A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Jamie Ludwig, Reader associate editor
Roadburn Festival Last month I attended Roadburn Festival in Tilburg, Netherlands. Originally focused on psychedelic and stoner rock, it’s evolved into the world’s premier event for innovative heavy and experimental music, including emerging bands and the cult figures and pioneers who’ve shaped extreme music and its culture. There were too many highlights to list, but moments such as nearly shedding tears watching a crust band play in an old church with perfect acoustics (it’s very rare to hear outsider music in such a setting) reminded me how lucky I was to be there.
LLNN Hardcore music is saddled with a reputation for purism, but plenty of bands push its boundaries in exciting, unexpected ways. One such group is Danish four-piece LLNN, which twists hardcore touchstones with elements of postmetal, science-fiction movie scores, and more. Its new album, Deads, concerns the downfall of intergalactic civilizations, and it manages to conjure beauty in its bleakness.
Sleep Two Thursdays ago I went to sleep and woke up to Sleep—specifically, the band’s first album in 15 years, The Sciences. Following the trio’s implosion in 1998 (London Records didn’t realize it had a masterpiece on its hands when Sleep delivered Dopesmoker), its members went on to form High on Fire and Om, both heavyweights in their own right. So when Sleep reunited in 2009, it was as if Godzilla had been hit with an extra blast of radiation, but rather than stomping on Tokyo he devastated it with riffs. In a genre plagued by cliche and copycats, Sleep remain untouchable.
Jamie is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Hank Pearl, founder of Black Pearl Photo and the Killanthropy benefit series
Priest This fresh Swedish synth band includes former anonymous members of cartoon rock group Ghost, and their identities remain hidden. Their debut LP, New Flesh (released late last year), balances club-thumping industrial tracks with serene, reflective, deliciously synthy pieces. “Vaudeville” may be great for a goth club, but “Reloader” is a gin cocktail after a long night. Given that their debut is so evenly balanced and well-defined, I eagerly await their sophomore effort.
Judas Priest, Firepower Judas Priest have been in the game for more than four decades, and being measured against your own living legacy is no picnic. Nevertheless, their latest delivers on a level not seen since 1990’s Painkiller. “Rising From Ruins” carries the perseverance intrinsic to the heavy metal genre they helped sculpt. “Spectre” has a hook big enough to catch a whale. And the guitar solos throughout “Firepower” declare that these metal gods are in no mood to slow down.
Zeal & Ardor Manuel Gagneux is a mad scientist hell-bent on ripping apart genre, subgenre, and your damned opinion on any of it. Many bands mash up styles of music, types of instrumentation, or time signatures. Gagneux takes every ingredient in the kitchen and cooks them in the sink. He can have raw, stripped-down American folk sounds in one tune, then move into atmospheric black metal and top it all with bright keyboards. Why? Well, there’s no reason not to. He amazes me by giving the listener much to ponder but still having nothing to prove.
Hank is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Joshua Hasken, CPS music teacher and member of the band Fernando Doppel
Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert A friend recommended this 1975 Keith Jarrett album to me right before spring break and told me the lore behind it. I listened to this live improvised solo recording nonstop on a 13-hour plane ride to Beijing. Jarrett was playing late at night in front of a German crowd on a whirlwind tour, operating on little to no sleep, and making the best of a subpar piano supplied by mistake. Sounds like pure genius.
My David Bowie and Iggy Pop playlist The soundtrack I made for my eight days in China was greatest hits from David Bowie and Iggy Pop. I create playlists as mnemonic devices to enhance and help me remember experiences around the world. It felt pretty badass to be climbing the Great Wall of China blasting “Search and Destroy.” I also took three domestic flights in China, and I would play “Space Oddity” at takeoff to calm my nerves.
Chris Dave and the Drumhedz This self-titled album masterminded by longtime session and touring drummer Chris Dave (who’s worked for the likes of D’Angelo and Adele) is damn good. Specifically, “Destiny N Stereo,” which features rapping by Elzhi of Slum Village and Phonte Coleman of Little Brother. Now that the weather is nicer, it’s a fun one to drive to work with in the morning. v