“I could hear everything, together with the hum of my hotel neon…” Jack Kerouac

One of the privileges of being on this journey of musical discovery over the past five years or so has been to witness first hand the trajectory of emerging artists from their tentative beginnings to their creative peak, and one of the most satisfying among these has been Hotel Neon. What began in 2013 with brothers Michael & Andrew Tasselmyer, some inexpensive equipment, and a little inspiration from Jack Kerouac has blossomed into a vital trio (multi-instrumentalist Steven Kemner joined in 2015) that is doing some real heavy lifting in the field of ambient & electroacoustic music.

From the perspective of the outside observer at least, some of the keys to Hotel Neon’s success would seem to be an extraordinarily clear vision of their sound from the very outset, a commitment to avoid repeating themselves, an intense work ethic, and persistent efforts to cultivate a sense of camaraderie with fellow artists as well as their audience. All of this has translated into a series of albums each of which becomes essential listening as soon as it released. This travelogue features the last two most recent full-length records, the brand new Vanishing Forms and last year’s Means of Knowing, both available on Agustín Mena’s outstanding Archives imprint.  Continue reading “Travelogue 2019.04.21: The Beautiful Hum of Hotel Neon”

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Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Jacob Pavek began his journey as a modern classical recording artist in 2012 with his acclaimed debut album Bloom. He followed that up in 2015 with a moving collection of tender solo piano pieces and duets with violinist Leah Ottman entitled Illume on Unperceived Records as well as a soundtrack to the Emmy-nominated documentary ‘Hello, Montevideo‘ which showed his more kinetic, electronic side. Pavek returned to the label this year with a gorgeous and emotionally resonant new release called Nome which finds his grand piano still at the heart of his work along with violin performed by Josh Misner (Laurels String Quartet).

I am very grateful Jacob found the time to talk to us a little bit about the new album, his creative process live and in studio, and the growing indie classical scene both locally & abroad. Continue reading “Duologue: A conversation with Jacob Pavek”

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Minneapolis composer Chris Bartels has been writing ambient music under the name Elskavon for a decade and this past year was arguably one of his most productive with the release of Skylight and numerous collaborations and work supporting the burgeoning indie classical scene in the area along with artists like Jacob Pavek, Philip Daniel, and John Hayes. Not only that, but the Bora York indie pop project fronted by Bartels and wife Rebekah are in the process of developing a new album as well.  Sounds like more than enough to keep even the most restlessly creative musician busy, does it not? Yet, somehow Bartels has found the time & energy to put yet one more iron in the fire with Blurstem.

The project was born as a piano-centric offshoot of Elskavon. Chris and Rebekah were gifted an old spinet piano when they bought a house in 2015. Always slightly out of tune, a little dusty sounding, and very much imperfect, the instrument had a character that Chris wanted to explore. He cut up an old sweater and taped it to the strings, so as to avoid waking up their children at night and ended up writing so many new songs on this spinet that he felt the need to start a whole new project.  Fittingly, the first single from the album that resulted is premiered here on Piano Day.

Continue reading “Premiere: Rubrik by Blurstem + Brique A Braq”

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Philip Daniel Zach is a composer, pianist, and teacher from Lincoln, Nebraska who provides further evidence of a burgeoning indie classical scene in the heartlands of America that includes other artists featured on these pages such as Jacob Pavek, John Hayes, Jameson Nathan Jones, and Chris Bartels (Elskavon, Blurstem).  Under the name Philip Daniel, Zach has just released his third record in as many years which finds him once again teaming up with Nashville-based composer & violinist Shawn Williams. Unlike last year’s This Tree Is Made For Climbing, however, their latest collaboration makes a notable shift away from structured narrative composition and toward exploratory improvisation.

Continue reading “Philip Daniel & Shawn Williams – Between Us Ch.1”

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Ryan Dugré is a freelance guitarist and multi-instrumentalist based in New York City. He has recorded and toured with several pop & indie bands as well as performing live in such wide ranging settings as Le Festival d’été de Québec, Bonnaroo, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series, BBC 6 Radio with Marc Riley, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul, and Eliot Fisk’s Boston GuitarFest at New England Conservatory of Music of which Dugré is a graduate. He is also a solo recording artist with a newly released second album called The Humors, a title referencing the ancient medical system based on the theory that one’s health and emotional well-being is determined by the balance of the body’s four fluids, or humors, each of which corresponds to an aspect of temperament. Dugré explains how he attempted to translate this concept to music:

“I wrote everything on the guitar. A lot of the songs are in alternate tunings that I kind of stumbled into. This helped me connect what I was hearing in my head to my hands in a different way than I was used to. Certainly not a new technique, but it helped me remove myself from standard movements on the guitar…I had been thinking a lot about this idea of balance in a song, balance of an album. Staying aware of what types of sounds happen when, and how even small tweaks affect the listening experience. Sometimes, taking a little sweet away and adding more sharp was the move, and other times it was the opposite.” 

Continue reading “Ryan Dugré – The Humors [Birdwatcher Records]”

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Sallaw” is a Kurdish word that expresses the passing of time and this album by the same name finds three distinctive instrumental artists collaborating seamlessly to explore this theme across four compositional soundscapes, each one named after a month representative of the changing seasons – Xakelêw (spring), Pûşper (summer), Gelarêzan (fall), Rêbendan (winter). The group, made up of Porya Hatami  (Sanandaj, Iran), Aaron Martin (Topeka, Kansas), and Robert Attanasio (Rome, Italy), is a seemingly unlikely trio, yet upon hearing the music it is hard to conceive of this coming together as anything less than meant to be.

Continue reading “Sound Impression: Sallaw by Porya Hatami, Aaron Martin, & Roberto Attanasio [Dronarivm]”

20190223_matineeThis travelogue introduces some wonderful recent & upcoming modern classical releases showcased through a collection of new videos. Featuring Hania, Rani, Flying Hórses (Jade Bergeron), Nico Casal, Erland Cooper, Peter Sandberg, and Aukai.

Continue reading “Travelogue 2019.02.23: Saturday Matinee”

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On a sunny & brisk February Sunday nestled between a false spring and a forecast of cold rain, this travelogue finds a pocket of stillness to showcase a wonderful new quartet  of neoclassical releases sure to be worth your time & attention. Featuring Jacob Pavek, John Hayes, Nathan Shubert, and Ô Lake (Sylvain Texier).

Continue reading “Travelogue 2019.02.10: Modern Classical Sunday”

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Chris Child is a musician and Emmy award-winning composer based in New York. In addition to scoring music for a wide variety of TV shows, commercials, and video games, he is known in electronic music circles by the moniker of Kodomo under which he has released numerous albums, EPs, & remixes and performed at music festivals around the globe. Come the first of February, he will be releasing a new album under his own name and newly launched imprint, a prismatic collection of solo compositions & ambient sketches entitled Pieces for Piano Vol. 1. Made using recordings captured on his iPhone and handheld recorder while traveling throughout the United States, Child chose the music of such classical composers such as Bach & Debussy as the album’s referential framework which he channels into mesmerizing offshoots, variations, and sonic experiments using a simple & direct approach.

“As much as I love gear and creating in the studio, the length and intensity of the process can be overwhelming. After ‘Divider‘, I wanted to try something that was completely different and that I had an immediate connection with.”Chris Child 

Continue reading “PREMIERE: “Prelude 1” by Chris Child [FOIL]”