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January 2020

Album releases

Bohren & der Club of Gore — Patchouli Blue Highly recommended!

It turns out that Bohren & der Club of Gore with a drum machine instead of a drummer… doesn’t feel all that different. Patchouli Blue is another album full of ultra-noir, low tempo jazz meditations. They’re still one of the moodiest bands on the planet, whether in a more traditional jazz form (Sollen es doch alle wiesen) or a textural “post-something” mode (Total falsch).

Long Arm — Silent Opera Highly recommended!

Long Arm is one of my favorite sample-musicians. His music has a real emotional edge to it but without relying on genre clichés — a heavy jazz influence shines through and his sounds are always original and interesting.

Nym — Countermagic

Downtempo electronic with a diverse sample palette and silky production.

The Professionals — S/T

It’s a Madlib and Oh No collab. A little heavy on the interludes for my taste but Madlib’s production is exactly as good as you expect and the lyricism is strong.

Arms and Sleepers — Safe Area Earth

Blips and bloops with a warm, analog feel. It’s mostly head-nodding stuff but Leon, a delicate ballad with Sofia Insua, is a nice standout.

Jon Kennedy — MMXX

Nothing too earthshattering here, but it’s a pleasant listen with slick production in various “electronica” styles. Back from the Beyond is the standout track for me with its Bond-movie feel.

Singles/EPs

Rodrigo y Gabriela — Mettal

What an absolute shredfest. Three insane covers from R&G (Slayer, Megadeth & Metallica), you must give this a spin if you like their other stuff OR if you like metal.

Nocturnal Sunshine & RY X — Gravity

I guess this technically came out in 2019 on Nocturnal Sunshine’s album Full Circle (that’s Maya Jane Coles’ alias for her more experimental stuff). But I wasn’t complaining when this track popped back up in my feed, it’s a melancholy, bubbling tune that reminds me a little bit of Burial. Music like this makes me want to walk around the city at midnight with headphones on.

New to Me

Dhafer Youssef — Sounds of Mirrors (2018) Highly recommended!

Where has this been all my life (or the last two years of it, anyway)? Dhafer Youssef is an oud player with an adventurous range and on Sounds of Mirrors he explores an Indian fusion with none other than Zakir Hussain. I thought this album was absolutely riveting.

Anouar Brahem — Souvenance (2014) Highly recommended!

Can you tell I was on an oud tangent this month? It’s hard to classify the sound of this record but it is a haunting, thought-provoking, gorgeous listen. Check out the page on ECM’s site for some fascinating context around the music.

Hannah Epperson — Slowdown (2018) Highly recommended!

Hannah Epperson’s music is structured around recording each song twice: once in her poppier “Amelia” personality and once by the more minimalist “Iris”. It seemed like a gimmick to me at first, but the songs make sense in both modes and the album was fascinating. The “Amelia” stuff is synth-y and soaring at times but it never becomes too sugary and the “Iris” versions have some killer string arrangements, with both versions revolving around Hannah’s quirky and delightful vocals.

DJ Khalab — Black Noise 2084 (2018)

A crazy interesting record, putting a mega-futuristic edge onto sounds of the African diaspora. Title track Black Noise with Tenesha the Wordsmith sounds like spoken word dubbed over a Raster-Noton track. Yes: as good as you are imagining.

Kikagaku Moyo — Masana Temples (2018)

Psych rock with sitars! Sign me up, please!

HashFinger — Dandelions (2019)

I first heard HashFinger on his 2020 collab with Butta and MC Synergy and then checked out his solo production stuff. This is a brilliant example of instrumental hip-hop, one crackly vinyl banger after another.

The Silk Road Ensemble — Off the Map (2009)

Silk Road Ensemble is Yo-Yo Ma’s world music collaborative. I enjoyed the record, but was surprised to find that some of the music here was actually quite a challenging listen.

Kelly Lee Owens — S/T (2017)

An album that falls somewhere between shoegaze, techno and pop. It reminded me of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s EARS but with more of a punk influence maybe?

Dawn of Midi — Dysnomia (2015)

A drums-bass-piano trio that weaves through explorations of repetitive, cinematic figures. Spin it if, like me, you dig GoGo Penguin, Portico Quartet, Cinematic Orchestra, etc.

Trichotomy — The Gentle War (2011)

A piano trio who play dense, tricky stuff with a sense of humor. Reminds me of The Bad Plus, with maybe slightly less of a free-jazz sensibility.

Chick Corea, Christian McBride & Brian Blade — Trilogy 2 (2018)

Trilogy 2 shows off not just the technical mastery of these three legends, but also how comfortable they are playing together. It’s a double album that deserves to be; there’s a wide range of compositions and the improvisation never gets boring. Check out Glide’s article for a more in-depth review.

Shows

Blockhead, Arms and Sleepers, il:lo @ Lincoln Hall
I was equally psyched for all three artists on this bill! Arms and Sleepers and il:lo were both a little more high-energy live than on their records and Blockhead headlined with a great DJ set. I loved hearing some of his classics, but he was weaving them in with newer stuff, some heavy bass, and best of all — a bunch of old-school hip-hop mashups.