Video: “Universalis” by Hammock

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On their first full-length studio album since the deeply elegiac ‘Mysterium’ a little over a year ago, the Nashville-based duo of Marc Byrd & Andrew Thompson known as Hammock find themselves following a “vertical, upward movement back toward the light”. This progression from the low places of grief toward beckoning illumination is subtly depicted on the cover of Universalis and the hopeful, healing tone of the music echoes that trajectory while hearkening back to some of the most beloved recordings in the band’s canon as well as some of their early influences. For example, one can hear the sweeping atmospheric balladry of ‘Raising Your Voice to Stop an Echo’ and the glacial stillness of ‘Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow’ alongside the orchestral neoclassical grandeur of their more recent works.

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Alexandra Stréliski | Inscape [Secret City Records]

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Composer & pianist Alexandra Stréliski is an artist of Polish Jewish origin who grew up between Paris and Montreal. She made her debut with the 2010 album Pianoscope, but has gained many more listeners through her work featured in the films of Jean-Marc Vallée (“Dallas Buyers Club”, “Demolition”) and on HBO (“Big Little Lies”, “Sharp Objects”). After a chaotic period of upheaval in her life, she has emerged as a solo recording artist once again with a delightful new album called Inscape, a meaningful portmanteau combining the words “interior” and “landscape”. Stréliski is refreshingly candid regarding the very personal nature of the record and how she hopes it will connect with others.

“To me, ‘Inscape’ was an existential crisis. A year where everything capsized and I had to go through various interior landscapes – hectic, beautiful and painful at the same time…A piano, on its own, is a very vulnerable thing, and I want to share this moment with the listener.” – Alexandra Stréliski 

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Through a Musical Lens: Touch Dissolves by Aaron Martin [IIKKI]

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Even with a thesaurus ever just a mouse-click away, one begins to run out of superlatives to describe the music of Aaron Martin. Perhaps it is the unpretentious, organic beauty. Perhaps it is sublime balance between the earthly and the empyrean. Perhaps it is simply that truth resonates in each handmade note, of which not one is ever wasted. If you have heard Aaron’s work, you know exactly what I mean.  If you have not, then a wonderful starting point would be his contribution to Touch Dissolves, the album portion of sixth edition of IIKKI Books in which volume is presented as a dialog between two artists, one visual and one musical (the visuals in this edition are provided by Turkish photographer Yusuf Sevinçli).

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PREMIERE: The End Approaches from Lonely Satellite by Lena Natalia

LN_Lonely_Satellite_coverA native of Chicago where she is currently based, composer, producer, and musician Lena Natalia spent several years living in Paris and, indeed, much of her music manages to capture that elusive je ne sais quoi and aura of timeless elegance and melancholic romanticism that the mere mention of the city evokes for many. While that remains true on her forthcoming album Lonely Satellite, the new record also finds her displaying new facets to her work right down to the eye-catching cover and the message it conveys.

“The intent is that the cat and the device are both, in fact, “lonely satellites,” seeing each other from their own, very distant vantage points. They are two beings making a connection; there is a sense of longing. They are also both satellites in the sense that they are solitary objects separated from something, somewhere else, while always remaining in each other’s orbit.” – Lena Natalia

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PREMIERE: Longest Dawn by LAVALU [1631 Recordings]

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Just a piano and a voice. But not just any piano or any voice. The kind of eloquent and expressive piano that stops time and a charismatic voice that stops you in your tracks with its fierce vulnerability. It is this arresting juxtaposition of influences ranging from Satie & Debussy to Fiona Apple & Regina Spektor that defines the latest album by composer and musical force of nature LAVALU. With its intimate presence and starkly beautiful minimalism, Solitary High distinguishes itself from the jazz-pop crossover sound of her critically acclaimed ‘Now’ (2009) and the theatrical music she composed for Het Pauperparadijs (The Pauper’s Paradise)

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Sound Impression: The Great Lake Swallows by Julia Kent and Jean D.L. [Gizeh Records]

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The Great Lake Swallows is the seventh entry in the Dark Peak series from Manchester UK’s Gizeh Records and introduces a very special first time collaboration between Canadian cellist Julia Kent and Belgian guitarist/tape machine manipulator Jean D.L. Recorded in Charleroi, Belgium in 2015 during a video installation with Sandrine Verstraete, the album’s long elegiac arc comprises four movements, chapters if you will, in a single riveting whole punctuated by brief caesuras that mark subtle shifts in the narrative.

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PREMIERE: I Put a Flame in Your Heart by Matt Emery [Injazero Records]

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UK composer Matt Emery‘s music has been heard by literally millions with cinema and television placements for companies like Hugo Boss, BT Sports, BBC’s Top Gear, Ford, and GoPro as well as appearing in the trailer for the critically acclaimed IFC film “The Escape” starring Gemma Arteton and Dominic Cooper. Last September saw the release of his gorgeous debut album Empire on Injazero Records and this September he returns to the label with a brand new single on the label called “I Put a Flame in Your Heart” which recently debuted on Stephen McCauley’s Soundscapes program on BBC Radio Ulster and can be streamed here for the first time.

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PREMIERE: “Elin” from Tjärn by Klangriket [Piano and Coffee Records]

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Klangriket is a pseudonym chosen by Fabian Rosenberg for his explorations in solo piano and experimental ambient music which he began in 2016 as he sought to find his own voice as a composer and producer and to create an identity apart from the one developed during the preceding years with trumpet and jazz. While there have been sundry singles and sketches as well as a fine studio collaboration with Sjors Mans released last year, the most complete artifact of that period is Rosenberg’s beautiful new 4-track EP Tjärn soon to be released by Piano and Coffee Records.

For the first time here you can listen to the opening track “Elin”, a beguiling introspection consisting of delicate piano intertwined with textural filigree and aching strings. Continue reading

Travelogue 2018.08.19: The Moderna Records Summer Singles Series

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This travelogue entry features the mesmerizing music of the new summer singles series from Moderna Records, a label founded several years ago in Montreal by Évolène Lüthi “to trace a line from electronic sound designers to classical composers, connecting them through the realms of ambient and cinematic music”. 

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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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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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Video Premiere: Murmuration by Erland Cooper & William Doyle

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Earlier this year award-winning multi-instrumentalist and producer Erland Cooper released Solan Goose, a magical journey to the Scottish archipelago of Orkney celebrating its landscapes, avian fauna, and local dialect (read the ST review here). Then, this summer he surprised us with an impromptu release of a spontaneous new ambient work based on the original material called Murmuration which he developed in collaboration with musician William Doyle (aka East India Youth). If Solan Goose was the vision, then Murmuration is the dream. One is a vivid and transportive sonic portrait that sweeps the listener up into its exhilarating narrative, the other a haunting, chimerical reverie in which to get completely and pleasurably lost.

“Sound is important to me. Over the years the word ‘murmuration’ has been associated solely with a flock of starlings, but it actually refers to the sonics of a flock of birds. So when Bill Oddie and others say: ‘Let’s go and see this murmuration’, that’s not quite right – you hear it. The theme of this record fits with a particular group of sea birds that, unlike many other birds, spend the first 5-10 years of their lives travelling far and wide out to sea in solitude, before settling down to find a partner and lay a single egg. It’s a recycling or ‘upcycling’ of sounds, themes and layers into a new collaborative work.”Erland Cooper

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