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2018 Highlights

December 30, 2018

Hi there, blogosphere. Even though this past year has seen me work harder, raise more kids and post even less, some habits are hard to break… like my traditional end-of-year favourites. So, for the 12th year running, here they are.

rodrigo tavares – congo (hive mind)
An instrumental album that sounds simple, but gets deep. Every time I hit play I end up listening to the whole album. Melodies and textures popping up in my head for days afterwards. Sounds like: nineties Tortoise, mellow library music. Feels like sharing a meal after a long hike.

ben lamar gay – downtown castles can never block the sun (international anthem)
This kaleidoscopic album often sounds like the human condition – fragile, outspoken, searching, joyous. It’s fuelled by jazz, a healthy imagination and living in (or surviving) an urban environment. I was hooked from the first listen. Reading the press blurb, I didn’t take the fact that the album is made up from the highlights of seven unreleased albums too seriously.  This was back in May. Since then, I have seen Ben Lamar Gay perform my favourite live show of 2018 (soulful, fearless and intense). And three of those seven albums have been released… with another four in the pipeline.

lightman – roots (helmi levyt)
My favourite Jamaican release of the year is new. And from Finland. ‘Roots’ channels its JA heritage while sounding fresh and uplifting. I did not see this one coming at. all. Thanks to HJ for the heads up.

va – patina echoes (timedance)
Dreamy synths, deep subs and wisps of melodies snaking around occasional drums and other pieces of rhythm? Count me in. This weightless collection of tracks is the first album release on Batu’s Timedance label. Each track is by a different artist, but the result sounds like they were in touch… musically at least. ‘Patina Echoes’ has been in heavy rotation since its release in May 2018.

warren sampson – traveller (love all day)
This album snuck into my musical landscape. “Never mind me, I’m just an overlooked 1987 hybrid of loner guitar, ambient synths and deep melancholy”. I took notice, and ‘Traveller’ has been my go-to soundtrack through ups and downs all year. Thank you, Love All Day, for this reissue.

va – gatto fritto – the sound of love international (love international)
A compilation that sounds like that weird party you end up at… where you feel free, alive and in sync with the universe. A wormhole of elastic basslines and dubby outlooks. Lovely stuff.

fatima – and yet it’s all love (eglo)
Four years after her debut album Fatima sounds like she has nothing to prove – at least not to outsiders. This is a musical diary, and the songs are sung for you. Unique and daring.

jay daniel – tala (watusi high)
On his second album, Jay Daniel goes AWOL – no rules, no conventions, just the sounds he feels are relevant. The result is a forward-thinking album that sounds familiar from the first spin.

mary jane leach – (f)lute songs (modern love)
Four slow-moving drones that hit the sweet spot between building tension and deep release.

Bonus basement

State of the art of the uk hardcore continuum
laksa – it feels like i’ve been here before (whities blue 04)
pangaea – bone sucka (hessle audio)
overmono – daisy chain (poly kicks)

Best music related documentary
Being Blacker (Molly Dineen, BBC)

Best soundtrack to a book
VA – Lament from Epirus (Tompkins Square)

Deadly content combo
Erykah Badu’s Tiny Desk-performance and the interview she gave on “What’s good’ with Stretch & Bobbito” made for an honest, hilarious and spiritual look into the life of an artist. Give it a spin!

[mix] Cade

May 23, 2018

New mix alert! If you are up for something new and curious to broaden your musical horizon, this is for you. If you’ve been looking high and low for a mix that combines fresh UK jazz with fifties doo-wop, microhouse and an Outkast-member serenading his parents, this is for you as well.

Bonus: lots of dubby and echo-ey textures that act as a sort of guide throughout the fourteen tracks. And some hot harp action. As you can tell, I am excited about Cade. Hope you are too. Download here, stream below.

Tracklist

1. kilchhofer – chogal (marionette)
2. beverly copeland – good morning blues (cbc)
3. park jiha – communion (glitterbeat)
4. andy mac & ossia – cado (no corner)
5. nate smith – disenchantment / the weight (ropeadope)
6. ben lamar gay – swim swim (international anthem)
7. the marquis – strange is love (class recordings)
8. toshio matsuura group – at les (brownswood recordings)
9. loidis – a parade (anno)
10. martin newell – golden lane (man at the off license)
11. jessica lauren – kofi nomad (freestyle)
12. andres lõo – seto dub (sex tags amfibia)
13. andre 3000 – me & my (to bury your parents) (no label)
14. mary lattimore – hello from the edge of the earth (ghostly international)

 

2017 Favorites

January 23, 2018

Yes, yes, it’s 2018. And has been for a few weeks. I was busy, ok? I would like to do a rewind of last years’ music…to know your future is to know your past and all that. Plus, I hate to break a tradition 🙂

2017 was an overwhelming year for music – so many good new and archival releases that “keeping track of new releases” in the old fashioned sense is definitely in the past. This post highlights the releases I was lucky enough to encounter and were great and received heavy play and turned out to be a part of 2017’s core soundtrack.

London is the place for me

UK duo Binker and Moses (drums and sax) surprised with a sprawling double album that went deep, challenged the listener but never lost it’s soul. Listen to Journey to the Mountain of Forever on Spotify.

Drummer Moses Boyd also produced the third album by singer Zara McFarlane. Mixing jazz, West Indian cultural heritage and reggae classics as if the norm, Arise is a great listen.

London also saw Archy Marshall aka King Krule return from the deep with – still sounding like nobody else, and now also inspired by fifties surf, eighties sax and even more urban detachment. Check out The Ooz on Spotify.

Made to wander

Ostinato records’ Sweet as Broken Dates: lost Somali tapes from the horn of Africa is my favorite release of the year. Unheard music with a great background story (tapes buried in the desert!) that turns out to be soulful, proud, futuristic and catchy? Yes. Please.

I always liked Dion‘s sixties albums, but felt there was more. As if he never reached his potential. Norton’s release of the lost album Kickin’ Child confirms this suspicion. Top-shelf songwriting, soulful performance and a voice my significant other can stand (yes, that’s directed at the two of you, Robert Allen Zimmerman and Neil Percival Young). Stream the album here.

1982’s Music for Nine Postcards by Japanese composer Hiroshi Yoshimura is the most serene and mindful album I came across this year. Thank you, Maxwell and Spencer for making this the first re-release on your Empire of Signs label.

Brother Ah released a few great solo records in the seventies and eighties. Turns out there was more where those came from: Divine Music compiles three unreleased albums that are out there in the best sense. Check out this podcast interview with the 83 year old musician for some great stories.

Ever have that lone, wistful feeling, thinking of the Peruvian Andes? Me neither, until I heard La Bolognesina, a reissue of the 1981 cassette by singer Esther Suarez. Oh wow.

Touch Absence

Trumpeter Jaimie Branch was unknown to me, but I checked out her Fly or Die because it was released on the interesting International Anthem label from Chicago. Glad I did, because this compact album was never far from my earbuds or turntable. It’s soulful, rebellious and in possession of some serious swagger. An interview quote from the artist: “It may be a stupid fucking world we’re living in right now, but it still needs a soundtrack.” Amen.

If Jaimie Branch boldly looks into the future, Book of Sound by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is the sound of historical puzzle pieces snapping into place. After almost twenty years on the road this album comes closest to capturing the essence of their performances and the depth of their musical ancestry.

My favorite modern label this year was Whiti.es. All 2017 releases are worth checking out, but the knockout duo of  Whities 11 by Lanark Artefax and Whities 12 by Minor Science is hard to surpass.

Something peculiar is going on with Arpo by Call Super, Ravines by Jex Opolis and Plant Age by Terreke. These three albums separately crept their way into my playlist. And started to communicate and mingle? This threw me off. After something thinking and consulting a fellow music lover, here’s the deal: these albums, while made by different artists and very much their own things, are related in a higher sense. Existing at the same time in different dimensions. Yes, a sort of superstring-lite if you will. The Terreke album is submerged, the Call Super record is an earth dweller and Jex Opolis is high in the sky… curious to hear if you, the reader, hears the same weird connection. Let me know, ok?

Bookending this personal best of 2017 is Harmonies by Lord Echo…how can a record be fantastically catchy and stubborn at the same time? I don’t know, but it made for a winning combination.

Would love to hear back from you as a reader – with your own faves or a reaction to the above. Namasté.

 

 

 

I is for Istikhbar

November 28, 2017
1965 solo piano  improvisations. By and Algerian maestro Mustapha Skandrani. Originally only released in France as “Musique Classique Algérienne – Stikhbar” and rescued from obscurity by the corusculant EM Japan.
Why post this record? Glad you asked. It’s outside my comfort zone – I am quite unaware of the Algerian musical heritage. It’s introspective and meandering autumn listening. And it sounds like a lost relative of the Goldberg Variations and Canto Ostinato.
This LP is exclusively made up of so-called istikhbar. Traditionally the vocal prelude to a Nawbah suite, They are never performed alone. Or on a piano. Skandrani, raised within the tradition, chose istikhbars close to him and performs them on this album.

Each istikhbar is followed by an improvisation using the traditional composition as a starting point.

The result is a constant ebb-and-flow in the structure and melody of the music, always receding when your ear moves towards it and creeping up on you when distracted by other things. A special record. Dig in.

 

Autumn Street

October 22, 2017

frank minion – the soft land of make believe (bethlehem lp, 1960) album

This vocal jazz album is perfect for autumn listening and should be all up in your playlist.Warm, playful and full of unexpected moments, it is a personal go-to for some peace and quiet. Since I don’t do Spotify I have no clue if this is available to the streaming crew… so let me help bring this Minion to the masses.

The Soft land of make believe” is made up of two distinct sides: the first features a suite that sketches out a musical landscape through interconnected themes and songs. This is much more fun and engaging than it sounds btw. Side two features original vocal versions of compositions from Kind of Blue, a Thelonious Monk. Two high-quality original compositions close out the record.

And yes, this is the same Frank Minion that recorded this popcorn classic. Let me know how you like the album, ok?

[mix] Old paint / New feet

September 8, 2017

Time for a new sonic footprint – the last one is from feb 2017. “Old paint / New feet” is hosted by longtime friend DeLuca and his Royal Groove platform. Old-fashioned download-lovers check here.

Tracklist

1. jaimie branch – theme 001 (international anthem)
2. willie dale – let your light shine (athens of the north)
3. bruce – the trouble with wilderness (idle hands)
4. collins oke elaiho – deroruewo (melody)
5. emanative – ominous shanti (home planet recordings)
6. christian schwindt quintet – karibaldi (fredriksberg)
7. vivian jackson and the prophets – covetous man (blood & fire)
8. lord echo featuring mara tk – just do you (soundway)
9. pearson sound – robin chasing butterflies (pearson sound)
10. arthur russell – goodbye old paint (audika)
11. sir valentino con combo los esclavos allegres – masters are gone (padisco)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organ-shifting vibrations

August 14, 2017

ali chukwuma & his peace makers international – odi ofele special (editions namaco lp, 1977) album

Nigerian highlife continues to be a source of wonder – and not only to me! Check out what a fellow musical nut wrote in response to me sharing this album with him:

This deep highlife sound has been my favourite thing for ages. but it is scary when you’re really wasted, because I think it is sacred music that can act on your internal organs. no joke. I think that the ensembles are attuned to the vibratory wavelengths of the body, instrument by instrument, so that each element is acting on a different organ. so if you’re wasted and a bit susceptible, it can start to get very deep inside your body, and you start to not be very in control. I think this might be how possession works.

I get freaked out at d***’s if I’m too wasted and he starts playing this kind of shit. ‘organ-shifting highlife’ is my name for it lol

I’m not sure if I feel the exact same way, but agree that there is something special about the way the groove builds, loops and folds in on itself in these tunes. Check out the full thing above.