So this is now the second album I’ve featured in the past week that was made over thirty years ago. As a matter of fact, this very first album from the soon-to-be iconic group Santana, was released forty-four years ago in August of 1969. Think about that for a second. You may not have even been alive when this album came out – I certainly wasn’t. To put this in a bit of context for you, The Beatles would release their swan song record, Abbey Road, about a month after Santana debuted. Led Zeppelin would release Led Zeppelin II about a month after that, and Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma would hit record stores the following month, November. All of those classic rock records your parents listen to? Yeah, this album precedes most of those (not quite all of them, though). The question is, why am I going so far back in time with these album reviews? Why not focus more on the newest releases?
Well first of all, over half of my posts feature albums from the past two years, so I certainly wouldn’t say I neglect the newer material. As a matter of fact, I pride myself on keeping up with the latest and (hopefully) greatest from each and every artist I follow. That being said, it’s simply impossible to fully appreciate the extent of how far we’ve come as a musical society without acknowledging our heritage. We’ve all come to accept this as fact – it’s why we always want to know the origin story of all our beloved superheroes, or why we study history in school. By learning from the past, we can understand much more about the present, and we can use such knowledge to better prepare for the future.
Today I’d like to present you with something a little shorter than the standard full-length album that I normally feature. Shorter, yes, but it packs just as much of a punch. Other Things, by Plini, is a three-track record that clocks in at just under thirteen minutes. It was released about four months ago in March, and it was recorded in a period of just six days in a bedroom. Although your first inclination might be to lump this guy in with thousands of other “bedroom guitarists,” it’s clear that his strong musical vision sets him apart from the rest.
The main thing that I love about Other Things it is how remarkably different each individual song is from the remaining two. Starting with “Heart,” the EP starts out almost as if it might be some sort of indie-acoustic-folk record. Several acoustic guitar tracks are layered together, along with an eclectic array of mallet percussion lines, dreamy synth effects, and a solid, tom-heavy drum beat to back it all up. On top of all this is an electric guitar driving the melody and decorating the piece with some fantastic jazz-fusion riffs. Overall, it’s the perfect way to ease the listener into a relaxed state of mind, prime for enjoyment.
I’d have to say that some of my favorite musical experiences are when I get to connect with a brand new artist for the first time. There’s always something indescribable about the feeling – you have the opportunity to glimpse inside the creative soul of a wholly unique human being whom you’ve never previously met. I believe that when approaching any artistic work, it is essential to understand that there is an irrefutable truth behind it. Put in other words, music is an undiluted form of communication between humans, conveying the accumulation of an artist’s entire life’s journey. Every influence and moment of inspiration – whether it be musical, philosophical, existential – is a molecule in the genetic code that makes up their art. Music is not just a product of one’s consciousness; it is equally representative of the darker mysteries of the subconscious mind. We, as artists, are channeling the terrifyingly enigmatic power of nature through our music. We are the filters through which the energy of the universe is manifested into artistic creation.
Alright, time to tone down the existentialism. The inspiration for such philosophical musings is my recent discovery of a wonderfully exceptional band known as Intervals. I’m going to tell you my favorite thing about them right here in the first paragraph: they have a remarkable talent for fusing heavy, high octane instrumentation with colorful, jazz-inspired harmony. With the release of their latest EP, In Time, the group builds off of their established djent metal sound by incorporating elements of jazz, melodic progressive rock, and electronica. The result is an intensely focused and highly refined musical product that captivates the listener from beginning to end.
I’d say that post-rock is definitely one of the more difficult genres to stand out in. Although plenty of bands succeed in creating a worthwhile representation of the style, you would often be hard-pressed to remember any of their material. Potentially great music, just not quite memorable enough. Today, I’m here to turn your ear on to Loraine, a band out of Atlanta that just released their first EP, entitled An Autumn Evening. Although the group, with just over 2,000 likes on Facebook, is still fairly underground, this five-track EP is a product that deserves a much wider audience. Every note is played with great emotion, every song is a perfect transition from the last, and every moment listening is spent in blissful reverence. Strong words to start out with, I know, but post-rock seems to have a way of calming your mind and bringing out the more sentimental thoughts. The point is that it’s clear this is a band that has connected with their music on an deep and impassioned level.
Now before I continue any further, I’d first like to say that the album artwork (pictured above) is an absolutely stunning work of art done by modern impressionistic artist Leonid Afremov. It also happens to go beautifully with the design of my website, so major brownie points for that. Now, to business. A few weeks ago, I posted about the new album from the band Swans, which also has post-rock tendencies. While that album focuses on the darker, more “noise”-oriented side of the genre, Loraine brings a much more ambient and melodic sound to the table.
Every once in a while during my continuous search for new music, I have the incredible fortune of stumbling upon an artist or band that is indisputably one of most talented acts of today’s music industry. That was definitely the case with Snarky Puppy. No, I’m not talking about an ill-tempered mongrel; I’m talking about one of the most inventive and original instrumental fusion bands that I’ve heard in quite some time. I went to see them at one of their live gigs a couple months ago on a whim, and I’ve been hooked ever since. The reason for this is simple: creative ingenuity.
Of course, all of the music that I post on this blog is here for it’s creative ingenuity, so perhaps I am simply rehashing old themes. Maybe so, however there is something that sets Snarky Puppy apart. I believe that they capture the true meaning of the word “fusion” as it is applied to music. Cicily Janus, author of “The New Face of Jazz: An Intimate Look at Today’s Living Legends and Artists of Tomorrow,” writes that “Snarky Puppy is one of the most inventive [groups] in sound and funk since Maynard Ferguson’s fusion years.” Michael League, the bassist, principal composer, and leader of the group, has aptly labeled their sound as “jafunkadansion.” Now we could probably argue over what exactly such a term means for quite a long time, however the only way we would ever find the answer to such a philosophical question would be to listen to groundUP, the latest (and dare I say greatest) release from Snarky Puppy.