CHROMA [Motema Music]
The third album by Greece-born, New York City-based composer/acoustic bassist Petros Klampanis is awash in colors, as he augments his piano and guitar-led quintet with a string section on this luminous live recording. The title-track opener establishes Klampanis’ palette, with unrelated chordal clusters floating on clouds of strings over a band pedaltone. “Tough Decisions” has a unique 6/4 stride, sweeping themes, and a lyrical bass solo. “Little Blue Sun” launches with a poignant bass melody and ends with a killer polyrhythmic ostinato for Gilad Hekselman’s guitar solo. Klampanis delivers his most exploratory, expressive solo amid the dramatic strings and pseudo-military drums of “Cosmic Patience.” Finally, he saves his trademark wordless vocals for the ethereal ballad “Shadows” and the upbeat, frolicsome coda, “Shades of Magenta.”
MINUS THE BEAR
VOIDS [Suicide Squeeze]
Every indie-music fan’s favorite hardcore-turned-alternative collective from the Pacific Northwest is back with a sixth full-length album, and it shows a rejuvenated band at its best. Cory Murchy holds down the foundation and keeps listeners grooving, and his always-interesting note placement is the perfect accompaniment to the guitar work of Dave Knudson and Jake Snider, who pile on one epic riff after another. “Robotic Heart,” “Last Kiss,” and “Give & Take” are great examples of Murchy’s precision and feel.
ROBERT CRAY & HI RHYTHM [Jay-Vee]
A band that features Hi Records bass legend Leroy Hodges alongside drum god Steve Jordan? Yes, please! Leroy, joined by his brother and longtime bandmate Rev. Charles Hodges on organ and piano, brings the same warm feel that graced every Al Green classic through the ’70s; Jordan, master of the big, wide groove, is a perfect match, and together, they elevate each song to a rhythm-section masterclass. It’s hard not to think of Green as Cray delivers bluesy, gospel-y vocal and guitar goodness over each track. Highlights: The killer splanky guitar part with greasy, grooving rhythm on “Honey Bad” and the chunky, horn-kissed magic of O.V. Wright’s “You Must Believe in Yourself.”
THE BETA MACHINE
ALL THIS TIME [thebetamachine.com]
When they’re laying it down as the airtight rhythm section of A Perfect Circle or Puscifer, Matt McJunkins and drummer Jeff Friedl are the Beta Machine. Their debut, an eclectic five-song EP recorded between tours and produced by Mat Mitchell, features some thunderous work from McJunkins, who proves he can hold his own when the spotlight falls on his shoulders.
Harmonic choices and solos deep enough to impress fusion lovers, in-your-face grooves that’ll make your neck jerk (that drum tone!), huge riffs and distortion to remind you that these dudes roll extra hard, and distinctive production that carries a dose of melancholy. Underneath it all, tight bass parts by Kaveh Rastegar, who knocks it out of the park, especially on the album closer, “Austin Peralta.” What’s not to love?
TOWARDS A BETTER QUESTION [stevelawson.net]
The latest addition to the U.K. bassist’s already deep catalog finds him weaving atmospheric tapestries and creating tranquil vibes. Capturing a wide spectrum of tones, from earthy to otherworldly, Lawson uses loops and delays to get the most from his signature Elrick 6-string. But just because it’s a meditative album doesn’t mean that it doesn’t groove: Check out “Kintsukuroi,” “Reconstruct,” and the title track to hear Lawson’s full range.
LOVE IN A TIME FOR MADNESS [Blue Note]
If you expected jazz vocal phenomenon James to revisit the way he’s worked with top-shelf players like John Patitucci, Pino Palladino, and Solomon Dorsey, you might be in for a surprise. Though he’s always blurred boundaries between genres, Love is a drastic departure from, say, the beautiful Billie Holiday tribute he released in 2015. But the (mostly synth) low end, courtesy of producers Tario and Likeminds, is pitch perfect, putting the bounce underneath the album’s trap, funk, and pop flavors while smoothing the way to the next stage of this restless artist’s career.
WITH YOU TONIGHT [summermoonband.com]
Strokes bassman Nikolai Fraiture’s new indie-rock spinoff, featuring Jane’s Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins, keyboardist Camilia Grey, and guitarist Noah Harmon, is as hip as it is downright enjoyable. Fraiture’s vocal work and steady lines merge tightly with Perkins’ driving rhythms to highlight memorable and quirky riffs. He may be known as the introvert of the Strokes, but Summer Moon frontman Fraiture’s bold new project succeeds in every way, including giving us a closer look at his musical personality.