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Levi Dover Sextet: Imaginary Structures (album review by Christa V.)

This is the debut album of Levi Dover’s sextet, featuring entirely tracks that Dover wrote himself. Dover shines on the double bass, but the entire group meshes incredibly well together. The album itself feels like a synthesis of traditional jazz with elements of progressive rock and an overall improvisatory feel. At times, it can feel disconcerting as the rhythm section appears to disconnect from the rest of the group, but it always comes back together by the end of the track. One of the best tracks is probably “In Hindsight” since it features all of the members really going nuts and having fun! More toned down tunes like “Galapagos” are also very fun as well. Finally, “The Fox and the Cat” is an amusing play between the trumpet and the piano that is sure to surprise you and sound very different from anything else on the record. Favorite tracks: 2, 5, 7

Scott Reeves Quintet: The Alchemist (album review by Christa V.)

This album was a happy accident of the COVID-19 pandemic in that Scott Reeves rediscovered this audio from a 2005 concert and decided to remaster and release it. There are certainly blips in the audio, this was never intended to be album quality, but the audio engineer did a terrific job and most of it sounds excellent. The resulting performance is relaxed and casual, not super showy until you realize the virtuosity to the performances. (For example, Reeves is likely playing both the alto valve trombone and alto flugelhorn at times.) The overall performance isn’t incredibly showy beyond the title track, but the music rewards you on repeat listens. Favorite tracks: 4, 6

Parquet Courts and Mdou Moctar at the Magic Stick Detroit: Concert Review By Dexter Kaufmann

Last Sunday, I watched openers Mdou Moctar with zero expectations or knowledge of the band. My only knowledge was their classification of world music, which usually implies music that no other genre wants to claim. However in this case, Mdou Moctar’s music truly couldn’t be confined to one style. Their attire of purple and pink robes with turbans instantly grabbed my attention, and their music held it until the end of the set. 

 

Their rhythm section held a steady beat, often in 6/4. Generally, their songs droned on a single chord, and the lyrical composition was sparse and entirely in Tamasheq. Instead, the focus of the songs was on unique rhythms and the soulful playing of lead guitarist Mahamadou Souleymane. 

 

Mahamadou’s lead licks were truly a sight to behold and the non-western guitar scales obviously showcase his Tuareg roots from his home country of Niger. However, his psych rock guitar tone, along with a lefty Stratocaster showed glimpses of Jimi Hendrix. 

 

Mdou Moctar proved to be a tough act to follow, but Parquet Courts gave their fans a great show as well. They opened their set with the synth-heavy “Application-Apparatus”. The venue’s overhead lights perfectly complemented the psychedelic track. By their third song, “Dust”, the mosh pit swallowed me up, and both the band and the crowd were feeding off each others’ energy.  The rest of their setlist featured their broad range of styles and musical talents.

 

Overall, the Magic Stick Detroit was an amazing venue, and Parquet Courts put on a stellar live performance. However, the greatest revelation was Mdou Moctar, and after listening to their most recent album, “Afrique Victime”, I’m definitely a new fan. 

 

If you missed the show, listen to Parquet Courts newest album, “Sympathy for Life”. Favorite Songs: 1, 2, 6, 8

Review by: Dexter Kauffman

Photo credit: Claudia Stoops

Piel - A.K.A. Ma (album review by Nicklas S.)

Piel produce a spacey, shoegazy, rock album on A.K.A. Ma, utilizing the haunting, shimmering vocals of Tiki Lewis to create a dreamy yet also tense sound. On the first track, "Custodian," dance-oriented influences dominate the song as Lewis describes taking ownership of resources in a world where "we don't own anything" over a pounding backbeat and delayed guitars. Much of the rest of the album focuses instead on slower, less rhythmic songs where Lewis' vocals gently glide over the reverbed guitars and drums of bandmates Kenny Ramirez and Jonathan Burkes. On "Easy as it Feels," the group take their sound in a languorous direction, putting so much reverb and delay on the guitars that they sound almost like synth pads permeating every inch of the track's sound. The dance-oriented rhythm returns on "The New," easily the album's most shoegazy song reminiscent of much of Cocteau Twins' output. Though this album represents an important step forward in the dream-pop (dream-rock?) sound, I do wish the band would have further explored the dancey rhythms used on tracks 1 and 5 or the electronic instrumentation used on track 6. Still, this album is a must-listen for any fans of dream-pop or shoegaze.

Favorite Tracks (1, 4, 5)

Thomas Marriott: Trumpet Ship (album review by Christa V.)

Marriott is a prolific trumpet player and composer, here he plays with Orrin Evans on piano, Luques Curtis on bass, and Mark Whitfield Jr. on drums. This whole album was recorded in one day, mostly first takes! It consists of five of Marriott’s tunes, plus “All the Things You Are,” “General Assembly,” and “Trumpet Ship.” Throughout the whole album the quartet’s chemistry and experience shine through! The feature is the trumpet, of course, but many introductions to songs and solos feature the rhythm section which creates a lovely contrast and atmosphere. This is particularly evident on the first track, “All the Things You Are.” But nevertheless, nothing quite beats the horn sound on the title track, “Trumpet Ship.”  Favorite tracks: 1, 4

Novelty Island: How Are You Coping With This Century? (album review by Christa V.)

The debut album from Novelty Island is a fun, sunny jaunt through fun folk-pop tracks and enjoyable lyrics. The group creates a rather unique sound through their use of banjo, cello, horns, in addition to the usual instruments. Despite all of the unusual choices, the sound remains fun and familiar to the listener. The opener, “This Bird,” is fun and upbeat tune that’s easy to put on and hard to turn off. “Blackcurrant Sky” midway through the album has more of a psychedelic feel to is with vocal lines weaving in and out of the synths. Midway through the track though the psychedelic feel is dropped for a sparser folk feel present on other tracks. The album is both varied but has the feel of a band that knows their sound and style, it’s both fresh and comforting. Definitely a group to keep an eye on. Favorite tracks: 1, 6, 10

Various Artists - Habibi Funk 015: An Eclectic Selection from the Arab World (album review by Laura T.)

German record label Habibi Funk released this compilation album last year, and it lives up to its name. Spanning more than 7 different countries, songs range from funk, jazz, ballads, soundtracks, to an interpolation of Staying Alive by the Bee Gees. This album dives past funk into a collection of niche artists that more than deserve to be heard. Highlights include laid back pop from Douaa, Libyan reggae, and organ funk. None of these songs are particularly linked through geography, time, theme, or genre, but each song is a beautiful celebration of music of the Middle East and North Africa.

Fav tracks: 1, 5, 8, 11, 13

Michael Vlatkovich: With You Jazz Cat (album review by Christa V.)

The composer and trombonist Michael Vlatkovich has here put together an album that combined traditional jazz tunes with contemporary and creative sounds. All of the songs are originals, and they highlight the strengths of the individual soloists. The second track features a growling trombone solo which, combined with the groovy rhythm section, really conjures up the image of a dingy jazz club. The fourth track, “Bob, the fish that discovered water,” features a tight horn section along with a killer soprano saxophone solo (which is a rare find indeed!). Track 6 then highlights the bass player with another amazing solo, which is also hard to pull off since it can be so hard to hear the bass! A hidden gem of an album, it’s worth listening to for the solos alone.  Favorite tracks: 2, 4, 6

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