Around a year or so ago this time, the unthinkable happened: I heard music that I MYSELF actually considered to be too experimental and weird, in the form of side project On Fillmore via Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche and a rowdy troupe of others. It was like an oxygen hole being poked in the top of the universe through which I could thereafter breathe and now with bandmate Nels Cline’s ex-Wilco foray, the cosmos have self-arranged in a way that’s plausibly digestible and lithe.
Still, Currents, Constellations opens with a big cymbal crash, as if to say, don’t get TOO comfortable and pert: we can still knock you on your a** if we want to. “Furtive” then proceeds as methodical but abruptly verbose jazz played entirely on guitar, drums and bass, time signatures akimbo or non-existent (it’s hard to tell). Nels Cline seems to be almost defiantly showing off guitar chops in response to what must be his usual environs of the Wilco shackles, but the results aren’t too disastrous. Just don’t get offended. He’s just a dude playing a guitar.
“Swing Ghost ’59” is a perky garden of ashes with the melodic sense of rock, played on effects-free guitar, but “Imperfect 10” is where we get the sense of Currents, Constellations being a landmark of production as well as just doodling. Again the song opens with cymbals, this time ushered in with a curious mix of sporadically arhythmic hats and… is that wind chimes? The effect is the same, anyway. But even though the statement here is coy, the project retains its kinetic acumen by way of the undeniable organic VIBRATIONS of the sounds that disperse themselves right in your lap. The low guitar treads in “As Close as That” will remind you of Tortoise, wielding though an increased sense of the unpredictable, in this case delivered to full fruition in the form of dual guitars, weeping over each other in common focus. At 44 minutes, Currents, Constellations plays not as “epic,” but as a handy little pocket case of easy summer jazz.
Moving now from jazz to funk, as in the finest funk album since Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca, we have another instrumental group that is a trio instead of a quartet, with every bit the easy-minded vision and focus as the urbane little outfit we just handled before, coming to us this time from Texas instead of Chicago. Con Todo El Mundo (Spanish for “with all the world”) is Khruangbin’s second full-length and compared to 2015’s The Universe Smiles upon You is decisively purposeful and taut, mixing melancholy, swooning and swirling guitar with crisp snare burps and like I alluded to before, a swanky bass that never met a one beat it didn’t like. Con Todo El Mundo plays as transformative, aching melodic funk for a sublime summer listen, easily imbibed in these shapely little songs.