’ live electronic music ensemble release their debut album “Annwn” on Banoffee Pies

In Welsh folk law, it’s said that “Annwn” (pronounced an:un) which translates as “The Otherworld” in English, is a world of delights and beauty, located on an island or somewhere beneath the earth.

As legend has it – it’s a place of eternal youth and good, where food and fair health is ever in abundance: the wage of death and disease fallen by the way side. “Annwn” is commonly identified in Welsh mythology as an afterlife of paradise. It seems a fitting title for the debut LP on Banoffee Pies Records from leading Welsh talent Tom Ellis‘ new live jazz fuelled electronic music ensemble, Soulstatejazz.

Born in the small town of Dolgellau, North Wales in the early 80s, Tom is a core resident at the infamous Freerotation festival. He’s no stranger to playing live or jumping in at the deeper end, having been releasing funk and jazz inspired electronic music since 2003. With an extensive discography under his belt, bringing together the tantalising talents of Mark Hand on Fender Rhodes /Moog, Michiel Renger on Tenor Sax along with Dave Elson on Reaktor and Ableton instruments/FX  for various jams and live sessions via the festival has been a natural progression over the last few years. The main backline of the band, Ellis leads with Bass, Drums, Percussion and Production – so it was only a matter of time before he managed to assemble the crew together in a professional studio and spend a few days focusing on recording.

The 6 tracks that make up “Annwn” are the result of a 3 day long improvisation session, which took place at Malt Barn studio in the stunning Nanerth Valley back in the spring of 2019. Crisscrossing the soothing sounds and influences of traditional Jazz with elements of electronic experimentation, the sumptuous opening tones of Renger’s saxaphone and glistening chords of Hand on Rhodes welcome you to “The Ministry of Universal Redemption” on the A Side as it winds you into a gentle sway: sampled vocals making their soul saving salvo as Ellis’ rhythmic patter takes hold. “Rebels on the Way” ups the tempo as the Saxophone moves to centre stage along with well pointed Bass guitar as a hefty kick drives forward and twinkling keys sweep around the edges in complimentary fashion. Veering stage left , “The Dogs of Annwn” balance off-pitch electronics with snaking percussion before finding a new level. The Rhodes once again strikes with lush aplomb, and the Saxophone peers through.

Over on the B Side, the wistful timbre of “You Started” balances breathy females vocals with unfurling brushy drums and entrancing chord progressions: an ode to the St Germain’s soulful past as they walk hand in hand with Matthew Herbert down a Parisien boulevard. Not getting too comfortable, “A Little Bit of Real” jumps down to Hip Hop tempo – injecting a fresh sense of urgency as staccato Sax notes leads over what feels like looped up keys and bass, before breaking into full solo jam mode. All carried by Ellis’ cool on bass. Last but not least, “The Uncanny Valley” ends the LP on the upbeat, mixing experimental edge with urgent pulse and Rhodes key fusion – all interspersed with dubby incidentals.

The final word? Don’t miss out on this small piece of sanity in an otherwise crazy world.