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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.