High Wolf Kairos: Chronos Not Not Fun Records, 2013High Wolf is obviously no stranger to complicated instrumental composition. On his most recent release, Kairos: Chronos, he creates a work that is at times elusive, consistently impressive, and stimulating enough to provide ample room for contemplation amidst its contoured layers, contrasting soundscapes, and subtle chord progressions.
The immediate density of Kairos: Chronos is striking. Whereas instrumental music normally relies on forward motion and significant musical transitions -- layering different parts as the song goes on, altering their course, and then perhaps disassembling them -- High Wolf's compositions are much more dimensional. He does not just layer one part; he layers many parts: everything from the bottom register's bass-y synth, to the percussive section's plethora of ever-changing electronic and real beats, to the upper register's ethereal and stringy synths and distorted electric guitar parts. In doing so, he creates a lush wall of sound that beeps, shimmers, and grooves, moving inward and outward, as well as back and forth.
 

Date Palms The Dusted Sessions Thrill Jockey Records On The Dusted Sessions, Date Palms trace a fertile crescent from Nile Delta to Mojave Desert; soaring you though the stratosphere, then plummeting for a McCarthy slow crawl through the dust. Thrill Jockey have been killing it lately with their evocations of '70s kosmic soul jazz. Date Palms, however, have not created a love song to a record collection; rather, they employ the traditional associations of eclectic visionary instruments to take you on a journey through interesting interior landscapes.

 

Up until last night, I might have made the argument that the saxophone is one of the least interesting instruments on the planet. Although it is highlighted in jazz, its brass cousins easily overpower it in group arrangements. The saxophone, the metal woodwind, the wood-metal instrument with its odd metallic sound, is a bizarre thing. Up until last night, I would have made that argument... but then I saw Colin Stetson last night.
June 21st, 2013 @ Barboza - Seattle, WA

 

SALTLAND I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us Constellation Records (2013) On her debut album, cellist, vocalist, and composer Rebecca Foon -- otherwise known as SALTLAND -- creates a cosmic wasteland of sound and feeling. Through freeform string parts, spiritually reminiscent vocals, raw, distorted backdrops, and tribal percussion, the desolate and beautiful world of I Thought It Was Us But It Was All Of Us emerges, entrances, and encourages contemplation.

 

Amassing rare and forgotten music is a peculiar sort of hobby -- one that slowly transforms into an addiction. It's not that I don't love mainstream music. It's just that the thrill of listening to some forgotten gem that everybody else has overlooked is powerful. It also feeds into the collector's impulse I have to overturn every stone to find that song, and my love of complete collections. Not surprisingly, I also like to collect comic books. I guess I'm the type. In any event, here are five lesser-known musicians that I believe everybody should give a listen to, dating as far back as the 1920s and focusing on jazz, folk, and blues.

Mississippi Joe Callicott (1899 - 1969)

Callicott was not your typical North Mississippi blues musician. Musicians from the hill country tend to vamp on a few chords, focusing on a droning, almost hypnotic sound; Callicott was a fingerpicker in the vein of a Piedmont guitarist, with a dash of Jimmie Rodgers. He recorded three songs independently in 1929 and 1930: "Fare Thee Well Blues," "Traveling Mama," and "Mississippi Boll Weevil Blues", the last of which went unreleased. Two additional tracks were recorded with Garfield Akers, the "Cottonfield Blues" -- and here, his finger picking is energetic and nimble, bordering on aggressive.1 After the 1930 session, he went unrecorded for 37 years. He was not totally forgotten, however, as his songs started to appear in anthologies of Delta Blues. He was eventually found in Nesbit, Mississippi by George Mitchell, who recorded several songs with him in August 1967. These became the basis for a number of records and re-releases, the best of which was probably Fat Possum's Ain't a Gonna Lie to You. Unfortunately, his guitar playing had diminished somewhat by this time, but his voice had matured beautifully. His singing on "Frankie and Albert" is expressive and full of sadness yet was beautiful and nuanced throughout. After these sessions, he recorded several songs for Blue Horizons which were a bit lower-quality and rougher. He died in 1969 and was only recently given a proper headstone. Purchase Mississippi Joe Callicott Albums On Amazon Mississippi Joe Callicott - "Cottonfield Blues" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Joe-Callicott_Cottonfield-Blues.mp3|titles=Mississippi Joe Callicott - Cottonfield Blues] Mississippi Joe Callicott - "Frankie And Albert" [audio:/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Joe-Callicott_Frankie-And-Albert.mp3|titles=Mississippi Joe Callicott - Frankie And Albert]  

Haiku Salut Tricolore How Does It Feel To Be Loved? (2013)Unless you closely follow the little known -- but still robust -- musical sub-genre of folktronica, Haiku Salut's Tricolore will likely be unlike anything you've heard before. In their full-length debut, Haiku Salut -- made up of musicians Gemma Barkerwood, Sophie Barkerwood, and Louise Croft -- explores the genre and their place in it, and in doing so, presents us with both an exciting and playful plethora of sounds and a feeling of potential. The band's major influences, including Yann Tiersen, Amestub, and early Múm, are prevalent throughout Tricolore, as the purely instrumental album engages various sounds and multicultural elements. Each track features layers upon layers of instrumental dynamism: light and playful piano parts, rhythmic and precise guitar and ukulele fingerpicking, dense accordion arrangements, and the occasional energetic percussion. These various parts ebb and flow across the album, sometimes peaking, sometimes falling, and always working together to give the songs momentum and intrigue.
 

Olafur Arnalds For Now I Am Winter Mercury Classics Imagine yourself walking down a deserted street. It's late in the day; the sky is dappled and mottled with clouds. The sidewalks are littered with the soggy remnants of December, slush and old receipts. Your thoughts uproot, displaced in time, remembering, projecting. A fine, chill mist falls; you turn your face to the sky, baptized like a thirsty young plant. For Now I Am Winter, Olafur Arnalds' fourth LP (and major label debut) is a poetic meditation on the coldest season. It sounds like a dubstep opera, with crisp electronic flourishes framing gorgeous orchestral arrangements (with the help of American composer Nico Muhly), and a trembling libretto by Arnór Dan Arnársson (of Agent Fresco), with a fragile ethereal quality similar to that of Sigur Ros' Jonsi. Tense minimalist strings counterpoint chamber music romance as Arnalds conjures feeling of regret, longing, desire, and wanderlust, with the final result being an elaborate reflection on the season, as complex and layered as real life. The record works best as a whole, but tracks like "Reclaim", "This Place Was A Shelter", or the title track serve as a fine illustration of this album's mission statement, and are fine places for the curious to begin. The music itself could be seen as the elements at work; biting winds, sleet, slush, and snow, while the operatic vocals serve as an inner dialogue.

 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TANYA TRABOULSI
Jerusalem In My Heart have just released Mo7it Al-Mo7it, and listening to the record may simply hint at the existence of a talented instrumental band. A more appropriate description, however -- known so far to only a select and lucky few in their hometown of Montreal -- is that they are an ever-changing artistic project, which also provides fascinating fodder for cultural commentary. As a true multimedia art installation, they are a sight to behold in a live setting, and also represent a modern update on traditional Arabic music and songwriting, with additional multicultural counterpoints.

 

F.S. BLUMM Food Audio Dregs (2013) After a break of five years, Frank Schültge Blumm, aka F.S. BLUMM, the Bremen-born, Berlin-based composer and musician, has released his first solo album, Food. Out on Audio Dregs, a record label and music collective out of Portland Oregon, this release is by an artist who, we are told, is just warming up and finding his feet again. "Experimental music made by people equally in love with melody and invention, with special attention being paid to music that falls between the genres," is how Audio Dregs describes its mission. This description is wholly appropriate for this album by Blumm, with its tuneful and thoughtfully constructed compositions executed through the combination of jazz, blues, folk and electronic music. Creaking with organic double bass and croaking with flat saxophones, in a mood that is carried along by slack drums and the occasional carefully placed compressed beat, this album is a delight.