THE VOICE OF ENERGY VOL. 052
Greetings, one and all. Back once more.
Since we last spoke, I glowed over the new Dolphin Midwives album for Bandcamp, profiled the poetry imprint Fonograf Editions and Kevin Youkilis’ coffee shop for Willamette Week, and reviewed the new Criterion releases of Deep Cover and The Human Condition for PopMatters.
For this week’s edition, a concert review of last Friday’s performance by Kassa Overall at the Jack London Revue, and a mid-year report on the albums that have mattered the most to me so far this year. Read on, friends. Read on.
Kassa Overall @ Jack London Revue 7.23.21
Kassa Overall and his band came to the Jack London Revue dressed to work. The Seattle-born drummer/vocalist was clad in his namesake finest, while keyboardist Ian Fink and sound scientist Paul Wilson sported colorful coveralls. Only percussionist Kofi Hunter got the memo for casual Friday with this t-shirt and shorts. For all the aesthetics of labor, there was no noticeable strain on any moment of their hour-plus set. The music was effortless and joyous. The product of a team at peak efficiency, flowing smoothly and raising productivity levels to new heights. Or a bunch of pals leaning against the drudgery with a collective daydream or a shared Spotify playlist that these four men drop in a little bit of absolutely everything.
The quartet’s giddy irresponsibility with genre made the set electrifying. At its core, this was a jazz ensemble. But as is the case with the current school of broken beat acts or International Anthem-connected cosmic wanderers, these men used that genre as a leaping off point. The liquid inner core of their sound was formed by hip-hop. Overall spent as much time in front of his kit as behind it, working the mic and working the crowd. Hunter took a few spotlight turns, preaching self-reliance and tempered rage. They snuck in a little Master P for good measure. They spiraled out from there to pull from gospel, spiritual jazz, Afrobeat, disco, pure pop, and even a touch of grunge with a small “Something In The Way” drop.
Like so many nights have felt since the world eased its doors open post-lockdown, the whole evening was an escape. A way for everyone in the room to get out of their own heads for a little while, using the music or the drinks in their hands as their map. For Overall, he seems to want to get away from himself when he performs. He sends his vocals through a modular, pitching them up and down—far beyond his normal range and timbre. He took a drum solo that found him aping the sound and style of forebears like Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. And who could blame him for wanting to transform? His rhymes spoke of personal trials and racial reckoning and some ugly truths. “What’s the best stocks? Prison and pharmaceuticals,” he rapped on a cut from his debut Go Get Ice Cream and Listen To Jazz.
Through every minute of the set, Overall and co. seemed to get lighter and more buoyant, as if each song were a release valve letting free the tension and stress of modern life like the delayed flight that almost forced the quartet to cancel the show. That feeling extended to everyone in the room who were finally, blessedly on their feet and dancing by the end and seemed to float out of the room when the music stopped.
2021 Mid-Year Report
While I keep a dedicated spreadsheet rolling of all the albums that put me on my heels this year, here are the records that I keep returning to with recommendations on how/when you might listen to them.
Music For Data Entry
Jessica Ackerley - Morning/mourning
Innov Gnawa - Lila
Skee Mask - Pool
Speaker Music - Soul-Making Theodicy
Music For Demolitions Big or Small:
Witch Vomit - Abhorrent Rapture
The Telescopes - Songs of Love and Revolution
Suffering Hour - The Cyclic Reckoning
Sleaford Mods - Spare Ribs
Sana Nagano - Smashing Humans
Gravesend - Methods of Human Disposal
FACS - Present Tense
Music For Two Fingers of Bourbon and a Weed Gummy:
Susie Ibarra - Talking Gong
Daniel Bachman - Axacan
Altin Gün - Yol
Apifera - Overstand
Green-House - Music For Living Spaces
Arushi Jain - Under The Lilac Sky
Pauline Anna Strom - Angel Tears in Sunlight
Yu Su - Yellow River Blue
Music For Unhurried Hangs with Overlapping Conversations
Mia Doi Todd - City Zen
Ryley Walker - Course In Fable
Dr. Lonnie Smith - Breathe
Gruff Rhys - Seeking New Gods
Okuté - Okuté
Mariza - Mariza Sings Amália
brijean - Feelings
That’s it for now. Back again with more soon.
Artwork for this edition is by Yesmine Ben Khalil whose exhibition Chrysanthème Forever is on display through July 31 at Tunisia’s B7L9 Art Station.