May 30, 2020

Okkyung Lee - Yeo-Neun [2020]

Cellist Okkyung Lee is best known for her visceral attack and extended techniques, which can be heard on past albums such as Ghil. On Yeo-Neun, she embraces the delicacy of chamber music, leading a quartet including Maeve Gilchrist (harp), Elvind Opsvik (bass) and Jacob Sacks (piano). Lee has not lost her experimental edge - she can bend the cello to her will in such a manner that sometimes it's impossible not to focus on her. However, even though she composed the entire album, Yeo-Neun is never solely about Lee. Each tune puts the onus on the quartet as a whole.

May 10, 2020

Irreversible Entanglements - Who Sent You? [2020]

In their debut and the live album released a year after, Irreversible Entanglements wowed audiences with energetic free-jazz poetry performances, and that doesn't stop on Who Sent You?. Camae Ayewa does not have as many lines as on the band's first album, but whenever she does speak she is as effective as ever. The poet's delivery often contains more reserved anger as opposed to the explosive rage that characterized much of her contributions to the band's debut. An impressive cold intensity courses through her voice, and when she does explode, the stellar band supports her with even more fire. Aquiles Navarro (trumpet) and Keir Neuringer (alto saxophone) excel whether they are wailing or blowing through a melodic lament, but the MVP of Who Sent You? is arguably the rhythm section, with Luke Stewart (bass) and Tcheser Holmes (drums) both putting in great performances.

May 6, 2020

Earl Sweatshirt - Some Rap Songs [2018]

Earl Sweatshirt had already released a couple of quality albums, but on Some Rap Songs he found an aesthetic that fit his raps perfectly. Although bleak lyrics are still present, there is a big shift in style from his past work.

May 3, 2020

Ka - Descendants of Cain [2020]

Ka's music is full of moments in which he speaks his essence into existence. In the hook of "Land of Nod", the rapper bluntly states "You can tell I'm in fact a native / I live this vivid shit / I ain't that creative" and by the end of Descendants of Cain, you believe him. When he carefully see-saws between reverence and boasting on "Every Now and Then" ("People I love blood is in the soil that I walk / Where them curbs serve the servant, but it's royal when I talk"), it's impossible to disagree. Ka's recent work is so good that when speaking of him this statement feels almost redundant, however, it must be said - he is a magnificent lyricist.

April 28, 2020

Noah Preminger - Zigsaw: The Music of Steve Lampert [2019]

Noah Preminger is a Boston-based saxophonist with a warm tone, impressive improvisational chops and a strong sense of swing. On Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert, Preminger departs from the more traditional sound of his previous releases. "Zigsaw" is an almost 50-minute composition that trumpeter Steve Lampert wrote for Preminger and the rest of his band, which includes frequent collaborator Jason Palmer (trumpet), John O'Gallagher (alto saxophone), Kris Davis (piano), Rob Schwimmer (Haken continuum synthesizer, clavinet), Kim Cass (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums).