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.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

On this mournful offering, Cave’s poetic reflections on loss, longing, and loneliness slowly float down a river of gloomy synth drones, somber strings, and sparse piano. While not exactly uplifting, the album has a sense of peace and beauty that continues up through the repeating final refrain, “and it’s alright now”.

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.

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.

Poliça – United Crushers

Poliça’s brooding, atmospheric trip-hop/synth pop consists of the passionately dynamic vocals (from co-leader/lyricist Channy Leaneagh), prominent, groovy basslines, driving double drums, and occasional string and horn arrangements all run through effects and mapped into intricate, quantized webs of programmed beats and synthesizers by co-leader/producer Ryan Olsen. Lyrically, the album centers around themes of isolation, fading love, and even addressing on police violence on “Wedding”.

For fans of Portishead, The Knife