April’s new music for Te Awe: Part 2

Here is part two of our new music picks for March. You can catch up with Part 1 here. Do we actually know anything about new music? Or, are we just too old to understand what most of this is banging on about? Read on to find out.

Love in exile / Aftab, Arooj
Mark: After the huge critical success of Vulture Prince, it was hard to envision what Grammy Award-winning singer, composer, and producer Arooj Aftab would do next. Back in 2018 she performed a live improvisational, experimental, set with Jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, and they subsequently played several concerts together. New album ‘Love in exile’ captures this trio in an improvised live in the studio setting. Soulful piano, and low rumbling bass & synth textures create a lot of space for her beautiful voice to wander in and out with lines of Urdu poetry, and random vocalising, creating a mesmerizing, languorous and haunting musical journey, full of mystery and quiet longing.

Neil: ‘Love in Exile’ was recorded live in the studio and features just three musicians. It is an intensely beautiful work; an album stripped back to an absolute minimum, an approach that ensures that each component shines. Arooj Aftab’s spectral voice weaves in and out of the bass and keys that create the rest of the tracks. There are some very atmospheric Moog synth elements, as well as some electric organ. Aftab’s voice is truly remarkable, and we rightly raved about her 2021 album Vulture Prince. As some reviews have noted the musicians are in almost telepathic communication with each other. Intricate, subtle, expressive, atmospheric and moving. Another truly remarkable work from this musician.

London brew : inspired by Miles Davis’ Bitches brew / London Brew
Mark: London Brew is a British jazz collective including Nubya Garcia, Tom Skinner, and multiple members of Sons of Kemet. In 2020 well known Swedish pop producer (and UK Jazz fan) Martin Terefe assembled some top British jazzers to play a series of gigs to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Miles Davis’ album Bitches Brew. Cancelled by the pandemic the collective regrouped for a 3 day studio session after U.K.’s second quarantine ended and this, recorded on the third day, is the result. This is very much an ‘improvisational’ homage, as opposed to a straight recreation of the album, and there is no actual trumpet at all, with the lead instruments being the tenor saxophones of Nubya Garcia and Shabaka Hutchings. I can’t claim to be be a fusion fan, but its dense elements, modern touches and interplay provide plenty of threads to pull for those who regard Bitches Brew as a seminal work.

Neil: ‘Bitches Brew’ was fifty years old in 2020 and a series of gig inspired by the album was planned by some of the leading lights of the current London Jazz scene, but Covid put pay to the plans. However, five days after the U.K.’s second quarantine ended the musicians involved went into the studio and this is album is the result. ‘London Brew’ operates at the outer edges of frenetic psychedelic Jazz and, whilst it is true in spirit to the landmark album it references, it is very much its own beast. Eccentric, eclectic dark tinged and constantly changing and in flux. It occasionally utilises some credited loops and samples from the original. I suspect that it very much depends on what you think of the original will dictate your reaction to this work. For the record I loved it, like its inspiration it is imaginative, restless, powerful and constantly in motion. A fabulous reaction to the original piece.

Aşk / Altın Gün
Mark: Turkish psychedelic rock band Altın Gün are back with their 5th album, following on from 2021’s Yol. Their last couple of albums incorporated modern electro-pop and synthy funk elements, but ‘Aşk’ harks back to earlier albums with a more straightforward 1970s Anatolian Rock vibe. Lean, tight playing, sees thick bass, deep grooves & wonky synths surround the male/female vocalists and multi-instrumentalists Merve Daşdemir and Erdinç Ecevit, as they meld nostalgic nods to the sound of the past with some modern genre-mashing on these reworkings of ancient Turkish folk tales of love and desire.

Neil: Whilst being better known to their fans for their own particular brand of Turkish rock with distinct psychedelic tendencies. Altın Gün’s last two albums Yol and Âlem were closer to 70’s disco pop than Jefferson Airplane. However, this album is definitely a return to the classic 70’s Anatolian rock sound of their earlier albums. There’s touches of classic period Hawkwind, and even early period Pink Floyd, to be heard in the mix that includes elements from the Turkish Folk song tradition. In short, it’s a hypnotic, modern psychedelic rock album that has Turkish folk roots at its core. A great alternative listen.

Strange dance / Selway, Philip
Mark: Best known as the drummer for Radiohead, this is Philip Selway’s 3rd solo album, 9 years after his previous effort Weatherhouse in 2014. His sound is a bit of a cross between the lush cinematic orchestration of chamber-pop, and the sweet melodic pop of Ian Broudie’s Lightning Seeds. Guitarist Adrian Utley of Portishead fame provides some nice textures, but the hushed vocals and soothing ruminations of life & romantic conflict perhaps need a bit more edge to juxtapose the lush arrangements at play over the course of the album.

Neil: ‘Strange dance’ is the third solo album from the Radiohead drummer Philip Selway. It is definitely his most ambitious solo release yet, with dramatic and convincing soundscape arrangements underpinned by his fabulous rhythmic work. It is, however, what sports commentators describe as a game of two halves. Whilst the music works really well, the lyrics and vocals are weaker and tend to let the album down. It’s still an interesting and intriguing listen and worth hearing, but you can’t but feel that it would have worked better as an instrumental piece. The standout track is the complex rhythm heavy title track ‘Strange Dance’.

Manzanita / Cleveland, Shana
Mark: Shana Cleveland is best known as the lead vocalist & guitarist for surf rockers La Luz. This is her 3rd solo album, has been getting rave reviews. La Luz were known for their noir-y take on surf-folk, but her solo style is more laid back, with beautiful melodies and sonorous guitar tones. Moving to the country, becoming a new mother, and health scares underpin these reflective tracks, and while it’s easy to get lost in her lovely voice, there is a quiet intensity at play here, a precise and skillful guitar technique, and some melancholy subtext. An ultimately tranquil tribute to california’s natural landscapes, the lush meadows and flower filled fields.

Neil: The third solo album from the La Luz front woman, Shana Cleveland, is a dreamy summer-soaked west coast pop outing, resplendent with elements of baroque psychedelia. She employs a whole host of carefully selected instruments to create the albums delicate atmosphere, from Wurlitzers to glockenspiels. It’s a soft, beautiful, woozy and chilled work underpinned by her sumptuous melodies and wistful singing. There is a balance between light and dark in the lyrics too, which gives the album real depth.

Under an endless sky / Moskowitz, Dorothy
Mark: Dorothy Moskowitz is an underground music icon, the vocalist/lyricist for the United States of America, a groundbreaking and influential 60s psychedelic rock band who developed a cult following with their single 1968 album. She was involved in several musical projects after that before becoming a voiceover artist in the 70’s, recorded music for children in the 80s & 90s, and became a music teacher in the 2000s. She returned to music in the 2020s, & now at 83 years old, ‘Under an endless sky’ (credited to Dorothy Moskowitz & the United States of Alchemy) is a collaboration with Italian electronic composer Francesco Paolo Paladino and writer Luca Chino Ferrari. Reflecting her origins in the avant-garde (she studied with John Cage) this is full of drones, woozy keyboards, electronics and overdubbed instruments along with poetic, imagistic, philosophical lyrics from the two Italians, Francesco and Luca, who were big fans of Moskowitz since they were teenagers. Strictly an online collaboration that overcomes all the reasons why it shouldn’t work, to present a strangely compelling amalgam of experimental soundscapes and her spoken singing and modal vocalising, with some deep ruminations on modern society.

Neil: 83-year-old avant-garde artist Dorothy Moskowitz releases her second solo album nearly sixty years after her first solo release. Her expressive spoken word elements are combined with haunting and experimental electronics. It is a very personal work, blissfully unconcerned with what people might expect or want. Instead she is totally focussed on her art, how that’s communicated and what she wants to say. It is a meditation of sorts on life and death, and the chaotic maw she perceives as the 21st century. In its own totally unique and uncompromising way this work is both poignant and brilliant, but perhaps not for everyone.

Blondshell / Blondshell
Mark: Blondshell is the moniker of Sabrina Teitelbaum, a 25 year old graduate from a couple of prestigious US music schools who previously recorded as BAUM, a pop oriented project she became unsatisfied with. Touted as the next big thing, her debut album as ‘Blondshell’ has arrived after last years impressive singles. Musically this is very much an amalgam of 90s alt-rock from Hole, to Veruca Salt, Belly, The Breeders, and Liz Phair, whilst also touching on the Pixies & Nirvana’s ‘loud-quiet-loud’ sound, and all of it is super melodic and punchy. Thematically it sifts through the detritus of the early 20s of scummy ex-boyfriends, conflicted female friendships, substance abuse, too much partying, and the general uncertainty and disappointments that characterize this time of life. While not necessarily particularly original, what sets it apart is that it has the unflinching and self-flagellating honesty that was the hallmark of Alanis Morissette’s debut, the ability to record the unpleasant aspects of some of her experiences, whilst digging deeper into the psychological underpinnings that send young women into these situations, as well as finding a degree of hope and positivity going forward.

Neil: Blondsell’s (aka Sabrina Teitelbaum) album is a coming-of-age alternative rock outing that channels 90’s bands, like Hole or the Breeders. She uses elements of her own recent past, and her newly found focus and reappraisal of her life, as the springboard for the lyrics. Her past experiences with bad relationships, sex, drugs, bad relationship dynamics, and a constant cycle of empty partying, prove a fertile ground for subject material. The loud-quiet formula is heavily used, with thunderous guitars often employed. If this all sounds a bit predictable, she does find her own voice in both the lyrics and the music. An accomplished outing that has clear roots.

Big love blanket / Personal Trainer (Musical group)
Mark: ‘Big love blanket’ is the debut album from Personal Trainer who are actually a Dutch 7 piece band, even though they sound like quite a lot of the bands in the current British scene, with their mix of spoken word non-sequitur lyrics and indie stylings. They do feature some odd musical mashups, with grunge, classical, Jazz & Electro sounds all colliding on some tracks. The album has a definite late-period Pavement vibe, which is probably no surprise, given that the 2016 debut album of singer Willem Smit’s previous band ‘Canshaker Pi’ was produced by no less than Stephen Malkmus himself. Catchy, if somewhat derritive tracks, but nonetheless a solidly entertaining slice of indie rock. Worth a listen if you enjoy the work of fellow Dutch indie poppers Pip Blom.

Neil: ‘Big love blanket’ is the confident, strange and quirky debut album from seven-piece collective Personal Trainer. It combines the lo fi kookiness of someone like Jonathan Richman’s lyrics, with some widescreen sonic elements from the rest of the band. They’ve created their own musical universe, which is upbeat and positive in a left field sort of way. There are numerous genres and sounds they employ, and you can hear the influence of bands like the LCD Soundsystem and Gang of Four among them.