Reviews Zone

James Lindsay: Torus (OIR Recordings) Out now



5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)



In September 2017, the editor of Music Republic Magazine reviewed James Lindsay’s album “Strand” and gave it the maximum five stars.

He gave this new one “Torus” a listen and generously decided it was one to let me get stuck into, as a fan of modern jazz and some contemporary folk. He said he’d keep his feedback about the album to himself until he read my review….

But his comments on the previous album “Strand”, included the accolade of it being “one of my personal favourite albums of this year, of any genre, in fact. A clever blend of folk, jazz and a Celtic flavouring, exemplary material and even more exemplary performances from the assembled cast”.

So, this new one has a lot to live up to then. First, let’s find out who James Lindsay is and how his career shapes up so far….

James grew up in rural Aberdeenshire before moving to Glasgow in 2007 where he gained a 1st class BA Honours degree in Applied Music at Strathclyde University.

The Glasgow-based instrumentalist is a respected session musician on many genres, arranger, tutor and member of multi-award winning folk group Breabach, on bass.

He has played for the likes of Bella Hardy and Treacherous Orchestra among others. He won the coveted Martyn Bennett prize for composition in 2014.

He has earned a good name in the folk world, but on “Strand” and on “Torus”, he pushes the envelope and a wider range of influences, including contemporary jazz, roots and experimental music.

At times across this nine-track project – which is 99.9% instrumental – it put me in mind of the fabulous London all-star jazz outfit Usonic, (who were nominated for Best Jazz Act at the 2011 MOBO awards), with the folk element on top of the jazz vibes here.

“Torus” also gives sporadic and gentle nods to Weather Report maybe, especially the synth work and the sax’, but the jazz stuff all blended with traditional and modern Celtic folk music makes this sound pretty unique.

It’s all very chilled – growing on me each time I have heard this album since it arrived. Many layers to the material and the faultless performances.

This album project is partly funded by a crowdfunding campaign and with the assistance of Creative Scotland. Recorded at Glasgow’s GlowWorm Recording Studios with producer Euan Burton (Kris Drever/Siobhan Miller/Seafarers) and a choice selection of Scotland’s crack cross-genre musicians.

The material – written by James apart from lyrics on one track from Ewen Henderson –  was penned across a two year period and shines the spotlight on contemporary Scottish folk, but with Mr Lindsay’s jazz-influenced twist to it.

He says: “Torus is an exploration of the flows which connect us to our world, and a reminder that change is our only constant”.

​James plays bass and electric guitar on the record, plus Moogs/synths. He is joined by eight talented colleagues, who are: Angus Lyon on accordion (who manages to make the instrument sound almost like pipes at times), Jack Smedley on fiddle (especially loved his work on the first single, track two on the album, “Observatory”) and Norman Wilmore on alto sax’ who shines bright across these tracks.

Also among the ensemble is the solid as a rock and in-the-pocket Scott Mackay on drums, Ben McDonald on electric guitars (I bet Mike Stern and Pat Metheny are in his record collection!), John Lowrie on keyboards, Signy Jakobsdottir on percussion (adds great value) and Deidre Graham on vocals (only on one track, “Lewisian Complex”, where she comes in with her gorgeous and ethereal Gaelic vocal more than six minutes into this 10 minute track).

Summing up….I fell in love with the serenity and the peace of mind this music delivered as a wee bonus. Also the infectiousness of the tunes, which get into your head and you’ll be humming them days later! It never dips in energy or quality from track one “Lateral Roots” to the last note of track nine, “Holon”. Not once.

This long player deserves lots of attention, praise and hopefully, to get noticed by awards judges. A new name to me before I was handed this album, but I am thrilled to have had this gifted guy’s music find its way into my ears, my home and my heart.

So, now he knows exactly what I make of “Torus” and James Lindsay’s latest musical delights, what did our illustrious editor think of the album? He kept his response to that question to one paragraph:

“I bloody loved it. I still play ‘Strand’ at home on a regular basis almost four years after I was given it for review, and for me, ‘Torus’ is just as stunning. In fact, in some ways, it’s moved things on and is maybe even slightly more fully-formed, because of the strength of the material. But four words captures this set for me: Beautiful in every way”.

Well, I heartily concur with the boss……………….Much more please James. Soon?


By Graham Morrison





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