Covid-19 lockdowns shuttered venues and canceled the show, leaving any sort of celebration in limbo. But as the pandemic lingered, and it became clear the concert couldn’t be rescheduled, Lampcov put the idea to rest — until Terefe called with another idea: Get everyone in the studio and record an album.
“I couldn’t really let go of it, it felt like such an exciting project,” Terefe said. “There was a point when I kind of suggested to Bruce, ‘Listen, when it’s so rough out there, what’s better to do than to find a good studio and self-isolate with all these musicians and make a record together?’”
On Dec. 7, 2020, the group convened at the Church Studios in North London, with Covid testing personnel in place and a scaled-down technical crew, to record what would become “London Brew,” an eight-song, almost 90-minute LP of genre-hopping experimentation that blurs the lines between rock, jazz and ambient, sometimes within the scope of one song.
At the beginning of the three-day session, Terefe asked the collective to play a single note for as long as it could hold it, “just expressing their frustration with the pandemic.” Where the two-part title track on the new album centers hard-thumping drums, breakneck electric guitar riffs and squealing wind instruments, “Raven Flies Low” is a methodical collage: Raven Bush plays the violin through effects pedals (a nod to Davis running his trumpet through tape delay on “Bitches Brew”), slowly bringing the track to a volcanic peak, with crashing drum cymbals and undulating saxophone.
While “London Brew” is foremost a nod to one of Davis’s most famous albums, songs like “Bassics” and the title track’s midpoint evoke the cosmic Afrocentricity and tightly coiled funk of Davis’s “Live-Evil,” released in 1971, and “On the Corner,” from the following year. Toward the end of “London Brew Pt 2,” the producers sample the wafting guitar and subtle organ of the ambient-leaning “In a Silent Way,” from 1969, a direct repurposing of Davis’s music.
“His recordings are so special and so unique that to actually try and repeat something that’s very much so improvisational wouldn’t do it justice,” Lampcov said. “We really didn’t feel like it would be a celebration of the record, and it never would be as good.” On purpose, there’s no trumpeter on the new album: “Because how could you do that?”