From The Desk Of Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg: Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou’s “Piano Solo”

Shearwater’s Jet Plane And Oxbow is an album that looks backward—to the recording technologies and sounds of the early ’80s—in order to interrogate the present and to contemplate the future. Shearwater’s moody, thoughtful style, built around Jonathan Meiburg’s dramatic, beautiful voice, turned toward rock with 2012’s Animal Joy, which now sounds like a stopover in the flight path toward Jet Plane. Meiburg used period-specific instruments; his guitar playing alludes to Adrian Belew’s work with David Bowie and Robert Fripp’s with Peter Gabriel; he integrates the stark sounds of Joy Division and early New Order. But the goal wasn’t nostalgia. Jet Plane doesn’t sound retro, nor does it sound like an homage. The allusions are there to create a sonic parallel to our time. Meiburg will be guest editing all week. Read our new Shearwater feature.


Meiburg: The Ethiopíques reissues of Ethiopian music from the ’60s and ’70s are full of wonders, but this meditative and lovely record, volume 21 of the set, is the one I reach for most. Guèbrou’s humble, soulful, thoughtful solo compositions suggest she was raised on a diet of Satie, Debussy and Chopin—and indeed, as a child, she studied violin in Switzerland—but they’re also steeped in the gorgeous and melancholy scales or kiñits that make Ethiopian music so distinctive and alluring. The result is music that seems to come from an alternate-universe version of 19th-century Paris. The beautifully undulating “The Song Of The Sea” is my favorite, but I don’t think I’ve ever put this record on without listening to the whole thing. Guèbrou, a Coptic nun, fled Ethiopia after the end of the reign of Haile Selassie, and is still living in the Ethiopian monastery in Jerusalem.

Video after the jump.