Dylan Ryan & Sand – “Sky Bleached”
Guapo – “History of the Visitation”
Prepare yourself for an experience that’s simultaneously otherworldly and assaultive. On paper, the music of Guapo reads like a riddle - the British quartet’s sound is based around ideas like controlled chaos, atonal harmony, uplifting darkness, and beautiful destruction. Nothing about the band or their work seems to adhere to even the most open-minded set of preconceptions about the meaning of umbrella terms like “rock,” or “progressive,” or even “experimental.” But when you abandon the need to reconcile any of these concepts with each other, and simply let their latest album, History of the Visitation, speak for itself, everything becomes radiantly clear.
History of the Visitation is the ninth album from the forward-looking foursome, and their second for Cuneiform Records (their last one for the label was 2004’s Five Suns, and they’ve since released Black Oni (2005) on Ipecac and Elixirs (2008) on Neurot Recordings. The band’s return to Cuneiform finds them following through on the kind of epic constructions that sprung forth from the aforementioned albums. The record is dominated by the 26-minute tour de force “The Pilman Radiant,” offset only by the 11-minute journey “Tremors from the Future” and the considerably more compact sonic sculpture known as “Complex #7.” Over the course of the band’s 19-year history, fans and journalists alike have tossed a lot of comparisons in Guapo’s direction. Magma, The Ruins, King Crimson, Univers Zero, and many more names from the “progressive” and “Rock In Opposition” realms have been bandied about as reference points, and references to the likes of The Mars Volta or Boris wouldn’t be completely out of line either. And while elements of all of the above can be heard within the bold, bracing aural environs of History of the Visitation, they only account for part of the story. Certainly the commonalities of the aforementioned artists - a tendency towards dark, moody, sometimes menacing musical colors and an abhorrence of all overt rock tropes - are crucial to Guapo’s m.o. as well. But History of the Visitation can’t simply be considered the sum total of its most obvious influences. For one thing, the presence of reedmen Thomas Scott and Dave Newhouse from Maryland avant jazz-rock institution The Muffins among the album’s guest musicians should alert keen-minded listeners that the take-no-prisoners harmonic melee of modern jazz is among the sonic subtexts here. And the addition of strings, woodwind, and brass serves to underscore the orchestral side of what Guapo accomplishes in the sweep, scope, and near-symphonic grandeur of their extended compositions. In other words, when approaching HOTV, leave room in your mind’s eye for the image of Sun Ra jamming with Stravinsky. The band currently comprises drummer and founding member David J. Smith with mainstays Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Knifeworld) on guitar and James Sedwards (Noght) on bass, joined by recent addition Emmett Elvin (Chrome Hoof, Knifeworld) on keyboards. Both the CD and the limited-edition vinyl versions of the album come with a bonus DVD featuring a spellbinding performance of “Five Suns” filmed at NEARfest 2006 in Bethlehem, PA, and “King Lindorm” from the 2007 Rock In Opposition Festival in Carmaux, France. This is the only live footage of the band available to the public.
Curtis Hasselbring – “Number Stations”
Mysterious coded messages float through the ether aimed at secret agents who, if they still exist, serve as pawns in a twilight struggle fought deep in the shadows. While this ominous phenomenon sounds like the plot of a new Thomas Pynchon novel, for the confoundingly creative New York trombonist/guitarist Curtis Hasselbring it’s the point of departure for his latest project. Inspired by the persistence of mysterious shortwave radio broadcasts that date back to the start of the Cold War, Number Stations is Hasselbring’s Cuneiform Records debut. Number Stations serves as an apt topic for Hasselbring’s music, which combines propulsive grooves, dark humor, ambient spaciousness and highly choreographed ensemble passages. The album brings together Hasselbring’s two primary bands, the longstanding New Mellow Edwards with Chris Speed (tenor saxophone and clarinet), Trevor Dunn (basses) and Ches Smith (drums and marimba), and the more recent quartet Decoupage featuring guitarist Mary Halvorson, vibraphonist Matt Moran and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi. The highly unusual instrumentation is ideally suited for Hasselbring’s fascination with patterns that expand, contract and decay. In a sly echo of Spy Vs Spy skullduggery, Number Stations often plays elements of each ensemble against each other. He’s developed an open-ended concept that provides the musicians in this all-star ensemble information regarding their alliances, covert missions and espionage activities via composed music and improvisational stratagems. The music is often sardonic and virtuosically playful, but Hasselbring is under no illusions about the deadly serious origins of the covert signals. As Wikipedia explains, a number station is “a type of shortwave radio station characterized by their unusual broadcasts…often created by artificially generated voices reading streams of numbers, words, letters, tunes or Morse code. They are transmitted in a wide variety of languages and the voices are usually female.”
“No government acknowledges they exist, but it’s pretty well established they were sending out codes to agents,” Hasselbring says. “It’s a Cold War artifact, and they may still be going. In Number Stations the tunes are fictitiously coded messages, part of a whole narrative I developed about a spy receiving a series of coded messages.”
Nothing better illustrates the vaunted position Hasselbring occupies than his ability to corral so many brilliant and sought after players. More than a forum for his sly and slippery investigations into stripped down harmonic and melodic movements, the New Mellow Edwards has become a thriving conspiracy against musical cliches and tired jazz conventions. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to infiltrate this singular musical outpost and uncover the messages embedded in Number Stations. The bus is leaving for Bismarck.
The Kandinsky Effect – “Synesthesia”
Conceived on Paris’s cosmopolitan jazz scene, forged on the road in America, and informed by international currents in electronic music, The Kandinsky Effect is a jazz power trio for the 21st century. The trans-Atlantic band, based in New York City and Paris, makes its Cuneiform debut with Synesthesia, a roller-coaster ride of an album marked by fierce grooves, subtle electronic textures, intricate metrical shifts, and a commitment to empathic group interplay. Featuring Warren Walker on saxophone and electronics, bassist Gael Petrina, and drummer Caleb Dolister, The Kandinsky Effect explores a distinctive swath of sonic territory, inspired by similarly electronica-laced ensembles like Kneebody and Jaga Jazzist. With a long history as a cutting edge format, the saxophone, bass and drums trio is usually employed by horn players looking to explore harmonically unfettered improvisation. The Kandinsky Effect finds a different kind of freedom in the lack of a chordal instrument. The album opens with the rough and tumble “Johnny Utah,” which has little to do with Keanu Reeves’ surfer/FBI agent in the beloved 1991 film “Point Break,” except maybe a brooding sense of momentum, a relentless drive enhanced by clattering percussion breaks. Like several of Walker’s tunes “M.C.” moves sleekly through a series of sections, each built upon a different rhythmic theme or motif. In the same way, “Walking…” sounds more like a series of helter-skelter sprints over broken ground than a leisurely stroll.
While the band excels at acceleration, The Kandinsky Effect also knows how to slow down, playing melodies that ooze and saunter. On Walker’s “Cusba,” the band displays a knack for mysterious balladry, with a coolly disquieting theme. The atmosphere gets thicker on “WK51” with the clattering march-time snare chatter building cinematic tension, the coiled calm before a deadly confrontation. The album closes with “If Only,” another ominously serpentine line with subtle layered effects that make it clear the trio has absorbed lessons from Bjork, Squarepusher, and Aphex Twin in developing a lapidary but spacious sound. Over dozens of shows performed in North America and Europe, the well-travelled trio of Walker, Petrina and Dolister had honed their collective sound to a fine polish. The transatlantic met in a studio mid-way between New York and Paris - in Rejkavik, Iceland! - to record their new album. The result was Synesthesia, The Kandinsky Effect’s second release, and the group’s first recordings on American-based, internationally-distributed Cuneiform Records. Featuring eleven captivating tracks that are simultaneously rhythmically gorgeous, groove-laden, compositionally interesting and immediately accessible, Synesthesia promises to spread the sensory magic of The Kandinsky Effect’s transatlantic jazz worldwide.
Rob Mazurek Octet – “Skulls Sessions”
What does it sound like when worlds collide? For the protean cornetist, composer, and conceptualist Rob Mazurek, the fusion of his celebrated Exploding Star Orchestra with his roiling Brazilian ensemble San Paulo Underground ignites a beautiful cosmic burst. Skull Sessions, the first release by the newly minted Rob Mazurek Octet, captures a series of shimmering, enveloping jazz soundscapes. Skull Sessions is composition and group improvisation as revelation, epic in scope, crackling with unexpected reactions and volatile collisions, charging the atmosphere like a thunderstorm that washes away all manner of sonic detritus. Cuneiform, the American label that also released Sao Paulo Underground’s most recent album, is releasing Skull Sessions in CD format and as a limited-edition, high quality vinyl pressing of 250 copies, which includes a digital download card. A force on Chicago’s singularly inventive sound scene for two decades, Mazurek is an intrepid sonic explorer eager to investigate new configurations. From his variable Chicago Underground units (duo, trio, quartet, and orchestra) to the Exploding Star Orchestra, Starlicker and the Pulsar Quartet, he’s mastered a proteanapproach in which his collaborators give substance to a composition’s form by creating layers of sound. Lapidary and luxuriant, marked by an accretion of simultaneous lines and textures, Skull Sessions features an international cast of masters from North and South America, including drummer John Herndon, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, flutist Nicole Mitchell, Guilherme Granado on keyboards and electronics, Carlos Issa on guitar and electronics, Mauricio Takara on percussion and cavaquinho (Brazilian ukulele), and Thomas Rohrer on C melody saxophone and rabeca (a rustic Brazilian viola associated with the northeast). Rather than creating opportunities for solo expression, Mazurek’s music generates a forum for group discovery. “The soloist is not the main concern,” he explains. “The concern is personalities blending sound ideas that have the potential to expand or contract at any given moment in order to find the hidden spaces that must exist for the elevation and understanding of the origin of where we possibly come from and where we might be going.” The big bang that led to Skull Sessions detonated when the We Want Miles exhibition at SESC (Servico Social do Comercio) San Paulo requested that Mazurek devise a presentation related to his deep affinity for the music of Miles Davis. In characteristic fashion, he decided against recreating any of Davis’s music, instead composing new pieces and rearranging earlier works for the Octet’s particular personalities and unusual timbres.
Dylan Ryan – “Sky Bleached”
"I had the idea to write songs for a jazz band that had elements of Black Sabbath, the Cure, Jaco-era Joni Mitchell, and free jazz. I intentionally made the free playing and the composed sections less compartmentalized. The idea is to have a really great sounding rhythm section that can stretch out and make music spontaneously, and naturally together. Sand is a jazz band, but it reflects the different things I grew up on and listen to; It reflects the fact that I am playing jazz, but that I wasn't born in 1945." - Dylan Ryan. Featuring his volatile, Los Angeles-based trio Sand, Sky Bleached is Dylan Ryan’s debut album under his own name, but the insistently exploratory drummer isn’t a new face on the professional music soundstage. A bandstand veteran who’s spent the past decade collaborating with an array of galvanizing musicians across a wide array of creative scenes, he’s probably best known as the catalyst behind the pugnacious prog-jazz sextet Herculaneum. That’s likely to change with Cuneiform’s release of Sky Bleached, a stunning, guitar-drenched slab of visionary, 21st century jazz informed by pop culture and 3rd millennium fusion.
A key force in the avant-rock project Icy Demons, and half of the psychedelic electronica power duo Michael Columbia, the Chicago-raised Ryan has also toured with Omaha indie rock legends Cursive and regularly works with Los Angeles electro-world-pop outfit Rainbow Arabia. Boasting a sonic vision that stretches to the far horizon, Sky Bleached draws on many of Ryan’s varied experiences, but Sand instantly establishes itself as wild and wooly creature in its own right. Featuring Los Angeles guitarist Tim Young, a versatile player sought out by artists such as Fiona Apple, John Zorn and Beck, and bassist Devin Hoff, a recent LA arrival who’s toured and recorded extensively with the Nels Cline Singers, Xiu Xiu, and Good For Cows, the LA-based trio restlessly ranges between moods, textures and styles. For Ryan, the project provided an ideal opportunity for exploring contrasting, even antithetical impulses, juxtaposing introspective odes with aggressive anthems, artfully composed passages and impromptu flights. With their love of jazz, metal, indie pop and numerous other styles, Ryan, Hoff and Young draw on a vast shared sonic vocabulary in Sand. In creating a fertile environment for the trio, Ryan fully utilizes Hoff’s gift for melodic invention, and Young’s imperturbable rhythmic drive. Whether exploring a melancholy soundscape or an ecstatic rave up, Sky Bleached constantly subverts expectations with music that defies categories, and embraces all possibilities.
(USA) / February 17, 2013
Dewa Budjana – “Dawai In Paradise"
Dewa has established a solid body of work as a jazz artist on numerous solo albums (featuring a who's who list of current Indonesian and American jazz luminaries), while also being the lead guitarist and songwriter of the Indonesian nationally-celebrated pop/rock band, Gigi ( one of the greatest and biggest mainstream rock bands ever in Indonesia, 20+ albums since 1994 and millions of records sold.) His fluidity and grace in both rock and jazz idioms has firmly established his position among the very elite guitarists in the world, as well, perhaps, as Indonesia's most well-known and highly-regarded guitarist ever. MoonJune is releasing in the next 12 months 3 Dewa's album. After Dawai In Paradise, the next Dewa Budjana's international release on MoonJune will be in the Fall, with the album Journey, recorded last year in Los Angeles in company of first class jazz legends such as Larry Goldings, Bob Mintzer, Jimmy Johnson and Peter Erskine, and in January 2014, MoonJune is releasing recordings made in late January also in Los Angeles, with Jimmy Johnson and Vinnie Colaiuta.
Metal Mind Records
(Poland) / February 17, 2013
Krzak – “Krzak Experience”
The year 2013 will witness the release of a really unique album. Heavy riffs, brilliant violin parts and guitar solos make this release a must-have for all fans of music in the vein of Apocalyptica. Two musicians from the Polish band Krzak – Jan B³kdowski and Leszek Winder, previously associated only with blues music, joined forces with Rafa³ Cioroñ, Dominik Durlik and Piotr Wierzba from the metal band Sepsis and, under the name of Krzak Experience, created a new quality in music. Their self-titled debut album is heavy, intriguing and full of mutual inspirations. The album will be released by Metal Mind Productions on March, 25th in Europe and April, 9th in USA (via MVD).
Metal Mind Records
(Sweden) / February 17, 2013
New & forthcoming releases:
Faith – “Decades of Despair”
Stonewall Noise Orchestra – “Salvation”
Thalamus – “Soul”
Egonaut – “Mount Egonaut”
Faith – “Decades of Despair”
“Decades of Despair” is a follow-up to Faith’s third album "Blessed" from 2009. Style: Doom Metal.
Stonewall Noise Orchestra – “Salvation”
“Salvation” is the fourth album by Stonewall Noise Orchestra. Style: Heavy Metal.
Thalamus – “Soul”
"Soul” is the second CD by Thalamus. Style: Heavy Blues Rock.
Egonaut – “Mount Egonaut”
“Mount Egonaut” is the second full-length album by Egonaut (the band also has an EP). Style: Hard Rock