Year of the Snitch

Year of the Snitch by Death Grips.

I have to admit Death Grips are kind of a guilty pleasure for me.

An often offensive blend of metal, hardcore, and rap.

Year of the Snitch is their new album.

Like many of the kids, Death Grips are trying on some retro stylee.

Cheesy sounding synths, tacky beats, and leftover metal riffs that sound like they are from Whitesnake or Motley Crue b-sides.

Feels like they have travelled back in time to capture the feel of that first album the Beastie Boys did for Rick Rubin.

Anyway, the production is so grungy that I can’t really tell you what any of the songs are about, aside from to say that they use plenty of profanity. So, if you are sensitive to cursing, this isn’t the album for you. This may not be the Century for you.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack#DeathGrips #YearOfTheSnitch

Scratch, Slice, Jag

Scratch, Slice, Jag by Jeb Bishop and Dan Ruccia.
Bandcamp Link: Scratch, Slice, Jag

Trombone and Viola. Not one of those duo combinations that pops right out as an obvious choice.

In some sense, it does make sense, both are “slide” instruments (of a sort) and neither are typical “lead” instruments. Why not put them together?

This is the sort of improvised more akin to 20th Century “modern classical” music than what most people think of as “Jazz”. Both players are very good at listening and responding to each other, no matter how far out they go. And I can definitely say some of the sounds on this album surprised me, that they came out of a Viola or a Trombone.

I was initially dubious, not being much of a trombone guy, but after a couple times through, it is growing on me.

#DanRuccia #JebBishop #ScratchSliceJag #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack


Logos by Dos Santos.

I don’t know much about this band, other than that they are on a label whose Jazz releases I really like.

So, I was a bit surprised when I listened and heard a sort of Pan-Latin melting pot. Not dissimilar to the Los Lobos related Latin Playboys project or the Meridian Brothers.

The vocals, while in Spanish, are primarily influenced by Brazilian Tropicalia music, and they float serenely over the various styles of music which bubble underneath.

From Columbian Cumbia, to pretty straight ahead Latin Rock, to funk, soul, and beyond, the music runs the gamut. Though, like the Latin Playboys, they are playing with a bit wider field of view, in terms of production and sound, than you would typically hear in the source music.

One thing I do really like, is that they take the time to get real horn charts (ANTIBALAS HORNS!) on a couple tunes, which brings a special feel to “logos” and “(you are) my revolution”. A great soundtrack for the first commute of the summer.

#DosSantos #Logos #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack


Blocking by Kevin Drumm.
Bandcamp Link: Blocking

Unlike his “May 18” release, Blocking is NOT “user friendly” Kevin Drumm.

There’s a joke in the drone/noise circles about mic’ing an oscillating fan.

This doesn’t exactly sound like mic’ing an oscillating fan. The experience is more like dozing, half-asleep, in a hammock on a hot summer day, while the neighbors on three yards elsewhere in your neighborhood mow their lawns. Not quite disturbing enough to wake you up, yet too disturbing for you to get a really good nap.

Or maybe trying to nap in the middle of a power transformer or nuclear reactor.

There are some repetitions and decreases in volume that sort of give the recording a feeling of progress and some tonal interaction between different pitched drones which occasionally is almost like tension or musical content.

And if you really listen, the tone is not pure, it is always modulating and changing, a foggy cloud of sounds being driven by winds or alien forces not recognizable as intention.

#KevinDrumm #Blocking #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MatjillaPoppy #Romneyacoulteri

All Directions Home

All Directions Home by Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley.
Bandcamp Link: All Directions Home
Another Duo from Vandermark and Wooley. While Vandermark concentrated on Clarinet on East by Northwest, on All Directions Home he concentrates on Baritone and Tenor Sax. Only on the amazingly titled, “I Prefer the Company of Birds”, does he whip out the licorice stick.

Recorded live at The Sugar Maple in Milwaukee, both players are amazingly “on”. Sensitivity, grace, tension, and comfortability with your performance partner are the sensibilities which inform.

If anything, it reminds me a bit of Jimmy Guiffre’s small groups in its relaxed eclecticism.

And, by the way, I too, often, prefer the company of birds.

#KenVandermark #NateWooley #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #AllDirectionsHome


Sustain by Chaos Echoes (Echœs) and Mats Gustafsson.
Bandcamp Link: Sustain

Different groups have been taking different runs at “heavy” music with Saxophones. I’m not familiar with Chaos Echoes, aside from this album, so I don’t know how representative it is of their other music. Gustafsson, though, is always heavy in his own way, and this is no exception.

They build an atmosphere of dread and tension, haunted house horror movie music, but withhold the release. Especially on the second track, where minute after minute after minute Gustafsson pointedly avoids resolving the band’s chords, hanging on 6ths, 7ths, 2nds, and squonks until the song just fades out, unrequited.

Pretty cool, and, yep, pretty heavy. (My only real complaint is, with a total run time of about 25 minutes, this album is way too short for my taste. More, please.) 

#MatsGustafsson #ChaosEchoes #ChaosEchœs #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

May 18

May 18 by Kevin Drumm.
Bandcamp Link: May 18

I was quite dissapponted that I was out of town when Kevin Drumm made a rare West Coast appearance last month.

However, I am getting a bit behind my subscription listening, as this album is from Mid-May, so I will catch up virtually.

May 18 is everything I like in a Kevin Drumm album. A slow build of slightly non-tonal drone. Random events to keep things interesting. And finishing with some fine, fine strong sub-sonics.

I think if you were looking for a pleasant, but not too pleasant, introduction to his work, May 18 would be a good place to start.

#KevinDrumm #May18 #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Lower Bottoms

Lower Bottoms by Matt Nelson.
Bandcamp Link: Lower Bottoms

Matt Nelson is a member of the sax quartet Battle Trance and also a member of the rather noisy, (and Google resistant,) group Grid. In Grid, Nelson has been using effects and amplification with his Sax.

Unlike the electric guitar, (where you only hear the amplified sound), with amplified Sax, you always hear both the amplified and acoustic sound (at least in a live setting). For all practical purposes, adding amplification and effects to a sax, means you are playing a duet with your amplified self.

On the first track Nelson explores this interplay between amplified and acoustic sound in a very interesting manner. On the second track, the amplified sound is isolated in the studio. As a sax player, I found this track a bit less interesting, as I was always thinking about what was going on with the sax to make the sounds. Radical soundscape, nonetheless. The third and fourth track are solely solo acoustic Tenor Sax, and quite impressive. I am always listening for artists who explore and expand the sonic palette of their instruments, and Nelson, (and other his compatriots in Battle Trance,) is among the modern pioneers of expanding the possibilities of expression on the Tenor Sax.

#MattNelson #LowerBottoms #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #TenorSax #TenorSaxophone


Hereditary by Colin Stetson.

Colin Stetson has always been fairly rigorous about recording his solo albums and collaborations in real time, even in the recording studio.

I have, however, occasionally wondered what it would be like if he availed himself of the usual studio trickery, overdubs and the like.

On his soundtrack for Hereditary he utilizes some of those studio tricks, so my questions are answered to a certain extent. While there is, thank goodness, no pitch correction here or pop tunes, it does sound like an army of Stetsons.

As far as I can tell, the only other player is his sometimes collaborator Sara Neufeld on violin. Other than that, I believe it is mostly clarinets. A sea of clarinets. A wall of clarinets. A multifarious shimmering field of clarinets. All anchored by his usual percussive key clapping and low end manipulation of the Bass Clarinet.

This is a pretty awesome, and ballsy move, for the soundtrack to a mainstream movie, even a horror movie.

I mean, horror movies do get a little bit of a pass to break away from the usual John Williams and Hans Zimmer pablum that passes for soundtracks, but this IS a movie that a lot of people will see and Colin Stetson is not Bernard Hermann.

I am pleased, and astounded, that the director and producers would entrust the soundtrack to a clarinetist and saxophonist who is committed to exploring the outer limits of what is possible on those instruments.

As a listening experience, the album isn’t quite the moving pleasure that Stetson’s usual albums are, just based on the fact that most of the songs are quite short and designed to exist supporting the action of a movie. The closest touchstones are probably his collaboration with Neufeld, “Never Were the Way She Was” and his recording of Gorecki’s Third Symphony. That said, there are a lot of great moments here. And certainly a lot of instrumental technique to boggle at, if that is your sort of thing.

Also, probably, the closest I will get to seeing the movie. Horror movies aren’t really my thing, and judging from the soundtrack, this is a pretty terrifying movie.

#Hereditary #ColinStetson #SaraNeufeld #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

More Fun Please

More Fun Please by Extra Large Unit.
Bandcamp Link: More Fun Please

Large Unit is Paal Nilssen-Love’s improvising ensemble, usually 8 or 9 people. Extra Large Unit swells the Large Unit’s membership to 27, most importantly including bowed string instruments and accordion. More Fun Please was composed and commissioned for Oslo Norway’s Only Connect festival in 2017.

More Fun Please opens with something that sounds like it could be from a 20th Century 12 tone piece, quickly segues into adventures in folk and drone, climaxes mid-way through with a large group improvisation, and slowly dwindles down to an accordion solo.

Sounds like it was a pretty magic night in Oslo.

#PaalNilssenLove #ExtraLargeUnit #MoreFunPlease #todayscommutesoundtrack