Porches-The House: ALBUM REVIEW

The singles for the latest from Aaron Maine see two sides of the singer-songwriter. “Find Me” is Maine the detached partier, accompanied by rattling horns and driving rhythm, whereas “Country” is a confessional croon, the climax articulated by flourishing vocal layering.  The album leans a bit towards the later, oftentimes showcasing autotuned vocal wandering over sparse territory, but Maine finds ways to sneak uplifting dance-isms into the overarching gloom.  “Goodbye” offers the full scope as a mournful departure finds enlightenment with a soaring chorus and bright beat.  It’s a more patient listen than “Pool,” but Maine’s comforting intimacy again shines.



Lisa Mezzacappa-avantNOIR: Album Review

On AvantNOIR, Lisa Mezzacappa showcases a knack for achieving a great overall ensemble sound in an aesthetic that strikes a balance between noisy avant-garde jazz and more straight-ahead materials.  Beginning with a quirky three-minute tune, diving into some ambient realms in the middle, and ending with a floating, back-beat jolt, this album truly offers seven contrasting tunes, yet there’s a moody quality that connects each number.  Mezzacappa has been around the bay-area jazz scene for quite some time now, but this is my personal introduction to her music and it’s clear that she will become a staple of my jazz listening for years to come.

After giving a taste of the players on the record with the introductory “Fillmore Street,” Mezzacappa beckons in the tightly syncopated blues sensibilities of “The Ballad of Big Flora” with a brooding bass solo over textural electronics and samples.  By leaving a great deal of space between phrases in the middle of the track, Mezzacappa opens up a lot of room for drummer Jordan Glenn and electrician Tim Perkis to trade ideas.

“Army Street” offers another quick tune not unlike the first before the hefty “Medley on the Big Knockover” offers many interlocking sections over the course of ten minutes.  First, we hear a pressing rock groove with some pounding drums and disorienting, screeching-tire sound effects.  Later, we get free-metered space with sparse ideas from each member of the ensemble, before a frantic swing feel with exquisitely broken ride patterns from Glenn.

This track does feature my main reservation on the record, which is the sarcastic dive into a twangy country sound with up-beat accompaniment.  Between this and the sound effects, there’s certainly an element of humor on this track, but the country idea didn’t go over so well for me.  It’s clear that the first half of the record offers a great deal of different sounds, without losing accessibility; there’s a constant melodic focus that primes the listener for later experimental ploys.

The second half of the record distills melodic activity with a great deal of open-ended space.  “Bird in the Hand” comes first with some really well-integrated vocal samples from a movie.  It doesn’t feel like Mezzacappa is forcing anything here as the tune is sort of haunting and empty, with the samples operating as blips on the radar.  Even at the end, with more action in the film sampling, the ensemble remains floating and detached.  It’s great to here sonic work like this on a jazz record.

“Quinn’s Serenade” then offers a somewhat stark, yet gradual change of pace.  The tune kind of fades in around the same tempo of the last track, but as Bennett’s solo grows, the group fades into one of their angular melodies.  This sheds light on Mezzacappa’s over-arching planning on the record.  It’s a really cohesive listen, where each composition sensibly transitions into the next.

Although the record values ensemble sound over individuals as a whole, Aaron Bennett and John Finkbeiner provide standout performances.  When Bennett takes over the spotlight, he’s able to really unleash emotion with this really raw and unhinged saxophone persona.  Finkbeiner, on the other hand, is the character behind the operation with his off-kilter guitar tone.

AvantNOIR really strikes all the markers of a great album.  Each track brings something to the table alone, but their full impact is contingent on the rest of the work.  Also, the ensemble sound balances risk and tradition quite well in a collectively driven setting.  I wouldn’t say it’s a work that totally transcends time and genre and there’s a handful of choices I didn’t love, but it will certainly appeal to jazz fans all over the place and it proves that Lisa Mezzacappa is a compositional force to be reckoned with.

-Donovan Burtan


The Uncoverables Podcast: Janu-scary 2017 Experimental Mix

Click Here to Download

This is the second half of my radio show from last week featuring new and upcoming music from January 2017.

W Zabarkas: “Autumn Invades the House” from The Origin of Dreams

Aaron Lumley and Jasper Stadhouders: “Lapis Philosophorum” from Strung Out

Mere: “V” from Mere II

Astvaldur: “Flesh” from At Least

Daniel WJ Mackenzie: “Abandonment II” from Everytime Feels like the Last Time

Julie Byrne: “Natural Blue” from Not Even Happiness

2016 Review: Top 20 List (1-10)

p.s. this list has been running on CULT MTL for  couple weeks now


1. Frank Ocean-Blonde 

Frank Ocean finally returns with a much more developed sound, one that clearly took all four of those years to craft.

Further Reading

2. Jessy Lanza, Oh No

Jessy Lanza keeps things fun, but pushes limits in dance-pop with experimental song-writing and sound effects.

Further Reading

3. Ida Toninato, Strangeness Is Gratitude

Toninato showcases her mastery of minimalism with an album that continues to enrich with each listen.

Further Reading

4. Mitski, Puberty 2

Mitski struggles to keep her head above water in a harrowing emotional journey.

Further Reading

5.Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition

Danny Brown provides a landscape as toxic as his xanax-induced lifestyle.

Further Reading

6. Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Feldman, Evan Parker, Ikue Mori, Miller’s Tale

Absence of drums and structured meter and drum set go unnoticed in one of the mosty exciting jazz releases of the year.

Further Reading

7. Death Grips, Bottomless Pit

Death Grips add more to the greatest hits album with destructive ear worms.

Further Reading

8. Solange, A Seat at the Table

Solange offers an in-depth glance at her life while also crafting plenty of stand-out singles.

Further Reading

9. Okkyung Lee and Christian Marklay, Amalgam

Christian Marklay and Okkyung Lee capture the essence of improvised music with unique tools giving hope for the future.

Further Reading

10. Aaron Lumley, Anabasis/Katabasis

One of Montreal’s most exciting improvisers holds his own with raw bass mastery.

Further Reading


On the Monthly-July 2016

Albums I enjoyed during July.

No particular order.

Check em’ out.

ScHoolboy Q-Blank Face LP

Check out my first impressions on the album as well as my thoughts on hit “Whateva You Want

Blood Orange-Freetown Sounds

Blood Orange is sick check out my first impressions on the new album and thoughts on the song “E.V.P.

Braids-Companion EP

“Companion EP feels necessary”

read my full review of this project here

Life and Other Transient Storms

check out my review of this album right here

Aaron Lumley-Katabasis/Anabasis


got to interview aaron as a part of my podcast series listen here

also did a first impressions post about this album

Xenia Rubinos-Black Terry Cat

Black Terry Cat cover art

check out my first impressions post about this album

Aaron Lumley-“Grappling With a River”_Ear Worms



The word “grappling” serves as a suitable description for Aaron Lumley’s bass work on his newest solo album Katabasis/Anabasis.  Throughout the album there is a constant push and pull pressing on the emotions of the listener as Lumley tests the limits of each of his melodic ideas and extended techniques. On the tune “Grappling with a River,” Lumley instills a certain anxiousness from the very beginning by tightly gripping his bow, ripping a stressed tone from the strings of his instrument.  Resolution is avoided throughout the 12 minute track making for an intense experience that sticks out as a highlight on a fantastic long-form album.

On his last full-length LP, Wilderness, Lumley’s focus was on melody.  Quick-hitting tunes writhe with angular bass-lines and rapid development filled the track-list resulting in a concise musical project.  For his 2016 project, Lumley has clearly shifted focus quite a bit.  Rather than quickly jumping from idea to idea, Katabasis/Anabasis reads as an exploration into the limits of motivic ideas.  Each sound is re-iterated over and over with Lumley droning on with similar bow movements for 8 to 10 minute periods.  Being the longest effort on the work, “Grappling with a River” becomes a centerpiece of sorts.  Despite the occasional up or down in energy level, this tune remains somewhat full-throttle throughout.  The wavering bow continuously tests the limits of the strings with each idea heating up to a boil before ceding musical space to the subdued plucking of strings.

A great deal of risk is taken on this project as little room is left for subtlety approaching a maximalist ideology.  The droning mentality behind the overall sound of the album makes for near-constant noise, yet Lumley’s way of building upon his foundation is ever-so gradual with each track remaining sensible throughout.

Lumley is a voice in Montreal that suggests the questioning of what it means to be an improviser.  Although he doesn’t have a strong conservatory background (he only began playing bass at age 25), Aaron has clearly made himself a strong musician.  Perhaps the lack of jazz background has allowed him to focus on his melodic playing as he has never been tied to learning to walk a bass-line on standards.  Also, the non-conservatory music scene in Montreal may serve as an argument for individuality over virtuosity.  Lumley’s virtuosity comes through in his basic musical instincts; ideas are developed logically without coming across as “showing off.”  Sometimes it is more difficult to re-create a feeling than a technically-advanced, written passage, this is what Lumley has emphasized in his work.