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MELOMANIA rolling in with a (seven) bursts of cool music
to relieve the blasted heat
MARTIN COURTNEY - Magic Sign [LP/CD](Domino/Redeye)
Like his 2015 solo debut "Many Moons," because of Courtney's familiar wispy voice and placid strumming - "Magic Sign" still sounds like Real Estate. However, Courtney writes, sings and produces with total freedom on this new album. "Corncob" in the hands of his band would likely sound more bucolic. On "Magic Sign" his ornate arrangement with synths and steel guitar swells so elegantly you barely notice the chord changes. Finally, the phased-out humming guitar solo builds perfectly to its natural conclusion. The real leap forward is the masterful "Sailboat." With its rising chord progression and its Cheap Trick-ian mixture of resonant bass notes and jangle guitar, "Sailboat" may be the most propulsive track in Courtney's catalog. With the heft of the song hoisted on the consistent shoulders of drummer Matt Barrick, Courtney, and co-producer Rob Schnapf (who last transformed Steve Gunn and his sound on 2021's "Other You") turn in a track that sounds as fantastic on the album as it does on repeat.
JAGUAR SUN - All We've Ever Known [LP](Born Losers)
Toronto's Chris Minielly has a lot of ideas as a singer/songwriter. While most of the tracks from his album aim squarely for Dream/Indie Rock, the mixture of Electronic instruments and chiming Folk guitar he uses to get there bode well for his future. The Nineties haze that washes over the glowing "With You" is most indicative of his commercial potential. Like a more closely-miked J.Spaceman, Minielly's almost monotone vocals give the rhythmic boost to verses. Jaguar Sun is not just another new Psychedelic band. "One Day" could easily be a Pop song in other hands. There is something that is both so gentle and yet so sad as Minielly wavers over "guess I'm feeling fine" in its sparkling chorus. The Folk-y guitar on "Midnight Man" feels miles away from the other tracks, but Minielly makes it all fit together. While he is another song that plugs in all the machines that provide its sunlight, Minielly finds a brilliant and direct way to describe how far away from reality he feels. Promising songs and imaginative production make Jaguar Sun one to watch.
THE WEDDING PRESENT - "Once Bitten/Kerplunk!" [7"] (Clue UK/Scopitone/The Orchard)
British Indie Rock legends The Wedding Present have vowed to release a new single every month during 2022. A dangerous proposition for any artist, much less one that has been cranking out consistently good music since 1985. (Also, it should be noted they did this in 1992 and all twelve singles charted!) So far every 7" release has been both a delightful throwback ("We Should Be Together" with Louise Wener of Sleeper) and modern thrillers ("I Am Not Going To Fall In Love With You.") David Gedge and Jon Stewart (formerly of Sleeper) are on a real hot streak. "Once Bitten" punches up a Post-Punk rumbling (almost "Come As You Are") bassline that the pair could honestly hang the whole song upon - however, then you would not hear the great slashing guitar strikes that accent the sweeping chorus. The B-side "Kerplunk!" is brilliant. The hiccuping bass, Gedge almost whispering romantically over it, and Stewart's guitar wail turn this one into a more Big Rock version of the immediacy of "Bizarro." By the time they get to the harmonious denouement and the very R.E.M.-ish ending - you just know you simply cannot wait for these songs to show up on an album.
JESSIE BUCKLEY AND BERNARD BUTLER - For All Our Days That Tear The Heart [LP/CD](Universal UK)
For all his exploits as a guitar player with highly expressive singers, Bernard Butler's solo career has proven him to be a worthy singer/songwriter on his own ("People Move On" was reissued last year with several illuminating extras.) However, paired with actress Jessie Buckley, they have made an album that is strangely steeped in American Folk as it blossomed into Pop and Rock in the Sixties and Seventies. Buckley sounds like Laura Marling, using her rich voice to draw you into the stories here to tell. "Seven Red Rose Tattoos" uses very little instrumentation to light her illustrative fire, but it is enough to push this imagistic song into Joni Mitchell territory. "Babylon Days" comes the closest to British Folk with its Irish underpinnings. Butler's production and sparking acoustic work could easily drift into the background given the power of Buckley (and her multiple voices on the Fred Neil-esque "20 Years A-Growing,") but he seems to have a Scott Walker-esque framework in mind for each track. The heartbreaking title cut echoes Gospel, Blues, and even Jazz in its background ideas, but honestly, it only needs the acoustic strums of Butler to unleash its emotional storm. In the real music world, this cut would be the one all those American Idol-wannabes would wish to show their skills on. For Buckley, it is both vocal performance and method acting. As she soars on the notes in the end, you honestly feel it in your soul. Who knows. Maybe they just secured the next Bond theme. This union can only get better from its fantastic start.
TRIPLE DECKER SANDWICH OF NEW JAZZ
GAUTE STORSVE TRIO - El Gran Gotzilla [LP/CD](Apollon)
TRONOSONIC EXPERIENCE - The Shadow I/II [LP](Apollon)
PHI-PSONICS - The Cradle [LP](Gondwana)
Outside of the hotbeds of New Jazz in Los Angeles and London, several groups are taking formation around inspired playing and an alchemical reaction from mixing Jazz with other music.
The Nordic Jazz Trio may have the “cool” of Jazz built into their well-composed tunes, but their real heat comes from the incorporation of Latin polyrhythms beneath it all. Guitarist Storsve displays both a level of Scofield-ian lyricism and Robert Fripp-ian experimentalism. The opening “Las dos Fridas” is built around beautiful chording and soloing from Storsve and the surprising violin of Ingrid Berg Mehus. Beneath Storsve, his rhythm section of bassist Petter Barg and drummer Henning Carlsen know went to lay back and when to lock in on maintaining its soothing-but-melodic groove. The more Rock oriented “The Lucha Libre Lullaby” shows more of the skills of Barg and Carlsen to intermesh while Storsve gets to wail and be further boosted by horns. “El Gran Gotzilla” still feels mostly like a traditional Jazz record from the Seventies. However, the creativity of composition and the band knowing just when to punch out of a few hints of melody for the promising Storsve is the true highlight.
Oslo’s Tronosonic Experience is possibly hammering away at what we will call “the new big band sound.” Like Don’t Problem or the less Electronic moments of Melt Yourself Down, Tronosonic Experience is very interested in using Jazz as a starting point to explore grinding Rock (“Beehive”) and Funk (“The Shadow of the New Pretorian.”) Their horns concoct some huge riffs and manage to hold all the intricate breaks and fills together like a band twice their size. “The Shadow” releases not all massive, “Chiaroscuro” is a slow, meditative jam with otherworldly guitar.
Finally, it’s back to Los Angeles for The Phi-Psonics, another new Jazz group that beautifully incorporates weaving keyboard and horn melodies with African polyrhythms to a near-hypnotic effect. “The Cradle” is largely a mood piece. However, the Phi-Psonics carry that innate capability to draw you in immediately (the epic beauty of “Like Glass”) and hold your attention with melodies that seem to just dangle in the air (“Still Dancing”) and float away into the interstellar space they create. Bassist Seth Ford-Young has assembled a band that makes music that sounds as perfect as 1965 (the sax/Rhodes runs on “Desert Ride”) yet as mystifying as Spiritual Jazz (“Drum Talk.”)
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