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Arts + CultureMusicBring the noise: Fall's best albums, part two

Bring the noise: Fall’s best albums, part two

A sweet soundtrack to those leaves falling: Check our list of must-nabs featuring Nubya Garcia, Lotic, Ross From Friends, and more.

2021 is packed with COVID-delayed new releases—but that doesn’t mean they’re all worth your time. These albums are, though. 48hills music critic John-Paul Shiver follows up with the second half of his autumnal faves, which venture into late October, November pre-order territory. Check the first installment of the auditory glory featuring August to early October drops here.

OCTOBER (CONTINUED)

NUBYA GARCIA — SOURCE WE MOVE (Concord Jazz)

Remember all that spicy talk I dished out in the first half of this series pertaining to being wary of remix projects? Those words don’t apply here. WHOA!

Leave it to London-based saxophonist and composer Nubya Garcia to come with the funk-doctor-fire on her SOURCE WE MOVE project. Featuring nine original remixes in a musical collaboration with vanguard artists including Dengue Dengue Dengue, Kaidi Tatham, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and KeiyaA, this is a triumphant re-imagination of her critically acclaimed 2020 album Source.

I’ll keep it short and let the professionals work. Just understand this; Moses Boyd does work with a drum and bass banger with “Pace,” and Georgia Anne Muldrow deals a G-FONK slapper of all frequencies on “Boundless Beings.” These beat-driven, electronically-focused compositions are strong in the spirit of keeping jazz open to all—not stuck on a dusty pedestal where few can find it.

Released October 22, order it here. This Mark de Clive-Lowe remix of Nubya is worth it too.

SECRET NIGHT GANG — SECRET NIGHT GANG (Brownswood Recordings)

These Manchester players will make jazz-funk arrangements that change you, make ya walk differently. 

Led by the moving vocals of Kemani Anderson and featuring saxophonist Callum Connell’s dart-accurate orchestrations, the eponymous Secret Night Gang (dope name, right) is a playful-serious dose of street-soul constructed with now-stalgia aesthetics. We’re getting Donny Hathaway vibes with a contemporary version of soul music that infuses jazz, gospel, R&B, soul-jazz—everything that makes it swing alongside the culture.

“We describe our sound as limitless,” says Connell. “It’s not set in one genre, and the album is both a reflection of the past three years, as well as an homage to our favorite music and musicians.” That shared history is worn on the sleeve, chest, hat, and instrument case. Proudly.

Released October 22. Purchase here.

ROSS FROM FRIENDS — TREAD (Brainfeeder)

When getting locked onto the music at hand, as suggested by my bud Dave Aju, Ross From Friends can bump out some emo-esque two-step. Moody waves of shuffle foot club music permeate throughout “The Daisy,” the lead single from his upcoming Tread release. 

Give us more of the opaque bass-bin earworms, please.

Released October 22. Purchase here.

THEON CROSS — INTRA-I (New Soil / Marathon)

Early in 2019, musician and composer Theon Cross blasted us the notion of a heavy grime influence within the realm of jazz on his debut album Fyah. That record broadcasted what the London tuba player has acutely pulled from his own generation of musical influences. With fellow jazz standouts Nubya Garcia and Moses Boyd acting as his lockstep core members (srsly, ride or dies) the record precisely presented an of-the-moment jazz vibe born out of the bones of soca, drum ‘n’ bass, dub, hip-hop, and varied strains of UK electronic music, all performed in the unique glory of a young Black Brit.

The upcoming sophomore release INTRA-I (meaning “within self”) is set to further expand all the sonic possibilities of tuba playing within this new multiverse of rhythm. It’s been cited as an exploratory celebration of Afro-diasporic music that examines self-development, the importance of history and heritage, and the strength given to us by adversity, as proven by the first generation of post-war Caribbean immigrants to the UK.

Cross, a member of the Mercury-nominated and award-winning quartet Sons of Kemet, emerges as more than just a savage performer. When left to his own self-directed arrangements, his riddim, powered by breath through a tuba, provides a showcase on how a soundsystem can operate via many different interpretations of bass. Grumble and vibration remain the key.

Purchase here. Drops October 29.

VELS TRIO — CELESTIAL GREENS (Rhythm Section)

I am continually surprised, intimidated, and freaked out by the all-encompassing Rhythm Section imprint. Bradley Zero’s genre-crossing label has been and remains … a problem. The label hits you with all shades of funk, soul, dance, and trippy jazz. And now, you can now add Celestial Greens from Vels Trio to that heavyweight get-down formula. 

Good lord and butter! Welcome the prog vibes, experimental jazz improv hustle, and sweeping evergreen force that trap your mind and booty someplace between the dancefloor and the edibles you left in the couch while binge-watching “Squid Game.”

Vels Trio’s Jack Stephenson-Oliver (keyboards), Dougal Taylor (drums), and Cameron Dawson (bass) have found that elusive “it,” rendering a record that marks a confident shift in tone from the band. They describe it as “trying to make pop music.” Define however you want gents, just don’t stop. Pioneering in both reach and vibration, the trio recorded at Kate Bush’s ‘70s studio alongside her nephew—you don’t get a more potent spiritual blessing than that. There is a track here called “Pop Stuff” that feels George Duke-synth-y, like it was arranged for The Weekend. Celestial Greens should become a necessary part of your daily diet.

Purchase here. Drops October 29.

LOTIC — WATER (Houndstooth)

The last decade has seen this experimental artist and Björk collaborator J’Kerian Morgan navigating personal hardship and upheaval while simultaneous garnering acclaim for her expansive production style as Lotic. She nestles searing sound design next to pop music hooks and hypnotic vocal reverie, mining the rich lineage of Black club cultures.

Lotic’s commitment to evolving has been a guiding principle throughout her career, and Water is a bold new direction for the artist, finding and exploring the vulnerable process of embracing intimate relationships to others and oneself. To embrace vulnerability is to welcome its totality. Water heals, and it harms.

Purchase here. Drops October 29.

NOVEMBER

CHIME SCHOOL — CHIME SCHOOL (Slumberland Records)

Chime School is the brainchild project of San Francisco musician Andy Pastalaniec, who was gifted a cassette four-track portastudio “almost as a dare,” compelling him to step out of the drum kit and into the spotlight.

Pleasantly adding melodic guitar-pop to the current wave of jangle bliss flowing through San Francisco right now, his arrangements complement recent efforts from local bands The Umbrellas and Seablite. Citing influences from ’80s indie and its 60s forbearers, plus the formative dissonance of The Byrds by way of early Primal Scream and The Springfields—let’s just say, Chime School has legs. For a detailed list of Pastalaniec’s influences, check out this old mixtape.

Purchase here. Drops November 5.

NEAL FRANCIS — IN PLAIN SIGHT (ATO Records)

About two years ago, I found out about this piano prodigy and boogie-woogie enthusiast who toured Europe by the age of 18 with Muddy Waters’ son. That would be Neal Francis. Changes, his début solo piece-de-resistance, was a first-rate funk and roll composite landing midpoint between alehouse rock and New Orleans percussive R&B. He’s one of those artists who always sounds like he has a head cold, with a devil-may-care attitude that makes mumblecore lyrics about redemption amidst chunky bass lines. My type of gravy.

His upcoming album In Plain Sight sounds like he picked right up where he left off.

Word on the street is after returning home from touring that first record, Francis went through a breakup and found himself living in a church, where he ended up writing a series of new songs about honesty and resilience. Interestingly enough, (and I’m not poking fun at his misfortune) that synopsis is quite on-brand for the no-fuss artist—he could pull inspiration from a cup of Sanka. You can catch him on the Sunday line-up for this year’s Outside Lands festival.

Purchase here. Drops November 5.

DANIEL CASIMIR — BOXED IN (Jazz re:freshed)

 “I’ve always been interested in writing for orchestra, but I’ve never really been given the opportunity, despite going to conservatoires,” says London-based Daniel Casimir. “I was one of only two Black musicians in the conservatoire during my four years. These things have become so normalized that you can almost miss the injustice of it.”

Casimir’s solo debut album Boxed In presents an enterprising clash between jazz and orchestral music. The composer-bassist leads a quintet of fellow British jazz luminaries; Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd, Al Macsween, and James Copus. His record shrewdly combining classical and jazz forms that create synchronicity across the divide. This exceptional melding of two musical worlds—code-switching by modal means—is the trajectory many Black artists and musicians must follow, yet here these institutions embrace and validate. Casimir’s debut succeeds in many ways.

Purchase here. Drops November 5.

MALIK ALSTON — MALIK ALSTON PRESENTS PAINTED PICTURES: AIR (The Jazz Diaries)

Some musicians and arrangers are so full of talent, fortified with that spirit, it’s hard for them to contain it within one general area. Malik Alston, a foundational artist in the Detroit music community, can move through genres within a song without disruption. A master at playing “feel,” he hosted one of the first Slum Village concerts, has produced and collaborated with the likes of Alton Miller, Amp Fiddler, Roy Davis Jr., and Javonntte, and now arrives with one of his most vibrant projects to date. Malik Alston Presents Painted Pictures: Air is a vibrant commemoration floodlighting jazz expertise, gospel, soul, dance Music … a.k.a., this is DEE-TROIT innovation, flowing. 

Purchase here. Drops November 19.

BEN LAMAR — OPEN ARMS TO OPEN US (International Anthem / Nonesuch)

Highlighted in the New York Times’s fall 2021 music preview, Open Arms to Open Us is a dispatch from “postmodern folklorist” Ben LaMar Gay’s current place in space, filled with imaginative arrangements and his “wise and confiding baritone.” Hey, when the New York Times gets it right, don’t mess with it.

Across 16 tracks, Gay fluently interweaves jazz, blues, ballads, R&B, raga, new music, nursery rhyme, tropicalia, two-step, hip-hop, and beyond. He creates a headwind of expression from his self-named omni-genre “pan-Americana” brew. Gay surrounds himself with steady bandmates (including Tommaso Moretti on drums, Matthew Davis on tuba, and Rob Frye on woodwinds), and shines the spotlight on a host of phenomenal women artists from his cast of regular collaborators. Featured artists on the album include OHMME singers Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, bassist/vocalist/arranger Ayanna Woods, multi-disciplinary Rwandan artist Dorothée Munyaneza, poet A.Martinez, cellist Tomeka Reid, and vocalists Onye Ozuzu, Gira Dahnee, and Angel Bat Dawid.

Open Arms to Open Us is a titan of overflowing imaginative verve that we shall all be talking about deep into 2022.

Purchase here. Drops November 19.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.
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