Richmond Avant-Improv Collective – Lamentations (Arichnidiscs)
It seems not so long ago that I reviewed an album by the Richmond-based collective, yet here we are again so soon! Lamentations will be released at the end of April and consists of the same avant-garde free improvisation that made RAIC what it is. On this record, however, the here-nonet band conjures images and sounds from the South of the United States. As always, the result is an outstanding free jazz effort with a punk attitude. It’s an eerie and at times unsettling adventure, and that’s why it’s so great!
Casper Nyvang Rask’s Slow Evolution Ensemble – Slow Evolution Ensemble (Gotta Let It Out)
Double bassist and composer Casper Nyvang Rask’s nine-member avant-garde jazz ensemble Slow Evolution just released its self-titled debut album. Treading the fine line between improvisation and composition, the opus is varied and surprising, especially with the prevalence of synthesizers seldom present in otherwise similar-sounding releases. For this alone, Slow Evolution Ensemble is worth a listen or two, but its conception and performance on record earns it many more rewarding plays.
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.
Black Flower – Future Flora
The Belgian Black Flower band displaces some air with their dub-infused Ethiojazz, but I have to say they got me bamboozled. To preview their album, I gave a listen to track 2: “Maloya Bud”, and was truly flabbergasted. Everyone who follows the website slightly knows I’ve been fascinated with microrhythms for some time now, so hearing the amazing Gnawa rhythm on this song got be really hyped up. I was ready to place Future Flora among my candidate albums of the year, imagining the rest of the album would also feature similar rhythms. In the end, it is the only song with a predominance of xenorhythms, so I was a little crestfallen, but the remainder of the album is highly enjoyable on its own terms. There’s nonetheless a big influence of world music from different traditions in there, and the whole of it is brilliantly executed!
Untu – Rats of Oran
“Untu is the metal incarnation of Gamelan Suara Baru, a Javanese gamelan collective based at California Institute of the Arts.” This alone should whet your aural appetite, and justifiably so! Rats of Oran is one step closer to a complete merger between metal and Gamelan music, the first having been made—in my own experience—by Sutrah on their Effervesce demo and following full-length, Dunes. One of my critics was that Gamelan played too much of a back-seat role, more ornamental than integral, and, while it’s still the case here with Untu, the Gamelan sound seeps much more into the music and can almost be considered vital. It’s an important and crucial step, foreboding an even more adventurous project in the future. Meanwhile, Rats of Oran is a unique and enjoyable experience.
Scatter the Atoms That Remain – Exultation (Dot Time)
No wonder why this album reminded me so much of Coltrane’s spiritual jazz excursions: the quartet leader, drummer Franklin Kiermyer, has worked with past Coltrane bandmates and continually focuses on a spiritual aspect to his drumming. Exultation is, indeed, quite exultant, and it’s a precious in the current jazz music landscape. I find it rather difficult to discuss this kind of music, so I shan’t say much more, but if the little snippets I wrote here entice you even slightly, I urge you to listen to this stellar album!