Brokeback – Field Recordings from the Cook County Water Table

Doug McComb’s first album as Brokeback is imbued with pastoral Impressionism, experimentalism, and a sense of Zen contentment. The record is mostly centered around his Bass VI, a short-scale bass with six strings that is trebly enough to function in both guitar and bass roles. This versatile instrument is usually wet with chorus and reverb that sculpt a fluid, aquatic tone to complement the slow, tranquil melodies. Outside of some solo pieces Doug is joined by a variety of accompaniment including lap steel guitar, synth, upright bass, Rhodes, vocals from Mary Hansen, and light percussion provided by producer/Tortoise bandmate John McEntire. This is a record that can be appreciated from a passive impressionistic standpoint, as well as under the microscopic attention of an engaged ear. (Follow link for full review)

Recommended for fans of Tortoise or Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti Western soundtracks

Dirty Three – Horse Stories

The third album from the Melbourne (Au) violin/guitar/drum trio consists of loose, drifting instrumentals that conjure images of vast, open plains. Though the music here is often melancholic and lethargic, it is occasionally swept up with bursts of passionate energy and possessed by cathartic longing (especially the pleading and utterly beautiful violin solo on “Warren’s Lament”). All three instrumentalists have very individual styles that complement and dialogue with each other in refreshingly unique ways.

Anthony Shadduck – Quartet & Double Quartet

“Side one features a collection of songs performed by a pliant and almost pristine quartet playing songs by Ornette Coleman, Paul Motian, Chris Schlarb, and Shadduck himself, while side two finds Anthony leading a loose, rocking and roiling double quartet performing more obliquely structures pieces and employing a healthy dose of spontaneous improvisation. Both ensembles strike my ear as CLASSIC, spanning the areas of jazz impressionism and edgy-yet-controlled “free jazz” with dedication and distinction.”
[From the liner notes, written by Nels Cline]

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.

Soft Machine – Third

Pulling away from the jazzy psych-pop of their first two albums, Soft Machine gears towards sprawling sidelong compositions of spacey prog infused with thematic jazz fusion improvisations, compositional edits, and heavy doses of experimental post-production (for the more psychedelically inclined). Motivic electric-bass grooves, multi-tracked saxophones, loose swinging drums and fuzzy organs reign supreme. The whimsical and diverse musical nature of founding member/drummer Robert Wyatt was relegated to the eclectic C-side, “Moon in June”, which was his last composition for the band due to the other members not being a fan of his vocals and preferring the seriousness of jazz fusion to Wyatt’s child-like playfulness and spontaneity.

Grails – Deep Politics

Darkly cinematic rock instrumentals with some creeping, Dostoevskian vibes. This is probably the most meticulous and progressive album I’ve heard from these guys, who are always finding new ways of funneling their omnivorous library of influences into their dramatic and atmospheric psych rock stylings.

Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada EP

“Side A is cut at 45rpm and features “Moya”, a broiling cascade of upward scales that repeatedly explodes beyond its own threshold. “BBF3” on Side B clocks in at 18 minutes, and was the band’s most lyrical, multi-movement music to date — more elaborated melodic figures wind around an angry spoken-word field recording (infamously culminating in the recital of the speaker’s poem — verses lifted straight from Iron Maiden)”

Strunz & Farah – Mosaico

“World Music” is often a cheap umbrella term for non-Eurocentric music, but when acoustic guitar shredders Jorge Strunz and Ardeshir Farah, from Costa Rica and Iran respectively, bring together a Cuban rhythm section, South Indian violinist, and Kuwaiti guitarist, the music they create truly does have a sense of cultural unity deserving of the term.
For fans of flamenco, Arabic folk, and acoustic guitar virtuosity

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”…”

Holy Sons – In the Garden

After 20+ years of using his introspective songwriting as a playground for psychedelic lo-fi experimentation, underdog hero Emil Amos hands the production reins to John Angello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.) for his most polished album yet, capturing the best aspects of 70’s rock classics without ever feeling cliché. The hi-fi analogue production brings a newfound clarity and depth that allows Amos’ songwriting and instrumental performances to bloom; the choruses are anthemic, the atmospheres are darkly psychedelic, and his lyrics are just as philosophical and contemplative as ever.

Young Jesus – The Whole Thing is Just There

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.

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.

Collin Walcott/Don Cherry/Nana Vasconcelos – Codona

Spacious, Raga-inflected improvisations from Collin Walcott, Don Cherry, and Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos. Walcott has studied sitar directly under Ravi Shankar, and tabla under Alla Rakha, while trumpeter and flutist Don Cherry, after playing regularly with Ornette Coleman, has proceeded to travel around the world to study various musical traditions. Their wide influences come together organically to create meditative and exploratory music. A melodic and atmospheric fusion of airy flutes, watery sitar, hypnotic hammered dulcimer arpeggiations, driving webs of percussion, and bassy throat singing.

Eric Chenaux – Slowly Paradise

Eric Chenaux’s gentle falsetto is the most constant, tangible element on an album characterized by a permanent state of flux. The guitars are warbly and unsteady with their fluctuating tones, volume, and pitch. Yet, despite their experimental nature, they never sound abrasive and, together with some mellow Wurlitzer, create a soft, pillowy environment for Chenaux’s romantic crooning about the nature of love, the moon, and warm nights.

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)

Massacre – Killing Time

Anxious and dissonant proto-math rock composed and improvised by a trio of innovative, idiosyncratic, and influential musicians. Guitarist Fred Frith pulls new dimensions of sound out of his instrument, blending bizarrely textured riffs with dark, noisy atmospheres. Bassist Bill Laswell is one of the great musical collaborators in all of music, often bringing together innumerable amazing musicians from all genres to create unique sonic fusions. Here, Bill and drummer Fred Maher lay down some nasty, disjointed grooves that lock you in despite their angular, asymmetrical time signatures

Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids – An Angel Fell

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.

lojii – lofeye

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.

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”.

Marriages – Kitsune

A unique blend of post-rock, stoner rock, and shoegaze crafted into a cohesive, perfectly fluid 25 minutes. Hallucinogenic atmospheres, shadowy guitar effects, and mysterious pitch-shifted vocals envelope driving, stoner-fuzz bass lines that often liquify into the watery chorus-bass you might find on the Cure’s Disintegration or an Isis album.

Damien Jurado – Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son

Lushly cinematic folk-rock draped in sweeping string arrangements and spacey synth atmospheres. Damien’s reverbed falsetto recalls Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Bon Iver as he softly sings of God, “spaceships”, and other imagery blending Christian themes with science-fiction.

For fans of My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, and Beck’s Sea Change