Andy Milne & Dapp Theory
Forward in All Directions
Keyboardist Andy Milne isn’t afraid to push his jazz into outer space. Milne swings for sure, but the groove is more funk-endowed than swing-nostalgic. Hip-hop gets its due in “Photographs,” with John Moon adding “vocal poetics.” But no sooner does it end than the band zips away to the outer regions in the humid forward flow of “In the Mirror, Darkly,” where drummer Kenny Grohowski sails through rhythmic squalls and chunky beat stabs. Somewhere between stoner jam band atmospheres and serious jazz improvisers, Milne & Dapp Theory make a case for jazz in the 21st century.
Angels & Devils
Amplifying sounds both hateful and beautiful, Kevin Martin mills his first full-length as The Bug since 2008, and it’s another uncompromising showcase of his hybrid aesthetic. Less focused on digital dancehall and more on bruising dub, still swallowed by subbass and caked with grime, Martin cycles from spectral austerity to brutally machined ragga across nearly 50 unrelenting minutes. Increasing amounts of menacing klang and scorched guitar static buffets in between acidtongued MCs, wielding density as a weapon.
Gary Clark Jr.
These mind-bending concert recordings capture the beautiful noise and sweet voice of Gary Clark Jr. onstage. Clark’s electric guitar wizardry is legend by now, and his setlist-free live performances can be life-changing, especially for other guitarists. Virtuosic, but always tuneful and rhythmic, Clark plays the blues the way Hendrix did—stretching the bounds of what other players imagine the instrument can do, without ever leaving his roots, or the melody behind.
Releasing his first solo album since 2004, Bristol’s drum ’n’ bass OG Roni Size leans toward the recent decade rather than the jazzlaced riddims that gained universal acclaim on 1997’s New Forms. Indeed, much of Take Kontrol could be called familiar forms, as it shares a jump-up sound design akin to Sub Focus and RAM Records, as well as DJ Fresh. These are big room sounds, crowd-friendly drums ‘n bounce that pushes air more than pushes things further.
Hustle & Drone
RED BULL SOUND SELECT
Portland trio Hustle & Drone offer enough catchy vocal hooks, epic synth squalls, and cracking beats to fill an ’80s dance music top ten. But Ryan Neighbors, Ryan Moore, and Andy Black are also thoughtful, their moody songs like Spandau Ballet and Pet Shop Boys working from a single controller. The dolefully skipping “Bhiskshu” creates late night solace; “Night Light” is all shimmering harmony vocals and pulsating synths; “The Glow” attempts industrial menace but achieves sing-a-long pop bliss.
The Violet Flame
For decades, Erasure has consistently released relevant music. The Richard X-produced The Violet Flame, the duo’s 16th album, is masterfully crafted pop—as expected. Without resorting to breakdown-driven songs, The Violet Flame is current, easy to listen to, and free of extremes. The rare precious or predictable moment aside, Erasure’s handle on dance-pop is steadfast. Cases in point: the bubbly “Dead of Night,” the electro-ballad “Smoke and Mirrors,” and the unfussy throwback number, “Under the Wave.”
The wonder and tenderness of Mark O’Connor’s violin playing are always remarkable, but this album is most memorable for its inventive interpretations of iconic jazz compositions, including W. C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got that Swing,” and Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.” The fluid way O’Connor makes these melodies his own, and new, reawakens the listener’s appreciation for these, and a host of other American classics.