The Glass Key Trio keeps it prog with ‘Apocalypse Fatigue’ while Lucy Barna drops folky ‘What I Know is True’

From left: Paul Brown, Milton Villarrubia III and Jeremy Bleich are Glass Key Trio. (Amy Compton)

What the hell is jazz, anyway?

Good luck finding a neat little box in which to file Santa Fe’s Glass Key Trio. The project of musician/composer Jeremy Bleich, the band’s output is a bit of an anachronism. Is it prog rock? Noise? Experimental? Jazz? Regular rock? Yes, all of the above, but somehow none of them. It’s kind of like that meme you might have seen floating around the social medias, which reads, “You don’t hate jazz, you fear its lack of boundaries.”

When it comes to The Glass Key Trio’s forthcoming Apocalypse Fatigue (out July 15 at, lack of boundaries is the hallmark and, according to Bleich, listeners’ fear of lacking boundaries might have to do with things like capitalism, how we train our personal musical ear and a mainstream music world that seems to punish acts that don’t adhere to any one thing. He calls the music jazz, though, with caveats. We’re so good at accessing thoughts of old Coltrane and Davis and Parker when we hear the term, maybe some of that New Orleans stuff—but the genre’s core elements of experimentation, tossing meter out the window or crafting a hearable feeling...well, these tenets are no more inextricably linked to any one sound than are the ways we feel music. Here, now, with Glass Key Trio, it’s more about keeping us on our toes while keeping the composition game interesting for Bleich and his band.

Make no mistake—Apocalypse Fatigue is endlessly listenable, perhaps even more so than much of what Bleich has turned out across his storied career in progressive jazz acts like Birth and Kodama Trio. If the album title conjures visions of how fucking tired we’ve grown of the pandemic (and its offshoot economic stressors), you’re right on the money, though Bleich tells SFR that certain elements, such as the foundation of the song “Killer Capitalism,” have been gestating longer.

“That one is more of a rocker and part of it was from back when I was [in the band Birth], and I decided to rehash it, but probably 80% of [the record] was written during the COVID era,” Bleich explains. “A lot of it is coming from the classical world, this idea of having a whole new thing to develop within a structure; or like prog rock, where all of a sudden it becomes a different thing.”

In checking my notes, the first thing that hit from Apocalypse Fatigue is that it’s unexpectedly folky, though perhaps that’s more about the guitar fingerpicking found throughout. Bleich confirms there’s some old folk flavor at play, though such guitar technique hardly defines the album. You’ll find plenty of effects-based oddities, for example, like two homages to glitchy dub called “Selectronics 1″ and “Selectronics 2,” songs which define a motif through off-kilter and almost 8-bit sounds. Meanwhile, a solid (yet strangely-timed) bit of rhythm work from drummer Milton Villarrubia III and bassist Paul Brown helps keep the focus.

Bleich says the three developed an improvisational shorthand while recording the album. In short, this means that while the songs on Apocalypse Fatigue are meticulously composed, the trio has other pieces, which Bleich calls “inserts,” that can be summoned when the mood strikes live. Boiled down? The live show for new Glass Key Trio stuff will likely be a whole different beast from the recorded material, though that’s hardly surprising given Bleich’s studied love of improv. Find them this week at San Miguel Chapel and at Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space.

Lucy Barna’s back with a whole mess of new tracks. (Terrence Clifford)

Warm and familiar

Meanwhile, country-folk crooner Lucy Barna is prepping to release her latest record on July 17, and for a pair of release shows in the days that follow.

What I Know is True will likely be plenty familiar to any Barnacles out there—a term I just invented for Lucy Barna fans: a bit of country, a bit of folk, some rock elements bubbling up from somewhere deep and a whole lot of vulnerable, confessional lyricism.

Barna’s an absolute monster singer and proves it 10 times over on True. Does the whisper-quiet thing begin to feel samey once you’re a dozen songs deep into its 13 tracks? Yes, a little bit, particularly when Barna proves she can belt it out hard on songs like “Lightning Strike” or “Rise Up.” The latter skews kinda political, though it feels tough to follow when it phases between what sounds like a land acknowledgment/reminder that we’re on Indigenous land (yes!) and a sort of toothless call to come together (meh). Maybe it’s the punk rock in me, but I’m kind of beyond trying to reason with people who adhere to “make the country great again!” sloganeering. I can’t for one second believe Barna’s into Trump, but it feels like she should have known that type of phrase belongs to a certain type of person. Of course, it’s possible I reacted too quickly, and making the country great again is totally about Land Back, in which case I’m really down with the sentiment and I apologize for misunderstanding.

Besides, these are ultimately small complaints, especially when stacked up against the rest of the album. You’ll feel it cut deep when Barna notes how she is “old enough know better/too young to feel this old,” and there’s no denying there are some serious borderline pop bangers on True. In fact, somewhere between the shimmery George Harrison-style guitar on some tracks, the mournful harmonica of others and the gorgeous fingerpicking on everything, the product feels akin to something a titan like Tom Petty might have put out from his home studio—or, at least, a solid bit on love and such.

Backup from notable Santa Fe music folk like Arne Bey, Jono Manson, Larry Diaz, Clark Libbey and Lisa Kori (an absolute fave of mine who I desperately wish would release more solo music) doesn’t hurt, either, and I can only imagine the live show does more justice to Barna’s new stuff.

Glass Key Trio Album Release Shows:

7:30 pm Thursday, July 14. $15-$20 Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale Blvd. SE, Albuquerque (505) 268-004

7 pm Friday, July 15. $10-$30. San Miguel Chapel, 401 Old Santa Fe Trail, (505) 983-3974

Lucy Barna Album Release Shows:

7 pm Friday, July 22. $20. Paradiso, 903 Early St., (505) 577-5248

7 pm Monday, July 25. $20. Engine House Theater, 2846 Hwy. 14, Madrid.

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