It really seems like the music industry took the last month or so off. Another lite week for new releases, and a few of these are just late comers as it is! Never mind the fact that my Fed Ex truck hasn’t shown up yet with some of these and many of the restocks. But who knows it could show up any minute. Or tomorrow.
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…..pick of the week…..
Jeff Parker & The New Breed: Suite for Max Brown (International Anthem) LP
The label behind Angel Bat Dawit’s amazing debut present a glorious side from persistent jazz innovator Jeff Parker (Tortoise), melding deeply soulful charm with naturally explorative leanings operating at similarly loose but focussed levels of intuition and dextrous freedom across his swirling ‘Suite For Max Brown’, but with plusher recording and production values. Preceded by a 7” that signalled this LP would be special, ‘Suite for Max Brown’ lives up to its promise with a canny mix of supple, live chops and Parker’s own sampling/editing tekkers that makes the LP feel at once fresh and vintage. Manning electric guitar, plus all sorts of percussion (drums, glockenspiel, pandeiro), and electronics (sampler, Korg MS20, Roland JP-08, midi), as well as Mibira and vocals, Jeff is flanked by a hand-picked band of Interantional Anthem regulars on strings, brass, drums and vox for a sophisticated and deeply cool iteration of 2020 jazz music. The smooth fusion of ‘Max Brown’ off the aforementioned 7” single now closes the LP, but before you get there, the album will charm your socks off in 10 ways. On the A-side he puckers up a selection of succinct bewts, stroking MS20 subs under loping drums, guitar vamps and Ruby Parker’s serene, lilting vox on ‘Build a Nest’, and going all J Dilla with the sample/edit cut-up of Otis Redding on ‘C’mon Now’, before lurching into devilish jazz-funk breaks in ‘Fusion Swirl’, then melting the vibe with a gorgeous take on Coltrane’s ‘After The Rain’, alongside dreamy electronic vignette ‘Metamorphoses’. On the B-side however it sounds like they returned from lunch (and perhaps a spicy zoot) with a much more laid-back, woozy appeal explored thru Parker’s signature, quietly joyful electric guitar and spongiform MS20 bass on ‘3 For L’, while ‘Go Away’ simmers on the good foot for classy ‘floors with Makaya McCraven’s drums synched to Parker’s vox, sampler and chiming, almost highlife-esque guitar. As with everything we’ve heard on IARC over the past few months (admittedly since being wowed by that amazing Angel Bat Dawid debut), Jeff Parker’s contributions fall squarely within the label’s focused yet broad appeal and properly rooted styles, offering the sort of Jazz slab that will seduce fence-sitters and light up harder-to-please beret wearers.
File Under: Jazz
Antibalas: Fu Chronicles (Daptone) LP
Over the years, different members have traded production and composition duties from album to album. On the new album—“Fu Chronicles”—Amayo leads us through a thrilling sonic journey of kung fu meets Afrobeat, weaving together the strands of Edo and Yoruba cultural memory from Nigeria with his training and study in Chinese martial arts. Recorded in the Summer of 2018, over seventeen musicians and singers crammed into the storied Daptone House of Soul in Bushwick to record the massive body of work. With live versions and arrangements stretching up to thirty minutes, Perna, Amayo, and Roth worked tirelessly to preserve the hypnotic power of the long-form live arrangements into six concise and powerful album tracks.
File Under: Funk, Afrobeat
Black Lips: Sing in a World That’s Falling Apart (Fire) LP
It’s country music but not as we know it which begs the question: Have these bad kids of 21st century rock ‘n’ roll finally grown up on their ninth studio album? Are they at peace with themselves? Have they made a record their parents could listen to? The Black Lips new album Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart and new single “Gentleman” both continue to flick the middle finger to one and all. This ain’t another gaggle of bearded southern sons fleeing their collective suburban upbringings and collegiate music education. There aren’t the usual clichés about drinking, honkytonks, and heartbreak. These are, after all, the same Black Lips who rescued the waning garage punk subgenre by not sounding or dressing their musical predecessors. They also dug contemporary hip-hop and punk and actualized themselves. Like so many dramatic moments in the Black Lips career, Sing In A World That’s Falling Apart was born out of crisis. The band’s stylistic evolution through decades of prolific touring and recording took them where no garage punk band had gone before – huge venues, network television shows, and major music festivals. Here Black Lips are at their grimiest, most dangerous and equipped with the best collection of songs since the aughts. Skidding onto the asphalt in a shower of sparks, they roll on with an unapologetic southern-fried twang, pacing the beast, every now and then dropping a psycho howl into the rubber room madness lurking underneath the truckstop fireworks. This ain’t your granny’s country album. And conversely this ain’t your mama’s Black Lips!
File Under: Country, Punk
Elkhorn: The Storm Sessions (Beyond Beyond is Beyond) LP
The Storm Sessions is the latest glowing proof that Elkhorn are one of the most durable and adventurous platforms of the new guitar age. Snowed in with their friend Turner Williams (Ramble Tamble, Guardian Alien) on the night of an emotionally important gig, the duo-plus-one turned it into a cathartic blizzard-bound collaboration and rumination — and a new step for Elkhorn. A powerful turn outside the duo’s comfort zone, The Storm Sessions consists of two side-long improvisations by guitarists Jesse Sheppard (12-string acoustic) and Drew Gardner (6-string electric) along with Turner’s rare and lovely vibrations (electric bouzouki on one side, shahi baaja on the flip). No strangers to improvisation or collaboration, The Storm Sessions is their most spontaneous studio work yet, and perhaps their most beautifully flowing. Formed by old friends Jesse Sheppard and Drew Gardner in 2013 and naming themselves ‘Elkhorn’ the following year, it’s the pair’s telepathic bond that has made them so much more than two dudes with guitars. With Sheppard’s rigorous 12-string acting like a meditative rhythm section for Gardner’s textured flights, the duo’s third voice emerges into a space that often borders on soulful cosmic jazz. Committed collaborators and community organizers in their vibrational corner of the world, both members of the band are deep students of the music. In 2018, Sheppard organized The 1000 Incarnations of the Rose, an already historic three-day festival in Takoma Park, Maryland–John Fahey’s hometown–that showcased generations of wide-eared guitarists. Ambassadors to an often-hidden creative lineage as well as an often-hidden network of modern players, Elkhorn have hewn to the most sage advice Timothy Leary ever proclaimed: Find the others. Mark Fosson (who played the 1000 Incarnations of the Rose) was one such Other, forming a cross-generational bond with Sheppard. Scheduled to play a New York show with Elkhorn in late 2018, the 68-year-old Fosson fell ill and passed away. A rescheduled performance featuring Williams (another Other) turned into the extended session in Gardner’s home studio in Harlem. The Storm Sessions is filled with flickering textures that might create warmth on a cold day, or a bubble of human atmosphere inside a dreary dystopian vacuum, no matter the weather outside. Their sixth full-length in five years, Elkhorn are both well into their journey and have only just begun.
File Under: Psych, Guitar
Nils Frahm & Anne Muller: 7fingers (Erased Tapes) LP
Fans of the Berlin based Nils Frahm are by now familiar with his beguiling live shows where more often than not fellow touring artists are encouraged to join Frahm on stage – the likes of Rachel Grimes, Rob Lowe of Balmorhea as well as label colleagues Peter Broderick and Ólafur Arnalds have all obliged with fascinating results. It will come as no surprise then that Nils Frahm, an accomplished composer and producer who signed to Erased Tapes in 2009, has extended his collaborative live musings to encompass the recording studio, working for the first time with noted cellist and fellow Berliner Anne Müller to produce 7fingers. With their first collective release Frahm and Müller have built a world where modern classical and electronica collide creating an ‘intoxicating and delicious’ collection of songs. Primarily a pianist Nils Frahm provides evidence with 7fingers that he can effortlessly turn electric throwing in loops, samples and glitches to accompany and showcase Müller on cello. Anne Müller, a renowned musician noted for her work with the Wolf-Ferrari-Ensemble, Phillip Boa and recent tours with Agnes Obel, proves an amp musical partner for Frahm. As the recognition continues to grow for Nils Frahm’s previous solo piano works Wintermusik and The Bells, 2011 sees a new side to this young talent as he embarks on a detour into strings, symphonies and glitch beats alongside the estimable Anne Müller.
File Under: Ambient, Classical
Khruangbin & Leon Bridges: Texas Sun (Dead Oceans) LP
Driving anywhere in Texas can cost you half a day, easy. For example, it’ll take you over four hours just to get from R&B singer Leon Bridges’ hometown of Fort Worth down to Houston, where the psychedelic wanderers in Khruangbin hail from. The state is vast, crisscrossed with rugged expanses of road flanked by limestone cliffs and granite mountains, forests of pine and mesquite, miles of desert or acres of sprawling grassland, all depending on what part you’re in. And it’s all baking under the Texas Sun that lends its name to Bridges and Khruangbin’s new collaborative EP. “Big sky country, that’s what they call Texas,” Khruangbin bassist Laura Lee says. “The horizon line goes all the way from one side to another without interruption. There’s something really comforting about that.” On Texas Sun, these two members of the state’s musical vanguard meet up somewhere in the middle of that scene, in the mythical nexus of Texas’ past, present, and future – a dreamy badlands where genres blur as seamlessly as the terrain.
File Under: Psych, Soul, Funk
Pete La Roca: Basra (Blue Note) LP
In honor of Blue Note Records’ 80th Anniversary, the legendary jazz label is launching the Blue Note 80 Vinyl Reissue Series. Distinct from the Tone Poet Audiophile Vinyl Reissue Series, this second series curated by Don Was and Cem Kurosman features 180g vinyl LP releases in standard packaging with albums spanning the many eras of the label’s history presented by themes: Blue Note Debuts, Blue Grooves, Great Reid Miles Covers, Blue Note Live, and Blue Note Drummer Leaders. Everything that drummer Pete La Roca did before making Basra was a prelude in his career, and all of his later accomplishments are anti-climatic in comparison with this album. In 1965 La Roca, a respected but somewhat obscure drummer gathered together an unbelievable quartet comprised of tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Steve Kuhn and bassist Steve Swallow for the Basra album. This was the only time that this group ever played together yet they sound very much like a major band that had been performing this music for years. Henderson is in astounding form, inspiring the other musicians to create famous versions of “Lazy Afternoon,” “Eiderdown” and “Malaguena,” renditions that are not only memorable but became the definitive way to play these songs. La Roca contributed three colorful originals that deserved to become standards while his very stimulating drumming helped to bring out the very best in the players. But it is Henderson who lifts Basra into the cosmos, making the album magical and one of the must-hear recordings of the mid-60s! This Blue Note 80 Vinyl Edition is all-analog, mastered by Kevin Gray from the original master tapes, and pressed on 180g vinyl LP at Optimal.
File Under: Jazz
OST: Parasite (Sacred Bones) LP
Parasite, the seventh feature film by Korean director Bong Joon Ho, premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, where it took the coveted Palme d’Or for best film in competition. Since then, it has become the most critically acclaimed film of the year. For the film’s bracingly original score, Bong turned to Jung Jae Il, who brings the world of Parasite to life with plaintive piano and stirring strings. “The script for Parasite begins as follows: “Dark and hopeful music plays.” For a long time, I contemplated whether this piece of music could actually exist. Director Bong and I began with a sound that could permeate through the entire film and progress with focus. What is the one singular tone that can accompany emotions ranging from the most trivial humiliation to the extremities of murder, express all sorts of chaos, and embody the exhilaration of speed, or peace, or loneliness, or messy and dirty situations? I thought that a string orchestra could express these various narratives with one consistent tone – the elegant and refined sounds of baroque music, grotesque and neurotic sounds of contemporary music reminiscent of Penderecki or Ligeti, sounds used to heighten emotions in many films, and violin and cello sounds that carry the bleakness of wandering nomads. In terms of the melody, it was structured as a repetition of ascension and descent as the Kim family ascends to the rich house only to descend back to their poor home and further below to the dreadful bunker hidden beneath the Park family’s basement. “The final music that closes the film is “Soju One Glass.” Director Bong said that he wants the audience to crave a shot of soju as they leave the theater after watching the film. Soju, the cheapest Korean liquor, has been with the joys and sorrows of everyday Koreans for decades. I think he wanted the audience to leave the theater feeling bitter after facing the pain and helplessness of reality, woeful from Ki-woo’s impossible dream, and wanting to release the inexplicable frustration and disquiet this movie brings. To paint a picture of Ki-woo drinking soju while mulling over his unattainable dream, sleeping on the streets, and waking up to a lonely morning, the actor Choi Woo-shik sang the song himself and Director Bong wrote the lyrics. I haphazardly recorded the song with my guitar after sleeping on my studio floor, and I couldn’t recreate the rough recording’s sense of misery and shabbiness in the actual recording studio, so we ended up just using the demo version.” – Jung Jae Il
File Under: OST
Andy Shauf: The Neon Skyline (Arts & Crafts) LP
Few artists are storytellers as deft and disarmingly observational as Andy Shauf. The Toronto-based, Saskatchewan-raised musician’s songs unfold like short fiction: they’re densely layered with colorful characters and a rich emotional depth. On his new album The Neon Skyline he sets a familiar scene of inviting a friend for beers on the opening title track: “I said, ‘Come to the Skyline, I’ll be washing my sins away.’ He just laughed, said ‘I’ll be late, you know how I can be.'” The LP’s eleven interconnected tracks follow a simple plot: the narrator goes to his neighborhood dive, finds out his ex is back in town, and she eventually shows up. While its overarching narrative is riveting, the real thrill of the album comes from how Shauf finds the humanity and humor in a typical night out and the ashes of a past relationship. For The Neon Skyline, Shauf chose to start each composition on guitar instead of his usual piano. Happy accidents like Shauf testing out a new spring reverb pedal and experimenting with tape machines forced him to simplify how he’d arrange the tracks. Over the course of a year-and-a-half, Shauf ended up with almost 50 songs all about the same night at the bar. Though paring down his massive body of work to a single album’s worth of material was a challenge for Shauf, the final tracklist is seamless and fully-formed.
File Under: Indie Rock
Wolf Parade: Thin Mind (Royal Mountain) LP
Every moment spent gazing at our screens is oversaturated with content, an ever-accelerated news cycle conditioning our ever-decreasing attention spans. The struggle to stay present, and to foresee a clear, sustainable future, feels very real. Wolf Parade address this phenomenon head-on with Thin Mind, the band’s fifth full-length and second to be produced by John Goodmanson (Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney, Unwound). Thin Mind marks a return to the original power trio of Dan Boeckner, Spencer Krug, and Arlen Thompson, following multi-instrumentalist Dante DeCaro’s amicable departure from the group in 2018, after the conclusion of their world tour supporting Cry Cry Cry. The band’s decision to forge a future-forward sound using a myriad of synthesizers – from ‘80s synths and ‘90s MiDi to more modern, kitchen sink instruments – recalls the sonics of Wolf Parade’s earliest EPs. Album highlights include “Julia, Take Your Man Home,” “Forest Green” and “Against the Day”, with lyrics split evenly between Dan and Spencer. On “Julia, Take Your Man Home,” Spencer imagines the worst version of himself over a deep groove and an exaggerated, fictitious caricature. “Forest Green” gallops along to a synthetic clip of Arlen’s electronic drum kit while Dan’s lyrics encapsulate the profound beauty, and ugliness, of Vancouver Island – not only where Thin Mind was recorded, but where Arlen and Spencer now live, and Dan grew up. “Against the Day,” which features shared verses from Spencer and Dan, similarly constructs a synthetic shell to examine what’s natural and what is not. John Goodmanson produced Thin Mind at Risque Disque on Vancouver Island, BC, and mixed it at Bogroll Studios in Seattle, WA. It was mastered by Noah Mintz at Lacquer Channel Mastering in Toronto, ON.
File Under: Indie Rock
Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop) LP
Beastie Boys: Hello Nasty (EMI) LP
Art Blakey: Buhaina’s Delight (Blue Note) LP
Tina Brooks: Minor Move (Blue Note) LP
Nick Cave: Murder Ballads (Mute) LP
Czarface & Ghostface: Czarface Meets Ghostface (Silver Age) LP
Daktaris: Soul Explosion (Daptone) LP
Death Grips: No Love Deep Web (Harvest) LP
Renaldo Domino: No Laggin’ & Draggin’ (Colemine) 7″
Gil Evans: New Bottle, Old Wine (Blue Note) LP
Goat: Requiem (Sub Pop) LP
Robert Haigh: Black Sarabande (Unseen Worlds) LP
Herbie Hancock: Takin’ Off (Blue Note) LP
Andrew Hill: Black Fire (Blue Note) LP
Kacy & Clayton: Carrying on (New West) LP
Kacy & Clayton: The Siren’s Song (New West) LP
Monophonics: Chances (Colemine) 7″
Nehiyawak: Nipiy (Arts & Crafts) LP
Jeff Parker: New Breed (International Anthem) LP
Parquet Courts: Wide Awake (Rough Trade) LP
Parquet Courts: Human Performance (Rough Trade) LP
Prince: Originals (Warner) LP
Quasimoto: The Unseen (Stones Throw) LP
Queens of the Stone Age: Rated R (Interscope) LP
Queens of the Stone Age: Songs for the Deaf (Interscope) LP
Django Reinhardt: Gypsy Jazz (Not) LP
Daniel Romano: Finally Free (New West) LP
Spoon: Hot Thoughts (Matador) LP
Throbbing Gristle: DOA (Mute) LP
Throbbing Gristle: Second Annual Report (Mute) LP
Throbbing Gristle: Part Two (Mute) LP
Thundercat: Drunk (Brainfeeder) Box
Stevie Wonder: Innervisions (Tamala) LP
Various: Space Echo (Analog Africa) LP