Bristol experimental jazz collective Ishmael Ensemble have released their expansive new album Visions of Light. The follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2019 debut A State of Flow, praised by the likes of The Guardian, Mojo, The Wire and tastemakers across BBC 6Music, this sophomore record sees the group reimagine what an ‘ensemble’ can do; expanding into a shifting collective, where human relationships between artists underpin far-ranging, stunningly ambitious and emotionally heavyweight compositions.
Helmed by producer and saxophonist Pete Cunningham, Ishmael Ensemble’s richly inventive 2019 debut A State Of Flow marked them out as an explosive new force in UK jazz, imbuing lush cinematic compositions with left-field dub and electronic sensibilities redolent of Bristol’s vital musical landscape. Named The Guardian’s ‘Contemporary Album Of The Month’ and Mojo’s ‘Jazz Album of The Month’, it saw the group perform Maida Vale sessions for both Gilles Peterson and Tom Ravenscroft, as well as feature on compilations for Brownswood Recordings and Soul Jazz Records. Cunningham’s rise as an in-demand producer led to remixes for the likes of techno royalty Carl Craig, as well as legendary jazz label Blue Note Records alongside a plethora of the UK’s finest musical talent on Blue Note Re:Imagined.
Ishmael Ensemble has since become a platform for Cunningham to subvert the conventional notions of producer/artist relationships, unsettling genre tags, and transcending the familiar landscape of UK jazz itself. Across the album’s 10 tracks, Cunningham practices a holistic approach with a long list of collaborators. Together, they explore vast new sonic terrain with an honesty, intimacy and emotional heft impossible for a conventional band.
Visions Of Light tells the story of Ishmael Ensemble’s development across its two sides. The first draws from the energy Cunningham and his bandmates discovered whilst extensively touring A State Of Flow.