James Plotkin & Paal Nilssen-Love, Native, Jared Bartman, Michael Beharie, Pink Frost

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Unsolicited demos deserve unsolicited reviews. Some positive, some negative, with a lot of average in between. Here is a blog about us going through our mail.

James Plotkin & Paal Nilssen-Love, Death Rattle (Rune Grammofon)

Philly-based avant guitarist James Plotkin and Norwegian jazz drummer Paal NIlssen-Love showcase the intimate process of what makes a musical coupling special in four 10+ minute tracks of tangential but precise musicianship. In a marathon of drumming, Nilssen-Love flails his limbs with an exuberance that can only be paralleled by the likes of Zach Hill. In a musical role reversal, guitarist Plotkin takes on the part of steadying the music, offering repetition, layering, and pulse through quite the arsenal of fat and gliding pitch-bending effects. While the album challenges our musical boundaries it never overwhelms.

Death Rattle is out on November 12 through Rune Grammofon.

Native, Orthodox (Sargent House)

I was surprised when I pulled out an album from Sargent House Records, a label on the forefront of the contemporary prog-rock insurgence. Orthodox by Native is an 8-track album from matured and intelligent angst-rockers who have graduated from hollow and empty cathartic vessels. The new album showcases a frustration and a well-crafted statement against the cause of it. Drummer Nick Glassen syncopates complex time signatures as intricate guitar riffs and heavy bass lines give us moments of pure post-hardcore that hinge heavily with math-rock influences. In the liner notes the band states, “This album is our way of raising our collective eyebrow and our attempt at raising questions that need answers.” This is music with a purpose. It’s neither a confession nor a flashy expose of musicianship.

Orthodox is out now on Sargent House.

Jared Bartman, Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows (self-released)

My next listen was a welcomed palate-cleanser. Songwriter/composer Jared Bartman’s voice swam through my head as whispers, layered chants, and harmonies, while huge vibrato pierced through my speakers as I listened to his new album Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows. Like Andrew Bird, Jared Bartman obviously put a good deal of thought into crafting complex compositions with his string quartet and percussionist that would ultimately serve as a beautiful backdrop to his vocals. The tracks are pop-oriented but with a folk twist. The second track “In Belize” is a euphoric island-jam for the romantic in all of us. This song sets a tone for the rest of the album that touches on pop, folk, and everything in between.

The self-released Misery Makes Strange Bedfellows is out on November 19.

Michael Beharie, Reach (Shinkoyo Records)

Glitchy, off-kilter, and incredibly textural, the experimental electronic tracks of Michael Beharie are one step away from exhaling smoke out the speakers. Taking chillwave a step further, worthy of earning a spot in the grip FlyLo monopolized hold on the future-beat genre, Michael Beharie offers up a tripped out collection of imitative synthesis, samples, and recorded instruments in his latest effort, Reach. The track “Sway,” the highlight of the album, creates an epic sonic soundscape that includes jazz guitar coupled with ambient piano tones beside whirling synth noises and staccato syncopated percussion. The album is sure to makes rounds raise eyebrows through the underground circuit of future-beat making.

Reach is out now on Shinkoyo Records.

Pink Frost, Sundowning (BLVD Records)

Bands that usually cite groups like Dinosaur Jr. and Smashing Pumpkins tend to come across as off-brand version of the precursor. On the other hand, in the rare cases when you can hear those influences rooted deep rather than on the surface, we get something to talk about. Such is the case with Sundowning by Pink Frost. Wrought with other contemporary influence, we see tracks like the 7-minute, and my personal favorite, “Who I Belong To,” showcases the bands softer side in which lead singer, Adam Lukas channels Bill Corgan. But the real Pink Frost comes out in tracks like, “Orange Sky Suicide” in which we see a more melodic and grungier Pink Frost. This track then guides us to the single “The Difference,” an uplifting anthem with a refrain that’ll stain your daydreams for the rest of the week. Riff-based, raw and ambient, the music of Pink Frost is fresh and iridescent. What you take from the album is up to you.

Sundowning is out now on BLVD Records.