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YouTube | May 2022SunNeverSetsOnMusic

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Favourites|May2022

The Smile - A Light For Attracting Attention

A Light For Attracting Attention

by The Smile

Released 13 May 2022

XL Recordings

*****

Upon first listen, one might mistake the Smile's debut, A Light for Attracting Attention, for a Radiohead album. Considering that band's Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood (as well as longtime producer Nigel Godrich) are two of the three core members of this side project, it's not a surprise. Conceived during the COVID-19 lockdown as a way for Yorke and Greenwood to jam, the Smile also features drummer Tom Skinner of modern jazz group Sons of Kemet, who invigorates the album with his lively backing and dizzying time signatures. With the help of Greenwood's friends in the London Contemporary Orchestra and various jazz artists from Skinner's orbit, the trio lean into their progressive and psychedelic tendencies here, sounding like an expansive, mind-bending version of Yorke and Greenwood's main band. Many of Radiohead's typical hallmarks -- anxiety, dread, angst, and tension -- are present, with Yorke delivering reliably passionate performances and heady lyrics across all tracks.

The frantic, horn-backed storm "You Will Never Work in Television Again" and the driving, synth-hazed "We Don't Know What Tomorrow Brings" channel the anger and frustration heard on Hail to the Thief, winding up as the most aggressive Yorke has sounded in years.

Meanwhile, the elastic groover "The Opposite" and the jittering "Thin Thing" find the trio locked-in as a formidable unit, with Skinner's drumming building to head-rattling levels as Greenwood's guitar noodling and Yorke's detached falsetto push the songs to bewitching heights.

On the opposite end of the energy scale, the atmospheric "The Same" envelops like a dense fog and the hypnotic "Pana-vision" weaves haunted piano and drums with Amnesiac strings, as the ethereal "Speech Bubbles" and the sci-fi sweep of "Waving a White Flag" create widescreen cinematic moments of orchestral beauty.

There's something here for fans of any era, but as a reference for longtime devotees, A Light for Attracting Attention bests The Eraser as Yorke's finest non-Radiohead effort and falls somewhere amongst A Moon Shaped Pool and King of Limbs in terms of scope and daring. As such, diehards should be quite pleased with this release: an utterly satisfying set of songs that stands tall on its own, yet could easily climb the ranks against any of Radiohead's late-era efforts.

Source: AllMusic

Sharon Van Etten - We've Been Going About This All Wrong

We've Been Going About This All Wrong

by Sharon Van Etten

Released 6 May 2022

Jagjaguwar

*****

The album title We've Been Going About This All Wrong channels all of the uncertainty floating in the air in 2022, an era distinguished by a pandemic and political tumult.

During this period, Sharon Van Etten moved across the country, got married, and started raising a family in an unfamiliar city during the pandemic lockdown.

Van Etten is hardly the only person to experience personal upheaval as the world roiled, but the strength of We've Been Going About This All Wrong is how her specific stories have a wider resonance.

Some of that power lies in her evocative lyrical sketches, where images of yearning, parenthood, isolation, and love create the impression of difficult but necessary emotional growth; it's the shedding of the skin in preparation for a new stage of life.

Appropriately, Van Etten creates a vivid, intense soundscape for this evolution, using the retro-new wave flourishes of 2019's Remind Me Tomorrow as a foundation for a dynamic, dramatic interior epic.

Van Etten played nearly every instrument on We've Been Going About This All Wrong on her own in her home studio, and the album, appropriately, has a bit of an insular feel, as if it depicts the tension within her own psyche.

This doesn't mean the record is delivered on a miniature scale.

Although there are moments, such as "Darkish," where she's accompanying herself with no more than an acoustic guitar, there are also steely rhythms, washes of synths, and squalls of distorted guitar, all elements that give We've Been Going About This All Wrong painterly details along with a sense of momentum.

Van Etten isn't wallowing in melancholy, she's accepting the sadness along with the joy, using both emotions to push into a new stage of life. That sense of optimism, no matter how muted it may sometimes be, gives We've Been Going About This All Wrong an air of unguarded hope.

Source: AllMusic

Ndudozo Makhathni - In The Spirit Of Ntu

In The Spirit Of Ntu

by Ndudozo Makhathni

Released 27 May 2022

Blue Note

****-

South Africa's jazz scene may not get nearly as attention as London's, but it is every bit as varied, innovative and creative. Pianist and composer Nduduzo Makhathini is a leading light in South African jazz, a musician at the forefront of its scene. In the Spirit of NTU is his tenth album and second for Blue Note, and the inaugural recording for Blue Note Africa.

The pianist surrounds himself with South Africa's top musicians including saxophonist Linda Sikhakhane, trumpeter Robin Fassie Kock, vibraphonist Dylan Tabisher, bassist Stephen de Souza, percussionist Gontse Makhene, and drummer Dane Paris. His guests include American alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw, and vocalists Anna Widauer, and Omagugu Makhathini.

Across this new work, Makhathini condenses conceptual, often esoteric philosophical and spiritual themes explored in his catalogue down to 10 tracks. He draws on Zulu and precolonial traditions and wide-ranging cosmological and intellectual curiosities -- the NTU itself is an ancient concept about interdependence and collectivity.
Opener "Unonkanyamba" is introduced by rumbling piano, and layered hand percussion. The horns offer a sweet, township-inspired theme that Makhathini punctuates with bridged harmonies. Sikhakhane's powerful solo explores amid intensely hypnotic rhythms. The pianist's gospel-tinged melody lines accent his solo. "Mama" is a lullaby. It offers resonant interplay between Omagugu's vocals and Fassie Kock's trumpet. Makhathini's downmixed, chanted backing vocals (on all but two tracks) underscore tenderly articulated lyricism above a poignant bassline and rippling percussion. "Amathongo"'s postbop uses shuffling swing from Paris's kit as a catalyst. Flugelhorn and vibes exchange lines with each another and Makhathini's vamp. His solo threads angular arpeggios through dissonant harmonic invention as vibes, flugelhorn and percussion frame his attack. The set's hinge track, "Emlilweni" in inspired by Old Testament Book of Daniel tale of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Sentenced to die by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar for refusing to worship his image, they emerge unscathed followed by a fourth man, "…like a Son of God." The expansive modal opening features Sikhakhane in concert with the pianist appended by dramatic hand percussion and drums. The pianist's solo is rife with athletic, high register arpeggios. Shaw delivers an incendiary alto solo representing the fire. Widauer appears on "Re-Amathambo," reworked from 2018's, Ikhambi. Her smoky alto offers lustrous, syncopated phrasing amid the bluesy, shuffling architetcure. The pianist's fills and phrasing frame her singing as vibes poignantly and authoritatively underscore her lines. "Omnyama" employs haunting repetition in modal chord voicings and pronounced circular rhythms that morph into vocal chanting. Sikhakhane's soprano shouts and whispers before Makhathini inserts jagged single lines amid swelling, poignant horns. "Senze'Nina" juxtaposes stately chordal piano statements with rumbling glissandos, a vocal chant, and Sikhakhane's mournful tenor solo.

The title track closer is a solo, hymn-like, meditative piece wedding gospel and township folk before evolving toward vanguard improvisation. In the Spirit of NTU is an introduction to and summation of Makhathini's musical universe to date. Contrasting inquiry and statement, exploration and discovery, it's the work of an artist possessed of startling vision and dazzling creativity.

Source: AllMusic

Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers

by Kendrick Lamar

Released 13 May 2022

Interscope/pgLang

*****

As early as his first official studio release, 2011’s Section.80, Kendrick Lamar’s albums have been intricate and conceptual, constructed more like ambitious theatrical narratives than mere collections of songs. Fifth album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers follows this trajectory as a double-album’s worth of interconnecting statements that are relentlessly complex, emotionally dense, and sometimes uncomfortably raw.

Unlike the lush, spacious sonics of DAMN. or the life-affirming funk of To Pimp a Butterfly, Mr. Morale is scattered both in terms of musical approaches and lyrical perspectives.

The album’s first half is particularly messy, with themes of trauma, grief, society, and Kendrick’s own uneasy relationship with fame all overlapping. His technical abilities are stunning and versatile as ever, but the frantic flows and jarring beat switches of “United in Grief” begin an angsty catharsis that runs throughout many of the tracks.

“N95” is a seething cultural critique where Lamar spits bile in multiple directions over a bleakly catchy, bass-driven instrumental. Issues with lust addiction and infidelity are put under a microscope on the tense and minimal “Worldwide Steppers,” and Lamar depicts his troubled relationship with his father in painful detail on “Father Time,” which features a gorgeous vocal performance by Sampha on the hook. There’s further exploration of deeply personal family history on “Auntie Diaries,” which chronicles Lamar coming to understand the experiences two of his relatives had with transitioning gender identities. Throughout the album he funnels all of these experiences inward, seeking to grow through his own changes and the changes he sees around him. This shows up as a dismissal of celebrity on “Rich Spirit” or as striving for self-acceptance on “Count Me Out.”

The album’s quick musical and thematic shifts can make for an uneven flow. The floating R&B instrumental and tender introspection of “Die Hard” come just a few tracks before cacophonous swirls of piano on “Rich - Interlude” and the jagged cosmic hip-hop of Ghostface Killah and Summer Walker collaboration “Purple Hearts.” The album’s intensity reaches a full boil on “We Cry Together,” a song that sounds like live audio footage of the most vicious couple’s argument imaginable, and reaches the same levels of ugliness as Eminem’s “Kim,” a clear reference point.

As always, the production is immaculate and Lamar is joined by a host of industry giants, with contributions coming from Baby Keem, Thundercat, and even a vocal cameo from Portishead’s Beth Gibbons on the stunning sadness of “Mother I Sober.”

While not as immediately accessible as some of the work that came before it, there’s value in both the harrowing and enlightening moments here.

Lamar puts everything on the table with Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, trying to get closer to his unfiltered personal truth, and creating some of his most challenging, expectation-defying work in the process. While not always an easy listen, the album shows more of its intention as it goes, and ultimately makes sense as the next logical step forward in Lamar’s increasingly multi-dimensional artistic evolution.

Source: AllMusic

Harvey Sutherland - Boy

Boy

by Harvey Sutherland

Released 29 April 2022

Clarity Recordings

****-

Take the vinyl of Boy, the debut album by Harvey Sutherland, flip it over, and on the back sleeve, you’ll find a diagram – an elaborate collection of graphs, vectors and philosophical theory that dissects the very nature of what it means to be funky. “It’s not that the player plays funk; it’s that the player is played by funk,” reads one cryptic line. “Even the most unfunky moment can be funky,” goes another. Trace the line of obsession through the unfunky valley and eventually, you end up at a place: ‘neurotic funk’
“I wanted it to come across kind of pseudo-academic – you know, psychobabble,” grins Mike Katz. A producer and bandleader from Melbourne, Australia, Katz has been releasing music under the name Harvey Sutherland since 2013. The concept of neurotic funk came out of a chat he had with his friend Sam, a Lacanian scholar and meme lord. Yes, it’s meant tongue-in-cheek. But there’s the germ of something serious in there too, something Katz addresses further in Boy’s naggingly groovy lead single "Jouissance”. “I learned the word from my therapist – there’s no easy English translation, but it’s the itch that demands scratching, a masochistic desire.” The term seemed to speak to Katz’s musical process – a congenital perfectionist and overthinker doing his utmost to get louche and loose. For me it represents an obsessional energy, a frustration in finding the funk,” he laughs. “It’s about acknowledging my shortcomings along the way.”
Shortcomings? Don’t worry, that’s just the neurosis talking. Drop the needle on Boy and find yourself transported to a hypermodern take on funk music. Recorded between London, Los Angeles and Katz’s own Swimming Pool studios with a host of hotshot Melbourne session musicians and a string of guests, tracks like “Age Of Acceleration” and “Michael Was Right About You” take the base elements of funk and fire them through a prism of influences – the hyper-produced studio pop of Todd Rundgren, the lush synth groove of New York boogie and the harsh snap of coldwave. 

Source: Bandcamp

Ruben James - Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision

by Ruben James

Released 29 April 2022

Rufio Records

****-

This much-anticipated release from Birmingham-born keyboardist, vocalist and producer Reuben James is a treat, filled with warm vibes and top instrumental talent exploring a jazzy nu-soul R&B style with skill and panache.
Reuben James came to prominence in his work with chart-topping singer Sam Smith, joining the arena tours, Grammy awards and international acclaim of the pop world while quietly nurturing his jazz chops. He is interested in a wide range of music and has made a particularly bold move in being ready and willing to collaborate with other musicians ranging from global superstars like Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock and Stormzy to jazz drummer Chris Dave, rapper Jay Prince, and fellow Midlands alumni Tom Ford and Soweto Kinch.

It’s at least a year since James was talking about this work, and he has rightly held off until summer and barbecues are once again an option.  He calls this set a ‘mixtape’, a nice informal way to present a seamless well-mixed hour-long collection of work with many co-performers, some new material alongside some choice previous releases.  The opening Vegan Butter sees American saxophonist Tivon Pennicott adding his smooth colour to a bass-filtered groove, which swoops into Closer, James’ 2021 single with Sophie Faith’s gorgeous vocals interspersing James’ own laid-back voice and Jay Prince’s rap. It’s quite a seven minute journey, which moves into the swaying U Got Me with South Londoner Jaz Karis providing the chorus vocals.

The emphasis switches to softly strummed acoustic guitar on Searching with Vula Malinga joining Jay Prince and multi-instrumentalist Conor Albert. The beat gets a notch firmer for Ruby Smiles, a James keyboard solo leading into some alto sax from Soweto Kinch.  BBQ Energy, another James song from a year or two ago, is brought in with Adam Flowers sharing vocals and in-demand trumpeter Keyon Harrold adding brassy flair into the mix.  

Flute master Gareth Lockrane is featured on the new single What U Need with Chicago rapper Ric Wilson. All I Wanna Do is totally chilled, strings, piano and acres of space, while Wings Of A Butterfly sees Vula return along with Vanessa Butler on vocals. The title track Tunnel Vision sees Frida Touray and Daley sharing vocals with James, maintaining the cool yet rich pulse of the whole set with Tom Misch’s guitar coasting along to the close. 

There is so much to enjoy in this hour-long drifting dream of an album – many performers, great arrangements and production, and Reuben James at the heart of it with his vocal style and sensitivity for a hook.  No, it’s not jazz but… I am wondering whether Reuben James is becoming a kind of Steely Dan for the R&B generation, producing engaging and enjoyable material which is both accessible to a wide audience and yet packs a musical punch that belies its clear charms.   

Source: London Jazz News

SO.Crates - Malcolm After Meccca

Malcolm After Mecca

by SO.Crates

Released 8 April 2022

Bedroom Suck Records

****-

'Malcolm After Mecca' is the debut full-length from hip-hop/neo-soul duo SO. Crates, the project of Melbourne based Producer Skomes and California-via-Adelaide MC & poet Cazeaux O.S.L.O. It's a generous double L.P that builds upon the creative base of earlier releases 'Static Methods' and 'Sunset Cities' on Bedroom Suck Records, not to mention the celebrated 7" single 'Mama Danced on Soul Train' via Northside Records.

Cazeaux O.S.L.O.'s lyrics shine as always with a love of the poetic and profound. And Skomes' beats are a bedrock, founded in soul, jazz, and boom bap traditions.

For this debut album the duo invited their extended family, with contributions arriving from Tiana Khasi, IZY, Pookie, Pataphysics, Jaal, Nui Moon, Rara Zulu amongst others.

Source: TripleRRR

Samora Pinderhughes - GRIEF

GRIEF

by Samora Pinderhughes

Released 15 April 2022

Stretch Music /  Ropeadope

****-

 

GRIEF is a multidisciplinary work that showcases Samora Penderhughes socio-political beliefs and musical prowess. The project is in the same continuum as his 2016 work The Transformations Suite, although technically it is not a sequel. “It’s a different band and I’m singing this time,” he explains. “But they are both revolutionary projects.” Grief is primarily centered around Pinderhughes’ piano and vocals, though it features many gifted collaborators, each of whom is given ample opportunity to excel. The album finds musical parallels in Radiohead’s In Rainbows (“listening to Thom Yorke made me want to sing”) as well as Nina Simone and Bob Dylan’s protest albums from the ‘60s. “What I love about Nina’s Pastel Blues, and Dylan’s first three or four records, is that when you listen individually, each song is a whole world about different ideas. But when you put them together, you get a picture of the time period.”

The picture Pinderhughes is painting on Grief is a sullen one, calling out the sufferings caused by racial capitalism; policing and prison systems; and oppressive ideologies. Artistically, the way he channels this pain and suffering is by creating moments of profound beauty. “Beauty is my entryway to talking about things,” he says. “The pieces that hit me the most are beautiful even when they are talking about honest, accusatory, and damning things.”

That delicate balance between beauty and pain is masterfully observed throughout all 40-plus-minutes of Grief. On “Kingly,” a lilting piano pattern and a marching rhythm section featuring Clovis Nicolas on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums paves the way for cutting remarks about rampant greed and celebrity worship. Tenor saxophonist Lucas Pino brings the piece to a climax with a soaring solo worthy of a royal inquest. “Masculinity” introduces Pinderhughes’s sister Elena on flute and the Argus Quartet on strings, who provide a tasteful gravitas to their accompaniment. Alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins adds a flurry of dissonance on top of the extended outro. After a deft interlude from guitarist Brad Allen Williams, the suite moves into “Holding Cell,” a piece about Pinderhughes’s friend Diana, whom he met in a detention center: “I can’t get well while you hold me/ Still and lonely,” he sings in close harmony with Niya Norwood in a refrain worthy of mass singalong. Title track “Grief” (Pinderhughes’s favorite song on the album) features a circular bass riff from Boom Bishop and an airy falsetto from Jehbreal Jackson who sings about lives lost during pandemic. Album closer “Hope” speaks to a disappointing aftermath of the election “You told me the war is over/ While everything is for sale” before offering a missive for future collective action atop a rousing musical finale.

Ultimately, Pinderhughes wants to reclaim the notion that artists can be intellectuals. “When people talk about Nina Simone, it’s implied that there weren’t any ideas behind her music—it was more inspiration, like she was compelled. But when you listen closely, you can tell she’s done the reading—James Baldwin, for example—and the songs are a response to those ideas. It’s like an [academic] paper, but with sound. That’s why I continue to do schooling, to bridge the gap between songs and ideas. I don’t want people to listen to a song and never think about it again.”

Source: Bandcamp Daily

Ibeyi - Spell 31

Spell 31

by Ibeyi

Released 6 May 2022

XL Recordings

****-

Ancient Egyptians imagined death as a journey through a treacherous underworld of demon reptiles, onerous puzzles, and grueling trials. To help the dead navigate these obstacles and reach eternity, the Egyptians assembled The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, commonly known as The Book of the Dead. The tome offers spells, prayers, and adventure, a breadth that Ibeyi embraces on their third album, which takes its name from one of the book’s many entries. Since 2014’s Oya EP, named after the Yoruba deity of storms and death, the French-Cuban sister duo has bent heavy emotions and weighty subjects into lithe, elegant shapes, building shrines from personal and historical tragedies. On Spell 31, they rework their signature layered spirituals into fleet grooves that shimmer with color and joy yet still channel pain and loss.
Where Ash and Ibeyi were spectral and skeletal, evoking aching absences, the songs on Spell 31 are rhythmic and sinuous, engorged with blood and energy. The twins have credited the shift to a change in their writing process: Normally, Lisa-Kaindé would initiate songs on the piano and Naomi would mold the percussion around her sister’s melodies and lyrics. This time, the rhythms came first, Naomi and longtime collaborator Richard Russell making beats and Lisa-Kaindé writing to them. Her melodies “had to gain muscle…and be able to live up to the beat,” Lisa-Kaindé explained in an interview. The resulting album isn’t an outright jamboree, but the rhythm-forward approach begets bolder, more lively performances and arrangements.

“Made of Gold” pulses with textures and voices, Ibeyi and Pa Salieu declaring their resilience over a thicket of rumbling bass, shrill yelps, and rattly percussion. “My spell made of gold, gold, gold,” Lisa-Kaindé sings for the hook, a buoyant harmony backing her. The line works as both incantation and earworm, a one-two punch Ibeyi also land on “Lavender & Red Roses,” a collaboration with Jorja Smith that evokes the lush melodies of We Are KING. “Lavender and red roses,” the trio coos, their voices tender and warm as they dedicate the floral offering to a hopeless former lover. The song is the rare kiss-off that’s as sweet as a kiss.

Amid the revelry and uplift, Ibeyi still evoke the bone-deep grief and despondence that characterized their early work. “Creature (Perfect)” builds to an epiphany that sounds more paralyzing than freeing. “I don’t have to be perfect, don’t have to be perfect/I finally see, I’m just a creature,” Lisa-Kaindé wails, stretching the last word with downcast trills that recall Björk. “Tears Are Our Medicine” offers a similar mix of pain and triumph, the sisters dolefully reaching their upper registers over a spare bassline and a faint drone. “Look at my eyes and cry with me,” they softly request.

On “Los Muertos,” over solemn hums, dulled stomps, and the Santería chant of “ibaé,” which is used to honor deceased loved ones, they recite the names of lost relatives and friends. The song is celebratory despite its gravity, the “ibaé” sourced from a song by Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz’s late father, famed conguero Miguel “Angá” Díaz. Ibeyi also sample their father on “Rise Above,” a soulful but limp interpretation of Black Flag’s punk standard. Their version, which they reportedly recorded without hearing the original, includes a perfunctory reference to George Floyd’s murder, and is more respectable than galvanizing.

Luckily, “Rise Above” is the album’s sole misfire. Ibeyi continue to celebrate and probe diaspora, building bridges between the sounds and traditions of their transatlantic heritage. There’s a quiet audacity to their growing syncretism, which here casually yokes together Egyptian funerary lore, South African sangomas, Santería rituals, and British rap.

The wacky sprawl feels in step with The Book of the Dead, which historically was a varying, unofficial collection of texts rather than a stable, canonical book. In Ibeyi’s deft hands, tradition, like death, is a gateway to strange wonders.

Source: Pitchfork

V.C.R. - The Chronicles of a Caterpillar: The Egg

The Chronicles of a Caterpillar: The Egg

by V.C.R.

Released  29 April 2022

Leaving Records

****-

If you’re searching for some superbly crafted leftfield soul, for something that rocks to its own swivel-hipped idiosyncratic beat, blissfully unaware and uncaring of what anyone else is up to, then V.C.R. could be just what you’re after.

Veronica Camille Ratliff is an LA-based musician, singer and writer, whose debut album sits perfectly ensconced as a living, breathing work of soulart: it’s full of flavour, of creativity on its own terms, of a joie de vivre that shines through each and every track.

It’s fantastical, phantasmagorical: a rendering of experience that updates William Blake via the Brand Nubians – coming up in the process with a sure-fire party-starter for those who like to engage their brains as well as their feet. It’s a damn fine first outing, make no mistake. No doubt.
Spoken word interludes anchor the album: ‘we need to make a deep incision’, we’re told on opener, Reset, as we gather our thoughts and get ready for the journey. Lothlorien is a teetering, tweetering bass-blown forensic examination of the V.C.R. psyche: knocked down, blocked down but unwilling to play dead – the sound of redemption, of art as saviour. Powerful, perfectly formed: beautiful.
Minnie Lives is a key track here: atmospheric as hell, strings backing the vocal soundbeds, warm and inviting – reaching for the stars. ‘Many lives I live with you my love…’ runs the refrain. The multiplicity of life and love echoed back to us – there’s no easy reductionism here – V.C.R. contains multitudes. A pean to a lost love, heartache reconfigured as creativity. It`s one of the best tracks that you’ll hear this year. Collapsing finally into the darkness, ‘come closer please…close to me.’ The lord is my shepherd indeed.
TRiP bounces straight back up from the depths: ‘reality’s leaving I’m flying I’m flying away’ – a shot of pure joy unconfined as the earth falls away and the spirit flies free. This is what music can do, this is what love sounds like: ‘it feels so unreal…got me floating’, as V.C.R. hymns the heavenly harmony of spiritual union. It`s another absolute banger for sure.
Imagine a world where all albums presented us with such deep delights: where music is felt as deeply as the mythical first kiss, where art is given the reverence it deserves, where hatred and bigotry no longer roam.

Everyday (Sunshine) drops the beats for just such confirmation: V.C.R. is calling to the lovers and side-lining the fighters: if you love music, if you long for a world free of the shit we are constantly force-fed, if you stand with the angels, well, The Chronicles of a Caterpillar is going to be ticking all your boxes.

This is simply an exceptional offering from an artist clearly destined for something BIG: get in at the start and enjoy the ride – there’s wisdom and wit in these grooves. V.C.R. got it going on. Wonderful, way out, and way back in again: a future classic right here, right now.

Source: Ban Ban Ton Ton

Allysha Joy - Torn: Tonic

Torn: Tonic

by Allysha Joy

Released 13 May 2022

First World Records

****-

Delivered unfiltered, straight from the soul, 'Torn : Tonic' pulls us into a 10 track journey that weaves through the multiplicity of letting go, standing tall, and creating space all at once. The album's expansive and vivid exploration of healing examines the power that comes with accepting the complexity of change. Allysha walks listeners through the remedy she finds in sound and emerges empowered to share this healing with others. Deeply moving and lyrically compelling, 'Torn : Tonic' hosts a stellar line-up of artists, creating a world of collective power, growth, and hope. Allysha Joy is an integral member of the vibrant Melbourne soul & jazz scene, well known for both her solo work and as lead vocalist for 30/70. A uniquely-talented soul, her husky voice, and formidable Fender Rhodes prowess have garnered attentive audiences around the world. Her 2018 debut album 'Acadie : Raw' was named 'Best Soul Album' at the Music Victoria Awards, featured in Bandcamp's 'Top Soul Albums' of the year and received a nomination for 'Best Jazz Album' at the Worldwide Awards. An incredibly prolific artist, Allysha has released on labels; Rhythm Section, Gondwana, Future Classic, Total Refreshment Centre and now another drop for First Word, after her acclaimed 2020 EP, 'Light It Again'. Allysha's production on 'Torn : Tonic' effortlessly arches across a sonic palette, comprised of shuffling broken grooves and exquisite celestial melodies. There are healthy swathes of skippy neo-soul boom bap sensibilities, entwined with stark swing-laden electronic percussion, Detroit-esque sun-saturated synths, and Antipodean bruk backbeats. And whilst this project was produced entirely by Joy herself, she is far from alone, inviting in an array of female and non-binary artists to bless assorted tracks with their own unique gifts. Ego Ella May, BINA, Rara Zulu, Belle Bangard and Dancing Water all appear, expanding upon the formulaic roles of featured artists to share the creative space as equal collaborators. 'Torn : Tonic' exudes vibes, from the opening whiplash snare of 'Peace, to the rolling jazz-bruk of lead single 'Let It!', to the sweet soulful sonics of 'Still Dreaming', to the closing triumphant shout of 'All Joy!!' on 'G.N.D.', this is a 40-minute opus that will definitely require repeat listening.

Allysha's poetic introspection reveals the album's intention to demand space, purpose, and pleasure. Her words are deliberate and direct to the alarm bells and messages her artistic vision carries. Fluid, cross-genre, and spirited with generational stories embodied, 'Torn : Tonic' sits at the intersection of a feminist manifesto of Joy's momentous leap as an artist, and her exploration of what it means to be human in today's capitalist-driven world. In Allysha's words, 'Torn : Tonic' is exactly as the name describes. 'It is looking directly into the shadow of pain and overcoming it with joy. No love songs! Just social, political, emotional anthems for change! It is the first record I have produced entirely on my own and it feels like that perseverance that I have consistently had to conjure up is embedded in this music, overcoming my own conditioning in a society and industry that constantly tells me I can't, so I must!'

Source: Vinyl Squeeze

Jean Carn, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammed - JID 012 Jazz Is Dead 012 Jean Carn

Jean Carne JID012 Jazz Is Dead

by Jean Carne, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammed

Released 27 May 2022

Jazz Is Dead

****-

Series one of Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad's Jazz Is Dead concept extended seven albums of original material recorded with elder mavericks across the fields of jazz, R&B, and MPB. Younge and Muhammad continue by launching series two with Jean Carne, who in the early '70s made prized soul-jazz LPs with then-husband and JID005 featured musician Doug Carn before she diversified as a top-flight session vocalist and Philadelphia International solo R&B artist. (Coincidentally, she often crossed paths with JID006 co-leader Gary Bartz and occasionally worked with JID002 guest Roy Ayers.) JID012 is Carne's first album of original material in decades. She co-wrote all seven songs. Younge and Muhammad customarily write and produce with the latter on electric bass and the former on almost everything but the drums, supplied this time in driving style with great intricacy and minimal flash by Mekala Session (director of the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, the cross-generational ensemble founded by Horace Tapscott). Those familiar with other Jazz Is Dead volumes won't be surprised by the all-analog, late-'60s/early-'70s foundation laid by the hosts, still generating muscular grooves that twist into unpredictable shapes and emanate a broad spectrum of colors from Younge's battery of keyboards (Hammond B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet, Mellotron, monophonic synthesizers). In fact, opener "Come as You Are" is as tough as anything from the first series. It's introduced by a rumbling Muhammad bassline that repeatedly pauses but doesn't slacken when it returns, and Younge's alto sax interjections add a touch of menace. Carne brings the light, making like a flute as she scats before her sweetly welcoming recitation of the title. The other pieces likewise play out like an imagined Carne solo date circa 1974 or so, when the singer was gracing albums like Norman Connors' Slewfoot and Azar Lawrence's Bridge Into the New Age. Granted, her voice is tangier now, more ringing, gliding more often than swooping and ascending, yet the off-the-cuff quality of the vocals, along with the lyrics -- the song titles are indicative -- evoke the period as much as the playing and recording methodology. Carne could use a little more space to do her thing; Younge, Muhammad, and company are nothing if not active. Even so, this is a treat for any Carne fan, especially those who have longed for the singer to make an album of all-new songs with a fixed crew.

Source: AllMusic

Trombone Shorty - Lifted

Lifted

by Trombone Shorty

Released 29 April 2022

Blue Note

****-

Possibly the most relevant question to ask about Lifted, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews' second Blue Note album is "Are you ready to dance?" "You'd better be" is the only acceptable answer. Despite a shelf full of booty-shaking NOLA jazz-funk releases that draw on many branches of the modern musical tree, Lifted most closely resembles the unbridled energy, joy, and pathos of a Trombone Shorty performance. In the cover photo, his late mom, Lois Nelson Andrews, lifts her young son during a second line parade. She seemingly knows what he will accomplish. Andrews dedicated this album to her memory. Recorded at his Buckjump Studio with producer Chris Seefried, this is Trombone Shorty surrounded by longtime friends, collaborators, and the reality of everyday life in the Treme district that birthed and nurtured him.

Album opener "Come Back" offers a syncopated snare wed to a modern gospel brass vamp framing a deep funk-soul that joins honesty, love, loss, and perseverance into an anthem of possibility influenced by Allen Toussaint, Sly Stone, and Curtis Mayfield. Its reverbed chorus vocal, B-3 organ, and ticking drum kit render a mighty groove quotient. "Lie to Me" juxtaposes an Afro-Cubano choral chant with cracking snares and a nasty drop-funk bassline. Andrews leads the horn section playing trumpet and trombone alongside saxophones; the band blends NOLA funk and Caribbean son. "I'm Standing Here" hosts blues-rock guitar ace Gary Clark, Jr. as a guest. His Hendrixian "Manic Depression" vamp undergirds a hard-swinging horn section and vocals chorus as Clark engages in a sky-scorching duo with Andrews. On the gospelized funk of "What It Takes," he duets with award-winning Christian singer Lauren Daigle -- an artist who knows exactly what trial by fire means: She was vilified by her evangelical community after refusing to condemn LGBT+ people. New Breed Brass Band joins on the anthemic "Everybody in the World," infusing second line with hip-hop, funk, and jazz harmony as Shorty testifies with a female backing chorus. Freaky Pete Murano's overdriven electric guitar owns the riff in the title track before the horn section revs up to meet him. The low-down funk in the verse frames the singers, who wrap themselves in the positive lyric message. "Forgiveness" weds breezy soul to modern gospel with glorious vocals, strings, and organ under a rock combo, as Andrews helms the horns. "Might Not Make It Home" draws on the influences of Stevie Wonder and George Clinton's P-Funk with knotty, syncopated horns and Brandon Butler's synth bass. Seefried's production on Lifted is polished, but there isn't anything extra -- it's all New Orleans. While the song lyrics often reveal poignancy and harshness in everyday life, the music made by Trombone Shorty and company is joyous, celebratory, and filled with affirmation, commitment, and infectiously compulsive dance beats.

Source: AllMusic

Kevin Morby  This Is A Photograph

This Is A Photograph

by Kevin Morby

Released 13 May 2022

Dead Oceans

****-

Singer/songwriter Kevin Morby's output has been varied but consistent since he broke camp from his earlier bands Woods and Babies and started making metered, contemplative solo work. Over a quick succession of albums, Morby's songs took notes from rootsy rock icons like Cohen, Dylan, Springsteen, and Young, expanding on their templates with his own lyrical perspectives and a distinctive approach that resulted in a mysterious, slinky brand of songwriting. Seventh album This Is a Photograph sees Morby taking significant steps forward with his craft, both in terms of the album's considered production and the deep soul searching qualities of the songs themselves. The album was set in motion after Morby's father experienced a medical emergency, which led Morby into a phase of intense reflection on family, aging, mortality, and the cruel inevitabilities of time. Morby traveled to Memphis, Tennessee after his father recovered, holing up in the historic Peabody Hotel and writing the songs that would become This Is a Photograph. The music becomes a strange synthesis of Morby's heavy personal reflections and the gritty charm he soaked up from his time in Memphis. The titular opening track is one of his most clearly rendered lyrical statements to date, straightforwardly narrating the feeling of looking at photos of his parents in their youth, strong and ready to take on the world, and contrasting the feelings those images give him with the present reality of their health beginning to fade as they age. The song is built around a circular riff with a twangy funk to it, and it builds from acoustic guitars to driving drums, horns, and backup singers. The melancholic rumination on a lost loved one "Bittersweet, TN" dials the energy down a bit, with banjo plucks and gentle guest vocals from Nashville indie folk singer Erin Rae. It's one of several songs that employs elaborate string arrangements, elevating the tune from Morby's usual strong songcraft into something both more ethereal and more expressive of the song's complex emotions. Strings add not just to the gentler songs, but to the soul-tinged stroll of "Five Easy Pieces" and the intricately arranged "Stop Before I Cry." Morby uses the songs mostly as restrained backgrounds for his poetic reflections from his soul journey, but throws in a few rockers for good measure. "A Random Act of Kindness" slowly gains steam in the same way so many War on Drugs songs do, and "Rock Bottom" cuts straight to the chase with distorted guitars, cowbell, and howls of abandon. Morby reveals his fears, joys, and hopes with these songs in a way more direct and on the surface than any of his other albums. This heightened vulnerability, in conjunction with some of his most involved and best-sounding arrangements, make This Is a Photograph one of the best chapters in an already impressive catalog; one that finds a new artistic depth as it faces some of life's eternal concerns.

Source: AllMusic

Arcade Fire - WE

WE

by Arcade Fire

Released 6 May 2022

Arcade Fire Music

****-

After the slight stumble of 2017's Everything Now, Canadian indie rock heroes Arcade Fire re-center themselves on their sixth album, WE. Produced by Nigel Godrich, Win Butler, and Régine Chassagne, the pensive set captures the whirlwind of emotions felt during the first years of the pandemic -- and not just because of COVID-19 itself, but also from the drastic social shifts and interpersonal adaptations made across the globe -- and soundtracks that melodrama with a tightly sequenced journey that plucks from every era in the band's catalog. Timely and relevant, WE works best when experienced in a single sitting. Split into two parts, Side "I" comprises the two-part "Age of Anxiety" and the four-part "End of the Empire" suite, picking up steam for Side "WE" and "The Lightning I, II," "Unconditional" parts one and two, and the title track finale. The thematic split creates a thoughtful progression from the isolated and fearful first-person singular to the warmer, hopeful plurality of the second half, slowly unfolding from the persistent synths and dystopian feel of the aptly titled "Age of Anxiety I" and "Age of Anxiety II (Rabbit Hole)" into the nearly ten-minute epic "End of the Empire I-IV." Essentially four songs for the price of one, this climactic centerpiece is the turning point where fear and loneliness give way to personal rediscovery, togetherness, and setting our sights on what matters. As the piano-driven, "Imagine"-echoing dirge "Last Dance" bids farewell to American global dominance, the energy builds with the sax-punctuated, Queen-esque "Last Round" and the sweeping beauty of the string-backed "Leave the Light On," wherein Butler laments, "We've got one life and half of it's gone." Finishing with "Sagittarius A*" (the name of a supermassive black hole), he contemplates modern life and technology, pulling listeners into the now with references to social media, streaming services, and clothes that don't fit anymore.

The emotional catharsis and thought-processing of the first half is a necessary exercise that forges a deeper connection with each successive listen, but when Arcade Fire finally lock in on "The Lightning I, II," it's off to the races for longtime fans starved for the urgent, band-driven sound found on Funeral and Neon Bible, especially on the gloriously rousing latter portion of the track. The patient "Unconditional I (Lookout Kid)," a touching lullaby to Butler and Chassagne's son, is another earnest highlight that forgoes the production tricks and sheen that defined much of the group's sound in the 2010s, returning them to a pure and nostalgic time when they were just a young band from Montreal. Meanwhile, "Unconditional II (Race and Religion)" places Chassagne at the fore, backed by the neon synths and island percussion of Reflektor and a surprise appearance by Peter Gabriel. While not as immediately accessible as the all-star run of their first three albums, WE will at least be a course-corrector for fans still alienated by Everything Now and the underrated Reflektor, a satisfying journey that realigns the band's heart and soul.

Source: AllMusic

E Soul Cultura Various Artists - Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura

Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura

by Luke Una / E Soul Cultura Various Artists

Released 6 May 2022

Mr Bongo

*****

With some of the best DJs and selectors there is a certain mysterious sound or underlying feeling which unites the music they play, regardless of genre, year or tempo. Luke Una is a master of telling a story through music and this compilation is a perfect example of his musical alchemy in action. Featuring tracks from Yusef Lateef, Airto Moreira, Crooked Man, Henri Texier and many more, it is a collection of new, old, rare and under-discovered music from around the world, all united by Luke under the banner of “E-Soul Cultura”.
It’s best described by Luke himself, who writes: “As the 5AM city sleeps and the strobe lights are slowly turned off, we gather on the wrong side of town in a transcendental journey alone together. We are the late night disenfranchised holding on in various after parties, flats, lofts, random kitchens and basements into the outer cosmos with É Soul Cultura. Music from exotic tear jerkers, Afro-spiritual jazz, cosmic Brazilian celestial grooves, machine street soul, dark horses, lost B-sides, £1 bargain-bin bombs, hidden gems, late night Italo dubbing, deep velvet N.Y.C garage, bass buggin sonic futurism, wrong speed 33BPM pitched up +8 new beat, majestic sunset strings, sweet vocals from heaven, no half steppin jazz dancing in outer-space and odd numbers. Yes… magical moments, together, holding on in witness protection suburban cul-de-sacs and Castle Court flats. Cosmic É high, 3000ft above the city getting evangelical to murky, wonky timeless beautiful music. This thing of ours dreaming of better days. Fail we may, sail we must, the sun will come up again.”
Beginning his career as an original Sheffield house young blood in the mid 1980s, Luke’s move to Manchester and partnership with Justin Crawford saw the birth of Electric Chair, a cornerstone cult night in the UK underground club scene, and later Electric Elephant, a Croatian festival paying homage to their wild eclecticism from Balearic to Brazilian to E soul, house, disco and techno. Luke’s much loved, long running Homoelectric night and more recently Homobloc sell out festival for 10,000 souls has been at the forefront of Manchester’s LGBTQ cultural landscape.
Luke’s Friday evening show on Worldwide FM has captured imaginations and has already become a cult four hour must-listen monthly journey with fans all over the world. Today Luke remains, as ever, at the forefront of a changing scene, pairing the momentous legacy of Manchester’s 80s and 90s scene with the delivery of what today’s club communities need to get down. 

Source: Bandcamp

Brasil Novo Various Artists - Brasil Novo

Brasil Novo

by Musica Macondo Various Artists

Released 13 May 2022

Musica Macondo Records

*****

Musica Macondo unearths eight contemporary Brazilian tracks on compilation Brasil Novo, disseminating the rich and percussive heritage of Brazil and Samba De Coco.

Selected by DJs Tahira (Sao Paulo) and Tim Garcia (London), the diversity and positivity of Brazil shines, featuring elements of samba, candomble, batuques, jazz, folk and beyond, designed with the esoteric dancefloor in mind.

Musica Macondo place their focus on contemporary Brazilian and African diaspora on Brasil Novo, an eight track compilation of discovery, snare and tamborim heavy, showcasing both celebrated and unfamiliar artists south of the equator from the cities of Recife, Rio De Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

With the aim of presenting and thus preserving these moments in music - some tracks like Dona Celia's O Bar and Toró Instrumental's Dunas never been released before - DJs and co-curators Tahira (Sao Paulo) and Tim Garcia (London) dig deep into the troves, avoiding mainstream Brazilian popular music cliches, and also giving a sense of what fuels their dancefloors and radio sets. It was their joint passion for record collecting, Djing and 'the dance' which not surprisingly, brought these two leading figures within their respective scenes and cities together. The selection also includes tracks by Grupo Bongar, Renata Rosa and women's Afro Bloco, Ilú Obá De Min.

DJ Tahira is a massive Brazilian music fan and has been on a research journey for a number of years, dedicated to the preservation and archiving of music made or influenced by black and indigenous Brazilians. Based out of Sao Paulo he has a particular interest in the history of Samba de Coco, a folkloric musical form that was very popular in, (and probably originated from), the north east of Brazil, by slaves and indiginous people from working class backgrounds who came together, making a rhythmical mesh of sounds dating back hundreds of years and allowing them to carve a unique cultural identity.

Ignored or disregarded as inferior by Brazil's recording industry, there are few existing original recordings of this music from the twentieth century, relying instead on oral tradition and carnivals like those in Recife or Pernambuco. In recent times there has been a flux of contemporary proponents who mix Samba de Coco with other contemporary Brazilian musical forms. Brasil Novo features both the roots, and more divergent fusions.
In the current cultural impasse that Brazil is experiencing, with artists and musicians experiencing the withdrawal of funding and services and with concerts and clubs yet to get back to pre-pandemic levels, it's never been so important to give visibility to contemporary creativity. This compilation not only gives a needy international platform to new artists, it enables an archive of Afro Brazilian culture that in some cases is disappearing. It’s also a fine example of resistance and positivity, against the odds. 
 

Source: Bandcamp

Amancio D'Silva - Sapana

Sapana

by Amancio D'Silva

Released 22 April 2022 (1983 recording)

The Roundtable

*****

It is widely accepted that the recorded musical output of Indian-born British guitarist Amancio D’Silva came to a premature closure with the landmark 1972 albums, Cosmic Eye and the unreleased masterpiece Konkan Dance. The Roundtable are here to prove otherwise, announcing the discovery of an extraordinary lost recording. Forty years after it was recorded we proudly present Sapana, the forgotten piece of a remarkable musical legacy, the final recording from one the most singular artists to emerge from the British Jazz scene of the 1960s/70s.

Recorded in 1983 and released here for the first time, Sapana is thematically akin to Cosmic Eye, a further musical impressions of the subconscious (Dream Sequences), vividly imagined with traditional Hindustani and western improvisation. A spellbinding fusion of Indian raga and New-Age jazz.

Celebrated as a pioneer of the ‘Indo-Jazz’ movement of the 1960s, D’Silva’s adventurous synthesis of modal jazz and Indian classical music defined the seminal 1969 Lansdowne jazz recordings Hum Dono and Integration. Here we find D’Silva fifteen years later, removed from the jazz scene and musically in place of deep introspection and meditative tranquility. The recording features Sitarist Clem Alford, a collaborator from the Konkan Dance sessions plus renowned Tabla player, Jhalib Millar and Saxophonist/Flautist Lyn Dobson, a musician who had previously worked with Soft Machine, Third Ear Band, and Henry Lowther. Together the quartet construct a deeply evocative set transcending the realm of both jazz and Indian music.
 

Source: Bandcamp

Shabaka - Afrikan Culture

Afrikan Culture (EP)

by Shabaka

Released 20 May 2022

Verve

*****

Whereas Shabaka (Shabaka Hutchings) has been called the “young forefather” and the “figurehead” of a whole generation of young British jazz musicians, it is only now he has released a record in his own name rather than under a guise such as Sons of Kemet, which he leads and for which he composes. Afrikan Culture is a solo record on which Shabaka plays all the instruments and has composed all the songs. Shabaka’s only collaborator is the producer and mix engineer Dilip Harris who has worked with him many times before and has facilitated the multi-layering of the relatively unconventional acoustic instruments Shabaka plays.
The overall sound of Afrikan Culture is a substantial departure from that of his other projects although it is still recognisable as a Shabaka recording. The title of the first track, Black meditation, more or less encapsulates the objective of the entire record, which is to provide the perfect accompaniment to meditation. Afrikan Culture belongs to the trend in the last year or so – perhaps as a result of the Covid lockdown – where jazz and improvising musicians have released records of a generally meditative, perhaps even ambient, nature. These include Park Jiha’s The Gleam, Nala Sinephro’s Space 1.8 and, of course, Promises by Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders.

The selection of instruments that Shabaka plays on this album is fascinating. In addition to African instruments such as the kora and the mbira are the music box and the shakuhachi. The music box is a kind of clockwork synthesiser that uses a set of pins placed on a revolving cylinder or disc to pluck the tuned teeth of a steel comb. Its origins can be traced back to to the 18th century and arguably earlier. The shakuhachi is a Japanese flute made from bamboo that has a beautiful timbre and is probably the nearest there is to a lead instrument on this album. The shakuhachi is often multitracked over itself to create a gorgeously ethereal sound.

The record is a complete piece of work whose music differs markedly from the percussive sounds of Sons of Kemet and the heavy beats of The Comet is Coming, but at times aligns with the South African rhythms of Shabaka and the Ancestors. Such song titles as Black meditation, Ritual awakening, Explore inner space, The dimension of subtle awareness and Rebirth are more or less descriptive of the nature of each tune. It may be that Call it a European paradox is a reference to Western colonialism, curiously evoked by the harp-like sound of the kora, but this delightful tune could just as well be oriental and African as it is occidental. Ital is vital is a soothing song that celebrates the vegetarian food that arouses the life energy that Rastafarians believe exists within everyone. The most intriguing track on the album may well be the shimmering and jittering Memories don’t live like people do whose title suggests a thought-provoking perspective on personal and collective memory.

This eight-track record is just under 30 minutes in length, which is why it is described as an EP: too short to qualify as an album, too long to be classified as a single. However, it would be wrong to consider Afrikan Culture as nothing more than a curious detour in Shabaka’s musical career. It is clearly a significant achievement for Shabaka to make such a coherent and distinctive album by layering his own playing over and over again on itself.

This record is available as a digital only release on Universal’s Impulse! Records, the label most famous as the home of John Coltrane’s later recordings. There don’t appear to be any immediate plans for Shabaka to tour this music, but it would be fascinating were he to do so – if it is technically possible – as it is such a contrast to his otherwise more propulsive musical projects. This is music best listened to in a darkened room and in a horizontal position. And much recommended for precisely that reason

Source: London Jazz News

Oded Tzur - Isabela

Isabela

by Oded Tzur

Released 13 May 2022

ECM

****-

On his second release for ECM New York-based saxophonist Oded Tzur introduces a heightened sense of urgency and a conceptually augmented approach to his distinctive voice, weaving one underlying musical idea through a series of elaborate and impassioned designs. The quartet’s lineup is unchanged from 2020’s Here Be Dragons and the group’s interplay has grown even more expressive in the meantime. Throughout Isabela the saxophonist and his collaborators – pianist Nitai Hershkovits, Petros Klampanis on bass and rhythm conjurer Johnathan Blake – apply their subtle dialect in a more intense space, exploring the nuances and colors of Oded’s self-fashioned raga in a suite-like sequence of quiet meditations and powerful exclamations.

Downbeat has described Oded’s playing as “quietly fantastical and full of narrative feints” while outlining his tone as “light and sweet, with a whispered airiness”, and the saxophonist’s note-bending, microtonal technique, inspired by Indian classical instruments and touching the “barely audible”, is again at the heart of his voice and the melodies that protrude on Isabela.

The raga that pervades the album from start to finish is introduced in the opening act “Invocation”, which works like a Chalan in Indian classical music – the skeleton of a Raga that outlines the raga’s structure in the briefest possible way, much as a synopsis does a play. Oded and his quartet develop the concentrated musical matter of “Invocation” and transform it into new shapes and forms in expansive studies of temperament, shifting from pensive introspection in one moment to outgoing and free-wheeling improvisation in the next. “It took me a while to develop the courage to also explore the other extreme, see what happens when you follow the explosion at the other end of the dynamic spectrum. For this album I finally felt comfortable to explore the totality of the dynamic range, the silence but also the eruptions, the bright colours.”
Neither the silence nor the bright colours that immerse the album in manifold shades could emerge without the distinctive contributions from Oded’s fellow travellers and the group’s performance is highlighted by the crystalline acoustics of the Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI in Lugano, where the album was recorded in September 2021.

Source: ECM

Gordon Li - A View From The Bungalow

A View From The Bungalow (EP)

by Gordon Li

Released 27 May 2022

Music Company Records

****-

Utilising frozen signals, granular synthesis, field recordings and a largely improvisational approach on various instruments in order to create vast, shifting soundscapes, A View From the Bungalow offers a slowly unfurling, meditative reflection on a year thrown into turmoil and forced into stand still. Each part of this suite is inspired by finding the fleeting moments of escape and beauty from an unending cloud of uncertainty. From a bungalow in Thornbury, to the rugged coastal expanse of Urquhart's Bluff, through to the brief respite offered by Darebin Parklands.

Improvisation and composition dance around each other cyclically as this album is played out. The tactile and haptic sensations of the bow drawn across the strings of the double bass are echoed by the synthesis of captured sounds - both acoustic and electric - and signal processing; new life is breathed into these various instruments as the ability to swell and grow past the point of decay is introduced. All underpinned by the ubiquitous found sounds of the great Australian landscape.

This album was written and recorded on the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nation. We pay respects to their elders, past and present.
 

Source: Bandcamp

John Scofield - John Scofield

John Scofield

by John Scofield

Released 6 May 2022

ECM

****-

With a career spanning over half a century, marked by influential collaborations with jazz greats like Miles Davis and Joe Henderson as well as several dozen genre-bending leader dates, it’s all the more striking that this is in fact John Scofield’s first ever guitar-solo recording. The long wait, however, pays off, as John is able to benefit from his decades of experience and charts an intimate path through the styles and idioms he has traversed up until today. He is not entirely all on his own on this endeavour though: the guitarist enters into dialogues with himself, soloing to his own tasteful chordal and rhythmic accompaniment via loop machine.

John Scofield’s first guitar-solo-recording ever gives a résumé of all the influences and idioms he has cultivated over his career in performances on guitar, accompanied by his own rhythmic pulse and chordal backing using a loop machine. Besides jazz, John is known to have always also had a soft spot for the rock and roll and country music he grew up with, revealed here in unencumbered renditions of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Hank Williams’ “You Win Again”. Between elegant and personal readings of standards, like “It Could Happen To You”, the traditional “Danny Boy” and Keith Jarret’s “Coral”, Scofield presents his own timeless compositions – some new, others known. For the guitarist, it’s all about “the way you get the sound out of the string and what you do with it after you attack it.”

Source: ECM

Gui Duvignau - Baden

Baden

by Gui Duvignau

Released 13 May 2022

Interscope/pgLang

*****

Gui Duvignau is a French-Brazilian bass player and composer. His multi-cultural background has led to a life of traveling and musical exploration.
A jazz musician in essence, he also draws inspiration from his experiences performing Rock, Brazilian, and ‘World’ music, as well as his studies in classical contemporary music. His ability to combine elements of jazz, classical, and Brazilian folkloric music into his own singular genre that was spoken only on his nylon string, acoustic guitar has maintained his quiet legend status throughout the world.

Born in France, but raised in Brazil, Duvignau was drawn to the music of Baden Powell through his Brazilian guitarist friends, who all considered Powell a fundamental figure in the worlds of Brazilian music and acoustic guitar. During his own guitar study, Duvignau asked friends for pointers and they continually referred him to Powell’s techniques. Further exploration of Powell’s repertoire led the bassist to the revelations provided by the fantastic music of the guitarist.

Baden, uses Powell’s beloved songs as a foundation for explorative interpretations and improvisations from Duvignau’s fantastic ensemble, along with two highly esteemed guests, Ron Carter and Bill Frisell.

As a well-studied musician, Duvignau was astounded by Powell’s classical-honed technique and ability to communicate across genres. The guitarist’s music was a breath of fresh air and there was a sense of the spiritual in everything that Powell played, including the many interpretations he made of religious music of Brazil’s African-derived religions, like Candomblé and Umbanda. The guitarist was unique as he looked more toward the influences of samba rather than the bossa nova style that was popular at the time.

Duvignau felt that the best way to pay tribute to Powell was to play his music as openly as possible; not try to make a recording that was a Brazilian jazz record. Thus, Duvignau pointed this out to the musicians that he wanted to play with as he knew they could take the music anywhere. He welcomed back two mentors and friends who had appeared on his previous recording, 3, 5, 8, woodwind master Billy Drewes and drummer Jeff Hirshfield. Duvignau also recruited fellow Berklee alum, pianist Lawrence Fields, a great bandmate and consummate professional.

To make the project even more special, Duvignau invited his mentor Ron Carter to participate on a track. The bassist also recruited the great guitarist Bill Frisell to add his brilliant tones to a number of the pieces.

Source: Bandcamp

Cameron Undy - Ghost Frequency

Ghost Frequency

by Cameron Undy

Released 4 March 2022

Earshift Music

****-

Widely known with a deep love of funk, afro-beat, avant-garde jazz and 20th century Classical music, Sydney artist Cameron Undy has performed as bassist on countless albums and released two albums with his afro-funk-jazz cult band 20th Century Dog, Bone and Mad Stream and in 2021, released a self-produced beats album, Blood Shot (Earshift Music).

Undy is also known as co-owner of the former Sydney club Venue 505 and Acoustic Ritual.

Ghost Frequency is Cameron Undy’s solo guitar album showcasing his fascination with ancient rhythms of the African diaspora, what he refers to as “ghostly artefacts”.

The music’s apparent simplicity hides the inner geometric workings by this deep thinking artist. Ghost Frequency is a major work that sheds new light on Undy’s musical vision with 11 original compositions that present an exquisite and original musical statement.

From the artist:
The Ghost Frequency project is born from my fascination with ancient rhythms of the African diaspora. The idea that these rhythms evolved over thousands of years through human dance, ceremony and ritual is such a powerful one. That the vast majority of this evolution has gone unrecorded and never to be heard again, yet enriches such a wide variety of contemporary music is somewhat mind-blowing!

These rhythms are like ghostly artefacts, that when I ‘pick them up’ and ‘play’ them I can never be totally certain that I am ‘seeing’ them for what they are/were. And yet these distant relics of aeons past fill me with inspiration and imagining, of an everlasting connection with ancient civilisations. Like looking at the light from a star that burnt out millions of years ago they are as real and present as a footprint in the sand from a morning walk yet the sources of each are intangible in the present.

If you go looking for specific African rhythms in my music you may struggle because what I am playing are reflections, shadows and stellations of these ‘ghosts’. Rhythms I have created using natural sequence and generative, rule based principles of analog transformation. They are geometric distortions of the original archetypes, allowing me to enter ‘other places’ in my mind and body previously unknown. I am very grateful to African ritual culture and to Western scientific thinking for the paths made available to me to reach this ‘place’.

Source: Bandcamp

Sam Gendel, Antonia Cytrynowicz - Live A Little

Live A Little

by Sam Genden and Antonia Cytrynowicz

Released 13 May 2022

Psychic Hotline

****-

Sam Gendel and Antonia Cytrynowicz didn’t set out to make a record – it just happened. LIVE A LITTLE, a collection of songs resulting from one late summer afternoon in Gendel’s Los Angeles home, is less an album and more a moment. The ten tracks here were recorded mostly in one sitting, fully improvised, in the order in which they appear. It was the first and last time the songs have been played – a snapshot of an idea, an artifact of inspiration, at once both a beginning and an end.

At the time of recording, Cytrynowicz was only eleven years old. The younger sister of Gendel’s significant other and creative partner Marcella, Cytrynowicz is an artist in her own way. She has no formal musical training, but is the product of a creative family and is someone who makes art the way many kids do – in the purest way, simply because they are moved to. On LIVE A LITTLE, she spontaneously crafted all the melodies and lyrics on the spot as Gendel played alongside her. Cytrynowicz’s musicality is sophisticated, strange, and other-worldly, and the resulting record is experimental jazz colliding with some sort of fantasy universe.

Because of that, LIVE A LITTLE is a stand-out amidst Gendel’s extensive and varied catalog. Over the years, the multi-instrumentalist has been known for his prolific musical output as both a sought-after collaborator and as a solo artist.

LIVE A LITTLE, though, exists on its own island. For one, the majority of Gendel’s work under his own name skews instrumental, but here the playfulness of his saxophone and nylon-string guitar work alongside the twinkle of Cytrynowicz’s voice. It’s the sound of unapologetic imagination running amok – and really, more than anything, the sound of having fun.

Cytrynowicz is the ideal collaborator for Gendel, who throughout his career has remained largely unconcerned with the pageantry and presentation of the music business, instead focused solely on the music-making itself. Here, he found the purest sort of writing partner – he admires Cytrynowicz’ “supreme openness,” explaining: “Whatever is happening, she’s there with you. We really meet right where we are. She’s all ears, I’m all ears. I don’t even know how to explain what it is. It just works out somehow.”

LIVE A LITTLE is a series of “what ifs” cascading into one another, off-kilter and experimental, a kaleidoscope of spontaneity and imagination. It’s a sweet distillation of the musical present, of daring to follow through on an impulse – what happens when a project is helmed by someone who doesn’t have time for second thoughts or self-doubt. The moment is the thing, and LIVE A LITTLE just happens to capture it. 
 

Source: Bandcamp

Richard Thompson - Music From Grizzly Man

Music From Grizzly Man

by Richard Thompson

Released 6 May 2022 (2005 recording)

No Quarter Records

****-

Filmmaker Werner Herzog commissioned legendary guitarist Richard Thompson to compose and perform the musical score for his documentary Grizzly Man, about the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, a man who fled society to live among the grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness. In the manner of Thompson's previous film scores, the Grizzly Man album is longer on atmosphere than on songcraft; anyone expecting the British folk-derived melodies of Thompson's most familiar work will be disappointed, though if you love the expressive modalities of his electric guitar playing, there's plenty of them on display, and they conjure up the beautiful but dangerous surroundings of Treadwell's environment very well indeed.

Along with some lovely but subdued guitar-based pieces from Thompson, his periodic collaborator Henry Kaiser and Sonic Youth/Wilco interloper Jim O'Rourke sit in for a handful of harsher, atonal pieces that represent the more discordant and unforgiving aspects of life among the bears; fans of Thompson the folkie will probably be turned off by "Big Racket," "Bear Fight," and "Corona for Mr. Chocolate," but those who embraced the expressive angularity of the French-Frith-Kaiser-Thompson recordings will certainly want to hear this. In short, this isn't an essential Thompson release, but his more discerning fans will find it firmly possessed of the great man's magic, and it offers a trip down a few paths he doesn't often visit.

Source: AllMusic

Gerard Clayton - Bells On Sand

Bells On Sand

by Gerald Clayton

Released 1 April 2022

Blue Note

****-

Embracing his classical influences, pianist Gerald Clayton conjures a richly soulful and dreamlike atmosphere on his second Blue Note album, 2022's Bells on Sand. Even going as far back as his time in the 2000s with Roy Hargrove and then through his first few solo albums, Clayton has evinced a classical warmth in his playing. His measured style is marked by complex chordal harmonies, delicate arpeggiations, and a languid, poetic feeling that often evokes the work of Chick Corea. It's also a personal sound, informed by his musical roots with his father, esteemed bassist John Clayton, as well as his work with saxophonist Charles Lloyd -- both of whom appear here. He brings all of this to full flower on Bells on Sand, crafting songs that straddle the line between classical chamber music and flowing modal post-bop.

The record is technically his first studio outing for the label following his 2020 concert album Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard.

Where that release found him leading his adventurous quintet, here he offers spare duo and trio performances that are meant to reflect his past, present, and future as an artist. As such, he has brought together an intimate handful of collaborators, including his father, drummer Justin Brown, and Portuguese vocalist MARO. Also featured is Clayton's former boss and mentor, saxophonist Lloyd, with whom he has worked closely since 2013. There's a spiritual, imagistic quality to much of the album that has the feel of a '70s ECM recording. On the opening "Water's Edge," Clayton frames his father's mournful bowed bass lines with slow storm-cloud chords and the gathering rumble of Brown's drumming before trickling in a shimmering rainbow of organ.

Equally languid moments follow, as in Clayton's take on Catalan composer Federico Mompou's "Damunt de tu Només les Flors," a sleepy, tango-esque lullaby sung with romantic sadness by MARO. Particularly rapturous is "Peace Invocation," a shimmering noir daydream in which Clayton's warm piano bakes like late-afternoon sun against Lloyd's dusky tenor sax shadow.

Source: AllMusic

Sondre Lerche - Avatars Of Love

Avatars Of Love

by Sondre Lerche

Released 1 April 2022

PLZ

****-

Throughout his career, Sondre Lerche has never been afraid to take chances or defy expectations. Whether that meant releasing an album of jazz ballads, faithful synth pop, or jumpy new wave rockers, he's spent little time trying to harness his restless musical spirit and instead follows merrily wherever it may lead.

On 2022's Avatars of Love, Lerche pulls off the sneaky trick of both seeming to settle down musically while also shooting off in some surprising directions. As to the former, quite a few of the songs follow a similar template. "Guarantee That I'd Be Loved" leads the album off with some typically intimate lyrics, Lerche's just-above-a-whisper voice, and lush string arrangements -- written by former High Llama Sean O'Hagan -- that swoop and flutter like a weightless Greek chorus. It's a truly lovely approach, one that Lerche is adept at milking for every last drop of emotion.

It's not the only trick up his sleeve here, though. Whether it's the slick and snappy city pop-influenced "Summer in Reverse," which features vocals from CHAI, or the elongated bossa nova balladry of "My Love Still Waits," the Leonard Cohen-quoting, chamber pop confessional "Now She Sleeps Beside Me" or the avant-garde, Mary Lattimore-assisted "Magnitude of Love," it's clear that Lerche is open to trying all sort of styles in order to get the songs across.

He even drops in a couple of relatively uncomplicated tracks that have the feel of classic singles: the bouncy funk-pop "Special Needs, which he sings with Dirty Projectors' vocalist Felicia Douglass, and the uncluttered, highly sophisticated "Cut," a song one could imagine on a playlist between Scritti Politti and Prefab Sprout. These moments of simplicity are balanced by a couple of songs that run past the ten-minute mark and let Lerche spill his guts at length.

"Dead of the Night" is harrowing and almost too real, a duet for acoustic guitar and strings -- with cameos from doomy synths and falsetto -- that rolls along dramatically picking up feelings like a real-life version of Katamari Damacy.

"Avatars of Love" is altogether more playful; it sports a loping drum machine groove and a dynamic arrangement that goes from soft and sweet to rambling and loose, while Lerche free-associates song titles, singers, and memories on the way to sticking the landing with some real artistic grace.

Songs like this make it seem like he's turned all the genre hopping and left turns into a more organic approach that leads to surprises within a coherent framework of sound. To that end, it may be the most surprising record of his career. It's definitely one that demands repeat listening and deep dives into the lyrical content as well as the structure of both the songs and the album. While it's hard to look at a career as long and varied as Lerche's and call anything a definitive album, Avatars of Love comes about as close as one could expect.

Source: AllMusic

Bria Skonberg - Nothing Never Happens

Nothing Never Happens

by Bria Skonberg

Released 1 November 2019

Bria Skonberg

*****

In what can only be considered a wide, darker turn from her five previous recordings which swayed and swung in more traditional, pre-bop, jazz settings, award-winning trumpeter-vocalist-composer Bria Skonberg takes us through the dark night of her heart and the national soul on the fraught, yet impossible-not-to-listen-to Nothing Never Happens.

Swamped as we all are by the twenty-four-hour news cycle which brings the apocalypse to our very doorsteps, and the myriad emotions that all too often empower us or paralyze us, Skonberg urges—grittily, soulfully, with a shadowy, mid-career-Lucinda-Williams swagger and growling horn—to "get off the grid" in the insistent opening track, "Blackout." Pulled and pulsed by bassist Devin Starks and drummer Darrian Douglas, the track opens into light and plunges again into the shadows, with Skonberg's warm, edgy vocal leading the way. Now on the verge of utter frustration, Skonberg revisits the lighter tinged "So Is The Day," the title track from her 2012 release on Random Act Records, with a slow-burning, shattering vocal vengeance which rips your heart out while pianist Mathis Picard and guests Jon Cowherd on Hammond B3 and Doug Wamble on guitar clear the field with a rock and roll force for the lady to take one last plunging solo.

The utterly unique and unexpected "Blackbird Fantasy" crash melds Duke Ellington and his long time trumpeter Bubber Miley (whose influence is heard all over Skonberg's own distinctive instrumental voicing) 1927 composition "Black and Tan Fantasy" with Paul McCartney's perennial "Blackbird" for a performance which would be a highlight on any other recording, if not for the two tracks that preceded it. Just as Duke brought his many players to the fore, Skonberg does the same, taking the tune into bandstand territory with Picard, Cowherd and Douglas swinging away while she solos à la Miley. The wishful and ruminative "Square One" breaks the tension with dreamy guitar, and a lyric which includes "Day is over/Work is done/Hear the echoed praises sung/Still hanging on that bottom rung/Here I am at square one."

But wait, there is more. Fully aware she has your attention and is in full control, the jazz-rocking instrumental "Villain Vanguard" features alto saxophonist Patrick Bartley Jr blowing in breakneck tandem with Skonberg. In her current frame of mind, "Bang Bang"—originally a breezy, Sonny Bono-written solo hit single for Cher in 1966—becomes a tangle of male/female relationships and the dire violence which all too often results in bloodshed and politicians offering thoughts and prayers. The concluding track, Queen's playful "I Want to Break Free" from 1984, (known far and wide for its then genre/gender-smashing cross-dressing music video) offers up a full gleam of hope as the band power grooves throughout the track's exuberant seven minutes. Skonberg has been on track to break through in a big way for over a decade now and Nothing Never Happens is deservedly her moment.

Source: All About Jazz

The Black Keys - Dropout Boogie

Dropout Boogie

by The Black Keys

Released 13 May 2022

Nonesuch Records

****-

Dropout Boogie follows quickly on the heels of Delta Kream, the 2021 blues covers album by the Black Keys, which itself wasn't far removed from Let's Rock, the 2019 LP that announced their return to action after a half-decade hiatus. Such a flurry of activity is not uncommon for either member of the duo, whether together or apart, yet it does suggest guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney have revived the spark that waned somewhere in the mid-2010s. Certainly, Dropout Boogie feels open and lively in a way the Black Keys haven't in a while. Maintaining the lean, efficient contours of Let's Rock -- once again, nearly all of the songs clock in well under four minutes -- the Black Keys jam a bunch of sounds and ideas into these tight spaces, finding fresh spins on their blues boogie, throwback soul, retro-pop, and arena psychedelia.

The band also have found space for a number of collaborations, too, inviting ZZ Top's Billy F. Gibbons to lend his signature snarl on "Good Love" and enlisting Greg Cartwright of Reigning Sound and Angelo Petraglia of Kings of Leon to round out "Wild Child." Ironically, "Wild Child" is one of the few songs that feels relatively self-contained on Dropout Boogie, as if they were consciously channeling the spirit of "Lonely Boy."

Elsewhere, the Black Keys have figured out ways to open up their trademarks, such as when the Delta shuffle of "For the Love of Money" gives way to swirling vocal harmonies, or how "Baby I'm Coming Home" flips a nod to the Allman Brothers Band's "Midnight Rider" into AOR territory, or how the mellow groove on "How Long" gets accentuated by gently psychedelic flair. As the record swiftly spins through these production and melodic hooks, it gives the impression of a jukebox filled with a bunch of excavated gems, and that's not a bad comfort zone for the Black Keys at all.

Source: AllMusic

Luke Steele - Listen To The Water

Listen To The Water

by Luke Steele

Released 13 May 2022

The Sleepy Jackson

****-

Luke Steele is not prone to restraint: his cult-psych-rockers The Sleepy Jackson and flamboyant EDM-conquering electro-poppers Empire Of The Sun were, musically and conceptually, very much of the more-is-more persuasion.

But on his debut solo album, Steele is embracing bucolic domesticity – he recently moved his family to a remote Californian ranch – in search of something more grounded.

He wears restraint well. These melodic songs, seeded from folk and country, are among the loveliest of his career (particularly Gladiator).

But he can’t help but tinker: it’s easy to hear the earwormy Two Of Us as an EOTS song that’s been reined in; Get Out Now is a lighters-in-the-air synth-pop ballad par excellence.

By the closing quarter, as on My Boy, he often resembles something close to Hot Chip covering a Radiohead ballad.

A low-key triumph

Source: Record Collector

ThornBird - ThornBird

ThornBird

by ThornBird (Vikki Thorn)

Released 11 March 2022

Vikki Thorn

****-

Vikki Thorn has been making music a long time. If you're a fan of her band The Waifs, you'll love her debut solo album ThornBird. But this is not a Waifs record.

As ThornBird, she doesn't stray too far from the music that's made her one of the country's most celebrated artists. Performing under this new solo nom de plume does somewhat sever expectations though, allowing Thorn more freedom to explore genres and moods.

After all, there's a lot more to her than the band she formed with her mates 30 years ago. The Waifs don't define her personally, and with this new record, they won't define her musically either.

"I wanted to make an album that has its own sway and swagger, untethered from a musical past that was defined by a couple of hippy kids traveling in a camper van and went on to have a hit song and win a couple of ARIAs," she said in a statement.

"It’s a good story and it still is a great journey. As a musician and a mother I’ve lived a few lives since, this collection of songs reflect that."

Her soulful voice is unsurprisingly at the centre of each song, and a lowkey but excellent band backs her up with an enviable sense of class.

The songs are bluesy at their core, with healthy dashes of Americana and roots thrown in, as Thorn sings about everything from her long stint living in the US to her closest friendships.

ThornBird doesn't feel like a complete reinvention, but it does exhibit the breadth of Thorn's talent in very pleasing fashion.

Source: ABC Doublej

Florence + The Machine - Dance Fever

Sapana

by Amancio D'Silva

Released 13 May 2022

Polydor/Universal

****-

Just as nature blossoms to life during springtime, so do Florence + the Machine with their triumphant fifth album, Dance Fever. This vernal revival is patient to reveal its full scope, but once these songs settle in, it's a transformative journey that's spiritually on par with 2009's Lungs and 2015's How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful in emotional depth and uplifting power.

At first glance of the title (and eyeing producers Jack Antonoff, Glass Animals' Dave Bayley, and Kid Harpoon), fans might expect a disco-kissed, dancefloor romp, but Dance Fever is more pure and pastoral in its interpretation of the titular movement: a primal act of ecstasy that takes inspiration from the choreomania phenomenon, where groups of people burst into dance frenzies to the point of exhaustion or injury. With that in mind, Florence Welch and company invite listeners to their sacred ceremony to find healing, empowerment, and catharsis through song and physical response ("Heaven Is Here" could conjure an entire army of spirits). The most immediate expressions come with "Free" and "My Love." The former track is an urgent, synths-and-guitar pop thrill that sounds like Antonoff's band Bleachers taking on an early-aughts Bloc Party or Strokes number, while the latter is one of the band's best singles, the closest this album comes to nailing the expected level of mainstream "dance" energy with its shimmering production, heaving beat, and festival-sized chorus. "Choreomania" percolates to life with Welch's confessional spoken word delivery and a sparse, skittering beat, slowly building to an explosive, euphoric end packed with strings, pounding percussion, and joyous cries of "I just keep spinning and I dance myself to death." "Cassandra" is similarly rapturous, swelling with church organs and Welch's trilling vocals that recalls the dramatics of Ceremonials. The shiver-inducing "Daffodil" follows a similar route, a showstopping highlight that sways and stomps with cinematic might, clattering to a close with a cacophony of drums and heaving breaths. Meanwhile, the bold "King," the threatening harps-and-horns "Girls Against God," and the seething "Dream Girl Evil" empower with some of the strongest lyrics and personal insight on the album.

While this effort may not be Welch's surprise transformation into a full-on pop diva, Dance Fever is a generous offering to the goddesses of dance and restorative energy.

Source: AllMusic

WEMA - WEMA, Photay, Penya

WEMA

by WEMA, Photay, Penya

Released 29 April 2022

!K7 Music

****-

Towards the end of the first pandemic summer, one that featured some of the biggest mass social-justice protests in a generation, the Upstate New York-based electronic producer Photay (Evan Shorstein) released a “Universal Riddim” remix of his track “People,” by the London’s Afro-Latin dance band Penya. At the time, the song’s lyrical refrain,“Are you doing it for the people, or are you trying to just hide away,” coupled with the natural blend of Photay and Penya’s complementary sensibilities felt anthemic. “People” demanded that artists and listeners not just align with the right side of history, but choose how to live through it, consciously leaping into the meaning of a moment that was at once specific and open-ended.

WEMA—the remote-recording pandemic collective that reunites Photay with members of Penya (producer “Magnus P.I.” Mehta, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lilli Elina, percussionist Jimmy le Messurier), as well as Msafiri Zawose, musical scion of Tanzania’s first family of Gogo music—is a natural continuation of that desire, expanding global connectivity through rhythm and folkways. The hippie intentions of the group’s name—Swahili for kindness and benevolence—ring out in lyrics that endorse a sensible, spiritually reflective existence. But it’s the tension between WEMA’s words and musical choices (polyglot instrumental pairings, thick beat layers of drums and machines, psychedelic post-production crevices) that push WEMA beyond mere platitudes. This music is a positivist rage against the modern-world machine, powered by the force of trance-like improvised rituals, as practiced in different parts of the world.

Most of WEMA’s tracks are two-parters—Part 1’s primarily sung in Swahili by Zawose, and Part 2’s primarily by Elina in Spanish—though they’re less like the flip-sides of old R&B singles or Jamaican versions than two different spins on a single idea, or a beat. Next to one another, they present cohesive juxtapositions of humanity as a cultural kaleidoscope. “Luanje” is one great example. On Part 1, Zawose is in call-and-response mode: his deeply processed vocal trying to shake off generational trauma, surrounded by wood-block and shakers, electronic bass-plus-kick-drum gyrations that hold forth their own staccato conversation, and sampled voices bending beyond comprehension. Halfway through this chaos, a kora appears alongside Elina singing about taking refuge in the shadow of a ceiba tree. When Zawose returns, the previous elements have coalesced in a rolling mid-tempo Afrobeat techno atmosphere, with Magnus’ organ recalling Fela’s Egypt 70. Part 2 picks up from Elina’s short appearance: leading with the kora, interweaving guitar and organ lines, lightly toasted percussion, and ominous sound effects, all taken at a fraction of its predecessor’s pace and intensity. Elina’s song is about the generational reverberations of an aging tree, taking the form of a naturalist sunrise salutation; and it’s not hard to see the relationship between the two parts.

“Msafiri Jam” is even better. “Pt. 1” sets up a high-speed acoustic African-dance atmosphere (a bolafon that sounds like it’s on Sun Ra’s cosmic trip, various hand-drums, a break-neck hi-hat), before synthesizers start sneaking into the mix, in and around Zawose’s big group call–and-response; yet the longer its glorious chaos continues, the more modernity’s ghost voices make their presence felt. “Pt.2” keeps the tempo, but leads with the type of kick-drum sound whose influence has escaped Berlin for Dar Es Salaam. The bolafon now sounds entirely synthetic, Elina’s incantation is in the service of pure dance exultation, and when Cuban trumpeter Yelfris Valdes shows up to lead a horn-line, the energy transforms into something that could emanate from ceremonial good times on either side of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.

Listening to such intricate musical mutations, charting their rhythmic routes, is another way of asking what kind of life we want for ourselves, and for the world. There is something magnanimously obvious and direct in WEMA’s answer. But maybe that’s the best way to make listeners consider it as a true option.

Source: Bandcamp

Entran de L'Air - Agadez

Agadez

by Etran de L'Air

Released 18 February 2022

Sahel Records

****-

Etran de L’Aïr (or “stars of the Aïr region”) welcomes you to Agadez, the capital city of Saharan rock. Playing for over 25 years, Etran has emerged as stars of the local wedding circuit. Beloved for their dynamic repertoire of hypnotic solos and sun schlazed melodies, Etran stakes out a place for Agadez guitar music. Playing a sound that invokes the desert metropolis, “Agadez” celebrates the sounds of all the dynamism of a hometown wedding.

Etran is a family band composed of brothers and cousins, all born and raised in the small neighborhood of Abalane, just in the shadow of the grand mosque. Sons of nomadic families that settled here in the 1970s fleeing the droughts, they all grew up in Agadez. The band was formed in 1995 when current band leader Moussa “Abindi” Ibra was only 9 years old. “We only had one acoustic guitar,” he explains, “and for percussion, we hit a calabash with a sandal." Over the decades, the band painstakingly pieced together gear to form their band and built an audience by playing everywhere, for everyone. “It was difficult. We would walk to gigs by foot, lugging all our equipment, carrying a small PA and guitars on our backs, 25 kilometers into the bush, to play for free…there’s nowhere in Agadez we haven’t played.”

From the days of the Trans-Saharan caravan in the 14th century to a modern-day stopover for Europe-bound migrants, Agadez is a city that stands at the crossroads, where people and ideas come together. Understandably, it’s here where one of the most ambitious Tuareg guitar has taken hold. Agadez’s style is the fastest, with frenetic electric guitar solos, staccato crash of full drum kits, and flamboyant dancing guitarists. Agadez is the place where artists come to cut their teeth in a lucrative and competitive winner-take-all scene. Guitar bands are an integral part of the social fabric, playing in weddings, baptisms, and political rallies, as well as the occasional concert.

Whereas other Tuareg guitarists look to Western rock, Etran de L’Aïr play in a pan-African style that is emblematic of their hometown, citing a myriad of cultural influences, from Northern Malian blues, Hausa bar bands, to Congolese Soukous. It’s perhaps this quality that makes them so beloved in Agadez. “We play for the Tuareg, the Toubou, the Zarma, the Hausa,” Abindi explains. “When you invite us, we come and play.” Their music is rooted in celebration, and invokes the exuberance of an Agadez wedding, with an overwhelming abundance of guitars, as simultaneous solos playfully pass over one another with a restrained precision, forceful yet never overindulgent.

Recorded at home in Agadez with a mobile studio, their eponymous album stays close to the band’s roots. Over a handful of takes, in a rapid-fire recording session, “Agadez” retains all the energy of a party. Their message too is always close to home. Tchingolene (“Tradition”) recalls the nomad camps, with a modern take on traditional takamba rhythms transposed to guitars. The dreamy ballad Toubouk Ine Chihoussay (“The Flower of Beauty”) dives into call and response lyrics, and solos that dance effortlessly over the frets. On other tracks like Imouwizla (“Migrants”), Etran addresses immigration with the driving march parallels the nomads' plight with travelers crossing the desert for Europe. Yet even at its most serious, Etran’s music is engaged and dynamic, reminding us that music can transmit a message while lighting up a celebration. This is music for dancing, after all. 
 

Source: Bandcamp

Amanda Whiting - Lost In Abstraction

Lost In Abstraction

by Amanda Whiting

Released 27 May 2022

Jazzman Records

****-

The eagerly anticipated follow-up to last year's incredibly well-received debut album After Dark, Welsh harpist Amanda Whiting is back with another glorious offering.

The trio is joined again by the mesmerising lines of flautist Chip Wickham, resuming their conversation reminiscent of Dorothy Ashby and Frank Wess.

‘Lost in Abstraction’ was written during a period of the unknown when Whiting, like most, explored her own sense of self. The world paused, with no timeframe, and the fragility of life was laid bare. A time when humanity was left searching for purpose. Freedom and the dependable structures of familiarity were dissolved in most aspects of life. But music stayed constant. Creativity kept weaving its thread, connecting music and its makers in an indissoluble bond.

The album explores the questions and realisations whilst confined. The spiritual findings, the playful curiousness and the reflective moments of loss. Whiting’s writing indulges the listener with the spiritual ethereal washes of sound demanded of the harp, whilst also embracing her influences across many genres. Classically trained, her roots are evident. But with an emotionally charged energy and spiritual questioning, a new soundscape of modernity has emerged.

So often associated with Ashby and Coltrane, the harp finds itself in the hands of a new voice which tells the story of a period of time where the world was unified in reflection.

So what is that feeling when you resonate?
When your breath steadies and you let go
Lines no longer restrict or choke
Energies envelop, yet set you free
Are you lost or found? 

Source: Bandcamp

Axel Boman - LUZ

LUZ

by Axel Boman

Released 15 April 2022

Studio Barnhus

****-

Nearly a decade after the release of his breakthrough debut album “Family Vacation”, Swedish producer Axel Boman returns with astonishing force: Two albums, titled “LUZ” and “Quest for fire”, will drop simultaneously on April 15th 2022. Containing nine songs each and featuring guests like Off The Meds frontman Kamohelo, Baba Stiltz, Bella Boo, Man Tear, Miljon and saxophonist Kristian Harborg, the two albums are separate but corresponding works, communicating through music, design and words. Together with longtime collaborators Robin Ekemark (design) and Erik Lavesson (words and art direction), Axel has spearheaded a project with plenty of layers available to those that dig deep.

Erik writes:

”For Axel’s two albums, we wanted to build on the music to create a kind of expanded universe. If you just want to listen to the music, it’s all there and you don’t have to look any further. If you want to go deeper, you have these extra layers to delve into: album art, text, archive material. They feed back into the music and open up new perspectives, while the music opens up ways to enter the other material as well.”

Erik’s text “Brandenburger Ulam” will accompany the album project's physical release, with both records arriving together in a limited triple vinyl package, allowing for the full experience of Robin’s design. In the digital domain, the albums will be featured separately on all streaming platforms, with Dolby Atmos mastering for those seeking to go beyond the usual listening experience. 

Source: Bandcamp

Axel Boman - Quest for fire

Quest for fire

by Axel Boman

Released 4 March 2022

Studio Barnhus

****-

Over the course of a decade, Boman and his Studio Barnhus haven't lost the childlike charm that separates them from the pack. Together, LUZ and Quest For Fire boast 18 tracks of impish disco and freewheeling deep house. Wordless vocals float by like passing, overheard conversations as orchestral flourishes and acidic grooves stir and stutter. It's a chaotic yet comforting listen, like a time-lapse of a day spent observing city life. With tracks named after places like "Edgware Road" (the Middle Eastern capital of London) and "Gröna Dalen" (a diner in Stockholm), it's as if Boman is trying to recreate his environs with the dulled, rose-tinted palette of memory.

The album comes bundled with short story by Swedish artist Erik Lavesson that ends in bankruptcy, madness and stateless elephants roaming Iceland's volcanic plains. Both the story and second part of the double album are based on the 1981 fantasy film Quest For Fire. These tracks are structured erratically (in a good way), taking sudden detours just when an idea takes shape. On the glitzy "Stone Age Jazz," where shuddering congas and woodblocks lead the fray, a fluorescent climax cools into a sizzling breakdown. Sultry chord progressions loom low like gray rain clouds on "Cacti Is Plural," and "Ostende," with its serene yet combative edge, almost sounds like menu music from an early '00s fighting game. It brims with a compressed energy you can't help but move to, though it's never an all out dance—more of a rapid foot tap or a stiff head nod.

Luz is more buoyant, even optimistic, with muted tension that jolts from meditative to scintillating in a heartbeat. At times Boman will open up the filter at the tail-end of a track like on "Acid Distortion," giving you a glimpse into its raw, digital innards. The skittering percussion on "Nowhere Good" sounds like crickets chirping at night, while stirring vocal refrains add a dash of soul to the mix. The techno of "Gröna Dalen" starts with a chunky low-end and hazy distortion, and you hardly expect it to unravel into cascading synth ribbons or gorgeous woodwinds—these are busy arrangements that move with a sense of tranquility. The way Boman jumps between ideas that could carry entire songs after a few seconds shows just how dense and vibrant his music is as a whole.

During that same interview with DJ Mag, Boman gestured to a peculiar picture on his wall and said, "This guy is wanking and drinking beer, naked in the DJ booth. I wish I had that carefree attitude to life." It's a head-scratching comment considering he's the type of guy to get the name of his record label (Studio Barnhus, he co-runs with Kornél Kovács and Pedrodollar) tattooed on his left bum cheek and, in the same breath, collaborate with nuclear physicists to musically represent how radiation is emitted from different isotopes. 

You never quite know what to expect from Axel Boman. Sometimes his tracks are tantalizingly aloof, other times they're heartstring-tuggingly sentimental. "Roman Plumbing"—the wistful core of Quest For Fire—is a brass-led, stretched-out moment of serenity that solidifies into razor sharp breakbeat. Boman's carefree and rule-breaking approach to sound design ultimately comes from whatever sound or idea he's tapping into during specific moment. Both albums never convey one particular mood, and there are undertones from all over the emotional spectrum. Each brushstroke forms an engaging, multidimensional double album that feels like some significant yet impossible to decipher dream.
 

Source: Resident Adviser

Nilufer Yanya - Painless

Painless

by Nilufer Yanya

Released 4 March 2022

ATO / Fontana

****-

When London singer/songwriter Nilüfer Yanya made her full-length debut following a string of well-received singles and EPs, it was with Miss Universe, an eclectic concept album painted with bold, high-contrast strokes and a few passing moments of intimate impressionism.

Three years later, the follow-up, PAINLESS, is a more soft-spoken outing lost in rumination and more-candid emotion. It was recorded with Miss Universe producer Wlima Archer (aka Slime), Andrew Sarlo (Big Thief, Nick Hakim), indie electronic/art-pop artist Bullion, and musician Jazzi Bobbi, all of whom had a hand in producing.

Yanya opens the nonetheless even-keeled album with a rhythmically propulsive meditation on how the linear nature of life and death intertwines with the cyclical passing of seasons ("the dealer"). Its wispy, multi-tracked vocals are set against thumping drums and deep, grooving bass, while harmonized guitar riffs provide the track's meaty center. The song's relatively straightforward arrangement and mix is later contrasted by songs like "L/R" and "the mystic" that play with stereo effects, and "trouble," which ends in layers of melodic distortion over thumping beats, one of several brief excursions into noise here.

The midtempo, rhythmically loping "midnight sun" is a standout for its slowly developing guitar patterns, which provide more of a backbone for the song than its rhythmic section.