Any day is a good day for listening to modern classical, but somehow it seems especially perfect for Sundays. In this travelogue we’ll look at four wonderful recent releases that can fill many Sundays to come with joyful listening. The featured artists are Masayoshi Fujita, Jacob David, Jane Antonia Cornish, and Michael Vincent Waller.
Masayoshi Fujita – Apologues [Erased Tapes]
Now based in Berlin, Japanese composer and vibraphonist Masayoshi Fujita is the newest member on the roster of the Erased Tapes label with the release of Apologues, joining such increasingly illustrious names as Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. From the opening measures of ‘Tears of Unicorn’ one senses something special which fits into the Erased Tapes aesthetic by being as strikingly beautiful as it is sonically adventurous. What ensues is nearly 40 minutes of empyrean sounds drawn from the instrument not just with mallets but also with violin and cello bows and other innovative techniques.
“With this album the main idea was to evoke images, atmospheres, sceneries and stories in the listener, the images that have accumulated in myself. At the same time it was an exploration of the unexplored beauty of the vibraphone, and also a pursuit of the charm of the instrumentation and the music itself. Erased Tapes releases a lot of great stuff and naturally became my favourite label of late. And I thought it would fit well to my music.” – Masayoshi Fujita
Fujita adds expansiveness and variety to the narrative with the use of other instruments such as strings, winds and percussion. The music sparkles and shimmers throughout, soaring at times with surprising vibrancy on tracks like ‘Swallow Flies High in the May Sky’ or ‘Flag’ while creating havens of serenity on others such as ‘Knight and Spirit of Lake’ and ‘Requiem’. It is hard to think of a more perfect day starter than this.
Apologues is available on 12″ vinyl, CD, and MP3 & WAV formats from Erased Tapes and their global distribution partners.
Jacob David – Omkuld [Moderna Records]
Moderna Records splashed onto the scene very recently with a number of delightful EPs which demonstrated their intent to release quality instrumental music ranging from contemporary to modern classical, minimalism, ambient, cinematic and drone. Omkuld by Jacob David is the second full length release on the label and the first by the artist. It features a collection of lovely melodies played on dampened piano with occasional accompaniment of strings and delicate field recordings. According to David, the music is bound up in an aesthetic conveyed by the album’s title.
The title omkuld is a Danish word that translates into something like overwhelmed, turned sideways or tumbled to the ground by wind or emotion. I think that word suits the music because it sums up how the piano and writing works for me. When I play I keep my head close to the strings and keys, and there is a lot of noise from the wood and all the mechanics of the instrument. But when music integrates, it kind of creates its own silent space. And to me, writing music is about letting go, surrendering to whatever mood or melody emerges from that space. – Jacob David
Most of the songs are restrained and melancholy, leaving ample space between the notes to let the brush of felt on wood create an oneiric state that permeates the entire album, though at times it gently springs to live with sprightly runs or soft echoes of blues, jazz, and pop. Always enjoyable, Omkuld seems especially spellbinding in its most somber moments, exemplified the wistful ‘Intet Forbi’ and highly atmospheric final coda ‘Andachten’. This a perfect album for a quiet afternoon or settling into an early evening.
Omkuld is available as a digital release from Moderna Records via Bandcamp
Jane Antonia Cornish – Continuum [Innova]
Continuum is the second album of original chamber music composed by Jane Antonia Cornish who has also scored or orchestrated music for a number of films. It is comprised four chamber works that seek to “explore terrain as disparate as the cyclic nature of the ocean’s tides, our relationship to space and memory, and deep connections to place.”
The first of the four works that form the framework of the album is Three Nocturnes, a work in three parts for cello quartet that flows as a “dialogic narrative” in which they speak in contemplative tones or rise together in impassioned unison. The gorgeous title piece is delivered in two parts and adds a pair of violins and bass guitar to the cellos to create a more expansive sound. With so much sonorous and emotional gravitas present to ground and drive the piece, the violin solos are able to soar and seize the emotions. The album then concludes with two single movement pieces – ‘Portrait’, a dazzling solo piece for cello, and the resplendent ‘Tides’ which musically emulates the cyclical nature of these oceanic forces with an undercurrent of pastoral beauty.
Of course due credit for must be given for the impeccable performances of the members of the New York city based chamber ensemble Decoda who bring the pieces to life and worth a mention are the eloquent liner notes written by composer Brett Banducci which help deepen the appreciation of just how Cornish’s delightful compositions spellbind the listener (not to mention educate those of us who could do with being a bit more informed in compositional theory and techniques).
Continuum is available on CD through Innova Recordings or a signed CD can be ordered directly from the artist.
Signed CDs: http://www.janeantoniacornish.com/signed-cds/
Michael Vincent Waller – The South Shore [XI]
The South Shore is a sprawling double album by composer Michael Vincent Waller that features chamber from a four year period going back to 2012 and performed by a variety of musicians and ensembles.
The music of Michael Vincent Waller offers a welcome and rare alternative to the tempo and noise of modern life. These touching miniatures employ the pure modal scales first described by ancient Greek philosophers and sustained through millennia in the folk song of many lands, in religious chant, and in the modern era by the works of composers such as Erik Satie (especially his monodrama ‘Socrate’) and Terry Riley (especially ‘A Rainbow in Curved Air’). – “Blue” Gene Tyranny
Four years of work, 31 tracks and two and a half hours of music – it would be a daunting challenge to try to address all the individual pieces in this format. But suffice it to say, it is an immersive and rewarding experience to take it all in, perhaps even something akin to a compressed musical education. Solos, duos, trios, quartets, quintets, pianos, strings, and winds are all here to be enjoyed in diverse combinations and permutations. But one would be forgiven for being too carried away by the lyrical beauty and the profound emotion in the music and the exquisite performances to let the cognitive part of the brain take over. This is an expansive and substantial body of work that rewards the listening time it demands.
The South Shore is available on CD from XI Records as well as in digital format from iTunes and Amazon.