"Khadifa Wong’s new documentary, 'Uprooted', reveals that the popular image of jazz obscures the true history of a dance form of African descent, born of slavery and enmeshed with the African American experience – from cakewalk to Charleston to Lindy hop – but then dominated by a series of white mem" - Guardian says in a review of the new documentary about jazz dance. It covers Marilyn Monroe’s choreographer Jack Cole, Patrick Swayze’s mum, Patsy, the only teacher in Texas who took black students alongside white, JoJo Smith, who was John Travolta’s dance consultant on 'Saturday Night Fever' etc.

Ordinary people needed for extraordinary goals
September 21, 2020

'White Riot' documentary - punk, ska and reggae against the far right

"An excellent brief documentary about a heroic grassroots political movement whose importance reveals itself more clearly in retrospect with every year that passes" - Peter Bradshaw writes about the new documentary 'White Riot'. Director Rebecca Shah mixes archival images and interviews with key figures of the grassroots organization Rock Against Racism that bonded together punk, ska, reggae and new wave scenes to stand against the far right. The documentary closes with images of the Carnival Against Nazis, which drew in an audience of 100,000 in support of their cause.

"'Untitled (Rise)' hardly yields highlights because the quality never wavers... It manages to be as lyrically unflinching as the music is compelling... You’d call it the album of the year if its predecessor wasn’t just as good" - Guardian's Alexis Petridis writes in a review of Sault's new album, anonymous neo-soul-funk band's second double album in just over 12 weeks, and their fourth in 18 months. The new album is "more obviously dancefloor-focused – its influences shifting from house to disco, from the perspiration-soaked post-punk funk to smooth 80s boogie, from sorrow and soothing to empowerment and resistance".

"Their hypnotic orchestral folk songs 'come howling after' an unfathomable god" - the Guardian writes about singer-sogwriter Anjimile's debut LP 'Giver Taker'. Paste Magazine says "Anjimile’s story is an uncommon one, but an uplifting one nonetheless: A trans person—in the midst of battling his own demons—excavates the most troubling parts of his past and ultimately seeks out catharsis". The Line of Best Fit says Anjimile "channels the hurt through extraordinary delicate songs where harmonies wrap around each other with a spectral quality, and the dripping rain of picked guitar strings decorate the walls".

The new documentary 'Sleep' by Natalie Johns is about what many consider Max Richter's magnum opus - an eight-and-a-half-hour composition 'Sleep' with 204 movements in a plangent, ambient and mellow vein, designed to be listened to while the audience is asleep. This new docu focuses on an open-air event in the Grand Park in Los Angeles. Guardian's Peter Bradshaw says the docu on "this toweringly quixotic work" is a "beguiling film" and "anything but a snooze".

Blues-Gnawa rally
September 16, 2020

Nayda! - new kind of blues

Moroccan-French quartet Nadya! released their debut album - a "fusion of contemporary rock and funk and ancient traditional Moroccan musical forms including gnawa and chaabi", the Quietus says in their review of fresh sound on ancient music on 'Bab L' Bluz'. "And while influenced by music from across North Africa there is a fluid thread... to what they describe as the origins of the music, gnawa trance, and Malian blues".

Bury the Glasto
September 16, 2020

Wild Fields - a shape of festivals to come?

"There’s no freewheeling carnage here, nor the chance to indulge in the classic fest camping ritual. Instead, this is a communal celebration of excitement at actually being outside and watching music" - NME reports from Wild Fields, a socially distanced festival, perhaps a new model for festivals. It is modest - there are three stages, two bars and a merch stand, the audience is spread in pods, and the line-up is made of local bands. "By providing a legitimate festival experience – or at least the closest we’ll get to it this year – the team have forged a celebration of everything we’re missing in 2020: the dissonant echo from a stage plopped in the middle of a field as we escape the real world, and all its woes, for the spiritual relief of music in the company of like-minded souls" - NME argues - "It all creates an atmosphere that digs into the heart of what festivals have always been about: escapism".

NME's columnist wrote, as usual, a warm and funny text, this time about music docus: "One of the main reasons we can watch documentaries about hugely successful bands without seething with envy is the knowledge that, had we followed that career path ourselves, our odds weren’t too great of living to be in the documentary"!!! The last one he liked is the one about The Band - "a rare example of bit players striking it big on their own terms, then watching on helplessly as success tugged at their stray flaws until the whole thing unravelled".

Former American president Jimmy Carter said that Willie Nelson smoked weed with his on the roof of the White House in 1978, not with an employee, as the country legend had originally claimed, the 95-year-old politician said in a new documentary, 'Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President'. The new docu explores the 39th president’s connection to the music community during his four-year term, Huff Post reports. The core of Mary Wharton’s film argues that stars like the Allman Brothers, Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills & Nash, as well as outlaw country artists like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, played a crucial role in getting Carter into the White House in 1976.

This bird has flown
September 11, 2020

Critics really like new Doves

Their first incarnation, in the 1990s, was a dance band Sub Sub made of ravers, then the Manchester trio reincarnated as a indie-rock band Doves in the 00s, now their third coming, after a decade long hiatus, is a pop-rock band, obviously happy to be making music. And critics love it. Stereogum chose 'The Universal Want' as their latest Album of the week because "their roughshod-then-glimmering anthems always sounded like something magical striving to break its tethers and take off". It's also Alexis Petridis' album of the week because "it's all heartfelt, well done". NME gave the album four stars (of five) saying they "bring thumping fairground anthems, and words of hope". Clash calls it "a long-awaited treat, it deserves a warm welcome".

A Spike Lee documentary 'American Utopia' about Talking Heads frontman David Byrne's 2019 concert show has opened the 2020 Toronto Film Festival, and the critics love it, BBC reports. 'American Utopia' shares its name with Byrne's 2018 album and 2019 Broadway show. Variety said it was "playful and entrancing", the Hollywood Reporter called it "simply spectacular", while IndieWire says it isn't "just a concert doc, but also a life-affirming, euphoria-producing, soul-energising sing-along protest film".

"The Band’s story seems perfectly concise and contained, ideal celluloid fare, and 'Once Were Brothers' director Daniel Roher does a fabulous job of scooping it up in one piece and placing it neatly on film" - Mark Beaumont writes in the review of the new documentary about the Americana godfathers. "Everything about The Band feels so steeped in dust and mythology that the entire film feels like a window into something strangely arcane".

"Regrowth’s sound is a grand, intense form of hardcore — huge, anthemic, emotionally wracked, full of big-gesture hooks. They scream hard, play big riffs, and put busy textures into their sound... The songs on 'Lungs' are long and ambitious and sometimes beautiful. They can be heavy, but they always have hooks" - Stereogum writes about the debut album by the Sardinian band.

Beautifully strange
September 01, 2020

'Shabrang' by Sevdaliza - beautiful alter-pop music

Dutch-Iranian singer Sevdaliza's 'Shabrang is an album of sad music bringing joy through sheer beauty. The album is slow, but her voice gives it strength. It's pop music, but its sadness makes it alternative. Technically, there's not much music here, but its emotional maximalism gives it richness. A case of beautiful alter-pop music...

The left field yield
August 26, 2020

New Mach-Hommy - "bolder, richer, louder, clearer"

"'Mach's Hard Lemonade' favors brevity, and there's something very effective in our information-overload times about a 9-song, 22-minute album that never lets up and lends itself to replays" - Brooklyn Vegan stated about Mach-Hommy's new album. Both of the essential elements are upped on this one -"Mach-Hommy's production sounds bolder and richer than usual on this album, and his rapping is louder, clearer, and more attention-grabbing, but he hasn't abandoned the psychedelic, radically left-of-center sound that's made him such a cultishly loved artist in today's rap underground".

Nightports / Betamax

Electronic duo Nightports invite a collaborator into their glitching realm. The collaborator improvises and Nightports will manipulate the recordings into one cohesive artwork. This time around they invited The Comet is Coming drummer Betamax who gave them his "quick fire tubthumping". The resulting album is on the edges of experimental and pop music but also, as the Quietus says, "a thought-provoking undertaking. It is made interesting by its wild-eyed invention, and Nightports’ constant ability to get melody and ambience from the recordings they’re working with. But it’s made enjoyable by the energetic performance of Betamax behind the drum kit".

British producer and PC Music label boss A.G. Cook released his first proper album '7G', comprised of seven discs, totaling in over 2 and a half hours of music. Every disc includes seven tracks, each dedicated to a different instrument: drums, guitar, supersaw, piano, Nord, spoken word, and extreme vocals. On the guitar one, he’s reimagined as a sad-sack Bandcamp god; in another, he’s a maniacally demented pop musician. There’s a lot to admire in here, a lot that helps illuminate why Cook has become a creative sounding board for his fellow weirdo pop musicians. His ear for melody is masterful, and his take on pop music can range from hyper-glossy to hyper-abrasive - Stereogum argues. The full album is here.

Microphones released their first new album in 17 years, 'Microphones in 2020', today, comprised of one, 44-minute song, that comes with a beautiful one-shot still video. It is a slide-show of 800 printed photos of band's leader Phil Elverum's childhood and touring years, accompanied by the lyrics to the songs (watch/listen to it here). Critics like the album a lot: Stereogum branded it their Album of the Week because "he weaves together vast metaphysical explorations and minute personal memories"; Pitchfork branded it Best new music (grade 8.5) for exploration of "artmaking, self-mythologizing, and what it means to bear witness to one’s own existence and transformations"; Exclaim goes philosophical and poetical on us: "This is Elverum's indelible stamp of style, distilled into a single track that flows like waves in the ocean or hills on the mountainside".

"Billy Woods... has a voice that commands, a booming orator akin to no one but himself. Then there’s Elucid, prone to bars of labyrinthine complexity, a rapper who’ll declare 'fuckboys deserve to be liberated too' as evidence that revolutionary rage and killer one-liners can coexist with ease" - The Quietus writes about the New York hip-hop duo Armand Hammer, declaring them "recognisers of looping cycles".

"'Wooden Cave' -- easily one of the best, if not the best album of this horrifying year so far -- does what so many of the best albums do. It creates a unique artistic statement that's a pleasure to hear from start to finish but includes plenty of ugly truths and harsh realities" - PopMatters says in its rave review of singer-songwriter Thin Lear's new album (9 of 10 stars).

"Its two-hour runtime pales as news in comparison to just how much savage intensity Paysage d'Hiver maintains over that span, and how brief the project thereby makes this lengthy duration" - Invisible Oranges argues in favor of their latest editor's choice of the best new albums. "This is black metal that can simultaneously accelerate and decelerate time: it's over in an instant, but somehow it feels like a centenarian's lifetime".

'CrossBread' is a six-part ABC mockumentary podcast that charts the fortunes of a non-Christian Christian hip-hop group of the same name, and the Guardian says it's great. It's about siblings Josh and Joan who find unlikely success on the Christian rock circuit and have to pretend to have found Jesus in order to maintain their status as the hottest hip-hop act in the parish. There's a "reverend Philip Brock – an archetypal 'groovy priest' figure, played by veteran musician John Waters – sees potential ('they were the only Christian band that didn’t make me want to crucify myself'), so long as he can smooth out their rough edges". Check it out on ABC.

"The most evocative about 'Beyond The Pale': the ways in which Cocker’s lyrics, sharp as ever, reflect his own aging and experiences within these recurring Big Picture references to human progress, human destruction, and the stupid little things we fill our time with otherwise" - Stereogum writes about their newest Album of the week, debut by Jarvis Cocker's new project JARV IS. Cocker is still as clever and witty - "He has a way of making you laugh at the absurdity and inevitability of everything and you’re struck by each observation he offers".

"Consistently exciting, always surprising, and full of soul, it is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable releases of the year to date" - PopMatters is full of praise for the big collaborative project Keleketla! featuring Coldcut, Tony Allen, Shabaka Hutchings, Miles James, Soundz of the South, Freedom Groove, and many other British and African musicians. Guardian chose it for their Global album of the month - "Here, the component parts of hip-hop, jazz, dub and protest music are pieced together, like the many languages of a diasporic conversation". AllMusic said it is "a powerful combination of activism and musical exploration" to "express messages of joy, optimism, and revolution". Financial Times heard it as a "lively, cosmopolitan tale of musical resistance to a world of borders and repression".

British singer/songwriter A.A. Williams ha released her debut 'Forever Blue', with guest vocals from Cult of Luna members Johannes Persson and Fredrik Kihlberg and Wild Beasts' Tom Fleming. Critics from all sides like it: "It’s a debut of richness, depth and genuinely shattering emotional engagement – pure melancholic majesty" - Beats per Minute; "Ambitious blend of post-rock, folk, goth, metal, and classical ingredients" - All Music; "A classically trained cellist, pianist and multi-instrumentalist, Williams’ blending of post-rock and post-classical elements has a hypnotising quality, that slowly lulls its listeners into an exquisite fervour" - The Line on Best Fit; "A stunning, haunting work" - American Songwriter.

"The sound of art-punk, industrial, ambient, techno, and glam imploding on themselves. It’s vicious and physical" - Pitchfork defines new album 'The Passion Of' by the New Orleans quartet Special Interest. That's the sound. The lyrics are "consistently ablaze, whether writing about sex and longing at end times or gentrification and the militarization of cities". In general - "punk offers a moment of ignition. But for Special Interest, there is also a horizon".

In 1990, Richard Shannon Hoon started filming himself, and continued doing so during his days in psychedelic rock band Blind Melon, until he died of an overdose in 1995. His recordings are assembled in a new documentary 'All I Can Say' where everybody can see "the disillusionment of stardom psychically shut somebody down, piece by piece, before your eyes", as Rolling Stone says in their review.

The man with the first cyclist waltz
June 30, 2020

Gabriel Ólafs composes "a beautiful record" with 'Piano Works'

"Gabriel Ólafs understands how to craft short yet expressive piano pieces that recall the intimate sensibility of 19th-century salons as much as modern Icelandic indie groups" - PopMatters says in a review of the new album by the young Icelandic pianist. PM argues Ólafs "focuses on mood and emotive gestures to develop pieces, both concise yet brimming with beauty", adding he "shares more in common with the art-rock artists of his homeland (Sigur Rós, Sóley) than prominent contemporary classical pianists".

Documentary film 'Carmine Street Guitars' is "the digital equivalent of hanging out in the Manhattan shop of the title, a Greenwich Village institution of sorts... It is 80 minutes of pure woodwork-musicianship-upcycling erotica for a very specialist but passionate market", Guardian says in a review. "If a film had a smell, this one would be of sawdust, varnish and pure love" - the G says in its verdict. It's available on digital platforms now.

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