Modern Classical EPs from Lucy Claire / Oskar Schuster / Peter Gregson & Michael Price / Julien Marchal

I’ll spare you the obvious cliche, but this group of modern/post classical and piano EPs are all small packages that deliver big musical satisfaction, each one a gem in it’s own right.  

Lucy Claire / Collaborations Vol.1 [This is it Forever]

Lucy Claire set her own bar quite high with her Suite EP last year, but she has delivered a new work just as satisfying and even more expansive with Collaborations Vol.1 on This Is It Forever Records.  The album revolves around two new compositions, each featuring a special collaborator accompanied by Lucy on piano and a string quartet made up of Marie Schreer on viola, John Garner & Julia Loucks on violin, and Samuel Justitz on cello.

‘Stille’ features Alev Lenz whose haunting vocals are looped in manner reminiscent of Juliana Barwick in a mesmerizing call and response with the quartet, briefly receding into the background as the strings spread their wings and fervently ascend heavenward, and then reemerging to bring the song to a tender a cappella conclusion.  On ‘Somnus’, the strings are predominant, presenting mournful and passionate swells and playful flourishes with textured brushstrokes of color added by the guitar of Bruised Skies.

Three reworks flesh out the rest of the Vol.1  First, Jerome Alexander, as Message to Bears, brings his pastoral indietronica touch to his version of ‘Stille’ which is followed by a lush and spellbinding downtempo interpretation of the same piece by Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragdale as the duo worriedaboutsatan.  To close out the record, ‘Somnus’ gets a muted ambient drone treatment by Bruised Skies. The compositions are lovely, the performances are exquisite, and the reworks are both inventive and enjoyable. We can hope this is only the beginning and that Lucy along with her friends and collaborators will keep dishing out slices of musical heaven like this one.  Long may it continue.

Listen to ‘Somnus ft. Bruised Skies’

In studio performance of ‘Stille’ ft. Alev Lenz 

Oskar Schuster / Matilda [Record Jet]

Oskar Schuster is a musician and composer based in Berlin but whose sound is deliberately more reminiscent of Paris owing to the nods to the musette style also heard in the work of Yann Tiersen in the soundtrack to Amelie.  Shades and tones are added from a wide variety of influences ranging from Schumann and Chopin to Sigur Ros and Beirut, but the core of the sound is the piano and a music box style complimented by nostalgic sounds meant to create “melodies you seem to remember from early childhood days or long-forgotten dreams, at the same time sad and joyful, euphoric and exuberant, nostalgic, thought-provoking and always kind of melancholic.”

In March, Schuster released a very nice full length album called Sneeuwland which encompasses all these aesthetics. Matilda, on the other hand, is an EP which is similar in tone, but consists strictly of solo piano pieces.  The music is eloquent, subtly cinematic and beautifully performed.  Matilda consists of 5 songs, but can be ordered in a special package which includes a sheet music book with handmade golden letter artwork and 2 additional unreleased tracks.

Listen to ‘Paris Montparnasse’ 

Official video for ‘Valtameri’ from Sneeuwland

Peter Gregson & Michael Price / Berlin 1 – 3

Peter Gregson is a cellist and classical composer who will be releasing and album called Lights in the Sky next month.  Michael Price is a classical, TV, and film music composer with a long CV of scores and projects including the BBC series Sherlock and who has also put out an album on Erased Tapes called Stillness.  This past May, Gregson and Price put out this little gem of an EP called Berlin 1 – 3 which contains three splendid improvisations for piano and cello with a sublime touch of tape effects and a mournful, introspective tone.  You would be hard pressed to find a lovelier way to spend 10 minutes of your time.  Gregson and Price have generously offered this on a name-your-price basis which makes a must have for modern classical aficionados and a springboard for a deeper dive into the work of these two accomplished artists.

Listen to ‘Berlin 1’

Excerpt from Peter Gregson’s forthcoming album Lights in the Sky’

Julien Marchal / Insight 

Julien Marchal is a French composer, pianist, and sound designer who is currently working on an album project called Altered Perceptions which will reflect his classical, minimalist, and electronic influences. En route to completing that project, he has put out this excellent solo piano EP called Insight.  It may only be four songs which last a combined total of just under 9 minutes, but they are exceptionally lovely and will whet the appetite for the more expansive project to come. Fans of Nils Frahm will particularly be interested as Marchal prefers a similar minimal, damped style recorded so as to make the pedals and hammers audible.

Listen to ‘I’

Living Room rehearsal of ‘Shelter’ from the forthcoming Altered Perceptions: