Monthly Spins: October 2017

I had no idea starting this month that my favorite discoveries would turn out to fit under the "jazz" classification, nor that so many would turn out to be the work primarily of drummers, some working way outside their comfort zones, completely reinventing themselves in the process (see Greg Fox). I can't say there is anything scary or in any sense frightening or Halloweenish about any of these selections, but who knows you might have the bejeesus scared out of you. Lots of great stuff this month. Enjoy!

Deaf Center: Pale Ravine
File Under: ambient electronica, contemporary post-classical
This magnificent 2005 album was recently been rereleased in an expanded double LP, as well as an extended track download from Bandcamp. Ambient is hard to do well—witness the proliferation of mediocre releases every year that fail to be much more than wall paper. Metaphor in Greek means "to transport" and that is what I think excellent ambient can do. The classically trained Norwegian duo of Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland (Nest) basically created their own subgenre of music with this record, combining inveterate technique, composition and electronic inversions to create a post-classical fourth world that sits alongside such vaunted peers as Eno, Budd and Basinski.

Available from Bandcamp

Madeline Kenney: Night Night At The First Landing
File Under: indie-singer-songwriter
This album was produced with the help of Toro y Moi's Chaz Bundick and it reminds me fondly of another recent wonderful debut by Australian Julia Jacklin, shades of Jay Som and most fondly—Mitzki. There is a really strong group of women singer-songwriters in their 20's coming up now with powerful debut albums and Madeline Kenny just added her name to this growing list.

Available from Bandcamp

Meemo Comma: Ghost On the Stairs
File Under: electronica, glitch, collage
Lara Rix-Martin's debut album as Meemo Comma comes after also releasing as Lux E Tenebris, and as producer and Objects Ltd. Label head, which has put out a number of records highlighting the electronic music of non-binary people and women. Rix Martin has created an album that deals with an affliction, new to this writer, called Audio Processing Disorder, which is a condition that affects how you hear and process music (and I thought it was all about the bong hits). A lovely and very affecting soundscape of sampled beats and upbeat patterns and vocal glitches. Rix-Martin was also one half of the duo Heterotic that dropped on the Planet Mu label.

Available from Bandcamp

Pessimist: S/T
File Under: drum and bass, techno, dark ambient
A dark and often menacing first full length by Drum and Bass auteur Pessimist. This is a noir world of contrasting greys, with the minimal flourishes of techno's monotone combined with Drum and Bass's hybrid rhythmic and percussive swing.

Available from Bandcamp

Olga Wojciechowska: Maps and Mazes
File Under: ambient, electro-acoustic, composition
Polish composer and violinist Olga Wajciechowska has only given us this one full length on the Time-Released Sound label, which specializes in modern classical and ambient-electro-acoustic artists. Take this trip via headphones (it's all I've got, people) and immerse yourself in a waking-dreamscape of ambient and acoustic sounds that wax and wane throughout a multitude of emotional and rhythmic spaces.

Available from Bandcamp

Chris Speed Trio: Platinum On Tap
File Under: new-old jazz, improvisation
The surprising thing about traditional jazz music is that there are always ways of tapping into something unheard and unfelt and saxaphonist Chris Speed's newest trio with drummer Dave King and bassist Chris Tordini really swings, maintaining a compass heading straight through the Lester Young cannon and beyond. A sweet, vibrant jazz record.

Available from Bandcamp

Mark Templeton: Gentle Heart
File Under: experimental, loops, Illbient, fourth world
You have no idea where you are going and why your even in transit. Like Fennez's experiments, Mark Templeton's third contribution to what is called a trilogy tries on the mantle of the open range, bopping and glitching his way across the plains.

Available from Bandcamp

Circuit des Yeux: Paper Bag
File Under: Just a teaser. Her new album drops October 20th

Don Gero: Wizarding
File Under: electronic percussion wizardry, neo-psych
Portland drummer Don Gero has released two full albums in as many months and Wizarding is certainly a tour de force. Although the recording suffers from a certain muddiness, Gero pours on the compositional fireworks, sounding like a mad wizard of the drum kit.

Available from Bandcamp

Harris Eisenstadt: Recent Developments
File Under: jazz, composition, improv, avant-garde
Jazz drummer Eisenstadt has created a fluid and original take on modern composition with the help of flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, tuba, banjo(!), cello, and bass. Canadian born and now Brooklyn-based, Eisenstadt is a passionate composer and artist whose journeys have taken him to study the Wolof people of West Africa and to Cuba. A member of the Convergence Quartet, Eisenstadt brings to this record a long breadth of musical knowledge and with it the chops of someone with years of playing and recording.

Available from Tidal

Greg Fox: Gradual Progressions
File Under: experimental, avant-garde drumming
Greg Fox is known for his dexterity and physicality in such heavy bands as the furious black metal of Liturgy and the fusion fireworks of Guardian Alien. On Gradual Progressions Fox decided to use a new technology application program entitled ‘Sensory Percussion' wherein he is able, from his seat behind the kit to trigger all sorts of sounds and loops. This is not a solo act, though, and Fox interacts with a variety of other players with the resulting document pushing the boundaries of anything he's done before and, by limiting his prodigiously furious technique has found a new realm with progenitors such as Don Cherry and Pharoah Sanders.

Available from Bandcamp

Kate Gentile: Mannequins
File under: math-jazz
This is drummer Gentile's first "solo" album under her own name, although she plays with a quartet: Adam Hopkins on bass, Jeremy Viner on tenor saxophone, and Matt Mitchell on piano. Gentile is a versatile player and has worked with such players and peers as John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, Chris Speed, and Michael Formanek. I say math-jazz because this is challenging stuff, full of mind-bending polyrhythmic journeys into the dark heart of jazz. Geez, this month has just been chock-full of great jazz albums from drummers. Give it a listen.

Available from Bandcamp

Shannon Lay: All This Life Going Down
File Under: folkish
This one snuck up on me slowly and with each listen it grew on me. There is such subtlety and emotion in these songs, such a beautiful interplay between the acoustic and electric guitars. She does a lot with very little and the result is a hypnotic record that would not be labeled as "folk" certainly by those adherents to it's classical antipodes, but I'm just going to just go ahead and call it folk anyway in the same vein that Nick Drake is "folkish" without being "too folk." It's a beautiful record and I hope you give it a proper listen. She has a new album that just came out entitled Living Water, which I cannot recommend as highly as I do this one.

Available from Bandcamp

Washer: All Aboard
File under: DIY, indie rock
There's nothing wrong with looking back to the early 90's for inspiration, after all you could do a lot worse than Sebadoh and Sonic Youth as a starting point. Proving it is possible to sound big with the duo of Mike Quigley (vocals/guitar) and Kieran McShane on drums might not appeal to anyone too immersed in the world of virtuosity but will offer just enough for rock purists.

Available from Bandcamp

From The Archives

Stars of the Lid: Ballasted Orchestra (1997)
File under: ambient, drone, post-rock
How often we find ourselves back in the 90's given the utter plethora of noteworthy releases from this time. There was a lot of innovation and a great breadth of styles and scope, from the post-Public Enemy world of hip hop to Sonic Youth. Ballasted Orchestra was the third studio album for Stars of the Lid on Kranky. The Texas duo of Brian Mcbride and Adam Wiltzie came into the musical landscape at the same time as seminal collaborations like Labradford and Bowery Electric were building on the foundations of ambient and post-rock, eschewing drums and beats of any kind, looping in fragments of guitar, piano, violin, carefully layering in barely perceptual cinematic shifts in both tone and emotional resonance. These records denoted vast spaces and created a trance-like, meditative world that took the listener on an extended journey into deep space.

In 2013 Kranky remastered this album, which was out of print for many year. The double LP has a 5:50 minute long bonus track entitled "24 Inch Cymbal" as well as an extended cut of the piece entitled "The Artificial Pine Arch Song."

Available from Bandcamp

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.

Alex Halberstadt's picture

freakin love this column!

dmhenley's picture

I've been digging into the catalog of another of King's bands - Happy Apple. Good stuff. And The Bad Plus, of course.

Demerara's picture

As usual, a very interesting collection of artists.

Just want to point a few artist typos in the article:

Madeline Kenny should be Madeline Kenney
Olga Wajciechowska should be Olga Wojciechowska
Circuit des Yeus should be Circuit des Yeux

I realize the reader could just look at the correct spelling in the clips but thought you might want to change the text nonetheless.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
All fixed.
EliaGar's picture

Great stuff - I would never have found this eclectic and often fascinating group of artists on my own: thanks!