Zion80 – “Metatron”

Exploring Jewish music through the inspiration and lens of legendary Afrobeat godfather Fela Anikupalo Kuti would already be no easy task for anyone with the balls enough to attempt it. But 13-piece band Zion80, led by Jon Madof, isn’t afraid to step into a musical world uninhabited by the majority and make the songs their own, which is exactly what they do on “Metatron”. The nearly 10-minute track is a wild but supremely focused mix of bold, brave horn sections, heavy percussion and enough screaming, mind-melting electric guitar effects to make a grown man squeal like an unhinged schoolgirl. Zion80 gives a mix of the traditional, the psychedelic and the hypnotic on “Metatron”: it’s not quite all Afrobeat, not quite all klezmer, not quite all rock. But when the parts collaborate to make the sum, it truly adds up to something unexpected and powerful.

- Ron Grant

Portico – “Bright Luck” (ft. Jono McCleery)

Once fusing electronic music and jazz on fantastic albums such as Isla and their 2012 self-titled LP, Portico Quartet were one of the most interesting modern music groups to come out of the UK. However, the band’s undergone a few major changes as of late:

1. They’re now a trio.
2. They’re now known simply as “Portico.”
3. They’re signed with Ninjatune.

They’ve got a new album on the way as well titled Living Fields, and “Bright Luck” is the first track to drop from it. The song is a stylistic change of pace, finding the band leaning less on their jazz background, and more on the current trend of ethereal, exploratory, R&B-tinged electronic pop. Jono McCleery’s vocal performance is quite wonderful, but I can’t say the instrumental does anything other than make way for him, really. While I don’t mind this track, I hope the band is still able to showcase their instrumental muscle and finesse on some of the deeper cuts here as well.

Look for Living Fields on March 25th.

Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – “Sunday Candy”

OK, OK, OK. Take a listen to this track. Recognize anybody? Yes, that’s Chicago rapper-singer Chance The Rapper‘s voice there. While he doesn’t get top billing on this track, he is very much a part of a four-person musical act called The Social Experiment. There’s been rumor for a little while that Chance was going to be releasing a project titled Surf soon, and this seems to be what he was talking about.

The Social Experiment’s remaining members include the likes of Peter Cottontale, Nate Fox, and, of course, Donnie Trumpet. Mr. Trumpet is also known as Nico Segal, and used to play in Kids These Days with one of Chance’s close friends Vic Mensa.

Now, together under this Social Experiment umbrella, Segal and company have released this stellar new single. It’s a spectacular blend of pop, hip hop, gospel, and soul. It features some a wonderfully beautiful vocal melodies, bright horns, and an endearing piano as well.

Really excited to hear how this experiment pans out!

Black Spirituals – “Radiant”

With Of Deconstruction, Oakland free improvisation duo Black Spirituals has delivered one of the year’s greatest potpourri albums. Bassist and electronics operator Zachary James Watkins and percussionist Marshall Trammell found each of the album’s three substantial pieces on simple and vague grooves, exploring every bit of space they have to offer. Above, check out 20-minute opener “Radiant,” which rides modulated bass riffs, flourishes of static noise, and skittering drum fills through countless phases. Its effortless fusion of such styles as noise rock, avant-garde metal, EAI, free-jazz, and freaking cumbia, makes this perhaps the most expressive rock project I’ve heard all year. Enjoy!

Of Deconstruction is out now via SIGE Records. Although this is only Black Spirituals’ debut, they have apparently already garnered the attention of eminent electronic art musician and theorist Pauline Oliveros, who contributes a quote to the album’s Bandcamp page. Way to go!

Dead Neanderthals – Prime

Get ready for the most pummeling 40 minutes of music in 2014.

Prime is the latest release from Holland jazz trio Dead Neanderthals, and the band pulls absolutely no punches on their album posted above, which is just one immense free jazz track. It’s a wild and overwhelming listen, and not for the faint of heart. Enjoy!

Last Lizard – “Dickie’s Theme” / “Detroit” (Excerpt)

Last month, Alex Zhang Hungtai announced the laying to rest of his long-running and acclaimed no-wave singer-songwriter alias Dirty Beaches. The recently released Stateless was packed with gorgeous drones and was thankfully an elegant end for the project.

There was a silver lining to this news: Hungtai announced that new music under different handles would be coming as soon as 2015. Lo and behold, he has already delivered over 20 minutes of music under the pseudonym Last Lizard. The 18-minute-long “Dickie’s Theme” and the below 4 minute excerpt from “Detroit” are billed as “tenor sax and tape experiments,” in a similar vein as some of the material on Stateless. Try to imagine The Disintegration Loops constructed only out of layered tenor sax sounds – if you can, then you ought to have a good idea of what you’re in for.

R.I.P. Dirty Beaches. Long live Last Lizard!

Supersilent – “12.1″

On its 12th album, Norway’s eminent free improvisational outfit Supersilent is still managing to turn out some pretty evocative and extraordinary music. Having dabbled in avant-garde jazz, EAI, noise, and experimental rock throughout its career, the trio now finds itself in a decidedly dark ambient place. Just listen to 12‘s opening track – Arve Henriksen’s forlorn trumpet drifts and stabs out through a murk of synthesized wind courtesy of Ståle Storløkken and Helge Sten. Listening to the track is like slowly losing consciousness in a cave leaking hazardous gas. Thankfully, Supersilent is still capable of delivering inspired material to keep the listener the right kinds of intoxicated and breathless.

12 is out now via Rune Grammofon.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rhythm

Wildbirds & Peacedrums return with one of their catchiest efforts yet.

Ginger Baker – “Why?”

Famed drummer Ginger Baker‘s got a career that’s near-impossible to condense into a few sentences. The man’s contributions to everything from psychedelic rock to jazz are immeasurable, and he’s still hitting the skins at 75! He just put out a new album titled Why?, and the title track is embedded above.

The track features some funny female group vocals, a swinging rhythm, and a great horn solo, too. Pick up a copy of the album over here, and enjoy!

BADBADNOTGOOD & Ghostface Killah – “Gunshowers” ft. Elzhi

Wow! That’s all I can say: Wow! We have a modern favorite teaming up with an old favorite here. Not just on this track–or that previously released track that was good as well–but there’s gonna be an album on the way via Lex Records, too.

Yes, young jazz fusion trio BADBADNOTGOOD is backing up the one and only Ghostface Killah for an entire album. The title of this thing: Sour Soul. It’s gonna be dropping in February, which can’t come soon enough.

Not only am I looking forward to this thing because of the potential of this collaboration, but we could potentially be looking at another 12 Reasons To Die-quality project here. If you remember, what ended up making that album so special was its vintage, funky instrumentals provided by Adrian Younge‘s band. While BBNG has a very different style than Younge, they’re just as capable when it comes to great grooves and a general understanding of what makes for a great hip hop instrumental. That most definitely shows on this beat’s eerie, wailing guitars, stuttering groove, and steady bassline.

As far as Ghost and Elzhi go, they’re really taking it back to the 90s with some grimy, violent, braggadocios verses. Nothing altogether new, but they deliver enough to make this project worth anticipating.