Best of 2020: Knot Was Super Into Guitar Records This Year

The band talks Adrianne Lenker, Jeff Parker, Miles Okazaki, and more.

This jazz guitarist Miles Okazaki is doing this thing that I don’t fully understand, but am watching religiously: He’s somehow made a list of every possible musical scale, and he does these drawings and every day on Instagram he puts up a new scale. There’s 351 possible musical scales, apparently. He improvises things around it, or finds an example of it in music. It’s this thing called “shape theory” — every scale is a different possible shape on a circle. It has been on my mind. It’s beautifully done in this gradient way. 


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— Jonah Furman

There were two things this year that were particularly interesting to me. One is Etran de L’Aïr’s No. 1, an album released by Sahel Sounds. An amorphous group of musicians from Niger who have played together for years took up the most common rock instrumentation and did something completely special with it. I wish it was in my brain to play like that.

The second one was the two Adrianne Lenker albums, songs and instrumentals. The instrumentals one particularly impressed me, I think because it’s the way that I’m experiencing making music in the pandemic – solo, instrumental guitar. She did a Tiny Desk concert recently where she took out a paintbrush at one point and started playing her guitar with it. I was just watching kind of dumbfounded, struck by how one comes to relate differently to an instrument when you’re spending a lot of time alone with it.

— Joe DeManuelle-Hall

I have two things that are connected to each other. One came out pretty recently, actually, this album by Rob Mazurek’s Exploding Star Orchestra. It’s called Dimensional Stardust. He’s a jazz trumpet player from Chicago; he’s been around forever. The album sounds like it’s improvised but it’s all this amazing composition. I read this interview where he says that it’s based on galactic parables from some man that he made up, who writes the parables to him and then he creates the music from that. It’s got a huge 14-person ensemble, which includes one of my favorite guitar players, Jeff Parker, who also had a really great album this year called Suite for Max Brown. That was the last concert I saw before lockdown in New York. It was an amazing show, but looking back I really feel like I shouldn’t have gone to it, because it was like a dark basement in Manhattan full of people in early March. But the show was amazing. 

— Aaron Ratoff

Joe: One I think we all agree on: the Bill Callahan cover of the Steely Dan song. 

Jonah: That caused me to listen to the entire Steely Dan discography, which wrecked my November. I’m really happy that we’re coming to the end of the year. 

Knot’s self-titled debut record is out now.

As told to Annie Fell.

In 2015, the beloved Boston indie-rock band Krill broke-up. Actually, hold on, broke-up may be too intense of a phrase. They did stop playing shows in the fall of 2015, but by 2016, they put out a posthumous five-song EP, and a couple years after that, Krill reunited for a one-off show supporting their friends in LVL UP. So, there was no acrimony, Krill just kind of ended. But in 2019, Knot was born, which, depending on how you look at it, is kind of Krill and also kind of not at all Krill.

In the simplest terms, Knot is effectively Krill’s final lineup with an additional musician added in, but it’s the particulars that highlight the differences between the two bands. In Knot, Krill bassist and vocalist Jonah Furman switches to guitar, Krill guitarist Aaron Ratoff handles both guitar and bass, Ian Becker is still on drums, and Joe DeManuelle-Hall, the relative newcomer, also plays guitar. In essence, Knot is a bigger, more ruminative version of Krill, but it’s also something that’s distinct unto itself. And on the band’s debut album, which is called Knot, too, it’s easy to see that Knot has a perspective all its own.