Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hugo Carvalhais: Particula

Hugo Carvalhais (bass)
Particula (Clean Feed; 2012)
Emile Parisien (sax)
Mario Costa (drums)
Gabriel Pinto (piano)
Dominique Pifarely (violin)

In the last year I have become a massive fan of the exceptionally talented composer/musician, Hugo Carvalhais. His debut, Nebulosa, was one of JazzWrap's best albums of 2012. And yes, guess what, his new album, Particula, delivers the same kind of results and better.

With Particula, Carvalhais creates specific structures within very dense space. This is an album that lies somewhere between minimalism, fusion and chamber, but with all sorts creativity hiding in unsuspected places. "Chrysalis" peers into dark matter to bring forth a beautiful and introspective spirit which emanates from each instrument. Man focus being Pinto and Pifarely until the rest of group begin to intersect.

"Capsule" is possibly the most contemporary piece on Particula. With miniature melodies from Pinto and well place notes from Carvalhais all woven together early on by Pifarely and Costa, this a gorgeous piece that soon moves from contemporary to free form but still maintains a sense structure.

"Amniotic" is just as it refers and it's a great closing tone for the album. It's the same return to the dark, insular place that holds the sound in. Short bursts from Parisien, plucks from Pifarely and electronic waves from both Carvalhais and Pinto make this a eerie but special outgoing number.

The spirit and sense of adventure within the darkness is probably what draws me Hugo Carvalhais compositions. But either way Particula is one of those extremely special albums from a quickly important figure on the European scene. Highly Recommended. And one of JazzWrap favourite albums of 2012.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Intersection: The Souljazz Orchestra

The Intersection: An ongoing feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that have blended jazz, world and electronica in new and highly creative ways.

The Souljazz Orchestra
Solidarity (Strut Records; 2012)

Funky for sure. Soulful, certainly. Growing with grace and hard-edge maturity...definitely. Canadian outfit, The Souljazz Orchestra have infused Latin, Caribbean, funky and greasy Lou Donaldson style grooves into their music for almost a decade now.
Solidarity, is a grittier outing and continues the socio-political vibe that all their albums inhabit. The massive floor-burning, "Conquering Lion," fills the air with infectious African percussion and commanding horns. There's really no way not to start dancing once you hear this piece. An anthem and a statement that the ensemble is back and better than ever.
"Jericho" and "Cartao Postal" both provide a ferocious reggae and humorous samba message about social inadequacies and upon further listens make you really want to go out and make some effective change in your environment. "Cartao Postal" delivers a more raw cultural groove while "Jericho encompasses all the political dub you would expect from this multi-cultural ensemble.
Solidarity is another brilliant step forward for The Souljazz Orchestra. There are very few groups on the scene today on this side of the Atlantic that can do this and do it right. Global grooves with a message that is never hidden and never overwhelming to the music as a whole. Excellent and worth seeking out.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Animation: Transparent Heart

Animation (quintet)
Transparent Heart (RareNoise; 2012)
Bob Belden (saxophone, flute)
Jacob Smith (bass)

Matt Young (drums)
Peter Clagett (trumpet)
Roberto Verastegui (keyboards)

Another stellar outing from Bob Belden and his exciting collective, Animation. While the groups groundwork may be laid in Miles Davis' fusion era material, Belden continues to make this ensemble sound like more like an on ramp to the future as oppose to a bridge between past and present.

The groups latest, Transparent Heart is an urban soundscape, with a lyrical structure that exemplifies the city which gives the group so much inspiration, New York. "Urbanoia" and "Transparent Heart" both are crisp, sharp takes on the cities inhabitants with all its hustle and bustle. Crashing drums, drifting hypnotic tones from Belden and Clagett shape the mood of both pieces. Verastegui's Hancock-meets-Corea keys draw an ocean current for the band ripple across. Dark and pulsating but with a real angular beauty.

"Provocatism" leds off some funky bass work from Smith which is soon met with battle lines from Young and Belden, placing a beautiful scripture to journey across various avenues of the city. "Occupy" refers to the semi-global movement that took over New York in which many were finally fed up with the status quo and decided that the people must speak. The piece gentle but conveys a lyrical voice that screams and demands your attention.

Transparent Heart again shows the compositional excellence of Bob Belden. But also the exquisite musicianship of Animation the group and their continued vigilance to making music with purpose and direction. Highly Recommended.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ireneusz Socha: Polin

Ireneusz Socha (electronics, percussion, found sound)
Polin (Mathka; 2012)
Jarosław Bester (bayan)
Jarosław Lipszyc (voice)

Laid somewhere between experimental, folk and history lesson, Polin is a masterful short work developed over a seven year period by Ireneusz Socha. Based around the heritage of Polish Jews, Ireneusz Socha crafts a delicate narrative through all sorts of found sounds, klezmer dialogues, electronics and sampled vocals. It's quite an enjoyable and spiritual journey.

Polin, while set as one continuous piece is broken into a number of short movements that might be slightly unnoticeable but all intensely satisfying. Early on, there is a skilled combination of various outside sounds seamlessly woven into the percussion and vocal elements. This all makes for a wildly different picture of Jewish culture over almost a span of two centuries.

The instrumentation moves from samples to electronics and textures that move up and down along with the bayan, a beautiful almost rarely used instrument. The tone of piece swirls and leaves a psychedelic nature lingering in the listeners mind as you flow toward the pieces final movements.

A great and detailed message lies within this recording. It's rich in heritage and exudes creative structure. Probably not every ones cup of tea. There's a lot going on that needs a few spins to absorb but this is a fantastic piece that deserves your undivided attention. Polin is a real must listen.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ivar Grydeland: Bathymetric Modes

Ivar Grydeland (guitar, electronics)
Bathymetric Modes (Hubro Music; 2012)

Over the last decade, Ivar Grydeland has recorded and performed on some exciting albums. Whether it's been with Dans les arbres, Ballrogg, Huntsville and more, Grydeland's beautifully textured atmospheric folk tones have graced and enhanced an number of sessions.

On his surprisingly, first (essentially) solo album, Bathymetric Modes, Grydeland shows the same grace and spacious adventure that makes many of his sessions captivating. Joined by members whom he has worked with over the years, on a couple of tracks, Bathymetric Modes feels right at home and quick to absorb as a first time listener.

"Roll" has an intriguing mixture of Brazilian and European themes which are both cold and intoxicating. A folkish quality that projects an image of a long car ride across country. Fast paced with countryside imagery.

With "Bounce" you can sense the elements of his previous works as well as shades of Steve Riech or John Abercrombie. This is a luscious fusion of space and continuous harmonic structures. As the piece moves into its middle stages the electronics take hold and it becomes angelic and transcending.

Bathymetric Modes is a real surprise for me. I did expect to like it from the first spin. But what I didn't expect was how consistently I would come back to it. Time and time again. A late entry to one of my albums of the year. Simply fantastic.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rob Mazurek: Stellar Pulsations

Rob Mazurek (trumpet)
Stellar Pulsations (Delmark; 2012)
John Herndon (drums)
Angelica Sanchez (piano)
Matthew Lux (bass)

Rob Mazurek consistently shows that he is a multi-faceted thinker. Like fellow Chicagoan, Ken Vandermark, Mazurek leads various ensembles and his latest, Pulsar Quartet, just might be one of his best.

Consisting of members of his Exploding Star Orchestra, Mazurek sets out on a journey that contains his usual avant garde spirit but this time with pieces that are more lyrical in nature. Reflective more of a straight forward hard bop ethos than many of his previous outfits. Stellar Pulsations revolves around a number of themes related to space and time.

"Primitive Jupiter" opens the session with excitement and ferocity. Herndon and Sanchez shine with bright, brash chords and beats that cut along Mazurek's well placed kinetic notes. "Magic Saturn" goes in the opposite direction. A delightful ballad that highlights the ability for this quartet to shift gears from the fierce avant garde to emotionally effective song structures. Mazurek's tone felt like late period Miles Davis. Lux and Sanchez perform with a subtle grace that give the piece a light hue throughout the closing passages.

The European feel of "Spanish Venus" excels with an interesting balance of minimalist vision infused by tango motifs. Mazurek's sound is romantic. While the rest of the group portrays a more darker approach. All culminating in wonderful conversation of sound and imagery. "Folk Song Neptune" is another ballad circling around soft descriptions and tones. The quartet led by the exchanges of Sanchez and Mazurek here sounded reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's best quartet sessions.

With Stellar Pulsations, Rob Mazurek has again shown that he is one of the exciting, experimental and under appreciated composers in the American jazz scene. But he is quickly becoming one of my favourites. And the Pulsar Quartet have made of the best sessions this year that fans of both contemporary and free jazz can enjoy. Stellar Pulsations is superb!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Intersection: Hercules And Love Affair

The Intersection: is an ongoing feature on JazzWrap that looks at artists that have blended jazz, world and electronica in new and highly creative ways.

Hercules And Love Affair (group)
DJ Kicks (!K7 Records; 2012)

Some how Andy Butler, founding member of the electronic outfit, Hercules and Love Affair, has perfectly blended disco/soul motifs from 80s and 90s house/soul into 21st Century modern dance music.

While their two studio albums have these influences as well elements that remind me of 80s outfits Quando Quango and Section 25 (and a looser extent, E.S.G.), their recent adventure into the K7 DJ Kicks series is a slightly different journey altogether.

This DJ mix collection is a wonderful and deeper look into the groups influences that helped build the modern twist that is now Hercules And Love Affair. The mix is well balanced concoction where past and present turn into the future-perfect. "Don't Keep Me Waiting" an underground classic by Mankind has a sultry Chic-like vocal and is layered with a four keyboard line that is forward-thinking for the dancefloor. Hercules And Love Affair's lone contribution to this collection, the sexy "Release Me" is filled with drums and late night vocals about letting love leave. Sweaty, sexy and romantic.

Fax Yourself's "Strut Your Techno Stuff" is a friendly reminder how playful and forceful house music can sometimes feel. Great samples, handclaps and dark basslines make this a killer piece no matter what time it is during your party. "Magojiro" by In Flagranti is weird soulful electronica with lots of subtle undertones. In the latter stages the piece warps into "A Bit Of Redemption" from Haze Factory with heavy thumping bass and psychotic synth patterns.

The DJ Kicks series is always a killer set of well chosen tunes that allow you a light insight of what artist are thinking. Hercules And Love Affair show that their DJ Kicks spans the dancefloor, the heart and the bedroom. This is a great collection and well worth checking out.

Monday, November 5, 2012

1982+BJ Cole

1982 (trio)
1982+BJ Cole (Hubro Music; 2012)
Nils Okland (violin, fiddle)
Sigbjorn Appland (harmonium)
Oyvind Skarbo (drums)
BJ Cole (pedal steel guitar)

The trio 1982 formed through various collaborations and duo sessions each of the members has previously done is now what appears to be a fully functional and consistent trio. Their style weaves between atmospheric, minimal and classical chamber trios. 1982 is all about the structure of sound, creating the image for the listener. This is enhanced by the absence of song titles.

On their newest release, they are joined by pedal guitarist, BJ Cole for the simply titled, 1982+BJ Cole. Cole's addition gives the trio a more dynamic and expansive structure. The first two pieces "9:03" and "4:22", both illustrate a new, full vision for the group. "9:03" inhabits the similar ethereal nature the group constructed over its previous two albums with shifting patterns and harmonics that are breath-taking and enchanting. "4:22" is a nice balance of experimentalism and Cole's swirling sense of lonesome guitar.

"5:21" is touching, with Okland and Skarbo standing out with excellent repetitive lines and calculated percussion. This is augmented wonderfully by Cole and Appland, creating a lovely and steadied melody. "4:00" emotes a minimalism that is reminiscent of Steve Reich. It reverberates in a humble and subtle fashion that becomes more beautiful as the piece moves forward.

Again, 1982 has put together a brilliant set of soundscapes that are magnificent to hear but also intriguing once you dig deeper into it on repeated spins. This collaboration with BJ Cole only highlights the skill of this trio once more. Another strong reason why 1982 is one of those unheard groups that needs to be heard. A real must have album. And a highly recommended one from me. And one of my albums of the year!