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Best Records of May 2019 Featuring Tim Hecker, Don Cherry, Holly Herndon, Mahatma X, and more...

Warning: this update feature the word "jazz" a whole bunch. Phil assures me that every month is a jazz month, so maybe I’m just particularly attuned to the word at the moment. Either way, May’s best records feature the full range of jazz musics: definitely jazz, definitely not jazz, and jazz adjacent. Something for everyone then!

Tim Hecker - Anoyo

It’s not often an artist is keen to revisit a previous record. As far as I can see the usual approach is to release and run… until those anniversary cheques start knocking. Anoyo saw Tim ‘Heckin’ Hecker start a conversation with 2018’s chaotic Konoyo, using the same instrumentation to create a record that is almost its opposite. A rare chance to hear an artist rethink and react to their own practice.


Don Cherry - Brown Rice

Our Tom was so inspired by this reissue of Don Cherry’s seminal Brown Rice that he wrote his first ever Norman Records review about it. And it’s easy to see why. Though nominally a jazz musician, Cherry’s music has much more in common with our Phil’s favourite band Can, than any of his peers. That said, there is no denying the man’s jazz chops and his trumpet improvisations are free and majestic.


Gnoomes - MU!

Russian psych band Gnoomes wield their guitars like Jackson Pollock. Broad strokes of colour applied with freedom and intent makes for an album that is almost unbearably vivid. Just on a sonic level MU! is really quite pretty, and brings to mind the less difficult moments in My Bloody Valentines’ back catalogue. But the trio can also spin a decent song, like the baggy bass’d ‘Glasgow Coma State’.


Fire! Orchestra - Arrival

The biggest band in the world have trimmed the fat somewhat. Previously a 28 piece, now a paltry 14, Fire! Orchestra, have written some of the most intense and music of their careers. It should come as no surprise, they are built on the rock solid foundation of Fire! after all. Beyond the predictably scandi-free-jazz, there’s also a lot of stirring two part vocal harmonies from the group’s two singers, Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg.


Holly Herndon - PROTO

I don’t know how many more ways I can talk about how grateful I am for Holly Herndon. She has such a singular approach to music, merging elements of pop and the avant-garde, with a genuine curiosity about technology, and a clarity of thought. Where else can you hear a choir featuring an AI? Where else can you hear songs as shocking and powerful as ‘Frontier’ and ‘Eternal’? Please drop a line if you have any ideas.


Earth - Full Upon Her Burning Lips

As well as featuring the biggest band in the world, May 2019 also featured an album from the slowest. Stephen O’Malley & co. may have something to say about that but there’s no denying Dylan Carlson and Adrienne Davies’ music is, well, slow. I’m sure most of you are aware of Carlson’s skills in stretching the blues till it’s as long as the horizon, but Davies really deserves a lot of the credit too. Drumming slowly is hard as hell.


Flying Lotus - Flamagra

Hot on the tail of a film that people walk out of for fear of vomiting in the aisles, Flying Lotus returned with Flamagra. The album is less jazzy than You’re Dead and sees Steven Ellison return to the impossibly detailed psychedelic dance music and  hip hop that we saw on Cosmogramma. As usual, the album features a who’s who of psych related musicians like Solange, Anderson .Paak, and one David Lynch.


DJINN - DJINN

I would have to say that the best thing about DJINN, the extremely Rocket Recordings debut from the supergroup formed by members of Goat and Hills, is that the closer is called ‘Djinn & Djuice’. While a lot of psychedelic music certainly suggests the band has listened to jazz, it’s rare that they dare to try the tricky genre. DJINN actually pull it off here, with tracks that are smooth and loungey, and others that are noisy and horrible.


Death and Vanilla - Are You A Dreamer?

Perhaps it’s these heady times that makes bands like Death and Vanilla so appealing. Their fourth album Are You A Dreamer? has been a soothing balm whenever I’ve found the news to be too overwhelming. Glorious synths and other electronics pour out of this record to completely engulf you in a warm fuzz. And occasionally you’re met by a delightful bit of vocal melody, the sunshine on your skin.


Mahatma X - A Mobtown Suite Vol. II

Once you’ve given an artist a coveted Album Of The Year award, you are somewhat obliged to keep listening to them. MALK’s Death From A Love will always be dear to our hearts but the producer’s latest with his trio (beats, drums, vocals) has weaned us off it somewhat. Completely anarchic hip hop beats that chop and change faster than I can comprehend. And all that without ever sounding messy or overwrought.


Jim O’Rourke & CM Von Hausswolff - In, Demons, In!

One for anyone who thinks they like what our Ant likes. This collaboration between Jim O’Rourke and CM Von Hausswolff is loud and frightening. The two 20 minute tracks on In, Demons, In! sound like the universe yawning. They are absolutely immense cosmic drones, the kind that will make you feel small and insignificant. Not usually a feeling we associate with music, but one certainly worth feeling occasionally.


Coming to a shelf near you this June

The one boss you don’t hate is back with Western Stars. Shellac probably aren’t fans of the podcast. Burial continues to be prolific without losing any of the mystery. Nivhek is definitely not Grouper. The long (short) awaited full-length from the Brit School’s black midi. Plus some more lovely Buzzcocks reissues and a ridiculous Tangerine Dream box set.

And maybe even those Björk cassettes.

Still hungry? There’s more food in the release schedule.