April 2018 ~ Euclid Records, Window on the World

Derya Yildirim and Grup Simsek - Nem Kaldi I've accidentally found myself on a Turkish music kick the last few months. The production and playing on '60s and '70s psychedelic-tinged folk, rock, and funk out of that region just knocks me out. Proving the theory that all of music history is alive and well on planet Earth, here's a contemporary group out of Hamburg, Germany that specializes in honoring and updating the music from that time and place. Led by the silver-voiced Yildirim, who also plays the saz (and, in this video, the sax). One of the things I appreciate about this song is the sneaky dissonance created by the saz's microtones against the guitar and bass's traditional 12-tone scale. It's something you hear also in Noura Mint Seymali's music, and I bet a lot of other music that blends modern western genres with older folk music from "the east" (for lack of a better catch-all). 

LUMP (Laura Marling & Mike Lyndsay) - Curse of the Contemporary LUMP is a kind of miniature supergroup from two of my favorite British folk experimenters - Marling and Mike Lyndsay, one of two leaders of the group Tunng (whose Comments of the Inner Chorus is on my "List of Essential Albums"). This collaboration continues the evolution of Marling's music in a more pop-oriented direction, maintaining the unique mix of spiky attitude and vulnerability that marble all of her work. "Curse of the Contemporary" is the first single from the coming album. The video for the song is as great (if not better...) than the song itself. I'd kill to know who this dancer is. They must be so sweaty in that thing!

Lord Huron - Ancient Names (Part 1) A band I hadn't really listened to before this new album came out. Building on a solid center of pop-oriented folk-rock, it manages to thread the pitfalls of that genre (think Mumford & Sons) with muscular rock grooves and a voracious psychedelic creature nibbling on the edges, sometimes taking a big chomp. Naturally, it's the weird stuff - the spaced-out harps, the disembodied voices - that I appreciate most. The extended video for the album on their website (below) does a magnificent job of conveying the vibe they're chasing, mixing hazy performance footage with all kinds of other ephemera, kind of like a cable access channel run by Timothy Leary and Anton LaVey on the moon. 

Keith Mlevhu - Love and Freedom We took advantage of a work trip to a conference in New Orleans to spend a couple days tooling around that fantastic music city. I made a pilgrimage to Euclid Records, where my fond memories from a visit in 2014 were confirmed. Euclid is just one of the best record stores I've ever been to, both expansive and expertly curated at the same time. Every section is chock full of gems, including the seemingly off-to-the-side world music section, where I stumbled on a record by Mlevhu whose cover caught my attention. A star of Zambia's late-70s "Zamrock" scene, Mlevhu played all of the instruments on his recordings and was infamously combative with other musicians, press, politicians, etc. (All this according to Peter Moore over on africanrevolutions.com) It's not sophisticated music, and fundamentally very derivative of American rock in a way that you'll hear in a lot of African rock from this era. But there's an undeniable spirit to it. 

Tsvia Abarbanel - Im Nin'Alu One of those funny random Spotify rabbit hole finds, an Israeli-Yemeni singer from the '70s, sounding an awful lot like something out of Ethiopa in that era. It's a little difficult to find info on Abarbanel, but the website interstellar medium has a pretty concise bio, and it's fun. Check it out here. 

Delvon Lammar Organ Trio - Concussion More organ! Another funky fun accidental stumble.

Jean Grae & Quelle Chris - Ohsh Jean Grae has been one of my favorites since her debut album Attack of the Attacking Things back in the early 2000s. Really fun to hear her here with the equally fun and intense Quelle Chris. This record really manifests the mix of high anxiety and "laugh to keep from crying" ironic sensibility that all deep thinking/awake people need these days. Plus, I love a solid Hannibal Buress rap cameo. 

Agnosia, feat. Sammus - Lisa Simpsons A great collaboration that turned me on to rapper Sammus. A song that, as Pitchfork said, "doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of systemic oppression." An interesting irony that this song, which posits Lisa Simpson as the avatar of fearless activism, came out the same month that The Simpsons came under heavy fire for using Lisa to dismiss the controversy over the Apu character, plumbed in depth in last year's The Problem With Apu.

Awa Poulo - Djulau Another gem of a find from an hour at Euclid Records. A new recording from the Malian singer, a member of the Peulh-speaking minority. Check out the album's Bandcamp page with notes from the label Awesome Tapes from Africa, which released the record - her first international release.  

Bombino - Deran Deran Alkheir (Well Wishes) OH MAN! Bombino continues to be at the forefront of the Tuareg rock wave. Searing pace, cutting rhythm. Love it. Check out the whole new album, his first recorded home in Niger in over a decade. 

Martin Carthy - Trimdon Grange For fingerstyle folk guitarists (especially those with interest in Irish and British music), Martin Carthy is a kind of high priest. I had the opportunity to see him live this month at the Old Town School of Folk Music - something I thought would never happen. My dad and his music partner Will came down from Milwaukee just to see Carthy. At 76 years old, we weren't sure how diminished he would be. It was clear he's slowed down, and he talked about that from the stage, but it hardly mattered. No matter how fast/slow or intricate/simple the song, Carthy bends rhythm to his idiosyncratic will in way that sometimes seems mystical. Simply put, no matter how closely you watch there's always a moment of total disorientation, because he's constantly diverging from time signature and tempo. It's just some witchy, olde fashioned English funk. Basically. This is one of the songs he played, and the whole time I wasn't sure if this was the moment when his frailty came peeking through - the strumming seemed so wooden, jerky. But no, this recording demonstrates that is by design. What a treasure.   

Lau - Ghosts Waiting for Martin Carthy to come onstage, Will and I got to talking about their recent tour in England, Ireland, and Scotland. While describing their adventures in Edinburgh, he turned me on to folksinger Kris Drever, who performs solo and with this adventurous trio alongside Martin Green on accordion and Aidan O'Rourke on fiddle. This song just slays me, both the ocean-deep singing and playing and the genius lyrics, which evoke immigrant experiences of all kinds - tying the past to the present, preserving all that's complicated in that endeavor. 

We say we're not like them
A generation ago
We came on the same ships we were hidden below

We came seeking protection
Away from the strife
Away from the struggles and the hardships of life

I'm not an incomer
My parents were ghosts
Sir I was born here
So where would I go?

There's ghosts on the motorway
The world is on fire
There's ghosts on the sandflats as the water gets higher and higher

There's ghosts in the brothels
Behind thick stony walls
There's ghosts and their children in prison food halls

I'm not an incomer
My parents were ghosts
Sir I was born here
So where would I go?

H. Hawkline - Means That Much Continuing my Welsh rock obsession, H. Hawkline (Huw Evans) plays regularly with Cate LeBon and it's clear that they're influencing the hell out of each other. I don't know what it is about this sound that gets to me. On its face I feel like I should find it annoying - the coolness, emotional detachment. There's just nothing else like this and I love it. 

Okkervil River - Pulled Up The Ribbon An advanced single from the new album by Will Sheff, who has slyly become one of the most reliable indy rockers around.