Recorded in Tokyo with regular collaborators Gary Peacock and Benny Maupin, plus amazing local pianist Hideo Ichikawa, “Have You Heard?” is an interesting & exploratory record from master drummer Jack DeJohnette. Two shorter cuts of nocturnal modal-jazz bookend a pair of longer, abstract pieces that recall the “modern creative” improvisations coming out of Chicago.
Recommended for fans of Miles Davis’ Nefertiti as well as the works of Art Ensemble of Chicago
Style: Progressive Songwriter, Art Rock, Progressive Pop
Vibe: Satirical, Depressive, Anxious, Dystopian, Bright, Eccentric, Existential, Longing, Pessimistic, Urban, Storytelling
Musical Qualities: Complex, Dense, Progressive, Intricate, Dynamic, Conceptual
Style: Primitivist Theater, Avant-Folk Minimalism, Drone
Vibe: Pastoral, Alienation, Hypnotic, Abstract
Musical Attributes: Sparse, Theatrical, Repetitive, Minimalist, Acoustic
Instrumentation: Acoustic Guitar, Voices, Organ, Cello, Trombone, Bass Trombone, Saxophone
Bobb Trimble’s 1980 debut (originally released on his own label) contains nightmarish folk-pop that fits on the fringe of the loner-psych lineage of Syd Barrett and modern bedroom-psych artists like Alex G or Holy Sons.
Psychedelic electro-acoustics and earthy minimalism from long-running avant-folk group Spires that in the Sunset Rise. The multi-instrumentalist duo of Ka Baird and Taralie Peterson ritualistically loop and layer a hypnotic tapestry of pre-verbal vocalizations, upright bass, flute, saxophone, synth, and autoharp, running each instrument through trippy stereo delays, visually represented by the two minute-apart clocks next to each other on the album cover. While not as witchy or jarring as the their early releases, Psychic Oscillations finds the band as entrancing as ever.
This lost slab of mythical prog doesn’t shy away from indulging in the retro pleasures of instrumental psych-jammage and triumphant jazz-rock. The atmospheric guitar, spacey Moog, and Hammond organ playing are both epic and economical, nary a note wasted. Philip Grondahl’s violin playing on the opening track is especially heroic, recalling the flights of Jean-Luc Ponty or Mahavishnu’s Jerry Goodman. Despite their collective starward gaze, Klyfta remains firmly grounded by the tightness of the rhythm section. Aside from the explosive entropy of the first track (beginning with Anders Strand’s expansive upright bass solo), the grooves focus on repetitive momentum with unwavering determination.
Composer and upright bassist Spencer Zahn crafts a peaceful album of impressionistic and pastoral jazz that recalls Talk Talk, ECM Records, In a Silent Way, and Bill Frisell. The atmospheres are open and washy thanks to sweeping piano gestures and Dave Harrington’s guitar loopery, while the slow, rolling rhythms of drummer Kenny Wollesen and percussionist Mauro Refosco keep the results grounded.
Style: Jazz Fusion, Future Jazz, Post-Rock
Vibe: Forest, Knotty, Intricate, Nature, Impressionistic, Mysterious
Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Modal
[Click for album overview, listening links, and more information]
Bass clarinet, pedal steel guitar, and synthesizer swirling together into a highly immersive and emotive combination of voices. Truly beautiful soundscapes that melt the worry away, with moments of quiet catharsis that I don’t experience very often in ambient music.
The Invisible Comes to Us is a haunting, modern take on Appalachian and Irish folk songs. Beautiful close-harmonies, banjos and acoustic guitars are juxtaposed with droning atmospheres of woodwinds, Moog bass, pump organ, and euphonium. Guest musicians include Jim White on drums and Susan Alcorn on slide guitar.
Amidst the icy winds of tribal drones and pagan folk rituals, there are moments of mystical serenity in the music of Natural Snow Buildings, like serendipitously finding warm shelter while lost in a punishing blizzard.
While the luminescent drones and angelic simulacra of Deepak Verbera expanded out into the cosmos, Botany’s newest LP feels more rooted in the soil of our material reality. The bass heavy beats and impassioned vocal samples inspire movement and action rather than contemplation alone, not to say the results aren’t heady. Rich tapestries of resonant acoustic instruments (harps, flutes, percussion, strings), woozy synths, and warm tape hiss are as intricate as ever and easy to lose (or find?) yourself in.
Recommended to fans of Flying Lotus’ Until the Quiet Comes, Boards of Canada, and Alice Coltrane.
The free-form psychedelia and tribal “group therapy” of Sunburned Hand of the Man are in great hands with producer Kieran Hebden (Four Tet)—his dubs and cuts transform their usually lo-fi, meandering jams into something much more immediate, without losing any of their exploratory and spontaneous energy. Recommended for fans of polyrhythmic Afro-inspired percussion, dubbed out production, communal sound rituals, and dense psychedelia.
Listening to Alex G, one might imagine a young alien sitting alone in his martian bedroom baring his angsty, teenage confessions to his 4-track tape recorder. Yet, at the core of his music, underneath layers of psychedelic guitars, weird pitch-shifted vocals, and occasional lo-fi hiss, lies some genius pop songs that feel simultaneously adolescent and mature.
Recommended for fans of lo-fi experimentation and bedroom pop. Alex seems to pull influences from all over and channel them through his own unique personality and penchant for odd, psychedelic production. Recalls Elliot Smith’s loner acoustic songwriting and drum machines pulled from 80′s pop songs; there’s even a fucked up jazz piano ballad thrown into the mix.
This impressionistic and contemplative collaboration channels deep American folk roots through free flowing improvisations. The panoramic and sensitive drumming of Jim White (Dirty Three, Cat Power, etc) is a perfect match for Marisa Anderson’s primitivist guitar sensibilities, which feel both immediate and abstract.
These communal sound rituals express a digital-era longing to reconnect to the Earth. The grooves here are circular and ceremonial, not rooted to any specific musical traditions but borrowing from many, including cosmic jazz, kosmische musik and undoubtedly inspired by Holden’s collaboration with legendary Gnawa musician Maleem Mahmoud Ghania. Drums and percussion ground the proceedings while muscular sequencer and fiery saxophone arpeggiations hypnotically intertwine. The sounds of fluttering recorder and modular synthesizer swirl through the air like offerings to the cosmos.
Recommended for fans of The Comet is Coming, Tonto’s Exploding Head Band, Maleem Mahmoud Ghania & Pharoah Sander’s Trance of Seven Colors, Natural Information Society, Colin Stetson
Religious allegory, profane thoughts, and lustful confessions intertwine on Human Behavior’s third LP; Kedimum is a brooding suite of psychological chamber folk that introspects into a conflicted mind, struggling to reconcile matters of indoctrinated faith, natural human desires, and internalized guilt. Primary songwriter Andres Parada is joined by a sympathetic cast of vocalists to create a vivid sonic drama complete with choral vocals and spoken word passages to complement his haunting narrations. The intricate and shadowy arrangements blend distorted electronic beats with a wide array of acoustic instrumentation, including banjo, clarinet, accordian, acoustic guitar, violin, ehru, and cello.
Irreversible Entanglements follows up the scathing fire music of their debut with regenerative and ritualistic earth music. “Who Sent You?”, is a record that looks not only to the violent “rhythms of oppression”, past and present, that need to be burnt to the ground, but to a future built from the ashes of these unjust systems. Irreversible Entanglements are simply one of the most powerful bands in existence, building their symbiotic improvisations with fervent passion, hypnotic rhythm, and urgent truths.
Style: Canterbury Scene, Psych Rock
Vibe: Psychedelic, Whimsical, Joyful, Eccentric, Spacey, Playful
Musical Attributes: Raw, Progressive, lo-fi
This heavy drone rock feels like a journey through some haunted terrains and forests in ancient Europe. Monolithic fogs of synths and electronic soundscapes drone on for minutes at a time, occasionally being infiltrated by psychedelic guitars and pummeling marches of drums and bass. Given the cohesive ark, determined focus, and fluidity of the album (without as much as a pause between tracks until track 7), it was surprising to find that most of the songs are studio-enchanced improvisations pulled from 2014 tour recordings.
Recommended for fans of motorik drums, the thick drone of early Earth or Sunn O))), psychedelic guitar noises and fuzzy stoner rock riffs.
Innovative guitarist and producer Dave Harrington (Darkside) uses his latest record to explore the outer reaches of improvisation and compositional post-production. Pure Imagination, No Country is jazz-rock fusion stripped of its retro connotations—fusing hard grooves, free flights of collective improvisation, and futuristic ambience to create something that is at turns atmospheric and in your face.
Recommended for fans of Bill Frisell, Terje Rypdal, or Jaga Jazzist
The cubist sophisti-pop of Impossible Spaces feels both breezy and proggy in its chilled-out intricacy. Sandro Perri’s evocative songwriting and catchy melodicism are brought into high-definition by warmly futuristic production, atmospheric synthesizers, and lush arrangements for strings, horns, and woodwinds.
There is a certain beauty just to being alive, and Ought make it their mission to find it through raw rock n’ roll that veers seamlessly between upbeat post-punk, meditative feedback drones, dramatic ballads, and cathartic guitar freak outs.
Recommended for fans of post-punk that blends the moodiness of Joy Division, Iceage, and Television with the experimentation and noisiness of This Heat and No Wave.
Released in 2015 on Sub Pop Records Format: LPx2 Deluxe edition Overview Josh Tillman is an open book; while his … More
While more cerebral than emotive, this live set is a frenzied demonstration of what four virtuosic musicians sound like when they give in to the intuitive whims of collective improvisation. Even when playing a composition, this quartet will stretch and mutate the melody into every possible pattern without ever playing it directly. The group interplay is often bombastic and can be overwhelming, but thankfully they vary the dynamics through mellower sections, as well as solo and duo pieces.
Compared to the immediate songwriting and lush textures of Helplessness Blues, the progressive folk-rock opus Crack Up feels like an impenetrable wilderness on first listen with its dense, tangled arrangements and complex compositions.
On his latest, producer/composer/multi-instrumentalist Bibio blends serene folk pop, lush instrumentation, pastoral guitar instrumentals, nature field recordings, Walt Whitman-esque lyrics and beat-oriented grooves into the perfectly crafted springtime album. Ribbons feels like daydreaming in a garden or out in the woods under a tree or by a trickling stream.
The Order of Things takes you on a strange journey, starting off with a long ambient song built around field recordings, light acoustic guitar and some weird drones in the background. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of experimental post-rock, drone, or music that doesn’t like to be easily categorized.
On experimental musician David Grubb’s first dedicated songwriter outing, he synthesizes technical bluegrass banjo and fingerstyle acoustic guitar playing with imaginative arrangements, abrupt stylistic shifts, philosophical questioning lyrics, improvisation, and drones. Featured musicians include drummer John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and Cake), bassist Josh Abrams (Natural Information Society), and drone violinist Tony Conrad.
A far cry from the sparse folk usually recorded by Will Oldham, “Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties” finds his intimate voice and warbly acoustic guitar enveloped by the cosmic drones, blooming synths, airy flutes, and hypnotic tape loops of Chicago new age trio, Bitchin Bajas. The lyrics are essentially fortune cookie mantras and, while there’s a chance they’re tongue-in-cheek, it’s difficult not to smile and feel a brightening of the spirit when hearing uplifting phrases like “Your hard work is about to pay off, keep on keepin’ on” or “you and your whole family are well” get repeated over and over. This collaboration is a soothing, heartwarming listen and a refreshing change-of-pace from Oldham’s tendency towards melancholy and solemn lyrical content.
Pulling away from the jazzy psych-pop of their first two albums, Soft Machine gears towards sprawling sidelong compositions of spacey prog infused with thematic jazz fusion improvisations, compositional edits, and heavy doses of experimental post-production (Click for Full Review)
After 20+ years of using his introspective songwriting as a playground for psychedelic lo-fi experimentation, underdog hero Emil Amos hands the production reins to John Angello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) for his most polished album yet, capturing the best aspects of 70’s rock classics without ever feeling cliché. The hi-fi analogue production brings a newfound clarity and depth that allows Amos’ songwriting and instrumental performances to bloom; the choruses are anthemic, the atmospheres are darkly psychedelic, and his lyrics are just as philosophical and contemplative as ever.
Discpline marks the first in a trilogy of complex prog-meets-new-wave masterpieces that have been relished by anxious overthinkers for decades…featuring polyrhythmic riffs, innovative guitar textures, overwrought sing-talking, and a strong inter-band chemistry.
The new album from guitarist Yonatan Gat finds cohesiveness in its sprawling diversity. Stylistically it combines the rawness of garage rock, the thematic improvisation of Free jazz, and the experimental editing of musique concréte with psychedelic production, Arabic and Klezmer scales and surfy tremelo guitars.
Recommended for those who know that “psychedelic” is not a sound, but a spirit of creativity and exploration within the mind. Those who know Deradoorian for her work with Dirty Projectors will appreciate the complex arrangements and production, albeit in a much more mysterious context. Fans of Bjork, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Flaming Lips, Portishead, or Can will also find a lot to love.
Eric Chenaux’s gentle falsetto is the most constant, tangible element on an album characterized by a permanent state of flux. The guitars are warbly and unsteady with their fluctuating tones, volume, and pitch. Yet, despite their experimental nature, they never sound abrasive and, together with some mellow Wurlitzer, create a soft, pillowy environment for Chenaux’s romantic crooning about the nature of love, the moon, and warm nights.
Categorization and comparison are the least of lojii’s worries, instead prioritizing creative expression and finding spiritual truth and power in this dimly lit dystopia. He delivers his prophetic words with a focused, unwavering determination, while the beats are gritty and nocturnal with their open percussion, eerie synths, and negative space. Don’t miss out on this one.
Groovy soul instrumentals decorated with sweeping orchestral arrangements, jazz soloing, and psychedelic guitars, all inspired by William Blake’s writings.
A unique blend of post-rock, stoner rock, and shoegaze crafted into a cohesive, perfectly fluid 25 minutes. Hallucinogenic atmospheres, shadowy guitar effects, and mysterious pitch-shifted vocals envelope driving, stoner-fuzz bass lines that often liquify into the watery chorus-bass you might find on the Cure’s Disintegration or an Isis album.
“Four relentless bouts of inspired fire music forged from the true spirit of free jazz, driven by searing poetic narrations of Black trauma, survival and power” (from press release)
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Released in 2012 by Numero Group Recorded in 1976 Format: LP Overview Originally recorded in 1976, this psychedelic latin-jazz masterpiece … More
This fantastic compilation album consists of 2 hours of unreleased recording sessions ranging from 1970 to 1974. Despite some incohesiveness, this release contains some of the most exciting, creative and uncategorizable music of Miles’ career.
The brooding, atmospheric synth-pop of Poliça’s third LP finds Channy Leaneagh’s passionate vocals once again supported by prominent bass grooves, driving dual drummers, and occasional string and horn arrangements, all mapped into intricate, quantized webs of programmed beats and synthesizers by co-leader/producer Ryan Olsen. Lyrically, the album centers around themes of isolation, fading love, and as well as more political topics such as police violence.
For fans of Portishead, The Knife
On his debut album, the guitar and banjo virtuoso starts off with a 22-minute droning epic fusing American and Arabic Folk music with Indian Raga on his acoustic guitar (often trying to imitate the feeling of the oud). Here, he is accompanied by the fluid, driving drums of Billy Higgins. Side 2 is made up of 4 shorter solo pieces, mostly for the banjo, including an impressive rendition of “Carmina Burana” by German composer Carl Orff and a folky mountain song.
Kendrick travels through the history of African-American music and into the future, taking inspiration from P-Funk, G-Funk, jazz, trap and everything in between. His lyrics display an acute awareness of someone battling with the weight of fame, institutional racism, and his own depression. This album is simultaneously personal and universal, and nothing short of revolutionary.
Released in 2013 on Drag City Records Format: LP Overview In an interview around the release of Dream River, Bill Callahan … More
Saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld employ innovative performance techniques, mutating ostinatos and an atmospheric sense of texture to compose minimalist compositions that are as brooding and haunting they are hypnotically beautiful.
Kamasi Washington and his band The Next Step, pick up where their forefathers and mothers left off by making spiritual jazz that respects the jazz canon without getting stuck in the past. This album ranges from free to groovy to melodic without losing sight of its mission. The inclusion of such a large band, an orchestra, a choir, and even a turntablist allows an infinite, colorful array of tonal and dynamic possibilities.
Acoustic-shredder/singer-songwriter ventures out of the jazz-inflected folk-rock territory explored by his last few albums to create something that feels fully himself. Deafman Glance is full of angular left turns, complex structures, airy flutes, jazz detours, and psychedelic atmospheres. A balance of great songwriting, jazz musicianship, and experimental/art-rock tendencies. Recommended to fans of Tortoise’s Standards, Tim Buckley’s Starsailor, and King Crimson’s Red. (Click for full review).
Meditative jazz explorations of space, rhythm and textures inspired by Miles Davis’ ambient jazz pieces, Gnawa ceremonial music of North Africa, the spiritual jazz of Pharoah Sanders and Don Cherry, and the mutating minimalism of Steve Reich.
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Sludgy drone-metal with heavy, feedback-laden guitars, sparse but viscerally pounding drums, and cathartic, impassioned vocals.
FFO Neurosis, Swans, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Sunn O)))
This double album set is recommended to anyone looking for extremely primal, complex punk rap with a wide range of influences, including industrial hip-hop, IDM, math rock, noise, and psychedelic rock. Fans of experimental, aggressive hip-hop like Dälek or Public Enemy will probably really dig this, as will fans of math rock for the extremely innovative musicianship and intricate interplay of Death Grips’/Hella’s Zack Hill and Tera Melos’ Nick Reinhart (who plays on 5 of the tracks).
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Shakti means “Creative Intelligence, Beauty & Power” and trust me, these are all in abundance on these devotional jazz ragas. Featuring John McLaughlin joined by a quartet of Indian master musicians, this album is a blissfully uplifting and meditative release.
“Classic creative bop melodies and golden era beat memories woven into a vibrant new thread of psychedelic soul jazz”
Blue Afternoon continues the flowing jazz-folk of Tim’s previous release (Happy Sad) while starting to detour into the avant-garde atmospheres that would manifest more fully on his next two albums, Lorca and Starsailor. The songs and lyrics refuse to be boxed into one category as “joyful” or “lonely” or “sad” and instead reflect the intangible multi-dimensionality of feeling.
On his Warp Records debut, the eccentric rapper crafts an album of shadowy hip-hop that expresses a unique creative vision. His bipolar, extremely personal lyrics fluctuate from paranoid agoraphobia and self-deprecating reflection to uninhibited hedonism and braggadocios swagger, sometimes in the course of a couple lines. Highly recommended for fans of Busdriver, Aesop Rock and other psychedelic hip-hop artists
“Sometimes it’s hard doing anything”. Somehow Jason Molina knows how to perfectly express what depression feels like without ever succumbing to hopelessness. His music has been a friend and a voice of encouragement when I need it most, reminding me to persist and not beat myself up when I feel unproductive or lazy or unmotivated. “The real truth about it is no one gets it right. The real truth about it is we’re all supposed to try”
Primitivist acoustic guitar instrumentals in the form of droney ragas, jovial ragtime, and pastoral fingerpicking
organic washes of piano and zither, analog synthesizers, wood flutes, saxophone, and the occasional free jazz drums recorded, looped, and manipulated through cassette and reel tape recorders and then masterfully woven into a cosmic tapestry of blissful, meditative drones
The past, present, and future of jazz converge on this progressive new release from the legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette, who’s played on everything from Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew to albums with Keith Jarrett, Alice Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, and numerous other masters since the late 60′s. Joining him are two descendants of the classic John Coltrane Quartet, Ravi Coltrane on tenor and soprano sax and Matthew Garrison (son of Jimmy Garrison) on electric bass and electronics. Rather than dwell in the shadows of their fathers, these two have already developed their own powerful and unique voices which are welcome additions to the jazz lineage.