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.
Each of these sixteen albums is conceptually, thematically or musically connected to a sense of a particular place or moments in time. While this is a somewhat common motif in instrumental music (ambient in particular), it is absolutely integral in these outstanding works released in 2019. Some are personal narratives and some are depictions of landscape either real or imagined. Others are sonic interrogations or interactions inextricably linked to the locations where they were formed. Whatever their nature, all of them proved captivating and memorable. One might say they represent the very essence of stationary traveling…
“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.
Composer Logan Nelson has as worked on films like Green Book, Dear White People, and other Netflix shows, scored over 40 short films, two web series’, and a video game, written on commercials for companies like Google, Nexus, IBM, & Prudential and just finished up collaborating on a documentary epic about Mt. Everest produced by National Geographic and Sony including a live orchestra recorded in Budapest. That might sound like the CV of a veteran composer, but Nelson was still still a senior at the USC Thornton School of Music when he was named the Best Young International Composer at last year’s World Soundtrack Awards.
Come January of next year, Nelson will be releasing a solo EP entitled Lavender Echoes which branches off from his extensive film work to explore his interest in “blurring the lines between live instrumentalists and electronic atmospheres” in a more abstract way. The album was recorded in Los Angeles with the members of the Calder Quartet who formed its “backbone” as well as electroacoustic harpist Lara Somogyi and Nashville-based violinist Shawn Williams all of whom gave Nelson a rich tapestry of sound to work with for his endeavor.
“It’s a process that quite literally defines ‘Lavender Echoes’… I think this process is analogous to what technology can do to beauty; taking neither a positive nor negative perspective, but a perspective of manipulation. I hope that the EP represents an honest portrayal of my relationship with music, musicians, and space; and perhaps gives a perspective on the modern definition of beauty through the lens of technology.” – Logan Nelson
Right from the off it seems, Scottish pianist Mhairi Hall‘s albums have blended traditional and contemporary music while maintaining a close connection to the local landscape. She famously took a grand piano to the top of Cairngorm Mountain to celebrate the release of her trio’s debut album and, along with Patsy Reid, arranged a composition to evoke the contours of that same mountain. On her forthcoming new record entitled Airs, Mhairi continues in this vein but in a quieter and more reflective direction as she performs new arrangements of traditional Scottish slow airs alongside her own original compositions in a seaside setting.
“I have always loved slow airs, many of which come from the rich song traditions of Scotland and have been passed down through families and friends at gatherings over many decades. It is a beautiful thing to take a very old melody or song and turn it into something new, with colours in chords and textures, giving it a new life on a completely different instrument that maybe didn’t exist when the original melody was composed.” – Mhairi Hall
Moderna Records‘ Fall 2019 single series has gotten off to a fine start with releases thus far by Hiroco.M (Hiroko Murakami) and Jacob David and now Montreal-based pianist Adam Daudrich. “Swells” is a selection from Daudrich’s solo release ‘The Wooden Box‘ which explores the use of muted upright piano, harmonium, and Wurlitzer electric piano in the telling of “intimate stories” and what he calls “adult nursery rhyme” and “fading music-box songs”.
It is a lovely piece with cascading, arpeggiated patterns of shimmering notes and feather-light percussive textures. Delicate, yet full of movement & color, the song finds an ideal match in this mesmerizing video shot on the Berlin S-Bahn by photographer & filmmaker Emma Roufs.
Born half deaf, Raphaelle Thibaut was pushed at age 4 by her music-loving parents to start an intense 17 year piano practice in order to re-educate her hearing and by her early teens, Morricone, Goldsmith and de Roubaix were already playing on her Discman. In 2015, Raphaelle quit her marketing job at Google to pursue her lifelong passion for music and film scoring leading her to work with brands like Ubisoft, Coca-Cola, Nike and featuring in movie trailers for such major Hollywood productions as ‘Incredibles 2‘ and ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ as well as the Hulu TV series ‘The Act‘.
On November 15, she will release an album entitled Genesis on 1631 Recordings that showcases her range from piano-based neoclassical reveries to cinematic mini-epics. Following the arc of a day from morning to night, these eight compositions enchant with an acute sense of melody, deft narrative pacing, an beautifully layered arrangements. Here in an exclusive premiere is a video filmed by Adnan Islam to accompany one of the album’s more contemplative moments, the lovely penultimate track “Midnight”.