The Gap: Charles Lloyd

All photos from Charles

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd enjoyed periods of critical acclaim, popular celebration, eccentric withdrawal, and general trivialization. He was easy to ignore if you came of jazz fan age after 1970, and that's a shame.

Charles Lloyd

Rabo de Nube

Label: Ecm
US Release Date: 2008-03

In my past two columns, I've detailed two inexplicable holes in my jazz collection -- the legend of '20s Bix Beiderbecke and astonishing and prolific modern pianist Paul Bley. In each case, I had been missing a seminal figure and an important influence on other musicians I loved.

This month, I decided to plug a more ambiguous gap in my collection, a musician of both great acclaim and some suspicion. Saxophonist Charles Lloyd has traveled a huge distance in his career -- from acclaimed sideman with Chico Hamilton and Cannonball Adderley to crossover star playing the Fillmore to Beach Boys' sideman and purveyor of music for meditation.

To sum up, Lloyd has enjoyed periods of critical acclaim, popular celebration, eccentric withdrawal, and general trivialization. Neither an essential stylist on his instrument nor an innovator who moved the music in a clear direction, Lloyd was easy to ignore if you came of age as a jazz fan any time after 1970. For me, the question was not "Who is Charles Lloyd?" but "Who cares about Charles Lloyd?"

Charles Loyd's Sound is Worth Collecting

That said, I'd heard of Lloyd because beginning in 1982, he became a curious "comeback" artist, a once-intriguing player who was suddenly back from nowhere. Lured out of semi-retirement by pianist Michel Petrucciani, Lloyd returned as a breathy watercolor tenor player. He sounded like gauzy Coltrane, but with appealing lyricism at the ready. If Petrucciani sometimes sounded like Keith Jarrett, well that made sense as Lloyd's most famous group, his 1966-69 quartet, was Jarrett's launching pad.

And what had made that group so popular at a time when jazz was very nearly a dirty word? Lloyd's quartet had played the Fillmore and opened for rock bands, creating a true sensation with music that was entirely acoustic and instrumental. The only other jazz musician to approach that kind of success in the face of the tidal wave of rock was Miles Davis.

Moreover, the string of pianists joining Lloyd's various "comeback quartets" was astonishing: Petrucciani first, then Bobo Stenson, then Brad Mehldau followed by Geri Allen. The news in recent months that Lloyd's latest ECM album, Rabo de Nube (released this month) would feature pianist Jason Moran simply clinched it. If these guys dug Lloyd, then who was I ignore him?

The Precocious Sideman

Before Lloyd became a crossover sensation, he burst on the scene as a composer and musical director for the Chico Hamilton Quintet. It's hard to recapture today just what jazz meant back in 1961. Rock was still a teen upstart at the time, and jazz -- particularly jazz that reeked of a certain button-down collegiate cool -- represented a certain kind of hip. Chico Hamilton's groups played a chamber jazz (with reeds, guitar, cello, and drums) that came from the West Coast Cool School.

Lloyd, however, came from a more down-home tradition. Born in Memphis in 1938, he gigged with B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland before making it to Los Angeles where he played with Gerald Wilson's big band and found himself with Hamilton. At the same time, Lloyd was a 23-year-old tenor player with ears, so the groundbreaking work of John Coltrane was also an urgent part of his sound.

The result can best be heard on Hamilton's 1962 recording Man From Two Worlds, featuring eleven tunes by Lloyd and band perfectly straddling chamber jazz, pop sounds, and looser post-bop playing. The group is piano-less and gets a wide-open sound from the intriguing guitar playing of Gabor Szabo. On most tracks, Lloyd and Szabo combine for an ensemble sound that is substantial without being hefty. Here you can find the debut recording of Lloyd's tune "Forest Flower", which would take a place of prominence in every phase of the man's career.

Here, "Forest Flower" is a sunny and impossible-to-shake melody that alternates between a Latin feel and swing, spurring solos that blend urgency and relaxation is perfect titration. The drawn-out second half of the tune (given more emphasis by Lloyd's quartet) just noodles for a bit and then fades -- a better and less indulgent conclusion than on more famous recordings.

"Mallet Dance" primarily features Hamilton and Lloyd in duet, which reminds you of John Coltrane's playing in isolation with his drummer, Elvin Jones. And while there are certainly spots where Lloyd reaches high for a tone or where he plays modal flurries that show what the tenor player had learned from Trane, the tune is also a calypso -- bringing to mind Sonny Rollins. If Lloyd if typically heard as a Trane clone with a softer sound, that is not uniformly true here.

The gentle quality of Lloyd's playing is, however, undeniable. If Coltrane is often described as forbidding and harsh in tone, then Lloyd is an airy variant. His tenor playing seems to echo the sound of his flute in a way. On "Love Song to a Baby", Szabo's guitar punches the 3/4 rhythm but Lloyd plays as if he were trying to put the little fellow to sleep. Not a bad thing, of course, but it lends at least some credence to the charge that Lloyd's subsequent superstardom was partly due to his easy listening tone.

Lloyd, Superstar?

When Charles Lloyd busted out on his own, it was with a conventional-seeming quartet that, ultimately, busted some conventions. What's odd about tenor-plus-rhythm? When the rhythm section is made up on Keith Jarrett on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums, something different is going on.

The Charles Lloyd Quartet, almost overnight, became a huge jazz concert draw on the strength of its instinct for the dramatic. "Forest Flower", which appeared on the Chico Hamilton album, was the skeleton key, based on the group's recorded 1966 performance at the Monterey Jazz Festival. The cover of Forest Flower, Charles Lloyd at Monterey suggests some other elements at work. There is Lloyd amidst an ecstatic solo: goateed and afro-ed, shades covering his eyes, wearing a cool leather coat. If the rock audiences of this era wanted a jazz musician, surely this could be the guy.

"Forest Flower" in this setting is something altogether different. The first part of the tune ("Sunrise") is fairly conventional, though Jarrett's solo is fleet and distinctive, and Lloyd plainly has developed a flair for the dramatic now that he has a thrilling drummer pushing him.

But it's the second half ("Sunset") that is the tune's selling point. Here, the band plays a Latin two-chord vamp that amounts to a fairly static jam. Lloyd allows his tenor solo to sound both light and highly vocalized with the proceedings building to an ecstatic harmonic experiment. Jarrett, for his go-round, displays in embryonic form his signature whirling lyricism -- including some of his moaning and even exploration with the hand plucking of piano strings.

The Charles Lloyd Quartet, if I may, was a precursor to The Grateful Dead and Phish. The audience loves it, and it certainly is an example of empathetic group playing, but the musical content itself is -- again, if I may -- masturbatory.

On the other tunes, Lloyd sometimes sounds like the sideman rather than the leader. The quick and swinging "East of the Sun" is a tour de force for Jarrett, McBee, and DeJohnette, with the pianist's solo sounding utterly invigorating -- truly "out" in certain spots, but always returning to an elfin tonality. Lloyd's solo is the sound of a father desperately trying to keep up with his kids. When he resorts to a long and dramatically-held high note, it sounds like a man's legs giving out.

Lloyd's tone remains appealingly gauzy. On McBee's "Song of Her", he puts across the melody with sensitivity, nestled tight on the pocket of the rhythm section's well-arranged ballad treatment. Surely it's no coincidence that the tune sounds a little like Coltrane's "Naima", but the great appeal of this group wasn't to straight-up jazz fans (nor, certainly, to advocates of the avant-garde). Rock audiences made Lloyd a star, cheering on his more self-indulgent noodling. That, at least, is how Charles Lloyd at Monterey sounds 42 years later.

Lloyd Today

Checking out Charles Lloyd's more recent work, however, turns me right around. Though the "comeback quartet" with Petrucciani seemed to me imbalanced and uncertain, two more recent recordings are undeniable winners.

First, I could resist sampling 1998's Voice in the Night, a quartet recording featuring guitarist John Abercrombie, bassist Dave Holland, and the drums of Billy Higgins. Here, we have a third recording of "Forest Flower", as all as a handful of newer Lloyd tunes, a Billy Strayhorn tune and "God Give Me Strength" by Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello.

The new "Forest Flower" is quicker and lighter by design. Higgins taps out the Latin groove on his frenetic high-hat, and Abercrombie is both tart and modern. When the leader enters for his solo, he sounds like the same player from the '60s (airy and gentle) but with a more swinging approach to time in his improvisation. He is puckish, quoting Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", rather than trying to channel Coltrane's sonic experimentation.

This sense of fun continues through the "Sunset" portion, with Higgins' impeccably musical drummer playing counterpoint to the conversation between guitar and tenor. Instead of grandstanding for the crowd, these guys are having a smart good time.

"God Give Me Strength" is a perfect choice for this group. Begun at a swinging gallop, the breathless melody emerges from nowhere and gives Lloyd a chance to take advantage of the way his still-thin tone blends into the group's total sound. Even better, perhaps, is the group's approach to pure ballads, with Lloyd's "Requiem" featuring a natural statement of the melody mostly before the band has even developed a clear sense of the tune's time.

Lloyd's Cabo de Nube is even more impressive. The rhythm section is the equal of Jarrett/McBee/DeJohnette: Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. This band combines the freedom of the '60s quartet with the lack of sentimentality of truly up-to-date jazz. And Lloyd's tenor playing rises to the challenge. His tone is no more gruff, but his playing is more driven and lean. Almost entirely gone are the Trane-isms. And the compositions are less pop songs than they are jazz tunes that surprise and syncopate.

It helps that Moran is on-board for this live concert. No contemporary jazz pianist is so likely to surprise the listener with his note choice and his rhythmic approach. On the opener "Prometheus" alone, Moran suggests hip-hop, stride piano, the breakaway lyricism of Don Pullen, and the gravitas of classical music in a Romantic vein. This omnivorous quality, however, does not overshadow the whole group sound. Just as Jarrett -- for all his out-jazz fire in the early stage of his career -- had a knack for the pop/gospel groove that made the '60s quartet accessible to kids, Moran shares a wavelength with Lloyd.

On "Migration of Spirit", Moran bombards just enough like McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane's great partner from 1960-65. It's not a Tyner imitation, but there is a kinship in Moran's low-note-rumbling that helps you to hear the leader's continuing debt to Coltrane's ballad playing. On "Booker's Garden", Lloyd features his flute, and Moran plays with a transparency that keeps the rhythm section open and full of wind -- off-kilter but still lyrical. In that tune's second half, all the players get a high-energy solo as well, with Moran jubilant in all registers.

"La Coline de Monk" is a tour de force duet for Moran and Lloyd alone, with the pianist starting things off with a stuttering free essay on how traditional jazz piano styles remain central to today's music. The contemporary stride section is like an arrow shot straight through from James P. Johnson to Thelonious Monk to the day after tomorrow. Lloyd proves himself just as witty and daring as he alternately quotes Monk, breaks down his tenor sound, then joins in rhapsodic passages with the pianist.

The honors in Rabo de Nube are not limited to Lloyd and Moran, however. Drummer Eric Harland proves himself a worthy successor to the best musician that Lloyd associated with regularly -- Billy Higgins. The two men thought enough of each other to make a string of records together, including a richly exploratory duet record, Which Way is East (ECM, 2004).

Harland proves himself nearly as dancing and joyous as his veteran predecessor on the new disc. "Ramanujan" finds Lloyd working on a more exotic reed instrument, with Harland creating a completely unique Middle Eastern groove that nevertheless swings. The disc's title track is equally demanding of the young drummer, requiring a ballad approach that suggests Latin groove with greatest possible subtlety.

A Revelation

Of the three musicians I have featured in my 2008 columns as surprising "gaps in my jazz collection", Lloyd is both the least uniformly essential and the most revelatory.

Bley is an innovator I had unfairly neglected but whose work perhaps thrilled me less than it informed me. Beiderbecke is a central (and, by me, ignored) voice from the past who has been so absorbed into the vocabulary of his instrument that I don't find myself dashing back to his records.

Lloyd is, comparatively, a minor figure -- neither an innovator nor a virtuoso on the saxophone, and a historical figure more because of the sensation he caused than the music he made. But. He had and still has a flair for attracting great sidemen and forming bands that rise above his own playing. The 1960's quartet was an unbalanced group that knew more than a thing or two about thrilling an audience. And his recent groups are even better: vibrant and complete and daring within the tradition.

For me, it is not the Lloyd compositions or his solos that rivet my attention. It is chemistry of Higgins, Abercrombie, Holland, and Lloyd on "God Give Me Strength" or the dash of joy between Moran, Rogers, Harland, and Lloyd on "Sweet Georgia Bright".

This month Charles Lloyd turned 70 -- with his vital new album coming out just four days earlier. That he's still in the game -- no, fully on top of the game -- at this stage of life is inspiring. "What's ahead?" you want to ask.

And that's the ultimate jazz question. What is ahead? It's the question that keeps you going, as a player or a fan. And, alas, it keeps my record collection growing.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star Salim Shaheen, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people.

"Now I am just more tired and poor. So no, I haven't changed. I'm just older and more tired," says French radio journalist and documentarian Sonia Kronlund, as she looks back on the experience of making The Prince of Nothingwood (2017).

Joining Salim Shaheen, the most popular and prolific actor-director-producer in Afghanistan on his 111th no budget feature, Kronlund documents the week-long shoot and the events surrounding it. She crafts an insight into a larger than life persona, yet amidst the comedy and theatricality of Shaheen and his troupe of collaborators, she uncovers the heavier tones of the everyday reality of war and patriarchal oppression. If The Prince of Nothingwood will popularly be remembered for celebrating the creative spirit of its star, it is equally an important communication on Afghanistan, it's culture and its people. Alongside the awareness of the country cultivated by mainstream media news outlets, Kronlund's film offers an insight into a country that can humanise the prejudice and xenophobic tendencies of a western perspective towards Afghanistan.

In October of this year at the UK premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, Kronlund spoke with PopMatters about being driven by questions rather than inspiration. She also reflected on the subjective nature of documentary filmmaking, the necessary artistic compromises of filming in Afghanistan, and feeling a satisfaction with imperfections.

Why filmmaking as a means of expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?

Not really, no. I have always done documentary. I used to write scripts and TV series but I only make documentaries myself for radio and television. For this story, I figured out after a while that it deserved a bigger ambition and a bigger screen and that's why I don't very much believe in inspiration. To be honest, I made this film because I had to do something. I didn't have a big project where I thought: I want to make this. I went there and I found a little money and at the end the ambition and the inspiration came along the way. But there was not an urgent necessity to make this film. It fits with a lot of things that I'm interested in, like popular culture -- What does art stand for and why do we go to the cinema? What is the purpose? This is a question I'm interested in, but inspiration, not so much.

Has The Prince of Nothingwood provided you with the answers to those questions?

It has, and I hope it helps people to think about this question. It tells you that there is an urgent need to make images, to make films, even during war,and even if you don't have the money. And even if the films are not very good, they will find somebody who will like them. So something is going to happen, and I think that's very touching. I don't like Shaheen's films, I hardly watched them -- I paid somebody to watch them. But I'm very moved by all these people that do like his films, and it makes you think about the value of art and the purpose of why we make cinema. I used to study aesthetics in London, so it was one of the questions I had and while the film is lighter than this, that's what was in mind.

The film uses Shaheen as a doorway, beginning as a story about one man which becomes a story about Afghanistan, its people and culture.

Yeah, but it's not so much about Afghanistan and it's not my purpose is to say things about the country. There's one guy like him in Iran who makes cowboy movies in the Iranian desert and there's also a guy like that in Tunisia. I mean you have this person with an urgent need to film whatever they have under their hand and since it's war, then it tells you something about the war. But it's not so much interested in him.

There was a lot of editing, 148 hours that you haven't seen [laughs]. Making a documentary is really telling a story and I don't have any idea of objectivity -- it is my point of view on Shaheen. Some people say to me that they would like to show his films, that they really want to see his films, and I say: "You don't see how much I have edited. I show you the very nice parts of his films." People think he's a great filmmaker and that's the story I wanted to tell -- but I could have told another story.

To my mind, objectivity is a human construct, a falsity that does not exist.

Except mathematics maybe, and sometimes physics.

The purist opinion of documentary as objective is therein built on a faulty premise. From the subjective choices of the filmmakers that bleed into the film to the subjectivity of the subjects, it's not purely objective. Hence, it calls into question the traditional dividing line of the objectivity of documentary and the subjectivity of narrative fiction.

Totally! It's the editing, and why you chose this guy, how you film it and what you show, or what you don't show. It's not only subjectivity, it's storytelling. Not many people ask me about this, they take it for granted that it's the real Shaheen. But I'm not lying, I'm not saying things that aren't true, but I am telling a story, a fictional story out of what I filmed. I took scenes that happened one day and I put them with another story that happened three months later and that's why we had seven months of editing with three editors. So it was a lot of work.

One of the striking aspects of the film are the light and comedic moments offset by a darker and heavier sensibility, which include moments when, for example, Shaheen talks about arranged marriages.

We made 70rough cuts and there was one version we tested and you couldn't believe you were in Afghanistan. People would say: "Oh this is too funny. You don't see Afghanistan, it's just a bunch of crazy guys." I then said: "Let's put in a little more darkness." You then have to strike a balance and to me, if it's not perfect, I'm happy.

Shooting the film in a dangerous and volatile part of the world, was the approach that once you had enough footage you then looked to shaping the film in the edit?

It's not when you feel you have enough, it's finding a balance between security and artistic concerns. That's it. You have a plan and you have an agenda. There are things you want to do, but it has to be balanced with security concerns. The real story I was going to tell about Shaheen I found in the editing room and in the end, I only kept five days of the shoot. The whole film takes place in Bamyan (Province), nothing in Kabul, although I had weeks and weeks of footage there that I had to take away.

There's a moment when Shaheen asks if you are scared, which sees him verbalise our silent recognition of your boldness and courage to bring this story to the screen.

It's very difficult and it's not like you are walking in the street and there's a bomb. This is not what's difficult. The difficulty is to cope with your fear and to have rules and to follow or to not follow those rules. There are many foreign people that never go out at all in Kabul -- it is forbidden. You have British diplomats who do not even drive their car from the airport to the embassy -- they will take an helicopter that costs £2,000 each way. Then you have foreign people who walk in the street without a scarf -- these girls get kidnapped.

In between these you have Shaheen, who is telling me all the time that I'm too scared, because it's a man's value to be brave and he's a brave guy, there's no question about that. He was in an attack two weeks ago. There was a bomb in a Shia Mosque and he helped to carry out the bodies. So there's no kidding about the fact that he's a brave guy and he has to be because he's been fighting to make his films. But you are in the middle of this and I'm not a brave person at all and I don't think being brave is a very important question. It is, but I'm not brave, I'm very scared and so in the middle of all of this stress it's enough just to manage to not go crazy, or to not drink too much [laughs].

Salim Shaheen and Sonia Kronlund (courtesy of Pyramide Films)

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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