Monthly Spins: January 2017

The thing about living in a post truth era is that that your house and the ambient atmosphere is filled with wifi-blutoothed-airdropped-4g radio waves, but your private space also swirls and eddies with a virtual maelstrom of highly crafted bits of information often described as "facts." For some there is a sense of ambient confusion and despair. Then again there is music, which does not rely either on facts or sometimes (not always)—words. Music has no part in the world of facts and information yet surfs on the incoming energies of the time. This is music for how it feels right now. We plough onward, one step at a time, hoping expectantly for constant surprises.

Laniakea: A Pot of Powdered Nettles
A complex, rapturous and cinematic album by Grumbling Fur collaborators Alexander Tucker and Daniel O'Sullivan, including Massimo Pupillo of Zu, this record was recorded in the studio of an old friend who had recently died and resonates with a sense of loss, a low rumbling dirge heard as spectral echos. Yet the tone throughout is one of celebration. If this record is an epitaph for this shared creative space and the dead friend who helped define it, then the trio have captured a sense of this evanescence wholly intact—with all the incipient power and emotional transcendence that comes from the many phases of grief that we hope end in acceptence.

Available from Bandcamp

Steve McCann: 10 Impressions For Piano and Strings
A soundtrack for an afternoon of steady rain and day dreaming. Parameters are fluid so that ambiguity might reign supreme.

Available from Boomkat

Waclaw Zimpel Quartet: Stone Fog
This has been described as free jazz but only because of the improvisational and collaborative effort of the players which consist of Polish clarinetist/composer Waclaw Zimpel, pianist Krzysztof Dys and German players bassist Christian Ramond and drummer Klaus Kugel. Free, yes, but not noise or screeching and scraping and falling into the tedious clichés of so much music that is categorized this way. If anything Zempel’s playing reminds me of 70’s era (ECM) Barre Phillips with a sleek, sinewy blend of harmonic structures. The clarinet as Klezmer/mystic/Pied Piper. The journey is magnificent and worthy.

Available from Bandcamp

Jessica Sligter: Fear and the Framing
In the tradition of other composers like Julia Holter, Lauri Anderson, Jenny Hval (sings on a track) with a voice as full of range and ideas as singer Larkin Grimm and with a large cast of talented players. Revealing without being confessional. Singular without being wholly eccentric. Did I mention the mean guitar playing on "Cuckoo"? The transcendent vocal progressions of "The Perfect Vessel"? She is sometimes compared to Scott Walker because of the range and complexity of her voice.

Available from Tidal

Brigid Mae Power: S/T
File under: Singer songwriter, dirge, raga
Drones and ragas found here mix with Power’s desperately searching lyrics to create a downtempo set of revelatory songs perfectly at home in a This Mortal Coil universe alongside cohorts Sharon van Etten and White Chalk-era PJ Harvey.

Available from Bandcamp

Nocore: A trio of like-minded NY bands using banjos, horns and a lot of nowave attitude

Show Me The Body: Body War
File Under: Nocore, rock, no wave
Waay back in 2016 I made a mistake by not including Show Me The Body Body War on my Best of the Year List. So now, an epoch, and years later, we can look back to 2016 and hear the whole caterwauling roar of the incipient New York rock revival and how it came to define the ambient paranoia of the era of Trump. We lost so much in the fires of those years but now, in perspective, we can hear the vestiges of other epoch defining NY bands like The Ramones, Sugarhill Gang, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, and Public Enemy coming to the fore in this record. Who knew that the Post-Bloomberg, cleaned up, Disneyfied NY could still manage to sound like its old clamorous, contrarian, rat-infested self. Perhaps the best impulse to reactionary forces is through a revolution of sound.

Available from Tidal

Pill: Convenience
File Under: no core, rock, no wave, free jazz
Number two in our list of up-and-coming NYC, DIY no core bands, Pill is fronted by singer/bassist Veronica Torres whose lyrics tease and snarl through a female gaze worthy line set-ups such as, "My body, my queerness, my decision to bring life," she wails on "My Rights," "My body my fight, congressman wants to steal all of my rights." It’s not all political because there is humor and a whole hell of a lot of fun that went into this record what with it’s tight arrangements and, no wave inspired, free improvisational vibe

Available from Bandcamp

Guerilla Toss: Eraser Stargazer
File under: no core, rock, no wave
Number three is Guerilla Toss, a dissonant, squawk fest from NYC.

Available from Bandcamp

Moonlight A Film
Written and Directed by Barry Jenkins
Cast: Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Janelle Monae, Jaden Piner
It just won a Golden Globe for best picture and deservedly so. I haven’t seen a lot of films in 2016 but you may have missed this and it stands heads and tails above anything else I’ve seen that was made and produced in America. That it is a story that wholly takes place in the African-American experience, with not a white soul in sight is remarkable enough. What it is is an extraordinary work of art on film and that is a rare thing indeed these days. It is still playing in some venues and should be available soon on DVD and through streaming services.

Also of note from 2016 is Hail, Caesar, a pitch perfect Coen brothers film set in an early 1950’s Hollywood, where a group of communist writers and professors kidnap a dolt of a matinee idol currently shooting a Sword and Sandal epic and set about indoctrinating him into Marxist philosophy. Only the Coen brothers could pull this off so well. It’s a wonderful and yet completely reverent satire of everything great and absurd about the old studio system, including two musical dance numbers.

Hell or High Water, is what I would call the first film of the Trump era with an impeccable script and great acting by the likes of Chris Pine (Star Trek), Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. Set in a desolate East Texas backwater full of the sorts of desperate and angry folks who might have voted Trump this is as much of a psychological study as it is an old western shoot em up.

Joe Surdna is a practicing artist and writer who has published in Playboy, GQ, Zoetrope and has worked on several alt-weeklies as an entertainment reporter focusing on art, new music, and film reviews.

monetschemist's picture

Congratulations, and thank you!

BaDaBen's picture

I thought I'd add an artist I discovered recently (and have no affiliation with). She's from DC and I think may be a classically trained cellist? Her music is thoughtful, subtle and can get really intense. Also she has an amazing voice. For anyone who liked some of what they heard above, you might be into this too. It's one of those things I heard and then felt it was my mission to spread the word about. Janel Leppin: