Soundtracks for the Blind: The Necks // Unfold

One of the most unique and consistent contemporary avant-garde bands, The Necks are perhaps most notable for carving out and perfecting their own meditative niche. On the surface, the Australian group’s roster solicits expectations for a standard jazz trio – Chris Abrahams (piano, organ), Tony Buck (drums, percussion) and Lloyd Swanton (bass) seem to hearken back to the golden age of bare-bones bop and bandleaders like Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. But these Aussies differ in how far they stretch their jazz roots into the avant-garde, comparable to but far beyond albums like John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Pharaoh Sander’s Karma. Though there’s a distinctly transcendental, spiritual vibe to The Necks’ music, the trio’s approach to this style is heavily informed by the sparseness of artists like Evans and Monk, with a considerable focus on minimalism, improvisation and ambiance that stretches their musical atmosphere from a smoky, luxurious piano lounge into a general ether of organic landscapes.

Various Artists – NOISE

In their down time from story-boarding episodes of Rick and Morty and Mr. Pickles for Adult Swim, the team at Williams Street Productions has been an odd source of quality underground music compilations and albums. Not only does their catalog feature works from the likes of Captain Murphy (a.k.a Flying Lotus) and Destruction Unit alongside annual, multi-genre compilations, nearly all of these albums are entirely free to stream and download. If you’re searching for a negative here, there isn’t one, a point the company proved yet again last month with their most avant-garde offering to date. The appropriately blunt title for NOISE should point to the abrasiveness of this collection of tracks; an eclectic range of compositions from an equally broad roster of artists, all of whom approach “noise” as a malleable concept meant to be stretched to its limit.

Soundtracks for the Blind: Eli Keszler // Last Signs of Speed

Before jazz became a regular occurrence in my rotation, I thought bandleaders were exclusively pianists, trumpeters saxophonists given the prevalence of the instruments in the genre. This quickly changed as I ventured further into the genre, exploring the discographies of artists like bassist Charles Mingus and flutist/clarinetist Eric Dolphy (who, to be fair, also played alto sax). But it wasn’t until hearing Jack DeJohnette’s drum solo on “What I Say” – from Miles Davis’ Live-Evil – that I truly fell in love with jazz drumming, drawing me towards eminent jazz percussionists like Max Roach. To be clear, none of this is meant to frame Eli Keszler as a jazz drummer; his playing and composition on Last Signs of Speed doesn’t fit neatly in any particular style. Yet, as I listened to Keszler’s use of texture throughout the album, it reminded me of the songwriting sensibilities of drummers like Roach – musicians with a deep understanding of percussion’s mechanics and how any additional instrumentation should be placed in the surrounding space.

Soundtracks for the Blind – David Toop // Entities Inertias Faint Beings

While it’s unfair to call the “electroacoustic” tag unhelpful, the meaning of it’s name is far more self-explanatory than the works it labels. For those unfamiliar with the genre, the underlying concept is relatively straight forward: electroacoustic music applies any number of digital effects to acoustic (or more accurately, non-electronic) recordings, whether it be instruments, found sounds or field recordings. This method creates a certain detached tangibility – a recognition of the deliberate, musical purpose of sounds which you often times can’t quite link to a specific source. Such an odd bricolage may cause some to question the musicality of these works, but to the contrary, it’s precisely this careful crafting of disparate sounds which established the genre as a unique art form all its own. The process experimental music veteran David Toop used to create Entities Inertias Faint Beings illuminates precisely why this is:

Hey! Listen to Kaoru Abe!

We at Heavy Blog love our jazz. Hell, we have an entire column dedicated to it. Most of that love, however, leans into more fusion and nu-jazz groups (see: BADBADNOTGOOD, GoGo Penguin, or Nick Cusworth’s newly-found romance with VIRTA).  It isn’t to say that we don’t cover avant-garde or free…

Heavy Vanguard Episode 1: Nurse With Wound // Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella

First of all, welcome to a new installment at Heavy Blog that we’re calling Heavy Vanguard. This is a podcast wherein Heavy Blog Editor Scott Murphy and myself (Jimmy) discuss avant-garde and experimental music. Each episode follows an intense, in-depth discussion of an experimental album that is in some way relevant to the world of music. Genres or popularity (i.e. “underground” or “mainstream”) aren’t considered when we pick an album; it’s more about a release that, regardless of how it sounds or how it’s been received, has pushed the boundaries of music in some way or another. Each episode is short (under half an hour), acting as a launchpad for people interested in exploring what the avant-garde has to offer. Today’s album is the debut Nurse With Wound album Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table of a Sewing Machine and an Umbrella.

The Living Earth Show – Dance Music

Given the modern understanding of “dance music,” listeners may expect The Living Earth Show’s sophomore album to toy with synth melodies and simple snare-kick patterns. And while this may be true to a small extent, guitarist Travis Andrews and percussionist Andy Meyerson serve a reminder of the boundlessness of what can soundtrack dance and, inversely, how dance morphs as an art form depending on its sonic backdrop. All five tracks composed for Dance Music were written with dance in mind and ultimately conjure unique, off-kilter imagery ranging from club fare to interpretative dance. And though not every experiment is a success, the duo maintain intrigue at the very least.