Posts Tagged ‘Psych-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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Mythic Sunship – “Maelstrom”

Wasn’t expecting another burner out of Mythic Sunship this soon after their unstoppable Another Shape of Psychedelic Music and live set from Roadburn, Changing Shapes. The double shot established the band as a force in free rock — moving between psychedelia, metal, and free jazz with a mercurial ease. The secret to their more recent burn has been the addition of sax player Søren Skov, whose untethered skronk pushes the band’s titanium-hammered heaviness into a zone that’s more erratic and yet laser-focused in its approach to smashing the senses. I’m a bit surprised to see the band wander from their home at El Paraiso Records, as the Danish label has been almost synonymous with the Copenhagen quartet, but the release of Wildfire on April 2nd sees the band popping up Stateside with Tee Pee records on the sleeve. From the sounds of the immense, 10+ minute first taste of “Maelstrom,” this one doesn’t seem like the band is lessening their hold on the hammer anytime soon.



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Djinn – “Love Divine”

2021 has been leaning into the psychedelic jazz vein hard, letting the cosmic cloud widen above us, coloring the skyline with a mixture of wonder and worry. The second album from Djinn embraces the creep towards the cloud, letting loose their first single that finds the Organic Music Society laying down in the same fields as the troupes of Vuh and Düül. They lace a coating of calm that slips through time — flashes of emerald toned soul-jazz are obscured by German Progressive plumes of ‘70s smoke. The band, which draws members from Goat and Hills, bring along the eclectic curiosity of their former homes without some of the scorched earth that often accompanies it. The new record, Transmission is out April 23rd from Rocket Recordings.



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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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Klyfta

A rather intriguing proposition here in the form of a fake band anchored by Psychic Temple’s Chris Schlarb. Buffeted with plenty of billowy backstory, this one can sit alongside the Jeremiah Sand release on Sacred Bones as one of the best deep fake bands of the year. Now as Chris would tell it this represents an unearthed treasure from the early ‘70s, picking up where the works of Swedish songwriter Casper Sundberg and crew left off. However a little more digging pegs this as one of the artificial artists that soundtrack the 2019 alternate history adventure game Hypnospace Outlaw. While the game tracks through a divergent 1999 and presents puzzles via content policing an Angelfire-rife vision of the internet, it’s nice to think of Klyfta as not just a perfectly realized and stylized nugget in the game, but as a band that lives and breathes its own lounge-prog reality.

That seems to be what Schlarb is getting at with this low-profile standalone release. Taken way out of context the band doesn’t flag in its ability to convey a sense of ‘70s excess and indulgent psych-jazz odyssey. Ostensibly permeated by Schlarb’s guitar and fleshed out with a tumult of drums and organ, the works assembled here are supposed to be disparate sessions cobbled together by session musicians finishing Sundberg’s abandoned work, but its clear that Schlarb’s dedication to opulent prog-jazz touches won’t let him make this feel like anything less than a cohesive document. While I’d love to live within the skewed timeline that lets “Sport Anthem” actually anchor tennis matches and support a struggling ‘70s lost cause, I’m equally happy to let Schlarb fill in the shading of his fantasy with pulsing rhythms and looping instrumentals that could easily fill out the landscapes of an airbrushed van, or at the very least, the man who left it all behind to do the airbrushing. The LP is limited to 500, so this curio probably won’t stick around too long.




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Horse Lords

Baltimore’s Horse Lords bring a constrained chaos on their fifth album, The Common Task. Built again on the hypnotic hurl of riff repetition that have cemented them in the halls of avant rock thus far, the band sets out to create one of their most cutting creations yet. The album opens with no pity, firing off heavy shots of guitar bounced through a maze of twisted glass tessellations on “Fanfare for Effective Freedom.” The song, tethered to the Earth only slightly by the lock-step rhythm section, is feeds melody and mechanics through the wood chipper and steps back to enjoy the spray. The tension on the song is shattered by the slide into the appropriately titled “Against Gravity,” which cuts that tether and slides into the stratosphere with some help from a humming sax and the celluloid slip of bass over the track. Its here that the band begins to make the album dig for blood. There’s still that hammerlock of repetition, but here the band begin to work the angles. Sax slashes from both speakers, the guitars still cycle into oblivion but it feels more dangerous and unpredictable. As the middle of the record looms, the band take post-rock punctuality and tie a tourniquet on the beat until it blackens.

Sharing a love for groove that begs some comparison to contemporaries like 75 Dollar Bill, the band tied together a work that’s diligently planned but still surprisingly unhinged. They delve deep into the tessellated inner workings of the spiraling mind. By the middle of the record the band push the listeners limits with the sonic scrape of “The Radiant City,” before diving again once more into the gnarled groove hammock of “The People’s Park.” The noise respite drives into bagpipe tones that threaten to slit the seams of the album before they interpolated Latinx funk with a political edged on the follow-up — a double punch that proves worth the wait. They cap the platter with a triple-sized dose that takes up 18 plus minutes on the flip, winding its way through simmering tones before smashing out the backdoor on a wave of Saharan funk and violin. The band’s been rightly heralded in the past for their precision and fire, and again they prove to be at the top of their class merging the desert, the basement club, the street corner, and the conservatory into one mindset shredded by an obsessive-compulsive chaos.



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Dragoons

Coming in pretty quickly after the band’s 2019 record Dragoons Are a Band!, the Aussie quartet’s latest scraps their past formula in favor of a wider sonic vista. While the last record still had plenty of ambitions for an indie-pop record – launching songs into extended breakdowns and gilding them with a light dose of extraneous instrumentation – on Horrorscope, those impulses have been elevated to the fuel that drives the album. While there are still songs rooted in grit-teethed indie grind and blunt force post-punk (“Horrorscope II”) the album plays with form, fusing psych-jazz itches and instrumental interludes into an album that plays like a suite of songs rather than merely an assortment of likeminded tracks.

Slashed with sax and soaked in organ, the record tips the scales between the fury of The Fall (something they share with members’ other band Clamm) and a proggier direction that’s lit on the coals of groove. Giving post-punk soul, the band plays like Parquet Courts pairing up with Al Doum & The Faryds. The angles smooth, but they still seem to cut just as deep. If this is the direction the band aims to wander then I’m game to follow them down into the dirt. While their peers are content to jangle and scuff their hooks with the scent of the ‘70s downtown debris, Dragoons seem to be searching for a singular spice, and for the most part they’ve found it. It’s a short shock of a record, but it’s proving to be one that I’m eager to return to again and again.

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