Scarface, "Black Still" (Facemob/BMG). Houston rap legend Scarface (Geto Boys) repurposes Public Enemy's classic "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," spitting gravel-voiced venom against Trump, chronic racial oppression, cultural appropriation, and inadequate education while demanding reparations. The Isaac Hayes sample from "Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" that powers both tracks remains unparalleled at ratcheting up tension. Man, it feels good to hear new hiphop that has some earthy funk to it, said the old man. "Black Still" appears on the 10-song EP, Deeply Rooted: The Lost Files, out December 15.
Makaya McCraven, “Left Fields” (International Anthem). Late, breaking news: Drummer Makaya McCraven's Highly Rare is the best new jazz album I heard in 2017. It's a mutational fusion of skewed funk, compelling post-rock, and questing, Don Cherry-/Phil Cohran-esque jazz that refuses to play it safe over its eight tracks. My favorite of the bunch is "Left Fields," which sounds like fascinating ritual music from a country you can't place on an atlas. I'm a sucker for a berimbau—or any instrument that sounds like one; in this case something called a "diddley bow"—and "Left Fields" uses it as its main propulsive element, along with subliminal hand-drum rumbles and then full-on drum-kit tumult. Delirious, enigmatic chants top off this gradually intensifying epic.
Ty Segall, "The Main Pretender" (Drag City). Maybe perhaps possibly Ty Segall is a mite too prolific. I certainly can't keep up with his productivity (or his bud John Dwyer's, for that matter). But this random dip into the Segall-verse yields some primo rock value. Riding a deep, sick bass purr and Mikal Cronin's mad sax straight outta Roxy Music and King Crimson's '70s oeuvres, "The Main Pretender" is a falsetto-gilded homage to glam-rock's most outré tendencies, with Bolan-esque vocal inflections to (platform) boot. And it seems genuine, not a half-assed ironic tribute. I guess I'm gonna have to start paying more serious attention to my near-namesake...
Delia Gonzalez, "In Through the Light (Heatsick Remix)" (DFA). Establishing herself with Gavin Russom as one of DFA's deepest acts and a purveyor of kosmische analog-synth epics, Delia Gonzalez struck out on her own with 2015's In Remembrance and this year's Horse Follows Darkness LPs. The original "In Through the Light" comes from the latter, and it's a piano reverie that suddenly shifts into an urgent mantra worthy of Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze. Heatsick's remix off the Hidden Song EP transports the track into cowbell-intensive, bass-heavy, underground techno zones. It's a devious character overhaul that should work like an evil charm on dance floors around 4 am.
ZXC, "Convection" (Jungle Gym). Discovering local ambient-music producers is one thing that makes this job a pleasure, because—believe it or not—they're pretty rare specimens. So it was lovely to receive a cold e-mail from Zachary Croft (aka ZXC) in which he presented a download to his EP of stellar compositions on Seattle's Jungle Gym Records, [UDG 0.17] "ZXC." There's a similar vibe here to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92, but not in any blatant way. "Convection" embodies that landmark record's icy timbres, gently cascading pulses, and mysterious aura, bestowing a shiver-inducing listening experience. I'm going to be keeping close tabs on ZXC, and you should, too. (The cassette-release party for [UDG 0.17] "ZXC" happens Thursday, December 21 at Timbre Room.)
Noteworthy December 1 album releases: Neil Young & the Promise of the Real, The Visitor (Reprise); Miguel, War & Leisure (Bystorm/RCA); The Rolling Stones, On Air (Universal); Van Morrison, Versatile (Exile/Sony); Nicholas Krgovich, In an Open Field (Tin Angel); Chief Keef, The Dedication (RBC); Andy Grammer, The Good Parts (S-Curve); U2, Songs of Experience (Interscope); Tony, Caro and John, All on the First Day (Gaarden/Tapete); Cindy Wilson, Change (Kill Rock Stars); Thomas Moen Hermansen/Prins Thomas, Prins Thomas, Vol. 5 (Prins Thomas Musikk); Glassjaw, Material Control (Century Media/Sony).