Two weeks ago, we listed new British art-punk pioneers. This week, two British jazz-centric albums add unpredictable vocals and crazy rhythms. It seems high time to declare a third British Invasion, after the Beatlemania 1964-65 era, and the early punk years of 1976-77. We might dub it MESS, for Maniacal Eclectic Summer Sounds.
Shabaka Hutchings, the woodwind genius behind The Comet Is Coming and Shabaka & The Ancestors, is back with a new Sons of Kemet album, Black to the Future (Impulse!). From an opening of liberation spoken-word poetry and saxophone bleats in the Gil Scott-Heron style, the record migrates to long, beat-heavy instrumentals like “Envision Yourself Levitating” that match Art Ensemble of Chicago’s best. A wilder walk comes from the British band black midi, who followed up a three-CD debut album with their second release Cavalcade (Rough Trade), leaping from math-rock to improv jazz at dizzying speed — witness the shift from raucous opening track “John L” to the cabaret-style second song, “Marlene Dietrich.”
In previous British invasions, North American bands rose quickly to the challenge. This year, weird U.S. bands like The Goon Sax and Pom Pom Squad are waiting in the wings, but they’ll have to put forth their best game to come close to these post-Brexit Brits.
Also New & Noteworthy
Keith Kenny, Lifetime Ago Motel (KK/Inturecords) – It’s not easy for even the nimblest of songwriters to chronicle a divorce, But New Jersey-based Kenny makes it palatable through yacht-rock arrangements and irrepressible humor. Even if the final tracks get a little maudlin, songs like “Ends Meet” and “Burr’s Roach Jam” are a delight.
Cole Quest & The City Pickers, Self-[En]Titled (Omnivore) – When you’re Arlo Guthrie’s nephew, and your debut EP comes out just as your uncle is hanging up his strings for good, the legacy pressure is immense. Quest meets this with joyful original bluegrass tunes and topical asides like “The Bitcoin Gambler.” The lack of a common last name makes this more family continuity than dynasty, but Quest offers a version of Woody Guthrie’s “Way Down Yonder in the Minor Key” that is superior to covers by Billy Bragg or Dave Carter.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected. In the June 2 Playlist column, we scrambled Cole Quest’s family tree a bit. He is Woody Guthrie’s grandson, his daughter Nora’s boy. Nora and Arlo Guthrie are siblings, which makes Cole Quest Arlo’s nephew, not his son. The Indy regrets the error.