May 2021: Listening Diary

Early in the month, I finally received a copy of William Parker’s 10-volume masterwork, Migration of Silence Into and Out of Tone World, and have been working through it, segment by segment for much of the month. The maximalism of it is astonishing enough, but so is its variability and off-path experimentation. And by ‘experiment’ I don’t mean it in a genre sense, as in the muscular improvisation and challenging sonic spectrum Parker was known for as a player in the 90s/00s – in this expansive collection, Parker is testing his limits as a composer, often in more familiar song, folk and vernacular forms, and vernacular forms. It’s sobering to take a step back and consider how much work this collection contains, and how little talked about this achievement is. Parker is one of the great surviving risk-takers in the jazz and creative music tradition, and he only has ~6000 monthly listeners on a global platform like Spotify, despite 40+ LPs being available there. In the archive, only the lonely know the way I feel tonight.

Another thread this month was geographic – like last month with recent Francophone releases, in May I turned to the Iberian coast, listening to contemporary fado and its hybrids – the new Bastarda & Joao de Sousa collaboration is really interesting – and made my way down to Catalonia to dig around there. Finally, I found myself listening to a fair amount of contemporary Brazilian work, with Tiganá Santana being a voice I returned to often.


Best Listens (new releases)

William Parker – Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World (Jan 2021)

Bastarda & Joao de Sousa – Fado (May 2021)

Jap Kasai – OWN C (May 2021)

Arooj Aftab – Vulture Prince (April 2021)

Maria Arnal I Marcel Bagés – CLAMOR (March 2021)

Pak Yan Lau – Bakunawa (May 2021)

Magnus Moksnes Myhre & Daniel Herskedal – Desert Lighthouse (May 2021)

Patrick Belaga – Blutt (April 2021)

Laura Cannell & Kate Ellis – May Sounds (May 2021)

Jakob Bro – Uma Elmo (Feb 2021)

Piers Faccini – Shapes of the Fall (April 2021)

Vijay Iyer Trio – Uneasy (April 2021)

Biosphere –  Angel’s Flight (Jan 2021)

Antonina Nowacka – Lamunan (Sept 2020)

Lucia Fumero – Universo Normal (Nov 2020)

Marion Cousin + Kaumwald – Tu Rabo Par’abanico (May 2020)

Big Blood – Do You Wanna Have a Skeleton Party? (Feb 2020)


Reissues

Sun Ra & His Arkestra – Lanquidity (Definitive Edition) (1978, 2021)

Jose Mauro – A Viagem das Horas (1970, 2021)

Yoshi Wada – The Appointed Cloud (1987, 2021)


Five from the Archive (frequent spins, rediscoveries)

Lia de Itamaraca – Ciranda Sem Fim (Brazil, 2019)

Celia Cruz & La Sonora Matancera – Homenaje a Los Santos (Mexico/Cuba, 1972)

Tiganá Santana – Vida Codigo (Brazil, 2019)

Irena & Vojtech Havlovi – Your Golden Boat (Prague, 2003)

Ivor Cutler Trio – Ludo (UK, 1967)

May 2021: Viewing Diary

Film (recent releases)

Gunda – Viktor Kossakovsky

Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time – Lili Horvát

Nina Wu – Midi Z

Together Together – Nikole Beckwith

We Are Little Zombies – Makoto Nagahisa

The Twentieth Century – Matthew Rankin

Still Processing – Sophy Romvari

Four Roads – Alice Rohrwacher

Süden – Christian Petzold

When I Get Home – Solange Knowles

Days of Bagnold Summer – Simon Bird


Film (archival)

1990 double feature:

Close-Up – Abbas Kiarostami

Trust – Hal Hartley

1984 double feature:

Blood Simple – Joel & Ethan Cohen

Body Double – Brian DePalma

My Neighbor Totoro – Hayao Miyazaki, 1988


Serial TV

Fishing with John (USA, 1992)

Mare of Easttown (USA, 2021)

Exterminate All the Brutes (USA, 2021)

Life in Color (UK, 2021)

P-Valley (USA, 2020)

Shadow and Bone (USA, 2021)


April 2021: Listening Diary

Listening was continuous as spring came on, but also random, a-thematic, full of drift. I was often in novels, at times finishing a couple a week, and music was cross-cutting in and out of focus in the background. The epic listen was the new Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders collaboration, which I initially approached with skepticism, but warmed to on repeat listens, and will probably find among the benchmarks for the year, come winter. Depending on my pitch of mind, some things occasionally sounded perfect at night, like Marseille-based Italian composer Alessandro Bosetti’s recent release Didone, and then made me peevish in the day. One thing that constantly worked in reading environments was the hauntological assemblage of Mirry, eponymously titled, which has a great back-story, recounted in the Guardian back in December.

The new Sourdure LP, De Mòrt Viva, dropped in the beginning of the month, and it’s excellent. That, and the recent release from the Swiss ensemble Meril Wubslin, sent me on a Francophone jag for a couple weeks, that included equal doses of French pop and leftfield, and I discovered new (for me) sweet-tooth singers and indie outfits like Jonathan Personne, Klô Pelgag, Sarah Maison and, perhaps my favorite, Gisèle Pape among them. I finished the month with several spins through the new five-year Bongo Joe label retrospective, which is rangy and deep, and of course full of the quirky and outlying French.

Things that made me feel calm and at home in April: mid-80s Wyatt, the new release by young Catalan phenom Rita Payés, and a couple singles from Arooj Aftab, whose Vulture Prince LP should be here any minute. Finally, a couple days ago, a friend also encouraged me to focus in on Los Angeles pianist Jamael Dean, and that seems like a great prompt into early May, a month I’m optimistic about.


Best Listens (new releases & reissues)

CREATIVE / AUTEURS

Floating Points + Pharoah Sanders + London Symphony Orchestra – Promises (2021)

Alessandro Bosetti – Didone (2021)

Pavel Milyakov & Bendik Giske – s/t (2021)

Lonnie Holley & Matthew E White – Broken Mirror: A Selfie Reflection (2021)

Angel Bat Dawid – Harkening Etudes (2021)

Caterina Barbieri – Fantas Variations (2021)

Philip Glass + Tana Quartet – String Quartet #4 “Buzcak” (2021)

Jamael Dean – Ished Tree / Infant Eyes (w/ Sharada Shashidar) (2020)


OUTERNATIONAL

Sourdure – De mòrt viva (2021)

Gisèle Pape – Caillou (2021)

Meril Wubslin – Alors quoi (2021)

Arooj Aftab – Last Night / Mohabbat (2021)

Alfred Kpebesaaane & Brittany Anjou – Nong Voru / Fake Love (2021)

TEKE::TEKE – Yoru Ni (2021)

Florence Adooni – Mam Pe’ela Su’ure (2021)

Sarah Maison – Soleils (2021)


REISSUES

V/A – Futur Antérieur: Bongo Joe’s 5 Years Anniversary (2016-2020)

Joanna Brouk – Healing Music / Hearing Music (1980, 2016, 2021)

Luli Licinha E O Bando – Flor Lilás (1972, 2021)

José Mauro – A Viagem das Horas (1976, 2021)


AMBIENT / LIBRARY

Mirry – s/t (2021)

The Vernon Spring – A Plane Over Woods (2021)

Marcus Hamblett & Katherine Tinker – The Warren (for piano) (2021)

Howie Lee – Birdy Island (2021)

M. Sage + the Spinnaker Ensemble – The Wind of Things (2021)

Sage, Mary, Shiroishi, Jusell – Fuubutsushi (2020)


STRUMMERS / SONGBIRDS

Rita Payés + Elisabeth Roma – COMO LA PIEL (2021)

Chad VanGaalen – World’s Most Stressed Out Gardner (2021)

Tex Crick – Live in… New York City (2021)

Renée Reed – s/t (2021)

Laure Briard – Eu Voo (2021)

Marinero – Hella Love (2021)

Jonathan Personne – Disparitions (2020)

Klô Pelgag – Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (2020)

Marie-Pierre Arthur – Des feux pour voir (2020)

Julien Gasc – L’appel de la forêt (2020)


LEFTFIELD / ODD ENDS

skogar – Paradise City Jams (2021)

Five from the Archive (frequent spins, rediscoveries)

Robert Wyatt – Old Rottenhat (1986)

Boris Grebenshikov + Robert Wyatt – Stella Maris (2015)

Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Joia! (2019)

Otim Alpha – Gulu City Anthems (2017)

Ngozi Family – Day of Judgement (1976, 2014)

April 2021: Viewing Diary

Film (recent releases)

Women Make Film (Episodes 1-7) – Mark Cousins

Small Axe: Mangrove – Steve McQueen

Small Axe: Red White and Blue – Steve McQueen

Small Axe: Alex Wheatle – Steve McQueen

Small Axe: Education – Steve McQueen

About Endlessness – Roy Andersson

Malmkrog – Cristi Puiu

Crashing Waves – Lucy Kerr

Dear Comrades! – Andrei Konchalovsky

The Father – Florian Zeller

White Tiger – Ramin Bahrani

Judas and the Black Messiah – Shaka King

Let Them All Talk – Steven Soderbergh

Mank – David Fincher

Shiva Baby – Emma Seligman

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon – Burton / Becher / Phelan

Biggest Little Farm – John Chester

Over the Moon – Audrey Wells / Glen Keane


Film (archival)

Cane River – Horace Jenkins, 1982

Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941


Serial TV

P-Valley (2020, USA)

The Investigation (2021, Denmark)

The Last Dance (2020, USA)

The Falcon & the Winter Soldier (2021, USA)

March 2021: Listening Diary

The tranquil and contemplative companion music that Mustapha Skandrani and Meitei provided me last month found cousins in March in recent releases by Shida Shahadi (Lake of Fire, 2020) and the monthly collaborative releases by the duo of Laura Cannell and Kate Ellis (January | February | March Sounds, 2021). A reissue / rediscovery of the beautiful 2013 release of The Box Tree by Skúli Sverrisson and Óskar Guðjónsson dug a well that I went back to often over the course of the month.

In terms of more voice-based releases, the new collaboration by Andrew Bird and Jimbo Mathus, These 13 (obscure nod to Faulkner with that title), is the best thing I’ve heard Bird do in years. Effortlessly listenable from beginning to end, parsimonious live recordings with largely violin, guitar, and mandolin – Appalachian folk and raw country, with judicious strings for a nudge of drama here and there. Nothing wrong with it.

Outside domestic turf, a rerelease of Luiz Bonfá’s Reverso do Verso hit right for the roll-out of spring weather, as did the reissue of the Buda Musique collection of Taraab classics Zanzibara Vol. 10. I just found the November release of Tehran TV actress Liraz Charhi‘s new LP – a winning clutch of Israeli-Persian (!) pop with reverent nods to golden-era Googoosh and Ramesh. And speaking of golden eras, MPB auteur José Mauro also seems to be having a new day, with Far Out spinning out new editions of his excellent albums Obnoxius and A Viagem das Horas (the latter earning a full release in late April).

Among leftfield and oddbird finds, recent drops on Bandcamp and Spotify of the 80s recordings of Swiss project Die Welttraumforscher (particularly Die Rückkehr der echten Menschheit (1981-1990)) had me frequently pricking up my ears. As did lumpy/unkempt but consistently inspired releases by Teeth Agency and Fievel is Glauque. Also worth earmarking two French discoveries: the Occitan-language singing field recordist Sourdure (recently with a profile on BC), and a double EP issue of miniatures from Gabriel Gauthier under the name Nevers, Minor Plot Twist and Clueless. Background is cloudy, but foreground is nice. Here we go.


Best Listens (new releases & reissues)

AMBIENT / LIBRARY

Laura Cannell & Kate Ellis – January Sounds / February Sounds / March Sounds (2021)

Lionmilk – I Hope You Are Well (2021)

Shida Shahadi – Lake on Fire (Oct 2020)

Anna Homler & Elizabeth Falconer / Hey String – blue thirty-seven (Nov 2020)

Holland Andrews – Wordless (2021)


OUTERNATIONAL (NEW)

Sourdure – De mòrt viva (2021)

Nevers – Minor Plot Twist / Clueless (2021)

Senyawa – Alkisah (2021)

Liraz – Zan (Nov 2020)

Kutiman – Wachaga (July 2020)


OUTERNATIONAL (REISSUES)

V/a – Zanzibara Vol. 10 (First Modern: Taraab Vibes from Mombasa & Tanga 1970-1990)

Luiz Bonfa – Reverso do Verso

José Mauro – A Viagem das Horas / Obnoxius

Stella Chiweshe – Ambuya!

The Beaters – Harari


JAZZ (REISSUES/REDISCOVERIES)

Skúli Sverrisson & Óskar Guðjónsson – The Box Tree (2021, 2013)

New Muse 4tet – Blue Lotus (2021)

The Modern Jazz Quartet – Continental Escapades (2021, ???)

Hamiet Bluiett – Bearer of the Holy Flame (2021, 1994)


GUITAR AUTEURS

Nathan Salsburg – Landwerk No 2 (Dec 2020)

Mason Lindahl – Kissing Rosy in the Rain (2021)

Pino Palladino & Blake Mills – Notes with Attachments (2021)


STRUMMERS / SONGBIRDS

Jimbo Mathus & Andrew Bird – These 13 (2021)

James Yorkston & the Second-Hand Orchestra – The Wide, Wide River (2021)


LEFTFIELD / ODD ENDS

Die Welttraumforscher – Die Rückkehr der echten Menschheit (1981-1990)

Fievel Is Glauque – God’s Trashmen Sent to Right the Mess (2021)

Teeth Agency – You Don’t Have to Live in Pain (2021)

Kitchen Cynics – Beads Upon an Abacus (Dec 2020)

V/a – Heisei No Oto: Japanese Left-field Pop from the CD Age (1989-1996)

Five from the Archive (frequent spins, rediscoveries)

Meilyr Jones – 2013 (2016, Wales)

Sourdure – L’Espròva (2018, France – Occitan)

Jose Carlos Schwarz – Boca Ke Papia; Udjus Ke Odjas (Guinea-Bissau, 2017)

V/a – Par les damné.e.es de la terre (Des voix des luttes 1969-1988) (France)

DIEUF-DIEUL de Thiès – Aw Sa Yone Vol 2 (Senegal, 2015)

March 2021: Viewing Diary

Film (recent releases)

Can’t Get You Out of My Head (pts 4-6) – Adam Curtis

Notturno – Gianfranco Rosi

Dear Comrades! – Andrei Konchalovsky

Dead Pigs / Birds of Prey – Cathy Yan double feature (2018 / 2020)

A Month of Single Frames – Lynne Sachs & Barbara Hammer

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets – Bill & Turner Ross

My Octopus Teacher – Pippa Ehrlich & James Reed

Boys State – Amanda McBaine & Jesse Moss

One Night in Miami – Regina King

The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin

The Mole Agent – Maite Alberdi

Crip Camp – James Lebrecht & Nicole Newnham

Nomad: In the Steps of Bruce Chatwin – Werner Herzog

Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry – RJ Cutler

I Care a Lot – J Blakeson


Film (archival)

Percival – Eric Rohmer, 1978

Double feature: Vertigo / The Green Fog – Hitchcock (1958) / Guy Maddin (2017)

Double feature: Wanda / Badlands – Barbara Loden (1970) / Terrence Malick (1973)

Outer Space – Peter Tscherkassky, 1999

Citizen Kane – Orson Welles, 1941

Bicycle Thieves – Vittorio De Sica, 1948

Sometimes Always Never – Carl Hunter, 2018

L’Atlante – Jean Vigo, 1934

Nationtime – William Greaves, 1972


Serial TV

The Investigation (Efterforskningen) (2021, Denmark)

Borgen (Season 1, 2010, Denmark)

Lupin (2021, France)

Ted Lasso (2020, USA)

Little America (2020, USA)

The Last Dance (2020, USA)

February 2021: Viewing Diary

Film (recent releases)

Can’t Get You Out of My Head (pts 1-3) – Adam Curtis

Beginning – Dea Kulumbegashvili

Nationtime – William Greaves

Nomadland – Chloe Zhao

Saint Maud – Rose Glass

Minari – Lee Isaac Chung

Another Round – Thomas Vinterberg

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – George C Wolfe

Soul – Pete Docter

Promising Young Woman – Emerald Fennell

Kajillionaire – Miranda July


Film (archival)

L’Atlante – Vigo, 1934

The Last Picture Show – Bogdanovich, 1970

8 12 – Fellini, 1963

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Miyazaki, 1989

V/day double feature: Bright Star (Campion, 2009), Moonstruck (Jewison, 1987)


Serial TV

Ethos (2020, Turkey)

Trapped (2017, Iceland)

Borgen (2010, Denmark)

Pretend It’s a City (2020, NYC)

February 2021: Listening Diary

A random stumble onto a new Japanese issue of Istikhbars and Improvisations on Bandcamp introduced me to the Algerian pianist Mustapha Skandrani, and I’ve been hooked since, revisiting a couple collections for much of the month. Modal improvisations based on Arabo-Andalusian vocal music, as meditative and soulful as Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou’s singular playing, or in another register, the birdsong-derivations of Moondog. Along with Meitei’s Kofu, which I became aware of during the winter holidays, my most frequent listens of the winter months. Kofu is the third in a trilogy of what the producer calls “lost Japanese moods” – loops, cut-ups, ’78 samples seamlessly overlain with an attention and melancholy as ghosty as The Caretaker’s best work.

Some weekend afternoon track-trading with an old friend, Peter Gizzi, turned up a recording of duets (Rhodes, violin – a rare and perfect match) by Cage at his most melody-turned, and I found myself building readerly side-saddle playlists of the above and other meditative over/tonal rich work from Patricia Brennan, Erlend Apneseth, Tarawangsawelas, Lumen Drones, Meara O’Reilly and others. The end of the month finally brought the release (much anticipated for me) of Wau Wau Collectif’s Yaral Sa Doom, and all its open, borderless, blue-sky optimism.

Rich opening of the year. If civilization and sociality is at a pause, the musical imagination continues in force. No end to the sounds that come.


Best Listens (new releases & reissues)

Wau Wau Collectif – Yaral Sa Doom

Mustapha Skandrani – Istikhbars and Improvisations

Nermin Niazi – Disco Se Aagay

4Mars – Super Somali Sounds from the Gulf of Tadjoura

Patricia Brennan – Maquishti

Nahawa Doumbia: Kanawa

v/a – Somewhere Between: Mutant Pop, Electronic Minimalism & Shadow Sounds of Japan 1980​-​1988

Lon Moshe & Southern Freedom Arkestra – Love Is Where the Spirit Lies

Tassos Chalkias – Divine Reeds

Altin Gün – Yol

Apifera – Overstand

New Discoveries (recent releases)

Meitei – Kofū (2020)

Erlend Apneseth – Fragmentarium (2020)

CS + Kreme – Snoopy (2020)

Rob Mazurek & Exploding Star Orchestra – Dimensional Stardust (2020)

Evritiki Zygia – Ormenion (2020)

Kooshin – Layla (2020)

v/a – If I Had a Pair of Wings: Jamaican Doo-Wop, Vol 3 (2020)

María José Llergo – Sanación (2020)

SiP – Leos Naturals (2020)

Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger – Force Majeure (2020)

Rita Payés & Elisabeth Roma – Imagina (2019)

Meara O’Reilly – Hockets for Two Voices (2019)

Lumen Drones – Umbra (2019)

Tarawangsawelas – Wanci (2017)

Five from the Archive (frequent spins, rediscoveries)

Simón Díaz – Tonadas (Venezuela, 1974)

Mustapha Skandrani – Les virtuoses (piano) (Algeria, 1993)

Shirley & Dolly Collins – Anthems in Eden (UK, 1969)

John Cage – Melodies & Harmonies (2010, Lang, Fender Rhodes & Gahl, violin)

Choir of the Pius X School, Purchase, NY – Missa pro defunctis (The Requiem Mass), Solesmes edition (1930)