No 2: Abyss in B-Minor
According to lead singer Emil Nikolaisen, Serena Maneesh represents the “small, subtle elements” that make sound more powerful. What this means on the group’s second record is taking the time to record tracks in an underground cave outside of Oslo before spending eight days mixing each.
Not since My Bloody Valentine has an amalgam of sound swirled so violently. Opener “Ayisha Abyss” initiates listeners with almost eight minutes of relentless drums, whispered vocals and distorted guitars. However, near the seven-minute mark, all excess noise is stripped away for a 13-second piano recital before an eruption of electronic pulses and screeching sound effects takes over. While baffling at first, scattered moments like these require repeat listens to sink in fully. More enjoyable still is the band’s soft side, evidenced by the slow-burning “Melody for Jaana.” —Michael Cimaomo
Alo and The Narcissist
The Royal We
Before popping in this debut release from New York’s Alo and The Narcissist, you’ll be greeted by glitter, haphazard wardrobes, and jockstraps. The album features a wide range of electronic styles, mixing two parts ’80s pop and one part glitzy turn of phrase; then it adds a splash of disco and funk, with plenty of synth and bass.
Hold the liberal vodka pour, if you so choose—this cocktail has enough. Alo brings the dance to the floor for sure, yet some will need to listen past the digitized glam to milk some genuine appreciation. With lyrics rife with innuendo and, well, narcissism, The Royal We’s expression is something more adrenal than purely artistic. —Paul Bachand
The Stanley Clarke Band
(Heads Up Records)
Stanley Clarke continues his partnership with Japanese pianist Hiromi on a CD that nicely shows the various facets of the ace bassist’s music. Hiromi may be the finest acoustic musician Clarke has played with in decades, and he brings out the expressive side of Clarke’s playing. Their remake of “No Mystery” is subtle and shimmering, with a searing guest guitar solo from Charles Altura. “Labyrinth” begins with a driving piano solo and features some great interplay between Clarke, Hiromi and drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr.
When he wants the band to go electric, Clarke turns to Ruslan, a synthesizer and electric pianist. He enlivens the Caribbean-spiced “Sonny Rollins” with his runs, and “Fulani” is an effort worthy of Clarke’s former band Return to Forever. It’s nice to see Clarke concentrate on group dynamics rather than sheer pyrotechnics. —Jeffrey Siegel