SNARKY PUPPY METROPOLE ORKEST
From King Crimson and Weather Report to Frank Zappa and Tower of Power, everyone’s favorite jam band Snarky Puppy references a widely diverse collection of bands, many of whom live on mainly in the hearts of diehards and crate-diggers. But where Sylva could have been titled Sybil for the songs’ complex, seemingly multiple personalities, the music is grandly held together by bassist/leader Michael League’s emotionally heroic compositions. At the heart of Snarky Puppy’s music lies an incredible humanity, a soulful appeal for fans of all ages.
BARRENCE WHITFIELD & THE SAVAGES
UNDER THE SAVAGE SKY
For fans of low-fi and soul, few pleasures are greater than the arrival of a new album by Barrence Whitfield & the Savages. They’ve got all the nasty distorted-guitar fun of ’60s punk plus the punch of Stax-style horns, all fronted by a singer with such magnificent intensity that reviewers often compare him to Howlin’ Wolf. Plus, who in the world wouldn’t want to hear a song called “Incarceration Casserole”?
Returning five years after their last full-length, Mike Stroud and Evan Mast deliver a signature exercise in groove and dynamics. Whereas 2010’s LP4 toyed with ethnic/folk inflections and instrumentation, Magnifique is all about the pocket. Slower tracks bend through pedal steel’s sinuous resonance, while up-tempo numbers stack filter swells into new melodic dimensions. Spatial processing lets compression-enriched guitar figures and dilating synths swagger intently while transients push wide, sustaining momentarily for emphasis.
Featured on a few Tricky albums, Francesca Belmonte’s voice is a familiar one. For Anima, Belmonte’s solo debut on Tricky’s label, he steps into role of producer. Their dark, unsettling styles are a good match, but Anima is very much Belmonte’s personal project. The pain in her hoarse tones on “Come Take” is tangible, while her voice grows thick with intensity on “Joker.” Raw emotion runs in the family with her 10-year-old cousin’s raps on the eponymous “Daisy.”
EMMYLOU HARRIS & RODNEY CROWELL
THE TRAVELING KIND
Building on the success of Old Yellow Moon, Harris and Crowell reunite for this equally wonderful album, which includes six new songs co-written by the artists. Each of these two performers has a voice of delicate and unusual beauty, and together, they make something so moving as to become almost otherworldly. With production by the visionary Joe Henry, these roots arrangements form the perfect framework for two of the greatest living country singers.
London dubstep DJ/producer Silkie emerged with a compelling blend of funk, jazz, and soul influencing his wet, midrange synth fusion. Now, four years since his last album, he returns to lush, melodic, vibed-out pads, phasing chords, and swing-heavy beats. He nods to early ’90s jungle and garage, but the core remains radial patterns and wonky pitch-bending basslines. Fractals contributes the second chapter to the Anarchostar label’s cosmic space opera, doing it with fluid, lysergic style.
TECHNICIANS OF THE SACRED
Mind blown, body sated, soul rising to join a halo on the horizon, I think I’m tripping but I’m actually enjoying the 21st album by the legendary Ozric Tentacles. Rawkers come and go, jam bands spew their spastic sarcasms and leave the stage, but Ozric Tentacles remain a kind of trance-laden divining rod separating soaring rock riffs from molten crud, blazing hypno-beats from dance loops, and howling, head-shattering melodies from the depths of their whammy bar-twisted, synth-melting, Echoplex-spinning psycho-subconscious.