Bex Burch

There is only love and fear

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“Powerful, delicate, moving, avant-garde and utterly, wonderfully accessible … A bold, affecting work that hits on levels micro and macro, There is only love and fear might just be a sonic masterpiece” — Jane Cornwall, ★★★★★ Songlines ‘Top of World’ album

“Minimalism is usually cool, detached, frictionless and mathematical. The music made by percussionist Bex Burch is not any of these things. …this is minimalism that isn’t afraid to break into a sweat and get its hands dirty (quite literally, given that Burch actually builds her own instruments from scratch)” — ★★★★ Guardian ‘Contemporary Album of the month’

“This is not more of the good stuff. This is a document of a musician searching for the next good stuff… the nuanced tone of the dialog fills the spectrum from agitatedly talkative to idly meandering to crisply succinct” — Bandcamp ‘Best Jazz of the Month’

“On her International Anthem debut There is only love and fear, xylophonist Bex Burch creates a world of sound that jumps between jazz loops, ambient soundscapes, nature recordings, and propulsive, rhythmic “messy minimalism,” a term Burch coined herself” — Aquarium Drunkard

On rare occasions, all the stars align. This is how it was when composer-musician and instrument- maker Bex Burch jumped into her car and drove eight hours across Europe to Utrecht in November 2021. “Mostly life isn’t like that,” she says. “We’re here to figure things out and struggle. But occasionally things just fall into place. Sometimes the world is magical.”

The car trip began in Berlin, where she was living after a long stint in London, where she’d made her name in the layers that exist between jazz and improvised experimentalism. The journey ended at Le Guess Who? Festival and an invitation from International Anthem’s Alejandro Ayala. Or perhaps it ended in a ground floor studio in Chicago’s South Side with light streaming through a skylight onto her newly-finished wooden xylophone and a stream of musicians selected by International Anthem’s Scottie McNiece and Dave Vettraino. Or maybe, like a wave travelling across the ocean, the travels continued until Bex Burch finally finished editing thirty-two days of exceptionally tender improvised recording sessions into the forty gossamer minutes of this stunning debut solo record, which oscillates between modes of quiet open-heartedness and powerful expression.

There is only love and fear is the sound of Bex Burch in communion with some of the finest sonic communicators in International Anthem’s extended family. These include woodwind player Rob Frye, who gave Burch a tour of the Illinois Audubon Society’s Gremel Wildlife Sanctuary the day after she arrived in Chicago. Also Tortoise drummer Dan Bitney and Ben LaMar Gay, who both took Burch through her first few days in the studio, tuning into her communicative harmonics and responding with their own. And double bassist Anna Butterss and violinist Macie Stewart, who participated separately but both became key collaborators in the album’s post-production, accenting their respective string improvisations with additional sounds remotely recorded per Burch’s direction. Everyone on this record is highly skillful, a rare talent, but drawn together by Burch they were invited to inhabit something even more extraordinary: their most open selves, requested only to bring the sounds they liked – or even needed – in the moment of recording.

“What has come through in this album,” she says, “is a more domestic style of music: the simplicity of life and sound-making. The word I’m shy to use is ‘feminine’ but it’s true, and I reclaim it in all its power.”