Jane Antonia Cornish – Constellations [Innova Recordings]

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Jane Antonia Cornish is an award-winning composer who grew up in England and lives in New York City. In addition to being the first female ever to win a British Academy Award (BAFTA) for music and her growing list of film credits, she has a fine catalog of exquisite and deeply affecting albums which gains a new addition with the recent release of Constellations. As with last year’s Into Silence (2017, Innova), Cornish once again presents us with an overarching narrative of transcendent beauty woven from the purest of sonorities by an impeccable ensemble, but the cosmic theme gives her quiet new pathways to explore in the dimensions of space, time, and light.

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Premiere: “Pont” by Zoltan Fecso [Hush Hush Records]

coverNow based in Melbourne, Australia, Zoltan Fecso‘s musical evolution began as he grew up in Budapest, studying classical piano from an early age and then discovering a fascination for electroacoustic music while at university. Seeking to fulfill a unique vision of performing live with acoustic guitar and electronics, Zoltan had an opportunity to work with renowned luthier Ian Noyce in the creation of an acoustic guitar with MIDI capabilities capable of fusing organic instrumentation with endless possibilities of electronic programming. It turned out quite the success, leading to a busy period of industry recognition, an artist residency, live performances, a viral video, recording under a variety of monikers, and engaging in music technology talks throughout Europe.

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Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks 15th Anniversary Reissue [Deutsche Grammophon]

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Not all protest music is loud and angry. Sometimes it is simply an affirmation of the positive in the face of the negative, an advocacy of quietude and beauty in the face of rancor and violence, an embrace of reflection over confrontation. Such was the case with Max Richter in 2003 when he composed The Blue Notebooks against the backdrop of global protests against a war in Iraq. Though this conflict was very much on Richter’s mind at the time, the music he created was devoid of specific geopolitical references and aspired to a broader and more holistic view. Intertwined with the words of writers like Franz Kafka and Czesław Miłosz, what Richter came up with was an introspective meditation on violence and war that transcends any particular historical context.

“I wanted to invite the listener in, allowing them space to reflect, rather than be beaten into submission. The world is tough enough, and I don’t want to add to the brutality. Over the years, I’ve realized that there’s a balance to strike, and that actually, as our world spins into something quite threatening that’s increasingly based on loud and vicious rhetoric, I want to talk about quiet protest”  – Max Richter
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Album Stream: Melding by Marika Takeuchi [bigo & twigetti]

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Composer and pianist Marika Takeuchi has been involved with music her entire life. She began studies in classical music at the tender age of three in her native Japan and, at age 18, went on to study composition at Shobi Music College in Tokyo and do early career work for Japanese national radio and Universal Music Japan. In 2009, she moved to the United States to study film scoring at Berklee College of Music and saw the release of here first solo album ‘Night Dream’ before graduating in 2012. Since then, she has continued to work on a wide variety of projects as a composer, pianist, orchestrator, and arranger while continuing to release solo recordings such as ‘Impressions’ (2013), ‘Rain Stories’ (2014), and ‘Colors in the Diary’ (2016) which was produced by Windham Hill founder & Grammy-winning producer Will Ackerman and features cellist Eugene Friesen and Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Si-Jing Huang. Continue reading

Floex & Tom Hodge – A Portrait of John Doe [Mercury KX]

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In the world of music, sometimes serendipity turns into collaboration and sometimes collaboration turns into a fruitful partnership. Such is the case with Floex (aka Tomas Dvorak) and Tom Hodge. Their new album A Portrait of John Doe has just been released on Mercury KX adding even more lustre to a catalog that already includes such artists as Òlafur Arnalds, Luke Howard, and Sebastian Plano. The pair began work on the music after a fortuitous chance meeting in Berlin and the project has taken three years to complete as they honed the compositions and worked with the Prague Radio Symphonic Orchestra (PRSO) to bring the arrangements to full bloom. A Portrait of John Doe is an ambitious record not only in terms of musical invention, but in the quest of its over-arching existential theme as well, a kind of “avant-garde” music for and about Everyman.

“We are looking for universal human stories, things that connect us. This is neither an apocalyptic or wildly optimistic vision, the album subject for ‘A Portrait Of John Doe’ is rather a search for modern human values. The theme of the album turns our attention to everyday moments of our lives, as a certain counterbalance to the unceasing pursuit of efficiency, singularity and uniqueness that is so characteristic of today’s times.“ – Floex and Tom Hodge

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Whale Fall – Sondersongs

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This summer marks the welcome return of instrumental collective Whale Fall with their first album in nearly four years and a glorious one it is. The sprawling vistas of The Madrean, their 2014 post-rock homage to the natural & urban landscapes of the American southwest, give way to a more broadly referential cycle of songs called Sondersongs which takes inspiration from the neologistic definition of a word found in John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows:

sonder – n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries, and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk”  – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

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Jeff Mercel – Lunescapes Volume One

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If you don’t know Jeff Mercel by name, there is a pretty good chance you have heard at least some of his music. A composer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist, Mercel was a contributing member of the pioneering American indie rock band Mercury Rev from their critically acclaimed album Deserter’s Songs in 1998 until leaving the band in 2010 to focus on composition for television and film. His work has appeared on major TV shows like CSI and This American Life and commercials for mega companies like Pepsi, BMW, & Google and he continues to work as a session musician, band member (Miracle Whips, Ultraam), as well as being national music director for O+ (a national non-profit, based in Kingston, NY that works to provide musicians & visual artists with access to health care).

The music for his first full-length solo recording under his own name, however, is a much more intimate affair and was recorded in his home “mostly in the kitchen, on a sometimes unruly upright piano”. Lunescapes Volume One is a shimmering collection of instrumental “vignettes, intimate landscapes, and lo-fi fantasies” rendered with the sure hands of a skilled composer and journeyman musician with a keen melodic ear.

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Video Premiere: Unimaginable Light Shines Out by The Gateless Gate

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The Gateless Gate is a music project of Allister Thompson, a singer-songwriter currently based in North Bay, Canada, who started it to explore his interests in ambient, psychedelic, post-rock, progressive and experimental music. It embraces a wide-range of influences from not only the masters of those genres, but also “kosmische musik” and the music of Central and East Asia. The albums with which I was previously most familiar were from a period several years ago when a boreal mood prevailed with such evocative, landscape-themed recordings as Near North, Sibir, and Landslag Norður Íslands. This summer, however, the project comes in from the cold and will see the release of the radiant new album Nothing Is Missing which dwells in decidedly warmer climes where the sun shines brightly and life is in full bloom.

“The aim of this music is to illustrate through sound that no matter how turbulent the times become and how hopeless life seems, underneath all the turmoil and tragedy — everything is actually all right. All is as it should be. ” – Allister Thompson 

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Album Premiere: Orbit by Snorri Hallgrímsson [Moderna Records]

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Snorri Hallgrímsson is a composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist from Reykjavík, Iceland. Originally starting out as a classical guitarist, he fell in love with film music during his teen years and, having secured a degrees in composition from both the Iceland Academy of the Arts and Berklee College of Music, his name is associated with a growing list scores for cinema and television. Now he has a full-length solo album to call his own and it is very much imbued with not only the atmospheric elements of filmic music but also an elusive and haunting mystique captured by only a handful of Icelandic composers such as Ólafur Arnalds with whom Hallgrímsson has worked on such projects as Island Songs, The Chopin Project, and the BAFTA-winning score for Broadchurch. Certainly one can hear echoes of these works on the sumptuous offering that is Orbit, but we are also introduced to Hallgrímsson’s own voice not only as a composer and arranger, but quite literally thanks to his bold decision to add vocals to many of the songs. The result is an album of arresting, hypnotic beauty and extraordinary emotional depth.

“Recorded primarily at Ólafur Arnalds’s studio in Reykjavík, the songs on Orbit explore the difficulties of living in and moving between vastly different places: from Mexico’s sunny days to Iceland’s long winter nights and their emotional toll. Orbit is also about people met along the way, of friends and family whose absence is bittersweet. The concept of ‘home’ is replaced by an ‘orbit’ the composer circles from place to place.” – Moderna Records

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Kaada – Closing Statements [Mirakel]

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Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, composer, & producer John Erik Kaada knows a thing or two about making sounds that people want to hear. Over the course of his musical career he’s made quiet a lot of them across a diverse spectrum of genres and formats – solo albums, collaborations, soundtracks, and live shows. He has just released another album and while he no doubt wants people to hear to it, what he really hopes is that it will drive home the message of how important it is for people to listen, really listen, to one another. The title of each song on Closing Statements is either a quote or fragment from things that people, both famous and infamous, uttered when they were about to die. A somber theme to be sure, but Kaada gives it a life-affirming twist. While so much music about death look inwards towards feelings of grief, loss, or nostalgia, he discards such well-worn tropes to reveal a surprisingly poignant lesson for the living.

“I don’t think I’ll have more important things to say when I’m on my deathbed than I have generally in life. This applies to most people, I guess. Final words aren’t any wiser or cleverer than anything you’d normally say. But it’s the fact that you’re not going to say anything else ever again that makes this moment so special. You have the audience’s full attention…The underlying message of the album is that we have to listen to each other. In a modern world where people mostly don’t have the time or interests to get to know one another, we need to be reminded that we need to listen.”John Erik Kaada

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From the Mouth of the Sun – Sleep Stations [Lost Tribe Sound]

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With their third consecutive release on Lost Tribe Sound, it seems that the duo of Aaron Martin & Dag Rosenqvist as From the Mouth of the Sun have found an ideal home for their music on the Phoenix-based label which eloquently describes itself as specializing in “organic, gentle, and exploratory music that transcends genre, technique, or trend”. That is not just a well articulated statement of its vision; it is a spot-on characterization of the exquisite, ephemeral experience offered by Sleep Stations which will see release as part of the label’s Dead West cassette series.

In the liner notes we learn that the somnolent title track was originally meant to be included on the sumptuous full-length Hymn Binding (2017) and subsequently acted as both centerpiece and starting point for the music that Martin & Rosenqvist recorded in the process of scoring Joshua Z. Weinstein’s ‘Menashe’. The film ultimately demanded a more sparse & rustic style and this freed the duo to plant the composition in a new context, this time building their own distinct narrative around it.

The core sound will be instantly recognizable for those who’ve followed their previous endeavors, comprised of cello, piano, acoustic guitars, lap steel, banjo, ukulele, pump organ, soft humming electronics and warm layer of static… Arranging Sleep Stations as an EP, has allowed Aaron and Dag to tell a shorter story, one that doesn’t have to be such a grand gesture, which is something they’ve wanted to explore for a while now. It’s a beautiful reminder, that a collection of music can still be simple yet deeply affecting, without being overwrought and excessive.  – Lost Tribe Sound

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Various Artists – Thesis Collected 01

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Gregory Euclide is an artist and teacher living in the Minnesota River Valley. A recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, his work has been featured in museum exhibitions both across the country and abroad and has been featured in a variety of prestigious publications. His work has also been frequently connected to music. He provided the memorable cover for Bon Iver‘s self-titled 2012 Grammy winning record as well as album covers for a number of artists featured on these pages including Will Samson, Seabuckthorn, and Loscil – which brings us to the topic at hand, the THESIS project founded by Euclide in 2016 with assistance from Gabor Kerekes. More specifically, the occasion is the first CD release from this remarkable project, Thesis Collected 01, which allows entry into its vault of musical wonders for those for whom the vinyl format is still a constraint.

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