by Caryn Havlik —
One of the perkiest bonuses of wading through the overwhelming flood of new music that comes through John Schaefer’s office at any time is that one has at least a 1 in 5 chance of stumbling over an absolute treasure of a new music discovery. Not to rub it in, but this can sometimes happen as often as 3-5 times per day. (Sure beats hearing the same pop music until you can sing it in your sleep.) Narrowing down what to discreetly tuck away for personal listening enjoyment (what to withhold from John Schaefer until absolutely necessary) can sometimes be tough. There’s only so much storage space. Here are some of the things that we’re most likely to have on repeat until Schaefer needs them:
Mamani Keita – Kanou
From the Album Kanou due out Feb. 11, 2014 (WorldVillage)
The transfixing Malian vocalist brings the hypnotic groove. In her latest, “Kanou,” meaning 'to love' in her native Bambara, Mamani Keita sings about loving your partner “more than silver and gold.” Djeli Moussa Kouyaté’s guitars dance around Mamani Keita’s warm vocals and choruses, surrounding them like a mother’s arms. Tasty layers of these guitars are augmented further by ngoni and percussion, with added space to give even more life to Mamani Keita’s songs.
Also, because one isn’t enough, here’s “Djigihia,” an ode to hope.
Eternal 7 -Diego Barber ft. Craig Taborn
From the album, “Tales” due out March 18 (Sunnyside Records)
Diego Barber, a classical guitarist and composer from the Canary Islands in Spain, has written music for both jazz and classical settings and aims to ignore the unnecessary divide between the two. On this phenomenal and sublime collaboration with pianist Craig Taborn, “Tales,” tension-building pulses anchor piano ornaments, and intricate guitar runs are peppered and enhanced with piano. The whole record is time well-spent, exploring a balance of risk and restraint. Listen to Barber and Taborn at work on “Eternal 7,” a reflective homage to the former Real Madrid soccer player Raul Gonzalez Blanco.
The staff was also smitten with the opening work (coming in at 27 minutes, nearly half of the record), “Killian’s Mountains,” where the peaks and valleys of interlocking piano and guitar patterns are immensely satisfying, giving way to a spacious piano and guitar conversation. That tune is an ode to the world’s best mountain runner, Killian Jornet Burgada.
Glenn Kotche - Anomaly Mvt 2
From “Adventureland,” due out March 25 (Cantaloupe Records)
Imagine the excitement when we heard that Glenn Kotche, drummer and composer (and personal drum-hero to the staff) has a new record coming in March, featuring Kronos Quartet, eighth blackbird, and Gamelan Galak Tika! This movement is from the thoughtful, delicate, expressive, and smart seven-part opus, “Anomaly.” One can almost hear traces of the linear drum pattern that he used on his arrangement of the “(Ramayana) Monkey Chant,” from his 2006 “Mobile,” but then this pulsing pattern builds, to swelling strings and cymbal crashes which soar skyward.
Reportedly, Kotche had a Eureka moment in writing the early portion of the work, assigning the four voices of Kronos Quartet to his four limbs, (presumably leaving his head free for banging). It’s also “the first piece that I’ve composed outside the realm of percussion, it is for me—also an anomaly.” (Nonesuch Journal)
Then there’s a five movement work, “the Haunting,” scored for “two pianos vs. percussion,” which might well be the equivalent of a year’s worth of Epic Rap Battles of History (only in the best way), combined with a sometimes-ominous soundscape. For Gamelan Galak Tika, he wrote the playful and cheery “Traveling Turtle,” and rounding out the record is “Triple Fantasy” an ingeniously spliced suite of performances by Kronos Quartet and Chicago’s eighth blackbird ensemble, embellished with various field recordings.
Don’t miss Glenn Kotche and Victoire at an early show (6PM!) at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on Feb. 22, as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival.
Hassan Hakmoun - Soutinbi (Makkah)
From the album, “Unity,” due out 04/12/14.
Marrakech-born Hassan Hakmoun has musical roots in the traditions of the Islamic Gnawa sect, descendants from West African slaves brought to North Africa several hundred years ago. At the center of their spiritual practice is music and dance that fuses Islamic mysticism with sub-Saharan African traditions, particularly in all-night trance rituals meant to praise God and heal bodies and minds.
On his latest record, “Unity,” singer and musician Hassan Hakmoun, the 'Godfather of Gnawa’ has fashioned a record of deep bass grooves and ritual music that rides the wave of Moroccan roll. Co-producers Yossi Fine and Chikako Iwahori, together with Hakmoun, have amped the 3-stringed sintir, combining guitars, harmonica and Fula flute to make this one joyful, inviting, and danceable offering of Gnawan trance music that also rocks.
“The word ‘unity’ just came out,” he says from his new home in Brooklyn, NY, noting that this album is dedicated to Nelson Mandela. “There are so many people of the same religion in the world killing one another because of small differences in their beliefs. Just look at what’s happened recently in South Africa, the Middle East and West Africa. It’s made me pray that one day we all have unity.”” (excerpted from Society of Sound.) Listen to Hassan Hakmoun’s entire set from globalFEST 2014 at NPRmusic.
Another forthcoming track, “Zidokan,” is also available here: Bowers & Wilkins.
St. Vincent - Digital Witness
Best in matching/marching cult outfits goes to St. Vincent, in her video for “Digital Witness,” which is our one allowable non-weird music mention. It’s a super fun dancey tune with blown-out low end synths and synchronized head-bobbing. St. Vincent’s record, self-titled, is due out 2/25. (Loma Vista Recordings)