New Music of Note, May 2016
Some really good music coming out in 2016. We continue the streak with an EP from an up-and-comer, a new album from a venerable electronic act, and a new old album from a jazz legend.
Humans, Water Water EP
Only two songs, but what impact. Spartan, Suicide-like beats filtered through the lens of retro-futuristic synth pop. The beats are dance-friendly, the bass is earth-shaking, the vocals just catchy enough. Last year’s album Noontides was great; this quick glimpse into what’s next for Humans is tasty tasty tasty.
Underworld, Barbara, Barbara we face a shining future
More than any genre, electronic dance music weathers quickly; last year’s bleeding edge is today’s $5 MP3 album. Few recordings are timeless. (Witness the awkwardness of 1995 Chemical Brothers. Or the instantly dated 2013 Skrillex.) Underworld were birthed in the embryonic goo of early rave sound, but since Beaucoup Fish, they’ve delivered a series of thoughtful, lyrical, emotional albums that emphasize the “music” part of electronic music.
Barbara, Barbara we face a shining future (BBWFASF) is a well-conceived contribution to their catalogue. It balances moments of tranquility (“Santiago Cuatro”) with club bangers (“I Exhale” and “Low Burn”). While the synth sequencing, builds, ambient drops, lyrical incoherence and fearless track length are all signature Underworld, this album achieves a certain “total maturity” that in past records was compromised by goofy beats or silly lyrics.
This cohesion is possible in no small part to BBWFASF’s relentless editing. Despite the tonal similarity to Oblivion with Bells and A Hundred Days Off, there is zero waste for the listener: all seven tracks are essential, and each is trimmed to optimal length.
BBWFASF is not a magnum opus, but it’s really darn good.
Bill Evans, Some Other Time
Strange to be reviewing a recording from 1968, and even stranger to be talking about a “new” Bill Evans recording, but this landmark is the rarest of treats for jazz fans: not a set of outtakes, or obscure live recordings, but a genuine studio recording never before released.
The double LP (released for #rsd2016) is pristine. The packaging is elegant, and a full-size booklet comes loaded with liner notes, interviews and photographs. The wax is heavy and utterly perfect; no hiss, tremors, bumps or hums mars the velvety quiet soundstage. The music leaps from the speakers, cast in you-feel-like-you’re-right-there stereo.
And of course the music is exceptional. The melding of Evans, Eddie Gomez and Jack DeJohnette is sublime as they dance their way through the 21 (!) tracks. Tonally, it’s a close cousin to other Evans’ trio albums like “A Waltz for Debbie” and “Live at the Village Vanguard”, both classics.
If you love Bill Evans, or any piano-driven jazz, this is essential.