From the intimacy of a solitary piano to the harmony of an ensemble or the mysterious alchemy forged in the studio where the analog is fused with the electronic, here is a selection of some especially memorable journeys in modern & post classical music released during the past year.
Adriaan Swerts – One
Suffering constant nerve pain due a life-changing accident and having also recently lost a grandfather, Belgian composer Adriaan Swerts found the music he was writing was gravitating toward themes of human fragility and meaning of life. Using reel-to-reel tape processing to degrade field recordings of places he has visited and make them sound broken, he weaves them into a neoclassical setting using piano, harmonium, strings, and other acoustic instruments to complete a transformation that is symbolic of his own journey to overcome his physical disability in the pursuit of inner peace and hope.
One is available digitally and on limited edition CD from piano and coffee records
Brueder Selke – Marienborn
While the foundational elements of Marienborn are very similar to the work under the portmanteau of CEEYS (cello & keys) – a blend of beloved classical instruments with vintage electronic gear from the Soviet era and Eastern Europe – the first album by brothers Sebastian & Daniel Selke as Brueder Selke pushes their sound through the use of asymmetrical time signatures and unconventional recording techniques. The title track is a gentle clockwork of interlocking piano lines combined with painterly cello textures that yields some of the most exquisite work the brothers have yet created.
Mairenborn is available digitally and a trio of vinyl LP + book editions from the Oscarson label
Bruna Bavota & Chantal Acda – A Closer Distance
As is often the case, this collaboration began with a meeting between two artists who admired each other’s work – Bruno Bavota was a fan of Chantal Acda’s intimate orchestral folk, we are told, and she of his piano compositions. The initial intention was to create a two or three song EP together, but the most precious form of serendipity took hold, and it became this disarmingly beautifl full-length album.
A Closer Distance is now available from Temporary Residence on CD, digital, and a pair of vinyl LP editions – standard black and transparent purple.
Collisions – Collisions
A coming together of a musical kind, Collisions is a new project from pianist/clarinetist Tom Hodge, multi-instrumentalist Ciaran Morahan, and drummer Ollie Howell that lives up to its name, a meeting of creative forces that creates a dynamic exchange of energy. Driven by the conceptual maxim “Where there is collision, there is inevitable motion”, the self-titled debut alternates between ‘Collision’ and ‘Motion’ tracks to create a vivid sonic landscape.
Collisions is a digital released from Naïve Records, a Parisian label specializing in electronic music, pop music, jazz and classical music. Generative art visuals provided by Cath Elliot.
Danny Mulhern – Singing Through Others
Composer, producer, & multi-instrumentalist Danny Mulhern, whose scores include the feature film What They Had (2018) and BBC series Silent Witness, continues his collaboration with the London Contemporary Orchestra on his latest album which takes its title from the words of poet and philosopher Nora Bateson. In quite a pivot from the oneiric style of 2020’s Flow States, however, this record is a positively lively affair full of bright and inventive arrangements.
Singing Through Others wis available via Enate Music/Kontor Media and features artwork by Adam Hinks.
Disassembler – A Wave From a Shore
Disassembler is a new project from Los Angeles based sound artist Christopher Royal King (This Will Destroy You) and New York city based violinist & composer Christopher Tignor. Though the album was developed remotely over a four-month period with only audio downloads and periodic text messages being exchanged, these are artists with wealth of ideas as well as a prior connection going back to the mid 2000s when Tignor lent string arrangements to This Will Destroy You releases and sometimes toured as a live member of the group. You really need to read the liner notes (see link above) to plumb the depths of everything that informs the album, but one listen is all that is required to recognize the viscerally compelling nature of their musical vision.
A Wave from a Shore is available on limited edition CD or vinyl LP or digital download from Western Vinyl
Federico Albanese – Before and Now Seems Infinite
Few artists are as adept as Federico Albanese at spinning bittersweet piano melodies into enchanting cinematic vignettes that cut right to the heart of the matter. Making his debut on the Mercury KX label, Before and Now Seems Infinite is a beautiful record that centers around themes of memory and features standout vocal collaborations with Marika Hackman and Ghostpoet.
Before and Now Seems Infinite is available digitally and on CD from Mercury KX
Francesca Guccione – Muqataea Reworks
Italian composer & violinist Francesca Guccione follows up a neoclassical vision of her Sicilian hometown of Modica with a collection of rewords that proves her cinematic soundscapes to be fertile ground for collaboration as well. Exhibiting an exhilarating stylistic range, the album features new interpretations of four tracks from the original album by transatlantic roster of accomplished artists who work across a wide range of electronic, ambient, and neoclassical music – Robot Koch, Julien Marchal, Hélène Vogelsinger, Throwing Snow (Ross Tones), Frieder Nagel, Infralyd (Marchel Mørk), Snakes of Russia (Joseph Holiday), Arandel, eeph (Henric Schleiner), and Maury111 (Benjamin Ruby).
Muqataea Reworks is available as a digital release from Whales Records
Glåsbird – cinéma noir
Having bridged from strictly geographic themes to the world of cinema with soundtracks such as Return To Sea and Sardinia, the always interesting Glåsbird imagines a film of their own with this album in which some pieces use wide-screen orchestration techniques and others use more introspective tones to draw out their moods. The album is accompanied by 10 monochrome imagers from photographer Peter Nejedly which the artist has selected and matched to each track. All that is missing is the imagination of the listener…
cinéma noir is available as a digital release from Whitelabrecs
Hania Rani – Venice: Infinitely Avant-Garde (OST)
Readers should probably get used to seeing Hania Rani‘s name appear at least once in this list every year. For 2022, the supremely talented pianist and composer provides the score for Venice: Inifintely Avat-Garde. The documentary film directed by Michele Mally which is described as “a tour of the magical city, Venice: Infinitely Avant Garde showcases masterpieces by Tiepolo, Canaletto, Rosalba Carriera and the intellectuals who fell in love with Venice”. Granted a more direct connection to her subject than would be typical for most composers, Hania actually features in the film herself. The spellbinding quality of the music is a testament to the inspiration she drew from her own walks through the city taking in its landmarks and museums.
Venice: Infinitely Avant Garde (OST) is available on most streaming platforms via XXIM Records. Stay tuned for updates on physical editions that may become available.
Heather Woods Broderick – Domes
Born into a family of musicians, composer, vocalist, & multi-instrumentalist Heather Woods Broderick began classical training on the piano at a young age picking up other instruments along the way like flute, guitar, and cello. It is the latter which she chose to make the sole focus of a new instrumental album because of the respite it provided during turbulent and chaotic time. There is a fervency to the pieces that definitely resonates on an emotional scale, but like a comforting musical blanket, they also have a gently reassuring weight that induces calm, introspection, and perhaps a sweet dream or two.
Domes is available digitally and in limited cassette and vinyl LP editions from the Dauw label featuring artwork by Femke Strijbol
Hidden Orchestra – Creaks: Bonus, Live & Remixes
It took Hidden Orchestra five years to create their sprawling 2020 soundtrack for the hand-drawn video game Creaks providing a band a deep well to draw from to put together this fabulous collection of bonus material, remixes, and live performances. In fact, not taking anything away from the creative triumph of the original project, I would suggest this is the more satisfying of the two albums to enjoy from a pure listening perspective. Highlights here include a rousing live version of “Bridges” and reworks of original material by Floex, Poppy Ackroyd, and Ben Lukas Boysen.
Creaks: Bonus, Live & Remixes is available as a digital release from Minority Records
John Hayes – Beautifully Lost Mind
Though he’s now based in Denver, multi-instrumentalist and composer John Hayes recorded Beautifully Lost Mind while still living in Minneapolis at the height of the Covid lockdown period while the community was still reeling from the events surrounding the death of George Floyd. The subtly expressive piano work that featured on The Last Best Place (2020) is certainly present on the new record, but it shares space with layers of strings and electronics across a broader spectrum of moods. Some of the feelings may be raw, but the production is meticulous. Call it a gentle catharsis, perhaps?
Beautifully Lost Mind is available as a digital release from the Nettwerk Music Group
Jonas Colstrup – At the Crest
As a composer primarily for film, Jonas Colstrup has released several soundtracks, including two with the late Jóhann Jóhannsson who proves to be a key influence for his new album four years in the making. Unhurried by the rigorous deadlines associated with scoring, he was able to “dream big” as it were and take the time to follow the music in pursuit of the grand emotional complexity that unfurls across the eight majestic tracks that comprise At the Crest. Helping Colstrup bring his vision to life are conductor Peter Pejtsik with an orchestra recorded in Budapest, Theatre of Voices, Viktor Orri Árnason, Anders Banke, and Else Torp.
At the Crest is available as a digital release from the 7K! imprint based in Berlin
Lara Somogyi – Exclamation
Born in Hawaii to Hungarian parents, Lara Somogyi has been on a global musical journey during which she has developed and honed her unique approach to the harp while working with a diverse array of artists from Bonobo and Ben Lukas Boysen to Ariana Grande and Hans Zimmer. All of this provides a deep well of ideas and inspiration to draw upon in her debut solo album. Exclamation is a stunning record in which she both explores and expands the range of the instrument’s possibilities using not only the strings and soundboard, but effects pedals, tape delays, and other inventive techniques and objects.
Exclamation is available digitally and on vinyl LP from Mercury KX. For more about the making of the album be sure to check out our interview with Lara here.
Ólafur Arnalds – some kind of peace (piano reworks)
“the heart of a song lives in the performer…”Ólafur Arnalds
In the spirit of collaboration that permeates the work of Icelandic musician & composer Ólafur Arnalds, he followed up his 2020 album some kind of peace with this sublime collection of piano-centric reworks from a hand-picked group of artists drawn from the realms of modern classical, electronic, jazz and alternative music around the globe. Among the luminaries performing here are Dustin O’Halloran, Sophie Hutchings, Lambert, Hania Rani, and fellow Icelandic musician & composer Eydís Evensen.
some kind of peace — piano reworks is available as a digital release from Mercury KX
Pêtr Aleksänder – The Whole World Laid Out Before Me
When Tom Hobden and Eliot James sat down to make another Pêtr Aleksänder record, they confess they were a bit lost as to what exactly they hoped to achieve – that is until they found “the missing piece in our sonic puzzle” in the form of a cheap clarinet picked up in a charity shop. Using the instrument as a foil to their characteristic lush piano and string arrangements they went about creating a record full of subtle intricacies and clever counterpoints woven around fetching melodies.
The Whole World Laid Out Before Me is available as a digital release via Moderna Records
Roedelius & Tim Story – 4 Hands
Tim Story is one of the first musicians I can recall opening my ears to minimalistic beauty with such early albums as Untitled and Glass Green (available now on his Bandcamp page, btw!), so I was especially chuffed to see him release something new on Erased Tapes this year in collaboration with German sound pioneer Hans-Joachim Roedelius. Recorded sequentially on the same single grand piano, 4 Hands is a delightful collection of new forward-looking music and a celebration of their long-standing creative partnership and friendship. Fans of these two highly respected and influential artists should likewise be thrilled to hear something new from them while listeners who are less familiar may find this a gateway to a deep well of discovery.
[4 Hands] is our tribute to awareness and listening, coaxing a new sound language from the endless possibilities of a single piano played by our four hands. For me, these pieces express a different kind of beauty, they evoke more than the sum of their parts, they are a wordless dialogue, a bridge across the great water that separates our cultures from one another.Hans-Joachim Roedelius
4 Hands is available digitally as well as on CD and vinyl from Erased Tapes
Tim Linghaus – Provenance
A sublime sketch artist on the subject of interpersonal or autobiographical memories, Tim Linghaus seems equally at home creating subtly sophisticated studio arrangements as he is sitting down at his piano. Provenance is an album of the latter sort which offers much to the listener but demands nothing more than their unforced attention. It is a like sitting in the silent company of a kind and empathetic friend and I can think of no higher compliment to pay this sort of music than that.
Provenance is a digital release from 1631 Recordings
To Move – To Move
To Move is the self-titled debut by the trio of Anna Rose Carter, Ed Hamilton, and Alex Kozobolis. According to the label, the origins of the album go back to a period between 2016 and 2019 when Anna and Ed, who recorded previously as Dead Light, were living in the English countryside and enjoying musical weekend visits by Alex. Born of the rapport of friendship and the quiet joys of pastoral seclusion, there is a homespun feel to these delicate pieces of music. Expect comforting organic textures punctuated by moments of playfulness and surprising beauty.
To Move is available digitally and in limited CD or vinyl LP editions from the Sonic Pieces imprint