Michael Gordon & Deborah Artman – Acquanetta (Cantaloupe Music)
Acquanetta is a short hour-long opera written by composer Michael Gordon. This piece takes its inspiration from horror movies of the forties, telling the tale of an actress that rose to fame before vanishing from the scene. The composition is far from traditional, for an operatic work. Instead, Michael’s score feels at the same time very contemporary and much like a movie soundtrack. Needless to say, this studio-recorded version of the piece is of the highest calibre, thanks to the Bang on a Can Opera Ensemble and the invaluable vocal casting, chief among which is Mikaela Bennett, as Acquanetta. It’s a brilliant album, and I was hooked the moment I heard the beginning of “Introducing Acquanetta”, which was the preview track before the album’s release. It starts rather rhythmically and anxiously, it offers a lot of variety and some stellar moments. The rest of the album is just as good, if not better in some parts!
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.
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.
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.
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.