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.
Album of the week
Gil Sansón/Lance Austin Olsen Works on Paper
Think about how you respond to looking at a work of abstract visual art. What elements do you fixate on the most? The colors, or lack of them? Light, or its absence? A feeling of volume, or of emptiness? A sensation of motion, or of complete stillness? Nearly all of those quantities and qualities might come into play; what’s certain is that your own personal response is unlikely to duplicate exactly that of another viewer.
Now, imagine using that work of art as a musical score. In effect, that’s what’s happening on Works on Paper, a beautifully mysterious new release from the consistently edifying young label Elsewhere. The album, issued as a two-CD set and in a variety of download formats (including high-resolution lossless files), presents the newest developments in an ongoing partnership between two unique and distinctive creators: Gil Sansón, who resides in Caracas, Venezuela, and Lance Austin Olsen, a London-born artist based in Victoria, British Columbia.
These artists represent different generations and life experiences. Sansón, born in 1970, has fashioned an impressive oeuvre of electro-acoustic work, drawing upon improvisation, text scores, graphic scores, digital collage, and more. “His audio work,” one recent biographical blurb said, “emphasizes the nature of sound and its capability to transcend stylistic boundaries.” Olsen, born in 1943, came to sound art relatively late; in a 2014 essay, the writer and concert producer Jesse Goin enumerated “Olsen’s half-century of painting, 40 years of zazen, and 15 years of musical practice”—“footprints of my journey,” in Olsen’s words. A great deal of his work, though certainly not all of it, has been documented by Infrequency Editions, the label Olsen founded in 2001 with his longtime artistic partner and collaborator, Jamie Drouin—yet another composer and visual artist. (Goin wrote that essay, incidentally, to accompany Scores & Markings, a fascinating collection of works created by sound artists, including Drouin, in response to Olsen’s visual scores.)
A connection between Sansón and Olsen, which had started as a long-distance collaboration in 2014, grew closer when a painting by Olsen served as a wrap-around cover illustration for Sansón’s splendid 2015 recording, Immanence, a Life.
Their first true joint creation, A Meditation on the History of Painting, came in 2017: Olsen used field recordings, amplified copper plate and engraving tools, a wax cylinder recording, guitar, voice, and even an amplified iron park bench to realize Sansón’s graphic score. The piece was issued in 2018 on the album Dark Heart, a crucial introduction to Olsen’s music, released as part of the consistently illuminating Canadian Composers Series on the English label Another Timbre. (The redoubtable listener and writer Brian Olewnick, in a characteristically perceptive review, helpfully describes Sansón’s score and textual pointers.)
Works on Paper expands on that initial collaboration’s fascinating, elusive abundance. The first disc features two distinct realizations by Sansón of Olsen’s Pra Min, a 2017 visual score consisting of a sequence of collages. For “Pra Min #2 – Works on Paper,” Sansón employs acoustic guitar, melodica, cello, electronics, amplified objects, field recordings, and samples—of the pianist Dante Boon playing two Sansón compositions, and of Sansón’s own performance of an Antoine Beuger composition with the soprano Anna Rosa Rodriguez. Crucially, Sansón also employs A.F Jones – the sound artist and recording engineer who facilitated last week’s album of the week, Alloys – who delivers in plainspoken manner a narrative of unknown origin, detailing rich but fleeting impressions and snatches of memories.
It’s a lot to take in, but Sansón deploys his palette with the same attention to color, contrast, and detail that Olsen used in fashioning the score. That’s not to suggest Sansón’s performance is a literal translation of Olsen, but rather an accurate impression of qualities evident in Olsen’s art. It’s also not the only available interpretation of the score—not even by Sansón himself, who uses his own voice, electric guitar (unplugged and plugged), melodica, amplified objects, electronics, and field recordings in “Pra Min #1 – Fail Better.” This alternate view of Olsen’s score shares some features in common with its disc mate, but feels more intimate and tactile (claustrophobically so at times), with harder and coarser surfaces and textures.
Disc two likewise features two interpretations by Olsen of Meditations, a 2017 graphic score by Sansón, part of which is visible on the album’s front cover. In a fitting instance of symmetry, the first version you hear is more elaborate, populous, and self-referential; the second more solitary and bare. “Meditations #3” opens with a sample from an old classical recording – a men’s ensemble from an opera, I presume, though determining just what has proved elusive – rendered gelatinous through pitch alteration and other manipulations. Aural components in this realization include guitar, shruti box, amplified objects, wax cylinder recording (presumably the source of the men’s chorus), and samples from a recording of his own graphic-score work Craig’s Stroke.
Around three minutes in, the acoustic expands and grows more present; “Okay, don’t hit me,” Olsen says, unemphatically—a motif that recurs elsewhere in the piece, both prominent and not. As in Sansón’s visual collage, with its wolflike crimson figure spattered like a blood stain above a supine block of text, Olsen’s music renders indistinct notions of foreground and background, focus and context. Common to both score and interpretation is a heady sense of dislocation and everything-at-onceness. “Meditations #3” grows edgy and coarse midway through, sharp contours lending a feeling of anxiety that never wholly departs. The work’s final minutes seem to hold tension and resolution in tenuous equilibrium.
As on the previous disc, the second track on this one – “Meditations #2” – is starker, sparer, and more uneasy than what came before it. Olsen limits himself to guitar and amplified objects, though some echoes, flits, and squelches defy easy assignment to any particular sound source. Not quite 10 minutes in, droning sustained chords begin to supplant the nervous, itchy sounds that started the piece. These long tones hold sway for a meditative nine minutes or so, after which the insect music returns to close the piece.
Needless to say, the four performances featured on Works on Paper can be enjoyed simply as richly detailed, lucidly balanced, grippingly paced sonic excursions, with no heed paid to the elaborate relationships between these artists and their idioms. But for anyone interested in aural manifestations of visual stimuli – and especially in gauging how artists who know their collaborators well still can produce wildly varying responses – this beautifully produced release will provide endless contemplation. To borrow an idea from Heraclitus, the set offers compelling evidence that you can’t view or hear the same art, twice.
Bearthoven – American Dream – compositions by Scott Wollschleger (Cantaloupe Music) ☆ Edmund Finnis – The Air, Turning – performances by Benjamin Beilman, Eloisa-Fleur Thom, Mark Simpson, Víkingur Ólafsson, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, London Contemporary Orchestra, and Britten Sinfonia (NMC) Miho Hazama m_unit – Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside) ☆ Emmanuel Nunes – Minnesang|Musivus – SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Emilio Pomàrico (Wergo) ☆ Bernard Rands – Chains Like the Sea – Johannes Moser, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Clark Rundell (NMC)
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)
Nick Sanders – Playtime 2050 (Sunnyside)
Tobias Meinhart – Berlin People (Sunnyside)
☆ Henryk Górecki – Symphony No. 3 (“Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”) – Beth Gibbons, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra/Krzysztof Penderecki (Domino)
Amirtha Kidambi’s Elder Ones – From Untruth (Northern Spy) Logan Strosahl Spec Ops – Sure (Sunnyside)
Alejandro Coello – Percussion Theory (Sunnyside) Anat Fort Trio – Colour (Sunnyside)
☆ Luc Ferrari – Music Promenade/Unheimlich Schön (Recollection GRM)
☆ Régis Renouard Larivière – Contrée (Recollection GRM)
Ben Monder – Day After Day (Sunnyside)
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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.