As the musical alias of Ben Lamdin, Nostalgia 77 started, like many of the nu-jazz artists who appeared in the late ’90s and early ’00s, as an instrumental outfit informed by hip-hop and incorporating synthesised beats. And, like the majority of those same artists, he gradually departed from this initial modus operandi in a fashion that, on reflection, seems almost retrograde. On second album The Garden, Lamdin branched out to team up with singer Alice Russell on a cover of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, to wide acclaim. Assured by this success, he then dived even deeper into vocal jazz on 2007′s Everything Under The Sun with honey-voiced guests Lizzy Parks and Beth Rowley. This process of de-electrifying and over-jazzing is documented also in the creation of the Nostalgia 77 Octet, a body of nine (eight guests plus Lamdin) instrumentalists performing acoustic improvisations on his material along with new compositions.
Following this trend, The Sleepwalking Society plays as a cute duet between Lamdin and Josa Peit, his new vocal muse who steals most of the show for herself. It’s amusing to follow all the mutations of her voice; Peit can sound tender, almost caressing, but she also clearly revels in the role of stark, untameable diva, and her combining of jazz phrasing with soulful vigour is both stirring and sincere. The bottom line of The Sleepwalking Society is its diversity and thoughtful changes in mood and tempo, and Peit’s influence is crucial. That said, it’s the mid-paced jazzy songs that have the greatest representation here, and show Lamdin’s unarguable progress in composing for classical instruments and his full understanding of the chemistry between them.
Decades on from its mid-’80s breakthrough, dark electronic music is once again in the ascendant, perhaps as a reaction to the predominance of electronic artists operating at the more glossy and simplistic end of the synth-pop spectrum. One new player in the yard is Katie Stelmanis, whose name may be familiar from the indie-pop excursion of her 2009 solo record, Join Us. When that album failed to gain the degree of critical traction it deserved, Stelmanis teamed up with drummer Maya Postepski and bassist Dorian Wolf to form Austra, an obviously more ambitious project that feels very current but, crucially, like a natural progression.
Beat & The Pulse, their debut EP, relies heavily on Stelmanis’s strong vocal figures. A one-time hopeful opera singer (she withdrew in light of the genre’s rigidity and total lack of gay representation), her voice possesses the qualities and colour expected of someone who has completed formal training. Her intonation is assured and exact, her range impressively wide, and she knows how to portray emotions in nuanced and varied ways that occasionally disclose her Italian and Latvian roots.
Puzzle Muteson is singer-songwriter from Isle of Wight in the South England who has freshly signed to Bedroom Community. This label founded by Valgeir Sigurðsson in Reykjavík promotes a strategy of quality over quantity and brought musicAddicted's favourite albums recorded by Ben Frost (Slovak written), Daníel Bjarnason and Nico Muhly. Joining classical music with experimental, ambient and even folk works spectacularly when given into their hands and it seems that Puzzle Muteson is another example of their collaborative genius.
The most obvious gift of this self-called mysterious man is his tenor with arty and well-trained vibrato that is neither pushy nor fictitious. Rather than his label’s colleague Sam Amidon, his intonation and way of expression reminds of early Damien Rice, while the subtlety and straightforward boyish charm hidden in his highly pitched voice brings to mind Perfume Genius. Although delicious fingerpicked guitar are often taken for granted when speaking of singer-songwriters, Puzzle Muteson’s leads his voice through various states of his composition which is later complemented by tasty strings, possibly arranged by Sigurðsson & Muhly. Yummy fragility. En Garde is first song of similarly titled debut album En Garde which is out on June 6th. En Garde is offered for free download via Puzzle Muteson’s Bandcamp profile.
Colorlist: Improvisional, inspiringly elegant spring jazz
Colorlist are jazz duo based in Chicago, whose genre and direction are tricky, nearly impossible to capture properly. Charles Rumback and Charles Gorkzynski combine old-fashioned conceptualism and emphasis on the instrumental virtuosity with modern-jazz incorporation of electronics, wide range of drums and percussion. Various influences - from instrumental post-rock to world music, to free-jazz - are mixed into attractive and stylish sound which is natural and unaffected. Fortunately, being modern doesn’t result in simplistic approach or experimention for its own sake; Colorlist try newness with retaining the classic jazz principles that make this genre unique. Traditionalism is even deepened on their latest record, The Fastest Way To Become The Ocean (Serein) while the electronics serve just for multi-layering and polishing the sound and free-jazz is present in the improvisational part of it.
Above-mentioned world inspirations are palpable right in the opening track, Light Conditions. Gorkzynski’s saxophone sounds initially as if he was just waking up with the mouthpiece inside his mouth and the tones he’s making are still following the dream taking place somewhere in the Far East, which now has to be left behind. The reality awaits us. The floating consonances of moody harmonium and mild percussion nicely set the atmosphere wherein the saxophone gradually increases its urge and complexity while still tempting the borders of rhythm and tonality.
Hauschka, the moniker of German pianist Volker Bertelmann seems to be overflowing with creativity. Just few month ago he released his most expansive album, Foreign Landscapes, which added full symphonic orchestra to his adventurous piano arrangements. It mainly mapped his musical trips back into his childhood along with observations gained through traveling to various countries.
Now, Hauschka is back with new full-length Salon des Amateurs (out on April 11th via FatCat) which shifts Bertelmann into different musical territories. Piano prepared with foils, tapes or strings for which he got well-known works here as a part of percussion body. On Ping, the first song out of the forthcoming album, dominating piano is supposed to sound as guitar, glockenspiel, flute or bass and this way it gains few new faces while forgetting a bit its former, raw sound. It serves as a rhythm-setter and the bottom line of the movement that characterizes this composition. Also, it reminds me of creative approach recently made by F.S.Blumm and Nils Frahm on their improvisional and very rhythmic-oriented collaboration Music For Lovers, Music Versus Time, released on Sonic Pieces. Flow of click-clack sounds, staccatos and rhythmic fragments seems relentless, almost unstoppable. Based on Ping, the full-length will be less dreamy and emotional, but more exploratory and positively-sharp piece showing even more playful and perfectionist side of Bertelmann. (You can download Ping for free via The Fader.)
Tropic Of Cancer is duo consisting of Camella Lobo and Juan Mendez, one part of Sandwell District (who released an impressive minimalist deep techno album called Feed Forward few months ago). The LA pair caught the attention of alternative media with their cold, almost spooky approach to odd shoegaze and lo-fi electronics on their The Dull Age / Victims vinyl. Categorizing their music seems worthless as they synthesize various influences— from krautrock to minimal wave— and put them into strangely cold and desolately sounding pulsating mass. After two years of silence they arrive with an epic track Be Brave and new EP released via Blackest Ever Black. Just two excellent releases by mysterious dark electronic duo Raime who released one of the best alternative albums in 2010, raised the label’s prominence.
Blackness and mystic darkness are the very core of BEB music and Tropic Of Cancer's new EP, The Sorrow Of Two Blooms, seems to be no exception. A Color, its leading track, breaks their pure instrumental approach and raises Lobo’s vocals higher from the echoed bass and tight electronic surfaces, but retains their cryptic aesthetic through reverberations that restrain listener from understanding the lyrics. Lobo sounds very abstract, as if she was searching for some unknown object in a thick mist. It’s not hopeless or sad, A Color sounds both coldly stark and bit frightening. Blackest Ever Black is the new guarantee of inspiring and freezing darkness.
Marissa Nadler has just announced that the recording of her new album which was financed by her fans and belongs to musicAddicted’s most anticipated albums of 2011, has finished and we should get ready for 11 songs that create a proper album. Moreover, another 4 songs are expected to appear on a companion EP. As an appetizer, Marissa is giving her new song away for free. Baby, I Will Leave You In The Morning is Nadler’s most self-confident and most vigorous song yet. She’s accompanied by a full band with echoing, high-pitched guitar, drums and a beautiful xylophone in the background. But her Hope Sandoval-like groove and David Lynch’s dream pop mixed with blues and schmalzy pop increase the catchiness. Marissa sounds stronger, almost resolute. She’s no more that lo-fi sweet girl - Marissa becomes amazing woman. Download the song via Epitonic or Bandcamp.