The Expansions – Murmuration

Via Albert’s Favourites “When The Expansions self-released their first single in 2013, the laid-back jazz funk of Lavender, it quickly gained strong support from soul and rare-groove aficionados including Kenny Dope, Dom Servini, Patrick Forge and Andy Smith. A run of shows followed and before long, when someone was asking if there was a soul-jazz band around to play with, “The Expansions” was the answer.

Although this popularity meant a hiatus in releasing music, the band have been constantly busy, playing around Europe with legendary British-Ghanaian soul singer, Andrew Ashong and the exceptional, upcoming talent Connie Constance.

Murmuration, recorded over three days at Big Noise in Southend, is constructed of single takes, with minimal overdubs, as the band attempt to capture the feeling and energy they create live.

Debut single Breakthrough introduced the insanely catchy but deeply soulful blend of synths and groove, but here on the album that is explored to the fullest with longer breakdowns and more expansive, experimental solos. Pocket 5 displays the, possibly unexpected, influences of broken beat and almost combative rhythm playing – particularly in the complex guitar and keys breakdown where Koor and O’Keefe layer conflicting time signatures and battle to ride it out to the heavy drum return.

Cannonball brings warm mellowness that delicately evolves through beats, touching on bossas alongside their fundamental hip-hop sensibilities. But even here there is a raucous zenith before the band sublimely recede into the silence of the a-side ending.

Colossal album highlight Ivory Mountain is truly an epic. Evoking moments of 4Hero, there is a lightness of groove in the first half of this soulful exploration. But at the halfway point, all restraint is let go as a live string section joins the four quarters of the band for three glorious minutes of soulful disco. Evoking sounds of Quincy Jones, George Benson and Johnny Hammond, all the way through to a beautifully cacophonous finale.

Dragonfly undoubtedly reflects on the work of Herbie Hancock and is the most direct throwback to the band’s earlier work, which is a welcome marker of how far they have come. A quintessential jazz funker.

The album closes with the thoughtful and introverted shuffle of Miles Away. In the final eight minutes of Murmuration, The Expansions allow space and time to take precedence, with once-more-restrained peaks and developments. It becomes clear though, that the band cannot resist one last explosive finale, as they rise with screeching synths, strings and dubs for a perfect race to the finish line.

You can hear the influences of Idris Muhammad, Grover Washington, even parallels with South London peers Yussef Kamaal and Ruby Rushton. But The Expansions have tirelessly worked to create a sound of their own and are very proud, along with label Albert’s Favourites, to finally share it. ”

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