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.
“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.
While many of us are still savoring the kaleidoscopic panorama of It Billows Up released by Brooklyn-based trio Sontag Shogun this past spring, the band delivered a pleasant surprise along with the turning of leaves in the form of a new EP called Floréal. It is a introspective “mini-suite” in a distinctly autumnal mood that once again finds Ian Temple, Jesse Perlstein, & Jeremy Young in compelling form with their alchemical fusion of foley & tape treatments, organically derived textures, painterly solo piano compositions, and ethereal vocals.
Presented in a cassette tape format, side A belongs to a single immersive composition entitled “Photographs from a moving car” featuring guest vocals by Finnish composer & musician Lau Nau, while side B unfolds in three parts – the moving title track, the collagic “Plaid Lines”, which features the voice of Canadian artist Ora Cogan, and the hauntingly beautiful “Lament” which is featured here in a touching video created by multi-disciplinary artist Joshua Miller using old found footage shot while on a road trip across the United States with his ex-partner. Though deeply personal in origin, the music and visuals combine to powerfully convey themes of both nostalgia and solastalgia in an especially moving and relatable way.
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”.
Watching a city awaken on autumn morning through rivulets of rain running down a coffee shop window seems only fitting while while listening to the new album created by Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh with his 10-string hardanger d’amore and pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman while musing on the implications of their selection of ‘Snow’ (1960) by pioneering photographer Saul Leiter for the cover.
The two have worked together since 2011 as members of the Irish/American folk supergroup The Gloaming where Bartlett describes their role as making “cloud shapes” around the band’s “volcanic” core, and this new solo record can be seen as something of a serendipitous outgrowth of that project. The initial spark came while The Gloaming was on tour in Mexico in the spring of 2015 and
Following up her quietly stunning 2018 debut Homes, Swedish-Iranian pianist/composer Shida Shahabi returns to Fat Cat Records’ 130701 imprint with a wonderful new release called ‘Shifts’ coming out next month. Born in Stockholm to parents who fled the Iran-Iraq war, Shahabi began studying piano from the age of nine and grew up surrounded by a diverse plethora of music from Mozart & Tchaikovsky and 70’s Persian pop to MTV and a broad swath of genres including punk, grunge, shoegaze, and post-rock. It is her piano that once again features prominently on ‘Shifts‘, specifically her beloved JG Malmsjö upright refracted through close has also miking techniques and subtle tape delay treatments, however for the new record, Shahabi opens up her compositions to make room for contributions by cellist Linnea Olsson with whom she first performed at a show at London’s Union Chapel in 2013 and who is known for her own solo albums and her work with such artists as Peter Gabriel, Sting and Ane Brun.
“Some tracks were made in a single day and other material took weeks. The only thing I brought with me in the writing process was that I didn’t want the writing and sound to be as focused on the piano as it was on the album. It feels like that was a good frame to have, even though some tracks still ended up having a piano focus. I wanted also to work with longer lines and more abstract/ minimal arrangements on this one.” – Shida Shahabi