At the start of 2022, still shrouded in the pre-dawn frost of what this year will be, is it too much of a stretch to ask what music might we need? That is the question that I have been asking this week listening to the freshly released Fragments from British dance producer Bonobo and Ma Délire, a collection of traditional folk songs sung in English and French by Montreal artist Myriam Gendron published last October.

Both these solo artists work with separate, seemingly opposite soundworlds. Bonobo draws upon a bank of modular synths, computers, and engineering knowledge to unleash expansive, fully articulated dance music built for festivals. Myriam Gendron, with the minimum of accompaniment, relies on her voice, her acoustic and electric guitar. What do these artists have in common? They draw the listener towards the fire.

Bonobo has created a set of songs built for comfort. Fragments’ beats draw the listener towards the promise or memory of communal listening. There is a classic feel about this album that echoes the early noughties. It sounds like sunrise at the beach, gently moving your shoulders as the waves keep time. It smells of barbeques. If you own a campervan, this may be your album of the year. The kindest thing to be said about this album is that it treasures the promise we will be together.

That sentiment never cloys or falls into cliché because Bonobo executes perfectly. ‘Otomo’s drums are propulsive, while ‘From You’ featuring Joji, is soulful and the bass synths reverberate in your guts. These songs allow the listener to shrug something of lockdown from off of their shoulders.

Myriam Gendron builds a different kind of fire. With six new compositions and nine traditional French or English folk songs, simply arranged, a web of intensity and intimacy is created with each strum, and lo-fi crackle. For me, the rendition of ‘Waly Waly’ is the standout track. Often performed by classical singers, Gendron’s  acoustic version carries a similar wisdom and tenderness to ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ by Fairport Convention. It’s a testament to the quality of Gendron’s writing that you need to check the liner notes to work out which songs are hers and which belong to the centuries.

With Gendron, the fire is the place to circle around, reflect and remember. Perhaps there is something about 2022 that requires a sensitivity to the ancient and the modern. Both these albums speak to primal impulses. In their smoke signals, they remind the listener about the need to draw closer, to gather, to hold each other, to draw strength from the past and to hope for better days. Other people will have other answers to the question, what music might we need in 2022. In saying we need music that brings us closer to the fire, I believe we need albums like Fragments and Ma Délire.

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