Complex rhythms and kooky cross-overs; a wrap up of some of the craziest Future Jazz tracks of the year.
Hello again friends, freaks and fans of future-jazz.
The world’s gone proper mad hasn’t it? In the last week alone, the House of Representatives has voted to impeach the President of the United States, two of the three major political party leaders in the UK have announced they’ll be on their way too, Britain confirmed that it does – indeed – want to exit Europe while Scotland confirmed it wanted no part of Britain and – perhaps least weird of all, Salisbury cathedral unveiled a nativity scene featuring a rugby player’s son as Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In these crazy times, such a playlist as this week’s seems the only sane reaction. That’s right, this time around I’m counting down my Top 11 Guerrilla Warfare songs of 2019 – it’s my tribute to tracks that went off in unusual directions, challenged the status quo and, in at least one instance, forced me into using the following meme as the only reasonable way of describing it:
It’s the fourth in a series of ‘Best Of’s I’ve been putting out over the last few weeks (click to see the Charm Offensives, Military Coups and Peaceful Protests).
So, here we go, in reverse order, my favourite 10 tracks I reviewed earlier in the year plus one that I missed.
Warning – this playlist probably isn’t appropriate as the soundtrack to your Christmas dinner!
11. SKINNY PELEMBE: NO BLACKS, NO DOGS, NO IRISH
Controversially-titled, compellingly composed, No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish announced the return of Skinny Pelembe in 2019.
A groovy, sonically-gorgeous piece of electronic/world music it served as the perfect appetite-whetter for Doya Beardmore’s latest album Dreaming Is Dead Now.
In my original review of No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish I described it as “part Radiohead-esque apocalyptica, part Fatoumata Diawara/Disclosure Ultimatum-style mash-up… a vivid and vibrant yet disquieting look at post-Brexit Britain”.
Hear more here…
10. LOUIS COLE: DOING THE THINGS
One half of LA group KNOWER, multi-instrumentalist Louis Cole released a collection of live-cuts and off-cuts in 2019 and, while his partner-in-crime Genevieve Artadi may not have been present on the recording, it otherwise bared all the hallmarks of the chiptune-with-chops band.
A sort of sonic collage of the fragmented fringes of their sound, Doing The Things served as the perfect introduction to anyone who has yet to encounter the childlike charm of the group.
In my original review of Doing the Things I noted how – compared to the typical KNOWER tune, the song “sound[s] funkier and more organic than usual and that means it feels fuller, more characterful and more colourful.”
Enjoy the madness of the music video, which redefined the phrase ‘hard pan to the right’…
09. SCRIMSHIRE: THE SOCIALS
Poor Adam Scrimshire. It would be possible to describe him as a music mogul if only the term weren’t so closely associated in the public consciousness with turd-in-high-trousers Simon Cowell.
Nevertheless, while the producer may be busy building empires with his funk/soul labels Albert’s Favourites and Wah Wah 45s – he still found time in 2019 to release a record of his own – Listener – on which The Socials was the rabble-rousing introductory cut.
In my original review of The Socials I eruditely observed that “part swag-heavy funk freak-out, part cinematic love-in, if this song were a beautiful woman, she’d have a tattoo on her arse saying “Heartbreaker” and a tattoo on her heart saying “Arse-breaker.”
Hear more here…
08. ROBERTO FONSECA: AGGUA
Cuban jazz legend Roberto Fonseca was back at it again in 2019, releasing an album of such boundless energy that it was often easy to overlook the sheer poise, intelligence and elegance contained within.
Aggua was a fine case in point – a mix of rhythms from all over the world, tempo changes and melodic virtuosity, it was a track that was so much more than a simple ‘world jazz’ tag might imply.
In my original review of Aggua I channelled my inner Buddha as I wrote; “Water comes in many forms, of course, but this form of Aggua is a set of raging rapids; Fonseca is dangerous when wet.”
Catch the incredible music video…
07. SEED ENSEMBLE: INTERPLANETARY MIGRATION
This, friends, is my renegade choice. World/jazz pioneers SEED Ensemble have been such prominent parts of the London scene (as a collective as well as in their constituent parts) that it’s easy to forget – as I did – that they’re not known everywhere and the casual brilliance of their music still needs championing if we’re to see the UK jazz movement continue to grow.
This was a realisation that I had in July of this year, when Cassie Kinoshi’s band were nominated for the Mercury Prize, prompting the usual choruses of ‘who?’ from the general public; I was reminded of why I should have singled out Interplanetary Migration for praise when it was released in February.
It is a track that is brimming with all the usual creativity and class you would expect from the band but the kooky contribution of Croydon rapper Mr. Ekow took the song to another level.
The album didn’t win at the Mercuries but it’s inclusion on the shortlist certainly helped shine an even brighter light on one of our genre’s leading voices. A mere 10 months later, I’m delighted to (finally) do the same.
Savour this excellent live performance of the track at said awards ceremony…
06. THE COMET IS COMING: SUPER ZODIAC
… and talk of people who get everywhere in the London nu-jazz scene, Shabaka Hutchings returned with his The Comet is Coming crew in 2019.
Their album Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery was full of the usual supersonic psychedelic vibes that you’ve come to expect from the trio but Super Zodiac lent the LP a rare moment of punk / metal aesthetic that really helped it stand out, even on an album that practically refuses to fade into the background at any point.
In my original review of Super Zodiac I specifically drew your attention to “the moments that really see the track soar… those that reach ascension through a truly beatific set of chords from Danalogue’s keys.”
Have your head twisted by this suitably sped-up and shakily-filmed live rendition of the song…
05. MANU DELAGO: ZEITGEBER
Drummer Manu Delago released Circadian in 2019 – a concept album around the subject of sleep. But listening to Zeitgeber you wouldn’t know it.
An explosion of syncopated rhythms and unrelenting momentum, it represented the process of waking up from resting, ready to attack a new day. And attack, it did.
In my original review of Zeitgeber I enthused over “a driving drum pattern delivered by Delago himself [which] is supplemented by an ever-increasing cast of instruments, precision-executing a series of increasingly complex stabs.”
Air-drum along (if you can) to the irrepressible official video…
04. STEAM DOWN: FREE MY SKIN
Deptford-based multi-discipline arts collective Steam Down took their time to release a debut track. More than two years after first drawing attention they finally released the single, Free My Skin in November of 2019.
And it was well worth the wait. A hedonistic mix of sugar-rush stylings and afro-futuristic funk, the track captured the sheer exuberance of the band’s now legendary live performances.
In my original review of Free My Skin I picked out the afrobeat rhythms, the funky horns and the break-down two-thirds of the way in as being particular highlights of mine.
Experience the ‘energy’…
03. J RICK: SHORT
Essie’s J Rick makes the excellent sound effortless. A cornucopia of cross-cultural creativity with hazy-hip hop overtones, his music is a conundrum all of its own. But a charming conundrum.
On his 2019 release Short the producer – known as Jordan Cian Christie to his Mum – combines samba rhythms with slacker vocals and throws in the odd electronic glitch in case you’re getting too comfortable.
In my original review of Short I quoted Christie, who had said; “I want the first thing I release to be proper different.” Well, sir, you’ve certainly achieved that.
Vibe off the music video…
02. BODY MEAT: NAIROBI FLEX
Unique should not be a scalable word. One either is, or is not unique. There should not be gradations of the adjective. However, on a list that practically prides itself in parading idiosyncratic personalities, Body Meat (AKA Christopher Taylor) is probably the most unique.
His album Truck Music is by no means easy listening but has, undoubtedly been the one I’ve found most rewarding in 2019 and, while the record works best when taken as a whole, if you’re looking for a way-in, Nairobi Flex is a good place to start.
An all-compassing display of all that makes Taylor so individual, it combines his world rhythms with noise stylings, electronica and surprisingly affecting vocals.
In my original review of Nairobi Flex I praised the track for being “as beautifully flawed as it is perfectly fucked-up.”
Encounter the similarly-distressed video…
01. KASSA OVERALL: LA CASA AZUL
The most complete vision of what this blog stands for, Kassa Overall’s 2019 LP Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz was the epitome of an artist grounded in the traditions of jazz, while restlessly wrestling the genre in new directions.
La Casa Azul is the album’s mission statement. Combining awesome musicianship with impassioned lyrics, instrumentation both organic and electronic, and finally a cheeky little Roy Hargrove reference, it was the gold standard for how an artist reveres what’s come before, then rips it up and writes new legends with the inspiration he’s just ingested.
In my original review of La Casa Azul I called it “full-fat jazz, fully-loaded hip-hop, 110% of the average jazz tune and more hip-hop than a drop-top ’64 Impala.”
Revel in this live remix of the track…
So there you have it, friends; the fourth in a five-week wrap up of the year.
You can listen to these Top 11 Guerrilla Warfare choices on the below Spotify playlist.
Check back next week when I’ll be revealing my Top 11 Quiet Riot choices.
If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. And, if you’d like to receive updates weekly, please subscribe to the email list to get these recommendations sent direct to your inbox.
Stay noisy. Even when you’re quiet.
– SV –