‘Warp Riders’ is a bone-in fuzz-bass shank on a six-string buffet with a side of chugga-chugga guitar grits and fist-pounding percussion pudding.
THE SWORD Warp Riders (Kemado
Records) Metal outfit The Sword takes a lot of heat from music critics, hipsters, and snobs for being too throwback or too mainstream. Some may argue that this Austin four-piece simply borrows from songs by more recognized bands, including Led Zeppelin, Tool, and Black Sabbath. Sure, the group often sounds a lot like Ozzy-era Sabbath. But tell me, my head-banging brethren: Since when is that a bad thing? The Sword’s 2008 album, Gods of the Earth, is an earhole-pummeling work of stoner-doom-metal wizardry. This follow-up — a bone-in fuzzbass shank on a six-string riff buffet with a side of chugga-chugga guitar grits and fist-pounding percussion pudding — is The Sword’s first concept album. Stick with me here: an archer named Ereth is forced into exile from his home planet of Acheron, and then there’s something about space pirates, an orb, witches, and an intergalactic babe named Astraea. Time to update your Spinal Tap vocabulary primers. Let’s just say The Sword is mightier than its own pen, which probably doubles as a roach clip. In album closer “(The Night Sky Cried) Tears of Fire,” lead vocalist and songwriter John D. Cronise sings, “It was a relic of another time, plundered from an ancient tomb, wrought by forgotten arts, inscribed with cryptic runes.” Thankfully, Warp Riders is instrumentally generous. Austin might be more famous for its Americana, but I’d rather fall on its Sword any day. — Rob DeWalt CIAFRICA DJ Rupture Presents CIAfrica (Dutty Artz) DJ Rupture remains best known for Gold Teeth Thief, a 2002 globespanning mixtape that deconstructed Missy Elliott’s rap hit “Get Ur Freak On” to its roots in Jamaican dancehall, Algerian raï, and Indian tabla music. Showcasing similar global ambitions on his newest collaboration, Rupture teams up with CIAfrica, a collective of rappers from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The tracks on this raw album are largely Francophone trunk rumblers — full of turbulent bass and provocative slogan shouting. Taking their cues from Caribbean dancehall, U.K. grime, and some heavily distorted Southern crunk, West African superstar rappers Manusa and Nasty tear their way through some of the album’s discordant tracks. Unfortunately, their yell-happy rapping is difficult to distinguish from that of other members of the crew who are overly fond of the “bark and growl” school of rapping worn out by American hip-hopper DMX in the 1990s. Rap prowess aside, what’s most moving about this album is how it blends disparate styles of hip-hop and R&B beats. This is definitely not a Putumayo compilation, and the album is a welcome, if chaotic, alternative to happy-go-lucky African music that is often sold to American listeners on public-radio and world-music compilations. — Casey Sanchez
ARP The Soft Wave (Smalltown Supersound)
The Soft Wave is a patient album. It’s in no hurry to get you to like it. In fact, it’s not in much of a hurry, period. The opening track, “Pastoral Symphony: I. Dominoes II. Infinity Room,” billows out over the course of nine minutes, drawing melodies from warm bass tones and washing over you with what sounds like helicopter drones — all the while evoking the meditative qualities of Brian Eno’s ambient work and the dreamier bits of Pink Floyd’s catalog. Though the album initially seems like pleasant background music that rolls out at a gentle tempo, it’s a surprisingly eclectic work, revealing subtle shifts and new instrumentation every few minutes. In “Alfa (Dusted),” an electric guitar provides a lengthy psychedelic solo before simply running up and down the scales for the last half of the song. “Grapefruit” unfolds like a Kabuki theater piece, using minimal instrumentation to make grand gestures before introducing a firm bass line that’s slightly reminiscent of the music used in 1980s handheld electronic games. On “From a Balcony Overlooking the Sea,” ARP mastermind Alexis Georgopoulos does the unthinkable: he sings. I usually growl about excellent instrumental artists picking up the microphone, but he pulls it off. The song is a lovely bit of slow-motion folk-pop staged to eloquent piano chords and synthesizer flights. It’s one of the many moments where patience is rewarded tenfold.
— Robert B. Ker DANILO PÉREZ Providencia (Mack Avenue) For eight years, Danilo Pérez has worked as the keyboard force behind Wayne Shorter’s quartet, but Pérez also has 10 albums on his own with sidemen like Jack DeJohnette, Cassandra Wilson, and Joe Lovano.
Providencia is his debut on the Mack Avenue label. Its 11 songs were inspired by his daughters and are throughcomposed and gorgeously eclectic-feeling. “Daniela’s Chronicles” begins quietly, but the five-part piece flowers with dynamism. Pérez’s piano work is adventurous, as is the playing by drummer Adam Cruz and bassist Ben Street. “Galactic Panama” has a jagged vamp up front, and in comes the always-intense alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa. Such an alive mix here! The liner notes say Providencia is, in part, about being prepared for the future and for the unknown. “For starters,” Pérez writes, “we must get out of our comfort zone.” This song is good practice for that. Another collaborator, vocalist Sara Serpa, shows up on the title track. My favorite is “Cobilla,” an angular and totally exhilarating piece with Pérez on Fender Rhodes and Mahanthappa and Serpa wildly engaged. The album is rounded out with two classic boleros and a pair of works featuring improvisations by five classical musicians (on oboe, flute, French horn, clarinet, and bassoon). Also contributing on some songs are percussionist Jamey Haddad and conguero Ernesto Diaz. This is one of the best of 2010. — Paul Weideman