Artist: United Freedom Collective
Location: London United Kingdom
Before I get into looking at these two fantastic release I wanted to explain more about United Freedom Collective, they’re a fascinating entity that deserves all of the attention and understanding that they can get. I’ve paraphrased the following paragraphs from the collective’s Ninja Tune profile to best explain it all.
The United Freedom Collective features an ever-expanding cast of musical artists and friends with a close-knit trio at its core. In late 2020, Mathieu Seynaeve and WaiFung Tsang, musicians as well as clinicians and researchers of psychedelic therapy, met up with music producer and yoga instructor Robbie Redway for a sound journey at a remote barn on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. The result was a set of tracks and practices that shaped the blueprint of what United Freedom Collective is now.
The band’s music is a joyful clash of live instrumentation and electronic production with numerous flourishes such as teak flute (picked up in India) and layered with percussion to give it a kind of chaotic, ecstatic feeling Their overall sound can be described as worldwide folkloric instruments coupled with pianos, guitars and synths It collectively draws on the clinical work of Seynaeve and Tsang while also taking influence from worlds of Zen Taoism, Chinese plant medicines, Jungian analysis, headless way meditations, yoga, indigeneity, Amazonian and psychedelic cultures, icaros, worldwide healing traditions, the nature of birds & trees and Buddhism to name a few.
The collective have recently released two EP’s a few months apart, titled Am Ta and Space Intention that together form one cohesive collection of songs. Whether you’re looking for something different as a pallate cleanser between your usual rotations or genuinely seeking something meaningful to connect to, these EPs are the answer.
Album: Am Ta
Label: DAMA DAMA & Ninja Tune
September 30, 2022
I don’t really know how to put into words how moving and captivating this EP is, but I guess I had better try seeing as this is a review. From the opening seconds of the first track the listener is already greeted with a moving and serene collection of instrumental arrangements. The combined influence of so many different cultures and musical styles gives the release a transcendent quality that goes beyond boundaries such as ethnicity, religion, gender, age or language. If you’re like me then it simple connects with your humanity on a level that can best be described as spiritual (not in a religious sense, but in a personal, meaningful sense).
Blake Vision is a calm relaxing offering with a soothing underlying rhythmic pattern, serene folk instrumentation and late blooming but minimalistic ritualistic vocal offerings. There’s a subtle psychedelic influence that runs throughout. It perfectly opens the EP and allow the listener to settle in before the collective step things up on track 2.
1994 (feat. Jordan Stephens) takes things in a very different direction. We have some of that serene instrumentation but things here are busier and more obvious. We have indie/spoken word/hip hop styled vocals running throughout the track, telling a deeply personal story of personal relationships with family. There’s a very laid-back essence to this song, it feels like something that could be listened to in the summertime.
Am Ta takes a step back again from the overt use of vocals and lyrics and gives us a slightly catchier, more upbeat rhythm and energy. The electronic influences in the music come through a little stronger here and the folk elements are structured around these patterns. Around the middle of the track things get a little spacier and airier, opening up the song and throwing in some more psychedelic influences before the beat really takes its dominant place at the forefront.
MERCY (feat. FACESOUL) is the funkiest track on the album and has some very clear dub influences, a genre that I love and appreciate coming from New Zealand (a lesser-known favourite national genre). There’s a soulful smoothness to the track and an unshakable underlying groove that has you bobbing your head from start to finish. The horns on the track are a perfect example of what to do right when making good dub.
Most Incredible UFO Case Ever closes out the album with a relaxed ambient folk track that is impressively easy to lose yourself in. There’s a soothing piano base running through the track that gives way to more upbeat, as well as quiet contemplative folk segments. It’s a perfect way to close out the EP and leaves the listener in a serene state of mind.
Overall, this was a fantastic EP and really showcases how diverse the collective is in its influence and stylings. It also shows just how talented they are, both instrumentally and as song writers. Most importantly though it leaves the listener wanting more, having only featured 5 tracks. Luckily for all of you there is not wait as the second half of this EP release has already dropped this past month and we will look at now below.
Listen to and order the album:
Album: Space Intention
Label: DAMA DAMA & Ninja Tune
Release Date: March 3, 2023
Space Intention is the second part of this EP released and continues where Am Ta left off, however it moves much faster than its predecessor. This makes total sense if you look at it as picking up right where the last EP left off.
The opening track Space Intention (feat. The Social Singing Choir) launches the listener into a vocal focused track right off the bat and employs more indie and alternative influences than were present overall on the previous album. The harmonised sung segments of the song are highly relaxing and have an almost otherworldly feel to them with their layered, faded effect.
Even The Very Wonder Was Coloured is a mix of jazz, dub, and soul elements that all culminate into something both sexy and stunning. There’s a gentle sensual sort of undertone to the track that is created both by the jazzier elements and by the soft toned female vocals. The spoken and sung vocals dripped in throughout the track help to further add to its complexity and engaging nature. This is easily one of my favourite tracks from the collective thus far.
Ale Woule (feat. Falle Nioke) is a more stripped back and unusual track, with clear West African traditional folk inspiration. The rhythms, melodies, sung vocals and instruments on the track are all heavily influenced by Falle Nioke’s Guinean heritage, originally being from Conakry.
農民 (For Hong Kong) closes out the album with a cover of Chinese folk song 農民, by the Hong Kong band Beyond. This track features numerous traditional Chinese melodies and tells the story of the humble life of rural farmers. Its inclusion also has a political motivation, to show support and solidarity with those combating civil rights infringements in Hong Kong. It works perfectly as a way to end the EP or to transition into a possible part 3 should the band go in this direction.
Overall, this was a solid follow up to the previous EP and while I think I preferred Am Ta as a whole, Space Intention had some very powerful moments and features one of my favourite overall tracks from the collective. It doesn’t actually matter anyway because the two EPs gel perfectly together to form one cohesive release. I personally hope to see another 1 to 2 EPs in this series, culminating in a fantastic collection of highly varied and yet cohesive tracks.
Listen to and order the album: