Kamasi Washington continues to nurture jazz in its classical form with Harmony of Difference, a six-song sort of addendum to his roundly acclaimed master opus, The Epic  for Brainfeeder.
Premiered as part of this year’s Whitney Biennial in NYC, Harmony of Difference is a study on the musical theory of “counterpoint”, which Washington defines as “the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony between separate melodies”, and does so with in the hope that “witnessing the beautiful harmony created by merging different musical melodies will help people realise the beauty in our difference”.
We’re inclined to add at this point, the putative advantages of dissonance and discord, which could also help us understand the place of friction and anarchy in humanity, and another aspect of beauty derived from difference, but Washington has decided to forget a huge other chunk of jazz exploration in this case, leading to five pieces of smooth jazz on the front deftly infusing soul and latin influences, which are all re-combined in the B-side’s sweeping sixth movement.
Further to Forest Swords’ Compassion album, Matthew Barnes coughs up two weather beaten charms with the damaged keys, Zimmer-esque chorales and rocky topography of Congregate, plus the cracked ambient noise bluster of Free.
Hans-Peter Lindstrøm goes deep and lush with Tensions, backed by the 1st ever remix from Will Long (Celer), in suit with the sterling examples of his Long Trax sessions with DJ Sprinkles.
Tension catches Lindstrøm working at a particularly MDMA-triggering vibe with spiralling arpeggios underlined by a bubbling disco-garage-house bass and gently escalating keys primed for lip-smacking moments.
Will Long’s remix distills the essence of Tension to sublime degrees on the flipped. Much like the seven examples found on his Long Trax for Comatose, he trades in thick strokes of subbass and stark, hardly-treated drum machines, doing it with delicacy and patience in a way that will really sink in during early doors slots or in the after-hours.
Killer piece of shoegaze pop-meets-footwork from Blue Angels, a new act spied by the beady eye of UNO (the label who introduced Arca, Fatima Al Qadiri).
Doing with footwork what the early goths did with dub and spiky drum machines in the ‘80s, or the post rock experimenters with D&B in the ‘90s; Blue Angels use the hyper rhythmic language of footwork in a classically forward style to transcend vaporous R&B, juke with a widely appealing soulburn on Sam’s Club.
Don’t sleep on this one. It’s a proper, sore beauty.
Infectious dose of downbeat purple funk from Reginald Omas Mamode IV, one of South London’s Deenmamode siblings, who gives his brothers a run for their funkiest chops with 3 minutes of juicy swangulation.
The first vinyl album release on Rabit’s Halcyon Veil label comes from Vancouver’s Will Ballantyne aka City; offering a mercurial set of metal experiments with caustic, vaporized trance riffs emulating upward motion and weightless dynamics. Highly recommended if you'e into Lorenzo Senni, Logos, Rabit or Croww...
A Goal is an Image is an elusive hybrid of experimental metal and weightless electronics distilled into 11 naturally tempestuous takes on the digital zeitgeist, ripping away its hi-fi sheen to reveal a reactive ecology of overgrown, semi-organic textures and pranging rhythms wrapped up in chaotic harmony.
Will Ballantyne has realised a mean contribution to the conversation around peripheral club music and its electronic production, morphing its perimeters between computer game and film soundtrack tropes, soundsystem-testing prangs, and styles foreign to the putative club experience. The effect is simultaneously hyperreal and severed from the daily grind; a simulacra of impossibility animated with physically reactive impact.
Across the album listeners are torn in and out of ‘the box’, perpetually reframing the sound between naturally elegant and digitally unreal environments in a way that resonates with the LP artwork. He establishes this upending uncertainty with the whorl of field recordings, processed textures and floating, Coil-like harpsichord motifs in Provinces and Your Stream, harnessing a sense of struggle against gravity in the buckshot-riddled mass of Pain/Power and with searing trance riffs nailed into place on End Zone like Lorenzo Senni running a gauntlet of snipers.
City’s experi-metal impetus bleeds thru most strongly in the glowering poise of Inevitable, and with needling bite in the towering recursive riffs of Ffaith, quite literally galvanised thru electronic process, leading to the record’s most captivating, expansive pinnacle with field recordings and sample pack presets diffused into the otherworldly detachment of SAR and his trance dress-down, Immaculate.
As Halcyon Veil’s first full length feature album, A Goal is an Image arguably epitomises the label’s aesthetic - unflinchingly upfront and uncannily emotive - and gives voice to a true outsider spirit.
The Centre Cannot Hold is Ben Frost’s 5th studio album. It was recorded over ten days by Steve Albini in Chicago and represents a pinched, subtler refinement of the billowing structures heard on its predecessor, A U R O R A , as well as a more personalised statement from Frost, who has more commonly been found working to someone film scores for someone else’s storyline with Music From Fortitude and The Wasp Factory.
Accompanied by players Skuli Sverrisson, Nico Muhly, Daniel Lea, and Shahzad Ismaily, and aided by production from Lawrence English, Paul Corley, Daniel Rejmer and Valgeir Sigurðsson; Ben Frost is effectively the triple threat actor/writer/director of his own particular album-cum-movie, rendering a typically melancholic vision of modern ambient and neo-classical storytelling that keens heavy with textural and emotive inspiration from industrial, post-rock and noise paradigms.
The record’s two side openers, Threshold Of Faith and Ionia were issued as single previews of the album, and both offer fair measure of what to expect from the other eight songs, which contract and expand between the scything post dubstep dynamics of A Sharp Blow In Passing and shuddering storm systems of Trauma Theory and the very NIN/Cortini-esque sprawl of Eurydices Heel, to the crystalline ice caves of All That You Love Will Be Eviscerated and the heavy-handed troll-bait epic, Entropy In Blue.
In emotional terms, Frost sums up feelings of apoploptic rage and despair usually only felt when you’ve gone to an outside toilet in Iceland in middle of winter, but forgot the tissue, while the production remains as trustingly tourist friendly as the northern lights. Put this on after GoT while you reflect on another great episode of tits and CGI dragons for optimal effect.
The third of a six album cycle cataloguing The Caretaker’s fictional first person account of life with early onset dementia, presenting some of the last coherent memories before confusion fully rolls in and the grey mists fade away. In this crepuscular, autumnal phase, recollections phosphoresce and wilt in advancing stages of entropic decay, steadily approaching a winter of no return.
Continuing to mirror the progression of dementia, using nostalgia for ballroom as an allegory of the disease, The Caretaker’s musical flow in places becomes more disturbed, isolated, broken and distant. Singular memories, and all their connotations, begin to atrophy and calcify, crumbling away with each rotation of the record - sometimes in curt scene cuts, others in quietly breathtaking reverbed fizzles; like tea lights extinguished, never to flicker again.
These are the last stages of awareness before we enter the post awareness stages, where those memories become completely detached from comprehension. On stage 3, the haunted ballroom's repertoire becomes increasingly muddled, pealing off in recursive contrails from the gestures of Back There Benjamin, to snag on the stylus in starkly reverberant knots on Hidden Seas Buried Deep, or worn down to calloused nubs such as To the minimal great hidden, and Sublime beyond loss, all leading up to some of the project’s most uncanny detachments in Libet Delay and the coruscating brass shimmer of Mournful Cameraderie, which beautifully suggest the mercurial nature of memory and its recollection.