Jeff Parker – Here Comes Ezra

While I hadn’t heard Jeff Parker’s name before coming across this album, I had definitely heard him play before as a member of the Chicago post-rock group Tortoise. It was only after looking up his full discography that I realized how prolific he is as a guitarist. Here Comes Ezra comes from his 2016 album The New Breed, which was put out by Chicago label International Anthem.

After studying music at the Berklee College of Music, he moved to Chicago and got involved with the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musician, which has been supporting avant-garde jazz and other improvised music since the mid-1960s. The AACM was closely aligned with art collectives on Chicago’s south side in the mid-1960s and continues to promote and support experimental and improvisational music from black artists. It’s interesting that the AACM would come about around the same time that the first American studio for experimental classical music was being put together just a few hours south of the city at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The AACM is all the more impressive because of its grassroots origins, and it continues to support experimental music by black artists in Chicago and elsewhere to this day.

In addition to his solo releases, Parker has scored a number of films which you can see here. You can purchase his albums on his site as well. Tortoise most recent album The Catastrophe has been in pretty heavy rotation for me as of late, and they recently put out a book of pictures from their tour.

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Bitchin Bajas – Transcendence

It’s as if someone opened a time capsule and found a whole new Fripp/Eno record for me to put in my ear holes. Transcendence comes off the groups 2013 release Bitchitronics put out by Drag City. The group coalesced as a solo project of CAVE guitarist/organist Cooper Crain and primarily comprises Crain, Rob Frye, and Dan Quinlivan. All three are active in the psychedelic/experimental scene in Chicago, with Frye and Quinlivan contributing to releases for Chandeliers, who came to WNUR when I worked there and rocked it, as well as appearing on small-print releases for Circuit Des Yeux, who appears on Chicago label Thrill Jockey. Crain is also an active recording engineer, working on records for Heavy Times and Circuit Des Yeux. Given that the earth is rapidly heating, if you’re not gonna get out there and try and shut down Exxon Mobil then I’d recommend loading up on fuzzy guitar drones and blasting the hell off.

Sam Prekop – C+F

This track from The Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop is just as undeniable as The Sea and Cake are at their best. It comes from his second solo release, Who’s Your New Professor put out by the good folks at Thrill Jockey in 2005. Though it predates the modular synth sounds that dominate his most recent releases, like 2015’s The Republic, you can hear some of those beautiful tones percolating through his earlier solo work.

As I mentioned in a previous post, The Sea and Cake went on hiatus around 2004, and Archer Prewitt and Prekop both released solo records soon after. It’s interesting to listen to Who’s Your New Professor alongside Prewitt’s album Wilderness. Maybe I’m trying to shoehorn something here, but these albums shed light on what each guy brought to The Sea and Cake. Though Wilderness was Prewitt’s last solo output to date, Prekop has continued to record on his own in addition to reuniting with the rest of The Sea and Cake. Another great solo record of his is Old Punch Card, which is full blown synth goodness. I was lucky enough to see Prekop live when he performed at Hausu Mountain’s birthday party a few years ago and it was a real treat. To get a sense of what the set up looked like check out this live video from 2011. Prekop also did the cover art for the most recent release from Good Willsmith entitled Things Our Bodies Used to Have. Good Willsmith are a great group who I’ll have to write about at greater length because Doug, Max, and Natalie create some really beautiful jams and they are also beings of pure wonderful light.