Spring Music Preview 2020 ~ Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz

Want to know what’s next?  Look no further than our Spring Music Preview, which over the next week will highlight over 250 instrumental albums: it’s the most comprehensive preview on the planet!  This spring’s release schedule is incredibly front-loaded, as most of the albums listed will be released in a five-week span starting this Friday, the first day of spring.  We hope to provide some guidance so our readers can plan what to buy and stream.  As a reminder, between seasons our readers can always find a wide variety of Soundcloud and Bandcamp snippets on our Upcoming Releases page.

The image to the left is some Charley Harper fabric that we found at Fabricworm!

We begin with Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz.  It’s no secret that we favor post-rock, as many of us grew up with GY!BE, Do Make Say Think, and Explosions in the Sky, and continue to search for the thrill of catharsis that graces the best releases.  Last year was a comeback year for the genre, but the new year started slowly, with notable exceptions from Oiseaux-Tempête, Toundra, The Echelon Effect and All Shall Be Well.  Now things are starting to pick up, beginning with our pick of the season.

Rich’s Pick:  sleepmakeswaves ~ these are not your dreams (May 12)
Sydney’s sleepmakeswaves has been active for over a decade, and each release has brought something new to the table.  The trend continues on these are not your dreams, which will be released as a series of three vinyl EPs, followed by a CD.  The first EP, No Safe Place, dropped February 21, and soon will be joined by Out of Hours in April and Not an Exit in May.  The title refers to internet obsession (ironically, the place where you are reading these words).  One spin of the epic 11 1/2 minute “the endings that we write” and fans will be sold on the project, which is also available in multiple gift packages.


Jazz Hands

The New Immigrant Experience is one of the season’s most relevant releases, addressing the plight of young people who are seeking legal entry to the U.S.  Felipe Salles‘ CD/DVD package includes video interviews with dreamers, as well as an 18-piece orchestra (Tapestry, March 20).  On a lighter note, Day Dream Trio offers a reverie on imagination with the free-flowing Originals (Corner Store Jazz, March 27).  Drummer Charles Rumback leads a “blue piano trio” on June Holiday, timed perfectly for the season; it’s far jazzier than his recent collaboration with Ryley Walker, but just as appealing (Astral Spirits, April 10).  Trumpeter Ben Holmes experiments with numerous styles on Naked Lore; each track contains a new flavor, from chamber jazz to flamenco (April 24).  Octet Madre Vaca revisits Franz Schubert’s Wintereise with a series of jazzy takes, out June 4 (the start of winter in Australia).


Urban jazz artist Chris Standring has enjoyed a great deal of mainstream success to date, and Real Life looks to continue the trend.  It’s another accessible effort from the L.A. guitarist (Ultimate Vibe Recordings, March 20).  Saxophonist Keith Oxman leads a five-piece ensemble in the head-nodding set Two Cigarettes in the Dark, teaming with Houston Person for a two-pronged attack (Capri, March 20).  Jazz pianist Falkner Evans is indeed related to William Faulkner, and one can imagine Marbles as the score to one of the author’s tales.  At times, the album touches on big band territory, with guest vibraphone on three tracks (Consolidated Artists Productions, April 17).  There’s a pop tinge to John Carroll Kirby‘s latest effort, which should come as no surprise given the fact that the artist has collaborated with Frank Ocean.  My Garden is out on Stone’s Throw April 24.


The Necks‘ 21st album is called Three, but don’t be confused; the title refers to the number of tracks, each which spans 21-23 minutes (Northern Spy, March 27).  Funky Chemist‘s Groove Generator is just as funky & groovy as one might expect from the moniker and title; each track is a potential single (Citizen Recordings, March 27).  In the same lines, Ratgrave‘s strangely-titled Rock revels in the P-Funk (Black Focus Records, March 20), placing a few vocals on the path.  Inspired (looking at the cover, one might say horrified) by the closing of swimming pools, Curt Sydnor introduces Deep End Shallow, a collection of funky jams that occasionally border on the psychedelic (Out of Your Head Records, March 20).

Psych, Prog and Post-Metal

37 years passed between albums, and now Soft Machine releases two in a row.  The latest is Live at the Baked Potato, which includes a comeback set from 2019 (Tonefloat, March 20).  Null Zone will be releasing a pair of extended jam albums on March 27: the fuzzed-out, live, guitar-driven Raven’s Head from Curanderos and the loud, sprawling Collision of Calamities from the comet-minded Kohoutek.  Sunwatchers has a bit of fun on Oh Yeah?, as one can tell from the title of lead single Sunwatchers Vs Tooth Decay.  The band is about as caffeinated as one can imagine, eager to pack as many notes as possible into a small space (Trouble in Mind, April 10).


Maserati has been recording for two decades and shows no sign of slowing.  Their latest effort, Enter the Mirror, is a throwback disc, purposely emulating the music of Phil Collins, INXS and Blondie (Temporary Residence Ltd., April 3).  Fans of over-the-top cinematic prog will flock like starving sheep to JG Thirlwell & Simon Steensland‘s Oscillospera (that’s fun to say!), which combines orchestral instruments and choral vocals to create dramatic backdrops (Ipecac, April 24).

Alison Chesley / Steve Albini / Tim Midyett team up to present two blood-spattered discs of drone doom on the Girl on the Third Floor OST, unsurprisingly made available in a first pressing of 666 (Touch & Go, May 1).  Berlin prog / metal band Pyrior offers the Fusion LP on March 20, filled with the big riffs that everyone expects, plus some thoughtful breakdowns.  There’s nothing subtle about it, nor should there be.  Looking for something dark and sludgy?  Try the self-titled album from Twin Sister, a trio comprised of members from Dead Neanderthals, Sex Swing and Mugstar (God Unknown, April 17).  Rising from the ashes of Scraps of Tape is post-metal band Barrens with their debut album Penumbra. Long-time readers may remember guitarist Johann G. Winther, who appeared on our pages with solo albums in our early days (Pelagic, April 10).



It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Flies Are Spies From Hell.  Their last album proper was released five years back, followed by an ambient remix album in 2018.  The band is also famous for their curated post-rock compilation series Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters.  Now the band is returning with Final Quiet, which was inspired by “the theme of endings … the loss of loved ones, the end of relationships, the drifting away of friendships.”  The melancholy associated with such feelings can be heard in the anchoring piano, but fear not, there are plenty of guitars and drums, and the lengthy tracks burst into thick crescendos (Voice of the Unheard, May 4).


One might call Aging post-rock or cinema noir, but either way, Sentenced to Love is a fine, smoky concoction composed as the score to Phil Carney’s pulp fiction.  The sleepy brass and brushed drums create an atmosphere of brandy and smoke (Gizeh, May 1).  Astodan has an intriguing concept album in the works, inspired by the burial rituals of the Tagalong tribe, as one can see in the 11 1/2 minute lead video.  Bathala is out April 3 on dunk!records and A Thousand Arms.  Whale Fall is back with its fourth album, It Will Become Itself. The title refers to the album’s genesis, born in an improvisation session and sculpted over the course of a year.  Thanks to the organic brass and piano, the album contains a great deal of dynamic contrast, which makes it sound like the story it is (March 27).


Jeff Wright returns as Unconditional Arms with another powerful post-rock punch.  Formation muses on “time, relationships and responsibility,” no surprise given the artist’s discography.  We’re less sure about the cover, which looks at first like a pair of ovaries but may also be a pair of duck umbrellas (April 3).  Final Days Society extends the vein with Firestarter (unrelated to Stephen King or The Prodigy).  The Swedish band does incorporate vocals, but their post-rock is solid enough to deserve a mention in this feature (April 10).  rhubiqs offers a comforting brand of post-rock that draws on ambient motifs while increasing the pulse.  Migratory Paths also features one electronic remix (May 1).  Post-rock/post-metal band Staghorn invited vocalist Drew Speziale of Circle Takes The Square to contribute to a track on the powerful Corvus IV, but they will also be releasing the album in two versions, one vocal and one instrumental (March 20, pictured right).


Original Blends

Thrill Jockey has a handful of exquisite flavors set for release this spring.  The first out the gate is Helen Money‘s Atomic on March 20, an album we nearly placed in Modern Composition until we heard these cello pieces surge into all-out rock.  The album is a “recalibration” of thought, action and emotion in the wake of a family loss; Money bounces back strong.  A little later in the season, the label will release The Quickening, an improvised album from Dirty Three drummer Jim White and folk/blues guitarist Marisa Anderson, along with Rain Shadow (pictured right), a komische/drone set from Golden Retriever and Chuck Johnson, graced with Johnson’s signature western tones.  Both are out on May 15.


Folk guitar is the order of the day on Riderstorm, an introspective album from Mute Forest.  While other instruments are present, the focus remains squarely on the stringed instrument.  Like Helen Money’s set, the album is born out of loss, but approaches this from a quieter angle, including vocals on half the tracks (Lost Tribe Sound, April 3, pictured right).  Cello and lap steel create a lovely tonal combination on Pomegranate, a beguiling EP from Quarterly.  On “Catherine Wheel,” the timbre borders on post-rock, recalling the work of Rachel’s (Whatever’s Clever, March 20).


Rewilding splits the difference between folk, pop, rock and psychedelic on the variety-packed Rain Patch; the quilted cover is a metaphor for the music (Hidden Shoal, April 10).  Jon Brooks offers a perfectly timed release in How to Get to Spring, a lovely folk album on the always-reliable Clay Pipe Records.  We’re especially enamored with the white snowflake vinyl, a contrast to the floral cover (April 3).  Mute Duo (not to be confused with Mute Forest above) is the duo that sounds like a band; the country-folk flavors of Lapse in Passage can be traced back to the pedal steel, Wurlizer and (YES!) cowbell: a beautiful cacophony (American Dreams, March 20).  Westward the Light is as ebullient as a Maypole dance, with fiddle, viola and harmonium inviting listeners to twirl in their kilts.  It’s the debut album of this Glasgow band (Braw Sailin’, March 27).


The mysterious Die Wilde Jagd returns with Haut, a percussion-centric album that features a few stray vocals and a bit of dub.  The music is enough to send listeners into a rhythmic trance (Bureau B, April 17).  Worldbeat makes an entrance on the joyful, rapid-fire Ormenion from “Thracian psychedelic band” Evritika Zygia.  5 Nights is a perfect introduction (Teranga Beat, March 27).  Chafouin brings fun flavors and a sixties vibe to Désolé de vous le dire, which often sounds like the work of a circus barker turned rock musician.  As the cover implies, it’s a real variety pack, a perfect score for its April Fools Day release (Epicerecords, 1 April).

More tomorrow as we turn to the spring slate of Modern Composition albums!

Richard Allen

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