Monday, March 7, 2022

Music Week

March archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 37465 [37418] rated (+47), 149 [144] unrated (+5).

It normally takes most of a day from when I take a snapshot of the rated count the week's record list to when I've finished writing my piece and am ready to post it. During that day, I keep listening to new records, normally saving them for the next week, but seeing as how last week was the end of the month and for my purposes 2021, I was sorely tempted to fold any 2021 records into my frozen file. That convinced me to move on to 2022 releases, and I've pretty much kept that up all week (I wound up with 5 2021 releases below, several from December, plus one 2020 release in the new section, and a 2002 in the old). I was aided in this search by several Expert Witness posts, and I wound up taking a look at AOTY's top-rated 2022 albums. The result was a rare bonanza of exceptional records: in addition to the 10 A- albums, there's 12 more stuck at B+(***). Good chance a couple of those could benefit from more attention (also a fair chance that a couple might slide down a notch).

I'm posting this Music Week earlier than usual because I want to get it done and out of the way. I expect to be indisposed for a few days, and hope that's it. My earlier thoughts about doing some sort of statistical survey of 2021 will have to wait. I can say that my 2021 release rated count comes to 1451. Not a record, but a pretty respectable number, and a good deal more than I expected early in 2021.

I started to write a "Speaking of Which," mostly (but not all) on Ukraine, but didn't come close to getting it done. If you're curious, the draft is in the notebook. Perhaps I'll pick it up again later this week. One thing that kept me from working on it was that I finally started researching for a new Book Roundup. I wrote two of them back in April 2021. Needless to say, a lot of interesting books have come out in the meantime. I probably have enough to post now, but I'm still digging. Good chance I'll wind up with two posts again, but hard to predict when.

New records reviewed this week:

Andy Bell: Flicker (2022, Sonic Cathedral): British singer-songwriter, guitarist, solo albums start in 2020, as he was turning 50. He is best known for the group Ride (1988-96). In between he did production work and played in various bands, including a brief stint with Oasis, and with Noel Gallagher's post-Oasis group Beady Eye. Long record, lots of graceful pop songs and easy listening. B+(***)

Big K.R.I.T.: Digital Roses Don't Die (2022, BMG): Rapper Justin Scott, from Mississippi, acronym for "King Remembered in Time," fifth studio album, twice as many mixtapes back to 2005. B+(**)

Big Thief: Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (2022, 4AD): Indie band from Brooklyn, singer-songwriter is Adrienne Lenker (who also has a couple solo albums), fifth group album since 2016, a big one (20 songs, 80:13). Impressive album, one that will be on many mainstream EOY lists, but I probably won't stick with long enough. A-

Binker & Moses: Feeding the Machine (2021 [2022], Gearbox): British duo, saxophonist Binker Golding and drummer Moses Boyd, fifth album together. Not exactly a duo here, as Max Luthert is credited with electronics, but he hasn't earned marquee credit yet. B+(**)

Michael Bisio Quartet: MBefore (2020 [2022], Tao Forms): Bassist, albums since 1987, many side credits, especially with Matthew Shipp and Joe McPhee. Unconventional, almost chamber-ish quartet, with vibes (Karl Berger), viola (Mat Maneri, and drums (Whit Dickey). B+(***) [cd] [03-25]

Black Country, New Road: Ants From Up There (2022, Ninja Tune): English art rock band, second album, first was one of the more critically acclaimed debuts of 2021, and this one currently sets as the top-rated 2022 release at AOTY (89 on 29 reviews, with Metacritic giving it a 92). I can't hear it, probably because the texture and flow seems so variable, but like the debut I'll admit that it has something going for it. Singer Isaac Wood quit the band after this was recorded. No idea what that portends. B+(*)

Sarah Borges: Together Alone (2022, Blue Corn Music): Singer-songwriter from Boston area, eighth album since 2005, had a couple of those on bluegrass-oriented Sugar Hill, returns to her first label here. B+(*)

George Cartwright/Dave King/Josh Granowski: Stick Insect (2021, Mahakala Music): Sax/drums/bass trio, Cartwright best known for the 1980-2003 group Curlew, King more famous as the Bad Plus drummer. I'd never heard of Granowski, but he's got an "upright metal bass" that could pass for a nasty guitar. This runs long (110:20) and far, with moments that will turn your head, and others that just make you wonder. B+(**) [bc]

Conway the Machine: God Don't Make Mistakes (2022, Griselda/Interscope): Buffalo rapper Demond Price, mixtapes going back to 2014, second studio album. B+(***)

EarthGang: Ghetto Gods (2022, Dreamville/Interscope): Atlanta hip-hop duo, Olu (aka Johnny Venus) and WowGr8 (aka Doctur Dot), involved in Spillage Village, fourth album. B+(**)

Equiknoxx: Basic Tools (2021, Equiknoxx Music): Jamaican hip-hop collective, fourth mixtape, recorded in New York and UK (Birmingham/Manchester) as well as Kingston. B+(**) [bc]

Fulu Miziki: Ngbaka EP (2022, Moshi Moshi, EP): Group from Kinshasa, based in Kampala, one source says they were founded in 2003 by Piscko Crane as an "eco-friendly, Afro-futuristic" punk band, but that source also has this as their "debut EP" (6 songs, 20:27). Name translates as "music from the garbage," which is also the source of their instruments and costumes. Electronics leads the way. A-

Joel Futterman/Chad Fowler: Timeless Moments (2022, Mahakala Music): Piano and stritch duets, the latter reed instrument long associated with Roland Kirk, and later David S. Ware. Futterman is from Chicago, although I associate him more with Memphis. He plays a little like Cecil Taylor, often with saxophonists who can get a bit out of hand: Jimmy Lyons, Hal Russell, Kidd Jordan, Ike Levin, and now Fowler, who runs his label out of Hot Springs, Arkansas. B+(**) [bc]

Robert Glasper: Black Radio III (2022, Loma Vista): Pianist, from Houston, signed by Blue Note in 2005 and touted for his hip-hop influence, supposedly the leading edge of a new generation of jazz stars. Despite undeniable chops, I don't think he ever lived up to the hype. The jazz content here is negligible, with all but the last song offering featured spots for rappers (including Killer Mike, Big KRIT, Common, and Q-Tip) and/or singers (like Ledisi, Jennifer Hudson, Gregory Porter, Lalah Hathaway, Musiq Soulchild). B+(*)

Alexander Hawkins/Mirror Canon: Break a Vase (2021 [2022], Intakt): British pianist, group a sextet with Shabaka Hutchings (tenor/soprano sax, flute), guitar (Otto Fischer), bass, drums, and percussion. B+(**)

Homeboy Sandman: There in Spirit (2022, Mello Music Group, EP): New York rapper Angel Del Villar, underground, favors EPs, this one 7 songs, 21:54. B+(**)

Hurray for the Riff Raff: Life on Earth (2022, Nonesuch): Folkie singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra, moved from the Bronx to New Orleans, eighth album since 2008. B+(***)

Tony Karapetyan Trio: Point of View (2020 [2022], Jazzist): Bassist-led trio with piano (Yuri Barsukov) and drums (Peter Ivshin), first album, featuring German trumpet player Sebastian Studnitzky on several cuts. B+(*)

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio: Cold as Weiss (2022, Colemine): Soul jazz trio, fourth album, the leader on organ, Jimmy James on guitar, and newcomer Dan Weiss -- evidently not the Dan Weiss (famous NYC drummer) nor even the other Dan Weiss (beloved critic with the Dan Ex Machina sideline), but he does share most of the writing credits here. Bright and funky. B+(*)

Los Bitchos: Let the Festivities Begin! (2022, City Slang): Globe-trotting instrumental surf rock group, four women who met in London, one British, the others from Australia (Serra Petale, the main writer), Sweden, and Uruguay. B+(***)

Maisha: Open the Gates (2019 [2020], Brownswood): London-based jazz group led by drummer Jake Long. I was aware of their 2018 debut and a 2020 Night Dreamer set backing Gary Bartz, but didn't notice that what Discogs calls EPs are more like albums: their 2016 Welcome to a New Welcome ran 29:33, and this one 33:21. Credits unclear, but Binker Golding joined for the title cut, and it sounds like it. B+(***) [bc]

Tyler Mitchell Featuring Marshall Allen: Dancing Shadows (2022, Mahakala Music): Bassist, joined Sun Ra Arkestra in 1985, which continues under the direction of the 97-year-old saxophonist, featured here, though helped out by two more saxophonists in the sextet: Chris Hemingway (tenor) and Nicoletta Manzini (alto). B+(***)

Mitski: Laurel Hell (2022, Dead Oceans): Mitskui Miyawaki, born in Japan, father a US State Department official who toted her around the world before settling in New York. Sixth album since 2012. B+(*)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Disasters Vol. 1 (2020 [2022], Hot Cup): Pennsylvania-born bassist first recorded under this group name in 2004, and for many years the pianoless quartet, with its irreverent and often fanciful survey of the jazz tradition, was one of the decade's most consistently exciting groups. Over time, the imposing horn players dropped out -- first Peter Evans (trumpet), then Jon Irabagon (tenor sax) -- as pianist Ron Stabinsky joined. It doesn't seem like the same group as a piano trio, but this batch of Pennsylvania disaster-inspired tunes (most famously from Jonestown to Three Mile Island) is pretty lively. The closing take of "Wilkes-Barre" leaves me with Monk rattling around my head. A- [cd]

Kojey Radical: Reason to Smile (2022, Atlantic): British rapper Kwadwo Adu Genfi Amponsah, parents from Ghana, has a couple albums but this is a step up. Sings more, especially towards the end, and smiles a lot. B+(***)

Saba: Few Good Things (2022, Saba Pivot): Chicago rapper Tahj Malik Chandler, co-founder of Pivot Gang, associated with Smino, Noname, and Chance the Rapper. Third album. Underground, inches along with purpose and feeling. A-

Dave Sewelson: Smooth Free Jazz (2021, Mahakala Music): Baritone saxophonist, pushing 70, longtime member of the Microscopic Septet, also William Parker's big bands, aside from a 1979 album only recently started releasing albums under his own name -- I recommend both Music for a Free World and More Music for a Free World. Quartet, with lap steel guitar (Mike Neer), bass, and drums. Nothing slick or conventionally smooth here: he loves the grit of the low notes, and when he sings "Nature Boy" over an extended vamp, he exhibits a voice to match. The record ends with a 3:12 "radio version," versus the original 19:30. A- [bc]

Kenny Shanker: Vortex (2019 [2022], Wise Cat): Alto saxophonist, soprano on one cut, has a couple previous albums including a 2011 debut on mainstream Posi-Tone. Backed by guitar, piano, bass, drums, with trumpet (Bill Mobley) on three tracks. Nice postbop sound. B+(**)

Spoon: Lucifer on the Sofa (2022, Matador): Indie band from Austin, Brit Daniel singer-songwriter, 10th studio album since 1996. Like all their records, this had a tight, pleasing guitar grind, and a humane exterior. Not a style of music I've much cared for of late, but a fine example. B+(***)

Superchunk: Wild Loneliness (2022, Merge): Indie rock band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, led by singer-guitarist Mac McCaughan (also in Portastatic, has a couple solo albums), 12th album since 1990. I've never paid them much heed, even when Christgau declared What a Time to Be Alive "the most affecting political album of our brutally politicized era." Impeccable, as solid as I can imagine a mainstream rock record this year. And while I'm not picking up much politics, "Endless Summer" has a point hard to miss. A-

Tanya Tagaq: Tongues (2022, Six Shooter): Inuk singer-songwriter from Canada, fifth studio album, tied to her novel Split Tooth, dark and arty with real dramatic flair. Unique, though distantly related to Björk. B+(**)

The Weeknd: Dawn FM (2022, XO/Republic): Canadian alt-r&b singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye, something of a sensation in 2011 with his debut mixtape, has regularly topped charts with his studio albums. I've found his albums increasingly sluggish, but he found a beat here, and even his voice has brightened up. B+(***)

Babes Wodumo: Crown (2021, West Ink): South African singer, Bongekile Simelane, first album was called Gqom Queen, after the genre, after the beats sound ("minimal, raw, repetitive, with heavy bass sound"). Beats captivating, range narrow, probably a good show. B+(***)

Lady Wray: Piece of Me (2022, Big Crown): R&B singer Nicole Wray, released her debut album Make It Hot in 1998, but didn't follow it up until 2016. In between, she joined a duo in England called Lady, so adopted the new name. Third album, perhaps more retro than nu. Her voice has an intriguing grin, and she turns experience into a plus. A- [sp]

Nilüfer Yanya: Painless (2022, ATO): Singer-songwriter, born in London, father Turkish, mother of Irish-Barbadian descent, second album, likes her guitar more than most pop stars. A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Peter Brötzmann/Milford Graves/William Parker: Historic Music Past Tense Future (2002 [2022], Black Editions): German tenor saxophonist, a founding father of the European avant-garde, taped at CBGB's in New York with local drummer and bassist. B+(***)

Pere Ubu: The Lost Band: Live at Metro Cabaret, Chicago (1993 [2022], Ubu Projex): Avant-punk band from Cleveland, formed 1975, David Thomas the singer and only continuous member (except for 1982-88 band hiatus). This particular band consisted of Jim Jones (guitar), Garo Yellin (cello), Tony Maimone (bass), and Scott Krauss (drums). As Thomas says: "It was a brilliant version of Pere Ubu, doomed by uncertainty in the business end of things." Maimone (who joined the band in 1976) left, then Krauss (an original member) and Yellin (a brief tenure, the only one with cello, and without keyboards, making him the secret sauce here). Especially striking is "The Story of My Life" (the title of their 1993 album). A- [bc]

Owiny Sigoma Band: The Lost Tapes (2015-19 [2021], Brownswood): Luo band rooted in Kenya but based in London, released their first album in 2011. This picks up some tracks recorded with singer Charles Owoko before his death in 2015, adding later tracks. B+(**)

Cecil Taylor: The Complete, Legendary, Live Return Concert: The Town Hall, NYC November 4, 1973 (1973 [2022], Oblivion): At the time, the definitive avant-garde pianist, leading a strong quartet with Andrew Cyrille (drums), Jimmy Lyons (alto sax), and Sirone (bass). Three pieces: "Autumn/Parade" weighing in at 88:00, and two versions of "Spring of Two Blue-J's," first part done solo, second quartet. [PS: Napster has a version edited down to 30:51; Spotify has the whole thing.] A- [sp]

Old music:

Jim Black Alasnoaxis: Splay (2001 [2002], Winter & Winter): Drummer, originally from Seattle, group named for his 2000 album, group with Chris Speed (tenor sax/clarinet/keyboards), Hilmar Jensson (guitar), and Skuli Sverrisson (bass). B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Charming Hostess: The Ginzburg Geography (Tzadik) [05-20]
  • Whit Dickey Quartet: Astral Long Form/Staircase in Space (Tao Forms) [05-06]
  • Hal Galper Trio: Invitation to Openness: Live at Big Twio (2008, Origin) [03-18]
  • Xose Miguélez: Contradictio (Origin) [03-18]
  • Marta Sanchez: SAAM (Spanish American Art Museum) (Whirlwind) [02-25]
  • Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Heat Wave (OA2) [03-18]
  • Walter Smith III/Matthew Stevens/Kris Davis/Dave Holland/Terri Lyne Carrington: In Common III (Whirlwind) [03-11]
  • John Stowell/Dave Glenn & the Hawcaptak Quartet: Violin Memory (Origin) [03-18]

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