1631 Recordings has just gone absolutely bonkers, releasing 15 works in the span of only a few weeks. The release slate includes new albums, EPs, remixes, reissues, best-ofs, and enough ivory to stretch from sunup to sundown. Piano lovers, rejoice!
What is 1631 Recordings? It’s a relatively new (2015) label founded by David Wenngren (Library Tapes) and Mattias Nilsson (Kning Disc). We recently reviewed Library Tapes’ Escapism (out this week), and last year we were greatly impressed by Iskra String Quartet’s formidable ISKRA. Bolstered by the success of that album, 1631 is now issuing a tasteful remix EP featuring four gently-stoked versions of its original songs, plus a reissue of its debut EP, Discoveries and Inventions. The subtle beats of the remixes brighten the quartet’s orchestral timbres. The most surprising may be the Minotaur Shock remix of “Blue Notebook,” which is not shocking at all; instead, it’s impressively restrained, a favor returned from Iskra’s re-work of the artist’s “Accelerated Footage at Night,” found on the reissue along with works by Johann Johannsson and James Underwood/Paul Frith. Meanwhile, Wenngren’s Fires, a 2009 collaboration with Danny Norbury as Le lendemain, is the first of the reissue slate; I still own my hard copy from way back then, and it’s aged well, the cello just as evocative as it was back then. The Meridians of Longitude and Parallels of Latitude, Wenngren’s collaboration with Christopher Bissonnette, is now available again as well.
Endless Melancholy has seen a lot of press on these pages, and A Quiet Recollection collects pieces from the whole of his career, concluding with a piece from last year’s well-reviewed Her Name in a Language of Stars. A less famous name (although not to our readers) is Alex Kozobolis, whose career we’ve been following with great interest. Kozobolis seems to release a lot of music – 18 appear on Bandcamp – but many of these are singles, and the self-titled album collects a good handful of these. These include the two latest: “If You Came Here to Live [in memory of Mary Skinner]” and “To Move” (a collaboration with Anna Rose Carter). The album could have been longer (why not collect all of the stray ends, especially “The Most Northern Place”?), as a half-hour is not enough of Kozobolis’ tender, wintry music; but listeners are advised to head to his Bandcamp page for more. Meanwhile, Kozobolis’ collaborator Carter sees her own collaboration with Pleq reissued; My Piano Is Broken starts in rain and ends in crickets; it’s as peaceful as can be.
Also in the reissue section we find a short EP, a medium-length EP and an album from JP Hartnett, whose tracks range from single-length to quarter-hour suites. The cover for Don’t Forget Everything is particularly amusing, as it contains ten dashes that turn out to be the name of the tracks. This is the most fully-fledged of the three releases, as the ivories are enhanced by supportive background tones. Hartnett releases flurries of notes that somehow manage not to get tangled in one another; each six-sided flake finds its place.
Paddy Mulcahy’s miked piano makes an impact on Tape Sketches, which comes across as both genuine and intimate. It represents one of his musical faces, the other being an electronic face; the synthesizer is absent here, but has been showcased in recent concerts. While listening, one can imagine the performer only a few feet away. Similarly intimate (yet unmiked) is Stan Erland Hermundstad’s nature-themed Mountains, which honors its cover with winter and mountain songs, yet hints at warmer weather with opening and closing songs about the ocean. It’s a calm set, as befits this time of year. Finally we encounter the black sheep of the batch, Cave in the Sky’s Sönghellir. One can tell that something is different about this release from the cover, a midnight blue instead of a cloudy grey. Inspired by (and partially recorded in) Iceland’s Snæfellsjökull Glacier, the album contains field recordings, piano, percussion, guitar, bass and even voice. Lulling timbres allow one to imagine the cold without being in it. Finally, 1631’s winter release slate culminates in the release of – what else? – a compilation. Piano Cloud Volume One (11 March) is preceded by a tender work from Peter Broderick, and even more sweetness is to come.
The best part of this huge batch of releases is their price; as all are downloads, their prices range from €2-7, making them incredibly affordable. Fans of piano music should enjoy the sampler below and choose their favorites; it’s a great way to discover the label’s other releases as well, ranging from an understated EP from Sophie Hutchings to a brand-new vocal piece from by Andreas Söderström & Johan Berthling Feat. Little Children. We don’t expect 1631 Recordings to keep up this pace for long, but what an incredible burst of energy to score the year’s stillest season! (Richard Allen)