This is one of a series of musical “travelogues”, or year-in-review posts, covering music I especially enjoyed this year. This entry covers five outstanding modern classical / acoustic EPs. Note that the albums are not in any kind of ranked order, but are simply listed alphabetically by artist.
Lucy Claire – Suite
‘Suite’ may be a small package, but it is a captivating record that heralds a real emerging talent in composer Lucy Claire. She gives us two compositions ‘Rituals in Dust’ and ‘Fantasia on Mildew’ which she architects around piano and binaural soundscapes complimented by exquisite performances on cello (Lily Thornton) and violin (John Garner). The third track is a pulsing downtempo rework of ‘Fantasia on Mildew’ by Winter Son that comes off brilliantly. If you are like me, this will simply not be enough of Lucy’s music, so be sure to also seek out ‘Palestin’ on her Bandcamp site and ‘Bound in Sea’ which appears on the Futuresequence Sequence 7 compilation.
Release: This Is It Forever Records (August 2013)
Favorite track: No.2 Fantasia on Mildew
Michael Mathy – Birth, Life, and Death
‘Birth, Life, and Death’ is not just an abstract title, but it maps out a song cycle that the six pieces traverse. Birth – two songs written for the birth of Mathy’s daughters; Life – two tracks written for weddings and one for a birthday; Death – a song written as a musical letter to a friend diagnosed with cancer. These are beautiful compositions impeccably performed and very likely to bring tears of joy and sadness to your eyes. My favorite solo piano record this year bar none.
Release: Independent (August 2013)
Favorite tracks: White on Black, J
Richard J. Berkin – Accretions | A Lullaby Hymn (parts I & II)
‘Accretions’ is a piece of music commissioned for an exhibition curated by QUAD in Derby, UK, a musical imagining of being poised on the edge of a black hole, and a soundtrack to an animated video by Christopher Brooke. ‘A Lullaby Hymn’ is a continuation of the musical development of Birkin’s Emphemetry project. The melody at the heart of the reverse guitar loops of ‘A Lullaby Hum’ are completely re-imagined using classical instruments with a dusky solo piano movement that segues into a lovely reprise with layers of acoustic guitar, violins, and violas that is indeed hymn-like. The two tracks have very different origins, but work beautifully together as one delightful listening experience.
Release: Time Travel Opps (December 2013)
Favorite track: Lullaby Hymn (parts I & II)
Steve Gibbs / Cyrus Reynolds – In Passing
This collaboration of Steve Gibbs and Cyrus Reynolds blends modern classical with deft touches of ambient and electronica in well crafted arrangements to create one gorgeous EP richly embroidered with nuanced textures and flowing with a sweet melancholic undercurrent and a dash of the the cinematic. Lovely stuff.
Release: Independent (July 2013)
Favorite tracks: Where Am I, After
subzar – pico
This EP by English quartet subzar is something of an ode to travel, both as an experience and a metaphor. The songs and titles convey the story of a migratory journey by a flock of birds, but the title appears to be a reference to essayist/novelist Pico Iyer whose philosophical thoughts on travel we hear in the final track and apparently helped inspire the bands approach to the record. subzar travelled to Austria record ‘pico’ using only the instruments they carried and the natural sounds captured on their travels. The end result is enchanting musical storytelling and an artful package that works on multiple levels.
Release: Norman Records (December 2013)
Favorite track: in languid drift aloft a looking glass sea