I'm always on the lookout for great new recordings that fly below the radar of popular culture. Here are three that I am currently digging, along with audio streams generously provided by the artists and their labels. If you dig what you hear, investigate further—and please consider supporting these fine artists by purchasing the music rather than copping it for free on some pirate site.
Stick Men are Tony Levin (Chapman Stick, voice), Pat Mastelotto (acoustic and electric drums and percussion), and Marcus Reuter (8- and 10-string Touch Guitars, electronics). On this follow-up to last year's improvisational and largely dark ambient Open, the trio present nine mostly instrumental compositions rooted in the heavier music of King Crimson, but informed by energies unique to this particular constellation of players. Reuter and Levin deftly interweave complex rhythmic, harmonic, melodic, and bass ideas with the fluidity of a master juggler—and without sacrificing musicality for virtuosic exhibition—as Mastelotto keeps the conceptual juggernaut from veering off course or collapsing under its own weight. Stick Men team with Adrian Belew's Power Trio to brilliantly revisit KC material as the Crimson ProjeKct—but Deep suggests that Levin, Mastelotto, and Reuter may be the chief beneficiaries of the King's artistic and spiritual legacy. Stick Men.
Track: "Nude Ascending Staircase"
Sonic Mining Company
Sonic Mining Company
SMC is an improvisatory collaboration between guitarist Reeves Gabrels, bassist Frank Swart, and drummer Adam Abrashoff. Renowned for his ability to brilliantly traverse the territory stretching from accessible rock (David Bowie, the Cure) to the decidedly experimental, Gabrels definitely opts for the latter on this outing—though Swart and Abrashoff ground the wildness in earthy grooves. Gabrels utilizes freaky fuzz boxes, squawking filters, dynamic delays, rasping ring modulators, and other recognizable tools to excavate the essential aural ores—but he and his cohorts' adventurous spirit is what transmutes them into intriguing amalgams—aided by the adept production and mixing of Rob Stennett (at Subterranea Studio, no less). "Road Head" provides an excellent example. Ropeadope.
Track: "Road Head"
Purchase Sonic Mining Company here
Twenty-eight year-old bassist Julie Slick (along with her drummer brother Eric) popped into the public eye as part of the Adrian Belew Power Trio, which she still performs with in addition to the Crimson ProjeKct and other bands. Her eponymous debut album featured some great guitar work (including Soundscapes by Robert Fripp), but Terroir is a guitar smorgasbord, dishing up tasty fretwork from Belew, Tim Motzer, Rick Musallam, Mike Visser, Steve Ball, Robbie "Seahag" Mangano, and David Torn (who also plays oud on one piece). Stylistically, Slick's compositions combine post-, progressive-, math-, psychedelic-, and other "rocks," with more ambient, electronic, and experimental flavors, resulting in a satisfying phonic feast. Peak guitar moments include Belew and Musallam's interactions on "Sirène" and Torn's artfully unhinged soloing and sonic manipulations on "6." Slick Sound.