Some new releases that have caught my eye, in the midst of finishing up my own music:
Baroness – Yellow & Green
As a fan of this band’s previous work, I had a feeling where Yellow & Green was headed. Even parts of Blue, the band’s last album (2009), speak in a more ambient or reflective light than with a tear-your-face-off approach. That is both amplified and extended throughout this album. In many instances it is downright beautiful: waves of sound that tap into a kinds of genres, mixed beautifully, presented to your ears with care and grace. That isn’t to say that Yellow & Green gets heavy at times, it does. The downtunes are still there — however open-tunings are perhaps more prevalent — to rattle your speakers and ear drums. Impressively so, this is done without loads and loads of overdrive or a subtraction of mids… or any other of the tricks metal bands/producers use to forge a heavier sound. In fact, the producer John Congleton should get a decent amount of credit here. For keeping his presence only shaded in the background, yet still flexing his production muscles enough to channel such an expansive, genre-less sound. This is album that deserves trying, no matter who you are.
A Place To Bury Strangers – Worship
Worship is, by comparison, a much darker and desperate sounding album. And, unlike Yellow & Green, the band is narrowing down their sound rather than expanding it. In A Place To Bury Strangers case this works. Very well. Previously they had been known as a wall-of-sound, throw everything you got into the pot three-piece, who’s brand of noise was cathartic if not a little bit overwhelming. It is a breath of fresh air to hear them strip down their sound. I could be exaggerating a bit however, because of the band’s history: the noises and feedback and ultra-stereo ticks did make their way onto this record. It’s just that now they’re being used as instruments themselves, rather than layers behind the “real” instruments. And they cut in and out, they aren’t a constant. The result is the band’s best sound studio work in their short career, a new path in the direction they were already heading. Refined and subtle (if that word exists in Noise-Rock), with the power and hunger of their previous records.
Ravi Coltrane – Spirit Fiction
This is Ravi Coltrane’s first record to be released on the famous “Blue Note” label. It happens to be one of those cases where the history, the elegance, of the record company seemed to inform the work itself. In a good way. Spirit Fiction is — as AllMusic put it — Ravi’s most cerebral and avant-garde record of his career. In the Jazz world, typically those two things counteract one another… let me explain. The thought that seemed to be poured into every song is immense. This is smart, sophisticated Jazz that strikes with precision. Carefully planned and always thinking five steps ahead. Now, sometimes that sort of thing can lead to an emotion-less, stale type of academic music without soul. Somehow this doesn’t happen on this album. The experimentation, the improvisation, the raw emotion through notation, it remains. Even with all it’s brains, it remains. Also, kudos to the recording technique. Ravi recorded each track with two separate backing bands and they mixed them together. Brilliant.