A member of Canadian music group Timber Timbre from 2008-2012 and a part of Agnes Obel‘s touring band from 2013-2014, Mika Posen records her solo work under the name of Merganzer. Her new album Montage released on So Sorry Records last October is a spellbinding collection of painterly vignettes and neoclassical reveries which Posen wrote primarily during a residency at Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island in 2015. On the album, she employs violin, viola, cello, piano, and effects to realize her own musical visions which she characterizes as “a rumination about place and self, an atmospheric rendition of transition, and an impression of the idea of home”.
From the delicate minimalism of a single piano to the aching beauty of a string ensemble to the mysterious studio alchemy of the analog fused with the electronic, here is a selection of some particularly memorable journeys in modern & experimental classical music released during the past year.
An organic and eclectic selection where genres never define or confine, but only serve as reference points for where words fail to describe the music – a kind of musical edgeland where ambient and modern classical minimalism co-exists with acoustic, folk, electronics, and field recordings.
Once again, this list can’t be big enough to contain all the fine work done in these genres over the course of a year, but these are 20 albums that left a lasting impression. Here you’ll find rich atmospheres, deep emotional undercurrents,organic, warm, tactile soundscapes composition & decomposition, and a generous embrace of stillness, beauty, and self-reflection.
“it was unspoken, hence unheard
unwritten, and in turn unread
but in between each silent word
i have resigned to all i’ve said”
“All I’ve Said” is the sixth and final entry in Moderna Record’s Fall Single Series, a collection of minimalist piano-centered pieces by a globe-spanning roster of musicians: Jacob David (Denmark), Hiroco.M (Japan), Adam Daudrich (Canada), n-So (US), Richard Luke (Scotland), and ending with Mike Lazarev (England). In addition to being editor-in-chief of Headphone Commute, one of the leading online magazines covering ambient, experimental, & instrumental music, Mike is a London based composer & pianist with who has released solo albums on 1631 Recordings as well as a stellar collaboration with Uwe Zahn (aka Arovane) for the Eilean Records project just this past summer.
To cap off this beautiful conclusion to the series, Mike collaborated with Jessie Rodger, a visual artist & director from South Wales who specializes in filming music & dance, and Greek freelance dancer Nancy Nerantzi to create a captivating video against the dramatic background of the Cornish coast. Less than three minutes tick away on the clock before it comes to end, but the tender melody, stunning cinematography, and expressive choreography come together to create a moment that lives outside of time.
Square Peg Round Hole is a percussion-driven instrumental trio based out of Philadelphia, PA. Members Evan Chapman, Sean M. Gill, and Carlos Pacheco-Perez all met while studying at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and formed the project around the inventive use of drum kits, vibraphone, samples, found objects, synths, and vintage analog keyboards to develop a style that draws on elements from post-rock, electronic, ambient, and contemporary classical motifs. Coming off their exhilarating self-released album Corners in 2013, it was the band’s second record, Juniper (2016, Spartan Records) that garnered them some national attention. Composed in rural Maryland and remote Wisconsin, the album unveiled a more abstract, introspective approach but still retained some of the directness and vibrancy of the debut as it was recorded almost entirely in full live takes.
Alex Lockwood‘s ‘Test Subjects‘ is a short documentary that tells the story of Frances, Emily & Amy – three aspiring research scientists coming to terms with the ethical dilemmas and wrenching emotional burdens associated with conducting animal testing in the ostensible interests of bettering human health. The music for the film was scored by American composer & multi-instrumentalist Aaron Martin and follows his collaboration with From the Mouth of the Sun partner Dag Rosenqvist on the soundtrack for 2017’s acclaimed independent film ‘Menashe‘ as well as his score last year for William Armstrong’s inspiring mini-documentary ‘Adam‘.
Providence, RI-based composer/producer Daniel Fine is poised to release his sophomore full-length album under the moniker of still life next month on Hush Hush Records, a Seattle-based label curated by KEXP-FM DJ & Pacific Notions show host Alex Ruder. ‘for a long time time i went to bed early‘ is a kaleidoscopic montage of reflection and memory that revolves around crystalline piano lines, prismatic textures, shimmering electronics, cinematic vignettes featuring strings and trumpet, euphoric post-rock crescendos, samples, found sounds, and spoken word. The constant shifting of mood, pace, and color is reflective of life itself exactly as Fine intended when he started working on the album.
“This album has been a project that’s consumed my life since January of this year and has served as a sort of “emotional grounding” as I’ve gone through a lot of big changes in my life. It’s full of really quiet and really loud moments, messy moments, somber moments, joyous moments, and everything in between. It’s a bit lo-fi, a bit noisy – it’s a bit of a diary for all of my thoughts and emotions and places I’ve been and experienced.” – Daniel Fine aka still life
While many of us are still savoring the kaleidoscopic panorama of It Billows Up released by Brooklyn-based trio Sontag Shogun this past spring, the band delivered a pleasant surprise along with the turning of leaves in the form of a new EP called Floréal. It is a introspective “mini-suite” in a distinctly autumnal mood that once again finds Ian Temple, Jesse Perlstein, & Jeremy Young in compelling form with their alchemical fusion of foley & tape treatments, organically derived textures, painterly solo piano compositions, and ethereal vocals.
Presented in a cassette tape format, side A belongs to a single immersive composition entitled “Photographs from a moving car” featuring guest vocals by Finnish composer & musician Lau Nau, while side B unfolds in three parts – the moving title track, the collagic “Plaid Lines”, which features the voice of Canadian artist Ora Cogan, and the hauntingly beautiful “Lament” which is featured here in a touching video created by multi-disciplinary artist Joshua Miller using old found footage shot while on a road trip across the United States with his ex-partner. Though deeply personal in origin, the music and visuals combine to powerfully convey themes of both nostalgia and solastalgia in an especially moving and relatable way.