Hatis Noit, “Jomon” (Erased Tapes)

Hatis Noit's pseudonym derives from Japanese folklore and translates as "the stem of the lotus flower." According to the press notes for her new album, Aura, the lotus represents the natural world while its root signifies the spiritual realm, so the alias connects the two.

She became engrossed with the human voice after a visit at age 16 to Buddha's birthplace in Nepal. There, Hatis Noit heard a woman monk's Buddhist chants, and their unearthly, guttural power inspired her to explore the limits of her own pipes. Consequently, Hatis Noit made all eight songs on Aura strictly with her voice, except for the impossibly beautiful and delicate “Inori,” in which a field recording of ocean waves located a kilometer from the Fukushima nuclear power plant appears. That track is a radical juxtaposition of sonic tranquility and historical tragedy.

On Aura, the singer's wordless emissions transcend literal meaning and trigger profound, ineffable feelings through their sheer timbral expressiveness and the intensity and inventiveness of HN's delivery. In this way, Hatis Noit's music resembles that of former Seattle experimental-electronic musician/vocalist Cruel Diagonals. Like Cruel Diagonals, HN clearly has a technically brilliant voice, but she often deploys it toward unconventional ends. Hatis Noit's operatic bravura and extreme range also recall Dead Can Dance member Lisa Gerrard's singing style.

“Jomon” is perhaps the album's most gripping track, as well as a showcase for HN's repertoire of modes—nagging “neighs,” vulnerable wails, vibrant multiphonics, triumphant ululations, rococo, Kate Bush-like phrasing. What sounds like a cavernous heartbeat pulses throughout most of the song, giving a semblance of structure to HN's artful vocal acrobatics. It's a tour de force.

Of the track's title, Hatis Noit says, “Jomon culture, including its dynamic style of art—surprisingly it was nothing like the minimal Zen style—was one of the biggest inspirations of my [favorite] Japanese artist Taro Okamoto. He believed that people in this period before proper agriculture started were still connected to natural spirits, and that their fierce energy through hunting and gathering made their art so special and esoteric. In this piece, I tried to describe the dynamic natural energy and power, and the people’s celebration and prayer for it.” Mission accomplished.

Bennie Maupin & Adam Rudolph, “Second Movement” (Strut)

Bennie Maupin and Adam Rudolph have teamed up to record a tribute to Yusef Lateef (1920-2013), an adventurous musician who played a wide range of instruments in his quest to expand jazz's parameters. In the process, Lateef essentially birthed what some term “world jazz,” a fascinating subgenre in which America's classical music fuses with sonic elements from various countries. (See also the '70s and '80s work of Don Cherry and Codona.)

The versatile percussionist Rudolph recorded 14 albums with Lateef beginning in 1988, and is eminently qualified to homage the Chattanooga-born genius. Maupin's credentials are impeccable, too: The saxophonist/flautist/bass clarinetist has played an important role in expanding jazz fusion's tonal palette and rearranging its structural DNA with Miles Davis on Bitches Brew, with Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi and Headhunters groups, and on his 1974 solo LP, The Jewel in the Lotus.

On Symphonic Tone Poem for Brother Yusef, these veteran boundary-pushers lock into telepathic mode over five lengthy tracks. Maupin deploys sax, electronics, and chants while Rudolph manipulates an array of hand drums, gongs, and thumb pianos, creating a new lingua franca in the fertile nexus where chamber jazz, ambient, and Jon Hassell's Fourth World music intersect. A curious introspective vibe prevails, with Maupin eerily perfuming the air with his instruments and Rudolph laying down timbrally exotic percussion foundations.

Each of the pieces could conceivably go on forever, as they possess no obvious build-ups or climaxes, save for the splenetic, frantic beats of “Fourth Movement.” But it is this very tranquil fortitude that lends Brother Yusef its charm. Every cut throws you into a mysterious environment with seemingly no way out, and you gladly dwell in their unknown zones for the sheer unusualness of them.

If I have to pick a favorite, it's “Second Movement,” which begins with Maupin's gorgeous flute motif and Rudolph's high-pitched gong hits, evoking Paul Horn's 1969 proto-New Age classic, Inside. Then humid, galloping hand-drum beats and warped, crystalline synths (or are they some obscure percussion toy?) conspire to generate an air of alien ritual. Evoking the title of the 1992 Brian Eno song “Juju Space Jazz,” “Second Movement” sounds at once timeless and placeless.