Past & present sounds from LA-based saxophone player Patrick Shiroishi.
The Los Angeles saxophone player, improvisor, composer and inexhaustible creator-collaborator Patrick Shiroishi doesn’t seem to stay in the same place for long. One week he be jetting to Europe to open for Sumac, the next he’s contributing powerful horn lines for Atlanta band Algiers, and then creating a breathtaking new composition for experimental institution Touch.
One measure of his drive? Since Shiroishi’s first appearance on Discogs in 2012, he’s released (according to the site) 49 solo or collaborative albums; appeared on 113 recordings by artists including Claire Rousay, Chelsea Wolfe, Joe Baiza (Saccharine Trust), Luke Stewart, SSWAN, and Jessica Ackerley; and aligned himself with labels such as Thin Wrist, Astral Spirits, American Dreams, Trouble in Mind, Notice, and Profane Illuminations.
No, it doesn’t take brilliance to release a lot of music, but Shiroishi’s discography is unimpeachable, dense with a bouquet’s worth of buds just waiting to blossom when you finally shine light on it.
It’s also a deeply imagined body of work. His essential 2020 solo album Hidemi is powered by thematically-linked works exploring his ancestry, specifically his grandfather’s life in a World War II concentration camp for nothing more than being Japanese, part of an insidious U.S. government program.
As Shiroishi is constantly touring, it’s likely he’ll land on a stage near you at some point. Not long ago during a collaborative set in St. Louis with Hawaii-based guitarist Jessica Ackerley, the team wove a striking, dramatic series of improvised pieces through the packed room. Shiroishi’s presence on Bandcamp is a feast, as well, and offers evidence of a musician who understands the notion of listening to, reacting to, and absorbing, sound.
We asked Shiroishi to recommend five records he’s been listening to. He suggested writing up twice as many and dividing them into two 5 Selects lists: current releases and classic releases. We were happy to oblige. Below, Shiroishi’s tips.
5 Selects (Now)
Lia Kohl – The Ceiling Reposes
Lia has a gift. Her first solo record was a work that I found myself revisiting a bunch … but nothing could prepare me for when I heard her perform live, outside by the beach on the westside of LA. It felt like she was controlling all of the sounds around her, whether it was her cello, a radio, or a plane flying above. Her newest solo work is a masterclass in creating a world that is foreign yet familiar, a world that demands your attention to the finest detail. There are only one hundred of these hand-printed art object LPs so I would get to it if I were you.
Big Brave – Nature Morte
Big Brave are having a fucking moment. Nature Morte continues to build on the momentum of their pair of 2021 albums Leaving None but Small Birds and Vital (my favorite album of that year) and shows zero signs of stopping. No one else does what Robin and Mathieu do together; they create a perfect vibe that Tasy flawlessly supports, and on this album the three collectively push everything to the next level. Robin’s vocals sound more urgent than ever. I love how Mathieu is adding more vocally as well. When they join up and sing together, you can’t help but say goddamn. Thank you T, M and R for making this record and for making music.
Sumac – Two Beasts
I had the pleasure of supporting Sumac (total heroes) on a couple of tours now and I have to be honest with you, I was inspired by their performance every single night. This band knows how to write a fucking song and I love seeing a metal band incorporate improvisation into their compositions (their entire album improv collaborations with Keiji Haino are must-listens as well). This “single” does more than other artists’ full albums (no shade to anyone as i’m still trying to get to their level too). I’m so glad the band released this version for a continuous listen on the turntable. Bonus points if you can obtain the version with Aaron’s hand-drawing on side B.
Billy Woods – Aethiopes
Speaking of incredible songwriting, Billy Woods’ pen made this record my favorite hip hop album of last year (followed by the second half of Armand Hammer, Elucid’s solo album I Told Bessie). I absolutely love one-producer, one-MC records… To me, you can’t get a better flow and well-rounded album when it’s done right. And boy is this record done right. Preservation’s choices of samples are so unconventional, yet he turns them into the perfect backdrop for Woods to rap over. I had the privilege of backing Woods on No Hard Feelings with the big homies Algiers at National Sawdust last year. It doesn’t seem like it, but that horn sample has super weird repetition loops!! Figure it out and talk to me after.
Ustalost – Before the Glinting Spell Unvests
Listening to the Skarstad brothers’ riffs was one of the major turning points for my ears. When I first stumbled onto Yellow Eyes eleven years ago, it solidified my love for black metal. They’ve consistently released perfect records and stellar side related projects and Ustalost is no different. The echoes of Yellow Eyes are here, but Will Skarstad takes a more raw approach here and really creates an atmosphere that is unique on its own. On this second record especially, he adds new heights to his songwriting with synth lines and tones, plus choral performances (?!). Immaculate.
5 Selects (Past)
Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders – The Trance of Seven Colors
Last year we lost one of the greatest to ever touch a saxophone, the great Pharoah. Like many others, I found myself revisiting his discography, from Karma and his solo works to his records as a sideman with the Coltranes and beyond. I don’t quite remember how I found The Trance of the Seven Colors, but wow what an underrated gem. If you were to ask me if I thought free jazz saxophone and Gnawa trance music would be a good combo I would have probably said no… If you thought this too, give it a shot and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Shizuka – Heavenly Persona
Black Editions have been doing the lord’s work with reissuing and putting the P.S.F. catalog onto vinyl in super high quality. They’ve tackled classics like Keiji Haino’s coveted first album and Masayuki Takayanagi’s Station 70 in expanded form, but this new edition of Heavenly Persona might be their best (until the next record, who knows!). Shizuka Miura unfortunately didn’t spend that much time here before moving onto the next world, but the few recorded works she’s left behind are must-listens. This is an especially deep record.
Little Women – Throat
When i first heard Little Women it fucked me up – the aggressiveness, the attention to tone and pushing their instruments to their limits through precise compositions, packaged with Mick Barr’s art on the cover… perfection. Throat, imo, is their masterpiece and I’ve been finding myself revisiting this record a lot the past couple of months. Make sure you listen to the entire record in one sitting though; otherwise you’re not giving these four masters (yes, Darius, Travis, Andrew and Jason are masters) what you should be giving them.
Martin Küchen – Hellstorm
Even though we don’t necessarily approach the horn in the same manner, Martin Küchen is a huge influence. I’ve followed almost all his output, from improv collaborations to his incredible big band Angles and the beautiful Trespass Trio. Küchen attacks the horn in so many ways, and it’s inspired me to try and do the same. Hellstorm is a classic of solo saxophone and one that doesn’t get as much acclaim as it should. I urge you to start with this on a cold night with a whiskey in hand and explore what else he has to offer in each project.
Magma – K.A.
For last, my favorite record by one of my favorite bands. Some die-hards will say that MDK is the magnum opus, some will say Udu Wudu has the best vibes + De Futura, but for me this record is the untouchable top. Yeah sure some of the live stuff is really sick, but this one long through-composed composition to me is Magma at their best… The ending really seals the deal for me. if you got 50 minutes and want to go on a ride, throw this bad boy on and get your Zeuhl on!!
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