The only thing I really struggled with here is what to call this post. For me these four albums fit together beautifully in terms of their approach and sheer collective beauty. Listen to these back to back and you are in for some experience. For the most part they are understated and chilled; but each also have a depth to them that mean that they are by no means passive experiences to listen to. So in the end I went with ‘atmospheric’ because each of these albums create such beautiful tones which play the mind in such a meaningful way.
DJINN by DJINN (Rocket Recordings)
This release, along with the recent Paisiel album, sees Rocket Recordings arguably move into more jazz-oriented territory. What may be surprising to some is that the musicians here are members of Rocket stalwarts Goat and Hills. This is another in a series of albums that I’ve recently covered featuring members of these bands (see also Centrum and Laughing Eye), which really does underline the excellent musicianship located within this collective.
Of course, as you would expect, this is not just a jazz album, with many tones and shades taking is on exactly the sort of journey that I envisaged when I was thinking about how I wanted this website to develop. This is an album that, for me, is very much about the journey. This is an album that is very much in the image of its name ‘DJINN’, which mysterious spiritual beings found in pre-Islamic Arabic culture, neither angel nor demon; yet exhibiting qualities of both.
This suggests to me a balance… a path through the known and unknown which DJINN takes with this album. This for me is evidenced through the music which is sometimes dissonant, sometimes harmonious… frequently both. So while, at one level, this seems like a free jazz album… it is really much more than that. It is a really intense and powerful journey… through your own imagination if you let it. Above all though it is an amazing listen from musicians who you would think have been playing this way their whole lives.
Nervous Systems by Wendy Eisenberg and Shane Parish (Verses Records)
Verses Records is one of those labels which seems to live at the margins of many different genres, releasing a series of amazing albums by accomplished musicians who never fail to deliver a masterclass in their chosen field. Because of the liminal nature of much of the label’s output I have often found it difficult to pin down in words exactly what I think about what I hear. Nevertheless these releases deserve to be heard.
This album from Wendy Eisenberg and Shane Parish is no exception. Both are amazing guitarists with a backgrounds in experimental music, who have come together here to create some wonderful sonic lattices which appear to weave themselves before your very ears. The fact that these improvisations were recorded within hours of their first meeting is nothing short of remarkable.
This may sound a strange thing to say, but listening to this set takes me so far away that I forget that I am listening to two guitars, because the sound here is so dense and intense that the means is totally overtaken by the outcome… this is such an amazing performance… a moment in time which has been wonderfully captured.
el diAblo es un magnifico and ihä both hail from Santiago, Chile. This split album comes about as the result of a gig they both played during the former’s reunion tour that took place earlier this year. In common with the other albums here, both these acts are wondrously difficult to place (check out the track featured below to see why).
The el diAblo es un magnifico side is perhaps the most eclectic with a clearly improvisational element that brings in everything from free jazz, through reggae to ambient and noise. This is all welded together beautifully in a manner that seems effortless, and yet on reflection feels deeply structured and far from accidental.
The ihä side is far more ambient in tone, and feels almost poetic in the way that its drones glides through the mind. It is music that has no sharp edges, but rather gradually erodes the mind creating smooth yet defined sonic channels which certainly had a lasting effect on me. I really could listen to this all day and feel very well fed indeed.
Although the two sides to this album are in many ways very different, they do have a certain synergy to them which I find really affecting. Like all the albums here I really feel as if I have experienced something after listening to it.
Sun Cycle/ Elk Jam by Elkhorn (Feeding Tube Records)
Elkhorn are a band that I’ve featured before and, actually, are one than I listen to far more than is evidenced from this website. Their ‘The Black River’ release is also one that I come back to frequently, featuring as one of my Essential Albums of 2017.
This release is actually two albums… same musicians but different atmosphere… that were recorded around the same time. The first, ‘Sun Cycle’, sees the band inhabit new sounds and new approaches through a series of tracks that fairly soar through the psyche. This is an album of great subtle intensity, the sound of three guitars (one acoustic) playing off each other over minimal percussion giving the listener a real feeling of peace within the milieu of a panoramic safe space in which you feel free to roam across extensive sonic prairies. Like all the albums here, this really is music to get lost in… here the horizons are farther away.
By contract ‘Elk Jam’ is a more discernibly intense proposition. There is less space between the instruments, and while this feels by no means claustrophobic there is an element of spatial limitation here that is evidenced after hearing ‘Sun Cycle’. This is not a bad thing, only different. The psychedelic folk elements that I have known Elkhorn for in the past are perhaps more clearly present here as the music cajoles you into alternate states acting as a sort of sonic sweat lodge.
Together these two albums represent a real trip through an America that I really want to still exist. Where the mind is free and you can be close to nature on a big scale. Combined they really represent something that feels authentic and meaningful, something that acts as both an escape and an aspiration.
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Spotify playlists here.