The best jazz and experimental music of 2021

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Matador

Eye Circuit: “Dogma”

Death of a dear friend, solitary artist’s residence, insoluble writer’s crisis: the brain of the Circuit des Yeux, Haley Fohr, has had a hell of a crisis. “Dogma”, the rock song with militant lightness on –io, an album with otherwise cushioned orchestral dimensions, serves as Fohr’s stubborn note to self: keep moving and stay busy, and you might just stay the course. “Tell me how to feel good / Tell me how to see the light,” she commands drums so loud they muffle the din of the synth crawling beneath her. Through this forward movement, she cultivates the strength to survive, at least until the answers on what is to follow become easier. -Grayson Haver Currin

Listen: Eye Circuit, “Dogma”


American dreams

Claire Rousay: smoother focus

Scattered throughout Claire Rousay smoother focus are snippets of his daily life: the sounds of a typewriter, a whirlwind of howling cicadas, barely audible conversations. Enveloped in buzzes, half-memorized melodies and strings saturated with melancholy, these prosaic sounds become monumental, activating a powerful sense of longing for moments of quiet reflection and human connection. The abstract pieces on smoother focus are made powerful by their suggestive familiarity, each sounding a potential trigger for our own memories – happy, sad, or, more likely, somewhere in between. – Jonathan Williger

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Gross trade

Dean Blunt: black metal 2

British singer-songwriter Dean Blunt’s latest cryptic transmission is ruthless but beautiful in his quest for hope in an increasingly dejected world. Blunt refuses allegiance to a single ideology, preferring instead to sow provocative questions about black rage before fading into the shadows. He perfects this approach in the mocking but empathetic final lines of “MUGU”: “Let it out, nigga, let it out,” he sighs, “show them what you are. ” black metal 2 doesn’t concede any of Dean Blunt’s mystics, but it’s the closest to a straightforward answer he’s given yet. – Brandon’s Call

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I’m lucky

Eli Keszler: Icons

When the COVID-19 shutdown kept people inside, percussionist and composer Eli Keszler turned his attention to the empty streets. Icons uses on-site recordings of an unusually quiet pandemic period in New York City to frame disturbing ambient pieces defined by vibraphone, glockenspiel, piano and drums. An uncomfortable punchy skitter underlies the brilliant sound of gamelan bars on “Evenfall,” and Keszler finds a similar impressionistic beauty in the decline throughout the album. –Evan ​​Minsker

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Hausu Mountain

Fire-Toolz: Eternal abode

In the ’80s and’ 90s, thrifty punk groups sometimes dubbed albums on tapes they had obtained (or stolen) for free from Christians or motivational speakers. If you focus your ears, you might hear a hint of the original audio grayed out between the hardcore blasts. Angel Marcloid’s Eternal abode works on a similar premise: it’s a bizarre palimpsest stacking layers of progressive rock, Weather Channel synths, classic minimalism, IDM beat trickery, and screamo. Unlike those lo-fi tapes of yore, the Chicago musician’s work is almost unbelievably high definition, with every grunge-inspired guitar solo, the DX7 chime, and the laryngeal howl ripping out of the speakers in an explosion of finely chiseled violence. However, despite all the sensory overload of Marcloid’s 78-minute opus, Eternal abode makes for surprisingly immersive and even welcoming listening once you get used to its all-11 aesthetic. And if you’re looking for hidden messages, Marcloid’s mantra-like lyrics— “I’m Due Strength now”; “We might as well be mushrooms” – offer plenty of things to solve, buried under the barrage of stimuli. –Philip Sherburne

Ada J. Kenney