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.
Nat Evans visits Flyover Country
On Twitter earlier this week, I posted my initial response to a new recording I’d just received and played for the first time.
There’s a clear and present danger every time @natevans__ puts out a new recording, and it’s this: Any time I go into one of his releases (like the new ‘Flyover Country’ EP, due Sept 20 in DL & CS formats), I’m reluctant to come back out again. Nat’s music is supremely habitable. pic.twitter.com/GFJrrt5rGX
It wasn’t the first time that Nat Evans, an experimental-music composer and interdisciplinary artist based in Seattle, had caught my ear. I’d first heard his music on The Tortoise, a 2015 collection featuring pieces he’d recorded during a five-month trek hiking along the 2,500-mile Pacific Crest Trail the previous year, as well as works by other composers to whom he’d sent SD cards filled with field recordings from his journey. In 2017 he’d returned with Coyoteways, a transfixing mix of manmade and natural sounds. That album ended up on my year-end list of 2017’s most notable albums—and I can honestly say that there was no album to which I returned more often that year for sonic refuge.
Evans’s latest release, Flyover Country, is a five-track EP due for release on September 20. The new recording features music from a stage presentation of the same title, inspired by Evans’s discovery of a trove of historical documents regarding his family’s journey, the nation’s westward expansion, and the catastrophic impact the pioneers had on the indigenous peoples, flora, and fauna they encountered.
Evans, via email, fielded questions about his artistic practice and what led him to create his newest piece.
NATIONAL SAWDUST LOG: I’m curious to know more about the development of your compositional style, a mixture of electroacoustic composition and field recording. How did you develop your practice?
NAT EVANS: Using recorded medium as a tool has always been a part of my practice. I spent a lot of time in high school and college with a 4-track cassette recorder, carting it around to record whatever instruments I needed, sometimes writing things out, sometimes improvising. Field recordings initially entered my practice when I was working on a score for dance with Ross Simonini in 2006. We started running microphones out of his apartment to places around the house we lived, then using those sounds as textures and as base material to manipulate into tones. For a while I primarily used them as interesting textures to spur our sort of evolutionary impulses when observing something, to make one listen differently, then as a way to engender a sense of place and context. For instance, I’ve been doing a series of events called Sound Dinner, and I use field recordings from my garden or areas I foraged particular ingredients to further draw participants into the experience, to make it more immersive. So, I’m trying to use each sound much more intentionally these days.
Improvisation is really important to me, so my scores are a combination of written notes on a staff, and written directions. Initially I wrote out lots of ideas more thoroughly, but as I’ve gotten away from concert music, I find I write less and less notes and more and more text describing how to utilize the minimal noted directives. Currently there are also more descriptions of images, almost like guided meditations that show up in the text, or suggestions for breathing techniques to acclimate one’s headspace, to make the sound more immersive for performer and listener alike.
Were there specific composers and/or recording artists whose work guided your own development?
The development of my practice in writing music seems to be drawn equally from ideas as much as actual music. So, the sonic walls of My Bloody Valentine, Sunn O))), or Sonic Youth are as important as the writings of Gary Snyder and his ideas of Deep Ecology. Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra are like a counterweight to Zen master Dogen—all equally mystical. Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit and Cage in general pair well with readings of Zen hermits, or of ancient Chinese scholars who wandered off into the mountains with their zithers to listen and to write music based on what they heard. Minimalist and experimental ideas from Laurie Anderson, La Monte Young, or Brian Eno are as influential as Bob Dylan or the repetitive old-time country music I heard growing up going to square dances as a kid in rural Indiana. Actually, I have a deep and abiding love for country music. I sometimes joke with Will (the guitarist I worked with on Coyoteways and Flyover Country, Will Hayes) that I write ambient country music, or have been lately.
I’ve read articles stating that your work has been influenced by your practice of Zen Buddhism and the natural features of the Pacific Northwest. Could you elaborate on how those inspirations have impacted your creative process?
Zen seems to work its way into everything for me. The overarching pathway is simply a sense of listening and observation. Every day, every week, every year, the practice of meditation is a constant, but also changing too as we all are every moment. So, many of the pieces I have created over the years seem to manifest themselves as meditative opportunities combined with sound, ways to be mindful, whether the piece involves eating, having tea together, watching a sunrise, sitting upon soil in a dark room, or watching tethered balloons floating above you. Zen also emphasizes the soteriological possibilities of growing things, of farming, of being a good steward of land. This mandate combined with my own family’s history of farming in North America for over 300 years has driven me to focus more on growing my own food and in turn bringing that into my creative practice as well. I’m actually doing a Sound Dinner event as part of a Yellow Fish Festival later this month here in Seattle, and have spent a lot of time this summer cultivating different herbs for teas and broths which will be paired with field recordings and live musical performances.
No matter where I am I want to explore the ecology of place, and for a long time it has been the Pacific Northwest. I tend to see wilderness everywhere, whether it’s a group of plants who have taken up residence in a sidewalk crack, foraging mushrooms in the mountains, enjoying beer using yeast fermented from someone’s beard, the whirr and organization of a herd of elk moving down the hillside, the egalitarian unfolding patterns of a square dance, fishing in the middle of the city or hunting in the middle of nowhere – I simply want to dig into the multifarious nature of existence no matter where I am.
You’ve created works that are site-specific and time-specific, as well as pieces in which audience members gather together to listen to music through individual sets of headphones. What’s the ideal situation in which you’d present your work?
I’ve made works that exist in a variety of places from the white cube gallery, vast open fields, museums, concert halls, shoresides, elevators, fashion runways, in the city, in the country, at festivals. But as for music, my favorite way to listen to music is when I’m cooking. So if I could make music that’s good to spend time with while cooking, perhaps that’s the ideal situation!
There’s a unique backstory involved with each of the recordings you’ve released through Bandcamp. The Tortoise involved field recordings made during an epic trek on the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as responses from other artists to whom you sent some of those recordings. Coyoteways was inspired by your encounters with coyotes while on that trek, and comparing the biological realities to trickster coyote mythologies.Now, on Flyover Country, you’ve turned to personal family history, derived from a trove of historical documents you unearthed last summer. What did you learn from that discovery, and how did it prompt you to respond?
I knew that my family had been involved in farming and agriculture for the last few generations, but not that that was the case since we arrived on this continent from Europe in 1710. I got a good look at how folks moved every generation and were a big part of Westward Expansion – from the east coast, to the midwest, to the grasslands of the northern plains in South Dakota, to the other end down in New Mexico at the heart of the Dust Bowl, and even out into Washington and Oregon. I’ve always been drawn to storytellers like Bob Dylan, Laurie Anderson, William S. Burroughs and Joseph M. Marshall III. I began to look at the ecology of these different places, especially the prairies where most of my family stories seem to come from, and the real, deeper histories of America – not just the iconic mythologies of pioneers. As I began to assemble a history of my family and our westward expansion, I concurrently took a deep look at indigenous cultures of North America, and traveled to different places that had similar ecological features to places my family settled, such as the oceanic tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills of Kansas where there’s still a nugget of prairie that remains, including a small herd of bison.
The deeper I looked at the wider history of things, the more the holes in the mythology of my family manifested themselves. Timelines of movement matched up with historical genocide at the hands of white citizen militias, treaties with the Lakota broken as millions of bison were slaughtered for the market hunt, and white settlers flooded the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota to mine for gold, and unsustainable farming practices led to tilled under grasslands from Illinois to New Mexico, precipitating the Dust Bowl. So, I felt like I had a story to tell, one that’s still happening, lessons and ideas often buried or obscured by nationalism, colonialism, or our apparent inability to admit failure. I also had a number of wild dreams while I was researching and traveling some for Flyover Country, and those dreams are woven through my storytelling.
I gather from reading your project statement about Flyover Country that the piece is actually much larger and more involved than the EP on Bandcamp might indicate. Can you describe what the entire piece is like?
Indeed – it’s a multimedia performance with videos of footage I shot while researching, and archival images from my family dating back to the 1870s. Spoken text in the form of storytelling is the most dominant aspect that helps blends ideas and experiences, music, and field recordings with visual aspects. The outfit I wear in performance is an extension of my family’s history as well – including a belt buckle and bolo tie my grandfather made, and a hemp chambray like many of my ancestors in archival images. The total effect is one of immersion through visuals and sound, and a sort of non-linear storytelling that operates on dream time.
In practical terms, can you describe the process by which the pieces on the EP were made – by which I mean literally the instruments involved, the kinds of field recordings you utilized, and what kind of processing (if any) you employed in the studio or in post-production?
I wrote the music specifically for the multi-media performance, and I’d already performed it before I recorded it, so it was a pretty quick process. Will Hayes plays guitar, and I play synth, harmonica, and made the field recordings. I recorded all my parts at my home studio, then brought Will in. These works are guided improvisations, so we talked through some ideas, and did a couple takes. Usually I edit things heavily, but I wanted these pieces to feel more natural, more expansive like they are in live performance, so all the guitar work is one complete take. In post production I made six or seven duplicates of the track and do slightly different treatments on each – a variety of delays, reverb and so on – and through those many layers and complex panning, it creates the kind of immersive sound I’m going for. Will also has a pretty amazing reverb signal flow that is a big part of the sound – it’s not all me.
The field recordings each have their own significance. September is filled with rain outside my bedroom window after I woke up from a particularly lucid dream. Dreamtime I is a field recording made at my grandfather’s house where I was working with the archive of our family history. And Grasshoppers Devouring a Corpse in the Tallgrass Prairie is, well, self described. A rattlesnake seemed to have had a bad day when it was flushed out of the grasses and trampled by bison. Finding itself without a head, the rattlesnake was unable to fend off the many insects interested in lunch. A lot of Flyover Country is about exploring notions of death, shielded as we are from it in contemporary life regarding everything we eat, the clothes we wear, and even our own deaths. So, a portion of that was able to make its way into the EP. A heavily distorted harmonica on that track mimics prairie winds blowing the grasses around the corpse.
Having said that, the music on the EP stands alone as a satisfying artistic experience. Was it your intention that the music could be listened to and appreciated without any knowledge of its broader context?
Thanks – I feel that way now too – but I didn’t write any of the music for this context. I was so busy making videos, doing research, writing the script I spoke telling these stories, the music was originally more of a backdrop, a skeleton to hold the flesh up. People really responded to the music at the initial performances, though, so it seemed like a good idea to float it out on its own.
Flyover Country is available for pre-order in a variety of download file formats on Bandcamp.
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) ☆ Leslie Ross – bit by bit, suddenly (XI Recordings) Luciana Souza – The Book of Longing (Sunnyside) Winged Serpents – Six Encomiums for Cecil Taylor – solo performances 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)
☆ Philip Glass – Mishima – Maki Namekawa (Orange Mountain Music)
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) ☆ Julia Reidy – Beholder (A Guide to Saints/Room 40) Ken Thompson – Sextet (New Focus) ☆ Vanessa Tomlinson – The Space Inside (A Guide to Saints/Room 40) 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) ☆ Kuzu (Dave Rempis, Tashi Dorji, Tyler Damon) – Hiljaisuus (Astral Spirits)
☆ M. Geddes Gengras – Light Pipe (Room 40)
☆ Wet Ink Large Ensemble – Wet Ink: 20 – music by Eric Wubbels, Katherine Young, Sam Pluta, Anthony Braxton, Kate Soper, and Alex Mincek (Carrier)
☆ Nat Evans – Flyover Country (self-released)
☆ Rimarimba – The Rimarimba Collection (Freedom to Spend) ☆ JP Schlegelmilch/Jonathan Goldberger/Jim Black – Visitors (Skirl)
☆ Aizuri Quartet – Blueprinting – music by Gabriella Smith, Caroline Shaw, Yevgeniy Sharlat, Lembit Beecher, and Paul Wiancko (New Amsterdam)
Andrew Bernstein – An Exploded View of Time (Hausu Mountain) Du Yun – Dinosaur Scars – International Contemporary Ensemble (New Focus) Jlin – Autobiography (Planet Mu) ☆ Lorelei Ensemble – Impermanence – music from the Codex Calixtinus and Turin Manuscript, and by Guillaume de Fay, Toru Takemitsu, and Peter Gilbert (Sono Luminus)
Brian Marsella Trio – Outspoken–The Music of the Legendary Hassan (Tzadik) Lansing McLoskey – Zealot Canticles – The Crossing/Donald Nally (Innova) ☆ Cory Smythe – Circulate Susanna (Pyroclastic) Christopher Trapani – Water Lines – performances by Talea Ensemble, Longleash Trio, Marilyn Nonken, and JACK Quartet (New Focus)
☆ Clara de Asís – Without – performed by Erik Carlson and Greg Stuart (elsewhere; related Log article here.) ☆ Jürg Frey – 120 Pieces of Sound (elsewhere; related Log article here.)
Eli Keszler – Stadium (Shelter Press) ☆ Stefan Thut – about – performed by Ryoko Akama, Stephen Chase, Eleanor Cully, Patrick Farmer, Stefan Thut, and lo wie (elsewhere; related Log article here.)
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).
This week in On the Record: New on Elsewhere, the French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert lavishes his sensitive touch on music by Anastassis Philippakopoulos. Plus dozens of listings for forthcoming releases.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Melaine-Dalibert.jpg600900Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-02-14 16:00:272020-02-21 16:43:24On the Record: February 14, 2020