It seemed this year that May showers brought June flowers, or a bit more rain - so needless to say it's been a bit gloomy, a little colder than usual and perfect weather for listening to the HiFi. Gray days invoke a kind of moody anticipation, perfect for music that is a bit more heady, complex, and thought-provoking. We hit Tower records' online store and grabbed a Jack Kerouac on wax, revisited some of our favorite albums from Gearbox, and explored some collections from vinyl subscription service Vinyl Moon. It was a fantastic month of soul searching, cabernet sipping, and contemplation mixed with the anticipation of Spring.
So get inspired, grab some of these records, and get ready to go deep inside yourself - you won't regret it.
Gearbox Records Selects
Sadly this gem is now sold out, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't go after it with vigor on Discogs. Maybe some collector will be willing to part with it, definitely worth a shot as this is a beautiful and perfect jazz record capturing the essence of this jazz great. This is the kind of record you put on as the sun starts to set, it rises and falls with ease and always keeps a vibe that is chill but uplifting. What's great about Monk is that he will push you out of the comfort zone, zigging and zagging, and then gently pulls you back into the groove. It's almost like learning to drink great whiskey, it's complex, smooth and warms your spirit. Find it.
From Gearbox Records - This is a previously unreleased, precious lost treasure from Monk’s most critically acclaimed line-up; Charlie Rouse on saxophone, John Ore on double bass, and Frankie Dunlop on drums. Without a widely agreed must-have Monk release, could this fill the void as the Monk everyone should own? Recorded live in Copenhagen in 1963 at the peak of Monk’s career. A year later he was to feature on the cover of TIME magazine, one of only for 4 Jazz artists ever to do so. The performance, a mixture of Monk originals and interpretations of standards, showcases Monk at his prime: full of avant-garde flair and wit, but always with a swinging feel explains his title as the 'High Priest of Bebop'. The original tapes, saved from a skip and blessed with the approval of the Monk estate, have been faithfully restored, mastered and cut using Gearbox's legendary all-analogue process.
Cut in-house with Gearbox’s 1967 Haeco Scully lathe, the exact same lathe set-up as Blue Note used back in the day.
Thelonious Monk - piano
Charlie Rouse - tenor saxophone
John Ore - double bass
Frankie Dunlop - drums
A1 Bye-Ya A2 Nutty B1 I'm Getting Sentimental Over You
B2 Body and Soul B3 Monk's Dream
Abdullah Ibrahim - The Balance Japanese Edition Vinyl LP
In a word you might call Abdullah Ibrahim's The Balance smokey, and in all the right ways. It's a record that takes you somewhere that only a small jazz club can evoke, a sense of metropolitan optimism, anticipation, and a deep thirsting for a martini - stirred, not shaken. The Balance meanders into deep reflective territory and at times almost beckons you out of your seat to sway and drift. If you are a fan of jazz or someone that is just starting to dip your twinkle toes, this piece of wax will very much be what the doctor ordered.
From Gearbox Records: At the age of 84, Abdullah Ibrahim (AKA Dollar Brand) releases his first new album in four years. Entitled 'The Balance', this project features his long-time septet Ekaya, a line-up that he's been recording with since 1983. In this case, the album was recorded over the course of one day at London's RAK Studios last November. The lush horn lines, lilting melodies, and uplifting chord progressions are characteristic of Abdullah's all-encompassing Township-Jazz. This is contrasted with various solo piano improvisations, which epitomise the nostalgic yet hopeful nature of Abdullah's musical spirit. Hence, The Balance.
In his own words:
"We push ourselves out of our comfort zones. So that we can present to the listener our striving for excellence. So that we can engage with our listeners without any barriers of our ego. It's not jazz. For us, it's a process of transcending barriers."
Abdullah Ibrahim: piano
Noah Jackson: double bass (tracks 1, 2, 4, 6, 8), cello (tracks 3, 10)
Alec Dankworth : double bass (tracks 3, 10)
Will Terrill: drums
Adam Glasser: harmonica (track 10)
Cleave Guyton Jr.: alto saxophone (tracks 2, 3, 6), flute (track 1, 10), piccolo (track 4, 8)
Lance Bryant: tenor saxophone
Andrae Murchison: trombone
Marshall McDonald: baritone saxophone
Engineered by Tony Platt at RAK Studio 1.
Mixed by Caspar Sutton-Jones
Mastered and cut by Darrel Sheinman and Caspar Sutton-Jones at Gearbox Records
Vinyl Moon Selects
We just discovered Vinyl Moon and they were nice enough to send us a couple of their collections. This outfit is all about the art of the compilations, literally and figuratively. Each edition features a theme, custom packaging and artwork, some fun accessories like stickers and a very cool piece of designer vinyl. You can buy the collections a la carte or
This collection was so well curated that we need to start with the props on that first, and the artwork was almost in a deadlock tie. The music is a sort of emo, shoe gazing, vibey indie that you can play for just about anyone and they will like it, even Taylor Swift fans. The concept, The Comfort of a Dream ties all these tracks together like some kind of musical cornucopia of indie joy - everything perfectly balanced, nothing too melancholic or spicey - it's all just right. The great thing about this concept is that it acts as a musical discovery mechanism, and you have to put a little bit of trust in the Vinyl Moon selector's tastes - which is always fun. Gem Club's "Spirit and Decline" got the rewind several times - but the entire compilation is noteworthy, which is a feat in and of itself.
The artwork opens up to reveal more beautiful artwork by artist Omar. Aqil (more below) and instead of your traditional slots, your lovely little piece of wax is kept safely in the middle as the record jacket clips together with magnets. Sweet.
Omar's artwork frequently features amalgamations of 3D-modeled objects arranged in ways that would be impossible in the real world. Whether swirling in a maelstrom of shapes or fused into some grander figure, his art carefully guides the eye, giving an impression of order even in his most chaotic combinations. Omar was born and trained in Pakistan, earning his master's degree at the Punjab University College of Art & Design. His futuristic art has been commissioned by Apple, Cadillac, Adobe NIKE, and other giant brands.
A1: Noya Rao - "Pina"
A2: Scoobert Doobert - "Take a Breath"
A3: Plastic Farm - "Internet"
A4: G Bersa - "Interstellar"
A5: Heights - "Hell Bent"
B1: Juhan Ongbrian - "Moving On"
B2: Gem Club - "Spirit and Decline"
B3: Speaker Face - "Phosphoresence"
B4: Micro Talk - "Second Sun"
B5: Avedis Özdemir - "Beyazit"
Keeping with the idea of theming with these vinyl collections, team VM once again delivers another stunner. The Long Run moves into more indie-folk rock-ish territory, all the songs feeling as if fall is coming, and the sky is a bit gray and swirling. This one has a little more heartbreak in it, so if you are feeling a little melancholy this piece of yellowish wax will do the trick. The art by Shane Cluskey ties the moods together nicely as well, once again proving that visual art and music are great together. You might as well just subscribe, because these are truly fantastic compilations for people who love and cherish music, and want to spend time with it - not just passively drooling as a playlist churns out algorithms, err music.
Shane's broad brushstrokes and respect for negative space breathes life into any characters he illustrates. His art has graced editorial articles, book covers, movie posters, wall murals, and more.
Shane trained at the School of Visual Arts in New York before pursuing his career in London. He currently lives and works in Dublin, Ireland
This double vinyl from the OG beat poet does not disappoint. The album is filled with readings from classic works, some poetry, and some interesting interviews. It is truly delightful to listen to Kerouac on vinyl, just the pure process of putting on the record and letting it play just pulls you in more than other mediums. Kerouac's sing-songy delivery takes you into a world of smokey back rooms, with young idealists and vagabonds yelling intellectual obscenities at one another. If you are a DJ, and still use vinyl, this is a great one to have in your collection to bridge together tunes or lay into jazz or even lofi / instrumental hip hop tracks. After all, beat poetry and jazz are inextricably linked and pair together just like sushi and cold beer. Try it, you'll like it.
The Audeze LCD-2 Closed Back Headphones - We chose these headphones this month once again because of their amazing ability to keep sound out and still sound wide, crisp, and responsive - which is perfect for music that is more on the electronic side of things but at the same time will work with jazz and indie as well.
You can't help but be pulled into the intimate sounds in this month's selections, they bring out brightness like few headphones can, all without sacrificing the low or mids. Everything blends perfectly, live jazz solos feel intimate - so much so you can almost feel the reverb and indie synth tunes just sparkle.
At $899 The LCD-2 Closed Backs are an investment, but worth every penny and still gettable - just don't drink expensive beer for a while. When listening to properly cleaned vinyl you can hear things in the recording you just wouldn't when listening on speakers or lesser cans, you get so much detail it can be overwhelming (in a good way) when listening to live music such as Thelonius Monk and Abdullah Ibrahim - you can almost smell the room.
Our Turntable of Choice - The Gearbox Automatic Mkii turntable, custom-built by Pro-ject is a piece of functional art. Its compact footprint, sleek design, and fantastic audio output are hard to beat, and it's attainable at $595. What also sets the Mkii apart is the high-fidelity built-in valve phono stage (the first in the world to have one), designed and tuned for moving magnet cartridges such as the pre-fitted Ortofon OM10. This means that you can plug the turntable straight into any line input and enjoy the warm and open acoustics right from the box. Not only does Gearbox obsessively release excellent albums on vinyl, from reissued jazz to fresh new artists from various genres, but they also made their own turntable - so we had to work with them. Check our label profile out HERE
Audeze: Founded in 2008, Audeze is an award-winning premium technology company engineering the world's most advanced audio solutions. Centered on science, innovation, and craftsmanship, Audeze's precision audio extends from proprietary planar magnetic drivers and custom-engineered transducers to pristine sound reproduction and highly-unique audiocentric applications. From discerning audiophiles to Grammy-winning recording engineers, top esports athletes to specialized medical facilities, Audeze has become one of the most respected audio companies in the world.
Audeze is proudly owned and operated in the USA, designed and engineered in California.
Gearbox: Gearbox Records is an independent record label founded in 2009 and based in London and Tokyo. With a commitment to the highest quality pressings, Gearbox by extension also includes an analogue studio situated in King's Cross. In the early days of Gearbox and under the mentorship of famed engineer Sean Davies, founder Darrel Sheinman was inspired to build an all-analogue cutting and mastering studio based around vintage vacuum tube tape machines and a 1967 Haeco Scully lathe, to which one can attribute the signature "Gearbox sound." With the guiding ethic of "future analogue", label and third-party releases are cut and mastered for analogue and digital using the best combination of rare vintage and modern equipment inside the London studio. The label's dual output includes previously-unreleased historic recordings and genre-breaking new music by contemporary artists; you will come across music by Thelonious Monk, Don Cherry, and Nico as well Binker and Moses, Sarathy Korwar, Chihei Hatakeyama and Abdullah Ibrahim. Ever-motivated by this ideal of affordable high fidelity, the label is also responsible for the one-off, beautifully-designed Gearbox Automatic Mkii turntable, custom built by Pro-ject.
Vinyl Me Please: Vinyl Me, Please (VMP) is a community of explorers and storytellers who navigate between sounds that are lost and found to create transcendent tangible music experiences. VMP offers customers four different monthly vinyl subscriptions (Essentials, Classics, Hip Hop, and Country), an online record store with exclusive pressings, and a multitude of editorial content, storytelling, and events. Through these offerings we embark on explorations of familiar sounds from our past, and new sounds for our future. To learn more, visit vinylmeplease.com and follow @vinylmeplease on socials.