Recent New Music Roundup

Lasting nearly two hours and featuring six extended pieces across two discs, Universal Tonality documents a performance that took place at Roulette in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighbourhood in December 2002. This was one of the final concerts at the venue’s original loft space. William Parker invited 16 musicians of various ages, cultures and backgrounds to join him in an experiment of “breathing together.” The musicians playing on the album have all worked with Parker across his career in various ensembles and this set of music perhaps reflects what has gone before and is a culmination and celebration of his work to date. It’s joyous affair of ensemble playing topped off by the wonderful vocals of Leena Conquest. If you have not heard the work of William Parker before this is the place to start.

It’s been a while since we’ve had something refreshingly “new” from Miles Davis. Since his death in 1991 there has been an impressive series of releases repackaging and reconceptualising his various musical incarnations, all badged as The Bootleg Series and released by Sony. This is the seventh in that series, three CDs covering the years 1982-85. Most of the first two CDs come from sessions that led to the albums Star People, Decoy and You’re Under Arrest, a period where Miles was at his strongest after a period away from music. The third disc is a live 1983 concert in Montreal, with his band of the time in top form. I was fortunate enough to see that band at the Hammersmith Odeon in May of that year. Miles was embracing funk and rock at the time and the use of guitarists Mike Stern and John Scofield, both separately and together, echoes his pre-hiatus approach but in a more accessible format. There are three and a half hours of music here and all of it is very good. The bulk of the Bootleg Series is good value, the only stinker being number 5 in the set which is built around Freedom Jazz Dance and is filled with unnecessary studio meanderings.

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Ayahuasca: Music for Film, by Luis David Aguilar (1978-1983) compiles works by Luis David Aguilar, one of the most prolific composers of film scores in Peru. It shows the great versatility and avant-garde style that has distinguished his work. Aguilar (Arequipa, 1950) occupies a fundamental place in the history of film music in Peru, not only because of the prolific nature of his work (which also includes music for television and advertising), but because of the singular, experimental style found in many of his scores. Aguilar’s music blends modern academic composition with the use of native instruments, synthesizers, sound collages and a diversity of resources, which identify him as a key figure to understand a period of Peruvian music marked by the imprint of the avant-garde and the use of native sounds, which developed during the late 70’s and the early 80’s. Ayahuasca is an album that collects pieces from 1978 to 1983 and offers an overview of the different musical paths that Aguilar followed during his career as a soundtrack composer. The album opens with music from the film El viento del ayahuasca The Wind of Ayahuasca, by director Nora de Izcue, performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Cuba under the baton of Luis David Aguilar, with Chucho Valdés on piano. Recorded at the ICAIC studios (Cuba), it is an ambitious orchestral and vocal composition, in which you can hear the beginning of the famous melody of “Mujer Hilandera” [Female Weaver], popularized by the Amazonian cumbia group Juaneco y su Combo, which serves as an introduction to the sound world of the jungle, a dense and hypnotic atmosphere that, without a doubt, places this work as one of the most important compositions of the author’s repertoire. The next track is the music for the documentary Anónimo cotidiano Anonymous Everyday, by director Jorge Rey, a unique experimental piece for synthesizers (played by Aguilar), drums and percussion (played by Manongo Mujica), with the addition of various Andean instruments (panpipes, charango, among others). It is a clear example of fusion of sound experimentation and timbres from the Andean world. And finally Los constructores The Builders, by director José Carlos Huayhuaca, a salsa which incorporates unusual sounds of tubular bells and prepared pianos. A little disjointed in the listening stakes but overall some fascinating music is delivered.

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Humans Etcetera is an experimental rock outfit and the passion project of China-based American singer, songwriter, and recording artist Christopher Henry. Primarily a solo endeavour, occasionally infused with collaborative performances, the music is created in the time between work with his other bands: Fuck Your Birthday, Polyphozia 怕繁杂 (both in which Henry is the singer/guitarist), and Night Tides 潮汐狩猎 (in which Henry’s on drums). Beginning in 2012 as an outlet for recording experiments and songwriting, the project continues to be an integral piece in Henry’s ever-expanding musical output. This eleventh album, Part Of Being Human appropriately delivers eleven new songs. The record sees Christopher performing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboard, and drums for the entire album, with backing vocals from Lin Xiaoyang on the song “Lovebirds.”

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Manic Abraxas formed in 2012 and unites a collective of occult individuals who met at local shows and who all just couldn’t get enough Celtic Frost, early High On Fire, and Unearthly Trance. Their unique brand of punk and metal fuses unpredictable yet catchy riffing with underground hooks and an energetic and aggressive sound that will make you either pump your fists or nod your head to the deep grooves. Through two prior albums – 2015’s Manic Abraxas and 2020’s Speed Golem – the band has employed heavy D.I.Y. promotion and regional performances earning them a solid fanbase, and earning the title of “Maine’s Best Metal Band” by Bangor Daily News. Their third album, Foreign Winds delivers thirty-two minutes of dirge-strewn punk-fueled doom/crossover. .Joining drummer Tom Bennett, bassist/vocalist/synth player Justin Hamm, and guitarist/vocalist/synth player Dallas Seger, the record features guest vocals from Ryu Mitsuhashi and lead guitars from Ryan Curry.

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Monday 10th October sees the release of Y.Y.U.Y.B., the seventh Woolcraft album to be released over a seventeen year period. This is the solo recording project of Michael Baines, long time niché stalwart of the Teesside music scene – having been a musician, sound engineer, gig promoter, and tour driver during the past thirty years or so – and currently head honcho of Werbeniuk, Teesside’s “most punctual outsider-art-pop combo”. Y.Y.U.Y.B. Is a collection of songs/tunes largely made up of percussion, samples , and loops of first-take improvisations and happy accidents. The seven tracks on Y.Y.U.Y.B. are a mixed bag, musically and lyrically. The first track, ‘Fizzy River’, is about the river Whitelake which runs through the Glastonbury site, and has been found to contain high levels of class A drugs which are adversely affecting the indigenous eels etc, and the last track ‘And my Mom And’ is the soundtrack to my experiences of caring for Michael’s mother who has vascular dementia. As with all of Michael’s work this is unique and entertaining in equal measure.

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Finnish-born guitarist, oud player and composer Jussi Reijonen has lived in Finland, Jordan, Tanzania, Oman, Lebanon and the United States, soaking up the sounds, sights, scents and shades of Nordic, Middle Eastern, African and American cultures. These influences combine in Three Seconds | Kolme Toista, the long-awaited follow-up to his acclaimed 2013 debut . The album convenes a 9-piece ensemble of international artists with roots stretching to points and traditions across the globe. Joining fretted/fretless guitarist, oud player and composer Reijonen are American trumpeter Jason Palmer, drummer Vancil Cooper and bassist Kyle Miles; Turkish trombonist Bulut Gülen and microtonal pianist Utar Artun; Jordanian/Iraqi violinist Layth Sidiq; Palestinian cellist Naseem Alatrash; and Japanese percussionist Keita Ogawa. It’s a remarkable group of singular musicians who bring to life Reijonen’s emotionally resonant five movement suite. The album’s title, Three Seconds or Kolme Toista in Finnish, reflects an encounter between three strangers or “others.” A rich and satisfying album packed with invention and variety.

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A welcome four CD two DVD box set of Man recordings from 1972-1983 picking up their appearances on Radio One In Concert, Sounds Of The 70s, Peel Sessions, Radio Trent Sessions, and Radio One Friday Rock Show, including the full set from their Reading Festival appearance on 26th August 1983. There is 3 hours and 40 minutes of music here on the CDs a lot of which is repetition of notable tracks like Romain, Spunk Rock, and C’Mon. However there are some interesting session tracks which I don’t think ever made it to a studio album. A useful historical set but there are better live albums in the canon of work I feel. The main selling point is the wonderful Terry Williams on drums on the tracks from the 70s. The groups line-up had nearly as many changes as The Fall during this period but the closing months of 1973 are notable as the changes would result in the creation of the band which would record the exceptional Rhinos, Winos and Lunatics, Disc 3 in the set covers that period and features the exemplary guitar interplay between Micky Jones and Deke Leonard. I saw them a couple of times between 1973 and 1975 the latter gig, featuring John Cippolina on guitar, at a fascinating gig at the Free Trade Hall.

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Next up is Chicago based progressive Warr guitarist Jason Blake. His new album The Compromise Rationale is the middle release in the Ternary Instinct themed trilogy of albums. The Warr Guitar is a twelve-string instrument incorporating the range of a guitar and bass, which is performed by tapping the strings; the technique known as “touchstyle guitar”. Blake pushes the boundaries of the instrument incorporating elements of progressive rock, ambient, and classical genres. The album is packed with entertaining material which does not slip into genre clichés. Looking at photo provided I’m guessing the instrument is rather heavy and that he will need a chiropractor later in life – the picture at the top of this blog demonstrates this! Nice album cover!

David McClymont has been quiet for a couple of years but has brought out four new releases since May. Somehow he slipped off my radar of late, but a post from Dave Graney on Facebook reminded me of his excellent work. May’s release 1970s Art Practice is a 32 minute four track affair dominated by the 20 minute “Environmental Studies (Parts 1, 2 & 3)”, June saw the release of House, garden, music, sound: an instrumental accompaniment which is a set that David recorded as a free digital download to accompany the fanzine that Stephen Pastel made as an insert for the McClymont retrospective album Centuries. Rhythm, Repetition and the Melodic in Nature was released in July and takes inspiration from the American minimalists, the collection of instrumental compositions was conceived as a way to sidestep the constraints of the more formal structures that David’s other recordings follow. Finally Human Like Me released this month is described as is the final recording that David will release from his home studio in the hills outside of Melbourne. As usual David continues to create fascinating music and all four releases are worthy of attention.

Gematria, a New Jersey-based progressive/technical instrumental metal duo have released their debut LP, Gematria II: The Spindle Of Necessity. The songs on the release were composed using elements of a cabbalistic numerological system of relating words to numbers. The I Ching, sacred geometry and the writings of Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, are incorporated to help generate rhythmic and melodic ideas. Recorded by the band throughout 2020/2021 the album features a guest electric flute solo on “Spindle Of Necessity” by Melissa Keeling, and a vocal choir on “Unconquered Sun” performed by Emily Grove. The album is a combination of intricate King Crimson-esque parts mixed with ambient soundscapes, blistering improvisations, and powerful drumming. Thanks to the folks at Earsplit PR who continue to share great music.

A micro-nap is a way to quickly recharge your batteries without slipping into a deeper state of slumber. It’s a restful moment somewhere in between waking and sleeping, consciousness and unconsciousness. Why am I whittering on about this? Well, it seems that Korean-born, New York-based composer and bassist SeaJun Kwon delights in them. On Micro-Nap, the second album by his exploratory Walking Cliché Sextet, Kwon and his ensemble navigate “constantly changing compositions through a series of elusive, transient moments”. Due out October 21st via saxophonist Kevin Sun’s Endectomorph Music label, the album “investigates these notions of miniscule changes to reflect the far more monumental transitions that have characterized Kwon’s life and career over the past decade”. It also serves as a farewell to his time in Boston, where he moved in 2016 to study at New England Conservatory. The Walking Cliché Sextet is made up of the bassist’s NEC classmates: pianist Erez Dessel, drummer Charles Weller, alto saxophonist Aaron Dutton, tenor saxophonist Jacob Shulman, and trombonist and tuba player Michael Prentky all return from the band’s 2021 debut, Suite Chase Reflex. This time out the piano and drum chairs are shared with Jacob Hiser and Avery Logan respectively. It is a challenging listen in places but overall an impressive set of music.

Nichunimu is a Chilean improvisational trio working at the edges of free jazz, ritualism, noise, minimalism, and krautrock music. Since 2014, Benjamin Vergara (Trumpet), Nicolás Carrasco (Synthesizer), and Matías Mardones (Percussion) have been “inspired by repetition, textures, and friendship through the sound, focusing on circular shapes in music that bind them together”. Based between the cities of Valdivia and Santiago, their members have also collaborated on projects like La Kut, Cariñito 3, Dubitativos, representing a substantial part of Chile’s experimental scene in the last 20 years. On their new release, Un Cacho de Metal, Un Resto de Vaivén, which was recorded the day after their performance at Relincha Festival, the trio was again inspired by patterns of circularity and repetition, tending towards sweet sounds like on “Entrechócanse,” darker effect on “Suplidos,” and experimental noise music on the opening track “Cachos.” Their music combines both acoustic and electronic effects. Un Cacho de Metal, Un Resto de Vaivén will be available in vinyl, CD, and digital editions in November 2022 via the vitally important 577 Records. What is particularly striking is the traditional jazzy sound of the trumpet juxtaposed almost space rock synth sounds.

Recorded in Jerusalem, Israel, virtuoso pianist Avi Adrian has released a newish trio album titled ‘Songs From A Dream II’ with Barak Mori on Bass and Ofri Nehemia on Drums. The second album celebrating of the music of Adar Broshi who died of cancer at the age of 19 after two and a half years of fighting the disease. Part of the mission of this project is to raise the awareness of Childhood cancer, a disease that claims the lives of far too many children each year and a disease that has seen little medical progress over the last 30 years. Broshi composed the majority of the music on this album. The tracks express Broshi’s memories of joy and happiness, and of an uncertain future, as well as the hope and determination to fight on. Klezmer forms a key part of the repertoire and despite the tragic circumstances of its creation there is a sense of fun and playfulness throughout.

Hailing from Brisbane Australia, Zong are a three-piece instrumental group focused on improvised cosmic jams with themes of psychedelic states, tribal rituals, gothic horror, alien encounters and medieval fantasy. Tying this all together is the groups explosive, intense and emotional delivery which deliver down-tuned and cranked amplifier sounds which echo Black Sabbath and Sleep. This is combined with neo-psych and stoner melodies plus space rock sounds in the style of Hawkwind and a vibe that recalls the seminal krautrock of Amon Duul II. Their ability to blend genres and sonically improvise together makes them a satisfying listen. Zong’s second LP Astral Lore is described as “an exploration of the subconscious experience on the astral plane, overlaid upon the consciousness of space. An oxygenated drift through voids, inhabited landscapes on superimposed worlds and primordial Lovecraftian echoes.” Zong is: Drums: Henry Bennett, Bass: Michael Grinstead, and Guitar: Zac Anderson.

Closer to home record label business has somewhat ground to a halt as our distributors are changing their “portal” so are not receiving any new material. A lot of the technical and time consuming work of the closing down German Shepherd is ongoing however. We continue to release singles from 2 Lost Souls as part of their 52 week project, a recent example Defy Fear has a groovy back beat which is enhanced by the bass playing skills of Mr Paul Sullivan. Mr Moss outlines a manifesto for self awareness and improvement whilst Mr Rosenfeld plucks tender guitar notes. I finalised the new Auster Boys release, the 17th, and added a bonus track from the Aromancers project that got left out. It will be out in November. One of the tracks, Auster South’s peroration on the current state of drinking establishments in Northampton, stirred up a few, sometimes painful, memories of teenage years.

I received a review copy of the forthcoming 70s Box Set the early years of The Fall. It is a flawed and expensive affair compromising the first two studio albums, the early singles, Peel Sessions and some outtakes and oddities together with seven live recordings. Many of these have been released multiple times before and the bootlegs are mostly of dubious sound quality. Of the four previously unreleased/unavailable live “albums” included in the 12 CD set only the gig at Bolton Institute of Technology in December 1978 is of any merit in terms of listening quality. The other three are audible but not great recordings, the only advantage in having them is that there are versions of the rare tracks “Sten Gun Rock” and “You Don’t Turn Me On” to listen to. The accompanying booklet is pretty good and has a reasonable potted history with some new comments from Una Baines, Martin Bramah and Marc Riley. However there are some logical inconsistencies between the text and the content and unfortunately writer and “Fall Expert” Daryl Easlea closes the piece with the woefully incorrect quote from the track Cruisers Creek “What really went in there we only this extract” it should be excerpt! I’m sure a lot of people will want to buy it for completeness but my immediate reaction is that nearly £70 is a lot of money to spend on something so badly put together and which includes 8 CDs of previously released material. It does allow however further updating to the ever changing Track Record blog. For clarity and after some stellar research by my team of associates it appears that the alleged first gig recording is actually the groups second gig on May 17th 1977 at the North West Arts Association HQ on King Street (now a tapas bar!).

Finally , two bands hailing from Germany – Arcane Allies and Kombynat Robotron. As they prepare for a joint tour they have released a split album. Arcane Allies is a Synth Trio (Theremin/Synth, Drums and Guitar) formed in 2016. They are inspired by Psychedelic and Krautrock Bands such as Can, Neu!, Tangerine Dream and Moon Duo but also Electronic and Techno Acts such as Derrick May, Jeff Mills or Jessy Lanza and Laurel Halo from the HyperDub Label. With a new LP, the intriguingly titled Sun Ra Oscillations, at the pressing plant this release is the perfect primer for those new to a band with a unique sound. Secondly, Kombynat Robotron are becoming one of the leading names in the German Psychedelic Underground. They combine acidic grooves and a motorik chug of fuzz bliss delivering lengthy blissed out space rock jams, imagine Moon Duo with grunge guitars and you are getting there. An extensive back catalogue can be found at their Bandcamp page

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