On the Record rounds up details about new and pending recordings of interest to the new-music community: contemporary classical music and jazz, electronic and electroacoustic music, and idioms for which no clever genre name has been coined, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, digital-only formats… you name it.
This list of upcoming release dates is culled from press releases, Amazon and other online record stores, social-media posts, and similar resources. Dates cited correspond to U.S. release of physical recordings where applicable, and are subject to change. These listings are not comprehensive—nor could they be! To submit a forthcoming recording for consideration, email information to email@example.com.
A clean sweep for all that dust
We’re told continually now that the recording industry ain’t what it used to be, that streaming is the future, and that the CD in particular is a format in a tailspin. But happily for we lovers and collectors of recorded music, hardy entrepreneurs continue to ignore the prognosticators of doom, launching new labels to present eminently desirable recordings crafted with passion and loving care. Among the latest to join the resistance is all that dust, an English imprint launched this month with five recordings certain to appeal to lovers of contemporary classical music—both historic and of the moment.
The label’s three enterprising founders are themselves busy artists well acquainted with the finer aspects of the recording business. Newton Armstrong, a composer, performer, instrument builder, and professor at City University of London, has helmed recording projects for noteworthy labels like HatHut, Kairos, and SubRosa. Juliet Fraser, an acclaimed soprano, has premiered more than 100 works by a broad range of contemporary composers, and has recorded for HatHut, Kairos, and Another Timbre. Mark Knoop, a highly regarded pianist, is a frequent flier with Another Timbre, for whom he has recorded works by John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Bryn Harrison, and also has discs on Aeon, Métier, Carrier, and New Focus, and other notable imprints. (Knoop and Fraser perform together on a new CD of works by Michael Finnissy, coming August 24 on HatHut; see listings, below).
The five initial releases from all that dust – all beautifully recorded and smartly designed – offer an impressive overview of the founders’ range of interests. A sublimely patient account of Feldman’s For John Cage finds Knoop partnered with Aisha Orazbayeva, an extraordinary Kazakh-born violinist. Avant Muzak, a collection of puckishly referential chamber works by Matthew Shlomowitz, is performed with style and abundant cheek by the superb Norwegian ensemble asamisimasa. On a third CD, Inconnaissance, the formidable French cellist Séverine Ballon makes her debut as an equally uncompromising composer. The discs are housed in attractive digipaks of consistent design, always a good omen for a desirable library addition.
Two more all that dust releases, each offering a cornerstone work for solo vocalist with taped electronic accompaniment, are available exclusively in high-resolution download formats: Fraser’s arresting rendition of Milton Babbitt’s stormy Philomel, and a similarly potent performance of Luigi Nono’s La fabbrica illuminata by the British mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg. Both recordings were captured in binaural sound, producing a vividly three-dimensional presence when played through good headphones.
Via email, Armstrong, Fraser, and Knoop responded collectively to a handful of burning questions about their new venture.
NATIONAL SAWDUST LOG: What’s the meaning behind the label’s name?
ALL THAT DUST: There is no meaning! The phrase began as a private joke between us, and then we laughed at the idea of taking it as the label name, and then we stopped laughing and thought it had a sort of strange poetry about it. What’s nice is that people seem to find their own interpretations.
Each of you is a busy artist in her or his own right. You’ve all got other projects, and you’ve all recorded for other labels. What made you decide to start a label of your own?
Producing a CD involves such a wide range of processes and decisions, from initial repertoire choices, venue, recording and production style, mastering choices, right through to artwork. As artists, we’ve all been lucky enough to have worked with some great labels where most of these elements come together smoothly, but we’ve each also experienced some projects which have felt frustrating and compromising. With all that dust we wanted to try to create a process that keeps the artists involved and in control as much as possible. Our aim for the label is to acknowledge and promote the idea that each role in the recording process — composition, performance, and the recording itself — is important, and involves considered musical decisions.
For all three of us, all that dust is squeezed around the edges of our full-time work. As with so many other little independent record labels that have sprung up in recent years, this is a labour of love — it’s a way of contributing to our scene and supporting some of the artists whose work excites us.
You ran a Kickstarter campaign to help launch the label, hoping to raise £2800 and ending up with £4377. By that point, you were 18 months into your project already — what was the last bit of fundraising meant to help you do?
It’s not a terribly wise decision, from a financial point of view, to start a record label for new music! We weighed it all up quite slowly and carefully, but at a certain point we just had to take the plunge. It then took about a year and a half to set everything up and assemble the recordings; at that point, crowdfunding seemed the best way to get us up and running, providing a vital initial injection of cash. Funding from trusts or foundations or commercial sponsors was not an option because we had no real track record (in any case it’s notoriously difficult to get funding for recordings), but we were optimistic that, between us, we knew enough individuals who might trust our vision and get excited enough about the whole venture to back us. The support was amazing, and the campaign has turned out to be a great way to spread the word and establish a customer base.
You’ve got three CDs and two binaural downloads in your first batch of releases. Let’s start with the CDs — and in fact with the increasingly widespread notion that the compact disc is over and done now. Did you pause to consider the format before launching? Was there something that convinced you to press on with discs?
We had quite a few conversations about format, yes. All of us felt sure that we wanted to offer a physical product, and since none of us currently owns a record player, the CD was the obvious choice. We also talked to several other labels about their experience (which was, interestingly, not consistent across the board), but we settled pretty quickly and easily on this combination of discs and downloads. We’ll see how this goes down with our audience: there is always room to adapt as we develop.
How did you select the artists and repertoire represented on the first three discs?
The three CDs in our first batch emerged from a shortlist that evolved somewhat organically over the last few years. Aisha and Mark had just recorded For John Cage when we were first discussing the idea of starting a label, and we all have a strong affinity for Feldman’s music, so this featured on the shortlist from the start. Matthew Shlomowitz is an old friend and collaborator whose proposal for a disc with asamisimasa and Håkon Stene immediately struck us as being an appealing foil to the Feldman. We have each known and worked with Séverine Ballon for many years, and were intrigued by her recent move into composition as a development of her performing and improvising practice — we’re thrilled that she agreed to release the first disc of her compositions on our label. Part of the fun is to have these conversations together, to explore new artists and to try to curate an interesting catalogue that somehow encapsulates the breadth of the new music scene.
And the downloads… one doesn’t hear so much about binaural recording anymore. What inspired you to undertake the Babbitt and Nono recordings in this manner?
There are some very interesting parallels between the Babbitt and Nono pieces: both were composed in the same year, and for the same combination of voice plus tape in four-channel surround sound. In live performance, the listener is situated within a three-dimensional soundfield; the visceral sense of spatiality is as central to the experience as the more conventional musical parameters of pitch, rhythm, and contour. Previous stereo recordings of these works have by necessity “flattened out” this spatiality, but mixing and mastering our recordings for binaural listening has allowed us to create a sense of perspective more closely aligned to that of live performance, immersing the listener in an expansive and encompassing soundworld. It’s also interesting to note that many more of the music’s finely grained details become apparent when given this extra space.
Juliet, I have to ask: You went to tremendous lengths to realize your rendition of Philomel, as you reveal in your program note. It’s a brilliant achievement, a stunning performance and recording. What drew you to the piece, though, particularly at a time when so much of the world seems to have put paid to the classic serialists and their works?
I was approached about performing Philomel for some Babbitt centenary concerts here in the U.K. in 2016. I hadn’t actually heard the piece before that point, but I was immediately grabbed by the soundworld and by the bizarre challenges the piece poses. It also felt to me to have a strange continuity with Feldman’s Three Voices, which I had just recorded and was performing a lot — not chronologically, obviously (Philomel is from 1964; Three Voices from 1982), but in terms of the performing experience. I’m not sure I feel I went to such “tremendous” lengths in my rendition (though perhaps my liner notes are tremendously candid?!)… I just tried to wrestle out a convincing offering from the hideously tangled manuscript and join my voice to the extraordinarily visceral and vivid world created by Hollander and Babbitt. I’m hoping that, as listeners, we are moving beyond the sort of territorial thinking that might make us dismiss serialism (or any other kind of “ism”): for me, anyway, and I think increasingly for the younger generation, it’s the impact of a work that counts, not so much how it was constructed.
You’re obviously trying to keep your expenses low, handling things like marketing and publicity personally. Are you pursuing any kinds of distribution deals for international sales? Apart from your own site, where might your physical products be available?
We’re in the process of making contact with some specialist distributors, but it’s likely that we’ll try to keep our own website as the principal means of purchase. After some time to assess the progress of this first batch we may also invite feedback from our supporters and listeners regarding the distribution methods they’re most interested in. For example, we’ve discussed the possibility of some sort of subscription model.
Whilst it’s true that this in-house-ness was primarily about keeping our costs down, we’ve also realised how much it contributes to the distinctive feel of the label, which may turn out to be as valuable as the sound. All these little jobs — marketing, publicity, design etc. — can also be quite rewarding.
You’ve got plans underway for projects featuring Cassandra Miller (yessssssss!) and Tim Parkinson… do you have a sense now of how your release schedule might evolve? Are you likely to continue clustering all of your releases together, as in this batch, or might you start to spread them out like a more conventional label might?
For the moment, we like the model of the annual batch of releases as a way of focusing our own energies and time as well as (hopefully) attracting more public attention than a single disc released by itself. It’s possible, though, that we might move to increasing the number of our special download-only recordings, releasing them individually through the year.
We’re glad you’re excited by the prospect of some Miller! Everything is still quite up in the air for our second batch at the moment, but it’s already clear that we’re going to have to be disciplined about not biting off more than we can chew!
The first five releases on all that dust are available now; allthatdust.com.
New This Week
Matt Barbier – Platonic Solids (self-released) Luciano Berio – Sinfonia; Pierre Boulez – Notations I-IV; Maurice Ravel – La valse – Roomful of Teeth, Seattle Symphony/Ludovic Morlot (Seattle Symphony Media) Melaine Dalibert – Musique pour le lever du jour (elsewhere) Tom Djll – Serge Works (Other Minds) Forma – Semblance (Kranky) Kyle Gann – Custer and Sitting Bull – Kyle Gann, Kenneth Patchen, Martha Herr (New World) Jacob Greenberg – Hanging Gardens – music by Debussy, Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, with Tony Arnold (New Focus)
Punch Brothers – All Ashore (Nonesuch) Winfred Ritch – mono metal space (GOD) Biliana Voutchkova/Michael Thieke – Blurred Music (elsewhere)
(☆ – new addition this week)
Mary Halvorson – The Maid with the Flaxen Hair – A Tribute to Johnny Smith – duets with Bill Frisell (Tzadik) ☆ Jerry Hunt – from ‘Ground’ (Other Minds) Eiko Ishibashi & Darin Gray – Ichida (Black Truffle)
Davy Mooney & Ko Omura – Benign Strangers (Sunnyside) Francis Plagne & Crys Cole – Two Words (Black Truffle; related Log article here.)
Alex Jang – momentary encounters – Cristián Alvear, Heather Roche, Apartment House (Another Timbre) Cassandra Miller – Just So – Quatuor Bozzini (Another Timbre) Cassandra Miller – O Zomer! – Mira Benjamin, Philip Thomas, Apartment House, Charles Curtis, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Ilan Volkov (Another Timbre) Lance Austin Olson – Dark Heart – Terje Paulsen, Gil Sansón, Ryoko Akama, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Katelyn Clark, Mira Benjamin, John Lely, Anton Lukoszevieze (Another Timbre) Linda Catlin Smith – Wanderer – Apartment House (Another Timbre)
☆ Philip Bimstein – Angels, Cats & Shackles (Other Minds)
Josh Modney – Engage – music by Sam Pluta, Taylor Brook, Kate Soper, Anthony Braxton, Johann Sebastian Bach, Eric Wubbels, and Josh Modney (New Focus)
Various artists – Music from SEAMUS, Volume 27 – electronic music by Carter Rice, Brian Sears, Russell Pinkston, Robert Seaback, Samuel Wells, Nathaniel Haering, Jason Bolte, and Timothy Page (New Focus)
Steve Coleman – Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets) (Pi Recordings) ☆ Alden Jenks – Drones (Other Minds)
Eric Moe – Uncanny Affable Machines – performances by Chen Yihan, Lindsey Goodman, Jessica Meyer, and Paul Vaillancourt (New Focus)
☆ Lucio Capece/Marc Baron – My Trust in You (Erstwhile) ☆ Matthew Revert/Vanessa Rossetto – Everyone Needs a Plan (Erstwhile)
☆ Big Heart Machine – Big Heart Machine (Outside In) ☆ Anthony Cheung – Cycles and Arrows – performances by Winston Choi, Maiya Papach, Claire Chase, Ernest Rombout, International Contemporary Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, and Atlat Ensemble (New Focus)
☆ Rinde Eckert – The Natural World (National Sawdust Tracks) ☆ Michael Finnissy – Choralvorspiele; Andersen-Liederkreis – Juliet Fraser, Mark Knoop (hat(now)ART) ☆ Christopher Fox – Topophony – John Butcher, Thomas Lehn, Axel Dörner, Paul Lovens, WDR Sinfonieorchester/Ilan Volkov (hat(now)ART)
Gabriel Kahane – Book of Travelers (Nonesuch) ☆ Alex Mincek – Images of Duration (in Homage to Ellsworth Kelly) – Yarn/Wire (Northern Spy)
☆ Luciana Souza – The Book of Longing (Sunnyside) ☆ Winged Serpents – Six Encomiums for Cecil Taylor – performed by Craig Taborn, Sylvie Courvoisier, Brian Marsella, Kris Davis, Aruán Ortiz, and Anthony Coleman (Tzadik)
☆ Tord Gustavsen Trio – The Other Side (ECM)
☆ Trygve Seim – Helsinki Songs (ECM) ☆ Sungjae Son – Near East Quartet (ECM)
Mary Halvorson & Robbie Lee – Seed Triangular (New Amsterdam) ☆ Chris Lightcap – Superette (Royal Potato Family) ☆ Ogni Suono – SaxoVoce – compositions by Kate Soper, Zach Sheets, Christopher Dietz, Chris Fisher-Lochhead, David Reminick, Felipe Lara, and Erin Rogers (New Focus) ☆ Ken Thompson – Sextet (New Focus) ☆ Dmitri Tymoczko – Fools & Angels – performances by Newspeak, Illinois Modern Ensemble, Collide Trio, and others (New Focus) ☆ Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson – Temporary Kings (ECM)
Anthony Roth Costanzo – ARC – Les Violons du Roy/Jonathan Cohen – music of George Frideric Handel and Philip Glass (DeccaGold) ☆ Sarah Davachi – Gave in Rest (Ba Da Bing)
☆ Jlin – Autobiography (Planet Mu)
☆ Brian Marsella Trio – Outspoken–The Music of the Legendary Hassan (Tzadik)
This week in On the Record, The Necks defy expectation and categorization on 'Three,' their 21st album, new on Northern Spy. Plus dozens of listings for forthcoming releases.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/The-Necks-hires.jpg600900Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-03-27 18:00:512020-03-30 16:05:41On the Record: March 27, 2020
This week in On the Record: Bandcamp has responded to the current COVID-19 pandemic by waiving its fees for 24 hours, directing more money to artists and labels—here are some new and recent releases to buy today.