This was a chaotic week as my kid was on spring break so a lot of juggling went on, but we all made it through unscathed. That being said, I didn’t get to listen to nearly as much music as I wanted to during the week so this week’s installment is a little lighter than recent weeks. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, though? Loads of great tunes, nonetheless. And hey, check out some of the recent Jewel Garden releases we’ve done while you’re thinking about listening to new tunes. Enjoy.
Zachary James Watkins SOLO LIVE 2021/2017 (SIGE)
ZJW is one of the best. We don’t get music from him as often as I’d like, but every nugget is an absolute belter. On these two live sets, Watkins grinds electronics into laser-focused drone scalpels slicing away at the edges until everything is settled in the middle harshness. Pointillist sections give way to cavernous growls and surprising melodic incisions, but the point, as ever, is to push ahead where vibrations have a honed edge and the expansive resonance remains king. ZJW forever!
n ev katla upd (Self-Released)
Admittedly, I know very little about n ev but have listened to these two harp-like songs about 50 times in the past week. Slow-moving patterns cast shadows against opaque glass walls like a spinning night light infused with stardust. The melodies are golden-hued, deceptively complex, and utterly hypnotizing. Aural structures melt back into the sea as the gentle loops rise and fall with the tides. katla upd is a short, potent voyage.
Gurun Gurun Uzo Oto (Buh)
Czech Republic’s Gurun Gurun cast a wide net on their first album for Peru’s Buh Records, Uzo Oto. Soundscapes become intricate still life portraits with electronic details shimmering in from all dimensions and expressive drones covering every surface. Deconstructed rhythms become a playground for sonic stalemates with tones as sharp as needles cutting through every inch of waste. Uzo Oto is the husk of a lush world gone awry.
Julieta Eugenio Jump (Greenleaf Music)
Over ten tracks, tenor saxophonist Julieta Eugenio leaves a lasting mark with her debut album, Jump. The clarity and precision in her playing are buoyed by a warm, emotional tone that heightens the hints of melancholy and longing in her original compositions. Joined by drummer Jonathan Barber and bassist Matt Dwonszyk, Eugenio’s cool sax dances over fresh, emotive grooves. She shows a lot of restraint in her playing, focusing on saturating each note with an emotional depth that many can’t reach, all of it adding a poised musicality to her songs. Jump is one hell of a debut.
Renato Grieco & Tom White Accidental Stereo at the Peninsula (Apologies Imprint)
The waves have been ruined by the winds beating down at obtuse angles for a lifetime. Stilted notes creep out from beneath bubbling hot coals in search of a taste of cold air. Accidental Stereo at the Peninsula is like a half-remembered memory of the beach where the forgotten details are replaced by an apocalyptic squall. It’s intense, but strangely inviting as Grieco and White use a surprising array of found sounds as the basis for this washed-out collage. Things get even heavier on the flipside, though the weight brings in shards of beauty from the debris. Great EP.
hojascirculares primordial wound (Self-Released)
In eight minutes, the cloudless night becomes an ancient void. Stretched electronics amass in layers, combing through every inch of sky to find the last remnants of oxygenated air. Disembodied vocals channel energy from the other side. Wings spread but are consumed before liftoff as the horizon disappears into a scrawl of viscous nothingness. Searing feedback pierces through the death rattles like a last-ditch plan to ward off unwanted spirits, but the darkness always wins in the end.
Los Lichis Small Mole & The Flavor Jewel Trio (Ever/Never)
Everything feels slightly off on Small Mole & The Flavor Jewel Trio and these two companion pieces couldn’t work any other way. Acoustic guitar clatter and ash heap rhythms collide like a junkyard rocketship pushing for the stratosphere but only managing to find the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Yelps zip around in the dust leaving weird, angular shapes behind while a deep, guttural howl conjures the dead back to the terrestrial plane. Los Lichis swim cathartic waters to make us all feel whole again. I can’t get enough of these wild west, broken down grooves. Hell yes.
Ellen Gibling The Bend in the Light (Self-Released)
What an absolute delight. Canadian harpist Ellen Gibling pulls us back in time on The Bend in the Light, a collection of (mostly traditional) Irish renditions. This music is absolutely joyous. Even the darkest nights will be filled with a lovely glow. From the quiet power of the hop jigs to the quiet reminiscing of “Lament for the Death of Staker Wallace” and the humor of “The Cat Slides,” Gibling’s technical prowess is only matched by the obvious affection she has for this music. It pours out of every passage and makes me want to get up and dance. The Bend in the Light is true perfection.
T.R. Jordan Dwell Time (Past Inside the Present)
Another absolute winner from Past Inside the Present, T.R. Jordan’s Dwell Time is like a warm, woozy hug. Tones sprawl outward like beams of light covering everything in hues of goldenrod and orange. The sonic palette of Dwell Time is like a vintage landscape photograph baked in the sun, evoking memories of past lives and alternate realities. Jordan’s ability to create passages that elicit wistful, romantic feelings about early days while keeping one foot firmly in the distant culture is amazing. Dwell Time is comfortable in any space. I love this record.
GOATFACE! Akhenaten Bazucas (Astral Spirits)
This one is a trip, even for Astral Spirits. Brazilian free jazz quartet GOATFACE! channel the lines of history into powdery ebullient cosmic excursions. Woodwinds wind through overgrown jungle paths hanging with the detritus of electronic buzzsaws and hypnotic basslines. Grooves fall from the skies fully-formed like some kind of alien invader ready to kickstart long-buried firebreathing rituals. It’s a wild, raucous dance until the end all across psychedelic frenetics and fantastical whims. And those basslines, oh those amazing basslines…
JOM & Friends Piano 1 (Yoga)
Eighteen quiet reflections in the form of improvised piano vignettes that invite listeners into an intimate space for a few remarkable moments. This is music for the hardest days and the longest nights where sometimes we simply need room to breathe. Yet, Piano 1 also feels weightless and effervescent in the way the notes escape, free to drift away into the ether and imbue the cosmos with another speck of light. Whether we’re weighed down and stuck or floating off aimlessly, Piano 1 has space ready for us. Simply beautiful.
Natasha Barrett Heterotopia (Persistence of Sound)
The spatial expansiveness of Heterotopia is dizzying in the best way. Natasha Barrett sculpts a variety of disparate sound sources into stunning collages. Birdsong is swarmed by thousands of buzzing insects while electronic frippery gurgles on the edges waiting for the right moment to strike. Eventually, everything melts together into a kind of sonorous expanse folding in on itself. Glassine drones become untethered when the wind builds and secret messages are scratched out in dead leaves and hard soil. Ping pong becomes an engrossing polyrhythmic splurge that skitters pensively through endless concrete, avoiding the rising chorus of unknown voices at all costs. Everything is assembled with precision giving Heterotopia a lush, intricate sheen.
M. Klein & Steffan de Turck A New City (Het Generiek)
Nice two-part collaboration between Dutch artists M. Klein and Steffan de Turck where restraint and texture are key. On the title track, voices are obscured by hiss and other environmental sounds while a searching bassline moves like molasses. It’s an interesting counterweight to the flightiness of the other sonic elements, but eventually, the waters come and curious melodies seep in. “Two Mountains” traverses similar terrain, though it feels more introspective and sullen. Raindrops grow in stature, tickling the resonating drones pushing forward. The world stands still encircled by scattered chimes and melancholic chord changes. A New City warrants multiple listens to catch all the small secrets etched in its path.