Of all the collaborations between older blues musicians and younger countercultural envoys that took place in the early ‘70s, the inevitably titled Hooker ‘n Heat may be the best. John Lee Hooker’s dark-comic narratives and percussive guitar work are as much reason to descend into its double-disc sprawl as his camaraderie with Canned Heat leader Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, a scholar of American music who’d been backing up blues musicians since his teens and whose harmonica playing Hooker himself marvels at on tape.
The Heart Pumps Kool-Aid, the new collaboration between Seth Graham and More Eaze, fuses genres with the all-in-one-pot furor typical of Graham’s Orange Milk label—black metal vocals, moments of orchestral beauty, somber saxophones, Auto-Tuned crooning. But the overall impression isn’t of digital overload but of a mournful stillness: “the expression of Midwestern sadness.” It’s one of the year’s most poignant song cycles, clearly meant as an all-encompassing masterpiece yet somehow quiet and unassuming.
Soul Ipsum celebrates the beauty of basketball on his new Charity Stripe EP. The four tracks, plus a breakbeat-happy remix by Chicago crew Purelink, capture the acrobatics and dynamism of basketball with their fleet beats. Meanwhile, the big, overlaying jazz chords hint at the game’s more sentimental aspects: the fond memories formed while playing, the camaraderie with your fellow players, the possibility that one of you might become a star. It’s also worth noting that 50% of the EP’s proceeds go to Urban League of Portland.
As Huerco S., Kansas City producer Brian Leeds makes mossy, mysterious ambient techno—but under his Pendant moniker, he wanders darker territory. The new Pendant album, To All Sides They Will Stretch Their Hands, seems easy enough to drift off to at first—its lengthy, horizontal tracks sprawling into nowhere. But as the noisier second half crashes in, we can go back and hear tension in those early tracks where we once heard calm and quiet. The usual reassurances of ambient music do not apply here.