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
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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.
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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.
Style: Singer/Songwriter, Jazz-Folk, Experimental Rock
Vibe: Cathartic, Transcendent, Existential, Funereal, Introspective, Intense
Featuring: Ryley Walker, Ka Baird, Cooper Crain, Joshua Abrams
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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
This hypnotic, noisy, and improvisatory live album from Australian experimenter, collaborator, and improviser Oren Ambarchi features two separate performances of his epic composition “Knots”. (Click for full review)
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.
Eucalyptus is a beautiful, enveloping excursion of aquatic psych-folk characterized by flowing, hallucinogenic instrumentation, atmospheric production, nature field recordings, and ghostly background vocals from one of my favorite singers, Angel Deradoorian. Avey Tare’s introspective and intimate lyrics mix psychedelic revelations, reminiscing, surreal imagery, and nature/water themes, often leading to profound realizations of a very personal sense of spirituality. The lush orchestrations are arranged by the amazing and unique violist Eyvind Kang, which include woodwinds, horns, strings, and pedal steel slide guitar from Susan Alcorn.
For fans of Animal Collective’s “Campfire Songs” and the slow portions of “Feels”.
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Doug McComb’s first album as Brokeback is imbued with pastoral Impressionism, experimentalism, and a sense of Zen contentment. The record is mostly centered around his Bass VI, a short-scale bass with six strings that is trebly enough to function in both guitar and bass roles. This versatile instrument is usually wet with chorus and reverb that sculpt a fluid, aquatic tone to complement the slow, tranquil melodies. Outside of some solo pieces Doug is joined by a variety of accompaniment including lap steel guitar, synth, upright bass, Rhodes, vocals from Mary Hansen, and light percussion provided by producer/Tortoise bandmate John McEntire. This is a record that can be appreciated from a passive impressionistic standpoint, as well as under the microscopic attention of an engaged ear. (Follow link for full review)
Recommended for fans of Tortoise or Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western soundtracks
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)
While the music on Zeit feels motionlessly suspended in the empty vastness of space, the music on Phaedra seem to discover a swampy alien planet, Pulsing sequencers, dramatic mellotrons, airy flutes, and sweeping synthesizers are drenched in strange echoes and reverbs to create suspenseful alien soundscapes.
An ethereal and somewhat haunting dream-folk collaboration between guitarist/singer Meg Baird (Espers, Heron Oblivion), and harpist Mary Lattimore, who’s recorded with Fursaxa, Steve Gunn, and others in addition to her hypnotic solo work.
Highly Recommended for fans of Natural Snow Buildings, Cocteau Twins “Victorialand”, Laraaji, and 60’s British & Scottish Folk music
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.
On Automaginary, the Gnawa-inspired cosmic jazz of Natural Information Society is augmented by the flowing textures of Chicago new age trio Bitchin Bajas to create an album of enveloping drones and trance-inducing rhythms. (Follow link for full Review)
Over the past decade, Josh Abrams has been using his guimbri to create music inspired by the ceremonial music of the Gnawa in North Africa, infusing it with a wide variety of influences from kosmische to minimalism to the avant-garde jazz of his local scene in Chicago. On this album, the focus is on “pure motion” driven by double drummers hypnotically interlocking with guimbri, guitar, keys and harmonium. Each individual plays unique rhythmic figures that push and pull against each other like polyrhythmic tectonic plates, creating constantly changing, yet circular grooves.
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
Hailing from Jersey Island in the U.K., Astral Cloud Ashes’ sole member Antony Walker channels math rock, third-wave emo, post-hardcore, prog, and shoegaze through shimmering and melodic alternative rock.
For fans of Circa Survive, HRVRD, Dredg, Oceansize, Taking Back Sunday
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.
I highly recommend this album to fans of the innovative and exploratory period of jazz fusion of the early 70’s, where electric instrumentation, funk rhythms, experimental production techniques, and spacey synthesizers met the improvisation, freedom, and uplifting soul of the spiritual jazz of the 60’s. Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi trilogy, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Weather Report’s first LP are good touchstones, but this album truly offers something unique.
On their debut long-player, the Houston quartet explores apathy, disconnectedness and the loss of relationships through their sludgy post-hardcore.
For fans of These Arms Are Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, Unwound
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.
British singer-songwriter John Martyn fuses folk, jazz, and psychedelic experimentation to create an album that is both eclectic and cohesive, tied together by his flowing voice and virtuosic acoustic guitar fingerpicking.
FFO Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Ryley Walker
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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“Classic creative bop melodies and golden era beat memories woven into a vibrant new thread of psychedelic soul jazz”
An introspective, instrumental journey of pastoral fingerstyle guitar, occasionally joined by piano, synth and horn arrangements
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.
This album is full of energetic, psych-prog maximalism that occasionally settles down into (relatively) slowed down, spacious grooves. I recommend this to fans of The Mars Volta or anyone looking for a manic blend of psych, prog, fusion, punk and latin influences.
I highly recommend this album to any nocturnal recluses looking for a shadowy singer-songwriter to listen to during their next existential crisis. Emil’s experimental blend of hi- and lo-fi recording methods and tasteful use of psychedelic atmospheres allow his strong songwriting to take precedent, while simultaneously offering plenty of new textures to discover with each subsequent listen. Diverse range of influences include Indian classical, psychedelic rock, drone, folk, dub…the list goes on.
“Day of Mangoes” is overstimulation at it’s finest. Just imagine floating down a river through an unexplored tropical paradise where every corner brings a new array of colorful sounds. Warm synths gliding over clunking piano give way to chorus-drenched highlife guitars strumming over thick synth basslines. Manipulated vocal samples emerge from nowhere and then disappear into radio static just as quickly…RIYL: Animal Collective, King Sunny Ade, & Madlib
A couple of months before his death in 1967, John Coltrane went into the studio with drummer Rashied Ali to record some of the most free recordings he’s ever made, the freest of free jazz. Perhaps this freeness is due to the absence of other tonal instruments, leaving Coltrane untethered to harmony and 100% free to play whatever raw, unhindered creativity flows through him.