Makaya McCraven, “So Ubuji” (International Anthem/Nonesuch/XL)
Makaya McCraven’s label, International Anthem, has been fostering a fantastic, forward-thinking roster in this century that rivals those of legendary jazz imprints Impulse! and Strata-East in the '60s and '70s. Over the last seven years, the Chicago-based drummer/composer has been one of IA's major stars, building an impressive catalog that has combined a respect for vanguard jazz's achievements with innovative techniques in electronics and post-production editing. His latest album, In These Times, may skew slightly more accessible and composed than past releases, but it's still an engrossing listen from start to finish.
With help from bold musicians such as Jeff Parker, Junius Paul, Brandee Younger, Joel Ross, and Marquis Hill, McCraven sojourns into sublimely blissful territory, exemplified by sitar- and flute-powered chillout groover “Dream Another,” which out-seduces Khruangbin at their own game, and the gorgeous, devotional “Lullaby,” which tingles spines thanks to Younger's Alice Coltrane-esque harp flourishes. “Seventh String” balances ambrosial flute, harp, vibes, and horns with manic percussion intricacies in an astonishing display of contrasts. “The Knew Untitled” channels cool-browed post-rock icons Tortoise via a liquid-gold guitar solo by Matt Gold—and not that group's Parker, surprisingly. It's so elegantly heady. The extremely lush and laid-back “The Title” boasts some of the crispest and most emphatic rimshots I've ever heard—and I've heard a lot.
Leading with a swoon-worthy harp fanfare, “So Ubuji” places McCraven’s robust boom-bap beats within an otherworldly context. The chords generated by Joel Ross's vibes sound deliciously non-Western and the rhythm proceeds with a muscular majesty that makes it ideal for American League home-run champ Aaron Judge's walk-on song. Yes, I'm calling this complex, unclassifiable masterpiece a jock jam—perhaps the most avant-garde specimen of its type. Fight me.
Makaya McCraven performs at Nectar Lounge on Tuesday, October 25 as part of the Earshot Jazz Festival.
Sea Moss, “Candy Run” (Ramp Local)
I like the wild musicians, the ones who blur the lines of genre, the ones whose recordings heedlessly bleed into the red, the ones most radio stations eschew out of a misguided sense of airwaves decorum—or just plain timidity. Ergo, I like Portland's Sea Moss, vocalist Noa Ver (aka Mulva Myasis) and drummer Zach D'Agostino (aka Don Gero), who both manipulate electronics with devilish glee. They cavort in the same choppy waters as artists such as Black Dice, early Guerilla Toss, and Fire-Toolz, to name but a few favorites.
Sea Moss have been splattering mad ideas around studios since 2017. An artful stridency courses through their spasmodic anti-songs, marked by Ver's piercing yelps, which make Kathleen Hanna sound like Adele. Ver achieves that shrill tone by allegedly plugging a contact mic directly onto her neck (gulp). D'Agostino comes from the Brian Chippendale school of rhythmic pummel and unpredictability. Sea Moss' music keeps your neurons perpetually on high alert, as if you've consumed the entire coffee supply of all the Starbucks in your neighborhood in one sitting.
Their latest unruly missive, SEAMOSS2 (out October 28 on limited-edition vinyl and cassettes), follows their 2019 debut LP, Bidet Dreaming, which explored abstract noise, brutal techno (“Orange You Glad We Didn't Stay Bananas?”), and even exhibited a surprising funkiness on tracks such as “Appease the Pease, Please” and “Square Dance.”
SEAMOSS2 somehow rips even harder and crazier. “Pig's Feet” sounds as if the band's literally on fire as they play a herky-jerky noise jam that evokes This Heat playing “Horizontal Hold” on the strongest amphetamines. “Split Hairs” sounds like a Contortions funk workout, replete with manic cowbell, but performed as if in straitjackets. The marching-band-in-a-cement-mixer ordeal of “Feeding Frenzy” makes Butthole Surfers' most acid-damaged output sound like George Thorogood. It's all too much, but you'll come out the other side of the album a stronger individual.
Emphasis track “Candy Run” rumbles and tumbles with oblong gusto, like an automaton possessed with a wonderfully odd sense of rhythm, until everything snaps into robotic funk mode. Meanwhile, Ver hectors incomprehensibly and the shrieking, shredded electronic timbres cause audiophile heart attacks within a 100 radius. It's a testament to Sea Moss' aesthetic extremity that this four-minute insanity-inducer is their best shot at “commercial success”—a concept that surely never crosses their minds.
Sea Moss perform on Thursday, October 20 at Gallery 1412.