Lowe’s Highs: Music Scholar Crashes The 2023 Record Pull / girlgeniuses get it very together (Best New Records, Reissues, and Excavations, January 1st – April 26th)

Rushed Ramblings:

I’m headed down to Bentonville, Arkansas this weekend, so I’m pushing this out a bit early. Why Bentonville, you ask? Yes, it is a corporate town of Wal-Mart’s devising, but the Crystal Bridges Museum one heir has established is the cat’s ass, currently features a Diego Rivera exhibit, and hosts The Roots and Congolese electronic band Kokoko! Saturday night, so don’t be so snobby! Northwest Arkansas is a GREAT place for all this to be, whatever the machinations behind it. You can tell, I know, that I don’t fully trust it myself, but it’s the only place I’ve ever seen a Black Power Art exhibit and viewed an actual top-flight Basquiat–with my parents, no less. So….

  1. My big news is the return of American pop music scholar, composer, horn man, and occasional guitarist Allen Lowe to the record hop. Lowe’s probably best known for his fascinating book American Pop: From Minstrels to Mojos (other books of his that followed are just as fascinating), but his recorded output is very high quality, and his survival of and recovery from sinus cancer and related health struggles have actually helped propel him to perhaps his best composing and writing ever–four total discs worth. I hope to post today an interview I conducted with him recently in which he speaks of those subjects and many others, but the single-disc America: The Rough Cut is likely to appeal most strongly to those of you who are rockists as well as jazzists: aside from songs that range from raucous to reminiscent to romantic–with the blues always threaded through them–many feature the very underrated electric guitarist Ray Suhy, who’s full of creative and often explosive surprises and has worked with Lowe for years. Marc Ribot fans should proceed directly to this disc. The second set, a three-disker, is called In the Dark, Volume 1, and strikes me as not only a survey of jazz styles Lowe admires but, as Lowe admits in our interview, also a response–or answer, if you will–to what he has heard as a lack of interest and imagination in composing in current jazz circles. That’s not a small claim, but the range of structures Lowe leads the Constant Sorrow Orchestra through (both records feature a unit by that name, but on In the Dark the band’s much larger with mostly different personnel) is stunning. Three disks is a lot to ask of a listener, but they frequently swing–when they don’t, they do very interesting other things–and the playing is fabulous, especially by Lowe, who is truly on. You may have read keyboard master Lewis Porter’s Coltrane bio; he’s Lowe’s frequent collaborator, and on these recordings his playing is regularly eyebrow raising–especially when he imitates Augie Meyers and Jimmy Smith through a synthesizer. So…check ’em out, pronto.
  2. Though I was a very early convert to Julien Baker’s writing (thanks to a songwriting former student), I’ve found it hard to cozy up to boygenius, Baker’s collaborative group featuring her good friends Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. I’m not a fan of mope for the most part, and that’s how their early work struck me. the record, their new release, however, has stunned me. The writing is full of razors and barbed wire, which I don’t associate with mope, and I find it hard to think of a better time for women to respond to this world with songs like these. I can’t get enough of them, truly. When that happens, I buy vinyl for my imaginary offspring to enjoy after I die.
  3. Without a doubt, much of the new additions here are of the jazz variety. I’d like to call your close attention to London Brew, a kind of tribute to/interpretation of Miles’ Bitches Brew by players you should know from that locality; National Information Society’s Since Time is Gravity and Fire! Orchestra’s Echoes, both of which evoke Northern Africa is an exciting way; the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble’s tribute to trumpeter Don Cherry, which continues a streak of fairly magical releases by long-time AACM ace Kahil El’Zabar; and that indefatigable font of pianistic ideas, Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii, who hasn’t let hitting her 100th album last year stop her from releasing several more already, including her fantastic soon-come solo album Torrent. She’s got an album at #35 below, Torrent‘s at #43, and her occasional collaborator, vibraphonist Taiko Saito, has Tears of a Cloud at #39. Those rankings may seem unimpressive, but folks, that’s out of a lot of records, and I don’t take the rankings that seriously (other than the Top 10) until November. Satoko is the bomb, as the kids no longer say.
  4. Speaking of “The East,” if you are a fan of dissonant, ambient, and atmospheric noise, check out pretty much anything WV Sorceror Recordings has been putting out. I am definitely a fan of such stuff, and I can play their releases twice a day (especially when I need such stuff, the dissonance of which tends to calm me). Also, if anyone who reads this blog took me up on my strident recommendation of Les Raillizes Denudes’ reissued work on Temporal Drift last (and this) year, check out the reissue of Shikuza’s Heavenly Persona on Black Editions, which features several guitar eruptions by LRD’s Maki Miura.
  5. It is obvious below, but I finally separated reissues and excavations from the brand-new work. Not that anyone had written in to complain, but I think it helps for some of us who are still obsessed with reaching backwards through the years (to complement our love and desire for the new).

New, Reissued, and Excavated Albums I’ve Found Most Delightful, January 1st-April 30th, 2023

(Bolded items are new to the list)

  1. Gina Burch: I Play My Bass Loud (Third Man)
  2. 100 gecs: 10,000 gecs (Dog Show/Atlantic)
  3. boygenius: the record (Interscope)
  4. Allen Lowe and The Constant Sorrow Orchestra: America—The Rough Cut (ESP-Disk)
  5. Allen Lowe and the Constant Sorrow Orchestra: In the Dark (ESP-Disk)
  6. Liv.e: Girl in The Half Pearl (Real Life / AWAL)
  7. Islandman (featuring Okay Temiz and Muhlis Berberoglu: Direct-to-Disc Sessions (Night Dreamer)
  8. Kelela: Raven (Warp)
  9. National Information Society: Since Time is Gravity (Eremite)
  10. Rodrigo Campos: Pagode Novo (YB Music)
  11. Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Spirit Gatherer—A Tribute to Don Cherry (Spiritmuse)
  12. Yaeji: With a Hammer (XL Recordings)
  13. Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (Yes Records)
  14. London Brew: London Brew (Concord)
  15. Fire! Orchestra: Echoes (Rune Grammofon)
  16. Wadada Leo Smith: Fire Illuminations (Kabell)
  17. Parannoul: After the Magic (Poclanos/Top Shelf)
  18. Belle and Sebastian: Late Developers (Matador)
  19. Satoko Fujii & Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler Records)
  20. The Urban Art Ensemble: “Ho’opomopono” (CFG Multimedia 16-minute single)
  21. The Necks: Travel (Northern Spy)
  22. Kali Uchis: Red Moon in Venus (Geffen)
  23. Willie Nelson: I Don’t Know a Thing About Love—The Songs of Harlan Howard (Legacy)
  24. Tyshawn Sorey: Continuing (Pi Recordings)
  25. Karol G: Manana Sera Bonito (Universal Music Latino)
  26. Andrew Cyrille: Music Delivery / Percussion (Intakt)
  27. Walter Daniels: “From Death to Texas” / “Seems Like a Dream” (Spacecase Records 45)
  28. Tyler Keith & The Apostles: Hell to Pay (Black & Wyatt)
  29. Algiers: Shook (Matador)
  30. Henry Threadgill: The Other One (Pi)
  31. Kiko El Crazy: Pila’e Teteo (Rimas)
  32. Rough Image: Rough Image (WV Sorcerer Productions)
  33. Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place (Pyroclastic)
  34. Rob Mazurek & Exploding Star Orchestra: Lightning Dreamers (International Anthem)
  35. Kaze & Ikue Mori: Crustal Movement (Circum/Libra)
  36. DJ Black Low: Impumelelo (Awesome Tapes from Africa)
  37. Lonnie Holley: Oh Me Oh My (Jagjaguwar)
  38. Rocket 88: House of Jackpots (12XU)
  39. Taiko Saito: Tears of a Cloud (Trouble in the East)
  40. JPEGMAFIA x Danny Brown: Scaring the Hoes (self-released)
  41. Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (Whirlwind)
  42. Mat Muntz: Phantom Islands (Orenda)
  43. Satoko Fujii: Torrent (Libra Records_
  44. Das Kondensat: Anderen Planeten (Why Play Jazz)
  45. Iris DeMent: Workin’ On a World (FlariElla)
  46. Baaba Maal: Being (Atelier Live/Marathon Artists)
  47. Romulo Froes & Tiago Rosas: Na Goela (YB Music)
  48. Florian Arbenz: Conversation #9—Targeted (Hammer Recordings)
  49. James Brandon Lewis: Eye of I (Anti-)
  50. Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double: March On (self-released EP—coming in March)
  51. Ice SpiceLike…?(10K Projects / Capitol Records EP)
  52. otay:onii: Dream Hacker (WV Sorcerer Productions)
  53. Yves Tumor: Praise a Lord Who Chews but Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds) (Warp)
  54. Aroof Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad, Ismaily: Love in Exile (Verve)
  55. Angel Bat Dawid: Requiem for Jazz (International Anthem)
  56. Kara Jackson: Why Does the Earth Give Us People to Love? (September Recordings)
  57. Lana Del Rey: Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd (Polydor)
  58. Yonic South: Devo Challenge Cup (Wild Honey)
  59. Rudy Royston: Day (Greenleaf Music)
  60. Lankum: False Lankum (Rough Trade)
  61. Staples Jr. Singers: Tell Heaven (EP) (Luaka Bop) Note: the vinyl gets you more great minutes of testifying.
  62. Brandee Younger: Brand New Life (Impulse!)
  63. Heinali: Kyiv Eternal (Injazero)
  64. Tri-County Liquidators: “Flies” / “Weep Then Whisper” / “Bitter” (self-released)
  65. Vinny Golia Quartet: No Refunds (Unbroken Sounds)
  66. Black Country, New Road: Live at Bush Hall (Ninja Tune)
  67. The Art Ensemble of Chicago: From Paris to Paris (Rogue Art)
  68. Billy Valentine: Billy Valentine and The Universal Truth (Flying Dutchman)

Excavations and Reissues

(Note: These are not in order of my love for them–still sorting that out.)

  1. Balka Sound: Balka Sound (Strut)
  2. Hiatus Kaiyote: Choose Your Weapon (Flying Buddha / Sony Masterworks)
  3. Dream Dolphin: Gaia—Selected Ambient & Downtempo Works (1996​-​2003) (Music from Memory)
  4. Various Artists: Purple Haze from East, Volume 1 (WV Sorcerer Productions)
  5. Various Artists: Purple Haze from East, Volume 2 (WV Sorcerer Productions)
  6. Shizuka: Heavenly Persona (Black Editions)
  7. Jacqueline Humbert & David Rosenboom: Daytime Viewing (Unseen Worlds)
  8. Bob Dylan: Time Out of Mind Stripped Naked (Columbia)
  9. Various Artists: Blacklips Bar—Androgyns and Deviants / Industrial Romance for Bruised and Battered Angels 1992-1995 (Anthology Recordings)
  10. Les Raillizes Denudes: ’77 Live (Temporal Drift)
  11. Luther Thomas: 11th Street Fire Suite (Corbett vs. Dempsey)
  12. Eddie Lockjaw Davis and Shirley Scott: Cookin’ With Jaws and The Queen (Craft)
  13. Professor James Benson: The Gow-Dow Experience (Jazzman Records)
  14. Walter Bishop, Jr.: Bish at the Bank—Live in Baltimore (Cellar Live)

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