Okay, so I think it’s about time I ventured over to the heavier side of music. I’m not always in the mood to listen to something aggressive and/or with heavy distortion, but when I am, I’m ready to RAGE. Throughout many of the formative years of my youth, I satisfied this desire by listening to heavy metal music – everything from Dream Theater to Periphery, from Avenged Sevenfold to Sum 41 (my punk rock phase directly preceded the heavy metal phase). Once I started going to college, I was exposed to heavy electronic bass music (Zomboy comes to mind), which fulfilled the same need for chest-pounding, head-banging jams. Having established all of that history, you can imagine my delight when I first discovered The Algorithm, the musical lovechild of metal and dubstep. I can say, without a doubt, that Rémi Gallego (the man behind the moniker) has one of the most unique sounds that I’ve ever been exposed to. Basically, he combines modern djent metal breakdowns with experimental glitch electronica, and throws an ample helping of dubstep wobbles in there for good measure. Okay, now read that sentence again. Intrigued yet? Let’s continue then.
Building a bridge between heavy metal music and electronica is a daring move, no question. Although you certainly have the potential to appeal to two huge audiences instead of one, you also run the risk of polarizing the entire playing field. Mashing together two styles with entirely separate fan bases may lead to both groups rejecting you. I could definitely see such a thing happening, but only if the artist wasn’t very well-versed in both styles. One listen to Polymorphic Code (The Algorithm’s first and only studio album), and it’s obvious that we’re dealing with a highly skilled musician.
First things first, all of you should probably watch this. You may have seen this video several years back when it gained quite a bit of circulation around YouTube. This is the music of The Reign of Kindo, a jazz-rock group hailing from Buffalo, New York. In April of 2010 they released their second studio album, and third release in total, called This Is What Happens on CandyRat Records. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the label, CandyRat is one of my most trusted sources for beautifully written modern acoustic music. Musicians like Jon Gomm and Andy McKee, two of the most notable percussive fingerstyle guitarists, are represented by the label. In short, its catalog is stocked to the brim with remarkable music quality. So then, back to This Is What Happens. What exactly is it that happens? Press on, dear reader…
If you think about it, the world’s population of music enthusiasts can essentially be divided into two categories. There are those who value originality and advanced musicianship above all else, sometimes to the point of pretentiousness and condescension towards “lesser” artists. Then there are those who don’t care about any of that; they just want to dance around and sing catchy melodies. Both groups have their limitations, but luckily that’s where The Reign of Kindo comes in. Their music combines elements from both of these viewpoints into a single cohesive style, and the result is an extraordinarily melodic collection of tunes, rich in originality and soulfulness.
I’ve got to say that one of my favorite things about the current music industry is this strong resurgence of jam band music and culture that’s been going on for the past several years. As someone who wishes they had been alive to witness the explosion of psychedelic rock, progressive rock, and the jam band scene in the ’60s and ’70s, I am extremely happy about the genre’s relatively unimpeded longevity. After the Grateful Dead’s disbandment in 1995 as a result of guitarist and frontman Jerry Garcia’s death, the band Phish stepped in to fill the gap. Although they never achieved quite the amount of success and popularity that the Dead had, they certainly helped to keep the scene alive for the next decade. They were also an integral part of the rise of large-scale music festivals in the modern era. If you think about all of the festivals that host yearly events now – Bonnaroo, Coachella, Camp Bisco, Rootwire, Lightning in a Bottle, All Good, Wakarusa – the list goes on and on.
Dopapod is a group that is quickly rising to the forefront of the jam band scene. Born in 2007, they recently released their third studio album, Redivider, on 12/21/12. The entire record was recorded in a barn at Tyrone Farm, a solar powered farm in Pomfret, Connecticut. Despite the fact that it was released less than a year after their previous album, Drawn Onward (side note: if you haven’t picked up on this yet, the band really likes palindromes), there is nothing about Redivider that gives away any sense of rushed preparation. As a matter of fact, the entire thing is pure, musical gold.
I always love it when two musicians who have both put in the time developing their individual careers and finding success with their respective projects decide to come together to create a collaborative album. We saw this a few days ago with Storm Corrosion, the joint endeavor of Steven Wilson and Mikael Åkerfeldt. Today, I’ve got another such project, just released about a month ago on Kscope, a sub-label of Snapper Music which specializes in “post-progressive” music. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with Wisdom of Crowds, an album released by Bruce Soord and Jonas Renkse.
Bruce Soord is most popularly known for his role as the founder and creative mastermind behind The Pineapple Thief. Started in 1999, The Pineapple Thief has released nine studio albums over a thirteen-year career, including the most recent record, All the Wars. The group has become well-known in indie and progressive rock circles as a result of their unique stylistic crossovers between the two styles.
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 say it’s about time I dig into the archives of music released earlier than just the past few years. As soon as I made that decision, one specific artist popped into my head almost immediately: Herbie Hancock. And why not? He’s only one of the most influential musicians ever to exist in the jazz fusion world. I would bet money that a large majority of the artists that I’ve featured previously on the site were influenced either directly or indirectly in some form by Herbie Hancock. He was a man who extended his creative genius far beyond the world of jazz. He was a musical innovator that made breakthroughs in the use of electronic synthesizers and freeform improvisation. He combined stylistic elements of jazz, blues, funk, and modern classical music into a totally unique fusion of genres. The legacy which he has created will last for many long years to come and influence many new generations of musicians. Anyone who claims that Hancock was “before their time” deserves to be slapped senseless.
The album that I’m focusing on in particular today is one of his 1974 releases, Thrust. As the followup to his ’73 release Headhunters, Hancock was now firmly entrenched in the widely popular, highly competitive funk-jazz-fusion game of the era. But Herbie is never one to be outshined or assimilated into a much greater collection of mediocre artists. No, he has always been the one to push the limits past the point where anyone thought they could go. In order to accomplish such a gargantuan undertaking, he’s assembled a legendary cast of characters to accompany him. On bass guitar is his main man, Paul Jackson, who went on to play on nine of Hancock’s subsequent releases. Bernie Maupin, a master multireedist, takes care of all the lead woodwind parts. Aside from his work with Herbie, he is most well known for his performance on the seminal Miles Davis album Bitches Brew, his role as a bandleader, and his collaborations with the likes of Horace Silver and McCoy Tyner.