Robot-human love, Sasquatch, the quetzal bird, astrology, earrings and Sophie the Giraffe ~ you’ve arrived at our Experimental section, across which the normal rules no longer apply. We’ve all been pent up and stir crazy lately, and this music is in some ways an expression of our acquired peculiarities. As for global crossover success, it probably won’t happen for any of these albums, but the performers don’t care; they are more concerned with originality and self-expression. So feel free to dive in; the artists below have already tested the waters and found them swimmable.
Our cover image is Callum Bucklands’s cover image created for Will Glaser’s Climbing in Circles pt. 4, covered below in our improvisation section.
Rich’s Pick: Širom ~ The Liquified Throne of Simplicity (Glitterbeat, April 8)
This Slovenian trio has always defied categorization, and continues to shapeshift on their latest album. Folk, rock, drone and an avid experimentalism come into play, thanks to a wide array of instrumentation, including found objects, frame drum, balafon, ribab and mizmar. And Walken will be pleased with the cowbell! The music is anything but simple, producing a feeling of awe.
Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Last year’s Album of the Year honoree Lea Bertucci has already released one collaborative album this year, and is following it with a second: the electro-acoustic Murmurations, recorded with Ben Vida on her own Cibachrome Editions. The album includes tape manipulation, textural vocals and of course, a healthy serving of bass clarinet! (April 1). Mads Emil Nielsen + Chromacolor team up to launch a new 10″ series on the arbitrary imprint, a subset of Morr Music. Constellation consists of synth passages and orchestral loops, reimagined on Side B as an ambient work that incorporates metal plates (April 29).
Andrew Weathers runs his own label, but he switches to Flaming Pines for Sciatic Assemblage, created during a time of solitude and suffering. While there are only two tracks, one is a nominee for title of the year: “AW Heats Up A TV dinner with Guitar and Other Sounds” (April 15). Also new on Flaming Pines, Leena Lee & Vania Fortuna join forces on Niebla, droning and dueting with birds in the wilderness as they explore the history and folklore of the quetzal (March 25). Further down the calendar, Timothy Fairless creates a suite for Rising Water, reflecting on the instability of the climate and the mercurial behavior of water. His native Brisbane recently endured a record-breaking “rain bomb,” described by one reporter as a “tsunami in the sky” (Flaming Pines, May 27). In a related manner, Manja Ristić continues her drenched and drone-like reflections with Rings of Water, which contains a rainburst of poetry. Simonida Rajčević’s cover image is thematically linked to an earlier release (Flag Day Recordings, March 25). And we’re excited about the return of Institute of Landscape and Urban Studies, who follow Melting Landscapes with Dammed Landscapes. Purpose and packaging are again exquisite, a testimony to the cause of slowing climate change (May 15).
On Resonant Ocean, Jakob Heinemann tunes double bass, autoharp and sine wave to match the frequencies of the natural and unnatural world: rain, geese, helicopters, an old clock. Some tracks venture into drone, while “Places” was written for string quartet (Kashe Editions, April 1). The album pairs well with Martin Küchen‘s Utopia, as the artist allows a stopwatch to bleed through the tenor and alto sax as old radio songs seep through the speakers (Thanatosis, May 13). Cymbals and rotating surfaces are the only instruments on Cymbale Ouverte, which utilizes Pascal Battus‘ own musical inventions to create a drone-like “how did he do that?” sound (Akousis, April 1).
Ensemble 0 offers a second tribute to Pauline Oliveros and György Ligeti on Musica Nuvolosa, with accordion and voice on the former and piano on the latter (Sub Rosa, March 22). Piano Bar is a fun name for an album, as it suggests not only a bar with a piano in it, but a place where one can order keys. Jörg Zemmler has fun with the instrument, feeding it through sustain pedals and loops (April 16). Laurent Pernice & Dominque Bevin play doudouk, moceño, ocarina, ken and other wind instruments on the expansive Le Corps Utopique, created for choreography, launched with a dark video (ADN, April 22). Malinké African drumming is featured on Séssé Percussion & Han Kuwiz: Gardiens de l’arc en ciel, with a trio of remixes from the Edelfaul stable (March 30).
One of the craziest albums of the season comes from Soundwalk Collective with Charlotte Gainsbourg featuring Atom™, Lyra Pramuk, Paul B. Preciado and Willem Dafoe. One really doesn’t need to read more than that, but we’ll add that LOVOTIC is a musical play (with lyrics) about love between robots and humans. Early fans include Siri and Alexa (April 1). Sebastiano De Gennero manipulates voice, violin and percussion on Musica Razionale, guided by six mathematical principles and inspired by the main theme of Psycho (19’40”, April 17).
Encompassing a wide array of styles, Magnum Opus Collectio Series: Albedo ~ The Three Phases of Alchemic Process as Spiritual Transmutation is the middle of three volumes addressing “different phases of the alchemical process.” Listeners will hear drone, psychedelica, ambience and even a bit of dance music. We’d like to think that Jung would be proud (Undogmatisch, April 22). At 70, Carl Stone is one of the oldest composers in our preview, but his sonic exuberance makes him come across as one of the youngest. Wat Dong Moon Lek folds vocal samples into a miasma of percussion to create a sound that spirals across the globe (Unseen Worlds, May 20).
Alex Wand‘s Music For Dance 2017-2020 collects music composed for multiple choreographers. While the album is synth-dominant, and definitely for dancers, it’s not for clubs; the variances require subtler feet (March 20). Gavilán Rayna Russom presents “deconstructed dance music” on Slabs Vol 1, which sometimes sounds like an underwater club with a DJ offering surface commentary (Voluminous Arts, March 29).
Electro-acoustic sounds ~ tiny objects winding, vibrating and ringing ~ dominate Rie Nakajima and Takahiro Kawaguchi‘s Utsuho, while on Nido, Francesco Covarino plays peaceful electric guitar in an attempt to get his 2-year old daughter to go to sleep (she never does). These appear March 21 on tsss tapes, and will be followed in early June by the self-explanatory compilation Free Percussion/Water and another electro-acoustic collaboration, this one between Lorenzo Abattoir and Elisha Morningstar.
Alessandro Chemie allows the machines to co-compose on the aptly-titled Uncertainty. Random sequences tumble through a modular synthesizer yet still produce something akin to IDM (Elli Records, March 25). After releasing an album of 112 locked grooves, Julian Sartorius tackles a totally different task: “imitating a synthesizer and drum machine.” Mux is as sparse and strange as the leviathan on the cover, occasionally sounding like a rubber band in heat (Marionette, April 28).
Deliberately dissonant, Émilie Girard-Charest offers a dense suite of “silence and shock” on Intimités. The album is a study in contrasts, addressing the fractures that derail a life (Ambiances Magnétiques, April 9). Meanwhile, the “intentionally absurd” duo Claudie Dada play earrings, kazoo, electric toothbrush and “Sophie the Giraffe” on La Pensée Javel, not a typical string album by any stretch of the imagination (Sounds et al, April 1).
Jazzy and Improvised
As with recent previews, we start with the 577 Records family (which includes Orbit577), because they always have their act together when it comes to advance publicity. Spring’s slate launches with John Dikeman, Pat Thomas, John Edwards and Steve Noble‘s Volume 1, an 8-minute piece followed by a 32-minute piece with a 14-second preview (April 1). Four days later, they cede space to the trio Bruno Deplant, Frederic Tentelier and Massimo Magee, described on 344 as “a trio of musicians located in two different countries playing four instruments in the creation of one unified sound.” Just in time for the holiday, Ken Ikeda, Massimo Magee, Eddie Prévost and Joshua Weitzel share some Easter Monday Music, recorded on that date in 2019 (April 8). Then Francisco Mela and Shinya Lin get together for Motions Vol. 1, offering two long pieces for prepared piano and drums (April 22). This will be followed by John Dikeman, Péter Ajtai and Nicolas Field’s The Throes, recorded in a pre-pandemic Amsterdam (May 10) and Dave Tucker, Pat Thomas, Thurston Moore and Mark Sanders‘ Educated Guess, Vol. 2, a sequel to – well, make an educated guess! Many will recognize Moore from Sonic Youth, but this release exposes a very different side to the artist (May 6). Later in the season it’s on to the folk-sax-free jazz of O Life, O Light, Vol. 1 by Zoh Amba featuring William Parker and Francisco Mela, (May 19), the psychedelic rock of Spacepilot‘s Hycean Worlds (May 31), Welcome Adventure! Vol. 2 from Daniel Carter, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Gerard Cleaver (June 1),
Joining the fray this spring is the brand new jazz imprint Ansible Editions, launching March 25 with a trio of releases. The Brodie West Quintet offers music that’s groovy and accessible while retaining an avant-garde flair; Meadow of Dreams, co-released with Astral Spirits, retains a hint of the leader’s punk history. In cohort, Adams, Dunn & Haas‘ Future Moons unites players with backgrounds in synth pop and new wave ~ not that listeners will be able to tell! In similar fashion, it would be hard to guess that High Alpine Hut Network is a duo from either name or sound. On 727 / 16, these artists produce a form of “molten jazz fusion” that proves to be as triangular as it is dance-worthy. Preliminary copies of all three releases are available on clear vinyl. And for more Brodie West sax, check out his work with the octet Eucalyptus, whose is a lot easier to spell than the 28-letter word that graced their debut. And for those who are curious, lead single “Dust in the Wind” is not the Kansas song (telephone explosion, May 13).
Astral Spirits picks up the tag team with Concentric Orbits, from Rob Clearfield & Quin Kirchner. Come for the percussion and piano, stay for the white vinyl with tricolor splatter (April 1, cover left). On the same day, the label releases out side work / two duets with xristian espinoza and alan bishop, from the South African drummer Asher Gamedze and, of course, his friends. The next on the docket: Grossman / Morris Smith‘s Curious Music of guitar and treatments (April 8) and Jessica Pavone String Ensemble‘s …of Late, an avant work for string trio (May 6).
Dan Bruce and :beta collective form an octet on the groove-minded Time to Mind the Mystics. One of the finest moments has the players shifting instruments without skipping a beat (Shifting Paradigm, April 29). Will Glaser‘s Climbing in Circles Pt. 4 is a showcase for the skills of the multi-faceted percussionist. So why does it start with piano? That’s easy; for this album, Glaser recruited two other musicians, bracketing wild improvisations with an accessible beginning and ending (limitedNOISE, April 29). Bassist Ore Bareket is also joined by friends on Sahar, a pleasantly welcoming release that leaves room for each performer to shine. While the title has many translations, Bareket concentrates on the feeling of being up all night (Enja, May 6). Trumpeter Jason Palmer headlines a jazz quartet on Live from Summit Rock in Seneca Village, while Burton/McPherson Trio featuring Dezron Douglas performs from the same location on The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village, both part of Giant Step Arts’ Juneteenth celebration (June 19).
Here’s a fun one: a sax score to a film about pigeons! Marceau Boré‘s School Donker soars and nests, pecks and poops, and sounds like its subject matter (unjenesaisquoi, April 8). Chicago guitarist Michael Allemana is joined by seven friends on Vonology, whose title refers to saxophonist Von Freeman’s interest in natal astrology. (ears&eyes, April 15). Guitar duo Harry Christens & Pedro Velasco admit that they are as concerned with the space between the notes as the notes themselves. Their titles bear this out, as the first two public tracks contain references to silence and time. Scribbling is released on March 25. As inspired by Duke Ellington, Matthew Shipp and Chad Fowler tell Old Stories with piano, stritch and saxello, producing a free jazz tone that looks forward and backward at once. A novel in fourteen chapters, the album is released April 15 on Mahakala Music. Trombonist Karl Silveira returns with the alliterative A Porta Aperta, drawing inspiration from Thelonius Monk and more (March 25).
Polyrhythmic jazz drummer Tommaso Moretti uses Inside Out to reflect on the events of the past two years. Joined by a slate of guest stars, he offers music as mediation, with a few vocal tracks that speak more directly to the mind (Bace Records, May 6). Drummer Max Stadtfeld leads the STAX quartet on Suboptimal, embracing the idea of imperfection as art (Klaeng, March 25). The third entry in FRIM Records‘ split series pairs Windemo & Strid with Wärnheim and Ingves: four improvisors with radically different sounds (March 25). We like reading groups, especially when we pick the book; but Reading Group is also a record label. Fred Moten, Brandon López, Gerald Cleaver‘s self-titled set reunites the three improvisors after a long time apart (April 15).
Anthony Coleman and Brian Chase are inspired by Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project on the briefly titled Arcades (pictured left). The drum and piano duo also has a rock connection, as Chase is a member of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But Coleman has more releases under his belt, over 150 to date and still going strong! (Chaikin, March 25). Mike Holober & Balancing Act will release the double-live Don’t Let Go on Sunnyside Records, a shift from big band to jazz octet (April 15).
Veteran jazz bassist James Singleton must be stoked to be appearing on vinyl for the first time at age 66. On Malabar, he leads a sextet into a sweet series of sumptuous jams. We’re not sure how he missed vinyl for so long (was everything else CD-only?), but we’re glad he’s finally received his due (Sinking City, April 15). The mystical free jazz of Gaf & The Love Supreme Arkestra graces Garden Island, a jungle of density from this Canary Island octet. The album was improvised and recorded live and pairs well with Radar Keroxen Vol. 2, covered in yesterday’s post (Keroxen, April 16).
Loren Connors and Sergio Sorrentino are billed as “alternative rock,” but that tag has come to mean something different in recent years. Shadow is a clash between experimental guitarists, with a rapidly changing patina (Suoni Possibili, April 8). Already Dead Tapes introduces Saxsquatch, which our auto-correct doesn’t like very much, no matter how many times we tell it, there’s a sax! Also drums, making a noise like a large creature of the Northwest, but it’s only Schmidt-Swarz (March 25). At first, the self-titled album from TONED seems electronic, then the crashing drums arrive, upping the noise factor. Then the sax changes our impression again. There’s even a little poetry. Suffice it to say that the album makes a glorious racket for those who enjoy subverted expectations, and the teaser video is a reminder not to sit too close to the screen (May 6).