Heavy on instrumentals like its October counterpart, the November 2021 mixtape includes some of the most interesting sounds I’ve stumbled upon this year. We start with quiet piano and cello compositions, move to more experimental work centered around air instruments, and end with a pulsing stretch of kraut-rock.
Recommended setting: for a driving therapy session - it's dark outside, you are behind the wheel, cruising alone on an empty motorway, looking at the tail lights of cars comfortably fear ahead, roaming safely across the darkened surface of the late-night world.
Natten (Danish for “The Night”) takes inspiration from the end of the day. This album rests on the late-night natural chemistry of two friends familiar enough to just open up and ramble however they want. McCoy drifts between contemplative piano and electric organ while Bremer's bass lines stay supple and precise. Their dialogue here is one for the wee hours. The result is calming and comforting.
Music and friendship are utterly intertwined for pianist Hania Rani and cellist Dobrawa Czocher. The polish duo have been indelibly connected via a passion for classical music and composition since studying together, but on Inner Symphonies, they’ve pushed themselves into ambitious musical territories. One of the central elements of the album is hope. Recorded during the lockdown when the world seemed to be falling apart, they were optimistic for a better future.
Glimpses of an Eternal Bloom is the debut album of Turkish producer, composer and pianist Berk Icli. The album is described as an attempt to frame certain moments of “being” no matter the emotional state concerned, whether euphoric, sentimental or dark. With a powerful brass section, the arrangements on ‘Blossoms’ are thrilling. It spirals in and out of tremulous episodes paving the way for a spirited ending.
The body is very important for Norwegian saxophonist Bendik Giske. Physicality, vulnerability and endurance are in fact elements he leverages to express himself and propel his saxophone into the future. With a signature hypnotic sound that emanates from his unusual technique, he is known for his striking live performances. ‘Cruising’ is taken from 2021 album Cracks.
Theon Cross (member of tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings' Sons of Kemet) specializes in tuba. He also specializes in embracing “genrelessness” and defying conventional musical rules. On his latest album Intra-I, the London jazz player goes deeper than preconceptions to explore identity, self-discovery and introspection. Feeling like a communion with a higher power, the closing title is a striking ceremonial tuba duet with Oren Marshall.
I came across experimental group Tomaga a couple of months ago (May 2021 mixtape) and have been dwelling in their discography since. Gravitating around cosmic jazz, kraut-rock and minimalism, they tinker with percussions, oscillators and drum machines to deconstruct traditional sonic palettes. Their fine mastery of modulars and mechanic instruments generates the most wonderful noise. With an accelerated BPM, this track could definitely be a dance floor killer.
One of this month’s highlights is Manchester-based trio Marconi Union’s new album Signal, a superb cinematic journey of textured ambiance and atmospheric music. Contrary to their previous album Dead Air, this one is full of rhythms and feels like it’s constantly pushing forward. Synths, drums and gentle guitar strums are the main drivers. Warmth, weightlessness and fluidity the main feelings.
From this point onwards, we crank it up a notch. Squid is a 5-piece band from Brighton and Bright Green Field their outstanding debut album. Blazing through jazz, funk, kraut-rock, post-rock, dub, and punk, the album is packed with moments of compression, discomfort, madness and utmost vibrance. It’s been a while since I’ve heard something as frantic, dazzling, and wild as this. To unlock its full potential, go through it in one shot.
This bunch of middle-aged Swedish freaks deliver albums that are satisfying on so many levels. Mixing excellent deep space rock with dubby explorations, CHEF is definitely one which begs for deep immersion and continued listens. The 11-minute ‘Fyrkantig Böjelse’ ushers in an exemplary definition of how kraut-rock should be played out. With a steady 4 / 4 Motorik beat, ominous synths and wandering guitars, it propels you forward through a deep tunnel that never seems to end.
We continue our kraut-rock momentum with this total banger from Soulwax, Fergus Purcell and Henry Riton. Armed only with analogue synths, a drum kit and a bass guitar, they recorded massive jams back in 2007. The sessions never saw the light of day but in 2015, the master tapes were dusted off, mixed, mastered, and the recordings finally unleashed to the public. With odes to Kraftwerk, Neu! and Can, the album opening track strikes the perfect balance of fun and spacey sounds.
We’re back with Squid. The band doesn’t allow compromises, no idea seems cut short, and this makes the entire record so incredibly complex and enticing. Short for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, this second song interrogates the false and dangerous nature of the humanity that corporations claim to have. It shifts restlessly and repeatedly in style and pace. The band's joy for experimentation and dynamic interplay are clearly audible.
The most exhilarating stretch of sound on the album, ‘Narrator’ is a great testament of the band’s canonized style, and the level of comfort they’re able to exert on pieces that might sound chaotic and structure-free. It takes many shapes before exploding into a frenzied coda with Martha Skye Murphy’s raw voice pushing the unrest to a point of catharsis. What a powerful finale, a truly wild ride!
Dark hypnotic sounds on this distressed release by The Soft Moon, Luis Vasquez’s one-man project. Working in a class of his own, the San Fransisco-based musician builds isolation out of isolation to create singular, self-contained and intense compositions. On ‘Repetition’, the repeating bass line is madly spinning in place while buzzing and swinging machines rise and fall around it. It's short and intense, but it hits hard and leaves enough of a lasting bruise on you.
We doze off with a peaceful song from Hampshire & Foat (Aug 2021 mixtape), taken from their 5th concept album The Upturned Glass. Based on a day in their home town of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, and featuring field recordings of birds, it brings a mellow serenity that descends very gently into the soul.