ACL 2022 ~ Top Ten Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz

One of the wonderful things about this blended portfolio is that when one genre produces less than the others, another steps up to fill the gap.  This year, we are proud to say that all four made the list.  Some albums are angry – a response to isolation and war.  Others are playful or reflective.  All of them wear their emotions on their sleeves.

Is there any music as cathartic as a post-rock peak or a metal maelstrom?  Music can be an outlet for rage and frustration, and as we noted in our review of Nonsun, it may also strike fear into the hearts of invaders.  But sometimes we want to keep it to ourselves, and use the notes as bricks in an emotional building, as we gather our strength for battles large and small.

Anteloper ~ Pink Dolphins (International Anthem)
Recalling Miles Davis’ more psychedelic recordings from the 70s, Pink Dolphins is the first time Anteloper, a duo comprised of drummer Jason Nazary and trumpeter jamie branch, worked with a producer. Tortoise’s Jeff Parker contributed bass to the record while encouraging the duo, known for their improvisatory, free-jazz practice, to orient their work more intently around melodic hooks. Whether locking into the groove (and branch’s hypnotic vocals) on “Earthlings,” tripping out on the sonic journey that is “Inia,” or wallowing in the trance-like, electronics-filled ambience of closing track “The Living Genus,” Pink Dolphins charts new territory for Anteloper while maintaining Nazary and branch’s glorious sense of organized chaos. (Jennifer Smart)

Original Review

Casa Ukrainia ~ Habal Garman (Khatacomb)
Leonid Zhdanov and Nataly Hrytsenko have gone all instrumental in their latest offering, to address a largely forgotten piece of history, the murder of over 108,000 Jews in the Odesa region.  The album title, Habal Garmin, points to the Resurrection Body of the Kabbalah, and the “Spirit of the Bones” mentioned in the Vision of Ezekiel as the clothing of dry bones with life. Mixing archival material from Romanian newsreels, with a wide variety of musical references and a running thread provided by a stylised version of a Jewish lullaby, Habal Garmin acts a corrective to the skewed narrative of local history traditionally presented through a post-colonial prism without ever sounding didactic or manipulative. (Gianmarco Del Re)

Ukrainian Field Notes XV

Clorinde ~ The Errors of the Human Intellect (Etruscan Records)
Some artists are just fun. Clorinde is one of those groups that expertly integrate a playful, “light” approach to music that is nonetheless profound, and which results in works of heady intricacy that are easy to listen, but hard to fully explore. A wide array of instruments (including a mandolin and a sitar, among others) gives the music surprising harmonic variety, and smoothes out the methodical swerves from one structure to another typical of the band’s work. These shifts are abundant, yet treated with care, giving listeners a surpirse to look forward to in each and every track. When the change comes, it is a delight to listen to every time, always tightly organized, but also ludic and free. (David Murrieta Flores)

Original Review

Esmerine ~ Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More (Constellation)
We had ‘a new Esmerine album’ on our 2022 wishlist. If we’d pushed our luck, we would have added ‘that arrives out of the blue and acts as a guide to coping with everything life has thrown at us.’ We got our wish on both counts. Delicate at times, but muscular and determined when it needs to be (check out Philippe Charbonneau’s bass at the end of “Imaginary Paths”), Esmerine managed to distil how we felt into a sublime 44 minutes. It’s not a panacea, but it serves as a pathway; not just for the listeners but seemingly for the band themselves. (Jeremy Bye)

Original Review

Kalia Vandever ~ Regrowth (New Amsterdam)
Most of the interesting jazz records of the year took an avant-garde route to free expression, but here’s Regrowth with an approach that makes tradition sing anew, finding in its trombone marches and minimalist takes on fusion an answer to the stillness of the pandemic. The album showcases Vandever as a composer that views jazz at the intersection of contemporary instrumental popular styles; there are quite a few things here that, just like open-minded rockers with the jazz of their heyday, post-rockers will identify with. Musical narratives and expressionist build-ups, expansive harmonies, heart-felt and heady riffs: these are the tools of a jazz unafraid to explore its own confines without recourse to destruction. (David Murrieta Flores)

Original Review

KYOTY ~ Isolation (Deafening Assembly)
Isolation was recorded as a real-time reaction to the pandemic, one week at a time.  It’s no surprise that the timbre is one of fury.  For two years, there was so much to be angry at, from politicians to pandemic deniers, racist incidents and subsequent apologists.  Not that we’ve moved past our rage; we’ve simply transferred it to different targets, which makes this album just as relevant today as it was when it was first recorded.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Lake Mary ~ Slow Grass (Whited Sepulchre)
This album was conceived in love, but may break your heart.  Chaz Prymek’s dog Favorite has reached the end of his life, so weak he is only able to lie in the slow grass and dream of chasing birds.  The music takes its time, patient and empathetic.  As the dog is companion to the man, so is the man companion to the dog.  These final days must not be rushed.  Ultimately, the album is an elegy, an expression of gratitude for a poignant relationship.  (Richard Allen)

Original Review

Million Moons ~ Gap in the Clouds (Self-Released)
As striking as the album cover, Million Moons’ debut will instantly fill that Explosions in the Sky-shaped hole in your heart. Apart from MONO’s work, it’s been a while since a post-rock album of this kind was so engaging, and the band has positioned itself as one that expertly understands the lineage it has derived from. There is not a second wasted, and every build-up, every melody, every riff and every push towards distortion helps pin down the musical narrative, a long meditation on Alzheimer’s disease. The heaviness of the topic is treated justly, and makes this style of post-rock expressionism shine as it hasn’t in a little while. (David Murrieta Flores)

Original Review

Nonsun ~ Blood & Spirit (Dunk! Records)
Although recorded before February 24, the reading of this album is inevitably coloured by the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It roars with leaden riffs working their way through tough snags to remove dead hair like a steel comb. Fierce, and yet not all hard beak and talons, Blood & Spirit is unafraid to expose its soft underbelly in the rare moments the dust is allowed to settle. Nonsun seemingly invoke a future for their country free from the clammy shadow of her murderous neighbour, a splinter of bone in Ukraine’s craw. As one of the track’s title suggests, “Days of Thunder Bring New Wisdom.” (Gianmarco Del Re)

Original Review

Russian Circles ~ Gnosis (Sargent House)
Although like a number of good metal and post-metal bands Russian Circles has historically dabbled in ambience, on Gnosis the trio go all in on heaviness. What little sense of space or release on the album comes in the haunting, melody-driven opening of the title track, as its volume builds and builds, and on the brief respite provided by “Ó Braonáin.” Instead the album’s seven tracks feature relentless drumming and thrashing as precise as it is aggressive. Gnosis is a brutal but rewarding listen that proves once again that this three-piece instrumental band can make music that hits as hard as  anyone. (Jennifer Smart)

Original Review

One comment

  1. Pingback: ESMERINE Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: