Jenny Stevens | NME | amazon
From the twisted a cappella interludes offsetting the distorted vocal and jagged guitars of ‘Intro’, to the wafting clap-happy breeze of ‘Dissolve Me’, each song flits between genres with the rapidity with which one would imagine Alt-J completed their algebra homework. ‘Breezeblocks’, starts as a smooth R&B groove before switching to a magnificent, clattering and sinister plea: “Please don’t go – I love you so!” The ‘In Rainbows’-indebted ‘Something Good’ is awash with piano and soaring melody. And while ‘An Awesome Wave’ might begun as some half-baked stab at a cinema concept album – ‘Matilda’’s drab strum is a paean to Luc Besson’s troubled child-star in Leon – it’s all the better for the added grit, real-life misery and heartache, as ‘Fitzpleasure’ attests. It’s a welcome injection of dirge, adding yet more sounds to the mix with rasping bass riffs and storming vocal before ‘Taro’’s finale, which fizzles disappointingly to the finish line.
The charm of Alt-J’s musical scatterbrain is that it works. On the surface, this is smart alt-pop, but Alt-J have messed with the formula just enough to make this a brilliantly disquieting debut. In refusing to submit to the rigours of a genre, they might just have made themselves masters of their own.
Robin Denselow | The Guardian | amazon
Calypso has been in decline since the glory days of Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow, but Drew Gonsalves is determined to put that right. An émigré Trinidadian who moved to Canada as a teenager, he became fascinated by the musical heritage he left behind, and set out to write new songs echoing the wit and storytelling of classic calypso, but in a contemporary setting. He’s a powerful singer and an impressive multi-instrumentalist, playing guitars, bass and percussion, and he’s helped by producer Ivan Duran, best known for his work with Garifuna singer Andy Palacio. There are echoes of soca, dancehall, ska and reggae here, along with sturdy brass work, and the lyrics are suitably intriguing. He praises calypso as a news medium, covers topics ranging from the death penalty to tourists who take photos of Caribbean poverty, and ends with an apocalyptic calypso with echoes of TS Eliot. Impressively original.
Lindsey Zoladz | Pitchfork
Savages really show promise and range on the slow-burners. The moody dirge “Waiting for a Sign” and goth-cabaret closer “Marshall Dear” aren’t the most immediate songs on the record, but over repeated listens, they bloom. If Hassan and Faye Milton’s punishing rhythm section takes the helm on the more frantic numbers, Savages’ downtempo moments allow Gemma Thompson and her scuzzy Fender to shine. On the excellent “Strife,” she holds back as often as she strikes, underscoring Beth’s most brutal lines with perfectly timed jolts and filling the song’s winding corriders with thick plumes of distortion.
The mix allows each band member’s contribution to smolder with equal intensity and lends a palpable physicality to Savages’ sound. Milton handles her toms and bass drum like a boxer going at a punching bag; Hassan’s bass strings pulsate like a throbbing tendons; Thompson’s guitar cuts with a goosebump-inducing tone that recalls a chainsaw, and Beth shrieks like she’s resetting her own bones. Combining in a constant pendulum swing between tension and release, it all provides the perfect atmosphere for the darkly sensual themes that Silence Yourself explores.
So it is with “Sun Ship: The Complete Session,” a newly released two-CD set of recordings by John Coltrane and his “classic quartet” of McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass), and Elvin Jones (drums). It was made at New York’s RCA Victor Studios on August 26, 1965—that epochal group’s penultimate recording—and features multiple takes, plus inserts meant for splicing (as well as some studio banter), of the five numbers that the original “Sun Ship” album, released in 1971 (four years after Coltrane’s death at the age of forty), comprises. Tyner and Jones were gone from the band by the end of 1965 after a five-year run, and this album—especially in its complete unfurling—makes clear the divergent musical directions that they and Coltrane were taking. But, even more important, it highlights Coltrane’s tense and increasingly conflict-torn contention with his own musical heritage, style, and material.
That tension is evident as well in the original album release, but as important as the sheer quantitative addition to Coltrane’s discography (the original session feature complete alternate takes for four of the five tracks plus four potent solos recorded as inserts) is the shift in emphasis resulting from the chronological document of the session. The album opens with the furious title track with its wailing rapid-fire four-note theme repeated and broken down to three notes, when—after a long, swirling and percussive solo by Tyner, Coltrane enters with a vortex of obsessively involuted streaks of chordal fragments that yield to furious, sound-shredded shrieks and bellows that suggest the will to break through the stuff of harmonic investigation to sheer expressive sound, the swinging patterns of pounding rhythm to shifting biocentric undulations. It’s radical enough, ecstatically musical, and imbued with the spirit of the new thing—of so-called free jazz and, in particular, of the ideas and ways of the ne plus ultra sonic innovator on the tenor saxophone, Albert Ayler, whose playing owed nothing to the bebop and post-bop ways of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis and tore through the very framework of modern jazz to link it to primordial New Orleans and African traditions by way of Ayler’s self-made ecstatic spirituality.
Zarghuna Kargar | BBC News
All forms of music were banned from social gatherings, TV, and radio while the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan from the mid-90’s until 2001.
But in the post-Taliban years, music and songs are enjoying a resurgence in popularity.
In Kandahar the Benjo in particular is becoming one of the more popular instruments with music-lovers again.
Tom Devriendt | Africa Is a Country
A Swedish-South African collaboration between Kwaai, Driemanskap, Syster Sol, Mofeta, Kristin Amparo, Cleo and Kanyi. Video by (photographer) Luke Daniel and Neil Wigardt:
Also shot in the Cape flats: this video for Pharoahe Monch in Mitchell’s Plain:
An American-South African Hip-Hop collaboration between HHP, Omar Hunter El, Asheru, Benn Chad, OneTwo, Projector, Zubz, Cassper Nyovest, Nomadic, Element Lehipi Khalil on “Animals”:
Alec Wilkinson | The Culture Desk | The New Yorker | amazon
The Handsome Family is a Mr.-and-Mrs. outfit, essentially, consisting of Brett and Rennie Sparks, who live in New Mexico. This month they have a new record called “Wilderness,” their tenth. Neil Young once said that after his first hit, he grew bored with the encounters he had in the middle of the road and decided to head for the ditch, where the ride was rougher but he met more interesting people. The Handsome Family are ditch people.
Kyle Vanhemert | Co.Design
The cover for the Beastie Boys’ debut album, License To Ill, perfectly encapsulated the group’s subversive M.O. It showed a sleek plane with the Beasties’ logo on the tail–a nod to Led Zeppelin’s preferred mode of travel during the heyday of rockstar excess in the early ’70s–but only after opening the gatefold did you see the punchline: the plane had just smashed into a cliff.
“That was our kind of sense of humor,” explains David Gamble, AKA World B. Omes, who painted the iconic cover in 1986. Gamble’s just one of many artists and designers interviewed in this month’s Juxtapoz, a special issue dedicated to all the compelling art that helped propel the trio’s career. In the clip below, you can hear a bit about the work from the artists themselves.
The magazine goes into more depth, giving the story behind each cover. As they got older, the group became more hands-on with the visual aspects of their output, but in the early days, they were having too much fun to care.
Ryan Enn Hughes | Vimeo
FOALS: HOLY FIRE
Jacob Royal | Sputnik Music | amazon
Fortunately, most of Holy Fire finds itself with a fresh outlook. Lead single “Inhaler” is a surprisingly powerful number, with the chorus showcasing a heavier edge yet unforeseen from the Oxfordian group. The track’s also possibly the best one here because of its unique instrumentation, though, the playful percussive elements holding the verses together. And this sense of instrumental exploration is the area in which the album experiments, by approaching familiar song structures with a different timbre. Pardon my ignorance, but I can’t quite tell if “Out Of The Woods” features glockenspiel or marimba. Either way marks growth for Foals, a group becoming more familiar with its desire for growth than anyone could have anticipated. While this may seem like a bit of a leap, let’s consider the range of sounds featured in Total Life Forever, or lack thereof. Not to say the album was worse off for it – quite the opposite, actually – but the bottom line is that it’s nice to hear Foals avoid any sort of sonic comfort zone on Holy Fire.