Best New Brooklyn Music
August album releases by Brandee Younger, Steve Gunn and Lori Scacco, a "Bop" by Olive T, and more.
A few pieces of great new music released by artists working Brooklyn, in the month of August:
The American primitive-rooted improvisations of guitarist Steve Gunn have always been grounded in folk traditions and in songs, some of which he occasionally wrote and sang. Other You accentuates that singer-songwriter side of Gunn’s work.
Ten of the album’s 11 tracks feature Gunn’s musings, delivered with his usual laid-back energy, backed by gorgeous, lightly psychedelic interplay with a supporting cast that includes, among others, Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker, the British folk great Bridget St. John, and the harpist Mary Lattimore. It is Lattimore who co-stars on the album’s lone instrumental, “Sugar Kiss,” which sounds like a prelude to a raga, framing the album’s earthly vocal notions with something ethereal.
In March, guitarist/composer Rachika Nayar released a highly lauded album of experimental electronic pieces entitled Our Hands Against The Dusk, an ambient and moody work, at times loud and aggressive, always seeking. Five months later, she returns with fragments, which, as its title suggests, is a structurally less ambitious affair.
Yet in many ways, these small, highly tuneful guitar pieces are even more rewarding. They’re simple but deeply felt instrumental sketches, whose melodic overtones and chord progressions are reminiscent of emo and post-rock groups like Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, minus the bombast. fragments is an album of guitar music you can cuddle up with, but never leave for granted.
Brandee Younger resides in Harlem, but the magnificent jazz harpista is kinda an honorary Brooklynite, a regular on our stages, who, in fact, premiered Somewhere Different, her long-awaited Impulse! Records debut, at the Brooklyn Museum last month. It’s a glorious album, uplifting and upbeat, addressing instrumental soul and dance music as much as contemporary jazz.
Its best pieces, “Reclamation” and “Spirit U Will,” center on propulsion and movement, with Younger’s harp playing both lead parts, and conjuring overall atmospheres. Produced largely by Younger’s longtime bassist Dezron Douglas, with help from producer Tariq Khan, it embodies a few of the best directions in rhythm and improvisation today, shining a deep love for jazz’s foundation in the broader Black music traditions.
Born in Brooklyn 81 years ago, drummer Andrew Cyrille is among the most prominent rhythm-keepers, or rhythm-expanders, in the history of so-called “free jazz.” The News, credited to his very Brooklyn/NYC-based Quartet (with guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist David Virelles and bassist Ben Street), finds the octogenarian still innovatively wrestling the drum kit in the service of the composition, yet imbuing his playing (and poetry reading) with a spareness and gravity that only experience teaches.
As Frisell and Virelles provide the melodic frames, Cyrille’s contributions come in cascades, and because he often downplays his drums for cymbals and rims — or, as is the case on the especially freewheeling title track, plays the drum-heads with brushes — the music feels unmoored, echo-filled, and seemingly beatless.
Once a member of the shoegaze band Seely, Lori Scacco has spent the last decade-plus creating lush, synthesizer-heavy music for specific purposes—fashion-brand commercials, art installations, documentary soundtracks—only rarely recording under her own name. The Order of Things, a 33-minute piece appropriately released on the Australian Longform Editions label, remedies that and let’s her artistic light shine.
It is a wonderfully immersive, multipart composition. Scacco frolics in the sweet and playful sounds and rhythms her own music often gravitates to, while remaining grounded in the drones she’s been messing with her entire career. Her Order involves songforms and ambiance and a hint of almost-pop frivolity, without giving in to any of these tendencies for too long.
By the time you read this, the incredibly talented Brooklyn-born and -raised DJ/producer Olive T may have already split from our fair Gotham. (According to an early-summer interview, she was moving to Geneva, Switzerland.) But she leaves us with an electrifying dance-floor track that projects its pop self-awareness in its title.
"This is a Bop" is already wonderfully bouncing hands-in-the-air house music, with a three-note keyboard hook and a spoken-word sample about ascension, before a “Pop Corn”-like synth earworm arrives — at first passively, then actively — and pushes the song to even greater heights. If this really is Olive’s good-by to the city, she leaves us in a blissful pop state.
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