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.
I first became aware of Judith Hamann, a cellist from Melbourne, Australia, on Gossamers, a 2017 duo project with saxophonist Rosalind Hall released on Caduc, a tiny, consistently fascinating Vancouver label. The disc offered an alien soundscape of jitters and peals, throbs and plaints, its effect like coiled energy waiting indefinitely to slip its containment. Recorded by the artists themselves, Gossamers benefited from the keen-eared intervention of A.F. Jones, the sound artist and engineer who runs the Washington state-based mastering studio Laminal Audio.
Jones also runs Marginal Frequency, like Caduc a tiny label whose few offerings always prove worth investigation. Alloys, formally issued on January 22, finds Hamann working with a new partner, the Seattle-based cellist Lori Goldston. The new session, recorded by Eric Padget at Seattle’s Noise Noise Ouch Stop Studio, involves playing techniques and partnering strategies no less intense or intricate than those heard on Gossamers. But Alloys inhabits a wholly different sonic world, and once again that world is presented in fastidious detail partly through Jones’s labors.
Depending on how you choose to view it, Alloys comprises either two pieces or ten. Both the CD (available in a limited edition of just 150 copies) and the download format provide two long tracks, each just shy of 27 minutes long. But each track includes five individual titles. (In a way, this seems in keeping with Marginal Frequency’s roots as a cassette-only imprint; then again, the label’s other CD releases range from one track to 11.)
Listening to Alloys, you hear the two musicians separated clearly into two distinct stereo channels, but which cello is tickling which ear is not revealed. I won’t try to guess as to who’s who: Goldston and Hamann are too finely matched, and employ similar techniques to complement one another throughout. That’s not to say there’s little contrast, just that common cause overshadows individual display. It stands to reason: the dictionary definition of “alloy” is a metal formed by combining two metallic elements, or a metal and another substance, to increase strength and preclude corrosion.
The first piece, “Silver | Amalgam | Mother of Pearl | Felt | A Thin Piece of Whale Bone,” opens with tremulous high-end shimmers from one player, answered by the other with juddering bounced-bow rhythms. Just after the three-minute mark, the cellist in the left channel shifts to long, low bowed notes and figures; shortly, her partner follows suit. In another three minutes or so, a radiant high-end transition leads to a section of forceful chordal bowing, more assertive but never strenuous. Just before the 10-minute point, strings rubbed lightly on the left draw whisper-soft responses on the right. Then at 13 minutes in, the right-hand cellist takes the lead in a warm, rapt song accompanied by a drone from her counterpart. This peat-dark concord grows increasingly more dense and agitated, with one partner suddenly veering off on a squealing tangent. Then at 20 minutes, both players fall very nearly silent; the left-hand cello begins to sing soft and high, the right responding with reassuring low strums. This spare, lovely notion holds until close to the end, when the two players finally retreat in a pensive ending.
The regularity of these thematic shifts, along with the diplomacy with which they’re negotiated, suggest that the players observed some sort of premeditated compositional strategy. The second piece, “Carbon | Sitka | Rabbit Hide | Solder | Matter Attacking the Body,” proceeds much as the first one did, but mines a darker, more ruminative vein. Once more the cellists play with respect and restraint, again and again producing moments of haunting melancholy and arresting beauty. Unnerving suspense, too: check out the understated threnody that runs from 5:40 to 8:05. The tension from that passage never fully dissipates until the throaty chordal repose that arrives at 15:10, which leads to somber call-and-response at 16:40. Exchanges gradually grow more passionate, until the dam finally bursts, followed with an eerie coda.
Abetted by an acoustic resonant enough to let their instruments sing out, yet also captured with sufficient intimacy to let every brushed finger, wobbled bow, and shimmering overtone register clearly, Goldston and Hamann deliver two performances of ineffable mystery, sympathy, and beauty. As the album title suggests, they alloy their strong, distinctive individual idioms into something new, and durable.
New This Week
John Cage– Empty Words – Varispeed Collective (self-released) George Benjamin – Lessons in Love and Violence – Stéphane Degout, Barbara Hannigan, Gyula Orendt, Peter Hoare, Samuel Boden, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/George Benjamin (Opus Arte) Bloor – Drolleries (Astral Spirits)
Anthony Braxton – GTM (Syntax) 2017 – Tri-Centric Vocal Ensemble (New Braxton House; 12CD box set due March 15.) Lori Goldston|Judith Hammann – Alloys (Marginal Frequency) Leonie Klein – Gathering Thunders – compositions by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, Helmut Lachenmann, Nicolaus A. Huber, Peter Eötvös, and Johannes Julius Fischer (Wergo) Bruce Levingston – Citizen – compositions by Nolan Gasser, William Grant Still, Frédéric Chopin, David T. Little, Augusta Gross, and C. Price Walden (Sono Luminus; more details here.) Joe Lovano – Trio Tapestry (ECM) Karola Obermüller – Karola Obermüller – performers include Camilla Hoitenga, Emanuele Arciuli, International Contemporary Ensemble, Ensemble Modern, and Ensemble Musikfabrik (Wergo) Skylark Quartet – Live in Tokyo (Marginal Frequency) Sun Ra – Monorails and Satellites, Vols. 1, 2 and 3 (Cosmic Myth; recorded in 1966)
(☆ – new addition this week)
Gil Sansón/Lance Austin Olson – Works on Paper (Elsewhere)
☆ Bearthoven – American Dream – compositions by Scott Wollschleger (Cantaloupe Music) ☆ Miho Hazama m_unit – Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside)
Melia Watras – Schumann Resonances – compositions by Melia Watras, Robert Schumann, Cuong Vu, and Richard Karpen (Planet M)
☆ Casey Anderson – ghostses – Bent Duo (a wave press) ☆ Lisa Bielawa – Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser – performers include Kronos Quartet, San Francisco Girls Chorus, Magik*Magik Orchestra, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, PARTCH, and others (Orange Mountain Music)
Ryuichi Sakamoto – BTTB – 20th Anniversary Edition (Milan) David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith – Sun of Goldfinger (ECM)
Sam Ashley & Werner Durand – I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good (Unseen Worlds) Yevgeny Kutik – Meditations on Family – compositions by Timo Andres, Kinan Azmeh, Christopher Cerrone, Andreia Pinto Correia, Paola Prestini, Gity Razaz, Joseph Schwantner, and Gregory Vajda (Marquis Classics) ☆ Joe Martin – Étoilée (Sunnyside) Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir – Vernacular – compositions by Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Halldór Smárason, and Hafliði Hallgrímsson (Sono Luminus)
This week in On the Record: Check out an immersive collection of contemporary Armenian music, lovingly curated by violinist Movses Pogossian, plus dozens of listings for forthcoming releases.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Pogossian.jpg600900Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-01-17 18:00:172020-01-17 18:47:21On the Record: January 17, 2020
Listen to an exclusive preview track from 'One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown,' a new album by saxophonist Chris Pitsiokos and his CP Unit, coming in February on the Ramp Local label.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/CP-Unit-banner.jpg8001500Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-01-15 12:50:072020-01-15 14:47:52New Music Preview: CP Unit
This week's tally of memorable things National Sawdust Log editor Steve Smith has stuck in his ears includes selections featuring Alex Dowling, Brunhild Ferrari & Jim O'Rourke, King Crimson, and Melaine Dalibert.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Playlist-Jan-13-2020.jpg5002000Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-01-13 23:30:242020-01-13 23:59:50Playlist (The Shuddering Breath of Yesterday).
This week's tally of memorable things National Sawdust Log editor Steve Smith has stuck in his ears includes selections featuring Catherine Christer Hennix, Erik Carlson, Kate Carr, and Ekmeles.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Playlist-Jan-06-2020.jpg5002000Steve Smithhttps://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2020-01-06 17:30:102020-01-06 17:43:56Playlist (A Flourish of Ritual Activity).