The sheer amount of great music pouring in from the end of 2020 into the start of 2021 was so immense (and I was so busy during the last two weeks), that a second volume of January’s roundup post was absolutely necessary. Here’s what else we’ve been listening to and digging lately:
Matt LaJoie – Paraclete Tongue & Sun Language
The new year was kicked off in the most relaxed way possible with the release of two new Matt LaJoie records: Paraclete Tongue and its companion album, Sun Language.
Paraclete Tongue finds the astral guitarist reaching mesmerizing ambient zones using only his electric fender and a series of unique effect pedals. That’s right, despite the record often sounding like a densely layered soundscape made up of dozens of guitar and synth overdubs, LaJoie actually cut this entire album live with a single instrument, thanks to a live looping feature on one of his pedals. Solo improvisation at its best.
The tracks here flicker and dance like a small, but warm candle flame in the dark of night, which is exactly the kind of vibe we need from an album right now. If the macabre news of the world or the cold winter nights get you down, just pop this record on, and you’ll find some light to help you through.
The music on Sun Language, meanwhile, compliments Paraclete Tongue‘s luminous songs perfectly. Most of these tracks are slower, more meditative explorations that stem from the same initial core and intention as the main record.
Also taken from a single extended improvisation, the pieces on this album trickle and stretch like the most ethereal of Popol Vuh jams. One can totally lose themselves in this entrancing and free-flowing record. Give this a listen the next time you need to meditate or practice yoga. Your mind and body will thank you.
AAVD Trio – Anti Glow
Murky nightmarish jazz birthed into rumbling life by one of Chicago’s best and brightest improvisers currently on the scene? Sign me up!
The AAVD Trio, lead by keyboardist and mad sonic wizard, Daniel Van Duerm, doesn’t just record albums. Instead, they forge a full aural experience, alchemy-like from a vast palette of unusual sounds and effects. It’s almost like hearing a live sound collage being performed in real time, on real instruments.
Anti Glow features mutated electric piano and organ, shuddering percussion and shadowy sax erupting through a mist of drones. These jams, especially “Organize Your Dissent”, creak and flutter wildly with fractured melodies and contorted riffs.
If John Zorn, post-Wyatt Soft Machine and AMM got together and played only Tom Waits compositions from the early 2000’s, it might sound a little something like this. Give the album a try for yourself.
Good Willsmith – HausLive 2: Good Willsmith at Sleeping Village, 4/25/2019
Freshly released by Hausu Mountain Records, this second entry in the label’s live release series finds incomparable experimentalists, Good Willsmith, in full genre-defying flight.
Good Willsmith, which includes Hausu Mountain founders Doug Kaplan and Maxwell Allison, perform unbridled, hallucinatory improvisations with a well-stocked arsenal of electronics, guitars and keyboards plugged into a stockpile of various effect pedals.
A major highlight on this tape is “Not Your Kids,” which is a brilliant acid soundscape that soars like a rocket into the stratosphere. The track features blindingly bright electric guitar lines that drip with melancholy, turning the piece into something like Prog’s equivalent to “Maggot Brain.” The Chicago group is absolutely on fire here.
A fun and energetic ride through an unclassifiable barrage of psychedelic experimentation, this album is free improv music at its wildest. I long to see shows that are this unique and unpredictable again.
Give it a listen here.
Ronald Adisa – Virgo Sun Scorpio Moon
Spiritual jazz fans need to get Ronald Adisa on their radar right away. Virgo Sun Scorpio Moon, Adisa’s debut album, features two gorgeously extended meditations on his astrological identity.
Released on Atlanta’s Greenbriar Records, this album is rich with reverb-soaked vibraphones and electric pianos that bounce from speaker to speaker, while Adisa calmly narrates the qualities and features of Virgos and Scorpios. The rhythm and mood of both tracks shift from the extremely mellow to occasional bursts of frenzied action, complete with fierce drumming and hovering sax.
Between the spoken word sections and the album’s atmospheric production and jingling mystical percussion, these songs bring to mind Pharoah Sanders’ “Astral Traveling” and “Stay Beautiful,” by Damon Locks and the Black Monument Ensemble. Utterly transcendent.
Here’s hoping there will be many records by Adisa awaiting us in the very near future.
Get it here.
The Flowers of Hell – Outlanders
The Flowers of Hell are likely the only band I could possibly describe as ‘orchestral shoegaze,’ but even that label doesn’t fully do them justice.
Boasting a lineup of around 16 musicians that dwell between Toronto and London, The Flowers of Hell at times play a variation of post-rock that utilizes classical instruments and operatic singing, sounding somewhere between Spiritualized and Mono. This is especially the case with “White Out,” but they are also quite adept at playing cinematically scaled symphonies, acid rock, chamber folk and even musique concrète. The beauty of this compilation is that you get to hear an example or two of all of these many different shades of the group’s sound, and then some.
One highlight on this album is the live cover of Spacemen 3’s classic “Things’ll Never Be The Same,” which features original Spacemen drummer, Sterling ‘Rosco’ Roswell behind the kit. While it’s no secret that The Flowers of Hell are huge SM3 fans, their ability to conjure and reinvent the spirit of the legendary space rock group elegantly is totally astonishing.
Another moment that must be mentioned is their epic version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” They play the Dylan classic with electric guitar, thumping bass drum and violin with singer Ami Spears on vocals. They start out slow and gradually increase the song’s intensity and tempo to a dizzying degree, mimicking the rising crescendo of The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” to great effect.
I could go on and on because this album is packed with fun little surprises like these. You really must explore it and uncover them yourself. Check it out here.
Ryan Pollie – Museum at The End of Time
Ryan Pollie, a singer-songwriter from LA, put together Museum at the End of Time, an audio visual album designed to reduce anxiety and promote a meditative relaxation.
Through the use of retro synthesizers, echoing pianos and repeated patterns of warm melodies, Pollie achieved exactly what he sought out to do. The songs on this album, especially when heard through large noise-cancelling headphones in the dark, do in fact help (at least for this reviewer) with meditation and mindfulness practices.
The same could be said about the psychedelic visuals that Pollie prepared for the record, too. Check that video out below:
If you’ve been loving what Aural Canyon has been releasing lately, and albums like Hiroshi Yoshimura’s Green, then you need to listen to this record. Click here to order your copy now.
Anti-Westerns – Glass Bottom Boat Ride
Anti-Westerns, a side-project of Plates of Cake and Zachary Cale, takes on the more country side of the cosmic American music spectrum.
With fun lyrics and bouncy rhythms, the songs on this album remind you of what it was like to join in on a singalong with a band and some friends at a bar. You especially get this feeling from the pedal steel-heavy honky tonk of “Where People Are Happy to See Me” and the show-stealing stomp of the closing track, “Extra Time.” The latter of these two songs recalls the catchiness and simplistic down-to-earth rootsy vibes of records by Dr. Dog, Hans Chew and Nathaniel Rateliff.
Yet on the album’s more down moments, like “Toothpaste and Gin,” sound inspired by the likes of Nick Cave and The Handsome Family. These tracks counterbalance the record’s beaming sense of humor and joy extremely well.
For a good (and safe) Friday night, grab yourself a pint, call up your friends on Zoom and throw this record on.
Get the LP for yourself right here.