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.

Earth – Angels is Darkness, Demons of Light II

“Recorded during the same session as last year’s sublime Angels of Darkness I, the followup sees Dylan Carlson’s Earth take their panoramic instrumentals, heavy on improvisation this time, into uncharted territories. As with so much of Carlson’s work, these five songs suggest a mournful last dance in the decrepit roadhouse of some faded midwest mining town. But its the little flourishes that make them truly majestic: the droning psyche-folk thrum of His Teeth Did Brightly Shine; the country twang and graceful melodies of A Multiplicity of Doors”…”

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.

Natural Information Society & Bitchin Bajas – Automaginary

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)

Tonto’s Exploding Head Band – Zero Time

A psychedelic synth odyssey created with only an expanded Series III Moog by Robert Margouleff and synth-guru Malcolm Cecil (who programmer synths on legendary albums by Stevie Wonder and Gil-Scott Heron in addition to his ambient solo work). The intricately layered results here feel like a synthetic wilderness, with a wide variety of colors and textures that sound warm, organic, and natural despite their electronic origins.

Sandy Bull – Fantasias for Guitar and Banjo

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.

Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld – Never Were the Way She Was

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.

Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Magnetoception

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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Shakti – Shakti with John McLaughlin

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.

Mdou Moctar – Sousoume Tamache

Guitar-genius Mdou Moctar visits Portland, Oregon from his home country of Niger to record a hypnotic solo album of desert folk sung in Tamasheq. Most songs consist of intricate fingerstyle acoustic guitar with occasional electric guitar overdubs to accent the melodies.