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For their latest record entitled It Billows Up, Brooklyn-based avant music trio Sontag Shogun sought to capture the essence of their live performances on record through the use of collaborative techniques and modular compositions they had developed while on tour in Europe, Japan, & North America in 2016/17. The end result is a kaleidoscopic pastiche of music and sound, an au courant panorama of compositional and improvisational elements blended with foley art and human theater into a singular hypnagogic narrative by the band’s three members –  Ian Temple (piano), Jesse Perlstein (electronically treated vocals, field recordings), and Jeremy Young (analog oscillators, reel-to-reel tape loops, and beats made only with contact mic’d objects & surfaces).

Continue reading “Sound Impression: It Billows Up by Sontag Shogun”

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One piano player. One percussionist… As classically trained musicians, Rasa Daukus (piano/keyboards) and Will Larsen (percussion/drums/electronics) began working together as music undergraduates playing a repertoire based on 20th century piano and percussion. Tess Said So combine piano, percussion and electronics with non-classical sounds and techniques, infusing their sound with pop, jazz, ambience and minimalism.

With I Did That Tomorrow (2014) they introduced their unique creative partnership, a vibrant collection of tracks that defied the apparent limitations of their chosen format. The same improvisational spirit, bold elegance, and impeccable musicianship that made such a resounding first impression shone just as brightly on their 2016 follow-up Scramble + Fate and now we are about to be treated to it once again with imminent release of Piaf’s Boyfriend, an ode to people they met while recently on tour.

The new record which will be available on CD & digital beginning May 31 finds the duo at the top of their game as musical storytellers with Rasa’s sparkling piano lines leading the way accompanied by Will’s versatile and highly expressive percussion. In this interview kindly furnished by Hayden Berry of Preserved Sound, Rasa & Will talk about writing an album that captures the personas of different people they met or who left an impression on them along the way.   Continue reading “Duologue: A conversation with Tess Said So”

Veins_Cover_3000pxBorn in East Berlin to actor Klaus-Peter Thiele and painter Rosemarie Rautenberg, Valeska Rautenberg grew up living and breathing creativity and has followed that path throughout her life. She started working as an actress at the age of eleven and continued starring in movies and television shows on & off while at school and later during university. During her teen years, however, she discovered music was her true love and since then she has engaged in all aspects of it as an instrumentalist, singer, composer, producer, and teacher.

Rautenberg has also performed in a wide array of settings from pubs & underground clubs to gala events and major venues, but her latest release is an especially personal and intimate one. Part of a series of releases that began in 2017 after taking some time off to tend to her personal life, Veins (Songs for Piano, Wind, & Water) is a collection of four beautiful piano-based vignettes inspired by early morning walks on the streets of Berlin and being attuned to sounds that can easily be drowned out when the city is bustling.  Continue reading “Video Premiere: “Wandering” by Valeska Rautenberg”

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 photo by Arūnas Naujokas on Unsplash

This special edition of The Listening Room features the Soundcloud selections playlist compiled from the many wonderful tracks uploaded for Piano Day 2019. You can also find recommended piano recordings released earlier this year by Hauschka, Adrian LaneBruno Sanfilippo, Julien Marchal, Bruno Bavota, Tom Blankenberg, and Lullatone as well as Piano Day releases by Mikael Lind, Akira Kosemura, Kyle McEvoy, and Garreth Broke. Finally we’ll peek ahead with previews of upcoming albums by Alex KozobolisJohannes Hirschmann, Tristan Eckerson, and Tom Adams. It is nothing less than a movable feast for piano music lovers. Happy listening!

Continue reading “The Listening Room (Piano Day 2019)”

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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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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]”

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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]”