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)

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