After releasing more than two hours worth of material in less than a year, Tom Jenkinson returned in late 1999 with what looked to be another full LP, comprising 17 tracks and clocking in at 45 minutes. In fact, it's regarded as a "mini-album" and plays the part well. Similar to the 1999 Squarepusher EPs Budakhan Mindphone and Maximum Priest, Selection Sixteen alternates what sounds like outtakes from his last LP (Music Is Rotted One Note) – that is, short organic fusion cast-offs – with a set of hard-edged acid tracks, most of which chart the hyperkinetic drum'n'bass programming that fans expect. The album comes off surprisingly well, given both the glut of Squarepusher material in 1999, and the fact that Jenkinson is mixing'n'matching crazed drill'n'bass and more stately jazz-fusion, with little regard for album flow. The highlight here, "Square Rave," takes a little bit from both camps and ends up sounding like Aphex Twin (circa Selected Ambient Works 85-92) if he'd been working with jungle breakbeats. In addition to the 13-track album are four remixes, including one on which Jenkinson recruits his brother Andy for remixing duties.
Fourteen years is a long time to spend with one label, especially for jazz and fusion groups. Azymuth celebrated 14 years with the United Kingdom's Far Out label in 2008. Butterfly is their eight record for the imprint and their first new studio album in four years. The original trio – Jose Roberto Bertami (keyboards/vocals), Alex Malheiros (bass/guitars/vocals), and Ivan Conti (drums/percussion/vocals) – is still together after 35 years. Here jazz, funk, fusion, and elegant samba are woven together seamlessly. The disc was produced by the trio with David Brinkworth (Harmonic 33). "Butterfly," the album opener, is a sultry, breezy cover of the classic Herbie Hancock track, originally on 1974's Thrust. The elegant sound of gorgeously arranged strings (by Arthur Verocai no less), warm rolling Rhodes piano, Conti's breaking drums that walk the line between lithe funk and samba, and a pronounced but languid bassline gradually and deliberately build the space, stopping at interludes to reinsert the sensuous mood in the melodic line. Certainly it's an auspicious way to begin, but it's only one of the many highlights on this set.
Those who liked the moodier, more atmospheric material on the last Mark Lanegan Band offering, 2004's Bubblegum, will find much to enjoy on Blues Funeral – an album that has little to do with blues as a musical form. Lanegan has been a busy man since Bubblegum. In the nearly eight ensuing years, he's issued three records with Isobel Campbell, joined Greg Dulli in the Gutter Twins, guested on albums by the Twilight Singers and UNKLE, and was the lead vocalist on most of the last two Soulsavers offerings. Produced by Eleven guitarist Alain Johannes (who also fulfills that role here as well as playing bass, keyboards, and percussion), Blues Funeral finds Lanegan in a musically ambitious place. His voice is deeper, smokier, but more restrained, even on the few straight-up rockers. The grain in his voice is more pronounced, offering a sense of coiled menace on each track, one that is ready at all points to explode the musical confines these songs erect, and to overwhelm them all. To his credit, he never does. While the album is sequenced seamlessly, with varying textures and dynamics, there are standouts.