Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda

World Spirituality Classics, Volume 1

In popular culture 'Coltrane' is usually shorthand for John, but to those who followed jazz along its wilder and more spiritual paths in the 70s, it always means Alice.

The remastered recordings on this new compilation, the first major release since Coltrane's passing in 2007, were made during a lesser known period of her life, when she retreated to the Sai Anantam Ashram that she’d built in 1983 and changed her name to Turiyasangitananda as part of her growing interest in Hinduism.

After recording landmark spiritual jazz records, like 1969's A Monastic Trio and 1971's Indian-influenced Journey in Satchidananda, Alice largely turned away from music during the 80s and 90s. The few recordings she did make were released privately on cassette to members of her ashram, and consist of devotional songs and mantric chants featuring the most minimal instrumentation of her career. Before now these recordings were only available as low-quality rips on obscure blogs.

In discarding the harp, at which she was virtuosic, and bringing synthesisers and her own voice into her music for the first time, Coltrane places herself in the lineage of the great American primitivists. Her penchant for extreme pitch bending lends 'Rama Rama' a disorientating swirl. We could be listening to her play the synth for the first time, mapping out its new possibilities. 'Om Shanti' is achingly beautiful, Coltrane accompanying herself on organ before being joined by a choir of her students.

As usual the compilers at Luaka Bop have done an expert job, peeling back layers of dust and tape hiss to allow these songs to sparkle like jewels. Later tracks like ‘Om Rama’ from 1995 find Coltrane conjuring sacred psychedelia worthy of The Boredoms, while ‘Journey to Satchidananda’ is a church organ epic, a solemn hymn for end times.

Sam Gregory

Perc

Bitter Music

In case you missed it, politics has become increasingly ugly and uncomfortable over the past few years. Between an EU referendum campaign that saw abysmal levels of political opportunism lead to the death of a sitting MP and the rise of the populist far right across Europe and the US, there hasn’t been much for anybody with so much as a progressive toenail to smile about. 

As a musician, how should you respond? In Bitter Music, Ali Wells has apparently sought to create a body of work as dark and disturbing as the void we appear to be tumbling into. Bitter Music builds on the archetypal Perc sound. It’s savage, relentless and austere – techno for our times.

Wells is no stranger to making political comments through his music, nor has his previous output been especially chipper. His previous album, The Power And The Glory, achieved a similar sense of grim foreboding, but this time, for obvious reasons, the political subtext is much more transparent.

Opener ‘Exit’ (no prizes) suffocates the timid voice of David Cameron beneath twisting vines of distorted effects, a neat metaphor for his post-Downing Street irrelevance. Most of the album is based on this lurching sense of dread, and no less club-ready for it. Percussive chuggers ‘Unelected’, ‘Chatter’, ‘Rat Run’ and ‘The Thought That Counts’ belong in the belly of the Berghain just as much as they’re part of a sonic political statement.

However, the apex of the album comes with the hectic and grotesque ‘Spit’. Easily pushing 250bpm, its pacing kicks are accompanied by agonising, blood-curdling screams. To be honest, Bitter Music won’t make you feel good about anything, but that’s probably the point.

Aidan Daly

The Cuckoo Clocks

Frontiers of a Seductive Mind

The psychedelic allure of the West Coast sound runs deep into the soul of every flower child that never realised that the wave rolled back. The quintessential naiveté of this genre, a cocktail of folk infused with heavy-duty LSD, finds resistance in a cynical world. I suspect The Cuckoo Clocks know this, but chose to ignore it anyway.

There’s plenty of room for this genre nowadays. The futons were slashed to create makeshift pillows. The thick incense smoke is pleasant, not an acrid, phenol-heavy aroma that becomes pungent. The album begins. Frontiers of a Seductive Mind opens with the peppy ‘Be The One’, a Moody Blues flavoured hit. So far, it’s flower power again. Stay away from Leary.

Here’s the twist: where once this sound was ingrained with optimism, there’s  an undercurrent of dark realisations throughout this album. ‘Before The Dawn’ searches for self-affirmation, ‘Here It Comes’ revisits dark memories in dilapidated houses of memory, and ‘Release The Storm’ reflects on the end of brighter times. 

It's odd that there’s this feeling of finality through Frontiers of a Seductive Mind. There’s an element of 'goodbye' once the album is finished. By no means is this an album of contradictions. On the contrary, a pensive ‘Older Than The Sun’ is a great counterargument to the sunnier disposition of ‘Look Again’ or the vertiginous ‘Broken Stone’. A bittersweet contrast that paints a dry brown desert with vivid colours, beckoning optimism again.

Sam Valdés López

Yazz Ahmed

La Saboteuse

Multi-instrumentalist Yazz Ahmed turns a corner with a less traditional type of jazz on her new studio album, La Saboteuse. Her British and Bahraini influences bring together a mellifluous jazz infusion, introducing a contemporary and fresh new sound to the genre. Ahmed's sound is unique. Her compositions are rich and sonically beautiful and they slowly unravel into a meaningful story.

La Saboteuse translates as ‘The Saboteur’, an interesting association for such a thoughtful record. Ahmed says it’s centred around the self-doubt she feels when she’s creating, and by personifying the bad it spurs the artist into action. Her inspiring compositions hold a great amount of depth, arguably sounding unlike a lot of jazz. Ahmed shows she’s able to empower listeners with the ability to transport themselves to the Middle East through powerfully expressive playing. ‘Jamil Jamal’ is an example of this with its multi-layered instrumentation, including a prominent trumpet and bass clarinet adding a subtle funkiness to the track, and percussion that creates an ethereal experience.

On the other hand, ‘Bloom’ and ‘Organ Eternal’ take on a cinematic effect, evocative of a more ambient sound, carrying greater sentimental value. The variation of composition on this record is what makes it stand out. The entire aesthetic is symbolic of Ahmed's heritage, from the handcrafted artwork to the resonant trumpet lines, allowing multiple forms of escapism for listeners from across the globe.

Georgia Smith

JLIN

BLACK ORIGAMI

Jerrilyne Patton’s position as an outlier to Chicago’s blossoming footwork movement is underlined through geography as much as it is musically. Hailing from the unglamorous Gary, Indiana, Jlin’s anomaly status has allowed her to occupy a distinctive role on the peripheries of a scene that’s known for hyper-160BPM percussive bombardments, exhilarating vocal samples and the manic, foot-led dance moves that accompany it. Her debut, Dark Energy, was a stunning tour-de-force of whirlwind rhythmic experimentation which truly redefined an already thrilling genre.

For her follow-up, Black Origami, Jlin draws on a sound palette that seems oddly indebted to Age of Empires as well as B-movie cinema. Whilst there are plenty of enthralling moments, this sophomore effort fails to live up to the exceptional vision of her debut. At worst it is incoherent and even naively orientalist in its approach to sampling, but at its best it further carves out a path which is bold and uniquely gratifying.

The latter half of the album features jaunts into other realms of dance, '1%' seeing a collaboration with Holly Herndon go unashamedly EDM, and 'Never Created, Never Destroyed' bounding into trap territory, with trademark vocals from Dope Saint Jude.

The most exciting moment comes from the final track, however - a ball-bearing-hailing-on-corrugated-iron-roof assault of marching band snares, whistles and tablas. If the message of its title, 'Challenge (To Be Continued)', is to be believed, then Jlin shows no intention of slowing down.  

Alex Keegan

Ophelia

Ophelia

Transatlantic power couple Samuel Taylor and Rebecca Van Cleave have crafted their first EP as British-Americana sensations Ophelia. Though neither of the two creators are strangers to the world of entertainment, Ophelia is a relatively new concept, dreamt up on Highway 30 on Florida’s Emerald Coast, while the pair were touring their own solo work. With the help of David Glover from Tesla Studios in Sheffield, Greg Haver on drums and Eamon McLoughlin playing the fiddle, this collective of outstanding musicians began recording the self-titled EP.

‘Little Too Late’ encompasses the notion of music born on the road. The melody is catchy, the rhythm steady, and it feels like a song to play at high volume with the soft top of your classic car folded away. Adding to this atmosphere, Ophelia have created a stunning and cinematic video, predominantly filmed back in Van Cleave’s home town in Virginia. The band have expressed an intention to create a series of these videos, tying together two important parts of Rebecca’s life - music and cinema.

Although the more upbeat songs on the album serve their purpose, it’s the softer and darker of the tracks where the two vocalists truly shine. ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ and ‘Chelsea Hotel No.2’ highlight not only beautiful vocal tones and harmonies from both singers, but an obvious musical chemistry, something that I can only imagine to be even more infectious live.

Tasha Franek

Ophelia play The Greystones on 7 May.