Best New Albums Of 2017-Part 8.

Nordic Circles-Under The Clouds.

Label: AMP Music and Records.

Over the last few years, the Scandinavian jazz scene has been enjoying another golden period. Proof of that is Nordic Circles which is a relatively new Norwegian jazz project whose raison d’être is to create unique jazz recordings where well-known and young up-and-coming musicians from the Nordic jazz genre collaborate. The first in this series was Winter Rainbow, with Under The Clouds the much-anticipated followup. It features a multitalented band who create music that veers between groove-oriented workouts to, loose, thoughtful and meditative tracks to beautiful, atmospheric ballads that feature Siril Malmedal Hauge’s vocals. She plays an important part in the sound and success of Under The Clouds, which showcases  the truly talented Nordic Circles which features stars of today and tomorrow.

Olli Ahvenlahti-Thinking, Whistling.

Label: We Jazz.

Previously, Olli Ahvenlahti has been a mainstay of the Finnish jazz scene and has also written scores to several comedy films and  been the conductor of the Finnish Eurovision orchestra. That would have  been more than enough for most musicians. Still though, Olli Ahvenlahti found time to launch a new trio with trumpeter Markku Johansson and bassist Pekka Pohjola. Their debut album is Thinking, Whistling, which flits between musical genres as the music veers between engaging, funky, ruminative and thoughtful. Sometimes, there’s a degree of humour on Thinking, Whistling, which features the welcome debut of Olli Ahvenlahti’s new trio.

Orchestre Les Mangelepa-Last Band Standing.

Label: Strut.

Ten years after the Orchestre Les Mangelepa released their last album Golden Voices, Africa’s top big band made a welcome return with Last Band Standing in the autumn of 2017. Incredibly, Last Band Standing is the Orchestre Les Mangelepa first album in their forty-one year history to receive an international release. Somewhat belatedly the rest of the world has the opportunity to discover one of African music’s best kept secrets, and greatest big band, Orchestre Les Mangelepa, on Last Band Standing.

Paul Brady-Unfinished Business.

Label: Proper Records.

When veteran Irish troubadour Paul Brady made a welcome return with eleventh album Unfinished Business in 2017, this was his first studio album since 2010s Hooba Dooba. Unfinished Business is a reminder of what seventy year old Paul Brady is capable of musically. Unlike some of his contemporaries, whose best days are behind them, Paul Brady is still capable of writing poignant, emotive and beautiful ballads which he brings to life with a voice that sounds as if it’s lived, loved and survived the lyrics. That is no surprise, as balladry is what Paul Brady has always done best since he reinvented himself on Hard Station in 1981. Thirty-six years and nine albums later, and Paul Brady is still one of Ireland’s top troubadours,  but sadly one of music’s best kept secrets beyond the Emerald Isle.

Phonophani-Animal Imagination. 

Label: Hubro Music.

Animal Imagination is the first solo album from Espen Sommer Eide’s occasional musical moniker since Kreken in 2010, and has been worth the seven-year wait. It’s an album of ambitious, imaginative and innovative music where Phonophani uses sonic trickery and sleight of hand as he deploys a variety of traditional and bespoke instruments. They became part of his musical arsenal on Animal Imagination, which is a truly innovative and ambitious genre-melting album. This what what’s expected from one of the leading lights and pioneers of the Norwegian music scene, Phonophani, on his comeback album Animal Imagination. 

Raoul Bjorkenheim-Doors Of Perception.

Label: Cuneiform.

Doors Of Perception was the third album by guitarist and composer Raoul Bjorkenheim and his band Ecstasy, which features some of the talented and innovative Finnish musicians. This  all-star band have accompanied Raoul Bjorkenheim for the past seven-years and as a result, are at the peak of their powers on Doors Of Perception. Drawing inspiration from  John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Henry Kaiser, John McLaughlin, Hedvig Mollestad Trio and Terje Rypdal they fuse elements of fusion and improv on Doors Of Perception which is a career-defining epic.


Reflections In Cosmo-Reflections In Cosmo.

Label: RareNoise Records.

 When the latest Nordic supergroup Reflections In Cosmo  released their eponymous debut album in early 2017, there was one thing missing…a bassist. This should’ve left a gaping hole. However, here was an album that featured exciting, ambitious and imaginative genre-defying music.Reflections In Cosmo’s playing was uncompromising and spontaneous, as they flit between and combine fusion, improv and rock on what’s one of the best debut albums of 2017.

Richard Pinhas-Reverse.

Label: Bureau B.

Many record buyers will remember Richard Pinhas as the leader of French space-rock pioneers Heldon, who released seven albums during the seventies. Richard Pinhas then released five solo albums before deciding to take a break from music in 1982. That break lasted six years, and by the nineties, Richard Pinhas had reach his previous heights as collaborated with some major names. However, in 2017 Richard Pinhas released Reverse, the album that under different circumstances could’ve been his swan-song. Thankfully, that isn’t the case and a newly reinvigorated Richard Pinhas draws inspiration from Nietzsche, Jimi Hendrix, Kabbalah, Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and David Bowie on Reverse, which is a truly compelling, genre-melting album where everything from drone and experimental music has been seamlessly and successfully combined with space rock.


Label: Deutsche Grammophon.

When legendary German musician Hans-Joachim Roedelius formerly of Kluster, Cluster and Harmonia, and currently leading Qluster recorded Einfluss, he was joined by Berlin-based pianist, electro producer and mastering engineer Arnold Kasar. He plays a supporting role as Roedelius seems to draw inspiration from Chick Corea’s equally enchanting Children’s Songs. Later in the recording session, Arnold Kasar suggested laying down sheets of felt on the piano keyboard. This transforms the sound produced by the grand piano. Suddenly, the felt adds a thick thudding sound to each note. It’s as if eighty-three year old Hans-Joachim Roedelius can’t resist innovating, which he’s spent a lifetime dong, and continues to do on Einfluss which is a fusion of ambient,experimental and modern classical.

Ron Kadish-Tales From Under.

Label: Self-Released.

When bassist Ron Kadish dropped out of graduate school in 1993 and embarked upon a career as a freelance musician this could’ve been the biggest mistake of his life, and a decision he lived to regret. Fortunately, this throw of the dice paid off, and Ron Kadish’s life has revolved around music ever since. This included releasing  his long-awaited and much-anticipated debut album, Tales From Under with a little help from his friends last year. They provide the backdrop for Ron Kadish on his ambitious, innovative and genre-melting debut album Tales From Under, which is guaranteed to engage the listener as they embark on a bewitching musical adventure. 

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