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Will Schube was born on Ambivalence Avenue.
NNAMDÏ– Various New Music
NNAMDÏ does everything. He runs a label, he plays a seemingly unending number of instruments, he plays in a deliriously meticulous math-rock band, and he also releases indefinable solo music. His last album, BRAT, was released on April 3rd, and since then, the Chicago mainstay born Nnamdi Ogbonnaya has released a number of tracks benefiting local organizations in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Fans of BRAT will be immensely satisfied with the new work, which takes the tenets of that album―an absolutely novel approach to rap, pop, and electro music―and expands it into stranger places.
“My Life,” the first song on the three song Black Plight, builds around a methodically messy guitar riff before honing in on a skeletal and tension-filled verse. It’s Fugazi meets late era Tortoise, with NNAMDÏ occupying a spoken-word, occasionally melodic vocal space. It’s easy to assume that these are just b-sides and tracks that were left on the cutting room floor of BRAT, but the lyrics reflect our current moment: “My life/ What’s it worth to you?/ Is it worth more than your shoes and property?” It’s prescient and unflinching, another powerful and succinct composition from NNAMDÏ, who has steadily assumed the role as one of Chicago’s most important musical voices.
Bibio– Sleep on the Wing
It’s easy to take Bibio for granted. The British musician born Stephen James Wilkinson has been a staple on Warp Records for 11 years, dating back to 2009 when he released his seminal Ambivalence Avenue. Since that album, he’s released seven more records, each of which expands the scope of his warm, homespun folktronica. The term is loaded and doesn’t do justice to the pioneering craftsmanship of Bibio’s output, but the way he synthesizes acoustic and electronic instrumentation is unparalleled. The lines are blurred to the point of rendering them moot. It’s less a dichotomy of styles than something entirely new.
On Sleep on the Wing, his second album in two years, Bibio treads his well-trodden territory, but it’s one of those things that simply never gets old. It’s easy to move on from and look for something new, but home is always there. Sleep on the Wing is another sterling entrant in a discography that’s grown into one of the best in electronic music. His sound is so familiar and synonymous with his name that one goes into each new album with certain expectations that he quietly subverts without us realizing it. It’s a bit of magic, a bit of homemade craftsmanship, and just enough new ideas to keep the world of Bibio entirely enchanting.
Ryan Porter– Live at New Morning, Paris
Ryan Porter is the backbone of the West Coast Getdown. Kamasi Washington is the face of the group, and Ronald Bruner Jr. will do things on the drumset you’ll never see again, but Ryan Porter is like the NBA superstar that takes a pay cut and a reduction in shots to play with a championship group. The trombonist has always been a stellar solo composer on record, but his genius really becomes amplified in a live setting. This show from October 17th, 2019, features a smaller version of the West Coast Get Down, including Kamasi on tenor, Jumaane Smith on trumpet, Brandon Coleman on piano and keyboards, Miles Mosley on upright and electric bass, and Tony Austin on drums.
The performance is stellar. It begins with a Roy Hargrove tune, which Porter actually talks about in the press release. He says, “Roy Hargrove was a big influence on me as a teenager learning jazz. I think sometimes people learn better watching others do what they would like to do and seeing an African- American brother like myself playing this music so well inspired me and my friends to practice…I started reminiscing and dedicated that night to Roy Hargrove, and also to the owner of New Morning jazz club who died the week before the recording, Eglal Farhi, who was a well respected public figure in Paris.” The show took place on the night after Hargrove’s performance, and the performances―both individual and as a group―are unmatched on the jazz circuit. The West Coast Get Down will always be led by Kamasi Washington, but each of its members are fantastic leaders, too.
The Lazy Eyes– EP1
The Lazy Eyes will inevitably be compared to Tame Impala considering that they’re Australian and often play with psych rock ideas. But the young quartet are all 19 years old and began making music after meeting at a performance arts high school. Their first EP, EP1, came out today and is a mesmerizing blend of simplistic yet well-crafted pop ideas and fascinating left turns. The bass is dirty and distorted, the vocals sugary and multi-layered.
“The Seaside” is last single from the EP, and the group had this to say about the track: “‘The Seaside’ is a nostalgic song for us because it’s amongst the earliest songs that we explored as a band. It was around this time that we were really getting into guitar pedals too and trying to make as full and as exciting a sound we could in a live setting.” That guitar work shines through on “The Tangerine” which features an absolutely explosive solo. The song moves from quiet to loud, from patient to overbursting with ideas, in a moment’s notice. It’s a fitting introduction for Australia’s next great psych pop band.