2023 Spring Music Preview - Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz

A Closer Listen

The Arrowounds album pictured here boasts some incredible artwork; read below to discover how to turn the digital image into a physical artifact.  This is just one of dozens of releases in our most expansive category, running the tonal gamut from reflective to rocking.  Next week, we’ll take a deep dive into the spring slate and start to cover some of these prime releases in greater depth.

We also want to tip our readers to our next big series, which will highlight music that sounds like spring; look for our list of the all-time Best Spring Albums, coming this April!  In the meantime, we hope you enjoy our final installment of 2023’s Spring Music Preview.

Our cover image is taken from Lost Tribe Sound’s Therianthrope Series, a four-disc boxed set from Arrowounds, covered below!

Rock and Post-Rock

Frequent readers of our site are aware of our unusual relationship with vocals; we prefer the instrumental, but sometimes allow an album with vocals to slip in, especially if the vocals are themselves experimental, are used as texture, alternate with instrumental tracks and/or yield longer passages of lyric-free music.  This is the case with two of spring’s most ambitious sets.  Bipolar Explorer‘s In the Hours Left Before Dawn is a sprawling suite that contains instrumentals, sung and spoken word, much of the singing recorded prior to the premature death of Summer Serafin.  This loss permeates the music, gracing it with a tragic mystery.

ALL HANDS_MAKE LIGHT‘s “Darling the Dawn” combines the talents of Ariel Engle (Broken Social Scene) and Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion).  The instrumental passages are expansive, decorated with cello by Jessica Moss, while the timbre is reminiscent of This Mortal Coil, especially on the closing tracks (Constellation, April 21, pictured right).  And since we’re at it, it’s only fair that we mention Montreal’s Milanku, whose music fits perfectly into the Montreal post-rock canon.  By the time the vocals appear, most fans will already be in love with the sound.  À l’aube is out March 31 on Folivora, the massive finale streaming below.  And Sigur Rós announced this week that we can expect a new studio album from them in June, their first in a decade!

Somewhere between jazz and post-rock lies MultiTraction Orchestra, led by the distinct trumpet of Arve Henriksen.  The septet is somewhat of a supergroup, and also includes members of GoGo Penguin (who is also about to unveil a new album), Melt Yourself Down, Sly and the Family Drone and more.  Reactor One, a suite in six parts, is out April 7 on Superpang.  No stranger to concept albums, Last Days offers Windscale, an emotional album inspired by the 1957 British nuclear meltdown.  The album tells a story from “Folly” to “Fallout,” but never loses track of the human element (n5MD, March 24).

An enticing pre-order option is available for Arrowounds‘ In the Octopus Pond, the first of an ambitious four-part series.  A 4-disc set, 8-poster hardcover book set will be produced if enough pre-orders arrive.  We hope it will come to fruition.  In the meantime, selections from all four can be previewed here (Lost Tribe Sound, March 31).  Rock cellist Helen Money teams up with Will Thomas for the propulsive Trace, preceded by the electronic rhythms of single “Thieves” (Thrill Jockey, May 12).  Cruel Nature Records is celebrating its tenth anniversary with Spectrum, a double cassette compilation featuring 23 exclusive tracks from label artists, with proceeds going to The Toby Henderson Trust, which supports autistic youth and adults, parents and caregivers.  A mixture of styles is represented, as befits the title and topic (April 20, pictured right).


The self-titled debut of Les Dunes yields the classic set-up of drums, bass and guitar, referencing EitS and the slower side of post-rock.  While not without crescendo, the music takes its time, with the tension in the build (Kapitaen Platte, March 24).  Desert rockers Rancho Bizzaro sound more scorching than slow; Four Dead Men is preceded by the single Meteor Blast (Argonauta, March 31).  Tørrfall‘s album may be self-titled, but we think they’ve missed a golden opportunity.  They describe their sound as “psychedelic water music” and tag it “seasons of electricity.”  Each would have been an engaging name for an intriguing album! (Den Pene Inngang, March 24).  Call it art rock, noise rock, prog rock, or math rock, but the Terms album lives up to its title: All Becomes Indistinct.  The duo makes a holy racket, on the verge of growing untethered, reeling it in at the last moment (Skin Graft, 21 April).


Punchy post-rock trio Arthios makes its debut with Miscible, an album that shares a happy vibe with Human Pyramids.  Who says post-rock isn’t for dancing?  (March 24).  Pedal steel, vibraphone and flute make Mute Duo stand out in the crowded field of post-rock; there’s a bit of prog mixed in as well.  The word “mute” refers only to the lack of words; the music speaks volumes, the thirteen-minute “The Ocean Door” the set highlight.  Migrant Flocks is out April 14 on American Dreams.  Swedish post-metal band Dimwind‘s last release was a 16-minute track on a split album.  A year later the band is set to release the full-length The Futility of Breathing ~ although as one member writes, “the work turned out to hit closer to home than anyone could ever expect,” the loss of a loved one coloring the entire process (April 21).  Mushroom Giant‘s In a Forest is classic and straightforward: chunky instrumental rock aimed straight at the heart (Bird’s Robe, April 28).


Folk and Post-Folk

David Van Auken‘s homespun guitar provides a feeling of safety and belonging.  His debut album American Harmony arrives March 24 on Debacle Records.  Bill Orcutt resurfaces after a decade with Jump On It, a solo acoustic record that continues to sound like perfection.  One of the early tracks, “The Life of Jesus,” is perfect for Easter (Palilalia, April 28).  Guitarist Steve Gunn is joined by Bing & Ruth’s David Moore on Reflections Vol. 1: Let the Moon Be a Planet, a pensive album that launches a series of peaceful collaborations (RVNG Intl., March 31).  Add vibraphone to 12-string guitar and you have Elkhorn, whose album On the Whole Universe In All Directions honors its title with four tracks named “North,” “South,” “East” and “West.”  This is a rare musical combination for a duo, producing a post-folk sound (Centripetal Force / Cardinal Fuzz, April 7).  Keep the guitar, drop the vibraphone, add loops, electronics, field recordings and cello, and the tone changes once more.  Witness II, the sequel seven years in the making from Jan Matiz.  While still warm, this entry is “mystic and foggy,” inspired by a major move and an abandoned brothel (tier.debut, April 20).

The next big release on Clay Pipe Music is a split concept album from Gilroy Mere.  The first side of Gilden Gate is bucolic, celebrating the “beaches, pastures and heaths of Suffolk,” while the second is wistful, mourning the sunken spires of Dunwich.  Together, they offer a woven history in story and instrumental song (March 24).

Acclaimed fiddle player Martin Hayes expand his horizons to Martin Hayes & the Common Ground Ensemble to produce Peggy’s Dream, an expresssive vision dedicated to a fallen comrade and his mother.  By combining traditional instruments (piano, cello) with those less commonly heard (harmonium, bouzouki), the sound may broaden perceptions of traditional Irish music (Faction Records, March 24).  The soulmate of this album may be Elijah McLaughlin Ensemble‘s III, due to the six and twelve string guitar, piano, cello, hammered dulcimer, synth and field recordings; if this were a tour bill, we’d love to see the band members trade places on set (Astral Spirits, March 24).


Jazz and Post-Jazz

For the more abstract and improvised side of jazz, we invite you to visit our Experimental section; for the more accessible and melodic side, we invite you to stay right here, where Mammal Hands will be happy to provide you with all the spirited vibes you need!  Gift from the Trees is a tale of two seasons, winter and spring, which makes it a perfect release for this time of year.  Each recording session produced its own vibe, and together they sing of transition (Gondwana, March 31).  Or delve into trumpeter Peter Manheim‘s similarly temporal-minded In Time, which includes a piece titled “Lost Dayz” but which begins with “Peace Groove,” a perfect title for troubled times (Northern Spy, April 7, pictured right).  Discus Music turns 150 with Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere‘s Theta Six, a thoughtful free jazz excursion that combines the improvised and the composed, retaining the rhythm throughout the recording (March 24).


KVL‘s Volume 2 reunites the talents of Quin Kirchner, Daniel Van Duerm and Matthew Lux.  They may call their music “call-it-whatever-you-want-jazz,” but we’re going to tag it groovy and free (Astral Spirits, April 21).  Fans of piano and guitar duo Leagus may be stunned by the sound of Flora Eallin, which was written for a ten-piece orchestra.  The lead single “Hyperion” sounds as if it could have been composed by The Comet Is Coming, but that’s a good thing; the album sounds like the ground bursting into bloom.  We also love the label name: Is It Jazz? (April 28).  The brass-led free jazz quartet Edredon Sensible will be self-releasing a new album on March 31.  Montagne Explosion is like a party in a can, non-stop fun from beginning to end, with a math rock infusion.  And famed trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith is back with the ensemble Orange Wave Electric.  Fire Illuminations is out March 31 on Kabell Records.

Richard Allen

Sat Mar 18 00:01:12 GMT 2023