Article: Non Hip Hop Albums You Should Check Out [Pt. 3]
Some of the selections are challenging, and that’s a large part of why I like them. They don’t pander to the audience, they aren’t watered down with the populace in mind. They’re designed to challenge the both the listeners mind and heart; this is music to help you grow, live and learn.
Here’s a sampling of some of my musical library that doesn’t involve Hip Hop. I’ve tried to choose albums that I find to have an enormous amount of soul coupled with extraordinary ability. Some of the selections are challenging, and that’s a large part of why I like them. They don’t pander to the audience, they aren’t watered down with the populace in mind. They’re designed to challenge both the listeners mind and heart; this is music to help you grow, live and learn. They’re works of art with a singular, uncompromising vision that dole out rewards of the highest degree to those who come to comprehend them.
Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity
Genre: Free Jazz
Albert Ayler’s experimentation was stunningly articulate considering how radical he really was. He was a full blown virtuoso, without a trace of ostentation who developed an unrepeatable style. The height of his musical ability came to fruition with Spiritual Unity. Consisting of four tracks, Ayler deconstructed jazz and rebuilt in from the ground up with a mixture of childish tunes and unbelievably cerebral soundscapes. The sense of harmony and melody is continuously derailed by the rhythm, and this combined with his haunting way of phrasing notes can be somewhat disorienting to those who aren’t familiar with free jazz. But it’s a complete masterpiece, and yielding oneself to its peculiar form, letting oneself truly experience Ayler’s state of mind when he made the music can lead to the discovery that the album is a work of sheer genius, and there’s nothing else quite like it.
Art Ensemble of Chicago – Les Stances a Sophie
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz
Ironically — or maybe not, seeing as this is the music industry we’re talking about — one of the greatest, most important jazz albums is often ignored despite it being quite simply one of the greatest musical achievements of the 20th century. Although it’s avant-garde jazz, Les Stances a Sophie is quite accessible due to it being utterly compelling; this can be attributed to a number of reasons, among them are the joyful outbursts of the horns that consistently puncture the bluesy rhythm and the mournful nature of some of the solos that seem to reflect our deepest sorrows. This, coupled with the soulful vocals, make the album irresistible. It’s a sophisticated work with aspirations unsuitable for a lowbrow audience, but those who give themselves up to this uncompromising work of art will be rewarded.
Glenn Branca – The Ascension
Genre: Rock / Avant-Garde
The way the music flows hearkens back to classical compositions, but with a large shot of paradoxical minimalism. The music is neurotic; completely over the top and an overall devastating work of art. Driven by guitar ensembles; The Ascension is one of the richest, greatest albums of the last three decades. It’s conceptually lofty, and seemingly impossible to achieve; but Branca builds and builds until a sensational completion. Despite its seemingly alien structure, Branca’s masterwork is sure to resonate with many. It’s a challenging piece of music, particularly for those who don’t already have a taste for avant-garde; despite this, jumping in head first with this album is worth a shot.
Lisa Germano – Geek the Girl
Genre: Alternative Rock / Soul
Geek the Girl is a masterwork, both touching and personal — carried by Lisa Germano’s mournful voice. It’s essentially a journey through her psych, she puts her heart on the line and forms melodies that strive to create a definable atmosphere. It’s quite simple in its process, but the results are staggering. She sounds exhausted, as if she wants to bring her music to a closure when she can hardly hold on to her sanity. It seems to wed both dreams and nightmares, resulting in a hypnotic and haunting work. It’s a mixture of Nico’s tone (The Falconer) and Bob Dylan’s heartbreak (You’re A Big Girl Now) yet utterly original. It’s piercing and affective, like flipping through the most personal pages of her diary.
Keith Jarrett – The Survivors’ Suite
Despite being composed of just two tracks and running only 48 minutes long; the sheer volume of this album can be intimidating to some. Jarrett; who plays the bass flute, celesta, piano, percussion and saxophone; loads his compositions with nuances and subtleties that are both academic and soul-stirring. It’s a dense piece, but an inviting one because of its effortless delivery. It starts off warm and then builds into something fiery, guided by a colossal amount of passion. The Survivors’ Suite is also one of the greatest displays of Keith Jarrett’s complete musical mastery. Although somewhat obtuse, those who have already ventured into the world of jazz should have no issues with it.
Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
Genre: Punk / Rock
It might be the best punk album ever… You won’t find this kind of intensity in any other album, although sometimes it severity seems like a mask, because underneath it all it’s oddly poetic; not to mention the riffs are as lyrical as the words. It’s all over the map as far as genres are concerned; Double Nickels on the Dime is fundamentally rock but with large strains of jazz, funk, pop and folk. This synthesis allowed the Minutemen to create a completely new type of album; unwieldy and sprawling, constantly threatening to explode, yet at the same time kept together by an underlying, conceptual rhythm.
Popol Vuh – Hosianna Mantra
This is a work that consists of dreamy melodies, from which celestial vocals arise. It’s both evocative and inspiring with an intangible cosmic element that seems to keep it firmly rooted in the spirit. The music moves beautifully, as if guided by meditation; escalating towards the heaven. It’s wordless, but despite this there’s an almost religious feel to it all, as if it belonged in a place of worship. It’s distantly warm with shamanic properties, and from it flows an uncommon majestic purity. An atmospheric, mystical blend of Eastern and Western culture, Hosianna Mantra ranks highly among the most original and powerful albums of all times, and it may as well have been made by monks.