Makaya McCraven – Universal Beings

Released in 2018 on International Anthem Recording Co. Format: LPx2

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Bitchin Bajas – Epic Jammers and Fortunate Little Ditties

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.

Tangerine Dream – Phaedra

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.

Deradoorian – Eternal Recurrence

There is a fathomless void within each of us. And while many choose to run from it, clinging to anything to keep from falling in, Deradoorian dove right in on her meditative release, Eternal Reccurrence. Here she provides somewhat of a sonic roadmap for diving deep within yourself, guided by the blooming drones of harmonium, Juno synthesizers, and flutes. Arising from the ether, layers of otherworldly voices sing mantras of facing our Shadow (“Mirrorman”), finding the love that resides in the core of our being, and bringing it back with us into this material dimension.

Julian Priester Pepo Mtoto – Love, Love

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.

Tangerine Dream – Zeit

This is what I imagine a black hole might sound like. “Zeit” translates to “Time”, yet time feels completely suspended here, filled instead with vast negative space in which burbling VCS 3 synthesizers, suspenseful organs, and a droning quartet of cellos float in and out. These four sidelong pieces erase all traces of rock or any kind of beat from Tangerine Dream’s sound, leaving ominous space-ambient music in its purest form.

Six Organs of Admittance – Ascent

Taking a detour from his usual loner-droner psych folk style, Ben Chasney enlists former Comets on Fire bandmates to jam some heavy rock burners with a a cosmic amount of electric guitar shredding, evoking Neil Young & Crazy Horse blasting off on a rocket. The new electric energy brought to this album is balanced out by an equal amount of the fingerpicking prog-folk and meditative acoustic ballads that have been developing in his music since the 90’s. While I will always love his more melancholy, nocturnal records that sound like he’s lost in a forest somewhere, I welcome the fiery energy of Ascent.

Flying Lotus – You’re Dead

A psychedelic, transcendent fusion of hip-hop, jazz, prog, and IDM meant to simulate the cosmic experience of death. Featuring Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, Herbie Hancock, Kamasi Washington, Snoop Dogg, and others..,

John Coltrane – Interstellar Space

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.