PEACE IS THE MISSION
Major Lazer—the culture mashup currently led by producers Diplo, Walshy Fire, and Jillionaire—drops a third full-length, featuring nine tracks and nearly two-dozen international collaborators. Banging with bass as deep and dense as that Rolodex, plus pinched synths, dramatic builds, rapid fills, and dub resonance, the dancehall-EDM project also breezes through tropical house BPMs and screwed-down moombahton. From pop to poppin’, Peace Is the Mission looks to pacify old and new fans alike.
Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore continues the minimalist electronics of his VCMG project with former bandmate Vince Clarke on MG, an ambitious 16-track instrumental album. MG’s intention is to be filmic, and it is, particularly on opener “Pinking” and true-to-its-title “Stealth.” At times, it sounds like a soundtrack to a hopeless and dark dystopian nightmare, such as on the stark and uncomfortable “Exalt.” But at other times, Gore taps into sculpted Berghain-style unyielding techno, exemplified on the percussive “Brink.”
JUST A MORTAL MAN
This is the debut solo album by 71-year-old Jerry Lawson, a 40-year member of the great vocal group The Persuasions. Produced by Nashville-based singer/songwriter Eric Brace, Lawson’s album has a just a bit of twang, but truly focuses on the singer’s majestic tenor and the soul sound that this longtime artist has perfected. Lawson leads with Paul Simon’s “Peace Like a River,” but also covers a few wonderful songs by Brace and others; this material and singer are gems to be treasured.
Founded by vocalist Vanessa Bley (daughter of influential jazz pianist Paul Bley) and tenor saxophonist Stuart Matthewman (who played that terrific sax solo on Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and guitar on many of the R&B diva’s songs), Twin Danger’s glistening late-night jazz hints at Twin Peaks’ eeriness and film noirish isolation. As acoustic bassist Larry Grenadier maneuvers the low end, Bley sings like a sad torch singer lost somewhere on Sunset Boulevard. Twin Danger’s songs are strong, their performance hypnotizes; consider your heart broken.
An eight-track collage adapted from a live installation at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, HIVE1 sits between playing mind games with a maniacal AI and being bathed in cosmic rays; no matter how the pod bay doors opened, shields are down, mutations are triggered, and the computer array is fluctuating deliriously. The ensemble piece cycles from diffuse to locked-in grooves, oscillating between propulsive squelches and seismic reentry. Orbit is decaying and what’s left is fiery atmosphere.
KERMIT RUFFINS & THE BARBECUE SWINGERS
Ruffins and his funk-meets-trad jazz band play with such an relaxed, live jamming style, and the musicianship is so fine, that the listener almost expects to hear applause after the bandleader or his stellar piano/keys player Yoshitaka “Z2” Tsuji takes a solo. This album—and Ruffins’ style in general—comes from such a winning combination of virtuosity and pure joy that chestnuts like “Tipitina” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” shine with new light.
TODD RUNDGREN/EMIL NIKOLAISEN/HANS-PETER LINDSTRØM
SMALL TOWN SUPERSOUND
Norwegian producer Lindstrøm, Serena-Maneesh’s Emil Nikolaisen, and pop pioneer Todd Rundgren converge for 39 minutes of sprawling electronic experimentalism that recalls not only Rundgren’s Utopia and A Wizard a True Star periods but also The Orb and Oneohtrix Point Never. Runddans pulsates via swelling synths, sparse instrumentation, and Rundgren’s reverberated vocals. Opening tracks are devoted to frothy synth arpeggios, followed by beat-driven song forays, resounding keyboards, and crunching drums.