June 14Kamasi Washington, “Heaven and Earth”Kamasi Washington has helped bring jazz into the hearts, minds, and ears of a new generation with his work on seminal hip-hop records. His last few studio efforts attracted a lot of attention in the jazz space. His last EP was an interesting – if by its own nature repetitive – foray into smooth jazz, and his debut was one of the few records to actually deserve its title of “The Epic.” But, “Heaven and Earth” is poised to bring that sound to an even wider audience, and maybe show the young bucks that jazz isn’t old music. In 2018, it can be as fresh as it ever was. His works are dynamic and warm, and the introduction to “Space Traveller’s Lullaby” sounds like the overture to a classic movie, while “Fists of Fury” feels like an expanded take on the theme to the classic Bruce Lee flick of the same name. It has a swing to it that is both subtle and immediately gets you moving. There are surprise bursts of free jazz, but for the most part, the record is remarkably restrained, giving even more power to the compositions that let not just Kamasi shine, but EVERY member of the band as well. Trombonist Ryan Porter makes an especially stunning mark on “The Psalmist,” which allows him to let loose while drummers Tony Austin and Ronald Bruner Jr., along with bassist Miles Mosley, lay the groovy groundwork support.
Nine Inch Nails, “Bad Witch”Trent Reznor and company have returned with the final installment of their trilogy with the album “Bad Witch.” It completes the trio of records that started with 2016’s “Not The Actual Events,” and 2017’s “Add Violence.” This album leans more on the side of rumbling dissonance with the first record of the series. Some of the tracks, including lead single “God Break Down the Door,” channel his work with the late David Bowie, allowing Reznor to croon over a quiet beat. This song shows up on the second half of the record, and it offers a slight respite from the bombardment of dissonant breaks that open up the album. “Ahead of Ourselves” is the track on the album that tunes in most to the nostalgic ’90s sound of the band, and it’s the closest Reznor has come to that sound in a long time. “Ahead of Ourselves” churns and writhes at a faster BPM than most of his tracks did even back then, with broken drum machines spazzing out breaks faster than the mind can process. This is quintessential Nine Inch Nails. There is something surprising, but at the same time it all feels very familiar. Ultimately, “Bad Witch” encapsulates the modern sound that Reznor seems to be reaching for, and wraps up the trilogy of records in a perfect way. It blends those old and new sounds and shows a glimpse of what could lie on the other side of the horizon. I am looking forward to what may come next.
Other new releases include records from Dawes, Blue October, The Orb, Panic at the Disco and more.