July 2018 ~ Birds

Воскресение - Кто виноват While taking a peek one day at what friends were listening to on Spotify, I spied Stevie Rocketship listening to some Russian stuff that I couldn't read. Turned out to be the '80's band Voskreseniye, an offshoot of Steve-approved Mashina Vreminy. There's something about this song that just hits me in the right spot. The playing, the production, etc. The title translates to "Who's Guilty" or "So Who's To Blame" in this translation Steve helped me find.

Volta Jazz - Wêrê Wêrê Magne This month I had a couple chances to take advantage of our family membership at the Art Institute of Chicago. My favorite thing there right now is an exhibition of photos by Sanlé Sory, who ran a photo studio in the '60s - '80s in the Burkina Faso city of Bobo-Diaulasso and organized live music shows all over the country - largely as a way to generate material for his magnificent pictures of people gathering to play music and get down. It's called Volta Photo: Starring Sanlé Sory and the People of Bobo-Diaulasso in the Small but Musically Mighty Country of Burkina Faso. He came to notice in the West through the photos on album covers of all kinds of great bands from this scene. Numero Group released this compilation featuring some of the stars of that scene, including Volta Jazz, who rip through this Cuban-inspired burner. The photos are wonderful and the music is wonderful. Check him out. 

Makaya McCraven w/Theon Cross, Joe Armon-Jones, Nubya Garcia - Halls Joining his skills as an improvisational drummer and hip-hop-influenced producer, Makaya McCraven seems to be smack in the middle of inventing a whole new sub-genre of jazz. This record is the third in a series of projects in which he whittles down and rearranges segments of spontaneous jam sessions - like a DJ sampling other music, but the music is his. And there's no other way to hear it. This project documents a series of shows in London, mixing Chicago and London musicians — all making music together without any rehearsal or plan. It's the perfect solution to the inevitable off-moments in this kind of music. Anchoring most of this album with McCraven is tubaist Theon Cross, who showed up on last month's playlist as part of Sons of Kemet. He's a monster. Sons of Kemet and McCraven shared a daytime show at the downtown Apple Store while they were in town last month, and it was sublime. 

Ezra Collective - Space is the Place Another highlight of this month's visits to the Art Institute was Cauleen Smith's video "Space Is the Place: (A March for Sun Ra)". You can watch the whole thing below. This version of Sun Ra's classic is by London group Ezra Collective, one of the anchors of the London scene that Makaya McCraven plugged into for his recent project. 

Ava Rocha - Joana Dark We got sucked back into the second season of the Netflix show 3% this month — a dystopian thriller out of Brazil. It took about 10 minutes for me to accept reading subtitles as a part of the evening "taking it easy" ritual, but after that adjustment the Portuguese is really wonderful to listen to. Stumbling on Ava Rocha while looking for new Brazilian music, I was delighted to find this song, featuring the name Joana, who is one of the best characters on 3%. 

Tshegue - When You Walk Following last month's introduction of the French/Congolese duo. I love the guitar/bass pairing on this, and they way they manage to make a pretty standard rock'n'roll riff sound fresh by giving it a new context. 

DJ Jigüe - Compañeros Tropicales Another encore, this time from the Giles Peterson-shepherded compilation of contemporary Cuban electronica and rap. 

Mala Rodríguez - Gitanas The Spanish rapper's first solo release in five years focuses on the "gitanas" of Andalusia's gypsy community. Superb jagged production and great rapping. 

700 Bliss (Moor Mother & DJ Haram) - Ring the Alarm Wonderfully claustrophobic collaboration featuring Moor Mother's subterranean growl. 

Jlin - The Abyss of Doubt Luckily, my first exposure to footwork was live, and came accompanied by about 12 dancers. Otherwise, I think it would have been impossible for me to understand this music. At once magnificently cerebral and viscerally physical, it's music that is quite literally designed for dancing. This track comes from the score to Autobiography, an evening-length piece by British choreographer Wayne McGregor. The music definitely takes on a different meaning in this context — separated from the impossibly fast twitching of footwork dancing. It takes on new meaning, really. I'll admit that I often can't make it through this entire track on its own. 

Kelly Lee Owens - Birds This was the first summer in five years that I didn't do the Pitchfork Festival, mainly because my attitude toward most of the headliners and second-line acts traverses the no-man's land between apathy and downright antipathy (I never have and never will understand the attraction of the War on Drugs' mushy-oatmeal 80's retread pablum). The more time I spend seeking out amazing rock-flavored music from around the world, the more difficult it is to understand why the Pitchfork Festival seems to ignore anything that isn't sung in English in favor of "not-ready-for-prime-time" indie rock junior varsity nonsense. I was happy to get turned on to Kelly Lee Owens while trying to bust out of my grumpy old man box and learn about the Pitchfork acts I'd never heard of. This song to me sounds tailor-made for Faux Sounds bestie Jon Martin

Arooj Aftab - Lullaby A little gift from Spotify's recommendations. A tranquil wash from the Pakistan-raised, Brooklyn-residing singer and composer.

Youssra El Hawary - Wana Mashi A 2011 song by Egypt's El Hawary showed up on Faux Sounds last September, at which point there was a video online of her making her first full-length with her band. It must have come out shortly after that. 

Onyeka Onwenu- Living Music There were a number of fun musical references in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's great book Americanah, including a comparison of one of the older Nigerian women to the singer Onyeka Onwenu. I'd never heard of her, and Spotify only has a couple of her songs. If you listen closely, this disco-flavored rump-shaker has the odd quality of feeling like it's speeding up for the entire song, even though that's clearly not possible. There's something about the push-pull between the vocals and drums, tugging in different directions. 

Miguel & Natalia Lafourcade - Remember Me Family movie night this month turned us on to Pixar's great Coco, featuring this song in a number of configurations, including this credits-covering rendition by Miguel and Lafourcade. Cheesy? Sure. But in the context of the movie, really moving.