Monthly Recommendations: June 2019

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.

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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!

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Les funktionnaires – 2034

Les funktionnaires is a Montréal-based band that I know only because I’ve come across a poster for the release show of their new album, 2034, which happens to be next Friday. The cover art was impressive enough that I took note of it and went online to hear what it sounds like, and . . . it’s actually a lot of fun! 2034 came out last week, and it’s a full-length album somewhere in the hazy waters between funk—obviously—psychedelic rock, and stoner music. It’s really well crafted and features more than a few odes to Québécois culture. Whether or not you’re part of this culture, this is a fun and enjoyable record for most anyone!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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嶋川堅太 (Kenta Shimakawa) – グリンプス (Glimpse)

Who here remembers when I wrote about the prog fusion band Tindergodz? Well, here’s a follow-up! Project mastermind 嶋川堅太 (Kenta Shimakawa) went on and created a solo album pushing the fusion of jazz and progressive metal even further, and without the comedic aspects his previous project had. The end result is one of the best modern djazz releases, featuring many talented and renowned musicians. One of the parts I enjoyed most is, rather simply, the theme to the title track. It’s rhythmically interesting, and uses a lot of wide intervals, making it sound very energetic, dynamic, and recognizable. Thanks to the amazing talents of singer Louisa Rosi and saxophonist Baptiste Horcholle. A similar thing can be said of “Oiseau”, of which you can watch the guitar playthrough video above. Starting with a fast-paced polymetric riff in \(\frac{7}{16}\) against \(\frac{7}{4}\) sets the tone for the rest of the composition, filled with groove, sax, and amazing melodies. Seriously, a tremendous album! Don’t miss out!

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Present and Whereas [Split] (Clandestine Ritual)

Present and Whereas‘s self-titled split is made from a collage of various recordings and improvisations. The two sides, Augur Cries and Overlay, therefore offer quite a great variety of moments, which can go from the psychedelic rock to the grindcore to the free jazz to the noise, and it’s quite an amazing journey. It’s at times like a heavy interpretation of zeuhl, which is quite an apt descriptor, I guess. Either way, it’s an awesome album worth checking out!

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Black Midi – Schlagenheim (Rough Trade)

Black Midi‘s newest effort departs from their free-rock improvisation-fuelled fever dream with Damo Suzuki and into the realm of composition once again. On Schlagenheim, they move easily from math rock to noise rock to experimental pop to post-rock to—I don’t know—other stuff! It’s a brilliant and amazing album, but one that is pretty hard to categorize and to describe. Well, I would expect no less from the band! That album is prog as hell, always flowing from one place to another, and it’s weird. You’ll love it! I do.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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On July 1 2019, this entry was posted.
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