“I don’t think music is really separate from living,” the musician and composer Bex Burch tells me from her home in Berlin. We are discussing her new album, There is only love and fear, released later this month on the renowned Chicago-based label International Anthem.
I had been searching for the right words to describe the subtle force of her music; it strikes me that this integrated approach, drawing no boundaries between life and work, has truly allowed her to make music to live by.
Burch, primarily a percussionist and pianist, graduated from Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2007. The following year she was invited to Ghana to join Thomas Segura, a professional maker of Dagaare xylophones, or gyilli, as his apprentice. “An amazing instrument,” she says, “and a beautifully accessible way of making. Through respect for the wood and getting my head and hands around three simple tools, Thomas gave me this first taste of making my own instrument.”
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She then went on to found the group Vula Viel, along with Ruth Goller on bass and Jim Hart on drums, releasing three albums to great acclaim from various corners of the music world including Jazzwise magazine, the Financial Times and Iggy Pop, who described their output as “Beautiful… dance to it, make love to it, consume it, listen to it, stare at the clouds to it… That music deserves good reactions!” on his BBC 6 Music show.
More recently, under the tutelage of xylophone maker Jamie Linwood, Bex Burch built the instrument which she used to create her new solo record. I am curious, I tell her, about the sense of freedom in being able to construct her own bespoke tools and, as a result, her own bespoke sound. The possibilities must seem endless.