One can only imagine how Ayler bringing more commercial styles like R&B, Rock, and Gospel into his avant-garde music messed with critics and fans alike when it came out—the way it looked like commercial pandering to the Free Jazz listeners but was probably still too weird for new listeners. It helps to remember that Ayler came from R&B and went straight to the Free Spiritual Jazz of the early 60s, making Jazz critics highly skeptical skeptical by not climbing the bebop ranks like Coltrane before plunging into freedom. On New Grass, Ayler really started to synthesize the spiritual elements of many forms of Great Black Music, making more accessible music not as a way of selling out, but a way of sharing his beautiful spiritual message and sound with a wider audience. Plus this thing has Bernard Purdie on drums so of course it slaps.
If you dig this LP, I think he succeeded in this sound direction even more on his following albums Love Cry and Music is the Healing Force of the Universe. Albert Ayler was a pure soul that left this world too soon, grateful for the gifts of music and wisdom he left behind.
The second Radio Gnome transmission finds Zero the Hero astral projecting to PlanetGong where he meets with Selene the Moon Goddess and the Octave Doctors to learn the infinite powers of their lovewisdom vibrations. This psychedelic journey brings together fantastical imagery of pothead pixies and flying teapots (and a dose of hippy hedonism) with heady spiritual concepts delivered in a quite fun and silly way, but even before digging into the concept I was immediately grabbed by their unique style spacey jazz-rock with its propulsive bass lines, immersive synthesizer atmospheres and serpentine soprano sax soloing.
The Books’ music is simultaneously funny, innovative, catchy and enlightening. They use found sound and spoken word mixed with innovative recording techniques and acoustic instruments to create beautiful sound-collages that somehow create unity between all these disparate sources, as if they were all meant to be together. Everything these guys do, solo or together, is absolute genius.
After a prolific career as a noise/improvisational/experimental guitarist and a few forays into folk and chamber pop, Jim O’Rourke surprised his audience with an album closer to straightforward rock than his audience could have ever expected of him. Yet underneath it’s catchy, cheery, and polished exterior, his lyrics are full of humorously bitter resentment. Like his debut singer/songwriter album Eureka, Insignificance is full of the meticulous and lush arrangements that Jim would become known for.