The consummation of jazz and UK underground music is Michael Diamond’s debut concept album ‘Third Culture’ - an LP that coalesces the very best of the jazz and electronic worlds into one seamless composition spanning ethereal jazz-breaks, introspective two-step, sax-driven power ambient and world-building, story-telling electronica.
‘Genesis’ begins in cinematic fashion; featuring close friend and saxophonist Alex Wilson, it’s a floating cut of jazz electronica that cries out to a seemingly endless darkness. Thundering explosions of bass-pressure disrupt the emotive soundscape, signalling what is to come.
‘Enigma’ flows into the frame as gently as waves frothing onto sand. A deep mysterious groove evolves, white clouds turn to grey as the sequence swells, grows and breathes. Intended to be as much an imaginative experience as it is a sonic one, ‘Lamentations’ symbolises the outpouring of emotion inspired by the confrontation of an enigma. It begins as a sparse soundscape, alone and isolated, before expanding into a full-frequency mutated jazz two-step, synth lines crying out in anger, sadness and confusion as logic does battle with emotion.
Bubbles break the surface as we rise up gasping for air. ‘Submerged’ is designed as an underwater experience, immersing you deep in the ocean of contemplation. Meditative and pensive, its 6-bar phrasing inspires a dystopian trip through sunken kingdoms where the sea is made of tears.
This is something new, something previously unexplored. Your eyes adjust to your surroundings as ‘Emergence’ announces its arrival. Fretting atmospherics swell and build towards an anxious climax, before calm is restored. You have now broken through. Having escaped the deep sea dive of Submerged, you now ride a wave of sorrowful bliss. Simultaneously joyous and melancholic; power ambient, two-step and jazz blend beautifully on a piece of music that wouldn’t sound out of place coming from an old Nintendo console. The chords give off a Pallet Town or Legend of Zelda vibe - warm, harmonic and arcade like - before we come to arguably the most club-ready track on the album.
‘Exodus’ maintains Michael’s distinctive chords on a driving cut of emotive garage which blossoms into a jazz-soaked fuck-step - a wicked blend of UK, screwface energy, jazzed harmonic voicings and expertly deployed dynamics. The final boss awaits.
Featuring Alex Wilson once more, ‘Liberation’ represents salvation. There is a sense of freedom to the saxophone lines Wilson now delivers; the shackles of identity and culture having been loosened. Don’t get it twisted however, this is not a happy track. The journey we have just been on has taken its toll, and will continue to take its toll. It’s an oxymoronic blend of affliction and fulfilment, of freedom and what it takes to achieve freedom. An impassioned finale to the emotive world Michael has created.
‘Third Culture’ is accompanied with a literary short-story by close friend and academic Áine Kim Kennedy. Inspired by and created specifically for the album, It explores the internal battles concomitant with being third culture kids - a copy is included in each record sleeve. Director Oscar McNab pursues the same end via the medium of film. Through music, literature, film and art, ‘Third Culture’ delivers a message far greater than the sum of its parts....