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.
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
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.
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.
Another interesting one from Fahey, side A consists of some amazingly intricate guitar duets with Woodrow Mann, including my favorite Fahey song “Jaya Shiva Shankarah”. Side B takes a strange turn though…halfway through the title track a 10-piece dixieland band kicks for a few tracks of New Orleans-style jazz. The album closes in a more familiar place with a contemplative solo piece that most Fahey fans would dig.
The apocalyptic chamber-folk of Bethpage soundtracks multiple chapters of cryptic storytelling, mixing one’s darkest thoughts with religious imagery and allegory through banjo sing-alongs and haunting spoken word passages. The heavy climaxes are whirlwinds of bombastic drums, driving bass, fiddle, clarinet, and banjo that often recall the communal chamber-punk of Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. While many tracks feel seeped in shadow and darkness, a heavenly light occasionally floods in through some truly serene and beautiful passages.
Warm, mellow Scottish folk with lyrics that border spiritual, philosophical, and fantasy themes. The arrangements are a bit stripped down from their lush psychedelia of previous releases, but still feature a good amount of sitar, organ, Irish harp, and violin to add some color to the vocals and acoustic guitar-centric songwriting.
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.
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”.
Exuma’s first album is a powerful and ritualistic masterpiece of spiritual folk from the Bahamas. Exuma, the Obeah Man, is a master storyteller and preacher, sharing visions, myths, and prayers. His expressive, soulful voice takes on many tones as he delivers his musical sermons, from smooth to raspy, soft to confident. A group of singers, percussionists, whistlers, and toads join him and his acoustic guitar, making me imagine them all circled around a large fire in communal worship and grateful that they let us listeners in on it.
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.
The Whole Thing is Just There is another beautiful and life-affirming release from Young Jesus, the second with the current L.A. iteration of the band. Their inter-band chemistry seems stronger than ever, with telepathic improvisations, symbiotic catharses, and a mutual love for each other that is easily felt from a listener’s perspective. The lyrics deal with self-exploration and one’s relationship with the world around them, finding solace in spirituality, existentialism, literature, and the ethos of free jazz. Stylistically the music seems rooted in late-90’s indie rock and emo, with seamless but adventurous detours into post-rock, noisy post-hardcore, and free improvisation. Excited to see where these guys go next.
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.
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.
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)
An Angel Fell is a call to action for protecting and healing our planet, using folklore, group vocals, uplifting themes, deep grooves, and expressive improvisations to deliver the message. While not as wild and loose as the dense free jazz the Pyramids made back in the 70s, this record is an organic and vibrant fusion of spiritual jazz, dub, and Afrobeat that will give fans of musical geniuses such as Sun Ra, King Tubby, Fela Kuti, and Pharoah Sanders plenty to vibe to.
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.
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.
Lush, beautiful psych-folk with a spiritual jazz fluidity that comes from Larkin inviting her close musician friends to improvise over her passionate songs with harp, trumpet, strings, woodwinds, etc. Think Tim Buckley meets Alice Coltrane