Travelogue 2019.02.10: Modern Classical Sunday

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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).

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

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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 

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2018 In Review: Journeys in Modern and Experimental Classical


neoclassical_mosaic25_rFrom 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 in 2018. 

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Sound Impression: 88 by Cédric D. Lavoie [Preserved Sound]

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Based in the market town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, Preserved Sound has always been a friendly label to artists who create unique intersections of modern classical, jazz, and experimental ambient music, often featuring unconventional approaches to instrumentation.  Some of the more noteworthy recent examples include Tess Said So, Covarino/Incorvaia, Adrian Lane, and Trigg & Gusset. This month the label will add a new name to the catalog that fans of the aforementioned should very much appreciate – Canadian composer and founder of the Mismar ensemble Cédric Dind-Lavoie. His forthcoming solo album on entitled 88 originated on the piano and was then fleshed out with bowed & plucked upright bass as well as a keen focus on the use of discrete percussion and sound effects.

“Everything started on the piano. I also explored recording techniques emphasizing the sound resulting from the mechanics of the piano and my fingers on the keyboard. These sounds are rarely acoustically audible, but add an intimate and intriguing aspect to the recording… ​I also thought about hiring string players to play on some of the tracks but eventually decided to take on the challenge of playing everything on the upright bass, to achieve a darker and perhaps more unusual string section.” – Cédric D. Lavoie 

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PREMIERE “Eliza (Variation 5)” from A Shade Under Thirty by Stray Ghost [Phases Records]

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For the better part of a decade, self-taught multi-instrumentalist & producer Anthony Baden Saggers  has been releasing music as Stray Ghost both independently and on such respected boutique labels as Hidden Shoal, Time Released Sound, and 1631 Recordings. In a couple of weeks, he will be able to add Phases Records to that list as the London-based imprint is shortly to release his latest opus entitled A Shade Under Thirty. The title is an overt nod to the kind of milestone the album represents for the artist as he surveys his own past, present, and future while reaching out to forge a meaningful connection to his audience.

“The maturity he has recently talked of reaching at the age of thirty, leaving behind the young man he once was, is mirrored in A Shade Under Thirty by his vision of the world at a pivotal moment, his piano picking a path forwards through European disintegration, climate change and life in the digital age. As he says himself, ‘I don’t just want people to listen… I want them to feel.'” 

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PREMIERE: “A Walk With Mr. J” from Ancestral Dances by Luis Berra [1631 Recordings]

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Search as you might across the web, you won’t a great many words about pianist/composer Luis Berra. In part that may be because his debut album (‘Piano Creatures‘, 2017) came out only last year. To some extent, however, it appears that the Italian-born musician, who currently lives & works in Bavaria, simply prefers to let his piano do the talking. Whether teaching at a music school, performing on a stage or in the lobby of a luxury hotel, or recording in the studio, it is how he tells his stories and he does it with an eloquent and mellifluous voice. This is abundantly evident on his sophomore outing entitled ‘Ancestral Dances’, a splendid solo piano record that gracefully soars, sways and pirouettes through a dozen narratives spun from ivory keys and wooden hammers.

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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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PREMIERE: At the Same Time from The Eleventh Hour by Anne Lovett [1631 Recordings]

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It would seem Anne Lovett literally has music in her blood. Though currently residing in London, she was born in Normandy, France, a birthplace she shares with Erik Satie. Her family is a musical one, her father being a luthier and her mother a dancer. Anne herself picked up piano at only three years old and developed an interest in composition early on. She went on to study at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris as well as the Royal Academy of Music and later at King’s College, London. Since graduating, she has performed at prestigious venues and festivals throughout Europe and been heard on classical broadcast radio. If you have listened to her debut solo album Beyond (and Below), you already know she is both an electrifying pianist and an imaginative composer. On her partially crowd-funded second album entitled The Eleventh Hour, however, she balances her virtuosity & passion with poignant introspection to create a stunning new opus in collaboration with members of the London Contemporary Orchestra. 

“The main narrative of the album was conceived during a period when intense shifts were taking place within our society which had a deep impact on the composer. The result is a deeply felt work that mourns the loss of a spiritual home as well as reflecting a dazed comprehension of the world having been permanently tilted on its axis. Best described through the Japanese concept of Kintsugi or “broken beauty”, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is a heartbreakingly beautiful contribution to the modern classical genre. The thirteen tracks are all meticulously crafted and ring out with a dark luminosity, like an elegy to our troubled times”. – 1631 Recordings

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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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Sound Impression: Version & Delineation by Caught in the Wake Forever & glacis [Crow Versus Crow]

CvsC_VD_coverThe arrival of the Fall equinox in Britain today seems the perfect time to cast a light on a lovely EP just released by Crow Versus Crow, an interdisciplinary project based in Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire which also includes a radio show, podcast, and visual design work. Version & Delineation is a collection of improvisational vignettes jointly created by Euan Millar-McMeeken, aka glacis, and Fraser McGowan better known as Caught in the Wake Forever

“These six short works hinge upon glacis’ raw piano improvisations, recorded, without prior planning or subsequent revision, straight to IPhone Voice Memo software…Using the Make Noise System Cartesian & Akai S20 Sampler to incorporate culled and processed snapshots of domestic minutiae, Caught In The Wake Forever’s intricate abstract compositions mirror the fragility and transient ephemerality of glacis’ piano pieces.” – Crow Versus Crow

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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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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