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.
Nate Wooley is no stranger to tackling monolithic notions, whether it’s the influential autobiography of a Trappist monk in his Seven Storey Mountain series, the fundamental mechanics of speech in his Syllables releases, or the imposing presence and substantial impact of a fiery upstart named Wynton Marsalis on (Dance to) The Early Music. On his latest album, the restlessly inventive trumpeter and composer sets out to impart his sense of an actual monolith: the ice field of the title, a vast expanse of interconnected glaciers located in the Canadian Rockies along the border between British Columbia and Alberta, not so far removed from the Pacific Northwest of Wooley’s youth.
The titles of the two longer pieces on the album, though, suggest that Wooley’s not simply painting pictures in sound. One, “Lionel Trilling,” is named for an author and critic concerned with the social and political aspects of literature. Another, “Seven in the Woods,” takes its title from a Jim Harrison poem, which begins:
Am I as old as I am? Maybe not. Time is a mystery that can tip us upside down. Yesterday I was seven in the woods, a bandage covering my blind eye, in a bedroll Mother made me so I could sleep out in the woods far from people.
And the album’s third piece, “With Condolences,” includes a spoken rendition of an entire poem, “Dream Song 42: O journeyer, deaf in the mould, insane,” by John Berryman.
Contemplating this majestic expanse in all of its dimensions, and with all these added nuances, Wooley also seems intent to express some sense of the individual in the face of unknowable vastness. His traveling companions – the guitarist Mary Halvorson, the pedal-steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, and the drummer Ryan Sawyer – are all idiosyncratic practitioners of their respective instruments. Together they form a complementary ensemble, albeit one that almost never coheres in any conventional sense.
“Lionel Trilling,” the album’s 20-minute opening track, starts with Halvorsen and Alcorn playing ostinato figures slightly akimbo. Their rhythms contrast without conflicting outright, like objects suspended from a mobile spinning at different rates. Not quite two minutes in, a heavy-treaded march evokes (intentionally or not) boots crunching across frozen terrain. Sawyer’s drumming animates the expanse while eschewing time, a constant bustle of untamed energy… it’s Wooley’s unpitched breath sounds and grainy amplified tone that convey momentum and anticipation.
Tension mounts gradually for another five minutes, until chorused voices and Wooley’s unaltered trumpet announce a vista spacious and grand. Energy dissipates, and then the cycle begins again—only now Wooley’s trumpet remains, a keen evocation of self against otherness. “Lionel Trilling” maintains this exquisite balance between order and chaos for its duration, settling into grooves regularly only to shake them off in favor of new rhythmic trails.
“Seven in the Woods,” at 19 minutes, provides a nearly static expanse of sonorous guitar tones, over, under, and around which Wooley’s muted trumpet meanders. This is some of the simplest and loveliest playing Wooley has committed to record, not least when he removes the mute, waxing hymn-like and golden over Halvorson’s gentle twang, Alcorn’s liquid tones, and Sawyer’s restrained brushwork.
Yet equally worth savoring – and worth experiencing through headphones – is the disorienting passage that follows: an untethered Alcorn soliloquy, with Sawyer’s anxious brushes bouncing back and forth across the stereo field. Listen, too, for the moment just after the 15-minute mark, where Halvorson shifts in an instant from simmer to sizzle.
Might Wooley be trying to evoke some sensation of revisiting distant memories that retain the sensation of newness and presence? Harrison’s poem suggests as much:
Who was I, half-blind on the forest floor who was I at age seven? Sixty-eight years later I can still inhabit that boy’s body without thinking of the time between. It is the burden of life to be many ages without seeing the end of time.
“With Condolences,” the album’s final track, begins with a trumpet note of sheer melancholy, ringing into an icy distance as guitar tones respond; a brief silence, then Sawyer adds his own jabbing commentary. It coheres, just, wandering slowly and disconsolately, notes mostly sounding in isolation and trailing off into silence until a massed utterance coalesces just after three minutes in. The players circle warily; they jab, spar, swoop, and hiss around one another.
Roughly at the halfway point the maelstrom disperses. Alcorn repeatedly sounds a low-pitched two-note descending motif around which Sawyer tumbles and splashes; Wooley adds a guttural murmur underneath. Or so it seems! But roles turn indistinct here, and the speaker who delivers Berryman’s text – surrounded by further vocalizations, slowed down to become indiscernible – is unidentified.
In these lines, according to Berryman’s wife, the poet asks his father, who had committed suicide, to remember him:
O journeyer, deaf in the mould, insane with violent travel & death: consider me in my cast, your first son. Would you were I by now another one, witted, legged? I see you before me plain (I am skilled: I hear, I see)
The words, specific circumstances aside, speak once more to the efforts of an individual addressing the immense, the ineffable, the unknowable. Perhaps that’s why Wooley chose them. Perhaps not. Whatever his intent, sensations of isolation, labor, and anguish – and possibly conciliation during a melancholy coda – seem to be sounded in the spare, icy violence and stillness Wooley and his bandmates offer. Here, and throughout Columbia Icefield, the beauty and clarity of Wooley’s music and the band’s performances suggest far more than they reveal.
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) ☆ Greg Chudzik – Solo Works, Vol. 2 (New Focus) The Flying Luttenbachers – Shattered Dimension (ugEXPLODE/GOD) Karl Fousek – In the Forest (Second Editions) ☆ Žibuoklė Martinaitytė – In Search of Lost Beauty… – FortVio (Starkland) Nicholas Phillips – Shift – compositions by Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Whitney George, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Libby Larsen, Angelica Negron, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Ingrid Stolzel (Panoramic)
Ryuichi Sakamoto – BTTB – 20th Anniversary Edition (Milan) Carl Stone – Baroo (Unseen Worlds) David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith – Sun of Goldfinger (ECM) Byron Westbrook – Voice Damage (Psychic Troubles)
Sam Ashley & Werner Durand – I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good (Unseen Worlds) Caleb Burhans – Past Lives – performances by Simon Jermyn, JACK Quartet, and Duo Harpverk (Cantaloupe Music) 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) NbN – trios (self-released) Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir – Vernacular – compositions by Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Halldór Smárason, and Hafliði Hallgrímsson (Sono Luminus)
☆ Donnacha Dennehy – The Last Hotel – Claudia Boyle, Robin Adams, Katherine Manley, Mikel Murfi, Crash Ensemble/Alan Pierson (Cantaloupe Music) ☆ David Liptak – Dove Songs – compositions by Matthew Shlomowitz, Cara Haxo, Eric Wubbels, Theresa Wong, Sky Macklay, and Yannis Kyriakides (New Focus)
Nick Sanders – Playtime 2050 (Sunnyside) ☆ Splinter Reeds – Hypothetical Islands – performances by Tony Arnold, Alison D’Amato, Dieter Hennings, Steven Doane, Renee Jolles, Margaret Kampmeier, and Barry Snyder (New Focus)
Beat Circus – These Wicked Things (Innova)
June Chikuma – Les Archives (Freedom to Spend) Helen Grime – Woven Space – London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle (LSOLive) William Hooker – Cycle of Restoration (FPE) ☆ Louis Karchin – Dark Mountains/Distant Lights – performances by Miranda Cuckson, Steven Beck, and Jacqueline Leclair (New Focus) Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan – New Rain Duets (Three Lobed)
Tobias Meinhart – Berlin People (Sunnyside) Typical Sisters – Hungry Ghost (Outside in Music)
Fennesz – Agora (Touch)
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) ☆ Third Coast Percussion – Perpetulum – compositions by Philip Glass, Gavin Bryars, David Skidmore, Peter Martin, and Robert Dillon (Orange Mountain Music)
Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society – Mandatory Reality (eremite)
☆ Anthony Pateras – Collected Works Vol. II (2005-2018) (Immediata) ☆ Pateras/Baxter/Brown – Bern · Melbourne · Milan (Immediata)
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.
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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.