Manchester guitarist and composer Stuart McCallum is best known for his work with Cinematic Orchestra. The distinctive, ethereal and atmospheric sound of his guitar has been at the heart of their sound since 2004, including on the albums 'Ma Fleur' and 'Live At The Royal Albert Hall' and the award winning soundtrack 'The Crimson Wing'. His own music influenced by jazz and DJ Culture is a distillation of many influences, creating a sound that is concentrated and distinctive. McCallum who admits to influences from Wes Montgomery to Bjork, Flying Lotus to Bon Iver and James Blake to Bill Frisell, as well as modern art, eschews over complicated harmonic and rhythmical structures in favour of a rich mix of electronica and improvisation enriched by elegant orchestral writing. Distilled, McCallum's brilliant third album, and first for new label Naim, is a culmination of the music he has written over the last few year and the idea of 'distillation' is right at the heart of how the record was written. McCallum 'sampled' the best bits of his compositions, using them as the basis for further writing, before again sampling the results, and so on, until arriving at the perfectly distilled version of what he wanted to say. The result is a sublime slice of ambient-jazz-electonica with beautiful melodies and gorgeous soundscapes. But it isn't just the process, McCallum's own music is 'distilled': simple, memorable and melodic, minimalist and repetitive like modern dance music. His music owes as much to dance music as it does jazz. McCallum's music thrives in the spaces between genres and on Distilled the improvisation is part of the compositional process. But it's his use of technology that helps give the music its unique sound, be it looped instruments, samples, or his ethereal guitar McCallum utilises technology to create unique soundscapes, that are in equal part performance, composition and improvisation. Distilled features McCallum on guitars and sampler alongside bassists Ira Coleman and Robin Mullarkey, harpist Rachel Gladwin (best known in the jazz world for her work with Matthew Halsall), drummer Dave Walsh, legendary Manchester based percussionist Chris Manis and Iain Dixon on woodwinds. Amongst the albums key tracks are Part 3, part of a suite that McCallum wrote for John Surman after a commission from Manchester Jazz festival. There are samples of the music from this suite in the tracks Lament for Levenshume and dR Doctor but it here that we here the most intact version of the original written music. The soaring Inflight was written on a flight to Australia and perfectly captures the sprit of motion. La Cigale, named after the venue in Paris, features a sample of a string quartet movement that McCallum wrote while sitting in a tour bus outside the venue. But it is dR Doctor, the opening track, which presents the clearest statement of what the album is about. Simple and melodic, with a catchy bass line and drum beat, the sampled strings are from the suite McCallum wrote for Surman and the rest of the track grew around the sample, a perfect example of how McCallum has distilled his music and which like a great Scotch proves that in the hands of an artist the perfect blend is one Distilled.
"Acoustic-guitar meditations turn slowly into tranquil funk" -- The Guardian
"Distilled -dreamy, trippy, downtempo instrumentals...and lush semi-orchestral settings" -- Uncut
"Mood music of a more hypnotic and ruminative hue can be found on the lovely album Distilled"
-- Record Collector
"delivered with a cinematic sweep...a very impressive self-invention"
-- Manchester Evening News
"music that is fascinating and, at its best, a thing of breathtaking beauty." -- All About Jazz