Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

Quick Hits: JuffBass / Underground Canopy / Pascal Schumacher

March 13, 2020

JuffBass‘s Hiraeth is a chill, calm album that consists entirely of intertwining melodic bass lines and accompanying drums. The drums are recorded as spaciously as possible; they almost feel like they’re sitting far off the mic, with the basses right up in the mic. This gives the bass work obvious front and center, and the plan pays off: tunes like openers “Maybe Tomorrow” and “Daydreaming” are beautiful, chill-on-chill-on-chill pieces that make the most of what they’re working with. Shoutouts to “Tiniest Cactus I’ve Ever Seen” and “Planes” for being notably relaxing.

No matter whether the pieces are fast or slow, JuffBass has the chops to make the pieces warm my soul. In a world struggling with so much right now, it’s a comfort to have calm music. Hiraeth does admirably on that front. I’ve been spinning this one a lot. (It helps that I’m a bassist, too–built-in affinity.) If you like the Album Leaf, you’ll find some resonances here.

Here’s a thing: Bluestaeb & S. Fidelity Present Underground Canopy is the name of the album, the name of the band, and the names of the DJs/engineers all at once. This complicated title is the most difficult thing about the whole record, as Underground Canopy’s self-titled jam is a smooth, subtle, effortless piece of work. This is a fusion of instrumental hip-hop and groove-heavy slow jazz that oozes cool. There are no rough edges on this work; it’s just all smooth rolling from the opening phased synths of “Stoopid Game” to the subtle closing jam of “UC Visions.” I am not expert enough to explain why this is awesome, as I’m just getting into jazz. But I can tell you that I love it. It’s got lots of things going on without being erratic. It’s got density without sucking attention to itself. It’s just really, really good.

In other news of things I now like but am sort of at a loss to describe, I’ve been listening to Pascal Schumacher‘s SOL and been very into it. It’s an album entirely composed of vibraphone, glockenspiel, organelle, and tubular bells. It’s like a solo piano record, but way more resonant, mysterious, and elegant. (With appropriate apologies to the venerable piano.) I’ve loved melodic percussion for a long time (I included it on an indie-pop album I recorded in 2009), and I’ve enjoyed “Canto Ostinato for Marimbas” many times. (Second shout out in one week!)

So I was much more well-prepped for “hey, here’s a whole album of melodic percussion” than I expected. And it’s not just one vibraphone going at it, either–Schumacher stacks and layers the instruments, creating big swells of sound (“TROPISMES”). The compositions are mostly Schumacher’s, but there are covers by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Mike Oldfield. In short, if you like the sound of vibraphone, you can listen to a 14-composition set of predominantly vibraphone music in the hands of an expert vibraphonist and composer. Compelling, yes? I certainly thought so. Beautiful, sonorous, endearing.

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Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.

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