California Sounds: New regional music from Kamasi Washington, Tara Jane O'Neil, Pinky Pinky, the Cairo Gang and Airspace

California Sounds: New regional music from Kamasi Washington, Tara Jane O'Neil, Pinky Pinky, the Cairo Gang and Airspace
A detail of the cover of Tara Jane O'Neil's self-titled new album. (Courtesy Gnomonsong)

Kamasi Washington, "Truth" (Young Turks). A gentle breeze that develops into a hurricane-like crescendo, this 14-minute song is the saxophonist and composer's first new work since his 2015 breakout album, "The Epic."

"Truth" is taken from the forthcoming "Harmony of Difference," a six-track EP that premiered, along with a video directed by A.G. Rojas, as part of the Whitney Biennial in New York. The work is Washington's first for his new record label, Young Turks, where he's the imprint's sole jazz signing after success with avant-pop musicians including the xx, Sampha and FKA Twigs.


Opening with a melancholy guitar melody that dances with sparse piano chords and a mess of percussion, the work evolves with patience, gradually rising as the melody gains density and instrumentation.

It jumps tempos at key moments, shifting through gears with ease. Strings arrive, then a choir, adding layers without sacrificing momentum. In the video, as the music evolves, images of the cosmos mix with sequences of people intimately gazing into the camera.

Tara Jane O'Neil, "Tara Jane O'Neil" (Gnomonsong). For her new album, the Los Angeles multi-instrumentalist mixes delicate guitar with washes of noise and typically sophisticated arrangements.

A veteran of Louisville, Ky., bands including Rodan and the Sonora Pine, O'Neil relocated to Los Angeles about five years ago, where's she's continued making music and visual art.

Her new album features 11 songs, and there's not a dud in the bunch. Each has one-word title that suggests a directness that's often absent in the music — "Cali," "Blow," "Laugh," "Joshua" and others drift with a restlessness worthy of Joni Mitchell, tethered to rhythm and structure but wholly unpredictable.

Pinky Pinky, "Ram Jam" (Innovative Leisure). Two of this Los Angeles trio's members will be finishing high school as their first record comes out, and their graduation gift is a new EP of ragged garage punk.

Well-practiced but still sweating the transitions and bridges, Pinky Pinky's first single, "Ram Jam," addresses a relentless love interest who may or may not be a stalker. As guitarist Isabelle Fields kicks out bursts of electrified riffs, bassist Eva Chambers and drummer-vocalist Anastasia Sanchez bounce along with focused determination.

The Cairo Gang, "That's When It's Over" (God?/Drag City). The Los Angeles band recorded its forthcoming album at garage rocker Ty Segall's Eagle Rock studio, but that stands to reason. The band's founder, Emmett Kelly, has toured with Segall, and shares an affection for shape-shifting rock.

Kelly's a fascinating musician who's worked with artists including Louisville folk rocker Will Oldham and St. Louis (via Chicago) singer and songwriter Angel Olsen. Last year, he issued the curious "Dawn of the Double," on which Kelly and drummer Jim White (Dirty Three, Cat Power) played a single two-chord riff across both sides of an album.

On the new song "That's When It's Over," Kelly and his gang "borrow" the Velvet Underground's riff for "Sweet Jane" in service of a new work. Recorded live, the song meanders in oddball directions and features oblong riffs that hit at weird intervals.

Which is to say, the song takes some time for it to click — and just when it does, Kelly moves from the "Sweet Jane" riff to a bridge that recalls one from Jimi Hendrix's version of "Hey Joe." Confused yet? Add in Segall's wild drumming and Kelly's dueling guitar solos and brace yourself for a little bit of motion sickness.


Airspace, "Airspace" (Soundcloud). On the surface, the duo makes an unlikely match: experimental electronic music producer Steve Nalepa (the Acid, Team Supreme) and Tony Bevilacqua, a guitarist best known for his work in the punk rock bands the Distillers and Spinnerette.

As Airspace, the two create ambient electronic tracks that suggest vastness, as if evolving in physical spaces whose boundaries are on the other side of the horizon. Designed for either intentional or background listening, the works add texture that seem to mingle with the oxygen.

Each of the seven tracks approaches loosely structured sound from a different angle.

For "Anomaly," the two open with a single synthetic drip, one that echoes as if its frequency waves were bouncing through a dank cave. A creeping hum glides through the midrange. Bottom-end rumbles suggest medieval chants. "Envelop" weaves together sounds from across the frequency range to create android tones that can't possibly exist in nature.

"Airspace" won't have you tapping your toes or doing the Electric Slide, but that's not its role. Rather, it's designed to complement, not consume, everyday reality.

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: