In retrospect, the song “All Praises Due” from Don Leisure’s 2022 beat tape Shaboo Strikes Back can be heard as a catalyst to an artistic shift for the Welsh producer. The inflection point marked a return to collaborative live instrumentation, and an introduction to UK harpist Amanda Whiting. A year later, the producer and the harpist have set aside Leisure’s “international loop digger” identity for an album of spiritual jazz blended with samples that harken back to ‘90s trip-hop and early Ninja Tune breakbeat. Leisure and Whiting’s Beyond The Midnight Sun imagines what it might have been like had Dorothy Ashby sat in with The Herbaliser.
Beyond The Midnight Sun offers a fusion of psychedelic jazz, celestial strings, and chanting that charts both the cosmic and metaphysical realms. An ethereal voice on “Walk With Me” offers an invitation: “Join us on our tribute to peace and beauty.” The transcendental messages and trance-like compositions across the album make it a kind of spiritual partner to Sun Ra & The Arkestra’s departure record Lanquidity. Throughout, Leisure adapts entirely to Whiting, rather than forcing her harp into a Turkish psych-rock sample. The result is two planets sharing the same orbit, discovering how their powers work in tandem.
Leisure sticks mainly to mid-tempo breakbeats and minimalist samples that complement Whiting’s graceful plucking. The album is rounded out by a carefully selected roster of additional collaborators: Sam Robertson lends tenor sax to “Walk With Us,” “Crying Tiger,” and “ First Chant”; Dave Newington plays bass on “Peace of Mind”; and the two vocal performances by Deborah Jordan lend more gravity to the space. Throughout the record, Whiting’s harp acts as the diligent guide. With two solo albums already on Jazzman, and past work with ambient jazz composer Greg Foat, Whiting’s harp effortlessly—and expertly—adapts to the mood pieces built by Leisure. On the title track, her harp ascends and descends in labyrinthian, omnidirectional scales that sound as though it’s waltzing through an M.C. Escher drawing. It’s the kind of music that induces trances and invites the opening of chakras. Not bound to any one faith, yet still channeling a sacred space, Beyond The Midnight Sun is mind music situated in the modern electronic present.