For the last 20 years Dave Randell has been pulling together unexpected and compelling groups of artists to make albums that skate the polemic edges of music and politics. Even so, it seems implausibly prescient that sitting in a Brixton pub last summer with Italian singer Barbarella, Randell dreamt up this timely third studio offering by Slovo.
2020 has been a monstrosity from start to…. well currently to the middle… but showing no signs of slowing down. The big issues of climate change, neo-liberal economics, deprivation, feminism, and the lockdown underpin the narrative of Bread and Butterflies, and the opening words of “please Lord deliver us, have mercy Lord deliver us” set the tone for sombre topics. But the words entirely belie the overwhelming cheery-ness that permeates this album. Slovo have gone out of their way to stress that Bread and Butterflies is about hope, optimism, and resisting the grimness: in their own lyrics from ‘state of mind’ “there is so much beauty here and reasons we should live”.
Because it is a musical collective, no two Slovo albums sound the same, and Barbarella’s entirely unique voice sets a quixotic airy mood for this one. Woven through the electronica of US hip-hop innovator Mike Ladd, and tempered by the brass section of Idris Rahman (saxophones) and Robin Hopcraft (trumpet), the very sound is of bread and butterflies.
In a year when live music is on its knees, whether the accessible alt-radio friend sound of this album will succeed in taking it’s intended message of ‘new music for a troubled world’ to a wider audience remains to be seen. Though some of the topics are punchy, tonally it has the summer effervescence of the eponymous monarch butterfly that graces the album cover. Nevertheless if resisting the kyriarchy is leaving you exhausted and jaundiced, this could be just the balm you need.
Bread and Butterflies was released on 17th July and can be found here on Bandcamp: https://slovo.bandcamp.com/album/bread-butterflies