Julian Curwin ‘Midnight Lullaby’

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(ROM018)  Released May 7, 2020

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Romero Records is excited to announce ‘Midnight Lullaby’, the latest album from guitarist/composer Julian Curwin. In essence a collection of dark lullabies, it is a subtle blend of jazz, classical, film music and latin sounds. The album features an all-star ensemble of pianist Stu Hunter (The Migration, Tina Harrod, Moniker), bassist Lloyd Swanton (The Necks, Ambon, The catholics) and percussionist Jess Ciampa (Spaghetti Western Orchestra, The Tango Saloon, Brandenburg Orchestra).

Although he has been producing recordings for over 20 years, this is the first release under Curwin’s own name. He has led or co-led releases by the likes of The Tango Saloon, The Mango Balloon, Munkle and Cannibal Spiders, as well as 2018’s critically acclaimed ‘Crossing’ collaboration with soprano Jane Sheldon. Stylistically ‘Midnight Lullaby’ falls somewhere between all of these projects, taking elements from each and distilling them into one of Curwin’s most cohesive and personal albums to date.

  1. At Dusk
  2. Big House
  3. The Sting
  4. Midnight Drive
  5. Night Hawk
  6. Red Sky
  7. Insomnia
  8. Vendetta
  9. Sleeping Dogs Lie
  10. Blood Moon
  11. At Dawn
  12. Lullaby

Live review in The Sydney Morning Herald (10/5/20) by John Shand (4.5 stars)

In a brief interview at this concert’s conclusion, the bewilderingly versatile percussionist Jess Ciampa said that in the year prior to the lockdown he suspected he’d only had one day off. In the seven weeks since, by contrast, this was his first interaction with other musicians – an almost universally shared experience. Even the flow of new albums has slowed, many being delayed until performing to support their release is possible.

That Julian Curwin decided to proceed with launching his Midnight Lullaby opus seemed fitting, given the music’s mood is elegiac and introspective, and his compositions are more like miniatures than panoramas. The guitarist assembled some of Australia’s most creative musicians to realise his sparse but highly detailed scores on the recording: Ciampa, Stu Hunter (piano, keyboards) and Lloyd Swanton (of The Necks on bass). With Swanton unavailable for the launch, Abel Cross stepped in, and pedal steel guitarist Ollie Thorpe joined to approximate some of the album’s many colours.

Several of the new compositions, including At Dusk exemplified Curwin’s ability to evoke a disquiet akin to that of de Chirico’s paintings, leavened by a sly wink of humour or a glimmer of warmth. On Big House the pedal steel most effectively substituted for the recording’s theremin, while Curwin’s acoustic guitar was made to sound somewhat like a harpsichord.

From outside of the album’s repertoire came The Windmills of Your Mind, a piece carrying a similar sense of enigma to Curwin’s compositions, and on which Hunter’s spare piano solo left notes hanging in the air like ripe plums on the low branch fashioned by electric guitar, bass and melodic congas. Insomnia was realised just by electric guitar and bass, the former’s agitated fingerpicking conjuring the buzzing crosscurrents of a busy mind.

On Sleep Thorpe had his pedal steel sighing softly, and on the dreamlike motion of Midnight Drive it almost sounded like a sitar, before contributing to the frosty starkness of At Dawn. Not being music that demanded an audience’s energising presence, this concert worked exceptionally well as a live stream.

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