New This Week: Flying Lotus, Miguel, & More
Flying Lotus, Until The Quiet Comes â€“ The prodigy L.A. producer follows up his universally acclaimed Cosmogramma with the relatively placid, subtly gorgeous Until the Quiet Comes. Michael Tedder spoke with FlyLo for us; Michaelangelo Matos tackled the record itself. Here’s Matos:
What was Flying Lotus supposed to do, twist our synapses till they turned blue every single time out? Please – not even Hendrix could have done that. British DJ Mary Anne Hobbs may have declared FlyLo Jimi’s modern equivalent, but Until the Quiet Comes, his fourth album, plays like something Jimi didn’t get to stay around and make: both reflective and madcap, full of details scurrying in the margins. Take “Tiny Tortures,” which rides a near-subcutaneous bass pulse, twitchy, subtle clicks and clacks, ruminative jazz guitar flecks and flurries. Is it fusion? Maybe, but it doesn’t show off the way most fusion does – it’s too busy sneaking up on you.
Matt & Kim, Lightning â€“ The world’s happiest band returns! Annie Zaleski has more:
Lightning, boasts a broader sonic palette as well as more spirited arrangements than earlier efforts. “Tonight” – with its Jock Jams sirens, Blondie-inspired synths and disco beat and pro-nightlife lyrics – conveys the exhilaration of a debauched night out, while a hip-hop breakdown and divebombing keyboards cut through the frantic synthpunk cut “Now.” If Lightning overall feels a little all-over-the-place, well, that’s perfectly fair to say. However, this characteristic also makes the album consistently interesting.
Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream â€“ R&B pop star gets big ambitions and makes a bold, starry-eyed R&B/rock crossover record. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Seth Colter-Walls writes:
Just what kind of R&B visionary is the ascendant star Miguel? While every bit as ambitious Frank Ocean and just as committed to the craft of songwriting as Terius Nash, aka The-Dream, Miguel is far less interested in making big conceptual statements. Because of this, it’s hard to know right away who he is, exactly, or what his goals are. Is he a fearless freak? An introvert? A do-you crooner? Or a canny chart-seeker? The answer turns out to be all of the above. Miguel, rather like Prince, is a weirdo with a surfeit of hooks and the chops to put them over. In an age of outsized R&B innovators, he’s our subtle auteur.
Tift Merritt, Traveling Alone â€“ The singer-songwriter returns with a relaxed, lived-in record bustling with big-name contributors. Annie Zaleski tells us:
Tift Merritt and what she terms a “dream cast” of musicians – including guitarist Marc Ribot, Calexico drummer John Convertino, steel guitarist Eric Heywood and multi-instrumentalist Rob Burger – spent just eight days recording Traveling Alone. But save for a definitively loose vibe and unadorned instrumentation, it’s not obvious that the singer-songwriter’s fifth studio album came together so quickly. Traveling Alone is lovely and languid, preoccupied by restlessness of mind and body, and a deep desire to find a place to belong.
Eraas, Eraas â€“ The look of fear on the face in the cover photo says it all. Exquisitely haunted feel-bad music, a skulking mix of brooding, muttering guitars, blacklight synths, and ominous atmosphere.
Van Morrison, Born To Sing: No Plan B â€“ Van Morrison’s latest finds him at his most vinegary bitter, griping about the state of the world’s economy and ills. Luckily, his immortal singing and the coolly jazzy background chase the bite. Jim Farber has more:
No one ever mistook Van Morrison for Mr. Warmth. But on his first solo album in four years, he’s on a misanthropic tear. “Sartre said hell is other people/ I believe that most of them are,” he sings near the disc’s start. As much bile as Van spews in the words, he forgives with the bliss of the music. The new tracks have an ease and generosity that leaves lots of room for his ace band to spin caring and erudite solos. It’s his jazziest album in years, with lots of scat, and a free hand awarded his horn players.
The Vaccines, Come of Age â€“ The once-hyped Brit-rock sensation come back down to Earth, settle into a groove, assess the fallout. Dan Hyman says:
Not since the Arctic Monkeys has a UK guitar band generated so much debut-album hype as did the Vaccines. But rather than bask in the gusto of their 2011 debut, the four lads return in short time. The overarching lesson here? It’s utterly depressing getting so much love. Or so says singer Justin Young, convinced he’s just another mid-20s blasÃ© sad sack schlub. “Oh I could bore you with the truth,” Young crows on the otherwise whimsical opener “No Hope.”
Taken By Trees, Other Worlds â€“ A breezy, tropical postcard of a record. Laura Studarus writes:
Victoria Bergsman has an incredibly malleable voice, one that shape-shifts ably through changing musical contexts. . For her third outing, Bergsman headed to Hawaiiâ€”eschewing heavy-handed use of traditional island elements (read: avoided producing an album of Kamakawiwo’ole covers), in favor of a subtler portrait of the paradise. Birds, rain and thunder all make cameos, but the emphasis here is on waves of hazy synth, embellished with the occasional hint of steel drum.
UltraÃsta, UltraÃsta â€“ Dark dreams from Nigel Godrich, the “sixth member” of Radiohead. Laura Studarus tells us:
UltraÃsta is spearheaded by producer Nigel Godrich, and the building blocks of the project’s self-titled debut are what we’ve come to expect from Radiohead’s unofficial sixth member.Named for a 20th-century Spanish literary movement that declared surreal variations on minimalism are superior to more ornate styles, UltraÃsta hews close to these ideals – using sonically commanding elements in sparse arrangements. As a result, their 10 dark, twisted pop compositions are given room to slowly unfold.
John Cale, Shifty Adventures In Nookie Wood â€“ Art-rock legend gets a little hornier, perverse, and mournful on his latest, immaculately produced solo record. That title, man. Barry Walters visits the Nookie Wood and lives to file this review:
It’s a miracle or something like it that John Cale is still alive, let alone still making music this compelling.
Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood merges the relatively lighthearted chill-out pop of 2003â€²s HoboSapiens with the moodier art-rock of 2005â€²s blackAcetate. Cale hasn’t lost his interest in electronics-enabled genre bending: The first track, “I Wanna Talk 2 U,” opens with a simple acoustic guitar, but soon adds the bass, beats and synth of Danger Mouse to split the difference between post-punk and fractured funk. What follows similarly resists pigeonholing: “Scotland Yard” is on the surface relatively straightforward rock, but below there’s plenty of dissonant grinding and droning.
Sun Airway, Soft Fall â€“ The synth-pop band goes widescreen, gets orchestral on its latest. Here’s Ryan Reed, with more:
Sun Airway’s Jon Barthmus doesn’t aim small. Soft Fall, the Philly native’s sophomore album, is symphonic electro-pop in the most literal sense, blending fragmented orchestral loops with glittery synth pulses and moody ambience – capturing the grandiose sweep of M83â€²s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in half the running time, without the spoken word bits and puzzling interludes about frogs.
Moon Duo, Circles â€“ Pysch-rock duo returns with more hypnotic minimal guitar-rock drone. We let some know-nothing blowhard named Jayson Greene loose on this one, and here’s what that clown had to say:
Moon Duo stretch out the basic materials of stoner rock so far that the result teeters on ambient music. Things happen in Moon Duo’s songs, but on their own sweet time. On their last full-length, Mazes, however, their lava-lamp blobs started to suspiciously resemble songs, a development that continues on Circles. If you peek through the heat shimmer, you’ll start to discern Jesus and Mary Chain-style heartbreakers moving beneath it, like on the major-key title track or the wistful, chiming “Trails.” Their extended two-chord vamps have sneakily gotten groovier too: The five-and-a-half-minute “Free Action” spikes its slow head-nodding action with a polyrhythmic spatter of claps and stomps. At its most potent, Circles hits a frictionless bliss: Standing almost completely still has rarely felt this cool or dynamic.
Tori Amos, Gold Dust â€“ Tori takes her classics to the Metropole Orkest, creating symphonic-pop versions of many of her most beloved songs. Steve Holtje writes:
Gold Dust draws on tracks from across her career; not counting her covers album and last year’s classical-themed Night of Hunters, only two Amos albums are unrepresented on Gold Dust: To Venus and Back and The Beekeeper. The debut’s three central songs – “Precious Things,” “Winter” and “Silent All These Years” – occupy key positions. Two were orchestrated in their original incarnation, but the arrangements on Gold Dust, by longtime collaborator John Philip Shenale, are cooler in tone, more like chamber music. Of course, Amos’s pianism is front and center, but Shenale also grants the woodwinds prominence, which adds a dark timbre appropriate to the more autobiographical songs Amos picked for this project.
Diana Krall, Glad Rag Doll â€“ The beloved jazz-standards singer stretches out. Dan Oullette reports:
Cast off your preconceived notions that Diana Krall is still a straight-ahead jazz chanteuse. On Glad Rag Doll, the singer/pianist shifts gears radically, with T Bone Burnett at the helm. Burnett encourages Krall to spread her wings as a song stylist, and while she calls the outing simply a “song and dance record,” Krall is being modest. On Glad Rag Doll, she alternately presents herself as vaudeville dame; a rockabilly yelper in the Jerry Lee vein; a refined concert-hall vocalist, roots music crooner and cabaret singer.
Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola, Not Getting Behind is the New Getting Ahead â€“ Celebrated jazz guitarist Charlie Hunter returns with a biting collection that obliquely addresses the malaise of the American economy with the title. Peter Margasak writes:
Bay Area seven-string guitarist Charlie Hunter reconnects with one of his best and longest-serving collaborators, drummer Scott Amendola, on this dark-yet-breezy collection of originals inspired by extensive touring across the U.S. Hunter, who nimbly uses his guitar’s extra string to trace out bass lines while playing chords or melodic lines with the remaining six, doesn’t have the rosiest view of the country, as the album title makes plain. The gritty urban blues that emerges several minutes into “There Used to Be a Nightclub There,” and the hollowed-out, spooky atmospherics of “Ghost Mall” leave no doubt that he sees signs of decline in America, and his instrumental tone reinforces the message in those titles.
Donny McCaslin, Casting For Gravity – The intrepid tenor saxophonist continues his push to redefine jazz’s outer boundaries from the inside. Britt Robson has more:
Casting For Gravity represents McCaslin’s most dogged effort thus far to redefine fusion. [Bassist Tim] Lefebvre is back, paired with powerhouse drummer Mark Guiliana for a potent yet still ruggedly jazz-centric rhythm section, the backbone of the quartet. Versatile keyboardist Jason Lindner occasionally steps out for a spirited solo, but is more influential in helping to determine the texture and in setting and coloring the mood. Along with producer David Binney, a longtime McCaslin ally who also sparingly adds synthesizer, they provide McCaslin with the ability to create grand gestures.
Beth Orton, The Sugaring Season â€“ The lovely, melancholy daze of Beth Orton is always welcome: It’s been too long since her last. Elisa Bray conducted a wonderful, frank interview with Orton about her career, her self-doubts, and more. It’s definitely worth a read. This record sounds as dreamy and troubled as I remember Orton always sounding.
The Hood Internet, FEAT â€“ Internet mashup kings turn out a full-length that’s as schizophrenic and pleasure-focused as their mashup work.
Jodis, Black Curtain – Minimalist, void-gazing drone metal, built on long unchanging pulses and shot through with bleak intimations of death and dread.
Balmorhea, Stranger â€“ The instrumental six-piece crafts glimmering post-rock pieces that capture a certain windswept, autumnal melancholy
Tim Burgess, Oh No I Love You â€“ Lead singer of the Charlatans pens a rollicking, rocking, wryly charming collection of power-pop gems.
Maya Beiser, Time Loops â€“ The ever-curious and experimental cellist puts together her latest themed collection: a group of pieces by the composer Michael Harrison.
Cecilia Bartoli, Mission â€“ The Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli focuses on the music of a little-known Italian Baroque composer Agostino Steffani. Steve Holtje writes:
Until the release of this album, Agostino Steffani (1654-1728) was pretty much known only to devoted scholars of the Italian Baroque, and as much for his life story — he became an ambassador entrusted with confidential missions, was rewarded by being made a bishop and, later, ascended to such high ranks in the Roman Catholic hierarchy that dignity required him to publish his operas under the name of his secretary (the Vatican did not consider “opera composer” a respectable profession) — as his rarely heard music. Now, however, the advocacy of Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli — which extends even to the surprising cover photo of her made up as Steffani, bald and dressed as a priest — will put him back in the spotlight. About 80% of the arias here have not been recorded before, and the joy of discovery is present throughout.
Heart, Fanatic â€“ Heart return with their first full new official full-length since WHEN. The guitar is sanded-down and gritty, the recording is live-sounding, and the vibe is hard-rocking, tough, and aggressive. It’s vintage 1970s Heart, but without some of the vampy theatricality that spiced some of their hits. Good, swaggering, meat-and-potatoes stuff; it’s nice to hear from these veterans.
Faith Evans, R&B Diva â€“ Faith Evans is still in fine, grainy/smoky voice for this collection of 90s-throwback hip-hop soul. She seems to be avoiding mainstream pop radio completely, going for a jazzier, more “adult contempo” vibe, and it suits her really well.
DJ Drama, Quality Street Music â€“ So, so many rappers. DJ Drama is a member of what I like to call the “Professional Loud Person” sect of DJ/hosts; he doesn’t DJ in any of the older hip-hop senses of the word. But he remains an amazing curator, bringing great performances out of basically everyone in mainstream hip-hop and pairing them expertly with well-chosen beats. You will have to pardon all of his yelling on the album, though: It’s what a Professional Loud Person does.
The Prodigy, The Bumpy Johnson Album â€“ Low-rent, grainy, low-stakes grimy rap from Prodigy of Mobb Deep. He always sounds good, though, and this is a quick satisfying shot, even if it sounds like he recorded it in a week.
Fins, Lawnmower EP â€“ Joyfully sloppy, Westerburgian punk rock from Connecticut band.
Dave Sumner’s Jazz Picks
Very strong drop this week, tough to get everything in. Lots of adventures in electronics in the Jazz Picks this week. Several piano trio albums, though none of them sound quite alike. Several recordings by the Clean Feed label, of which I rec one, though there were several others I could’ve chosen. Also, a new recording by old friends from the jazz scene, a group that has influenced generations of musicians and listeners alike. Let’s begin…
Adam Baldych, Imaginary Room: New release from violinist Baldych, who gave a new interpretation of jazz violin with last year’s intriguing Magical Theatre. On the current release, he revamps the line-up, most attractively adding pianist Jacob Karlzon (another new addition to the ACT Music label), who has put out some some excellent albums of his own the last two years. Expect long sonorous strings, crisp piano lines, some peaceful atmospherics, and some rock tempos. An outstanding new recording from this young artist. Pick of the Week.
Donny McCaslin, Casting For Gravity: Interesting direction for tenor man McCaslin, who dives head-first into an electronic-jazz fusion that carries a little of jazz fusion past with it as it traverses into modern territory. A quartet that includes drummer Mark Guiliana, bassist Tim Lefebrve, and keyboardist Jason Lindner. It’s a curious mix of ambient atmospherics, trad fusion groove, and post-bop vision. Something quite different, and definitely a solid choice for those of you who like their music with a strong experimental approach. It’s always refreshing to run into musicians who stretch out to make an album like this. Highly Recommended.
The Bad Plus, Made Possible: A piano trio that has spent the last decade offering its own view of the traditional jazz piano trio come back with another that, well, shows they haven’t stop their process of creative discovery. Jazz with rock and pop infusions, this is music that impressively presents music that is both technically complex, but strangely danceable. Sort of. The Bad Plus’s idiosyncratic tendency to shuffle tempos will probably confuse their fair share of dancing feet, but the infectious grooves and original flavor will be all the invitation both Jazz and Indie fans require to hit the download button.
The Chives, Dads: If you’re into the Bad Plus recording just above, then you might also take a liking to this trio of Steven Lugerner (reeds), Max Jaffe (drums), and Matthew Wohl (bass). Squirrely music that switches speed as often as it veers off the expected path. Catchy music, in its own personal way, and in possession of an undeniable sense of fun. Recommended.
Dave Douglas Quintet, Be Still: Not your usual Douglas project. Bringing in a new group of collaborators, and including the vocals of Crooked Still vocalist Aoife O’Donovan, Douglas renders a set of tunes that have more to attract the folk and bluegrass fans than the jazz. The thing is, there is a growing contingent of jazz artists who blend in a mix of bluegrass, folk, and country with some impressive success. Artists like Bill Frisell, Jeremy Udden, Threads Orchestra, Becca Stevens, and Jeff Cosgrove have already shown that there are plenty of soft places where the different musics intersect. Along with Douglas and O’Donovan, it’s an all-star line-up of modern jazz musicians including Linda Oh (bass), Rudy Royston (drums), Matt Mitchell (piano) and Jon Irabagon on tenor sax. Always impressive when an artist like Douglas, who has a history of projects that get filed under Something Different, finds yet another way to do just that.
Floriaan Wempe, Flo’s Flow: Debut album from the young saxophonist. Quartet session rounded out by piano, drums, and bass, and a couple guests on woodwinds. Nice straight-ahead set. Wempe plays with a refreshing lightness that really lets the music breathe when it swings. Also smart to surround himself with some jazz vets (including Willie Jones III on drums). Song “Those Little Moments” is quite addictive. Promising introduction. Find of the Week.
Dave King, I’ve Been Ringing You: Also released this week is the side-project of Bad Plus drummer Dave King. With Bill Carrothers on piano and Bill Peterson on bass, this comes far closer to the traditional piano trio sound than King’s other project. A lovely cover of Ornette Coleman’s “Lonely Woman” perfectly displays this trio’s ability to provide a multi-faceted view of a very tight spot. Plenty of wrinkles and shadings to keep the ears active and pining for more.
Oregon, Family Tree: New album from the quartet that got the whole ball moving on the World Jazz sound back in the seventies. Employing a diverse variety of cultural and ethnically based instruments and compositional approach, Oregon blended jazz with a variety of folk musics for, what came to be, decades of compelling music, most of it best listened to in the quiet times when the sun was rising or setting. Band has changed members over time, but some core people are still there. Paul McCandless, Ralph Towner, Glen Moore, and Mark Walker. Long-time Oregon fans aren’t going to be disappointed with this one. Their sound has changed dramatically over the years, but it never gets stale.
Charlie Hunter & Scott Amendola, Not Getting Behind Is the New Getting Ahead: Interesting duo recording of unconventional guitarist Hunter and drummer Amendola, who has an impressive history working with unconventional guitarists (ie, Bill Frisell and Nels Cline to name just a few). This pared-down recording is rooted in blues as much as jazz, and it gives the album an earthy feel, keeping it heartfelt without ever becoming overburdensome of melodramatic. Two artists comfortable speaking in their own voice, no matter what music they set out to make. Good stuff.
Nik Bartsch’s Ronin, Live: Live double-album from the group whose music is referred to as zen-funk. Piano driven, typically with rhythmic intensity, and grooves as if played by a chamber jazz outfit. Tough for me to recommend this recording to anyone but an avid Bartsch fan. Not much of a departure from past recordings, and the live recording doesn’t really match the tension of the studio recordings. However, I absolutely adore their music, and really didn’t want it to slip by without a mention. If you haven’t purchased anything by Bartsch before, check out Holon, a gem of a recording that goes a long way to illustrating the magic that this ensemble represents.
John Turville Trio, Conception: Odd yet charming piano trio album. Influences traced back to postbop, chamber, and avant-garde without ever being fully beholden to the conventions of any one musical approach. Angular piano lines, bass just as likely to arco as hop, and drums that are more than happy to provide unpredictable rhythmic cross-currents of its own. Neat stuff.
Paradoxical Frog, Union: Trio of Ingrid Laubrock on sax, Kris Davis on piano, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Part of a nice drop from the Clean Feed label. Lots of bursts of dissonance interspersed around pauses thick with silence and plenty of disassembled sounds suddenly coming together as one. Each member of this trio can be followed over to other projects for more good music, under their own name and as collaborators on other projects.
Philip Clemo, Mesmer: I’m not claiming this is jazz, though this recording is influenced by it. But this album is hypnotically pretty and I wanted to get in a quick mention about it. Piano, trumpet, electronics, various other guest instruments. Ambient music that should appeal to the Peter Broderick and Nils Frahm crowds.
Nathan Douds Ensemble, Nathan Douds Ensemble: Nice little modern jazz recording. Tunes don’t swing much, mostly meandering and brooding, sometimes a display of fire. But a likable recording by a young ensemble. A couple saxes, piano, guitar, bass, and drums.
And let’s end with our weekly Probably-Shouldn’t-Be-Filed-Under-Jazz rec…
Lymland, Ensamtidsroman: Fuzzy guitars, drifting piano, and electronics, with some clarinet, accordion, and synthesizers. Ambient music. Too pretty.