Part XIX: 220-121
New Age Doom – New Age Doom
New Age Doom is a Vancouver-based project by Eric J. Breitenbach and Greg Valou, who are joined in by Kurt Schindelka on saxophone, Zeb Pigott-Duggan on violin, Nori Akagi on taiko, and Vi An Diep on guzheng for various tracks. The project lies somewhere between drone and free jazz. “The Way of Primordial Sound”, the introduction to the record, provides a perfect example of this, as guitars wallow in atmospheric walls of sound until the drums barge in and play frantically until the song ends. The album thus draws parallels to Omniataxia and another project from British Columbia, i.o. On top of that, the album makes full use of a compact disc’s run time, clocking in mere seconds before the eighty minutes threshold. So you’re sure to have a lot out of this one!
The Institute for Navigating the Universal Self – Western Spaghettification (Three One G)
The Institute for Navigating the Universal Self, acronymously known as INUS, just released their debut album, with the awesome title of Western Spaghettification. I’ve got to say the music is no less awesome! There’s definitely some avant-prog or Zeuhl influences in there, but also a lot of noise rock and a general affinity for weird sounds in general (I’m mostly referring to the voice, here). The album is only slightly short, at twenty-six minutes, but every second of it is filled with exciting moments, so here I prefer this quality over a longer release. Check it out!
A World Wondered Full – ประเทศของคุณอยู่ในงานศพมานานแล้ว (Pratheṣ̄ k̄hxng khuṇ xyū̀ nı ngān ṣ̄ph mā nān læ̂w)
This two-side, thirty-minute album is a testament to Thai post-rock band A World Wondered Full‘s brilliance. The quartet uses many instruments from their traditional music scene—phin, santur, and many percussion—and applies some of the tropes of the genre unto them, which results in a rather novel and endlessly interesting blend. Read the album liner notes for some insight into the conceptual basis of the album!
Mouthbreathr™ – Mouthbreathr™
Mouthbreathr™ is an avant-garde jazz trio from Detroit who has just released a self-titled debut in early August. The trio is made up of Sean Perlmutter on drums, David Dunham on guitar, and Jason Didia playing saxophones, flute, and Moog. The result of this experimental adventure is quite thought-provoking. The compositions often jump from one end of the spectrum to the other, from metal(-ish) to ambient(-ish), but all is permeated by a strong sense of jazz harmony and rhythm. Yes, this album is for you, reader of CTEBCM!
The Central – Van Dyke Browne’s Crystal
Wisconsin-based mathcore group The Central has been a longtime favourite of mine. Just look at my past reviews of Discovery of a Rat and Sick and Dying for proof. Well, out of the blue and without warning, the duo just put out a new EP, and it’s as good as anything they’ve done before! If you want crunchy off-time riffs with a healthy dose of weird, look no further!
Arthur Moon – Arthur Moon
Let’s finish this with Lora-Faye Åshuvud’s Arthur Moon, an experimental pop effort worth praising. Lora-Faye’s compositions are quirky and entertaining in many ways, and they are masterfully crafted and brought to life here on this album, thanks to a long list of collaborators. It’s a really good, part upbeat album that’s a joy ride from start to finish!
Zeitgeber – Transforming the Random Crushing Forces of the Universe into Manageable Patterns (Art as Catharsis)
I have a deep love affair with the Australian handpan-and-clarinet duo, dating back since the release of their debut, Heteronomy. On their upcoming EP, the duo expands its sonic palette by adding layers of guitars, bass, didgeridoo, viola, and more to the core instrumentation. This leads to a more lush band sound, but affects the way the material can be played live. Well, such matters matter not for now, because the recordings are as trance-inducing and enjoyable as ever. Be ready to hop in for some slick polyrhythms and odd-time grooves, as well as a majestic atmospheric aura surrounding the whole deal.
Organic Noises – Organic Noises (Lynx Music)
Some of you might recall—but I doubt it—of a band named Relocator, birthed out of the uncanniest of places: the Mike Portnoy forums. The band was perhaps my first experience of violin being a full-time member of a prog band. Now, Relocator was pretty good, but it lacked the depth and breadth that today’s subject brings. Organic Noises is an album that strongly incorporates elements of various folk musics into jazz and metal. The Relocator reminiscence stemmed from the presence of violin on an instrumental prog track, but that’s merely one part of Organic Noises. The band also makes great use of various flutes and saz, as well as some vocals on one track. All of that makes for an amazing and diverse listening experience.
Frode Gjerstad, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Matthew Shipp – Season of Sadness (Iluso)
Iluso is close to my heart, for having released some of my all-time favourite albums, and they keep on building that trust relationship by continually putting out amazing albums. This one includes a trio of respectable musicians whom I’ve never heard of—except possibly Matthew Shipp, the name rings a bell—playing venerable music. It is a saxophone (sometimes clarinet), cello, and piano trio freely improvising spontaneous compositions, guided improvisations, on-the-moment thoughts and actions. It’s an engrossing record set to challenge status quo and bring about revolution.
Sevish – Horixens
After a series of impressive albums, the bar is high for UK microtonal electronic music artist Sevish. Horixens is set for release in July, independently. From the rhythmic experiments of Rhythm & Xen to the harmonic complexity of Harmony Hacker, what’s the next step? Well, Horixens seems to take a step down in terms of intensity, complexity, and experimentation in order to craft a more atmospheric experience. The beats and motifs therein are generally more gentle and make for a relaxed listening experience. The goal, I think, is to cater to a different crowd, one that wouldn’t usually care for microtonal theory, but that enjoys a chill beat or three. Still, the album uses many temperaments—including 22-EDO, 13-limit JI, and Island—and is crafted by the exquisite standards Sevish used us to. It’s an amazing album, so be ready when it hits!
John Zorn – Tractatus musico-philosophicus: Philosophical Investigations from the Invisible Theatre (Tzadik)
The most recent Zorn release features himself, and only himself! On Tractatus musico-philosophicus, John is credited playing “sax, vocals, Fender Rhodes piano, prepared piano, organ, guitar, drums, bass, game calls, percussion, objects, and samples”, which is quite a lot; a real one-man orchestra. The goal behind this composition was to give in to his wildest thoughts and inspirations, unrestrained. Fusing together concepts of philosophy, mathematics, cinema, jazz, and contemporary music, Tractatus musico-philosophicus ends up being a stroboscopic nigh-forty-minute piece that covers a wide spectrum of genres, from the well-known avant-garde jazz of Mr. Zorn to soundtrack music, plunderphonics, contemporary classical, and many more… Truly a delightful and challenging piece.
Daxma – Ruins upon Ruins (Blues Funeral)
California’s Daxma quintet plays a very atmospheric take on post- and doom metal. Just like Soldat Hans, an absolute favourite of all of us here, the band takes its sweet time building up a harmonic environment for longing, melancholy, desperation, and contemplation, hope, beauty, slowly adding tension thread by thread and ripping apart the fabric they’ve woven in a grandiose release and cathartic explosion. The two long-form tracks add up to about twenty-five minutes of material, which feels cruelly short, but both compositions are incredible achievements worthy of multiple listens.
Christopher Cerrone – The Pieces that Fall to Earth (New Amsterdam)
Brooklyn composer Christopher Cerrone just released his newest album, a collection of three compositions split into a total of eighteen tracks, adding up to about forty-five minutes of material. The whole thing was recorded by Los Angeles-based Wild Up ensemble. Cerrone’s compositions offer an emotional and contemporary vision, which is perfectly executed by the Wild Up team. New Amsterdam Records keep on bringing stellar works to the table, and Christopher Cerrone is one of the most recent examples of this!
Bureau Berlin – Earthbound Akupunkture
Bureau Berlin is a new trio from Нижний Новгород (Nižnij Novgorod), Russia, playing a sort of folkish free noise-jazz that’s very unique to them. Earthbound Akupunkture has nineteen tracks but is twenty-six minutes short, possibly borrowing from the grindcore mindset of short but intense musical vignettes. The EP is very abrasive and diversified, all the while constantly showcasing the musicianship of Sergey, Konstantin, and Anastasia on their respective instruments. It’s a brilliant release!
Forgotten Bottom – Hostile Architecture
Forgotten Bottom is a Philadelphia noise folk duo comprised mainly of bouzouki and viola, but with added guitar, drums, percussion, bells, and effects. The band creates a thoroughly modern sound, somewhat akin to Australian bands Ḥashshāshīn and Zeitgeber, and also sharing similarities with violinist Joey Molinaro. The result of their musical peregrinations is somewhere between noise rock and post-rock, but all played on folk instruments. Don’t miss out on it!
Charlie Kirchen Quartet – I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up
New York-based bassist-composer Charlie Kirchen just unveiled his most recent collection of works: I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up. The quartet comprises Nick Mazzarella on saxophone, Devin Drobka on drums, Dave Miller on guitar, and Charlie himself on bass. I’ve already encountered Nick and Devin’s outstanding musicianship beforehand, and can totally vouch for them, and I’m more than happy of my new acquaintance with Charlie and Dave. The four tracks on record are pretty substantial and add up to almost an hour of material, during which you’ll come across many a recurring theme and amazing passage.
Trigger – Pull (Shhpuma)
The noisier, more electrified counterpart to Clean Feed Records is, since not too long ago, Shhpuma. They’ve been quite successful so far in getting me interested in their releases, with albums such as Ego Pills on their roster. Well, Pull is one more example of their great output. The album’s stochastic and noisy improvisation environment leads to some beautiful, but mostly eerie and explosive moments. Which means I love it.
Bushwhacker – A Fistful of Poison
I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but one night I stumbled upon a relatively unknown cluster of Pacific deep-northwest metal bands. They were mostly average in terms of musicianship and appeal, but one act with a couple of singles from a forthcoming album stood above the pack. This band was Bushwhacker, and their since-fully released third album A Fistful of Poison is one of the most creative and polished offerings to come out of any metal scene in recent memory. To call this album “underrated” would be an understatement as big as the Montana sky; at the time of publication, this remarkable work has a paltry eighteen Bandcamp supporters. Let me do my best to convince you, dear reader, to increment that number.
Alarmist – Sequesterer (Small Pond / Art as Catharsis)
It seems Ireland-based Alarmist grows better with each iteration. Last time, it was Popular Demain blowing our minds, but now it’s their upcoming album, Sequesterer. Again this time, their mix of math rock, jazz fusion, and prog turned into something amazing. On it, be ready for challenging grooves adjoined by jazzy harmonies and lyrical melodies; a proud successor of the band’s legacy and something you’ll want to return to for multiple listens.
Glacier – No Light Ever (No Happy Music)
Massachussetts’s Glacier conveys its name’s meaning in music. Its slow-paced crawl advances and scrapes entire landscapes under its massive weight and daunting breadth. Glacier is not only huge and heavy, though: it’s also very poetic. You need only read their previous album’s title to be convinced: Though Your Sins Be as Scarlet, They Shall Be White as Snow; Though They Be Red like Crimson, They Shall Be as Wool. Quite lengthy, m’yes, but how beautiful. This has carried on to No Light Ever, except with a much more succinct title. The track titles have that eloquence, and I believe that the musical compositions they represent also share this poetry. The songs are brilliantly written and carry immense satisfaction at the end of their ten-minute run time (on average). The album comes out officially on July 18.
Ig Henneman, Jaimie Branch, and Anne La Berge – Dropping Stuff and Other Folk Songs (Relative Pitch)
Dropping Stuff and Other Folk Songs stars violinist Ig Henneman, trumpeter Jaimie Branch, and flutist Anne La Berge in a free improvisation session recorded in December 2018 in the Netherlands. This setting shows the ease and comfort with which the three are able to play and interact instantaneously. It takes a truly special kind of chemistry to be able to play such improvised music with as much assurance and sense of purpose as this.
Vessels – Vessels
This odd new trio from Copenhagen just put out something I’m enjoying quite a bit! Vessels‘s self-titled debut brings, as so many have done before, the worlds of progressive metal and jazz together with their very own vision. The take of Vessels on this fusion is what distances it from the rest. Instead of targeting the technical proficiency of acts like Asymmetric Universe and Atrium, it uses more relaxed grooves focused on building an atmosphere and staying in it for a little while. “Dreadnought” is a stellar example of this. Vessels lives off of odd-time rhythms and languid sax wails. It’s a brilliant album from the emerging artists!
Jack Quartet – Filigree: Music of Hannah Lash (New Focus)
New Focus Recordings is back with yet another incredible release for the contemporary classical-minded. Filigree is a collection of compositions for string quartet by American composer Hannah Lash played by Jack Quartet. The album splits four pieces into eleven tracks, which go from Baroque to Romantic to Renaissance with a definite contemporary edge to them. The recording is stellar, just as the original material is, so there’s no doubt about the quality of this album. Check this out and peer into the world of today’s classical music.
Ingrid Laubrock, Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Feldman, and Tom Rainey – TISM (Rogue Art)
“TISM” stands for Tom, Ingrid, Sylvie, and Mark, the four genius and experiences musicians part of this free improvisation masterclass. The album collects five sessions where each musician influences and is influenced my each other in a complex interweaving network of feedback loops made of conscious and unconscious phenomena. This all leads to beautiful synergies and unexpected soundscapes. The end result is, as you would imagine, stochastic and jarring, and absolutely beautiful.
Hermann Nitsch – Albertina Quartett: Zweite Streichquartett in sechs Sätzen für zwei Violinen, Viola und Violoncello (Trost)
The Bandcamp page for Albertina Quartett is a bit dry. The only description reads the same as the album subtitle, which can be grossly translated to “Second String Quartet in Six Songs for Two Violins, Viola, and Cello”. The entire album fits on two discs, at one hour and thirty of run time, which makes it pretty substantial. It is, however, filled with creative ideas and interesting moments that make you think twice about what just went. One of the most striking moments for me was at the end of “Erste Satz”, where each player seems to go mad and play screeching high notes. My impression of this particular moment is that it was trying to mimic the whistling of the wind going through an old house. The whole album is quite amazing, droning on at times, at others surprising and abrasive. A gem of contemporary classical music for sure.
For Now – The Turning
The Texan modern jazz quintet For Now just released The Turning, their sophomore album, independently. The band follows singer and composer Isabel Crespo and her vision of aural arts, visual arts, and written arts. This takes the form of a wonderful album at the juncture of modern jazz and contemporary classical that’s accompanied by a physical zine that takes the place of the booklet, and the amazing lyrics of each song. In all, a gracious and rewarding album.
Eight Carl – Carl
This Michigan math and noise rock duo can easily remind one of Hella, not only because both are duos, but also because of their high-energy output and technical prowess. If you like old-school math rock, this one’s for you! More than simply that, though, Eight Carl adds a surprising improvisation twist in their recordings. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where musicians depart from what’s on the sheet and veer into the unknown, but they do so seamlessly and tastefully.
CP Unit – Riding Photon Time
Saxophonist and composer Chris Pitsiokos already is recommended by us for his previous, stellar album Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years. This time around, he’s back with CP Unit for a live album. The way Chris writes is with the musicians first in mind. His compositions, as he puts it, are not how-tos, but rather where-tos. Thus, each play of a “composition” is a new and different journey, and that album represents one possibility among infinite parallel ones that has been captured and rendered to disc. Enjoy!
Louis-Vincent Hamel – Self Enquiry
Montréal drummer and composer Louis-Vincent Hamel recently released Self Enquiry, his debut album. It falls under the modern jazz umbrella and includes some quality players from the city. It reminds me somewhat of Vincent Touchard‘s Classe moyenne, which was one of my favourite albums of 2017. Both carry the same weight of normalness, but they carry it into a land of beauty and mild fascination. The beauty of little things. As such, Self Enquiry is grandiose, in unspectacular lowercase letters. It doesn’t try to be impressive, likeable, or even that memorable, but it achieves a sort of coy loveliness.
Andrea Belfi – Strata (Float)
The album’s notes write “Strata’s inception is due to Belfi’s playful experiments with Gnawa rhythms”. Need I say more, really? From German drummer and composer Andrea Belfi, Strata is an incredible modern album of electronic music, contemporary classical, world fusion, and experimental jazz ilks. Seriously, this is some next-level enjoyment I’m getting out of this!
Liquid Quintet – Bouquet (Sirulita)
Sirulita Records never disappoint, when it comes to free improvisation. The last of these non-disappointments comes from Liquid Quintet, an entity combining some great names such as Agustí Fernández, Don Malfon, Ramón Prats. Throughout the Bouquet, the group takes many forms, from various duos to the full-fledged quintet, on each “Fire Rose” present. Each provides the listener with a new perspective on their creative hive mind, and each facet is worth checking out.
Joliette – Luz devora (Penelope)
Mexican mathcore act Joliette have always been cool. Today, it’s because they’ve recently released Luz devora, a massive hourlong overdriven math rock adventure. This awkward description is also why I reluctantly call them “mathcore”. They do not sound like your Car Bomb or your Dillinger Escape Plan. They’re more like a heavy math rock band with some hardcore influences. Never mind the taxonomic squabbles, try out Joliette and figure out for yourselves!
Nick Mazzarella Trio – Counterbalance (Astral Spirits)
The Astral Spirits label keeps churning out releases, endlessly it seems! Even if they’re not all to my taste, most of them are great, and Nick Mazzarella‘s Counterbalance is a fantastic example of that. It sounds like I’m listening to an old Coltrane album at times—which is probably my favourite classic jazz musician—and other times it feels like what it actually is: a contemporary jazz pieces collection. Whichever way you look at it, Counterbalance is a brilliant free jazz album!
Those Darn Gnomes – Calling Whitetails to a Tuned Bow (Nefarious Industries)
Though there is not much to show for it yet, Those Darn Gnomes‘s upcoming full-length is one to keep an eye or three out for. Calling Whitetails to a Tuned Bow addresses some of my criticism of their 2016 album The Zodiac, namely going for an infinitely improved production value. Still, the new one is far from sterile, and it keeps a nice dirty edge that also makes their sound unique in another way. Other than that, the improvisation-fuelled avant-garde noisegrind quartet and its myriad of additional musicians has crafted one of the most remarkable albums of the year already, and it’s out on June 28th!
Makeunder – Pale Cicada (Good Eye)
Friends have likened this amazing album to Prince, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Frank Ocean, and even Jacob Collier! Some of these I feel are justified, some not, but what is for certain is that Pale Cicada is one hell of a jam. I’ve already lauded it as the “summer album” of the year, because it’s so funky, groovy, fresh, and lively that it is said to change an Australian winter into a Canadian summer, or something like that… There’s a good variety and depth to the songs on the album, but they all reflect the same creativity and skill, and fun! I guess that’s the take-away, here: it’s a fun album, through and through!
John Zorn – Nove cantici per Francesco d’Assisi (Tzadik)
Inexhaustible musician and composer John Zorn recently released a collection of compositions for three guitars made during a museum artistic residency. The players chosen to record the material are three names well known of the New York jazz and classical scenes: Julian Lage, Gyan Riley, and Bill Frisell. The ten tracks cover a wide range of influences and sounds, but each with the obvious stamp of Zorn on it. It’s a very nice album of chamber music that borders on contemporary classical and baroque music alike.
The Odious – Vesica piscis
Portland’s progressive death metal band The Odious is one of the first bands I talked about on this blog (I think it’s fair to say the blog went through some improvement over that time), so there’s some deeper bond between their music and me. Vesica piscis is the band’s first album in almost seven years. Over that time, they too underwent some improvements. In short, their upcoming album is pretty great and diverse, so watch out for it on June 21st.
Some Became Hollow Tubes – Keep It in the Ground (Gizeh)
Nothing seems better fitting than Gizeh’s own slogan flying above this album on Bandcamp: “The Noise of Harmony & the Harmony of Noise”. Indeed, Some Became Hollow Tubes‘s music feels at time like background noise—droning sounds for extended periods of time with few if any change with each successive repetition—yet it does so harmoniously (that term is used in its literal definition: there is harmony, but few would consider it qualitatively harmonious). The guitar-effects-synths and drums duo builds up immense atmospheres eerier than post-rock’s more massive examples and at the same time more relatable. Keep It in the Ground is an ambient post-rock masterpiece.
Milton Man Gogh – How to Be Big and Small (at the Same Time) (Art as Catharsis)
I’ve got to say, I wasn’t thrilled by Milton Man Gogh‘s debut, Stress to Impress, which came out in 2017. I’ve also got to say, on the other hand, that their upcoming release, How to Be Big and Small (at the Same Time), is brilliant and really fun to listen to. I’ve already described their sound as “garage jazz”, or something like that, and this is still true, but with better production, better compositions, and better chops. Everything’s better on this new release, and that’s why I’m talking about it here and now. Or perhaps it is I who changed in two years and gained a new appreciation for their same sound. You be the judge of that! In any case, I believe this is a great album, and you should give it a shot!
Albatros – Futile (Le Mort)
Nothing catches my eye quite like when a band describes itself as “doom ska”. Québec quintet Albatros did just that with Futile, the latest EP of the group. While “doom ska” is an amazing way to put it—concise, vivid, graphic, and, in a sense, true—it’s more complex than that. Albatros is more like a blackened post-hardcore band with brass. It’s quick, it’s heavy, and it’s not very joyful. Futile is a rather impressive album, and all I’m asking for is more!
박지하 (Park Jiha) – Philos (Glitterbeat)
Korean multi-instrumentalist 박지하 (Park Jiha) is back with a new album, Philos! Using many instruments from the Korean folklore, Park creates contemporary compositions reflecting the traditions of the culture. Philos is very dramatic, atmospheric, and exotic for those not immersed in Korean culture. The album shows Park’s mastery of the impressive array of instruments she use, and of songwriting as well. A brilliant album!
The Pneumatic Transit – Chordae tendineae
The project of Exotic Animal Petting Zoo‘s ex-guitarist Jeff Zampillo is back for a sophomore release with Chordae tendineae. Somewhat like Concerto for Double Moon, this new album explores the diverse range of influence and proficiency of Zampillo, from progressive rock to jazz fusion and classical music; all coalesces into a new hybrid taking bits of each to improve the resulting whole. In that regard, I think Chordae is more successful than Concerto. Perhaps it is in the fine-tuning of each influence knob, but it seems to me that this new album is much more appealing and interesting. So, give this one a chance! I’m sure you’ll find something to like about it.
Gordon Beeferman, Anders Nilsson, and Ches Smith – Organ Trio (Minor Amusements)
Gordon Beeferman put together a progressive jazz trio based around the Hammond organ—hence the title—with guitarist Anders Nilsson and drummer Ches Smith, who’s also participated in other fantastic releases of late. The album’s five tracks usually can be categorized by “free jazz”, although it has a distinct retro-prog sound to it at times, especially during the playing of the themes, but that might be due to the unmistakable sound of the organ and its long history with prog rock. You can taste most of what the album is about with the preview track, “Play before the Play”, and its ten-minute run time. Be aware that the full album is closer to forty minutes total so if you enjoy that one be sure to get the rest of it as well!
Fabian Almazan Trio – This Land Abounds with Life (Biophilia)
I haven’t spoken my mind yet about how I love Fabian Almazan‘s musical works, despite adoring his previous work with Rhizome on Alcanza. Well, now’s as good a time as any to do just that. This Land Abounds with Life takes the torch and carries Fabian’s energetic, Latin-influenced piano performance and composition style to new heights, with the help of bassist Linda May Han Oh—whose own album we’ve recently featured—and drummer Henry Cole, as well as a full string trio for “Bola de nieve”. Conceptually, the album is about the world’s lifeforms, biological habitats, and places or memories, and, as such, provides a vastly diverse array of feelings, emotions, atmospheres, and energies throughout. It’s moreover a pretty sizable album, at over eighty minutes long. Fortunately, the physical edition comes with a downloadable code (and an incredible artwork) instead of a clunky two-CD case. So, I say, enjoy!
Eric Hofbauer’s Five Agents – Book of Water (CNM)
Though not officially released until June, Book of Water is already available for streaming on its Bandcamp page. Book of Water is the first of a planned five albums based on the Chinese 五行 (wǔxíng), so we can expect books of wood, fire, earth, and metal to follow. For now, though, the water book comprises five chapters related to that element adding up to an hour-long album of post-bop contemporary jazz. The performances herein are stunning and cathartic, often very quiet but with strategic bursts of vigour and expression. The album is amazing; I wanted to write “solid”, but that would be out of character for the book of water.
Ensamble Peripecia – Cataclismo
The Argentine Peripecia ensemble offers us a surprising and delectable experimental post-rock opus with Cataclismo. The group uses extended instrumentation and creatively so! Their six compositions on the full-length are diverse and most interesting in various ways. From the atmospheric crescendo of “Kinoglaz” to the more melodic and melancholic “La niebla”, to “Sun Girls”, which is more like a progressive rock tune, you’ll find great music. On top of it all, it’s a name-your-price release!
Enablers – Zones (Broken Clover)
An oddity, this one, but most interesting . . . Enablers is an intriguing American experimental band. It’s kind of like post-rock, but centred around spoken word for narration and direction. The band then seems to steer their compositions, their playing accordingly. The “post-rock” category is not quite fitting, but what is? Sometimes, it feels somewhat like certain post-hardcore bands, sometimes it’s more like a movie soundtrack, sometimes it’s more experimental, sometimes less, but at every moment, it’s great. Oddly enough, some parts remind me of the longer tracks on Metallica‘s infamous masterpiece Lulu, which are more poetic in their form, and closer to what we find here. Don’t mistake my compliment for something else, though, as I truly endorse Lulu, and I truly endorse Zones, although I’d favour the latter for being free from the career-long baggage that weighted Metallica down on their own effort. Enablers are thus able to move more easily from one place to another without fearing unfulfilled expectations. Give this one a shot, it’s a fantastic soundtrack-like experimental rock album!
A Half with Tinnitus – A Half with Tinnitus (Arachnidiscs)
This recording is of a free improvisation session of a quasi-anonymous quartet of Montreal. A Half with Tinnitus is a strange but fascinating effort full of seemingly nonsensical musical meanderings and complete player synergy. Everyone on board overflows with creativity regarding their respective instrument: saxophone, trumpet, percussion, and electronics all have a designated place and role and they play it to the perfection. A stellar album!
The Bureau of Atomic Tourism – Eden (Rat)
Jon Irabagon’s Bureau of Atomic Tourism is a highly eclectic and mind-blowing sextet project. On their debut release, Eden, the group takes many detours and experiments in contemporary jazz ensemble composition, and the result is amazing! Eden is full of quirks and surprises!
Tim Daisy – New Works for Solo Percussion (Relay)
Percussionist Tim Daisy just released his New Works for Solo Percussion collection, on his own record label Relay. This collection of new performances includes three major pieces—”Space within Limbs”, “Troika”, and “Construction House”—and a bonus one, “Wood on Copper” (it is unknown if the latter is intended as an antipolice anthem or not, but it has become so). Considering my longtime love affair with percussion and rhythm in general, it’s not surprising that I immediately fell in love with this record. Tim’s vision of music and performing aptitudes make for an incredibly delightful time. Each of the four tracks found on New Works are played on a specific set of percussive instruments, from the most austere (sticks and hi-hat on “Wood and Copper”), to the loosest (drum set on “Construction House”), to the oddest (here, I am torn between marimba, toms, crotales, woodblocks, cymbals, and gongs on “Space within Limbs” and snare, woodblocks, metal objects, and radio on “Troika”). In the end, this is an astounding album exploring the twilight between composition and improvisation and the role of percussion in contemporary music.
Moon Letters – Until They Feel the Sun
Out in early June, Seattle’s Moon Letters‘s debut album is a promising insight into a newly formed band. Upon first hearing them, I thought I was listening to Autumn Electric‘s frontman, which turned out to be right; he does have a strikingly unique voice. If you never enjoyed a similar vocal profile, it might take some time to get accustomed to it, but given that Michael Trew is a capable singer, it should go pretty fluidly. Other than that, Until They Feel the Sun is a progressive rock opus that’s in contemplation of the golden days of the genre. It does have a retro hue to it, somewhere between the seventies’ extensive songs with meandering structures and the eighties’ idolizing of the electric guitar solo. Somewhere between Genesis and Gentle Giant, yet with a slight modern touch. Moon Letters is a promising new name in the prog scene.
잠비나이 (Jambinai) – 온다 (Onda) (Bella Union)
The Seoul-based band 잠비나이 (Jambinai) has always been about merging traditional Korean music and modern genres. Their previous releases, although pretty good in their own regards, failed to hook me completely. On 온다 (Onda), however, it seems that their muse helped them find a brilliant balance of sounds, as well as a plethora of great melodies, progressions, and atmospheres. This album sees the traditional music take on a post-rock disguise, and it actually lends it more power and importance than would have either on their own. 온다 (Onda) is a beautiful and cathartic album, and I think it’s important to give it one chance by listening to it.
The Resonance Project – The Resonance Project
It’s a project stemming from Yas Nomura and Lang Zhao, better known for their incredible chops in Thrailkill—previously known as Mammoth—but they join forces here for a different kind of technically-proficient progressive metal fusion, this time without Wes and with Yas on guitars (as well as on bass). The project is honestly really impressive, both because of everyone’s insane level of skills—I mean, how implausible that part in “The Anthem” sounds?—and the quality and depth of the compositions presented. That’s one album that’s going to be in fond memory for a long time!
The Pen Club – Data Retrieval (Eupcaccia)
This Sydney-based improvisational trio is really impressive. Saxophone, piano, drums, and a whole lot of talent, creativity, and chemistry is sometimes all it takes to create something utterly bewildering. The three musicians use pre-composed passages and ideas sporadically throughout their long improvised sessions, which serve as anchoring point to all members where they can re-synchronize and whence they can go forth into new unknown territories. It’s an amazing record!
Andys Skordis – In… Se… (Insitu)
The contemporary Gamelan scene is undergoing a surprising flourishing, thanks in no small part to Insitu Recordings, which have been promoting and releasing many artists from many styles, from the more traditional to the more experimental. Andys Skordis‘s Gamelan opera In… Se… is definitely of the latter. The Cypriot composer’s newest work clocks in at almost two hours, and it’s a complete operatic composition with libretto and performance that is totally immersed in Gamelan and Western traditions. If you’re looking for something completely different, this is right there for you.
Kamancello – Ⅱ: Voyage
Comprising Canadian cellist Raphael Weinroth-Browne and Iranian kamanche player Shahriyar Jamshidi, Kamancello is the fruit of collaborative improvisation, with the dynamic skill sets of each player bouncing off each other in unique and enchanting ways. Weinroth-Browne has, in a sense, the more challenging job of delicately balancing low-end rhythmic richness with melodic lead performance and harmonization; Jamshidi, with all his talents, is restricted to the higher range of his kamanche (think Persian violin) and thus contributes almost exclusively higher leads and harmonies. The duo juggles their three modes (kamanche leading, cello leading, dual harmony leads) with precision and aplomb. Coming off an enchanting 2017 debut, the duo decided to pursue fewer but broader tracks on their follow-up, Voyage.
Ian Alexander – Tau Librae
Guitarist Ian Alexander‘s most recent album, Tau Librae, is an independent release fusing jazz and progressive rock in a beautiful and diverse end product. The compositions are made for guitar, drums, vibraphone, and harp, which gives them a rather unique feel. Coupled with a multitude of rhythmic and harmonic tricks, it makes for an EP that’s enjoyable on multiple levels and listens. “Electric Water Experience” is perhaps my favourite, revolving around the number 5, and feeling very dreamy yet not sacrificing the level of detail for it. Be sure to check it out!
Ben Levin Group – Jelly Mound
The latest effort of Bent Knee mastermind Ben Levin just arrived. The EP-length album is a true gem of progressive rock: meandering, eccentric, and slightly experimental yet not so much that it becomes too foreign, bizarre, or unmemorable. It is quite the opposite indeed, especially with the song “Thank Death”, in my opinion. In the end, Jelly Mound is a big lot of fun!
ゴタンダ (Gotanda) – Almost Free Jazz for Totally Busy People
This was an unexpected treasure! First of all, being in the “experimental” bin of Bandcamp, it could’ve easily gone unnoticed amidst all the harsh noise releases and amateurish failures, but I got hooked by the title’s “Almost Free Jazz”. Well, even though it doesn’t go near free jazz at all, Gotanda‘s album is one amazing release. Blending together post-rock, hardcore, progressive rock, and math rock, and veiling it with a saxophone as lead instrument, which gives the music a false impression of being jazz, was nevertheless a winning bet. In the end, this is what I’d call a progressive post-hardcore band, and it’s one that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Everything about that album is great, except that it’s only too short!
Dead Robot – We Create the Machine
This EP is, surprisingly, the first release of Madrid’s Dead Robot. Why surprisingly? Well, to use a metaphor… The Spanish trio has apparently hit the nail right on its head on the first try and hammered it deep into the wood. A modern jazz fusion album with hints of drum & bass and electro-jazz is not an easy feat to succeed. But there is absolutely no doubt of that here. Take some time and listen to any of these songs, you won’t regret it.
Amogh Symphony – IV (Vmbrella)
The much-awaited fourth album from India-based international group Amogh Symphony has been split in two. IV.I will be out on May 7, while IV.II will wait until the 21st to do the same. Amogh Symphony is, more than ever, a collective rather than a group. The once solo project has grown into a four-headed hydra comprising a respectable list of guest musicians. IV feels less terrifyingly avant-garde and experimental than was Vectorscan, but it’s not a regular ride either. IV is more a patchwork of genres of various musical traditions and styles coming together to form a coherent if eclectic whole. One thing to regret is the departure of drummer Jim Richman: his beats and sounds are sorely missed.
Σταύρος Γασπαράτος (Stavros Gasparátos) – Rage Park (Inner Ear)
Greek composer Σταύρος Γασπαράτος (Stavros Gasparátos) recently released Rage Park, an electro-classical album exploring rage and stillness, and how the two can be very close to one another. The music is also accompanied by a video trilogy, which you can watch above. The album does a great job of mixing classical music, mostly in the form of soundtrack music but also exploring more contemporary styles, and electronic music elements. The album is very dynamic and can be as contemplative as cathartically violent.
Tak – Oor
The avant-garde chamber music ensemble Tak just released Oor, a collection of six recordings of compositions written [mostly] for the group by as many different composers. This leads, obviously, to very diverse tracks, varying greatly in every regards between one and the next. One thing that remains throughout is the degree of excellence of the composition and performance. Each composer has a unique approach to music, the genre, and the form (Tak’s lineup), and yet the group gently bends itself to the required shape and perfectly fits the mould. All of this leads for an intensely interesting and cathartic experience, with Oor being one of my favourite discoveries of the year so far!
Linda May Han Oh – Aventurine (Biophilia)
Crossover jazz doesn’t get much credit, but when it’s fusing the worlds of jazz and classical music, it can be quite powerful. Enters bassist and composer Linda May Han Oh and her new album, Aventurine. This collection regroups thirteen of her compositions, that are here played by an octet (except four songs by a quintet) filled with impressive musicians, like Greg Ward and Matt Mitchell. They, both the compositions and the performers, truly capture the aventure part. Though somewhat Romantic in its sound and scaffolding, being based on musical emotions and evocativeness, the compositions still retain a certain modern edge, perhaps lended by their jazz half. Aventurine is a wonderful album, and, at seventy-five minutes long, it’s got quite a lot to offer!
Warforged – I: Voice (The Artisan Era)
Consider the metal albums over the last decade or so that have received near-universal acclaim from critics and fans. The names that come to my mind include such releases as Vektor’s Terminal Redux, Mgła’s Exercises in Futility, and Rivers of Nihil’s Where Owls Know My Name. One common thread among these crowd-pleasers is that they tend to be a band’s second or third album; they’ve taken a couple of releases to find their footing and refine their sound, then it all finally comes together a few years into their career. Comparatively, very few bands launch their careers by throwing 100 miles per hour right out of the gate. Chicago’s Warforged, however, is one of those rare exceptions to this rule: their forthcoming debut, I: Voice, is a full-blown masterpiece that should instantly cement the group in the elite tier of modern metal acts.
Dreadnought – Emergence (Profound Lore)
With the release of their fourth full-length album in six years, a band I once called “one of the best, most progressive young bands in metal right now” is nearing a level of establishment and maturity that probably signifies we can ditch the “young” adjective. While not everyone knows who Dreadnought is, Dreadnought knows what it is, and they waste no time on Emergence reminding us, kicking off the album with more immediacy than ever before. On the first track of their 2013 debut, Lifewoven, they opened with haunting ethereal atmosphere, introducing us to flute, congas, and lilting vocals before ever confirming that we are indeed listening to a metal band (almost 4 minutes in, and even then, with a calm, fuzzy stoner-rock passage). Bridging Realms’s “Ode to Ether” similarly begins with dreamy soundscape action, and only hits distorted chords almost four minutes and a half in. A Wake in Sacred Waves begins with “Vacant Sea”, which starts with a cappella vocals, then throbbing toms and cymbal shimmers accent a gentle guitar and keys as the band slowly builds toward a heavy kickoff at 1:30.
Hungría – Cumbre de nieves perpetuas
Argentina’s Hungría has finally come up with a successor to the outstanding Magyarország vagy halál! It seems to me that Cumbre de nieves perpetuas tends to lean more on post than math rock, but the core idiosyncrasies remain. As an example, the track “Algunos animales son tan difíciles de ver que parecen espíritus” is an especially brilliant example of how the two subgenres can work hand in hand to create something more than the sum of its parts. The rest of the album is full of brilliant moments as well, so I encourage you to check it out!
Sferos – Set It Up as Silence (Falcon Gumba)
Set It Up as Silence is Sferos‘s debut album. Led by Venezuelan guitarist Juanma Trujillo, the trio takes its modern and brooding vision of jazz and infuses into it many subtle elements of Latin music. The end result is a challenging and forward-thinking jazz album that’s progressive and experimental, but also quite infectious and groovy.
Sales de baño – Geometría del vínculos (Buh Records)
Sales de baño is an ever-impressive jazz-rock band from Buenos Aires. Their previous effort, Horror vacui, is still one of my favourites, and their upcoming full-length, Geometría del vínculos will most certainly deserve the same fate. Out on April 30, the album explores plenty of truly interesting musical ideas on its eight tracks, from strange counterpoints to polyrhythm manifolds, you won’t be disappointed.
Spoelstra – West Side Story: Winner of Ten Academy Awards (Narrominded)
Described as “[g]ross misrepresentations of all songs of the musical West Side Story as performed in seven chapters”, I guess you’d have to know the West Side Story musical by heart to be in on the joke, and catch where these gross misrepresentations deviate from the source material. Alas, that I do not. Despite this gaping hole in my musical knowledge, I was able to fully appreciate Netherlands-based group Spoelstra‘s newest album, albeit maybe from an entirely different perspective. Just how you don’t need to know Schlager hits to enjoy the disturbing Suess, you don’t need to acquaint yourself with West Side Story to bask in this album’s glory.
Quinos – Lune de miel
This Saguenay, Québec-bound trio, featuring returning guitarist Louis Beaudoin-de la Sablonnière, who also plays in Brûlez les meubles! and Gisèle, just released Lune de miel, a fantastic debut album. The full-length derives attitudes from metal and punk music all while remaining, for the most part, within a jazz setting ranging from experimental to free. Therefore, the outcome is a dark, complex, and highly energetic fusion. You’ll have a great time with that one.
Oort Smog – Smeared Pulse Transfers (Sweat Band Records)
Oort Smog is the collaborative output of saxophonist Patrick Shiroishi, of Corima fame, and Mark Kimbrell, both of which also play in Upsilon Acrux. Needless to say, the release of this twenty-minute EP is long overdue! Coming out on 26 April, Smeared Pulse Transfers sees the duo at their best—performance- and creativity-wise—and it’s a most satisfactory snack while we wait for the next full-length of their main band(s). You can have an avant-goût of the [incredibly good] album with this live video, just imagine this with much better production value and some layering, which gives the feeling of listening to a trio or quartet at times! I don’t need to reiterate it, but I’ll do it anyway: this album is insanely great!
Brian Krock – Liddle (Outside In Music)
The latest effort of Brian Krock is presented to us under the name Liddle. Brian led one of last year’s favourite releases, Big Heart Machine, and you’ll find a similarly engrossing experience listening to this album. While Big Heart Machine was a large ensemble performance, Brian restricts himself to a mere sextet on Liddle. This leads to some really creative writing, and I’d love to hear even more constraints on his writings—for example with compositions for a trio—in the future. For now, though, Liddle is an amazing piece of work that’s superb, original, and intensely fascinating.
ナボワ (Nabowa) – Dusk
Dusk is the latest album of ナボワ (Nabowa). The Japanese group offers us some quite romantic modern jazz fusion with a certain likeness to some math rock artists. One of the highlights of the group is their full-time violin player, who adds a tremendous amount of emotion to the already-furnished set. The quartet plays quite tastefully and never indulges in excess or vanity, this makes Dusk a brilliant and stellar album that’s as good an active as a passive listening experience. A great record, indeed!
Samo Šalamon, Szilárd Mezei, and Jaka Berger – Swirling Blind Unstilled (Klopotec)
Straight into the realms of avant-garde jazz and free improvisation, guitarist Samo Šalamon, violist Szilárd Mezei, and percussionist Jaka Berger join forces on Swirling Blind Unstilled. The entire album is quite mind-boggling, featuring some of the best performances of Szilárd’s I’ve heard, and a similar brand of mastery is also observed from Samo and Jaka on their respective instruments. Swirling Blind Unstilled is disorienting and colourful, just as the title and the artwork convey, and it’s an incredible album to listen! It comes out officially on the 24th, but you can listen to the songs on Bandcamp already!
The Machetazo – A Vision in a Dream
Coming from Madrid, Spain, The Machetazo is a jazz fusion quintet that is now releasing its sophomore album. A Vision in a Dream is not really groundbreaking or pushing the limits of the genre, but it’s made with incredible tact and masterfully, tastefully. The pieces are evocative and etch the atmospheres they create slowly, thoughtfully, as a delicate painter. Truly, a beautiful album.
Miller-Adams-Scully Trio – Mollusk
Mollusk is an album that came out of nowhere, but one that definitely leaves a mark on those lucky enough to find it. The trio is made of Casey Adams on percussions, Gregg Miller on saxophone, and Tom Scully on guitar. Every member’s contribution to the project fits within the more contemporary and avant-garde registre of their own instrument and of the genre as a whole. Some tracks, like “Under Rain”, showcase a real proficiency of atmosphere-building, while others, like “Seven and a Half Minutes”, see the band at their more hectic. A fantastic independent discovery!
Parker Projection – EPII (math rock)
You know, at this point, it’s almost weird to hear math rock played by a band with guitars and bass! In this case, it affords us a more multi-layered and dynamic sound, something that lacks from many of the bands operating in the now traditional duo format. This three song flourish is a pleasant listen, for sure. The cleanliness of the performance and the production are clear as day. The instrumental interaction is stellar and, even as we pass through herky-jerky rhythmic happenings, every sound is defined and cohesive. In a genre that can seem saturated with a lot of ill-defined guitar noodling and a whole bunch of the same-old, this is a band who hold the potential to stand out from the herd. I look forward to hearing more from Parker Projection!
Emme Phyzema – Emme Phyzema
Emme Phyzema is a solo project out of Columbus, Ohio, by the multi-instrumentalist of the same name, who played all but drums on this release. This self-titled album fits right under the “brutal prog” umbrella. The ten relatively short tracks here are diverse, hectic, and eclectic, and, most of all, insanely good and fun to listen to.
Trevor Dunn – Nocturnes (Tzadik)
Let’s move back to April to talk about New York bassist and composer Trevor Dunn‘s latest album, Nocturnes. The album features two main sides: Dunn’s first string quartet on the first and six nocturnes for piano on the other. A nocturne, in music, is a piece inspired by or intended to be played during the night. That’s quite self-explanatory, but its origins date back to the Middle Ages, with a surge in popularity in the XVIII and XIX centuries. Dunn’s nocturnes are a creative and diverse set of six short compositions. Melancholic, gloomy, and sometimes a bit eery and weird, they are portrayed rather well by the amazing cover artwork by Brunetti. In general, a very enjoyable set of chamber music.