“Dance to it, make love to it, consume it, listen to it, start at the clouds to it!” Iggy Pop
"Heavy stuff" Gilles Peterson
Forward-thinking UK trio Vula Viel release their sophomore album, ‘Do Not Be Afraid’ on 25th January 2019, continuing their unique musical journey centred around the Gyil (Ghanaian xylophone).
The band’s new set confidently weaves sparse polyrhythms and intricate rhythm structures around bandleader Bex Burch’s Gyil lines and take the instrument’s sound into new territory, with bassist Ruth Goller (Acoustic Ladyland, Melt Yourself Down, Rokia Traore) and drummer Jim Hart (Cloudmakers, Ralph Alessi, Electric Biddle) introducing a rough, post-punk edge to the band’s sound.
In Bex’s own words: “I have loved making this music. The incredible Dagaare systems which form the foundation have given me the structure on which to write tunes, craft grooves and choose my own meanings. I’ve gone deeper into what moves me in the Dagaare music, the fundamentals - asymmetry, space and chaos. I love how Do Not Be Afraid feels - a totally unusual and unique groove. As musicians, Ruth and Jim are incredible: They bring passion, talent, intuition and a depth that I wouldn’t have access to without them.”
Vula Viel was formed in 2013 by Bex Burch. After studying at Guildhall and training as a classical percussionist, she embarked on a life-changing three-year period living, farming and studying with xylophone master Thomas Segura in Upper West Ghana; the band’s name means ‘Good is Good’ in the Dagaare language. After being mentored in the deep traditions around the Gyil, a large African xylophone made of sacred lliga wood, Burch began the journey to bring the instrument into her own music. The acclaimed debut Vula Viel album in 2015, ‘Good is Good’, was the first realisation of her vision and ‘Do Not Be Afraid’ is the first set of Burch originals based on traditional Dagaare forms.
Described as “Ghanaian minimalism”, with the unassuming ability to blur the lines between atmospheres – Vula Viel’s sound may nod to Steve Reichian jazz, but influences don’t stop there: one can hear echoes of Bill Laswell and the irresistible energy of Arthur Russell.
On ‘Do Not Be Afraid’, the band bring a new confidence. The opening track, ‘Well Come’ is a strident, marching opener; the title track comforts the listener, urging them not to fear what they believe, hope and love. The track builds from delicate polyrhythms and gyil lines into a euphoric piece; ‘I Learn’ which sings out the line Dagaare line ‘Fo tu me na’ meaning ‘You insult me’ pounding out the way in which we learn from struggle. ‘Inside Mirror’ (‘Inside mirror, unworthily reflects you, ‘mere fraction of the real you’) hard hitting groove and awesome guest vocals from Rozie Gyems finishes the A side convincingly.
‘Fire’ start off side B delving deeper into this trio’s capabilities. Fire’s meaning is about the frustration and struggle and fire we all hold when life is hard and the amazing release and power of that when we keep going! ‘I Love You’, seemingly the album’s ballad, is a wild cyclic world of turning two simple lines upside down in groove and feel. ‘Breathe the Air’ has a spaciousness that makes you do just that, but don’t be fooled that this is light-weight. The album ends with unique ‘We Are’ a journey ending track, building cross-rhythms and melodies over an underlying pulse which everything breaks down to for the final line, ‘And I said to them, “Stay with me when I’m gone”, and they said “We Are”.’
“Beautiful .. Dance to it, Make Love to it, Consume it, Listen to it, Stare at the Clouds to it.. That music deserves good reactions!” Iggy Pop
"One of my discoveries for the London Jazz Festival.. Good is Good” Gilles Peterson
"They were the unexpected stars of a glitzy show " John Fordham, The Guardian (UK)
Financial Times ★★★★ | Songlines ★★★★ | Jazzwise ★★★★ | London Evening Standard ★★★★ |
"Funerals have never sounded so funky" Songlines
“like Portico Quartet on steroids” Jazzwise
"One of the most exciting young UK groups I've heard this year, Vula Viel" Jez Nelson, BBC
released January 25, 2019
Bex Burch: gyil
Ruth Goller: bass
Jim Hart: drums
Rozie Gyems: vocals (‘I Love You’, ‘Inside Mirror’)
Gwyneth Herbert: vocals (‘Fire’, ‘Do Not Be Afraid’, ‘We Are’)
Rita Ray: vocals (‘I Learn’)
Jim Hart, Ruth Goller, Bex Burch: vocals (‘I Learn’)
Zands Duggan: percussion (‘I Learn’)
All music and lyrics by Bex Burch. Published by Vula Viel Records
Written on traditional Dagaare forms
Produced by Matt Calvert and Bex Burch
Recorded at Cowshed Studios by James Johnston and Matt Calvert
Mastered by Peter Beckmann at Technology Works
supported by 22 fans who also own “Do Not Be Afraid”
Remembrance - wow... each part. Utterly, utterly perfect. Inspiring drums...
Strings Of Light pulls you in from the start, letting you know you're in for a great trip.
Joint 17 is another great track, smooth and funky and exploring around the edges of the groove.
Black Focus is a great opener and Yo Chavez is really nice.
Lowrider... mmm, the theme is bit retro for me, which is fitting - and brilliant playing, of course.
Favourite track: Remembrance Peter Jones