Essential Tracks This Week: Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer and Shahzad Ismaily, Noble Rot, and more

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Arooj Aftab Vijay Iyer Shahzad Ismaily

There’s no better way to wrap up the week than with a fresh batch of great new songs. Considering how stacked this week is with new releases, however, our roundup of best new songs only slightly extends what looks like a marathon of weekend listening. One way or another, make sure to queue up our Essential Tracks this week, which include the first taste of a great jazz/avant garde collaboration, a team-up from two Toronto indie heavy hitters, and more.

Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily – “To Remain/To Return”

Folk-fusion composer Arooj Aftab, jazz pianist Vijay Iyer and prolific avant garde bassist Shahzad Ismaily (Secret Chiefs 3, Ex Eye, Book of Knots) have been collaborating live together since prior to the pandemic, and next month they’ll finally deliver the first studio product of their work together. The first new track to arrive from the trio is at once exactly what that combination of artists suggests and somehow even greater than the sum of its parts. Slowly unfolding over nine minutes, “To Remain/To Return” ventures into a haunted space where Ismaily’s minimalist bass drone, Iyer’s stark and chilly piano keys and Aftab’s mesmerizing vocals combine in a simultaneously mysterious and meditative space. Terms like “supergroup” seem to cheapen projects with this much combined talent, but there’s a chemistry at play here that feels almost supernatural.

From Love In Exile, out March 24 via Verve

Noble Rot – “Casting No Light”

Less than a year after releasing last year’s debut as Weird Nightmare, Alex Edkins (Metz) returns with yet another great project. Noble Rot is a collaboration between Edkins and Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh, and new single “Casting No Light,” featuring contributions from Wire’s Colin Newman and Minimal Compact’s Malka Spigel, finds the two Toronto musicians leaning into psychedelia and repetition, riding a motorik groove into increasingly weirder spaces and an atmosphere rich in groove and hauntological textures. “Casting No Light” continues to build and build as it progresses, always reaching ever higher until it reaches a spectacular and cathartic climax.

From Heavenly Bodies, Repetition, Control, out March 24 via Joyful Noise White Label Series

aja monet – “the devil you know”

Last year, poet aja monet released a stunning new arrangement of her poem “Give My Regards to Brooklyn,” a vibrant blend of spoken word, musique concrete and jazz that felt both urgent and reflective. Less than a year later, monet’s once again teamed up with trumpeter and bandleader Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, drummer Marcus Gilmore, pianist Samora Pinderhughes and other musicians for a similarly powerful piece called “the devil you know.” Her backing band maintains a balance of darkly cool and subtly tense, occasionally rising up to more dynamic climaxes, while monet provides a beautifully worded lament on contemporary struggles and a takedown of a very modern kind of complacency: “If we had a sense of humor, we’d be more radical.” If only every wake-up call sounded as cool as this.

Out now

Militarie Gun – “Do It Faster”

In calling their new single “Do It Faster,” Militarie Gun have almost seemed to give themselves a challenge. The California post-hardcore MVPs have long found a balance between alt-rock hooks and hardcore muscle, and with “Do It Faster” they lean ever closer into the power pop element that they embraced on their dazy collaboration, “Pressure Cooker.” Between the big riffs and vocalist Ian Shelton’s angst ridden bark are moments of perfect pop immediacy and immaculate guitar jangle. And they make it all happen in less than two minutes—do it faster, indeed.

Out now via Loma Vista

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