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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elsewhere, pursuing the power of beauty
Back in April, this column eagerly heralded the impending arrival of a new record label, Elsewhere, founded by Yuko Zama, a renowned Japanese photojournalist, music critic, and record producer presently based in Jersey City. Back then, Zama had just announced two initial releases – Blurred Music, by the duo of Bulgarian violinist Biliana Voutchkova and German clarinetist Michael Thieke, and Musique pour le lever du jour, by the French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert – and revealed two more in early stages of planning, by the pianists Dante Boon and Reinier Van Houdt.
The first two Elsewhere releases arrived on July 14, instantly earning widespread approval among critics and cognoscenti. The two in-progress projects remain in-progress, due in 2019 and beyond. But Zama now has fast-tracked three additional projects, which she intends to release this October. Reached via email, she provided generous answers in response to questions about what prompted her venture initially, how her plans have evolved already, and what’s to come.
NATIONAL SAWDUST LOG: You’ve been closely associated with Erstwhile and Gravity Wave for years now. What prompted you to join the fray with a new label of your own?
YUKO ZAMA: I started working for Erstwhile in 2002 soon after I met Jon Abbey (the label owner and now my husband) when he held the AMPLIFY festival in Tokyo in 2002. I was assigned to cover the concerts during the festival for Improvised Music From Japan Magazine. I was then a freelance writer/photographer while also working as a web director, covering mostly mainstream jazz in Tokyo and avant-garde music in the NY downtown scene. I was fascinated with the fearless experimental spirits of the Erstwhile musicians and their contemporary, unique ways of approaching sounds. Since then, something truly “experimental” or “cutting-edge” was an important factor for me to appreciate music, because I thought a growing life of the music toward the future lay there. I also enjoyed every part of the production process I was involved in: as a photographer, a designer, or a co-producer, from the very initial planning stages to the last stage of sending out the orders of physical CDs to our customers.
To me, it has been (and is) still very exciting to discover some music created by these kinds of experimental spirits of musicians on Erstwhile, but over the years of working on the label, I became more and more unsure about if this was the music that I really felt deeply connected to personally. To me, there are two different mindsets to listen to music; one is to judge the experimental (novel) value of it with an objective ear (which I do when I listen to potential recordings for Erstwhile), and another is to listen to music to be deeply and personally absorbed in it, to enjoy it purely from the heart, wanting to listen to it over and over.
While working intensely on Erstwhile production, I came to realize that I have been missing the latter experience of music for a long time. Sometimes the value of experimental music seems to be not exactly the same as the value of great music that may stand the test of time. I started to feel this way perhaps since I used to love old classical music in my youth, learned the piano (and enjoyed) in my early days, and also used to be absorbed in singing in a junior choir in my teens. I was not interested in almost any rock music except the Beatles when I was young, rather liked to listen to J.S. Bach, William Byrd, Fauré, Mozart, etc. I particularly loved the sounds of acoustic piano, violin, and cello. So classical music was always in my deepest roots, even subconsciously when I was into some other genre of music in later days.
So, discovering Wandelweiser music around 2010 was an eye-opening experience for me, which brought me a missing link, connecting my interests in both experimental music and classical music. (The very first Wandelweiser concert I listened to was Michael Pisaro’s rapport abstrait in Brooklyn in 2010.) Also in the previous few years before that, I became interested in “silence” more than sounds, especially after the years of working with radical experimental music (which was sometimes extremely loud and assertive) on Erstwhile, so discovering Wandelweiser music was as if I found something I could finally breathe in an open fresh air.
Soon after that, Jon and I launched the Gravity Wave label with Michael Pisaro, to put out his recent prolific work to the world. Working with Michael has been great, since he has such a keen sense for experimental music and a great ear for the subtlety of sounds while having a positive, adventurous spirit. His new compositions always surprise us with excitement. I got more deeply involved with the production of Gravity Wave projects as a co-producer or a lead producer, not just as a designer. I also started writing about the music of Wandelweiser composers intensively since then (2010). The way Wandelweiser composers focus on the microscopic nature and the philosophical depth of sound and silence was an inexhaustible source of inspiration for me.
Later in 2016, Jon and I launched the ErstClass imprint to feature contemporary composers’ works that had classical music aesthetics from an experimental nature, and we released Michael Pisaro/Reinier Van Houdt The Earth and the Sky in 2016, and Jürg FreyL’âme Est Sans Retenue I in 2017, for both of which I worked as a lead producer. I wanted to explore this classical music direction more thoroughly, but Jon was not so eager to release projects so often since Erstwhile projects were his main focus. I was getting a little frustrated with the situation especially since I myself was more and more into classical music then, either contemporary or earlier works, music that I would hope to want to listen to for many years to come.
It was right around this time when I got a release proposal of a triple CD of Biliana Voutchkova/Michael Thieke, Blurred Music, via David Sylvian, who thought we might be interested in putting it out on Erstwhile. I loved the recordings and hoped that we could put it out on ErstClass, but Jon decided not to release it from Erstwhile. I did not want to give up the idea of putting out from our label, since I thought that this is the music that has a timeless value to me. So I tried to persuade Jon into the release idea over a weeklong discussion, then finally Jon got an idea and suggested me to start my own label to put it out on my label if I truly believe that this is such a great music.
Even before that, I had been vaguely dreaming of starting my own label for the past few years (though my dream was rather unrealistic, like putting out CDs of Radu Lupu and Maurizio Pollini on my label…). I was so excited with the idea of starting my own label, I came up with the label name “elsewhere” quickly, which has been my long-time blog title, too (view from elsewhere), and also made the logo design overnight in the next day or so. It was so thrilling to know that I can decide every detail of the label by myself. Also, since Jon and I have overlapping but of course different aesthetics for music, we thought it was a great solution since now we each have a primary label where we can make the final decisions on everything involved, and for me this is the first time for that, very exciting.
Can you describe what the defining aesthetic of an Elsewhere project is? Stated more simply, what is it that you look for? What is the gap that your label addresses, if that’s a valid question?
Yes, I have a clear vision for what kind of music I would like to feature on my label. This is a little bit related to what I stated before, but my issue with the current contemporary/experimental music scene is that I often feel some of the works are created for the sake of just being experimental, or as an antithesis to a conventional value. I understand that such an antithesis is necessary to destroy old stylized criteria, but if that is the main purpose of why someone made music, I would not be attracted to it personally. I love music which contains a true beauty which may stand the test of time, created for the sake of the music, not for the sake of experimental novelty or a political statement or someone’s sarcastic, cynical views or whatever connected to the act of creating music besides that. We are living in such a messed-up world, but I try to focus on the fragments of beauty that are still left somewhere in the world or people’s minds, rather than focusing on the ugly parts easily seen everywhere. (So my label’s music will be found “elsewhere.”) I would not say that the latter is not necessary, but I believe in the power of beauty that moves us with a seemingly timeless value, like the music of Schubert or Mahler or Monteverdi move us beyond generations.
… We are living in such a messed-up world, but I try to focus on the fragments of beauty that are still left somewhere in the world or people’s minds, rather than focusing on the ugly parts easily seen everywhere. …
There is of course a question of how to value a particular music as having timeless value or not, but I listen to each recording repeatedly, over and over again, when I am considering it as a potential release on my label, and if the beauty I hear in the music remains without losing its life, and if it is even growing more inside me as I listen to it repeatedly, I would decide that this is something I would like to release on my label. Also, when I find a musician at a concert or from some other past recording I listened to on a CD, and if I decide that this musician has a potential to make a great record on my label, I would approach the musician. Meanwhile, I also hope to discover and feature some unknown contemporary composers’ works that have been hidden in the history of music, even though it may have a lasting value that should be recognized as masterpieces, if performed by the right musicians who have both virtuosic skills and the deep heart to interpret the music correctly.
So, pure artistic beauty is what I am looking for on my label. Of course, the standard of “beauty” depends on the person, and everyone has a different criterion to judge that. But in this context of my label, it should be something that agrees with my aesthetics.
How did you come to select your first two projects? Of those two releases, one was an improvised set and the other was composed. What, to your mind and ear, do these two disparate projects have in common?
I received a recording of Biliana Voutchkova/Michael Thieke Blurred Music from David Sylvian as a release proposal this January, as I mentioned above. On the very next day, I went to a recital of Melaine Dalibert in the West Village, where he played Musique pour le lever du jour (the very piece that was featured on his CD on elsewhere.) When Jon and I were talking about launching my own label after I discovered Blurred Music, Melaine contacted me and said that he was looking for a label to release the piece that I loved at the concert. So it was just a lucky coincidence to discover two recordings of music that I loved so much in the same week when I was considering starting my own label. So those two projects were brought to me in that way with perfect timing.
Blurred Music is actually not improvisation. It sounds like an improvisation at first, but if you listen to each disc carefully, you will find that all three pieces are brilliantly and delicately structured compositions. Blurred Music and Musique pour le lever du jour are very different music, but there is something in common between these two, which are the harmonic overtones. I have been fascinated with harmonic overtones over the years, like what I found in Michael Pisaro’s Harmony Series and Mitsuko Uchida’s Schubert and Mozart, in which harmonic overtones were featured as well as direct tones (or as a prominent nature of the music). So, overtones are the key to connect both pieces of two very different releases.
The prominent musician and artist David Sylvian has been involved with your two projects to date, and he’s also been very generous with his support online. How was that connection formed? And will the relationship be ongoing?
Jon and I met David at the AMPLIFY festival in Cologne in 2004. Christian Fennesz was an important part of the festival and he introduced us to David after the sound check. I did not know about David or his music until then (at first, I assumed him as a recording engineer who was there to record the festival, since he had such a humble, polite attitude for everyone). We only talked briefly, but he knew many musicians in common with our label and also has been a long time supporter for Erstwhile as a listener, so that was a nice meeting.
I started to talk to David again when he contacted me about Blurred Music early this year, and since he had read my music reviews and writings on my blog from a while ago, we soon found that we share the similar aesthetics and deep understanding of contemporary music, design and art. Since then, he has been very supportive of my label, from the very beginning of the launch to the final mixing stage of the first two projects (he has a great ear for sound engineering, too) from his own experience as a label owner/producer. David has also a keen sense for art and design, so his advice on the cover designs was extremely helpful.
I cannot thank him enough for his immense support when I was struggling with my first job as a producer to make these two releases as perfect as possible. Although he may not be credited as a co-producer officially again, I believe he could be an important part of my label as an adviser on various aspects of production from now on, too. He contributed some of his drawing artworks for the future covers of elsewhere, so I am happy to use them in the future, too, if the project seems to fit his artwork.
What has the reception of those initial releases been like?
So far, I have been receiving a good amount of positive responses both from media people and my customers; especially people in Europe seem to be interested in my label. More than half of our preorders came from the UK, France, Italy, and other places in Europe. I am so grateful to be able to reach overseas listeners already with the first pair of releases.
You previously announced plans for projects involving Dante Boon and Reinier van Houdt for 2019. But now there are three new releases in planning stages for October 2018. How did that happen? Were you approached by the artists involved?
We are planning to record Dante Boon’s Satie Vexations in Tokyo in late 2019, so we postponed its release date to early 2020. Also, Reinier van Houdt will record Bruno Duplant’s Lettre piece sometime in this year for 2019 release. Meanwhile, I have received three release proposals I really loved from musicians (who were coincidentally already in my wish list for future projects on elsewhere), and I thought they would be great additions to my label, so we changed the plan drastically. These three recordings were all already mixed or mastered, so I decided to put them out on October 1, 2018.
Could you describe those three releases succinctly?
Three upcoming releases for October 2018 are Jürg Frey 120 Pieces of Sound (elsewhere 003), Clara de Asís Without (Erik Carlson/Greg Stuart) (elsewhere 004), and Stefan Thutabout (Ryoko Akama/Stephen Chase/Eleanor Cully/Patrick Farmer/Stefan Thut/lo wie) (elsewhere 005).
Jürg Frey’s CD will contain two pieces: 60 Pieces of Sound, recorded with the Ordinary Affects ensemble in Wesleyan last November, and L’âme est sans retenue II (1997-2000), the one of his L’âme est sans retenue series which is previously unreleased. Jürg and I have been exchanging many thoughts about this L’âme est sans retenue series since 2017, when I was writing an extensive essay on the series for surround journal, and recently Jürg came up with the idea to put out these two pieces together on a CD, since they are deeply connected in the way he dealt with sound and silence, whether the materials were field recordings or instrumental sounds. If you listen to both pieces in a row, you will notice the significant connection between the two (and also to the other pieces of his L’âme est sans retenue series), which also is in the foundation of Jürg’s later compositions.
Clara de Asís Without was composed specially for a violin/percussion duo of Erik Carlson and Greg Stuart, written this year. Clara is a young Spanish composer who lives in Marseille, who studied films and was influenced by the sound and silence in Bergman’s films (which I love, too). This 43-minute piece consists of sparse, introspective sounds and substantial silences that remind me of the tranquility of a Japanese zen garden, while containing a clean, cloudless contemporary edge. This integration of the tranquility and a keen edge is very unique and fresh to me. She put out her solo CD Do Nothing on Another Timbre early this year, which I like very much, too.
Stefan Thut about was also recently composed specially for the ensemble of six musicians (Ryoko Akama, Stephen Chase, Eleanor Cully, Patrick Farmer, Stefan Thut, lo wie). This piece also consists of sparse sounds and a large portion of silence, but has an open feel of space while each musician’s sound has substantial texture, which brings a unique sensation of experiencing the “inside” and the “outside” of the music simultaneously.
Beyond those, have you changed your mind about the frequency of your new projects in general? If so, why?
I have my (secret) wish list for the musicians whom I am hoping to feature on my label. I have already approached some of the musicians and had positive answers to be on my label, whose albums are scheduled to be out in 2019 and 2020. Also, if anyone in my wish list contacts me with a release proposal, I am happy to listen to and consider it as one of my future releases if I really like it. Of course, we have other release projects on Erstwhile and Gravity Wave, too, so we have to coordinate the whole plan carefully. My wish list on elsewhere could extend further as I discover new composers/musicians in the future, so I will try to keep my future release schedule open and flexible. 🙂
Are you able to assess what impact Bandcamp has had on your sales? Are you seeing more orders through that vendor, or through direct sales via your site?
Yes, definitely. We received most (80 percent or so) of the preorders through Bandcamp, for both CDs and streaming/downloading. CD sales (either direct or via distributors) have been pretty low in general in the last several years, but since we started Bandcamp in late 2017, it has been a great help for our sales. Some orders came from my label’s website, but only a few for now.
You’re offering high-definition downloads via direct sales; have you had many customers for that option? Why was that important? Do you sense an interest in HD recordings among supporters of the music you present and promote?
I started to offer HD files on my label’s website since I myself love to listen to HD files. When I look for some music, CD or digital files, I would go for HD (96kHz/24bit) files as my first choice. I love CDs, too, since it is still the most convenient medium to play at any situation without my laptop around. But the reason why I love HD files is it is the closest experience to listen to the music as I do at a live concert, since HD files can convey the subtle harmonic overtones and the wide dynamic range which are somewhat lost with the 16-bit of CD. After I listened to Mitsuko Uchida’s recital at Carnegie Hall several years ago, I wanted to listen to the same Schubert sonata with her piano on CD, but I was disappointed since I could not hear the beautiful, mesmerizing layers of the harmonic overtones fully on the CD. But when I found HD files of the same piece and listened to it, it felt very close to what I experienced at her concert.
So I would like to put out HD files as well as CDs, especially for piano pieces, so the listeners can experience the music at its fullest. However, 16-bit recording sounds great enough depending on the piece and the recording condition, so not every release will have HD files on my label, though I will be aiming to. My label engineer Taku Unami has high-end recording/mixing/mastering software and equipment that will enable us to do DSD or 24-bit recording/mixing/mastering, so I am lucky to have an engineer who is as enthusiastic about the sound quality as me. I did not expect so many customers for HD files initially, but to my happy surprise, there were some people who particularly asked for HD files, so I am glad I started it.
Apart from your own projects, what have you been listening to lately for personal pleasure?
It is a hard question. I would answer Schubert Piano Sonatas and Mahler Symphonies if I were not working on any project on my label. But since I have been already working on the next projects for this October release, I am mostly absorbed in listening to the mix and the master of the current projects. When I am cooking in the kitchen, I often listen to Melaine Dalibert’s newer pieces (some of which may be on a future release on elsewhere), since his piano soothes me well. Melaine’s piano pieces are something I like to listen any time of the day, to cheer me up or calm me down to relax. I think I really like his compositions and the sounds of his piano.
The first two Elsewhere releases, Blurred Music and Musique pour le lever du jour, are available now on Bandcamp. For updates regarding future releases, keep tabs on Elsewhere via Facebook.
New This Week
Philip Bimstein – Angels, Cats & Shackles (Other Minds) Mary Halvorson – The Maid with the Flaxen Hair – A Tribute to Johnny Smith – duets with Bill Frisell (Tzadik) Eiko Ishibashi & Darin Gray – Ichida (Black Truffle) Alex Jang – momentary encounters – Cristián Alvear, Heather Roche, Apartment House (Another Timbre) Jerry Hunt – from ‘Ground’ (Other Minds) 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) Josh Modney – Engage – music by Sam Pluta, Taylor Brook, Kate Soper, Anthony Braxton, Johann Sebastian Bach, Eric Wubbels, and Josh Modney (New Focus) Davy Mooney & Ko Omura – Benign Strangers (Sunnyside) Lance Austin Olson – Dark Heart – Terje Paulsen, Gil Sansón, Ryoko Akama, Isaiah Ceccarelli, Katelyn Clark, Mira Benjamin, John Lely, Anton Lukoszevieze (Another Timbre) Francis Plagne & Crys Cole – Two Words (Black Truffle; related Log article here.) Linda Catlin Smith – Wanderer – Apartment House (Another Timbre) 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)
(☆ – new addition this week)
Steve Coleman – Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (The Embedded Sets) (Pi Recordings) Alden Jenks – Drones (Other Minds) ☆ Nicole Mitchell – Maroon Cloud (FPE Records)
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)
☆ Thrainn Hjálmarsson – Influence of Buildings on Musical Tone – performances by CAPUT ensemble, Nordic Affect, Ensemble Adapter, Icelandic Flute Ensemble, and Kristin Thora Haraldsdottir (Carrier)
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) ☆ Georg Friedrich Haas – Trois Hommages – Mabel Kwan (New Focus)
☆ Andrew Bernstein – An Exploded View of Time (Hausu Mountain) ☆ Du Yun – Dinosaur Scars – International Contemporary Ensemble (New Focus) Jlin – Autobiography (Planet Mu)
Brian Marsella Trio – Outspoken–The Music of the Legendary Hassan (Tzadik) ☆ Lansing McLoskey – Zealot Canticles – The Crossing/Donald Nally (Innova) ☆ Christopher Trapani – Water Lines – performances by Talea Ensemble, Longleash Trio, Marilyn Nonken, and JACK Quartet (New Focus)
Exclusively on National Sawdust Log, watch a gorgeous animated-collage video for "My Magic Dreams Have Lost Their Spell," the title track from a forthcoming LP by composer and cellist Nick Storring.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Nick-Storring.jpg8001500Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-02-26 13:00:212020-02-26 13:16:22New Music Preview: Nick Storring
This week's tally of memorable things National Sawdust Log editor Steve Smith has stuck in his ears includes selections featuring Carla Bley, Dave Douglas, Riot Ensemble, and Ludvig Forssell.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Playlist-Feb-24-2020.jpg5002000Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-02-24 21:30:202020-02-24 22:24:15Playlist (The Clamorous Choir of Birds).
This week in On the Record, the ingenious composer and vocalist Jennifer Walshe evokes the early history of Western music, aided by artificial intelligence. Plus dozens of listings for forthcoming releases.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Jennifer-Walshe.jpg600900Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-02-21 17:45:092020-02-21 17:45:09On the Record: February 21, 2020
This week's tally of memorable things National Sawdust Log editor Steve Smith has stuck in his ears includes selections featuring Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays, Jasmine Guffond, Vanessa Rossetto, and Reinbert de Leeuw.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Playlist-Feb-17-2020.jpg5002000Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-02-17 15:30:402020-02-17 15:54:09Playlist (Songs to Be Sung).