Imagine Monster Magnet’s Dopes to Infinity being covered whole at Levitation Fest by survivors from The Hills Have Eyes and Ecstatic Vision starts coming into focus. The Philly trio’s Relapse Records debut, June’s Sonic Praise, swirls a radioactive, early-Seventies maelstrom wherein metal, psych, and even Afrobeat funnel cloud into a single, terrifying vortex of aural hallucinations. Locals Duel host with their own sonic flashbacks.– Raoul Hernandez
Once Austin’s unlikely teen orchestral heroes, Mother Falcon officially graduates with their third full-length, Good Luck, Have Fun. Newly signed to Universal Music Classics, the as many as 17-strong outfit commences its evolutionary process with the LP dividing between the A-side’s lush and vibrant indie-pop and the backside’s dark, experimental soundscapes. More mature, adventurousness, and visionary, the band continues exploring the tensions between classical and progressive compositions.– Doug Freeman
James “Blood” Ulmer, as The Village Voice once wrote, is the “missing link between Jimi Hendrix and Wes Montgomery on one hand, between P-Funk and Mississippi Fred McDowell on the other.” His music hypnotizes with shades of deep blues and a spiritual underpinning he traces back to a South Carolina childhood.
“I started off playing gospel music, and in my household blues music was forbidden,” recounts the 75-year-old guitarist. “Blues was the devil’s music as far as my father was concerned. And he didn’t want to stay in the house with devils. We would travel around from church to church playing gospel. We had a gospel quartet called the Southern Sons. I played with that group from when I was 7 to when I was 13.”
A disciple of late Lone Star sax genius Ornette Coleman, who produced his 1978 U.S. debut Tales of Captain Black, Ulmer has long been described as a practitioner of free jazz. The word makes him bristle.
“I ain’t no jazz artist,” he insists. “I’ve made 64 records and none of it’s jazz. It’s all harmolodic as far as I’m concerned. Ornette Coleman is the guy who discovered harmolodic music.
“Coleman told me, ‘Blood, you’re a natural harmolodic player.’ Everyone I played with in Detroit would fire me because I couldn’t play changes over two choruses. After two choruses I would have to go somewhere else rather than playing the same two choruses over and over and over. Jazz you have to play chord changes. I would do better in a funk band where you can just play rhythm. You can play different rhythms all the time.
“I’m probably more like a rhythm and blues guy.”
Locally, he’ll improvise live onstage with Scandinavian jazz trio the Thing. The band’s touring the U.S., but only Austin features Ulmer, who joined the jazz powerhouse at a Norwegian festival this summer and walked away impressed.
“Them guys .... Oh, man. It’s amazing.”– Thomas Fawcett
Texas remains one of the hotbeds of U.S. support for Canada’s long-running Tragically Hip. Fifteen albums and 30-plus years into a career that’s been more up than down, the quintet – still led by the rasp and warble of Gord Downie – continues mixing a finely-honed blend of arena rock and atmospheric ballads. Latest release, 2012’s Now For Plan A, is a comeback of sorts: loud and twisted, soft and affectionate, and flush with chewy pop hooks.– Jim Caligiuri