Laura Misch, Sample the Sky Review
Nature in Harmony: Laura Misch’s Sample the Sky
by Icrom Bigrad
Laura Misch’s debut album, Sample the Sky, contextualizes the thematic and musical framework the London-based multidisciplinary artist builds into the project. Released on October 13, 2023, via One Little Independent Records, this album marks a significant departure from her earlier EPs, Playground (2017) and Lonely City (2019), which were primarily bedroom-produced affairs. Unlike her prior work, Misch immerses herself in the vibrant creative scene of South London, involving an eclectic cast of artists and musicians. A significant portion of this album’s identity also derives from her collaboration with composer and producer William Arcane, not to mention the team of audio engineers led by Matt Kent, who mixed and mastered the record.
When discussing the technical aspects, one can’t help but notice the lush, well-layered electronic textures. It’s evident that much thought and effort went into every nuance of the sound design. Synthesizers, often modular, seamlessly intertwine with live instruments like harp and guitar, offering a unique blend of organic and synthetic. The result achieves what I would describe as “sonic verisimilitude”–an impressive feat in the often overly polished realm of electronic pop. The engineering, mixing, and mastering are meticulous, serving as an underpinning scaffold that upholds the complexity and weight of Misch’s musical ideas, singing, and playing.
For the seasoned jazz listener, Misch’s employment of the alto saxophone is a fresh and out-of-the-genre experience. Unlike traditional jazz phrasing, her saxophone lines embrace the textural, almost emulating the timbre of electronic instruments, establishing a fascinating symbiosis between the acoustic and the electronic. This innovative approach comes into complete focus on tracks like “Hide To Seek,” where rhythmic elements of electronica, funk, and jazz amalgamate into a cross-genre auditory experience. The four-voiced chords descend in a satisfying harmonic progression, paying homage to jazz tradition while embracing the electronic idiom and European jazz.
In “Portals,” the layered vocal harmonics and synthesizers form a polyphonic dialogue, each enriching the ambient texture rather than competing for sonic space. The song’s ethereal nature echoes the subject matter of interconnectedness, evoking a sense of cosmic awe. Here, Misch’s contralto voice carries the weight and texture of her message.
In contrast, “City Lungs” exhibits a fresh take on percussive elements, borrowing from the hip-hop genre while encapsulating a new-age sensibility. The glissandos in her vocal lines punctuate the compelling harmonic structure, further highlighting her understanding of dynamics and expression.
Lyrically, the album is an ode to the natural world, human connection, and the ephemeral quality of our experiences. Songs often contain field recordings—birdsongs, rustling leaves—that make the music a representation of nature and an extension of it. Lines like “Listen To The Sky” and “Widening Circles” encapsulate the duality of human emotion and environmental consciousness, mirroring the universal yet un-ownable quality of nature that Misch eloquently describes.
Overall, Sample the Sky is a high watermark in how far the fusion of jazz, pop, new-age, and electronic music can go when executed with finesse, intellect, and emotional intelligence. It’s an album that goes beyond mere listening; it’s an experience that engages the senses, provokes thought, and soothes the spirit. With this groundbreaking debut, Laura Misch not only expands the horizons of what electronic and jazz music can achieve but also provides an insightful commentary on the interconnectedness of life, art, and the natural world. Sample the Sky is nothing short of essential listening for those interested in the cutting-edge intersections of jazz and electronica, emotion, and out-of-the-box technical skills.