In the late 18th century, reason and rational thought was idealized and viewed as the most progressive way to comprehend a rapidly industrializing society. The snap reaction was Romanticism, an artistic movement that prioritized emotion, imagination and intuition – things that can’t be quantified but have sustained culture for millennia. Now in a digitally accelerated age where our lives are not only measured but distributed in binary, a similarly hot-blooded creative response is long overdue. On The Sport of Love, seasoned collaborators Asma Maroof, Patrick Belaga and Tapiwa Svosve consider the language, competition and contradiction of modern romance: its yearning, incomprehensible vastness and the inevitable darkness and fleeting fragility. For the trio, love is the emotion that propels all of us whether we acknowledge it or not, and its expression can be realized in many forms.
“I know my musical collaborators on an arguably more intimate level than many of the friendships that are exclusively born of word-based language,” says Belaga. The cellist and composer has been developing a relationship with Los Angeles-based DJ-producer Maroof (also known as Asmara) and Svosve, a Swiss saxophonist and electro-acoustic musician, for many years; the three are all part of Moved by the Motion, a “roving band” that also includes artist and filmmaker Wu Tsang, performer and dancer Tosh Basco and dancer Josh Johnson. As a three-piece ensemble, their interaction is fluid and physical, and with Svosve and Belaga on sax, flute, piano and cello, Maroof sculpts the sounds into textured, effervescent fantasies. “A lot of the songs were improvised and then I made sense of the madness,” she explains.
The music emerged like smoke from the embers of soundtrack work they collaborated on in 2021. After finishing scores for Virgil Abloh’s Louis Vuitton A/W 2021 collection film, Peculiar Contrast, Perfect Light and Bafic’s documentary short Sub Eleven Seconds, the trio were left with unanswered questions and excess energy. They considered the idea of creating an imaginary score to a romantic movie, using love to dictate its movement and narrative. So opening track ‘G Major Kind of Love’ is the intoxicating first blush, characterized by a drowned sax solo that sounds like a siren call from beneath the ocean. ‘Delicate Distance Between Boulders’ is quivering and hesitant, using gentle piano motifs against reverberating flute sounds and subtle, goosebump inducing electronic treatments.
Everything comes into sharp focus on the album’s lengthy central piece ‘The Stranger’, that brings in additional instrumentation from harpist Ayha Simone and percussionist Mathieu Edward. The three friends saw this particular composition as a journey within itself, charting the anxiety, harmony and uncertainty of love. Shifting from gooey freeform jazz into gurgling noise and bleak ambient drone, it connects the dots between Dorothy Ashby, Arve Henriksen, Jon Hassell and Hildur Guðnadóttir while voyaging into parts unknown. It’s a finale of sorts that wrestles with the complexity of the album’s themes, returning to earlier refrains and prolonging their tension.
Fittingly, the record is tied together by artwork from the trio’s friend Tosh Basco, and several tracks have already been used by Wu Tsang in a piece for SFMoMa. The Sport of Love is powered by physical connection in a digital world, and breathes a mysterious allure that’s never been more urgent.
Mixed by Daniel Pineda
Mastered by Sam John at Precise Mastering
Artwork by Tosh Basco
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