Happy Solstice, and hold on to 2019.
Lots to talk about here, I tell you what.
Confidence Man – Out The Window
Over-the-top Australian dance band releases 90s baggy house record … that sounds sublime and transporting and overwhelming in all the right ways.
Patti LaBelle – It’s Alright With Me
For a Larry Levan / Paradise Garage joint, this sounds pretty chaste, at first listen. But keep at it – the tiny bits of call & response make it all worth it.
Kara-Lis Cloverdale – Grafts
We can stop making ambient / contemporary records, folks. Cloverdale made the best one.
Helen Bonchek Schneyer – Wayworn Traveller
Schneyer’s voice is heartstopping; she sings every syllable at a belt, and sounds like she is standing ramrod straight, two inches away from you.
DJ Koze – Pick Up
Another masterful sad banger from the master of sad bangers – not much more to say.
Pangea – Bone Sucka
It is very odd to me that nuskool breaks are back, but I don’t really mind when they sound this sick.
And, of course, lots of love to a very, very strong list this year:
Violeta Parra – Gracia a la Vida, Joe – Tail Lift, Robyn – Missing U, Cotonete – Le Hustle Parisian, Nigel Canaan – January’s End, Bohannon – Let’s Make A Dance (Danny Krivit Edit), LAPS – Who Me?, and Mike Theodore Orchestra – The Bull
Sylvestre Randafison, Ratovonirina Ranaivovololona & Randrianantoanina Doné – L’Art de la Valiha
It is always nice to see that I am well on my way to being that old techno hipster dude who now listens to African folk music. This particular cognitive bomb of amazing Madagascar zither music is a lovely step down that garden path.
Toshiro Matsuura Group – LOVEPLAYDANCE
Another sign I am getting old: here’s a series of magnificent jazz/funk covers of folks like Flying Lotus and Carl Craig, on Gilles Peterson’s Brownwood, that is just one hell of a collection of jams, bops, and joints.
My man Zach brings an all-star cast of Brooklyn’s finest (including Kenji Herbert on guitar) to a collectiion of jazz-ish-ish tunes that I kept coming back to again and again and again.
Robyn – Honey
Three big tunes, lots of ultra-sparse 90s jams, and Robyn, Robyn, Robyn.
Gwen Guthrie – Padlock
My word, just look at it: “DANCING TIME 34 MINUTES”, Sly & Robbie, Gwen Guthrie, Wally Badarou, mixed by Levan … it is peak boogie and in fact sounds as good as it should be, which is a miracle.
Honors to Julia Holter’s colossal Aviary, Dexter Wansel’s sublimely 1970s Life On Mars, and the tremendously bold and tremendously good version of Remain In Light by Angelique Kidjo.
Body & Soul at Elsewhere
Woooooosh. I mean, I don’t want to say that it was better in the 1990s, but this party makes a very strong case for it.
Wata Igarashi at Nowadays
I used the term “heat lightning” to describe where this all-night set ended up. Which was a true word, but also left out all the deep ambient that Igarashi played in the beginning of the night, the smooth transition up to techno, and so on. A great set.
Boxed 5 Year Anniversary at Bloc
Logos, Mr. Mitch, Slackk, Mumdance, what a collection of sounds, rewinds, and over-the-top chaos.
Antal at Nowadays
The man from Rush Hour did not let us down, covering disco, Detroit, and deepness in general. (This of course does not mention how rad Nowadays sounds, how nice the people there are, etc)
Big hugs to Mike Servito’s electro/acid/tech beatdown at No Way Back at Good room; to the casually ecstatic closing Mr. Sunday at Nowadays; to Boddika and the 45 minutes of blue light at about:blank; to a random, banging-techno Thursday night at La Java in Paris; to the total bassweight chaos of Metalheadz at Fabric; and to Hunee / Lena Wilikins at Sugar Hill.
Fever Ray at RBMA NYC
A comprehensively amazing thing. From the big tunes to the latex accordion number to the world’s most joyous muscle suit, this was pretty great.
London Philharmonic & Patricia Kopatchinskaja at Royal Festival Hall, London.
Well, heck, I got to see Symphony of Psalms live for the first time, and found a new favorite violinist in the astonishing Patricia Kopatchinskaja. I’ve heard recordings of the Stravinsky concerto several times, and none of them prepared me for Kopatchinskaja playing the piece like it was filled with terrible secrets.
Janelle Monáe at Afropunk, Brooklyn
The queen. I saw her at both the small room at MSG and at Afropunk. The MSG set was longer, but Afropunk was clearly who she was talking to, and the show was all the better for it.
Manthe Ribane & Okzharp at Afropunk, Brooklyn
Lucky me, I walked past this duo doing their thing on the small stage to find amazing dance moves, dubby beats, and futuristic vibes. Oh, they’re signed to Hyperdub and are from South Africa? Of course.
Confidence Man at Elsewhere, Brooklyn
You too can have multiple costume changes, never smile, LED underwear, and play straight Aussie electropop bangers for an hour.
The most honorable of honorable mentions to Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith doing Abstractions at National Sawdust, to John Luther Adams’ premiere of In The Name Of The Earth at Christ Church Cathedral, to the stupendous Yaeji at Warmup, to Sarah Davachi at Issue Project and to Zeena Parkins’s harp apocalypse at National Sawdust.
Another low-key set of anything goes from four of the world’s best, just sort of fucking around in London in the best possible way.
Mark Flash on the decks for a near-perfect collection of kinetic, colorful, Detroit.
Grime and instrumental grime still give me the most what is going on feeling – and this set of secret weapons more than most.
After maybe a year and a half of what to me has been plodding, dark-grey techno, Igarashi and co have brought color, texture, and light. Which sounds like a bad architecture magazine, but hey, it is a really great-sounding architecture magazine.
Honorable mentions to Mr. Mitch’s Techno Dancehall masterpiece, Lil’ Mofo’s RA mix, Riobamba’s explosive set for FACT, and Objekt’s kick-less RA podcast.
I was going to keep assembling music from south of the equator until the proper end of summer, on September 23, but it is raining and overcast here in NYC, so let’s line it up – the entire playlist is here, highlights follow.
Tim Maia: I knew about the man of Brazilian music before, but his ultrajam ‘Rational Culture‘ remains too good to ignore.
Valiha: Basically on a whim, I went to Madagascar next, and discovered this zither called the valiha that is utterly spectacular; it sounds like a small guitar one day and a square wave / xylophone the next.
Kuduro: Working backwards from Principe and the Lisbon batida, you come to Angolan Kuduro – which, yes, means ‘hard ass’, and yes, for the reasons you think so.
Madagascar guitar / pop music: Madagascar basically won the summer – this stuff sounds suspiciously like a backing track from Graceland, just a bit weirder and lighter and more interesting
Villalobos: So Ricardo, so Chile, and I am sure Ricardo is cheating, but the RE:ECM album is really pretty fantastic, and was all I went for.
Tango / Piazzola: Argentina. I am not the biggest fan of tango, on the whole, but Piazzolla was a funny man.
Jaipong: So this is probably a shallow reading of wikipedia, but Jaipong appears to be a revival of old old old Javanese music, brought on by a 1961 ban on rock & roll … and which may or may not be a correct version of Javanese folk music, which is of course more fun. Also has rad tempo changes.
Violeta Parra: Chilean music legend, is basically all you need to know.
Tanzanian / Zanzibar “Jazz”: Not jazz (kinda more south/east African guitar music, but maybe with a bigger band), but it is pretty great.
Mr. Bow / Mozambique pop: The whole 6/8 thing with the “four four” kick is just 100% my jam, really.
WITCH / Zamrock: We Intend To Cause Havoc – fuzzy guitars, rock & roll, garage vibes.
Madagascar flute music: I told you that Madagascar was ‘way ahead of everyone here. This is on the more traditional side, but sounds like five Sousa march leads played all at once.
Manthe Ribane: I went to Afropunk to see Janelle Monáe, and ended up seeing this force of nature who is, of course, signed to Hyperdub, as one does.
Or more, as the case may be – but let’s start 3 months of music from south of the equator with Tim Maia.