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Sun Ra Arkestra - Seductive Fantasy (A Chad Van Gaalen animation)
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ADDITIONS |October2020

Various Artists - Blue Note Reimagined

Blue Note Re:imagined

by Christopher Port

Released 16 October 2020

Blue Note


Many months have elapsed since the first tracks were released from this Blue Note compilation ​and the apettite was further whetted by the continuing emergence of young UK artists as major influences on jazz, soul and hip-hop.


Blue Note assembled a who's who of emerging artists from the UK (SAULT's Cleo Sol a notable exception) including Jorja Smith, Ezra Collective, Skinny Pelembe, Nubya Garcia, Yazmin Lacey, Shabaka Hutchings, Emma-Jean Thackray and others. The label describes the album as "a brand new collection of classic Blue Note tracks reworked and newly recorded by a selection of the UK scene’s most exciting young talents today. Representing a bridge between the ground-breaking jazz label’s past and future".


For those who are interested, Blue Note has also published iTunes and Spotify playlists of the original Blue Note recordings by the original artists including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Henderson, Donald Byrd, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Eddie Henderson, and Dodo Greene.

Sun Ra Arkestra - Swirling


by Sun Ra Arkestra

Released 30 October 2020

Strut Records


The planets align as the mighty Sun Ra Arkestra, under the direction of the maestro Marshall Allen, are releasing "Swirling" their first studio album in over twenty years.

The cosmic jazz master would have celebrated his 100th earth year in 2014 but his catalogue of over 150 albums, his unique philosophy and his legendary live performances live on for a new generation under the direction of American free/avant-garde jazz alto saxophone player (and Arkestra member since 1957) Marshall Allen.

Recorded at Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia, the new recording represents the continuation of a heartfelt rebirth of the Arkestra under Allen’s guidance, gaining new generations of followers from their regular touring across the globe since Sun Ra left the planet in 1993.

“We truly hope that this recording brings much joy to a planet which is so deeply in need of a spirit sound and vibration,” states saxophonist Knoel Scott. “We hope it contributes to a change in the ominous direction of man’s journey through the cosmos.”

“This new release is the Arkestra’s love offering to the world,” concludes Marshall Allen. “Beta music for a better world.”

Source Link: Swirling Bandcamp

Actress - Karma & Desire

Karma & Desire

by Actress

Released 23 October 2020

Ninja Tune


Actress is the performing name of Darren J. Cunningham, from Wolverhampton in UK. His latest release “Karma & Desire” follows the critically well-received early work Splashz (2010) which was named album of the year by UK magazine The Wire and follow up to LAGEOS (2018), a collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra.

Karma & Desire is an immersive, atmospheric suite of compositions that includes guest collaborations from Mercury Prize winner Sampha, female vocalist Zsela and LA based Dj and Producer Aura T-09 and more. Actress has described it as “a romantic tragedy set between the heavens and the underworld ... the same sort of things that I like to talk about – love, death, technology, the questioning of one's being”.

Supplementing the usual array of synthesied sounds and effects, Actress has used live acoustic piano and original vocals on many of the tracks, adding a personalied warmth that is uncommon in electronic music. 

Karma & Desire is an enigmatic, high minded concept which augments his earlier work and establishes Actress as an influence and peer of more established artists such as Sampha, James Blake, Burial and even Radiohead.

Source Link: Karma & Desire Bandcamp

Roman Gianarthur - OK Lady

OK Lady Roman (EP)

by Roman Gianarthur

Released 10 September 2020



At long last, Roman Gianarthur has shared his much-anticipated OK Lady project, a record that features the Wondaland guitar demigod reinterpreting the songs of Radiohead and D’Angelo as only he could. Comprised of five tracks (and one interlude), the record features a guest appearance from Janelle Monae and is right in step with the dynamic, imaginative work of Gianarthur’s existing catalog. In its announcement OK Lady was referred to as “musical alchemy” transports listeners into the young guitarist’s own personal world; upon first listen, we most certainly agree.

Gianarthur blends a chopped hip-hop beat into Radiohead’s In Rainbows classic “All I Need” to open the record, patiently layering vocals atop one another until the inevitable happens: a searing guitar solo. In a great many places on OK Lady, the tension culminates in a massive moment of guitar. It’s the young Roman’s calling card, and sounds positively brilliant over these familiar Radiohead numbers. It should be noted, though, that these are reinterpretations and not full-on covers. “PARANO:D” ditches much of the looming dream of its source material and instead floats easily–blissfully, even. It’s a stark departure, but then Gianarthur has always been one to play by his own rules. By the time his turn on “Send it On” closes things out (with an added layer of “Nude” added in for good measure), OK Lady shows itself to be a deeply rewarding look at one man’s creative powers and the hidden possibilities that still lie in wait within these songs. Roman Gianarthur has produced something very, very okay indeed.


Source Link: OkayPlayer Review

Praed Orchestra - Live In Sharjah

Live in Sharjah

by Praed Orchesra!

Released 23 October 2020

Morphine Records


Shabbi is the name of the popular synth-based music heard in cabs, cabarets and alleyways throughout the Middle East. Mouled (also Mulid and Mawlid) is the word for the birthday celebration for the Prophet and other Islamic saints and is celebrated by great assemblies of Sufi music and dancing. Egyptian composers Raed Yassin and Paed Conca formed Praed Orchestra to perform music based on their extensive research that sought to find the links between Shaabi and Mouled  and the hypnotic structures of both these genres. 

Their music incorprates repetitive beats, loud Mizmar (conical flute) and loads of energy, with a strong contemporay influence from psychedelic rock, free jazz and electronica.

Having produced 4 albums and performed on numerous stages around the globe, Praed started working on an ambitious, expansive project: an orchestra that could transpose this study of rural and popular culture into an immense, iconic work.

In autumn 2018, supported by the Sharjah Art Foundation, Praed Orchestra! premiered “Live in Sharjah”, interpreting new material merged with some of the band’s iconic pieces. Recorded live in Sharjah’s Calligraphy Square, the resultant music ranges widely in content, in a series of seven compositions, each more than ten minutes in duration, commencing with the startling vocal extremity of opening piece "The Last Invasion" and concluding with a prog-rock-like "IL A3SAB".

For me, this is a mind-bending redefinition of the boundries of Middle Eastern music.

Duval Timothy - Brown Loop

Brown Loop

by Duval Timothy

Released 2 October 2020

Decca Music


Writing on the artist's Bandcamp entry for this album, a re-release of a recording made in New York in 2016, Dutch DJ Martyn Deyker wrote "I often find myself listening to Duval’s music when travelling. On an aeroplane for example, where the comforting piano pieces are set starkly against the sound of the world passing by, the constant engine humming, air conditioning running. Or when I’m walking through a city I’ve not been to before, the music blending into the continuous noise of cars and motorbikes, anchoring me when I find myself in unknown surroundings. Grounding me, one note at a time, in contrast to a city that does the exact opposite. Duval’s compositions bring a sense of comfort where there is detachment. It’s the soundtrack for an immigrant (such as myself), alienated from wherever he came, but someone who also doesn’t fully belong to the place he set off to.

I heard Duval describe the music of Brown Loop as ascending a mountain, and after you reached the top you come down to the other end. Through rhythmic repetitive patterns, the music builds. Within the pieces, melodies stray away from the theme, into unknown territories, but always find their way back to a comfortable home. Most elaborately this happens on my favourite piece, Hairs. The patterns and melodies on pieces such as Through The Night and (recently added to the vinyl version) G are stripped down to their very essence.

It is not just jazz, it’s pure hip hop, as the hooks are reminiscent of the shards of melancholy legends like Dilla, Pete Rock and Havoc used in their best work. In terms of repetition, the music is also very techno. And like in all good techno, the patterns (perhaps contrary to popular belief) ooze humanity and emotion. But most of all Duval’s Brown Loop is a very personal record. it takes courage to expose your inner self like that in the most minimal of compositions. But once you find the right notes, the right pattern, music is the most beautiful thing in the world".

Link: Brown Loop Bandcamp

The Goods - II


by The Goods

Released 11 May 2020

Bastard Jazz Recordings


Sydney space funk trio, The Goods, are Badmandela, Rosario & Black Tree. With the help of some friends, The Goods capture the energy of jamming and improvisation. 

Musically and lyrically ‘II’ is about living in the moment. Each track harnesses the mood or vibration in the room at the time of its inception.

The album features 2019's breakaway hit “Let’s Roll” featuring Touch Sensitive (Future Classic), a reminder that mood is about choice...if happiness is a state of mind then why not chose it?

“Last Chance” is an invitation to take life by the horns because, in these uncertain times, one can’t take anything for granted. “Voodoo” is that one flame, whose flaws you overlook because they got the mojo while “Walking On Fire” is a nod to band's 80s heroes mixing the likes of Luther, D-Train, and Jam with a future club feel. "Peach" is an anthem for sexual liberation & at the same time being a cheeky funk jam. “Shots”, the album single was born at a jam at Touch Sensitive’s studio - Disco J rocks up a drum loop and turns it into a party! The Beastie Boys meets Marvin Gaye meet Anderson Paak in “Cassandra” resulting from a hang with The Goods’ friend Elliot Hammond of well known Australian band The Delta Riggs, while “Tell Me” is a sexy late night joint for those nights on the prowl. “Che Boog” is an ode to the sleazy funk of Parliament, Funkadelic and Prince , and lastly the Black Mirror inspired “Supersonic” is a tale from a time-travelling consciousness stuck in a dystopian 2020.

JISR - Too Far Away

Too Far Away

by JISR جسر

Released 6 October 2020



JISR جسر is a collective from Munich led by the charismatic linguist, singer, percussionist and Gembri player Dr. Mohcine Ramdan. He gathered some of Bavaria´s finest musicians to share his vision of an emotional Pan-Oriental sound that is deeply rooted in the tradition of his family of musicians in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Their live performance offers an unique fusion of Arabic Maqam, the polyrhythm of Gnawa music, World Spiritual Jazz & a bit of Afro Kraut and sets a new landmark in how to unite the diversity of diasporic music in Europe in a one stage set.

Link: Too Far Away Bandcamp

Mahmoud Guinia - Aicha (Remaster)

Aicha (Remaster)

by Mahmoud Guinia

Released October 2020

Hive Mind Records


Mahmoud Guinia (1951-2015) was a Moroccan Gnawa musician, singer and guembri player and regarded as a Maâllem (معلم محمود ﯕينيا), i.e. master of the art, from the southern coastal town of Essaouira, most famous it's annual Gnawa music festival (and as a stopover on the North African windsurfing & hippie trails).

Guinia recorded prolifically for domestic and foreign labels and collaborated with numerous western musicians. UK label Hive Mind Records have released a remastered edition of one of Guinia's classic albums "Aicha" which is believed to have been recorded in Essaouira and first distributed on cassette in Morocco only in the late 1990's. His gentle singing and virtuosic gambri playing on this recording is mesmerising and authentic. As observed by his label's Bandcamp notes, "Gnawa music is specifically played to heal and to cure us of our ills, and as the world is in the grip of a viral pandemic and powerful forces seem to be polarising people all around the globe. We hope that Aicha will enable you to carve out some healing space in amongst the chaos of the world".

Songhoy Blues - Optimisme


by Songhoy Blues

Released October 2020

Transgressive Records


Songhoy Blues view themselves as a band whose experiences in Mali have opened their eyes to universal problems plaguing people everywhere. Using the pain and lessons learned from having to leave their hometowns in northern Mali, the band realizes that human rights is a concept that extends far beyond what they have seen with their own eyes and far beyond just the borders of Mali. In order for the band to see their homes restored, they understand the fight must be fought on all fronts, for everybody across the spectrum. They are no longer refugees or exiles or four people with instruments - they are Songhoy Blues, a musical voice for empowerment and equality.

On “Badala” and “Gabi,” the band seeks the empowerment of women, asking for centuries-old misogynistic practices to be done away with.

With “Worry,” they advise young and old alike that positive vibes and persistence are the best tools to fight our struggles.

In “Asada” they praise and thank the everyday warriors who wake up everyday to sweat for the betterment of their communities and in “Dournia” the band laments the lack of compassion and empathy between humans today, in the face of increasing materialism and selfishness. “Bon Bon” warns of being fooled by shiny promises. “Barre”asks for the youth to get involved at home for change while "Fey Fey" warns off those who wish to create division.  

The songs on Optisime confront, console, praise, thank and encourage the listener toward a better world tomorrow.

Link: Optimisme Bandcamp

Jordan Rakei  - Origin


by Jordan Rakei

Released 14 June 2019

Ninja Tune


Soulful New Zealand-born, Brisbane-raised and London-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jordan Rakei has released his latest outing, Origin, via indie label Ninja Tune. Origin is the 27-year-old’s third studio album, his second with Ninja Tune, and builds on from "Wallflower", an intimate picture of the singer’s self-grappling with anxiety, mental health and introversion. In contrast to "Wallflower", "Origin" is much more expansive and bigger in its ambitions. The record is inspired by dystopian visions of the future, drawing inspiration from Charlie Brooker’s "Black Mirror", Margaret Atwood’s "The Handmaid’s Tale" and David Lynch’s "Twin Peaks".

Discussing the themes of "Origin", Rakei explains that “I’m worried that we’re losing a sense of connection”, believing that our ever-increasing use of technology is driving us apart from each other and alienating us from real experiences. With "Origin", Jordan Rakei has maintained his signature jazz-infused soulful sound but also explores other realms of sound to produce a brighter and more pop orientated record, despite its dystopian undertones.

Alongside producing music under his electronic alias Dan Kye, Rakei has fully embedded himself within the bustling London music scene, frequently collaborating with the likes of guitarist Tom Misch, rapper Loyle Carner, pianist Alfa Mist, as well as jazz drummer Richard Spaven.

Source Link: Jazz Revelations

Ex-Olympian - Afterlife


by Ex-Olympian

Released 16 October 2020

Dot Dash Recordings


Ex-Olympian is the new musical vessel for Liam McGorry, songwriter & multi-instrumentalist for bands such as Saskwatch and Dorsal Fins.

Named after the neon sign that adorns 'Borsari's Corner' in Melbourne's Lygon St, Ex-Olympian also reflects those times we all need to shift things forward into a new phase.

Musically, things are shifting gears too, with debut single Voices in My Head, Liam's vocal debut. 'Dream Funk' is the official moniker for Liam's music (as coined by Northside Records' head-honcho Chris Gill).

With a focus on soaring melodies and lush arrangements, it takes cues from the music of heroes Rene Geyer, The Avalanches, Arthur Verocai and Badbadnotgood.

Source Link: triplej unearthed

Christopher Port - Ritual Music

Ritual Music

by Christopher Port

Released 9 October 2020

Future Classic


Christopher Port might just be one of the best kept secrets in Australian dance music. In recent years, the Melbourne producer has honed a sound comprised of brooding samples and bass-heavy electronic rhythms to impeccable effect, cultivating a passionate following of rave-ready fans and establishing himself as one of the nation's most dynamic producers with each release.
On his latest release, Ritual Music, Port shows that he's well ahead of the curve with seven new tracks that only further aids his reputation for quality over quantity. Taking a detour from his usual brand of moody, Burial-indebted UK Garage, Ritual Music sees Port toy with pulsating synths, choppy polyrhythms and warbling drones to sublime effect. It's equally as danceable as his prior works, yet delivers a certain organic quality that's so often lacking in much of today's gridlocked grooves thanks to Port's own ability as a drummer, with the producer combining his sensibilities as a producer with his talent behind the kit to turn in seven tracks of cosmic dance euphoria.

Source Link: Mixdown Magazine

Kylie Auldist - This Is What Happiness Looks Like

This Is What Love Looks Like

by Kylie Auldist

Released 9 October 2020

Soul Bank Music


Kylie Auldist is best known as the vocalist for seminal Melbourne soul outfits "The Bamboos" and "Cookin' On 3 Burners" as well as a handful of previous solo offerings "Made Of Stone" (2009), "Still Life" (2012) and "Family Tree" (2016) - not forgetting her vocal contribution to the 2016 global dance hit "This Girl" by "Kungs vs Cookin' on 3 Burners".

Her new album "This Is What Happiness Looks Like" is a celebration and consolidation of her pre-eminence and relevance, especially with the revival of 80's inspired funk and soul by international dj's, jazz and hip-hop artists.  

Kylie is quoted as saying "Some albums are written fast, some take a long time, some albums experience setbacks, become beset by creative blocks and personal issues, and can generally be a whole lot of hard work which makes you question why you even bothered to start it in the first place - this was not one of those albums - hence the title 'This Is What Happiness Looks Like'!

Roisin Murphy - Roisin Machine

Roisin Machine

by Roisin Murphy

Released 2 October 2020

Micky Murphy's Daughter/LoadedRecords


This is an album for those who dimly recall musical magic of the kind that that was worked by Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder across the dancefloors during a previous pandemic, almost 40 years ago and those who long for an updated dose of something similar. 

With collaborater Richard Barratt (aka Crooked Man and DJ Parrot), Irish chantreuse, former Moloko frontwoman, Roisin Murphy kicks off proceedings with a new version of her 2012 dancefloor anthem "Stimulation" - eight and a half minutes of shimmering, pulsating funk, rolling on to a seamless 54 minutes of disco bliss.

Cleverly, Murphy and Barratt avoid any tempation for pastiche or nostalgia, utilising contemporary studio and synthsiser affects throughout, while Murphy's formidable vocal delivery proves she is a diva in her own inimitable right.

Let's dance!

Artemis - Artemis


by Artemis

Released 11 September 2020

Blue Note


ARTEMIS is the inter-racial and inter-generational jazz supergroup recording for Blue Note, comprising a sextet of instrumentalists - pianist and musical director Renee Rosnes, clarinetist Anat Cohen, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, bassist Noriko Ueda, drummer Allison Miller, and vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant.

The group was formed in 2017 following an appearance at Newport Jazz Festival and a successful European tour, taking the nam from the Greek Godess of Hunting and Nature (Diana to the Romans).

The album is a coherent and rewarding ensemble piece, providing a unified artistic vehicle for new instrumental compositions by the sextet, avoiding any obvious showcasing for individual contributors, but nevertheless still allowing their individual strengths to shine through.

In addition to five new original compositions, the album is punctuated by a quartet of covers: a dreamy instrumental version of Lennon and McCartney's "The Fool On The Hill"; vocal interpretations by Cecile McLorin Salvant of Stevie Wonder's"If It's Magic" (from his "Songs In The Key Of Life"), Maxine Sullivan's obscure 1948 blues ballad "Cry, Buttercup, Cry" and  an extended version of Lee Morgan's classic "The Sidewinder", to conclude a very satisfying recording.

Lila Tristram - Our Friends Pt. I (EP)

Our Friends Pt. I

by Lila Tristram

Released 27 March 2020

Dark Days Music


London based vocalist and mult-instrumentalist Lila Tristram's album Our Friends is assembled from a pair of EP's, each of only five tracks and released just 6 months apart.

Our Friends Part 1, starts out with two Justin Vernon/Bon Iver-like songs, "Abstractions" and "Back To Bed" - self-harmonising vocals floating above the sound of a strummed guitars and effects, including lapping waves. Tristram's melancholy lyrics are based on everyday personal observations and experiences. But as the third song "Arrow" opens, it is clear that any comparisons should more directly reserved for the renowned British folkie, Nick Drake (1948 - 1974).

On Arrow she sings of her mother:

I was born through your bravery and your desire

A companion to your journey

Now these are the things that guide me, that drive me

That we abstract upon and search for

And here we are again

This kitchen holds our universe sometimes

I am not your child they say

I am the thoughts of your tomorrow

You are the bend in the archer's hand

I am your arrow

Following the instrumental "Into Sleep", the EP is bookended with "For Grace" another track that is infused with Bon Iver's influences. 

Our Friends is a modest, yet compelling initial offering from a thoughtful lyricist and skillful stylist, whose true artistic direction is yet to break away from her influences. 

Source Link: Lila Tristram's Bandcamp

Lila Tristram - Our Friends Pt II (EP)

Our Friends Pt. II

by Lila Tristram

Released 2 October 2020

Dark Days Music


Angelic harmonies introduce"Leaving Song" the surprisingly-titled opening track to Lila Tristram's "Our Friends Pt. II", an EP that continues the personal songwriting and delicate musicianship of her debut "Our Friends Pt. I" which was released only 6 months prior. The tempo lifts and there's confidence in the songwriter's expression on "Anymore",  with her focus on life's complexity:

I could still get lost in that smile
And all the birds they'd fly off course
And your hands know my body
Like the sea knows the shore
There are so many things
That I still love you for
But I can't be your woman anymore

Just as she did in Part 1, this set includes a short instrumental ("Thames II") as the third track, but it also concludes with "Heyday" a surprising collage of instrumental music, archival voice recording and conventionally sung lyrics. At just over 6 minutes in duration, this is also Tristram's longest recording releassed so far in her short career.

If it any indication of Tristram's future musical direction, she will be an even more exciting to watch than we may have glimpsed in her other work so far. She may have opened a door that will allow her to graduate from the pervasive influences of Drake and Vernon and the limitations of confessional folk music, towards more experimental and contemporary works.

Source Link: Lila Tristram's Bandcamp

Leyla McCalla - Vari-Coloured Songs

Vari-Coloured Songs

by Leyla McCalla

Released 14 October 2020

Smithsonian Folkways


Vari​-​Colored Songs, which enjoyed a limited release in 2014 and is now being rereleased on Smithsonian Folkways, is an illuminating conversation between artists both past and present, and balm for the soul.

The classical and folk songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla composed the songs around particularly powerful selections from the influential work of the Harlem Renaissance giant Langston Hughes.

The result is a lovely album concerned with beauty, truth, and healing, topics especially crucial in this year of social and political unrest and death.
McCalla’s voice has a light touch: phrases and lyrics fall off her tongue beautifully, making tracks like “Mèsi Bondye” with its captivating banjo melody simultaneously gentle and gorgeous, while infusing the cello-driven “Girl” with the feel and pace of a Southern Gothic tale.

The plaintive “Kamèn sa w fè?” is rhythmic, its soft banjo strings transporting listeners to the island of Haiti, from which McCalla's family hails, as sings in both Haitian Creole and English.

The irreverent “Song for a Dark Girl” is a raw and heartbreaking narrative of Southern intollerance that is especialy poignant in the era of "Black Lives Matter" and the line “I continue to dream” from McCalla’s “As I Grew Older/Dreamer” (and in turn derived from Hughes’ poem "I Continue to Dream"), remains relevant in the face of current day brutality, exploitation, and violent systemic oppression.

With its gaze both toward the past and future, "Vari​-​Colored Songs" reveals the poetry in McCalla’s voice and the music in Hughes’ words

Source Link: Album Bandcamp

Leo Kottke, Mike Gordon - Noon


by Leo Kottke, Mike Gordon

Released 28 August 2020

ATO Magaplum


On the new album "Noon", Leo Kottke's guitar style on the opening cut "Flat Top" and the following track, "Eight Miles High"(a cover of The Byrds' classsic), is as unique and recognisable as it was on "The Driving of the Year Nail", which was track one, side one, of  his album "6 and 12 String Guitar" in 1969.

Kottke's collaborator Mike Gordon is the former bassist from the innovative American "jam band" Phish, which has been in hiatus since early 2000's and this is the pair's third collaboration, following "Sixty Six Steps" (2005) and "Clone" (2002). Kottke's most recent solo album was "Try To Stop Me" (2004).

They are joined here on five songs by drummer Jon Fishman, Gordon’s bandmate from Phish, who adds a rhythmic dimension to the music, allowing them even to cover Prince's "Alphabet Street" (replacing the original's funkiness with a slower New-Orleans swagger, more befitting of older gentlement).

Songs such as "I Am Random", "How Many People Are You" are filled with humorous lyrics, ad-hoc musical passages, left-in overdubs and studio sounds, showcasing the artist's spontaneity and charm.

Althogh Kottke's voice (which he once unforgettably described as "goose farts on a muggy day") is heard alone or paired with his partners on many sogs, the main focus always remains on the music.

"Brilliant as the noonday sun, "Noon" illuminates the glimmering facets of Kottke’s and Gordon’s sparkling musicianship*.

*Source Link: Folk Alley Magazine

The Mavericks - En Espanol

The Mavericks en Espanol

by The Mavericks

Released 21 August 2020

Mondo Mundo Recordings


With their new album, En Español, the Mavericks are underlining the "alt" in their "alt-country" assignation, releasing a collection of songs solely with Spanish lyrics. This vibrant, sit-up-and-take-notice album has tunes that should bring the band's country and rock fans easily over the border. But the Mavericks also do a lot of genre-melding, taking original and classic Latin songs and making them their own using everything from vintage rock to mariachi.

Since the eclectic band origin in 1989, they have undergone break-ups, reunions, and personnel changes, leaving only lead singer Raul Malo and drummer Paul Deakin as original members. Certainly, one of the consistent elements has been the deep, passionate vocals of Malo, whose singing can bring to mind Roy Orbison or classic male crooners like Elvis Presley. In his solo career apart from the Mavericks, Malo teamed up with members of Los Lobos and others for a Tex-Mex supergroup called Los Super Seven, and he included several Spanish-language songs on his 2001 debut solo album, Today. Recording an all-Spanish album with the Mavericks has been a long-time dream of his.

This is an entertaining album that opens new horizons and expand the audience for this long-established band.  I hope Bruce Springsteen is taking notes (See my review of his album "Letter To You"released this month).

Matt Berninger - Serpentine Prison

Seprentine Prison

by Matt Berninger



"My eyes are T-shirts, they’re so easy to read / I wear them for you, but they’re all about me,” Matt Berninger croons over the opening notes of his debut solo album, rolling in that wine-o poet style that’s become his staple as frontman of indie heroes The National. It’s a fitting mission statement for what follows – the work of an artist at his most exposed, drawing on his external muses to really give you the truest portrait of himself.

‘Serpentine Prison’ was originally going to be a covers record, made with R&B legend Booker T. Jones, who also produced Willie Nelson’s 1978 collection of pop standards, ‘Stardust’. That record provided the blueprint for what Berninger set out to make. He was so inspired by stepping into the shoes of his heroes and living in their songs that, two weeks later, they’d finished recording 12 original songs with a host of guests, most notably David Bowie bassist and collaborator Gail Ann Dorsey.

The result is an open and timeless collection that finds the singer kneeling at the altar of classic songwriting. There’s opulence in the Americana sounds of the the yearning ‘Distant Axis’, while the Dolly Parton-inspired ‘One More Second’ really goes for a stroll with its blend of organs and jazzy rhythms over a desperate plea to stay together. ‘All For Nothing’ builds into a swooning orchestral surefire set-closer that sees him look back to childhood, and Dorsey’s regal guest vocals on the waltzing, elegantly wasted ‘Silver Springs’ is perfectly at home with the class of the rest of the record.

The album’s real centrepiece, though, is the breathtaking ‘Oh Dearie’ – a gorgeous lullaby of acoustic guitar, piano and strings atop Berninger’s baritone as its most fragile, as he sings of the crippling impact of being weighed down by depression: “Haven’t talked to no one / I don’t know in how long…Don’t get near me / Paralysis has me”. It’s one hell of a skill to lower the listener’s guard and then wrap your arms around them.

Sure, it rests in a lot of the sonic territory of The National, and this isn’t the departure that his peppy indie-pop side-project EL VY represents, but what we do have is an intimate and generous offering from one of 21st Century rock’s most prominent voices. If you’re one of those weirdos who doesn’t put their records in alphabetical artist order, then ‘Serpentine Prison’ should be filed next to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ ‘The Boatman’s Call’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘You Want It Darker’ as a lesson in stately, direct and personal songwriting prowess.

Source Link: NME

James Blake - Before


by James Blake

Released 14 October 2020

UMG Recordings


​Blake attempts some ambitious things on this EP, and executes them brilliantly. It’s a collection of songs which finds Blake paying tribute to his eclectic electronic roots while embracing new ideas. Jazzy transitions and keys are a central element, something which Blake has not explored before in great depth. Hot off his cover of Frank Ocean’s “Godspeed”, there are also hints of gospel dotted around this EP, again showing Blake’s dynamism.

On the title track, “Before”, warm synths develop throughout, stitching the Burial-esque percussion with Blake’s truly heartfelt vocal performance. It’s a song, as he describes it, about the joy of relationships and community, things which have come to light more than ever before during these times.

“I Keep Calling” is reminiscent of his 2010 breakout track “CMYK”, albeit far less dizzying and wild. The new track features expertly-cut vocal chops layered with soft keys, working together brilliantly.

Throughout Before, Blake strikes the perfect balance between his production and vocals – neither one overpowers the other and are both equally important in making the record what it is. It’s important, because Blake’s lyrics are some of the most introspective and uplifting he’s written – on the final track “Summer of Now”, he contemplates his past relationships, but comes to the conclusion he will focus on the “summer of now”, rather that of 2015.

Blake said of this release that it is “a yearning for dancefloor elation”. It’s a simple message, and this EP goes so far beyond it.

Source Link: BeatsPerMinute

Spaza - Uprize! (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Uprize! (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

by Spaza

Released 16 October 2020

Mushroom Hour Half Hour


"Uprize!", the second album by Johannesburg-based improvisational collective quartet Spaza, recorded over a three-day session in 2016, functions as a soundtrack to a documentary film of the same name, charting the majority black student uprising in the South African township of Soweto in June 1976.

The uprising came as a response to the increased teaching of Afrikaans in schools, a move seen to further subjugate the black population during apartheid. Latched on to by the burgeoning black consciousness movement, the protests were met with police brutality and the deaths of at least 176 people.

The resulting album, created in situ as documentary footage was projected on a wall of the recording studio, is a deeply touching work of both historic testimony and a remarkably prescient suite of mood music that has anticipated our current moment. Interspersed throughout are snatches of interviews from the film, such as on opening number Bantu Education – where we learn of the politicised use of Afrikaans – and on the militarised tenor of The Black Consciousness Movement. In both instances, double bassist Ariel Zamonsky provides guttural, sweeping bow movements to give voice to a sinking feeling of unease, while vocalist Nonku Phiri’s amorphous soaring falsetto brings forth a glimmer of hope.

This interplay between light and dark continues on the album’s remaining seven tracks: the immediacy of Zamonsky’s finger-plucking and percussionist Gontse Makhene’s sparse rhythms on Banna Ba Batsumi create an uncanny sense of agitation when accompanied by the film’s footage of police brutality. Phiri’s voice comes into its own on the yearning balladry of Sizwile and pianist Malcolm Jiyane places himself in the same melodic lineage as South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim with his tender, meandering voicings on Solomon, Tsietsi & Khotso.

Whether experienced alongside the confronting documentary or listened to alone, Uprize! enacts the uncertain birth of change through its free jazz-referencing improvisations. And the closing track, We Got a Lot a Work to Do, is an aptly titled reminder. Here, that heaviness, that initial bow-laden bass resonance, is transmuted into the whispers of a shared vocalisation between Phiri and Jiyane. Perhaps in that work there may be a hopefulness after all.

Source Link: The Guardian Album of The Month Sept 2020

A Certain Ratio - ACR Loco

ACR Loco

by A Certain Ratio

Released 25 September 2020

Mute Records


ACR Loco, is Manchester mainstays A Certain Ratio's first collection of new songs in 12 years. The album distills the bands 40-year legacy, potently if imperfectly, while also bending modern beat-heavy music to their collective will.

ACR Loco is built on the taut yet fluid rhythms of A Certain Ratio’s core trio - drummer Donald Johnson, bassist/vocalist Jez Kerr, and multi-instrumentalist Martin Moscrop, and spins off variously into motorik disco (“Berlin”), clattering samba-meets-electro (“Taxi Guy”) and gooey jazz-funk (“Get A Grip”).

The otherwise tranquil opener “Friends Around Us” slides into a drum’n’bass breakdown for its final minutes, and the low vocal tones and disco bridge of “Supafreak” sound like the band has spent time with Hot Chip’s catalog. 

The occasional clumsiness of ACR Loco is easy to forgive in light of the album’s musical pleasures. After a deep dive into their back pages, A Certain Ratio found a powerful formula: paying heed to where they came from while keeping the door open for more all night parties in their future. 

Source Link: Pitchfork

Demae - Life Works Out... Usually

Life Works Out... Usually

by Demae

Released 18 September 2020

Touching Bass


Demae is a name you might not know yet, but the London artist has been around for a minute, formerly working under the name Bubblerap and part of the group Hawk House. More recently, she’s also been working as a backup vocalist for Fatima. Now she’s stepping out under her new/old name and slowing things down to release her debut EP as Demae, Life Works Out…Usually.

While previous projects might have been a bit more straight-up hip hop, as Demae, she’s now leaning a bit more in the neo-soul direction, slowing things down, getting more intimate with her songwriting, and adding a splash of jazz to the proceedings as well. For the EP, she’s getting production from Eun, 10.4 ROG, Jake Milliner, and Wu-Lu, who are all providing Demae with some great soulful downtempo beats. She’s also getting some assistance from Ego Ella May and Fatima on vocals, Joe Armon-Jones on keys, and Nala Sinephro on harp. They help flesh out a few of the tracks and bring a little live energy and help fuel Demae’s creative juice. This is all great, but it wouldn’t mean a thing is Demae herself couldn’t bring it and capitalize on all of these assists. Fortunately, you don’t need to worry about that. Demae is a great vocalist, one who understands that less is more. It’s about good tone and simple and effective melodies with Demae, who really wants you to understand the message of these songs. That’s because this is an EP about finding herself, trusting in herself, and learning to grow as she reinvented her public musical persona and put much more of her personal life into the music. The result is an EP that will really resonate with listeners on a deep one-on-one level.

Life Works Out…Usually isn’t a big statement in the sense of having a big pop hit, an up tempo number that we can all sing along to. It is a big statement, however, in the sense that Demae is putting herself out there as an artist and giving us a really mature, jazzy, soulful sound that rewards with each repeat listen.

Source Link: ScratchedVinyl

KutiMangoes - Afrotropism


by The KutiMangoes (feat. Made Kuti)

Released 15 September 2019

Tramp Records


In 2016, German Newspaper Kieler Nachrichten proclaimed“How unlikely that one of the hottest afro-jazz bands on the planet comes from Denmark. Authenticity is more a question of attitude than origin,”

Indeed, and in late 2019, The KutiMangoes presented their third album "Afrotropism", as well as a long tour taking the group far and wide in Denmark and Germany.

Since the release of their award winning debut album Afro-Fire in 2014, the band has continuously worked on refining their bold and groovy horn-driven sound to position them as one of the most interesting and hard-grooving bands on the global music scene.

Afro-tropism: Tropism is a biological phenomenon that indicates growth of a plant in response to the environment. After recordeding with African musicians on their first two albums, the third is centered around TKM as a band taking the musical roots they love so much from the African continent and look at what happens when they meet our musical environment. What happens when the roots grow branches and leaves in response to the world they inhabit, the people they meet? 

On a musical level, thy have made it their mission is to mix cultures and cross borders: mixing grooves, melodic structures & approaches to music that they encountered in Africa with their own musical heritage, their craftsmanship as jazz musicians and passion for composition and new sounds in search of a new, globally oriented music. This includes melodies that develop in a west-african bambara tradition, grooves inspired by Mali blues, rhythms from highlife but played with a Nordic approach, sensibilities and instruments: horns, effect pedals, synthesizers, drums and percussion from all over the world.

So the new album is a development of a trademark bold sound that experiments with synthesizers, soundscapes and a bit of electronic effects without losing it’s focus on groove, melody, atmosphere and musicianship. Last but not least , a strong brass section with two saxophones and trombone.

Source Link: JazzBFango

Surprise Chef - Daylight Savings

Daylifght Savings

by Diana Krall

Released 16 October 2020

Mr Bongo


Daylight Savings is the second full-length album by Melbourne's cinematic soul journeymen Surprise Chef - and comes only three months after their stunning debut in July an develops similar themes.

Recorded over a weekend in Surprise Chef's DIY analogue studio (dubbed The College Of Knowledge), Daylight Savings expands on the dramatic 1970s cinematic soul sound established on their acclaimed first album, 2019's All News Is Good News. Created in Spring 2019, just as the jasmine bush in the backyard of the College Of Knowledge was coming to full bloom, Daylight Savings is filled with the optimism and hope that comes with the impending long, warm evenings after a dreary Melbourne winter.

Surprise Chef is:

Lachlan Stuckey - Guitar
Jethro Curtin - Keys, vibraphone
Andrew Congues - Drums
Carl Lindeberg - Bass
Hudson Whitlock - Percussion
Lucky Pereira - Percussion
Joe Orton - Percussion, slide guitar

This Is The Kit - Off Off On

Off Off On

by This Is The Kit

Released 23 October 2020

Rough Trade Records


Kate Stables’ group This Is The Kit have created a name for themselves with songs that untangle emotional knots and weave remarkable stories. Their second album for Rough Trade Records, Off Off On, (October 23, 2020) is a beautifully clear distillation of Stables’ songwriting gifts. Recorded just before the pandemic forced the world to hit the pause button, the songs are exquisitely astute, the album title suggesting life’s glitchy rhythms – “two steps backwards, one step forwards… Swinging between good places and bad places inside and out.”

Off Off On is about “events catching up with you and how you catch up with events,” explains Stables, “not so much mood swings as brain swings, the here and there that your brain tugs you on.” Stables’ words – lyrical but always lucid – chime with a world tilted on its axis, from the flickering ‘This Is What You Did’, a testament to what Stables calls the “night-time mind race and morning day dread”, to the uninvited vampires hovering on the threshold in ‘Shinbone Soap’. The title track is about “a friend who got very ill and then didn’t make it. But I remember visiting him in hospital and seeing everything differently there. The people working there, the other visitors, the buildings, the grounds.”

By the end of 2018, This Is The Kit had finished touring their last album, Moonshine Freeze, and begun to write Off Off On when Stables was invited to join The National on the road for multiple tours and TV appearances – a continuation of her contributions on their album I Am Easy To Find. “I think it did me loads of good,” laughs Stables. “It was so brilliant when I was writing to be away from my songs and the responsibility of being in charge of a band or a project - just to forget about that for a while and be a minion in someone else’s band was brilliant, I loved it. I think it really helped my writing and my getting through whatever I needed to get through.”

As the songs coalesced, she decided to work on the new record with producer Josh Kaufman, a New York-based musician, Hold Steady collaborator and member of Bonny Light Horseman and Muzz. Stables first met him when working with Anais Mitchell on a cover of an Osibisa song, their paths crossing again at Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner’s PEOPLE residencies in Berlin and Brooklyn. “We were on the same page about a lot of musical ideas, as well as doing things I definitely wouldn’t do musically,” Stables says. “It was a lovely mixture of wow, you’re exactly in my brain and exactly at the opposite end of my brain.” After the band – completed by Rozi Plain (bass/vocals), Neil Smith (guitar), Jesse D Vernon (??), and Jamie Whitby-Coles (drums), – rehearsed the songs at an isolated cottage in Wales, they headed to Wiltshire’s Real World Studios in the UK, finishing just in time for everyone to get home for lockdown.

The result of their work together is Off Off On. Richly illuminating and acutely sensitive to the pulses and currents of life, the album shows This Is The Kit overflowing with ideas, energy and power

Source Link: This Is The Kit Bandcamp

Jeff Tweedy - Love Is King

Love Is King

by Jeff Tweedy

Released 13 October 2020

Words Ampersand Music


Jeff Tweedy began composing songs for the new album "Love Is The King" while at work on his songwriting handbook, using some of his freshly minted tunes to illuminate particular points of his process. Real-time insight into the writing and recording of a new rock album is rare enough to make this book unique, but "How to Write One Song" is decidedly not a set of liner notes to }Love Is the King". It’s a manifesto advocating the power of everyday creativity, imploring the reader to look at songwriting not as divine inspiration but rather as a practical craft: Assemble the parts, learn how to use the tools at your disposal, toil away for a set amount of time on a daily basis, and it becomes feasible to finish one song; after that, perhaps one more.

"Love Is the King" is a testament to the virtues of this creative approach. Tweedy’s method is designed to sustain a songwriter through dry spells while also doubling as a journal of the moment; such a technique is surely beneficial when grappling with the existential stresses generated by a global pandemic.

Love Is the King contains no attempts at grand pronouncements on the state of the world in lockdown. Rather, it’s a series of vignettes, secular hymns, and snapshots, all loosely arranged around the notion of human connection. Nothing moves too fast here. “Gwendolyn” ambles along to a groove that’s just a shade soulful, “Opaline” moseys ahead with a slight grin, and “Natural Disaster” is a shambling bit of country-rock that stands out not only for its rhythm but also for how its sardonic view of love cuts against the warm sentiments that flow through the record. Warmth doesn’t preclude the presence of loneliness or worry. The gravity of isolation weighs down the narrator of “Bad Day Lately” and self-doubt nags at the heart of “Troubled,” but there’s a recurring theme of the solace and sustenance to be found within lasting love. It surfaces on the hushed “Even I Can See,” whose pivotal verse hinges on finally being able to view the presence of a god through the love of his wife, and in the murmured devotions floating throughout the semi-narcotic thrum of “Half-Asleep.”

None of these songs demand much attention from the listener, but that mellowness is part of the record’s charm. It’s music sprung from the yearning desire for comfort and connection in a difficult time, music whose meaning lies in the act of the creation itself. Since it was made during a time of seclusion, not just for Tweedy but also his audience, the imagery and emotions threaded through Love Is the King can’t help but contain empathetic echoes for listeners still struggling with a year spent apart from loved ones. The reason the record provides some measure of consolation is due to its modesty. Rather than a concept album about quarantine, it’s a snapshot of a moment in time, one that captures the confusion, longing, and loneliness of a world set back on its heels.

Source Link: Love Is The King Pitchfork Album Review

Xavier Omar - if You Feel

if You Feel

by Xaviere Omar

Released 23 October 2020

RCA Records


 "if You Feel" is the San Antonio native’s 4th album, a follow-up to "Moments Spent Loving You" (2019).

“This album means finding a moment for every emotion I may have, whether in love, friendship, or how I feel about myself, and allowing myself to fully feel that emotion even if it’s negative", Omär explains. “I need to feel the fullness of each emotion to either keep it with me or learn from it.”

Born into a musical family, Xavier Omär is no stranger to the wide spectrum of emotions that makes music so powerful: his mother is a trained opera songer with a passion for gospel; his father and brothers are musician and producesrs and he has played drums in church groups from the age of eleven. His sound harkens back to the smooth R&B of the 90’s and early-aughts and he cites TLC, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, 112, Brandy and Dru Hill as formative acts that made him understand the genre. But his music is mor complex. In interviuews he aslo cite James Blake, Bon Iver and Pharrell - you hear these influences clearly in songs like "Lil' Healer" (feat. Quinn Barlow).

Omar has lived a peripatetic life: "I was born in Monterey, California, and then we moved a month later. So I have still, today, never experienced my hometown in any manner. Then we did three years in Colorado, three years in Georgia, three years in Japan, four years in Maryland, and then my dad retired [from the military] and that’s when we went back to Georgia. And I spent six more years there. I went with them to Texas in late 2010 - that’s when I first got to San Antonio - and I finally moved out and went back to live with my sister in Georgia. And then I wanted to marry my wife who was in Maryland, so I moved there, and now I’m back in San Antonio. So I haven’t had this true consistent hometown".

"It was my freshman year of high school [when I realized] I was noticeably different from Southern culture. I was not an outcast, but I definitely was made to feel that way. So I just didn’t connect with a whole lot of people.  I think that’s part of why I never connected it to being where I’m from. But in San Antonio, that’s when I started making my solo music for the first time, and that has been so much of a journey here. I’ve been very much embraced even when I was just trying. I was just getting a lot of encouragement from people out here, and so this feels much more of home than anywhere else even though I’ve definitely spent more time in other places".

This background placed the young man in a relatively unique situation musiocally: "Being around [my siblings] gave me an idea of what was cool and what they liked, but then I guess as I got older I started to just venture out. I was beginning to make music around 12. I didn’t have anything I connected to other than Pharrell and the Neptunes. So other than them I didn’t have anything I directly connected to. The first time I truly had that was CeeLo Green, but it was by the time he was doing Gnarls Barkley [with Danger Mouse.] And I was like, “Oh, black people can do this too? Our voices sound great on this too?” In those times I was just learning what I liked. So that’s how I got to the diversity of music that I love so much".

Source Link: OkayPlayer magazine

Against All LOgic (Nicolas Jaar) - 2017-2019


by Against All Logic (Nicolás Jaar)

Released 7 February 2020

Other People


"Under his Against All Logic alias, Nicolas Jaar writes music that sounds like it’s trying to break out of itself. Textures undulate and basses overwhelm, while vocals flutter in and out of focus as if someone were flicking through channels on a decrepit television. The project’s first LP, quietly released on his Other People label at the beginning of 2018, folded half a decade’s work into one of the most accessible albums of his career. Now that A.A.L. is a known quantity, Jaar returns with 2017 - 2019, trading the warmer house music of his debut for a warped techno counterpart"*.

This album is structured as a continuous, linear suite. The opener "Fantasy" samples Beyonce from her 2003 song "Baby Boy" (feat. Sean Paul) adding flamenco guitars, crunchy beats and other effects.

Next, Bobby "Blue" Bland's 1973 standard "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Wanna Be Right" is pulled out of its archive and updated in a soulful new treatment, the rhythm of which suddenly intensifies and is transformrd to provide the opening of "It's An Addict", then replaced by a delicate keyboard motif that fades, shimmers, surges and returns, accompanied by a repeated vocal refrain "and you don't stop".

The core of the album is undoubtably the following track"If You Can't Do It Good, Do It Hard", which samples vocals and lyrics of American punk icon Lydia Lunch: “Because you can’t beat ’em, kill ’em/If you can’t kill ’em, fuck ’em/If you can’t fuck ’em, kill ’em/If you can’t do it good, do it hard".

By this point the album is propelled by percussion and distortion that continues to drive the tracks that follow "Alarm", "Deeeeefers", "Faith" and "Penny", as Jaar/A.A.L. whips them into a kraut-rock intensity that is released only by the atmospheric assembly of vocals and percussion of the album's closing track "You (forever)".

It's an exhilirating journey.

Serendipitously, this album connects what might otherwise have remained separate worlds of music in a manner as surprising and refreshing as Roman Gianarthur's reworkings of  Radiohead in his "OK Lady Roman" (EP) which is also included and reviewed this month.

*Source Link: Pitchfork

Nicolas Jaar - Cenizas


by Nicolás Jaar

Released 27 March 2020

Other People


"Cenizas", the second release by Chilean American electronic music artist and composer Nicolas Jaar in the space of a couple of months (and was included in my March 2020 playlist, without a review). This is an evocative, atmospheric piece that engages acoustic and electronic instrumentation to produce close to an hour's worth of engaging compositions whose musical roots recall the pre-ambient era, reminiascent of works by European artists such as David Sylvian (UK), Can (Germany), John Cale (UK), PFM (Italy).

This release contrasts remarkably to "2017-2019", Jaar's preceeding album, released under the pseudenym "Against All Logic", which called upon an entirely separate set of sensibilities. "2017-2019" (separate review oposite) involved the derivation of themes from rhythm and blues, using samples from tracks by Beyonce/Sean Paul and Bobby "Blue" Bland, and reshaping them them into a suite of music that is reminiscent of kraut-rock. 

"Cenizas" (Ashes) is an orchestral work from the outset, and draws from the neo-classical and contemporary music canons, rather than popular music. 

"Cenisas" opens in a sombre mood with the the call of  anguish of the opening song "Vanish"-"Say your coming back" . The suite of eleven intense compositions that follows are links to whatever mysterious geographies that "Vanish's" call may have been directed. And despite the disquieting journey that Jaar has us take, the album closes with memorable lyrics of encouragement in "Faith Made of Silk", which is sung like a folk song, backed by little more than a piano & snare drum:

Carried by a force until a certain peak
There, all you could see

Is swayed by the wind
Like the locks in your hair
Coloring your eyes

That look nowhere
Like a faith made of silk
Look around not ahead

A peak is just the way towards
A descent

Remarkable work.

NicolaÌs Jaar - Telas


by Nicolás Jaar

Released 17 July 2020

Other People


"Telas"("Veils") is prolific composer Nicolas Jaar's third album so far this year. All come hot on the heels of his work with FKA Twigs' on her album Magdelene, released in November 2019. The album is the product of intense collaboration. For the two years prior to the album's release, Jaar worked with artist Somnath Bhatt to create the “visual terrain” for the project. In addition, digital artist Abeera Kamra designed a website that presented Jaar’s music and Bhatt’s visuals “in their liquid primordial states.” The site was described as “a panspermic terrain where particles travel through space, weaving together life forms, where no matter - whether existing in thought, physical form or other - has a solid or unmovable origin.”

Parts of "Telas" were first played during a pair of shows at New York’s The Kitchen in 201 and Jaar formally debuted “Telahora” on Radio Al Hara (Palestine) in May 2020.

Perhaps his most challenging release to date,"Telas" is an angular, hour-long ambient suite of four thematically-linked pieces, in which Jaar pushes the limits of his experimentation - and his audience's tolerances. 
Jaar uses highly amplified woodwinds and guitars alongside wooden and metal objects (instruments) built by artists Anna Ippolito and Marzio Zorio, to create constantly-shifting, seemingly free-form soundscapes that evoke a wide range of moods and textures.

For the most part the result is a recording that appears to be more concerned with the artistic collaboration and performance, the nature of which is unfortunately no longer available to the listener, rather than to the music this process is producing.

While his intent remains opaque, Jaar creates a peculiar and disturbing sonic universe that is painful for visitors and unlikely to attract many returners to the stand-alone recording. It is not until the second half of the penultimate track, (Telahumo), that a Philip Glass-like repetitive keyboard pattern affords the listener a semblance of relief, yet they are soon assailed once more by the final track, "Telallas" on which a penetrating low drone persists behind a foreground of small percussive pops and squeeks. By this stage the music is as disturbing as a defective fluorescent light ballast in a kitchen filled with dripping taps! This oppressive soundscape persists for most of the final track, before it eventually resolves into melody during the final three minutes of the work - a small relief that I suspect will reward only the most ardent of listeners.

This is an experimental album for Jaar and his collaborators and it may well inform or supplement his more accessible work, but without further information (or a functioning version of the website through which this music was initially released) this is an uncomfortable listen for a prospective audience.

Jonsi - Shiver


by Jonsi

Released 2 October 2020

Krunk Records


Not too long ago Jónsi was traveling through London, where he met up with iconoclastic producer A.G. Cook, who he admired for his boundary-breaking work with the PC music collective. He had no expectation for the meeting, but the more they talked, the more he realized they might be perfect collaborators. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Jónsi says. “I get tired of everything really easily. I always want things to be fun and exciting and fresh, and doing another album...I just wanted to have a different approach.”

Jónsi had made a career on sweeping music that plumbed the depths of the human experience and our connection to the natural world. Cook’s production exists at the opposite end of the spectrum: synthetic, sometimes abrasive, and often on the cutting edge of experimentalism.

On paper, their collaboration is surprising, but Shiver is a beautiful record that pushes Jónsi’s otherworldly voice into startling new territories.

Source Link: Album Bandcamp

`Susanna - Baudelaire & Piano

Baudelaire and Piano

by Susanna



The Norwegian artist Susana has released albums as Susanna and the Magical Orchestra, Susanna and Susanna Wallumrød since 2004 on labels like Rune Grammofon, ECM, Grappa Musikkforlag and since 2011 on her own label Susanna Sonata. She is critically acclaimed for both her own songs and her highly personal interpretations of other people's songs.

With this album Susanna poses the retorical question "What would French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821-67) have made of the events of 2020?" An artist who took his disgust with life to the streets, who constantly shook his fist at authority, and a literary enfant terrible who suffered from disease most of his life, his poetry has been set to music by everyone from Claude Debussy to Ali Akbar Khan, and his uncompromising life and art influenced the music of The Doors, Bob Dylan and Scott Walker.

Now his abject, decadent verse is the backbone of the latest release by Norwegian vocalist/composer Susanna. 

This is a record made in isolation, stripped back to just her expressive, soulful voice and skeletal, trancelike piano playing. The light touch allows the extraordinary qualities of Baudelaire’s writing to shine through. ‘I wanted to approach this material in an almost dogmatic way,’ she says, ‘to present the songs in a naked, stripped-down form, alone at the piano. These poems have so many layers and contain such rich expanding emotions to me.’

Like much of Baudelaire’s work, Susanna’s music probes the limits of desire, and confronts the simultaneous wonder and meaningless of existence. He is often considered one of the first modern poets, whose urban observations frequently dipped into fantasy, sensuality, fevered imagings and eerie horror. Susanna’s selection of ten texts from his masterwork The Flowers of Evil (translated by Anthony Mortimer) cover the full spectrum of Baudelaire’s conflicted expression.

Here you’ll find a creepy cast of witches, pagans, wolves, perverts, thugs, ghosts, vampires and demons. The songs struggle with lust and saintliness, angels and demons, tenderness and sadism, and the relentless march of time, the destroyer. Beauty with an edge of strangeness. Sin as a swallowing abyss. In Susanna’s haunting settings and performance, the poetry of Baudelaire has found its ideal transmitter.

Source Link: Album Bandcamp

Anna von Hausswolff - All Thoughts Fly

All Thoughts Fly

by Anna von Hausswolff

Released  25 September 2020

Southern Lord Recordings


Anna von Hausswolff is a Sweedish musician and composer exploring the myriad of possibilities and the potential for new expressions on the pipe organ.

Sacro Bosco (“Sacred Grove”) is the starting point for her new album "All Thoughts Fly"". Here in solo instrumental mode, the entire record consists of just one instrument, the pipe organ, and represents absolute liberation of the imagination.

"All Thoughts Fly" radiates a melancholic beauty, and is distinguished by fluid transitions of contrasting elements; calmness and drama, harmony and dissonance, much like the place that inspires the music.

"Sacro Bosco" is a garden, based in the centre of Italy, containing grotesque mythological sculptures and buildings overgrown with vegetation, situated in a wooded valley beneath the castle of Orsini. Created during the 16th Century, Sacro Bosco was commissioned by Pier Francesco Orsini, some say to try and cope with his grief following the death of his wife Guilia Farnese, others speculate the purpose was to create art.

About the album Anna explains “there’s a sadness and wilderness that inspired me to write this album, also a timelessness. I believe that this park has survived not only due to its beauty but also because of the iconography, it has been liberated from predictable ideas and ideals. The people who built this park truly set their minds and imagination free. All thoughts fly is a homage to this creation, and an effort to articulate the atmosphere and the feelings that this place evokes inside of me. It’s a very personal interpretation of a place that I lack the words to describe. I’d like to believe Orsini built this monumental park out of grief for his dead wife, and in my Sacro Bosco I used this story as a core for my own inspiration: love as a foundation for creation.”

Source Link: Album Bandcamp

Gorillaz - Song Machine, Season 1,  Strange Timez

Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez

by Gorillaz

Released 23 October 2020



The new Gorillaz album is such a sampler and introduction to a universe of music and musicians, that the title "Music Machine" is more than apt. Gorillaz is of course the fictional band created by former Blur songwriter Damon Albarn and UK comic creator Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl), whose core members are: drummer Russell Hobbs (voiced and played by Remi Kabaka Jr.), bassist Murdoc Niccals (voiced by Dead Ringers actor Phil Cornwell),

keyboardist 2-D (singing voiced by Albarn, speaking voiced by actors Nelson De Freitas and Kevin Bishop) and  lead guitarist Noodle (voiced by actresses Haruka Kuroda, Haruka Abe, Miho Hatori and Roses Gabor/Rosie Wilson).

Well known collaborators on this ablum include Robert Smith, Beck, St. Vincent, Elton John, Fatoumata Diawara, Slaves, slowthai, Joan As Policewoman, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, jpegmafia, Chai, Tony Allen and Skepta. These luminaries are ably supplemented by many new and unfamilar (at least to me) names, including Leee John, ScHoolboy Q, 6LACK, Peter Hook, Georgisa, Octavian, Kano, Roxani Arias, Earthjgang, GoldLink, and Moonchild Sanelly.

This is Gorillaz sixth album and it is fair to say that the project has had mixed success in the past. As Alex Petridis said in his Guardian review: "At various points since their 2000 debut, Gorillaz have ... lurched from feeling like a stoned folly to a brilliantly inventive reimagining of what a pop band can be; from a postmodern gag to the source of evidently heartfelt concept albums about environmentalism and the apocalyptic tone of life in the 21st century; from being the object of Noel Gallagher’s derision to featuring Noel Gallagher as a special guest".

This time around I find most of collaborator' original music more engaging and Albarn's overall vison doesn't seem to add anything fresh or new, despite the Gorillaz concept providing a platform from which he might launch in preactically any direction he wishes. 

Bruce Springsteen - Letter To You

Letter To You

by Bruce Springsteen

Released 23 October 2020



Although he seems to have been as active as ever over the past couple of decades, his output has worked a reworked his back catalogue: a retrospective Broadway show, biographical films and a string of releases that contained a mix of old and new work, interspersed with various live and greatest hits packages. One might have imagined that a Las Vegas theme park or music venue would be the next incarnation! Instead, Springsteen has returned with a fully-fledged studio album, backed by the full E-Street Band (Clarence Clemmons' saxes, Steve Van Zandt's guitars, Roy Brittan's keys).

Although it is aguably his strongest album in a decade, "Letter To You"disappoints: it captures the singer and his long-faithful cohorts (of nearly 50 years) in full voice and close to full force, having re-assembled to record the set live in the Boss' home studio in New Jersey, where they have conjured songforms and drama taking us back to the peak touring outfit of the 1970's and 80's, yet it offers nothing that we haven't heard before. Although these are polished performances and it is no small achievement to have so successfully maintaining the personal and professional friendships involved, the focus here is entirely to recreating the testosterone-filled soundscapes of yesteryear. The results are so familar that this is might as well be a Springsteen cover band.

Lyrically and musically, Sprinsgsteen has always mythologised the legacy of mid-20th Century Americana - drawing upon the anthemic music of Orbison, Presley, Cash, Spector and the heroic vision of Steinbeck, Mailer, Dylan, Guthrie. He remained constant, while his peers, such as Dylan and Bowie shape-shifted throughout hs their careers and made remarkable late-life albums (sometimes at death's door). Others, such as Morrison and Mitchell, embraced pop and folk but broadened into jazz. All engaged in various side projects.

Dylan has adopted numerous guises, and his recent release "Rough and Rowdy Ways"is an exemplar that is impossible to resist in comparison: also drawing upon the legacy of the 20th century American songbook, it is an album full of of surprising musical choices and brimming with enigmatic literary references.

Springsteen seems trapped inside his own legend, still tied to the music of his youth, still The Boss, still the consumate entertainer, but perhaps  too protective of his legacy, too mindful of his fans, or just having too much of a good time with his mates, to venture into new territory.

He still appears remarkably fit for a man in his 70's. Let's hope he finds a way to add diversity to his portfolio before he's done. 

The Flaming Lips - American Head

American Head

by The Flaming Lips

Released October 2020

Warner Records


The Flaming Lips achieved legendary status with the trilogy of albums comprising The Soft Bulletin (1999), Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002) and At War With The Mystics (2006). Subsequent albums - Embryonic (2009), The Terror (2013), Oczy Mlody (2017) and Kings Mouth (2019) were not as well received, generally because they oftten ventured into more experimental areas and lacked the narrative strength of the trilogy. But "American Head"is a return to the classic forms and form.

The Lips' Oaklahoman born songwriter Wayne Coyne has explained that he and his bandmate Steven Drozd were inspired by the story of Tom Petty's pre-Heartbrakers band's (Mudcrutch's) layover in Tulsa OK, en-route from Florida to L.A. in the eary 1970's and the possibility that the band may have crossed paths with Coyne's older brothers and their friends, especially to score weed. It was from this conjecture and a mix of the facts and fictions from their youths that the narrative of "American Head" was derived.

Just as events recalled from the pens of the great songwriters gain mythical status in the retelling, the everyday moments and life-changing events in "American Head" are rewritten upon the wall of the band's elaborate musical vision.

Ironically, for a band that is renowned and revered for its "psychadelic" stylings, this is very much an anti-drug story, with a traumatic narrative carried by songs with titles including "Will You Return / When You Come Down", "At The Movies on Quaaludes", "Mother I've Taken LSD", "You n Me Selling Weed" "When We Die When We're High".

"American Head" seems to be a genuine examination of a formative period in the lives of the bandmembers, their friends and acquaintences. 

It's a trip worth taking for Flaming Lips fans.

Terje Rypdal - Conspiracy


by Terje Rypdal

Released 11 September 2020



"Conspiracy” is the name of both Terje Rypdal’s excellent new album and his new band. It’s the most straightforward thing the eclectic electric guitarist has done in decades, after a string of projects featuring big bands, symphonies, vocal ensembles, and electronics. Here the septuagenarian teams with three fellow Norwegians - keyboardist Ståle Storløkken, electric bassist Endre Hareide Hallre, and drummer Pål Thowse, for a 35-minute, six-song set that recalls his early fusion work and elevates mood above melody.

Rypdal’s signature tone and style, which favor atmospherics and sustained notes, emerge immediately on the soaring opener, “As If the Ghost … Was Me!?” Thowsen’s cymbals churn and Hallre’s bass thrums beneath Rypdal’s searing lines as the intensity increases. Ambient, droning keyboards are a primary piece of the backdrop, most notably on “What Was I Thinking” and “Dawn,” the latter of which sounds like it came out of a David Lynch film. Rypdal doesn’t take all the leads: Hallre plays the melody of “By His Lonesome,” and Storløkken’s organ is the featured instrument on the ethereal “Baby Beautiful.” The group rocks out exactly once, on the title track, with its pounding drums, bone-rattling bass, and blistering, whammy-bar-heavy guitar work.

If only Conspiracy were twice as long".

Conspiracy was recorded at Oslo’s Rainbow Studio and produced by Manfred Eicher and Terje Rypdal,

Another gem from ECM.

Source Link: JazzTimes Magazine

Johann Johannsson, Yair Elazar Glotman - Last And First Men

Last and First Men

by Johann Johannsson, Yair Elazar Glotman

Released 28 February 2020

Deutsche Grammophon


Two years after the death of the Icelandic film composer Jóhann Jóhannsson, his only movie as director has become available in the UK on streaming platforms. It is a 70-minute cine-novella or essay film: a meditation on humanity’s future and what it means, or will mean, to be post-human.

The score is by Jóhannsson, working with sound artist and composer Yair Elazar Glotman, and this eerie, breathy soundtrack works well with its unearthly images. "Last and First Men" is inspired by the 1930 novel of the same name by British SF author William Olaf Stapledon, narrated by a figure from humanity’s final evolutionary form billions of years in the future. This voice is performed with crisp lack of affect by Tilda Swinton.

The visual images Jóhannsson finds to accompany this prose-poem are strange and disturbing sculptures that look like something built on Earth by aliens, a mix of Stonehenge and Angkor Wat. I wondered if Jóhannsson had had them designed and built. In fact, these are the brutalist Spomeniks, the socialist-era monuments in former Yugoslavia, mostly in remote windswept landscapes, built in the 1950s and 60s to commemorate the tragedy of the war and the resistance to fascism; they are truly strange in their fierce, concrete giganticism, and have a cult following.

By detaching them from their historical context, Jóhansson finds something very unsettling in these sculptures: they really do look like creations from the future, not the past. "Last and First Men" is an interesting if minor work, perhaps comparable to Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s "Homo Sapiens" or Michael Madsen’s "Into Eternity".

Source Link: The Guardian

Johann Johannsson - Personal Effects (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Personal Effects

by Johann Johannsson

Released 29 May 2020

Deutsche Grammophon


Jóhann Jóhannsson’s music was in high demand in Hollywood. The Icelandic composer’s unique voice, with its distinctive blend of minimalism and ambient electronic sounds, was ideally suited to the medium of film. With this posthumous release, Deutsche Grammophon pays tribute to his work with the world premiere release of his music for the film Personal Effects. It is a sublime collection of sixteen previously unpublished tracks and forms an essential addition to the Jóhannsson catalogue.

The new album originated in 2009 as the score to director David Hollander’s feature film debut. Hollander had fallen in love with Jóhannsson’s music four years earlier while exploring an art installation on Santa Monica beach in California. Although transfixed by the multimedia exhibition’s soundtrack, he left before discovering its composer’s name. By chance the producer of Personal Effects had visited the same exhibition and also been hooked by what he heard. “It was decided,” the director recalls. “This mystery person would be our composer.”

The quest led Hollander to Jóhannsson. Within a week of their first conversation, the composer had drafted music for sections of the film and recorded his ideas on piano. What followed was an intense three-month creative collaboration. Jóhannsson’s music, with its meditations on grief and loss, brought an extra dimension to Personal Effects, a romantic drama starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Ashton Kutcher as two grief-stricken individuals struggling to come to terms with the violent deaths of those closest to them. “Jóhann consistently reached into the images and emotions of the film to create something better than anything I had ever imagined,” notes David Hollander.

The two men became friends as they worked together on Personal Effects and Hollander has found great comfort in listening to the soundtrack since Jóhannsson’s death in February 2018.

He describes his friend as “a kind genius”, justly celebrated for his pioneering scores, including those for Denis Villeneuve’s "Sicario", "Arrival" and "Prisoners" and James Marsh’s "The Theory of Everything", for which he won a 2015 Golden Globe. 

“I never imagined this score would be something that would help me not only to cope with Jóhann’s death, but to feel his presence and be moved, time and time again, by his work,” he adds. “It has. And I hope, for those of you who knew and loved him, or simply loved his work, it does the same for you.”

Source Link: Deutsche Grammophon

Diana Krall - This Dream of You

This Dream Of You

by Diana Krall

Released 25 September 2020

Verve Records


On this album Diana Krall slips into a long-gown, after-midnight, smokey-bar, jazz-blues mode that is perfectly suited to her soft vocals and gentle piano stylings.

Produced by Tommy LiPuma, Krall’s producer from 1995 until his death, aged 80, in 2017 Krall is supported by her longtime backing band consisting of bassist John Clayton Jr., drummer Jeff Hamilton and guitarist Anthony Wilson, as well as a stripped down trio that finds renowned bassist Christian McBride and acclaimed guitarist Russell Malone parring down the performances. 

Krall applies her usual subtlety and finesse to a selection of solitary standards with a seemingly effortless finesse. “That’s All,” “Autumn in New York,” “There’s No You,” and “How Deep Is the Ocean” retain their seductive allure, aided and abetted by a sprightly take on the ebullient “Almost Like Being In New York” and the Gene Kelly showstopper “Singing in the Rain.”

Among the venerable composers represented here - Irving Berlin, Lerner and Lowe, Billy Rose et. al. Bob Dylan finds representation with “This Dream of You,” a relatively obscure entry from his 2009 opus "Together Through Life}l that finds a surprising fine fit here.

Source Link: American Songwriter

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