Nori is a jazz quintet from Austin, Texas. Enriching an aesthetic deeply rooted in American jazz and folk music, the ensemble playfully weaves together a myriad of global influences giving rise to a seamless synthesis of sound. These musical explorations expertly balance the narrative of the song with wide-open improvisations, echoing the transcendent tones of Nina Simone, Bill Frisell, John Coltrane and at times Joni Mitchell.
Following on from their critically acclaimed album ‘World Anew’, their new album ‘Bruised Blood’ sees the band delve further into their multifarious set of influences and styles, whilst also addressing the strong emotions many are feeling in their US homeland. The name Bruise Blood is a reference to Steve Reich’s 1960’s composition Come Out. Reich’s medium is a tape-loop based on the spoken words of Daniel Hamm, a young man from Harlem wrongly accused and convicted of murder. After police officers tried to brutally beat a confession out of him, Hamm made a desperate attempt to show his need for immediate medical treatment – “I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.”
Speaking about the album, the band says, “These echoing words strongly reverberate today. America is hurting inside. Years of division, ignored pain, and struggle have been festering and clotting under the skin. Bruise Blood is an album determined to cut that wound wide open to let the blood out.”
The album opens with ‘The Dream’, a song that introduces a contemplative tone with a stately three-note motif and slowly devolves into a chaotic roar of unresolved doubt. ‘Wildfire’ is about an arsonist setting blaze to our future and revelling in the “flames of hate.” When the smoke clears, a fearful mother ponders the world she has brought her child into in the introspective ‘Crash and Burn’. Motherhood is further explored in ‘Undertow’, a song that flows with a sweeping string arrangement and unpredictable rhythm. Side A ends with ‘The Walk’. It is a protest song written from a woman’s perspective. The lyrics are vivid. The march-like cadence is strong and deliberate. Elsewhere on the album, tracks such as ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ provide context for a bruised and divided nation (the lyrics come from an unofficial fifth verse written by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. during the American Civil War) against frenetic free-jazz passages; whereas ‘Amends’ is a song in search of a way to stop the bleeding. The album closes with ‘Decay’ (in two movements): ‘Prelude’ is a dark and mysterious first movement arranged for string trio; ‘Ballad’, the second movement and final song of the album, leaves the listener wounded, lamenting that “you can’t see the part of me that’s you.”
‘Bruise Blood’ is a searing and empathetic account of trauma, survival and power explored through intoxicating, fervent and elaborate instrumentation alongside pertinent, poetic lyrics that explore a discourse felt by many across the globe right now. Albums that are able to infuse such emotion musically are rare, and when coupled with such an important narrative are essential in the current climate.