2019 Winter Music Preview ~ Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz

In 2018, the first great post-rock record of the year was released on the cusp of summer.  This year, the event occurs in January.  It’s an encouraging sign for a genre that has been written off for the last 15 years.  But our final winter preview includes much more, from world music to jazz, and even a surprising appearance by a member of Wu-Tang Clan.

Our cover image comes from the series “Earth As Art,” in which the EROS Center collects US Geological Survey images taken from the Landsat 8 satellite network.  We learned of this ongoing project via a post at Artnet.  This is just one of the many agencies affected by the recent US government shutdown, reminding us that government isn’t all politics, but includes a great deal of beauty as well.

Rich’s Pick:  MONO ~ Nowhere Now Here (Temporary Residence, January 25)
MONO is back, and louder than ever!  When those big riffs break in lead single “After You Comes the Flood,” we know we’re in good hands.  The band has never been a stranger to bombast, and on their new album they add a few light twists: a new drummer, a vocal track and subtle electronics.  But never fear, this is MONO as fans love them: walls of sound and distortion with an eventual sense of catharsis, the concluding factor that made us fall in love with the genre in the first place.  And also ~ holy crap, what is with that video!  Julien Levy adds a new layer of danger that we didn’t even know was there.


An indication of MONO’s popularity and influence is the fact that the press release for A Swarm of the Sun‘s The Woods recommends it to MONO fans.  When the opening piano of “Blackout” is graced by strings, we can agree. But of course there have been many versions of MONO, and it’s important to note that such orchestral aspects are best compared to an earlier era.  With three thirteen minute tracks, the album certainly fits the post-rock mold.  The setups are long, often encompassing over 50% of the running time.  The title track contains light vocals (judge for yourself here), while the closer is half vocal, but the instrumental finales are intense.  The obvious dilemma is that the selling point is “sounds like MONO” while the release arrives only two weeks before the new MONO (Version Studio, January 11).

The End of the Ocean returns with ~aire, focusing on the peaks and valleys that have made them popular in recent years.  The drumming is particularly strong on “bravado,” the guitars rampant throughout this set (Equal Vision, January 18).  Aussie post-post-rockers Original Past Life announced their upcoming album during the Audible Edge Festival this past Wednesday, and Inference/Interference is set for release on January 29.  The album moves in directions that were only hinted at in their debut, including shoegaze and drone (Tone List).  Is Teeth of the Sea still post-rock?  Yes, although Wraith is heavily inflected with electronics, the old West and a hauntological theme.  By mixing the electronic and organic (including healthy amounts of brass), the duo creates a convincing hybrid.  They claim to have been inspired by “a fissure in the astral plane,” which seems apt considering the mystical nature of the music.  Lead single “Hiraeth” is both languid and catchy, a perfect combination (Rocket Recordings, February 22).  As former math rockers and hard rockers, Markers tone it down quite a bit on Heaven in the Dark Earth, which explores the aspects of time.  The pieces alternate between gentle post-rock and guitar-based ambience, inviting listeners to surrender their watches and clocks (God Unknown, February 22).


Run to the Hills

No matter how much some may insist that MZ. 412‘s Svartmyrkyr represents the dark ambient or drone genre, we can’t put it there; these sounds are too harsh, these atmospheres too relentless, the oppression too thick for it to land anywhere but here.  This is an extremely cinematic album inspired by the frigid kingdom of Helheim and its ruler, Hel.  Svartmyrkyr‘s black industrial smokestacks spew lava hot enough to melt the frozen north, even without global warming (Cold Spring, February 8).


Jazz It Up!

Decades of collaboration have finally led to the “atypical assembly” of Daniel Carter, Tobias Wilner (Blue Foundation), Djibril Toure (Wu-Tang Clan) and Federico Ughi under the banner of New York United. The commingling of sound is akin to the city’s melting pot, as evidenced on first single “Canal Street.”  Their self-titled album is released February 8 on 577 Records.  The Cosmic Range present a blend of free jazz and psychedelic prog on The Gratitude Principle, joining musicians who have collaborated with John Zorn and Sandro Perri.  By setting its own pace, the album allows listeners to sink into their couches (Idée Fixe Records, February 8, pictured right).  Jazz, psychedelica and a bit of post-rock (thanks to Jaga Jazzist) all find their way into Dave Harrington Group‘s Pure Imagination, No Country, due February 1 on Yeggs Records.  Krautrock meets heavy percussion on Nachtfalter (Moth), representing the comeback of Günter Schickert.  The assistance of drummer Andreas Spechtl was essential in the formation of this album, which recalls Schickert’s best work while extending his timbres to the current era (Bureau B, February 15).


We Are the World

A positive world music vibe is exuded by Standing Waves in the hybrid grooves of The Wave, introduced by lead single Tabla Dance (February 15).  Cairo’s Maurice Louca incorporates Arabic, African and Yemeni rhythms in the nuanced Elephantine, released February 1 on Northern Spy.  Andean music is showcased on Siku, an exciting new album “recorded in the caves of the Ilaló volcano.”  Nicola Cruz teams up with Esteban Valdivia for the opening track, setting the stage for the rest (ZZK, January 25).  Santiago Córdoba shares psychedelic rhythms on the trippy En Otros Lugares, leaving the tango behind but continuing to exude a Latin influence (Sounds and Colours, February 8).  And Krautrockers Klangwart switch things up on Bogotá, recording on location with local musicians and producing a set of toetappers (Staubgold, February 15).  Together, these recordings are statements of hope in a troubled world, evidence that we can make a beautiful noise together if we celebrate our commonality instead of emphasizing our differences.

Richard Allen

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