Lee “Scratch” Perry might be the most creative proponent of studio-as-instrument in pop history. He’s certainly one of the most influential. Perry’s productions include some of the best albums ever, reggae or otherwise: the Congos’ Heart of the Congos, Junior Murvin’s Police and Thieves, Max Romeo’s War Ina Babylon. His solo work is nothing to scoff at either, and latter-day albums Rainford and Heavy Rain make it clear the Jamaican was in the middle of a burst of inspiration when he died last week at 85.
Manchester’s Space Afrika combines the noir gloom of cyberpunk with an interrogation of what it really means to fetishize poverty and surveillance. Their fourth album, Honest Labour, dishes out all the rain-choked back-alley mystery you could want from post-Blade Runner synth music, but by foregrounding Black voices talking simply and honestly about their experiences, it forces us to confront dystopia not as a cool aesthetic but as something many people don’t have the comfort of experiencing as fantasy.
Don’t Know What I Am—what a great title, something an alien like Superman is as likely to say as a young queer trying to figure out their life. Alien Boy is one of the best guitar bands going in any major city right now—but they live in ours—and they’re as good as Team Dresch at translating sentimentality into tough, hooky, hard rock. Taking their name from a Wipers song, it won’t be long until Alien Boy joins that band in the hallowed place behind the counter of every Rose City record shop.
A half-century before Kanye found Jesus and Joel Osteen, Mary Lou Williams was making some of the most eclectic and omnivorous Christian music imaginable, skewing jazz and gospel into compositions that feel like collages, even without the benefit of pitch-shifters and sample pads. 1964′s Black Christ of the Andes is her tribute to a recently canonized Black saint, and it rejects any notion of modesty in religious music; listen as her choir sings “this humble man” in the least humble way imaginable.