Darts & Arrows – Altamira (avant-jazz)

Avant-garde music (and other art) is animated by a narrative of self-definition – it is the privileged marginal, the self-marking other, whose exteriority to the mainstream is established by virtue of the trailblazer’s enhanced legitimacy, rather than its exclusion from the established sites of legitimacy. But one person’s avant-garde, obviously, is another person’s outsider art, and it is only in the writing of history (from within the established sites of legitimacy) that any such status is assigned with durable authority. This is not to say that ‘the’ avant-garde’s internal claims and narratives render it immune to the operations of power…

Various Artists – Album Roundup

‘Let it be known’, begins the declamation with which Damon Locks opens the first of these two live sets: the immense complexity of the knowing we are invited to share soon becomes apparent. I come across a huge variety of music, much of it extremely creative, inventive, accomplished and unconventional, but rarely do I encounter anything on the sheer scale of Galactic Parables: Volume 1, or anything remotely as ambitious. The performing forces at each of the concerts from which the album was recorded are large but not vast, at ten and eight players respectively, but the creative scope of the music …

Review Of The Year 2014: 20 Albums

My views on end-of-year roundups in general are quite aggressive, and can be read at greater length in the introduction to last year’s selection, here. Suffice it to say that I think anyone claiming to know which are the best few albums released in any given year is seriously delusional; my selection is simply some of the records I liked the most out of those I happened to come across. These records are all seriously good, but there were over a hundred other albums that could equally well have made it onto my list; my advice is, yes, investigate these records, but more importantly, go hunting for …

The Grip – Celebrate (jazz)

This band make a sound with a great big gaping hole right through the middle of it. Conceptually, jazz has been (among other things) about the relationship between single lines and harmony, for a considerable number of decades – perhaps this became an overriding concern with the advent of be-bop, when harmonic complexity increased concurrently with a reduction in the resources commonly available for orchestrating the music. Don’t ask me, I’m not a jazz historian, and I’m far too lazy to do the research, but I reckon it’s plausible. Either way, there’s been an ongoing …

Various Artists – Album Roundup

Richard Pinhas and Yoshida Tatsuya are legendary figures in the French and Japanese experimental rock scenes, respectively. ‘Experimental’ is a term that implies a bit of diversity, and the projects they’ve been involved with have covered quite a range of approaches, so there is nothing predictable about this record, and nor would there have been, whatever it sounded like. Pinhas is a guitarist with a penchant for live looping technology, which he uses here to create shimmering skeins of sound rather than hard-edged rhythmic repetitions, mutating colour fields with texturally filigreed surfaces and pelagically roiling depths. He uses quite pronounced distortion, which takes the music into the fringes of noise, but it is soft and warm, amniotically …

Sons of Kemet – Burn (avant-jazz)

I often start my reviews by talking in general terms about the schtick of the artist or release; creative practice, methodology, how I theorise the music, what my critical approach will be and so forth. However, there’s equally often not that much to say. A lot of good music comes my way that does things in pretty much the same way as lots of other music, good or bad, which leaves my opening remarks to deal with biographical information, or with a discussion of the music’s position within the context of the stylistic categories to which it attaches itself; Sons of Kemet, on the other hand, cannot be …