Spencer Zahn – Sunday Painter

Style: ECM-Style Jazz, Jazz-Rock, Post-Rock
Vibe: Impressionistic, Pastoral, Airy, Thematic, Peaceful, Lush, Focused, Contemplative
Musical Attributes: Thematic Improvisation, Instrumental, Melodic

Click for album overview, listening links, photos, and other information.

Anna & Elizabeth – The Invisible Comes to Us

The Invisible Comes to Us is a haunting, modern take on Appalachian and Irish folk songs. Beautiful close-harmonies, banjos and acoustic guitars are juxtaposed with droning atmospheres of woodwinds, Moog bass, pump organ, and euphonium. Guest musicians include Jim White on drums and Susan Alcorn on slide guitar.

Botany – End the Summertime F(or)ever

While the luminescent drones and angelic simulacra of Deepak Verbera expanded out into the cosmos, Botany’s newest LP feels more rooted in the soil of our material reality. The bass heavy beats and impassioned vocal samples inspire movement and action rather than contemplation alone, not to say the results aren’t heady. Rich tapestries of resonant acoustic instruments (harps, flutes, percussion, strings), woozy synths, and warm tape hiss are as intricate as ever and easy to lose (or find?) yourself in.
Recommended to fans of Flying Lotus’ Until the Quiet Comes, Boards of Canada, and Alice Coltrane.


Fairhorns – Doki Doki Run

Style: Progressive Electronic

Influences: Kosmische Musik, Industrial, Drone, Shoegaze

Vibe: Angsty, Dystopian, Cathartic, Mechanical, Depressive, Futuristic, Hypnotic, Intimate, Loner, Spacey, Raw, Murky

Musical Attributes: Drone, Loops, Noisy Analogue Synthesizers, Drum Machine, Atmospheric, Motorik, Lo-fi, Vocal Manipulation

Charles Mingus – The Great Concert of Charles Mingus

Format: LPx3

Style: Post-Bop, Avant-Garde Jazz

Vibe: Bombastic, Passionate, Energetic, Intense, Manic, Playful

Musical Attributes: Complex, Dynamic, Live, Improvisation, Acoustic, Instrumental, Polyphonic, Progressive, Rhythmic

David Bowie – Black Star

Style: Art Rock, Jazz-Rock
Vibe: Introspective, Moody, Passionate, Sentimental, Sombre, Conceptual
Musical Attributes: Lyrical, Complex, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Rhythmic, Progressive
Lyrical Themes: Death, Existential, Personal, Reflective

Albert Ayler – Holy Ghost

Style: Free Jazz, Spiritual Jazz
Vibe: Abstract, Active Listening, Chaotic, Energetic, Raw, Spiritual
Musical Attributes: Improvisation (Collective, Thematic, Free), Live, Lo-Fi, Instrumental, Acoustic

John Surman, John McLaughlin, Dave Holland, Karl Berger, Stu Martin – Where Fortune Smiles

Style: Free Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz

Vibe: Triumphant, Energetic, Epic, Exploratory, Loose, Spiritual, Suspenseful, Angular, Chaotic

Musical Attributes: Polyphonic, Progressive, Complex, Dissonant, Dynamic, Technical, Acoustic, Improvisation (Collective, Thematic), Instrumental

Doug Carn – Spirit of the New Land

Style: Spiritual Jazz, Black Liberation Music, Vocal Jazz

Vibe: Triumphant, Uplifting, Conscious, Groovy, Passionate, Poetic, Cathartic, Spiritual

Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Dynamic, Acoustic, Progressive, Rhythmic, Technical, Melodic, Complex

Off World – 1

Style: Progressive Electronic, Experimental
Vibe/Mood: Ethereal, Spacey, Futuristic, Mysterious, Suspenseful, impressionistic
Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Instrumental, Studio-as-an-instrument (Loops, Editing, Dubs), Vignettes, Improvisation
Instrumentation: Synthesizer, Drum Machine

Sixteen Horsepower – Folklore

Style: Gothic Country, Americana, Chamber Folk
Vibe: Rustic, Sombre, Murky, Rootsy, Ominous, Loner, Western, Melancholy, Moody, Dark
Musical Attributes: Acoustic Instrumentation (Banjo, Upright Bass, Cello, Acoustic Guitar, Accordion, Piano), Atmospheric, Droney, Slow, Lyrical
Lyrical Themes: Alienation, Religious, Christian, Storytelling

Lonnie Holley – Mith

Style: Experimental Singer-Songwriter, Soul Blues, Psychedelic Soul

Vibe: Imaginative, Bluesy, Cathartic, Conscious, Cosmic, Spiritual, Heartfelt, Passionate, Psychedelic, Rootsy, Bittersweet, Poetic

Lyrical Themes: Existential, Afro-Futurism, History, Racism, Reflective

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Lyrical, Improvisation, Raw, Studio-as-an-Instrument

Instrumentation: Vocals, Piano, Synthesizers, Keyboards, Saxophone, Trombone, Percussion

Sunburned Hand of the Man – Fire Escape

The free-form psychedelia and tribal “group therapy” of Sunburned Hand of the Man are in great hands with producer Kieran Hebden (Four Tet)—his dubs and cuts transform their usually lo-fi, meandering jams into something much more immediate, without losing any of their exploratory and spontaneous energy. Recommended for fans of polyrhythmic Afro-inspired percussion, dubbed out production, communal sound rituals, and dense psychedelia.

Robbie Basho – Visions of the Country

Style: American Primitivism, Singer/Songwriter, Folk, Raga
Vibe: Mystical, Nature, Open, Passionate, Pastoral, Peaceful, Airy, Contemplative, Earthy, Impressionistic, Meditative, Morning, Spring, Spiritual,
Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Indian-Influenced, Sparse, Technical

Albert Ayler – New Grass

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.

Mogwai – Mr. Beast

Style: Post-Rock, Shoegaze, Slowcore

Vibe: Cinematic, Moody, Contemplative, Focused, Fuzzy, Melancholy, Sombre, Cathartic

Musical Attributes: Dynamic, Melodic, Noisy, Repetitive, Slow, Atmospheric, Polyphonic

Ilyas Ahmed – I Am All Your Own

Style: Loner Folk, Singer Songwriter, Psych Folk

Vibe: Lethargic, Loner, Peaceful, Soothing, Airy, Mellow, Contemplative, Dreamy, Droney, Hypnotic, Intimate, Introspective

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Droney, Slow, Sparse, Soft

Tarantel – We Move Through Weather

Style: Post-Rock, Experimental Rock
Vibe: Exploratory, Hypnotic, Meandering, Murky, Mysterious, Nature, Abstract, Aquatic, Driving, Droney, Psychedelic
Musical Attributes: Instrumental, Repetitive, Atmospheric, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Loops, Innovative, Dynamic

The Books – Lost and Safe

Style: Collage-Pop, Glitch-Folk, Plunderphonics

Vibe: Surreal, Psychedelic, Peaceful, Cerebral, Meditative,  Philosophical, Spiritual, Uplifting, Warm, Playful, Hallucinogenic

Musical Attributes: Sampling, Electro-Acoustic, Melodic, Sound Collage, Vocal Manipulation

Jamila Woods – Heavn

Style: Soul, Art Pop

Vibe: Confident, Heartfelt, Introspective, Colorful, Triumphant, Uplifting, Urban, Loner

Lyrical Themes: Conscious, Poetic, Political, Personal, Black Pride, Love, Feminist

Musical Attributes: Groovy, Lush, Headphone Album, Polished, Catchy, Technical

John Coltrane – Live at the Village Vanguard Again!

Style: Spiritual Jazz, Free Jazz
Vibe: Passionate, Spiritual, Exploratory, Triumphant, 
Musical Attributes: Complex, Modal, Thematic, Acoustic, Live, Improvisation, Dynamic, Instrumental

Julia Holter – Have You in My Wilderness

Style: Chamber Pop, Art Pop
Vibe: Lush, Ethereal, Imaginative, Sensual, Storytelling, Surreal, Intricate, Airy, Dreamy
Instrumentation: Vocals, Keyboards (Piano, Harpsichord, etc), Upright Bass, Strings, Drums, Saxophone

The Mars Volta – The Bedlam in Goliath

Style: Progressive Rock, Psych, Experimental Rock
Vibe: Bombastic, Mystical, Cerebral, Chaotic, Cryptic, Desert, Energetic, Epic, Hallucinogenic, intense, manic, Psychedelic, Complex
Musical Attributes: Dense, Odd Time Signatures, Progressive Structures, Polyrhythmic, Riffs, Technical

Sly & the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On

Style: Psychedelic Funk

Vibe: Triumphant, Energetic, Anthemic, Communal, Rebellious, Groovy, Sunny, Psychedelic, Powerful, Confident, Eclectic, Complex

Mos Def – Black on Both Sides

Style: East Coast Hip-Hop, Boom Bap, Jazz Rap

Vibe: Conscious, Uplifting, Groovy, Confident, Urban

Lyrics/Themes: Philosophical, Political, Black Pride, Racism, Spiritual, Islam

Musical Attributes: Lyrical, Sampling, Beats, Turntables, Live Instrumentation (Rhodes, Electric Bass)

Steve Reich with Kronos Quartet & Pat Metheny – Different Trains; Electric Counterpoint

Style: Minimalism, Tape Music, Chamber Music

Vibe/Themes: Pulsing,  Hypnotic, History, Meditative

Musical Attributes: Repetitive, Sampling, Electro-Acoustic, Spoken Word

Stereolab – Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night

Style: Progressive Pop, Space Age Pop

Influences: Kosmische Musik, Bossa Nova, French Pop, Lounge

Vibe: Spacey, Lush, Retro-Futuristic, Catchy, Groovy, Motorik, Nocturnal, Uplifting

Musical Attributes: Melodic, Headphone Album, Odd Time Signatures, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Progressive, Lyrical

Lyrics: Philosophical, Political, Communist, Bi-Lingual (English and French)

Instrumentation: Synthesizers, Vibraphone, Drums, Electric Bass, Electric Guitar, Vocals, Brass, Strings, Keys (Organ, Clavinet, Harpsichord, Wurlitzer)

Eddie Henderson – Realization

Style: Abstract Funk, Jazz Fusion, Spiritual Jazz

Lineup: Eddie Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Bennie Maupin, Lenny White, Billy Hart, Buster Williams, Pat Gleeson

Vibe: Cosmic, Exploratory, Groovy, Atmospheric, Spacey, Spiritual

Musical Attributes: Collective Improvisation, Polyrhythmic, Odd Time Signatures, Studio-as-an-Instrument

Alex G – Beach Music

Listening to Alex G, one might imagine a young alien sitting alone in his martian bedroom baring his angsty, teenage confessions to his 4-track tape recorder. Yet, at the core of his music, underneath layers of psychedelic guitars, weird pitch-shifted vocals, and occasional lo-fi hiss, lies some genius pop songs that feel simultaneously adolescent and mature.

Recommended for fans of lo-fi experimentation and bedroom pop. Alex seems to pull influences from all over and channel them through his own unique personality and penchant for odd, psychedelic production. Recalls Elliot Smith’s loner acoustic songwriting and drum machines pulled from 80′s pop songs; there’s even a fucked up jazz piano ballad thrown into the mix.

Jim White and Marisa Anderson – The Quickening

This impressionistic and contemplative collaboration channels deep American folk roots through free flowing improvisations. The panoramic and sensitive drumming of Jim White (Dirty Three, Cat Power, etc) is a perfect match for Marisa Anderson’s primitivist guitar sensibilities, which feel both immediate and abstract.

The Mars Volta – Amputechture

Style: Progressive Rock, Experimental Rock

Vibe: Epic, Psychedelic, Chaotic, Bombastic, Cerebral, Complex, Cryptic, Energetic, Ominous, Intense

Musical Attributes: Dense, Polyphonic, Technical, Odd Time Signatures, Headphone Album, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Progressive

Anthony Braxton – Creative Orchestra Music 1976

Style: Avant-Garde Big Band, Free Jazz

Vibe: Cerebral, Bombastic, Energetic, Complex, Abstract

Musical Attributes: Dense, Poly-Free Improvisation, Polyphonic, Dynamic, Instrumental, Technical, Innovative

Pharoah Sanders – Village of the Pharoahs

Style: Spiritual Jazz, Free Jazz
Vibe: Communal, Earthy, Energetic, Hypnotic, Intense, Loose, Mystical, Passionate, Spiritual, Tribal, Uplifting, Warm, Dance
Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Complex, Collective Improvisation, Percussive, Dense, Thematic, Suite

The Sea Ensemble – We Move Together

An obscure release from the great creative label ESP-Disk, containing exploratory, mysterious and playful improvisations from The Sea Ensemble—the husband/wife duo of Zusaan Fasteau and Donald Rafael Garrett. While they are both trained musicians and multi-instrumentalists, an uninhibited childish spirit permeates this release, as can be seen in Donald’s crude but visionary cover drawing; Yet the recording also feels imbued with ancient wisdom, as heard in their primal and instinctive vocalizations throughout the album

Atoms for Peace – Amok

Style: Glitch-Pop, IDM, Electronic Rock

Vibe: Moody, Groovy, Glitchy, Mechanical, Dance, Futuristic

Musical Attributes: Loops, Percussive, Polyrhythmic, Polished, Live Instrumentation, Digital Post-Production

The Necks – Vertigo

Style: Free Improvisation, Post-Minimalism, Trance Jazz, Avant-Garde Jazz

Vibe: Suspenseful, Hypnotic, Epic, Anxious, Impressionistic

Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Repetitive, Droney, Dissonant, Electro-Acoustic, Collective Improvisation, Minimalistic

Human Behavior – Kedumim

Religious allegory, profane thoughts, and lustful confessions intertwine on Human Behavior’s third LP; Kedimum is a brooding suite of psychological chamber folk that introspects into a conflicted mind, struggling to reconcile matters of indoctrinated faith, natural human desires, and internalized guilt. Primary songwriter Andres Parada is joined by a sympathetic cast of vocalists to create a vivid sonic drama complete with choral vocals and spoken word passages to complement his haunting narrations. The intricate and shadowy arrangements blend distorted electronic beats with a wide array of acoustic instrumentation, including banjo, clarinet, accordian, acoustic guitar, violin, ehru, and cello.

Tangents – Stateless

“The five-piece band synthesise contemporary classical forms – most often recalling Steve Reich or Philip Glass – and marry them to the looseness and improvisational nature of jazz and the dynamics of head-nodding electronic music. Stateless is at once both carefully composed and freely flowing. The compositions included here are more about rhythm, texture and contrast than definable melodies and harmonic structures.” – Scott Wallace [Sydney Scoop]

Mike and Lal Waterson – Bright Phoebus

Style: British Folk, Country-Influenced
Vibe: Contemplative, Earthy, Introspective, Melancholy, Rootsy, Rural, Storytelling
Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Vocal Harmonies, Lyrical, Melodic, Simple, Sparse

Circuit Des Yeux – Reaching for Indigo [Full Review]

Style: Singer/Songwriter, Jazz-Folk, Experimental Rock

Vibe: Cathartic, Transcendent, Existential, Funereal, Introspective, Intense

Featuring: Ryley Walker, Ka Baird, Cooper Crain, Joshua Abrams

[Follow link for full review]

Third Ear Band – Alchemy

Style: Free Folk, Chamber Music, Progressive Folk

Vibe: Ritualistic, Hypnotic, Earthy, Tribal, Nature, Meditative, Medieval, Exploratory

Musical Attributes: Acoustic, Improvisation, Instrumental, Minimalistic

Instrumentation: Oboe, Violin, Viola, Recorder, Percussion (Tabla, Drums, Chimes), Cello

Irreversible Entanglements – Who Sent You?

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.