Bonjour, chers lecteurs et lectrices! Soyez les bienvenus à cette nouvelle episode de The Summer Jam 2: Beat The Heat! Sorry, I have to use my French skills at least sometimes, or else my studies would feel like wasted time. Anyhow, this week we have Evan McGregor of the Australian progressive rock/jazz/world music outfit Zeitgeber (who released an amazing album earlier this year) with us to tell you which albums he most associates with summer. Please enjoy!
‘Because seasons are not particularly distinct in Australia (there’s a slither of winter and the rest may as well be summer), I generally don’t associate albums with seasons. But I’ve scratched my head for a while and this is what I’ve come up with, mostly due to other vague associations with summer- heat, bear, sweating, festivals, hell etc. Also, in line with my typical contrarian nature I’ve mostly shied away from choosing heavy/djent related things, but I had to put Meshuggah in there somewhere.‘
Mr Bungle – California
Probably the only one on here that directly conjures up feelings of summer for me. It’s in the name, the instrumentation, the melodies and in the laid back surf tunes juxtapositioned with experimental frenetic circus madness. And this is the only album I know of that makes you hallucinate that every person around you is wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
Tigran Hamasyan – Mockroot
There’s definitely a feeling of Middle-Eastern, sweltering, feverish, heat running through this album. Mockroot is stunning. Highly syncopated, heavy, progressive, Middle-Eastern and Armenian-folk tinged jazz led by pianist Tigran Hamasyan. To me this album is true virtuosity – incredible polyrhythmic technicality while maintaining beautiful melodies and arrangements. Some of this music is so outrageous and audacious that I laughed out loud several times on first listen. I also like that Tigran seems to use quintuplet subdivisions on many songs as his underlying default rhythm, and then additionally uses odd groupings and polyrhythms around that. And the drummer Arthur Hnatek is a newly found big inspiration of mine.
Flying Ibex – Habits
I lived in England for about 4 years a little while back and I stumbled across these guys randomly at a summer festival there, so I still associate them with that place and feeling. These guys are very loosely in the indie rock/pop category but I think this album is exceptional. Amazing groove and feel, super catchy hooks and beautiful textural layering and production. A very underrated band. And the song ‘habits’ has a really clever but accessible 9/16 groove (or ¾, if you think of it like that).
Zia Mohiuddin Dagar – Raga Yaman
I love discovering the sound of different traditional instruments from around the world. The Rudra Veena is a beautiful ancient Indian classical instrument that I would love to learn if I could get my hands on one. When I first heard this album, it almost immediately felt like I took a heavy tranquilizer. This spacious, meditative album reminds of my brief time in India many years ago – the scorching sun and the aimless exploring of ruins and temples in Hampi.
Instrumental (adj.) – A Series of Disagreements
These guys are from Sydney and are one of the most interesting and challenging heavy bands I’ve heard in a long while. Super techy, great lines, diverse sonic palette and ridiculous rhythms. I think I associate them with summer because they are one of the few bands that when I see them I completely lose my shit and can’t help but compulsively thrash around until I’m a sweaty mess. An epic EP. Can’t wait for the new stuff.
NOFX – So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes
I grew up listening to a lot of punk and metal and NOFX always stuck with me as being head and shoulders above a lot of other punk going round. They are pretty sentimental to me and they get me about as emotional as punk music ever could I think. I also vividly remember seeing them in about 2000 right next to a beach here in Australia and it was awesome – the afternoon sun, too much beer and one of the most warm and welcoming crowds I’ve ever been in. It was the first time I’d witnessed a really intense pit but with everyone smiling and singing to each other and helping each other out when anyone fell down. NOFX reminds me of good old friends and the simple things we take for granted. Good memories.
Meshuggah – Destroy Erase Improve
Hearing this album was life-changing for me. Even though I’d been playing drums for almost 10 years at this stage, everything I understood rhythmically, just kind of went out of the window. This was my first introduction to serious polyrhythms. The sheer aggressive intensity of this album and the cover both make this a summer/burning in hell album for sure.
Herbie Hancock – Thrust
Got to have some 70’s funk on a summer album list right? Exactly. The playing on this album is super tight but with an amazing bouncy responsiveness and open-endedness to it. I think this Herbie era was a precursor to a lot of experimental improvised psychedelic music that came later.
Hiatus Kaiyote – Tawk Tomahawk
We often vividly remember the associated sensory stimuli of a memorable experience. A friend gave me this album, and as I sat listening to it for the first time on headphones in a park in the Sydney summer, I knew this was special and totally unlike anything I’d heard before. It was the first time in a long time that I had to listen the whole album two times in a row straight up. I still remember the exact spot I was sitting and that special musical ‘eureka’ feeling I hadn’t had in so long.
Zun Zun Egui – Katang
This still takes me back to one UK summer when I first heard these guys. The hyperactive zany psych-rock with an African vibe and a Mauritian front-man is super refreshing. I love Kushal Gaya’s guitar playing too – I don’t know what the story is, but he brings a trashy, raw, edginess to his Afro-funk proficiency. I suspect he might be totally self-taught, and that adds to his uniqueness.
I also love this African percussive feel where the triplets and quaver cross-rhythms are equally emphasized so that it’s not entirely clear which is the main pulse and which is the superimposed polyrhythm. E.g. In ‘Mr Brown’, in the section starting about 4:02, the syncopated interplay between bass, guitar, drums and vocals makes it sometimes feel like the pulse is in semiquaver triplets in 4/4, but other times like it’s quavers in ¾… regardless it manages to stay totally grooving. African rhythms! Yes.
And that’s a wrap! Thanks to Evan for being a part of The Summer Jam 2: Beat The Heat, it’s been a pleasure working with you! Make sure to follow Zeitgeber on Facebook, and to check out their album Heteronomy if you havent’t already. It’s an absolute doozy, I’m sure at least some of you will love it!
Check back here next Wednesday for more summer jam-age. But before you go, why not tell us your favorite summer records too? Leave them in the comments! See you next time, and until then, stay safe, and as always…
…thanks for reading!