Posts Tagged ‘Free Jazz’

John Dwyer, Ted Byrnes, Greg Coates, Tom Dolas, Brad Caulkins – “Vertical Infinity”

Just the other day, Dwyer’s last hunk of free jazz shred came sailing through the doors, and I ended that review pondering if he would keep up this current tear, or if Bent Arcana and Witch Egg were an encapsulated experience. Turns out I’d get an answer on that quicker than I thought as today John announces the third in the run of free rock, psychedelic jazz-chomping action and its pushing further out than the last, ditching the touches of funk for an ECM-baiting mind scrape. This time around Dwyer’s crew gets shuffled, but only ever so slightly. Signing back on are Tom Dolas, Brad Caulkins, and Greg Coates, with Ted Byrnes (Artificial Art Ensemble) joining the fray on the kit. The first crack at the album, “Vertical Infinity,” wanders far from groove, preferring instead to answer to the alter of Ayler, though as the band admits there’s a certain tether to the freeform insanity that permeated Gong and the Daevid Allen orbit. Per Dwyer himself, this one come from within — “Everything incrementally growing everyday.  Waste into heaps.  Information waves weigh on the human psyche.  A small seed of hope cracking its husk and reaching for the sun. Beauty rising from the rubbish heap.” The new record is (naturally) out on Casltface March 19th. Hook in and hang on to “Vertical Infinity” below.



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John Dwyer

After his tangent into psychedelic jazz with Bent Arcana, I’d assumed that maybe Dwyer might let that hair settle a bit before diving back into the fray, but with the arrival of Witch Egg it seems that there might be a new era of Dwyer jazz unfurling. Back just over a decade ago, John flayed the psyche with an album under the name of Sword + Sandals that threw his sound into the jaws of free jazz for a stretch, and both this album and Arcana seem like the natural extension of what he’d been prying at there. While Bent Arcana boasted a few bigger names, here Dwyer’s pared his crew and aimed for an even rawer sound that’s pulling back in some of the toasted lobe territory that he’d begun exploring all those years ago. Though this time he also lassos in just a touch of the psych-funk squalor that brought him to the grit-toothed edge on Arcana’s rundown.

The last workout saw Sunwatchers’ Peter Kerlin take the bass duties, while here Greg Coates takes up the thicker strings, laying down a funk-forged groove that’s thick and shaggy, amiably anchoring the record alongside Nick Murray’s (White Fence) tumble of drums. Dwyer again takes center hub on the solar system he’s amassing here, but the most noxious gas pockets of psychedelic skree belong Brad Caulkin’s skin-melting sax blasts. The band moves from anxious asphyxiation to fraught boogie with the skill of a seasoned setup, and if we weren’t all locked out of the live sphere it’d be nice to ponder what the combo would do to the state. Personally I’m hoping that John keeps this tributary of psych-jazz coming. It’s fresh vein for him to sink into, letting the frantic buzz of Osees fade under the caustic, hypnic jerk of corroded jazz for the night stalkers and insomniac pit crew out there.




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Mac Blackout

A slightly unexpected shift from Chicago’s Mac Blackout on his latest solo release, his first for hometown label Trouble in Mind. When Blackout last left the sphere seven years ago, he was caked in the crust of lo-fi punk, glam runoff, and twitching post-punk tremors. After a few years off to focus on visual art he’s come back with a shifted sensibility, throwing himself into the arms of free jazz and creeping synth. Love Profess bears no hallmarks of his time deluged in garage sweat — a calmer, yet still oddly fraught record that throws out the rock impulses completely. Out of the gate Blackout is squalling and tossed into the digital froth, splitting his time between the new wave of Out players over at Astral Spirits and the fragile synth landscapes at Ghost Box. The record toes those lines well, injecting a sense of wounded wonder into the mix that reverberates through to the last moments.

Wide and wandering one moment and lost and swirling the next, Blackout reacts to a current sense of frustration and bewilderment. His sax does its best to tie up the neurons without burning the ends. There’s a creeping mania to the runs but nothing that truly melts the plastic coating. That’s not to say that this album is playing safe. There’s hope and fear in Blackout’s compositions, and the uncertainty about which pole should dominate resonates quite rightly with any listener having spent the better part of 2020 conscious and crumbling. It’s not the record I was expecting from Mac Blackout anytime soon, but it works as a new chapter of aural sweat from the artist.



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Paisiel

Ramping up their focus from three massive tracks to one double-sided statement, Portuguese-German duo Paisiel rake the listener over an emotionally fraught trek on Unconscious Death Wishes. The title gives off a sinister air and the band doesn’t shy away from the angst inherent in that notion. The composition moves from stark, nervous synth rising in the darkness to the skittering rhythm that marked their last album. The drums don’t give much relief from the tension though, as they ring out like barking threats from just past a circle of light and security; the listener crouched in the wilderness that the pair have presented. Paisiel know there’s danger looming and with that title in mind, maybe they’re inching closer towards it out of irrepressible curiosity or maybe out of an unconscious need to let chaos do its work.

João Pais Filipe’s rhythms play coy until around the 12-13 minute mark when they become all encompassing, fighting Julius Gabriel’s sax heat for attention in the speakers. The pair become locked in a dizzying tempest of swirling, slashing phrases and knotted beats. Gabriel’s sax lines begin to unravel, howling and pawing at the air. The atmosphere grows thick with danger, dread, and pheromones that say fight or perish. Somehow the duo and the listener make it through the feeling of steel and bone against the neck skating to an ending that’s not necessarily serene, but not actively in peril. The vibes as the sun sets on the record are tensed and ready to fight the unseen dangers once more. Sleep doesn’t seem forthcoming, and the metallic taste of adrenaline is both a reminder of what transpired and of what might be again.



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Mac Blackout – “Wandering Spheres”

Last time I left Chicago’s Mac Blackout he was burning a pound or so of ozone through the garage-punk stratosphere round about 2017 but in the interim it seems that Mark McKenzie had swapped out the monicker for a new nombre, Armageddon Experimental Band and began dabbling in free jazz and cacophonic float along the same lay lines. Now he’s back with the name Blackout but the garage has been cleared of the grit but packed full of what Armageddon left behind. The new Blackout blends the experimental bent of AEB’s past few years with a bit more heft on the hammer. The first cut from the upcoming Love Profess blasts out of the barrel with McKenzie swapping his guitatr for sax and letting a sinister swelter take over in place of guitar fury. “Wandering Spheres” sees Blackout piping in a low rumble of synth growl and delicate electric piano to McKenzie’s aching sax workout. This certainly isn’t the Blackout you were expecting, but in a year when the ground shifts on an hourly basis, perhaps its the Blackout we need. The record is out November 27th on Trouble in Mind.



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Patrick Shiroishi

There’s a heaviness to Patrick Shiroishi’s solo debut for Thin Wrist — both in the music itself and the inspiration behind it. The artist began the project with a focus on Japanese internment camps during the second World War, ones in which his own grandparents had been held. The bridge to the present was not a far one to cross, tying the border camps of the current administration to those since regretted and admonished for public record. Doesn’t seem like the lessons of the past carry a long enough shadow, though and Shiroishi turns improvisation into a conduit for feelings too overwhelming to plot out in advance. Tying in American homegrown hypocrisy to atrocities abroad — “The record is a representation of how I had been processing the horrors of the present…the sadness of the loss of life not only in the states but through the genocides in Sudan, Myanmar, Iraq and Syria, says Shiroishi, and it’s clear that within the pieces frustration wells up to the point of physical pain.

As a player, Shiroishi is a consummate collaborator, having found himself among ranks with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Danketsu 10, Borasisi, Nakata, Kogarashi; Komeshi Trio, and leading Womb, Oort Smog, and Upsilon Acrux among others. Here, though, the only focus is Shiroishi, his sax and a smear of electronics that submerge the strident blasts from his instrument in a mire of undulating despair and euphoric release. Descnecion is a visceral listen and Shiroishi seems to have planned it as such. The pieces are laid out in the order that he recorded them, improvised on the spot and only framed by the embellishments later on. The rest is an outpouring of grief, anger, broken trust, shame, frustration, and resilience. The Nation is currently bubbling over and more than a few are reaching a breaking point. Shiroishi’s vision is just a few months ahead of the wave, but his historically charged context holds as true as ever for an expression of disillusionment with the structures that are inflicted upon us and institutions that carry out crimes in our names. This might well be the soundtrack of the summer.




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Sunwatchers

Sunwatchers continue their devastating streak of the past few years with an album that becomes the balm and the irritant. Oh Yeah? (a delightful pun on their Cool Brave mascot there) is a reflection of turbulent times and the scream into the ether in which to deal with them all at once. While blunt lyricism has its place, there’s also just as overt a necessity for an album that captures the dozens of daily, weekly, and monthly moments of frustration and repels them with a sonic squall that’s caustic and complete. If our current moment has taught us anything it’s that we’re so often at a loss for words these days that the emotional behemoth of 2020 could only benefit from the rhythmic riot and tectonic fury of Sunwatchers. We can only feel truly alive after the baptism of McHugh’s sunstroke riffs and Tobias’ fevered runs. We can begin to live a little lost in the insistent throb of bass and drums flung far into the trance of abandon.

The band leaves melted tire tracks on the crossroads of psych and jazz — never entirely letting themselves choose a single path. The interplay between the members is symbiotic and psychic. They barrel through the barriers like Pharaoh sitting in with Earthless and then push it through the heart of the sun. Much like the block party burndown happening across the Atlantic in Mythic Sunship, Sunwatchers are smelting liquid chaos and tilting the kettle over the agencies that seek to stifle us all in this age of horrors. Riffs lock in and settle into a layer of hypnotism before they’re torn apart from the DNA on down. The band is, as ever, a socio-political powerhouse with a sense of humor, just the kind of talismans we need in an age when we’d be content to yell into the void, if the void hadn’t come home to stay. This one will shake up your year, so grab a helmet and head on in.



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Sunwatchers – “Sunwatchers vs. Tooth Decay”

After a damn near perfect run of jazz-psych barrel-rolls over the last few years, Sunwatchers are set to sear their name into the scrolls with Oh Yeah?. The title seems like both a question of incredulity (which is apt given the world climate of the past few years) and a statement of challenge. If it’s indeed a challenge, then Sunwatchers are more than up to it. They open the track with the flamethrower force of brass and then lockdown the rhythmic fire. The band’s socio-political agenda has long been tied into their ethos and the aura that surrounds them, though they match it with a winking humor that leads them to adopt the Kool-Aid man as a personal talisman and inspires them to tag their album opener with a sly reference to Muhammed Ali sparring with cavities in the ‘70s. Where they truly excel is at funneling their frustration into a porridge-thick ballast of rhythm and riff holding onto tumultuous psychedelia, burning the doubting hearts of anyone close to crossing them. Don’t let the in-jokes fool you. The band doesn’t come to play lightly. Oh Yeah? lands on Trouble in Mind.

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Mythic Sunship

After a year of letting it ferment, Mythic Sunship’s last album Another Shape of Psychedelic Music is still reorganizing the molecules in my body. The band had long been working to ferret out the thunder and squall from heavy psychedelics, but their addition of saxophonist Søren Skov pushed them into a zone that swiped at free jazz and rolled the burnt sensibilities of the genres together with a renewed vigor. The songs begged to be played live, as the feeling that the band could push these songs beyond the bounds of the studio seemed readily apparent. Now, that’s just what the band along with El Paraiso have done. Mythic Sunship locked down three nights at Roadburn’s yearly gathering of psychedelic shred in Tilburg and the most adventurous night was pressed down to LP.

The live performance doesn’t shy away from the expectations put forth by the studio LP. They work through ferocious and fuming renditions of “Way Ahead” and “Elevation,” but rather than simply expand on the collaborations they’d already done with Skov, they pushed even further. They spend the rest of the set working through new cuts that scrape the cosmos and scar them with a phalanx of sax singe and the titanic rumble of the band’s rhythm section. Too often Mythic Sunship seems to be left out of conversations Stateside that include both psych and free jazz, and this set proves that they should not only be included but at the forefront.



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Mythic Sunship – “Awakening”

Two years back Mythic Sunship released an album called Another Shape of Psychedelic Music, a bold title that the record lived up to easily. The band had long been carving out a niche in exploratory space-psych, but they added saxophonist Søren Skov to the mix and the record dived deep into the vibrations of free jazz and added them to the top of their bottled fury. As the band embarked on Roadburn the following year they uncorked the bottle fully, bringing Skov along for three nights of psychedelic singe. The set included a couple of tracks from their previous album but also adds three more new collaborations, mutating into a chemical burn of blast-force sonics that need to be heard to be understood. Thankfully all three nights were captured, the best of which is being presented by El Paraiso to commemorate the band’s mercurial manifestation right there on the stages of Tilburg.

The band sent over the opening cut to Changing Shapes, one of the new debuts of the night called “Awakening.” The track creeps out of the caverns slow and sinister before exploding into a ball of gaseous flame. A necessary listen for the start of 2020. The new LP is out January 17th and is, naturally, quite recommended.

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