Best New Albums Of 2017-Part 10.

The Souljazz Orchestra-Under Burning Skies.

Label: Strut Records.

Fifteen years after The Souljazz Orchestra was founded in Ottawa, Canada, in 2002, they returned with their seventh album Under Burning Skies. It’s without doubt, the finest album of their career, which has been said before. However, with every album they reach new heights using an eclectic selection of instruments. Many of these are instruments are long-lost, sometimes unloved junk shop finds. This doesn’t matter, as The Souljazz Orchestra is capable of creating incredible music with these instruments. That is the case on Under Burning Skies where the hooks haven’t been spared as the music veers between beautiful, joyous and uplifting to ruminative and thoughtful right through to funky, soulful and dance-floor friendly. 

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil-Incidentals.

Label: ECM Records.

Although Tim Berne’s Snakeoil’s fourth album Incidentals was released in 2017, this live set had been recorded at The Clubhouse, in New York, during December 2014. Three years later, and Incidentals was released and found the expanded lineup of Skakeoil continuing to move further away from their original acoustic chamber-jazz sound. They play with an unbridled freedom fusing howling, searing avant-rock guitars, squelchy acidic synths and thunderous timpani with horns that soar above the arrangement and intermingle. For much of Incidentals, Snakeoil’s playing veers between direct to loose and spontaneous, but always inventive and innovative during this roller coaster journey where the music is vibrant and sometimes visceral, but always exciting.

Trio Mediaeval and Arve Henriksen-Rimur.

Label: ECM Records.

The roots of Trio Mediaeval and Arve Henriksen’s album Rimur can be traced to Dalsfjorden on the Norwegian west coast. Over several summers, the idea for Rimur took shape. Trio Mediaeval and Arve Henriksen were captivated and inspired by Icelandic sagas, beautiful chants, folk songs, religious hymns and fiddle tunes, and decided to record an album together. The quartet recorded an album where improv, mediaeval and traditional music from Iceland, Norway and Sweden combines with the music of the present on Rimur. It’s an enchanting and timeless album whose beauty is breathtaking.

Ulan Bator-Stereolith. 

Label: Bureau B.

On Stereolith, veteran musical shape shifters and avant rock survivorsUlan Bator seamlessly switching between genres as they continue to captivate and create music that is way ahead of the musical curve. Sometimes, Ulan Baton a curveballs and  take the listener on the equivalent of a magical musical mystery tour where it’s a case expect the unexpected on this ambitious genre-melting album. The result is Stereolith which is without doubt, one the best albums of Ulan Bator’s twenty-four year career. It finds Ulan Bator continuing to reinvent their music to ensure that it remains relevant. Music chameleons Ulan Bator succeed in doing so, on their much-anticipated twelfth album, Stereolith.

Ulver-Riverhead (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack).

Label: House Of Mythology.

As 2017 dawned, Norwegian experimental collective Ulver released the soundtrack album to Riverhead. It finds Ulver fusing electronica and ambient with elements of Celtic and Nordic folk music to create a series of hushed, airy and atmospheric cinematic soundscapes. Some of these soundscapes are minimalist, but like all the pieces on Riverhead paint pictures in the mind’s eye and take the listener on a musical journey.

Vijay Iyer Sextet-Far From Over.

Label: ECM Records. 

When the Vijay Iyer Sextet released Far From Over in the summer of 2017, the common consensus was that was their finest album yet. It found the Vijay Iyer Sextet reaching new heights on album where some top improvisers push musical boundaries and combine musical genres in search of that elusive sonic perfection. They don’t disappoint on an album that veered between explosive to elegiac, but was always enthralling and entrancing. Especially when the Vijay Iyer Sextet play a freedom and enthusiasm on Far From Over as the music becomes funky rhythmic, melodic and not short of hooks.

Wild Honey-Torres Blancas.

Label: Lovemonk Records.

When Wild Honey released Torres Blancas in 2017, it was by far the greatest album of their three album career. It surpasses the quality of Wild Honey’s two previous albums, Epic Handshakes and A Bear Hug and Big Flash. They were merely the musical equivalent of an amuse-bouche. By comparison, Torres Blancas is a musical feast that comprises only the very finest of ingredients. When they’re combined, the result is Torres Blancas, a  carefully crafted album of melodic and memorable perfect pop from Wild Honey, which is a career-defining mini-masterpiece.

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