Various Artists ~ Eleven Into Fifteen

Eleven into FifteenFor years, Fatcat imprint 130701 had been releasing some of our all-time favorite albums, including Max Richter‘s The Blue Notebooks, Dustin O’Halloran‘s Lumiere and Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s The Miners’ Hymns.  Then the label went dark for three years, and we feared it had been lost.  Fortunately, the imprint resurfaced last year with a quiet ripple, and is about to celebrate its anniversary with a splash.  What better way to do so than with a compilation of unreleased tracks from every artist to ever grace the roster?

As the label’s influence has been felt throughout the modern composition world over the past decade and a half, it’s a delight to note that the album begins with an artist just signed to the roster.  Oliver Alary‘s “Yangtze” launches the set with foghorn (ironically, I first listened to the album on a ferry!) and proceeds to enact a lovely pas-de-deux with strings.  Two other Fatcat first-timers make appearances here as well.  Polish cellist Resina is described as “flowering through the frost,” although her track is titled “June” ~ “flowering through the forest” would be more apt, as her sounds are layered and lush.  And ACL site favorite Ian William Craig contributes the brief yet beguiling “Tender Fire;” his debut on 13071 will actually appear a week before the compilation.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for fans will be the resurrection of the seemingly defunct Set Fire to Flames, whose ten-minute “barn levitate” raises hopes for a new album.  It’s interesting to hear the collective in this context as they are normally considered part of the post-rock family; but the string section underlines the thin veneer that often exists between the genres.  The midsection grows quiet and foreboding, but the re-emergence of the violin, now dissonant, reminds fans of what they have been missing for the last 13 years.

Last year’s 130701 rookies Dmitry Evgrafov and Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, are each given space among the heavyweights.  The Russian pianist contributes a soft “Anthem” that contains the album’s tenderest moments; the French composer plays faster and fuller, providing a welcome counterpart, on “Aletheia.”  Although separated by four tracks on the album, these tracks sound wonderful sequenced back-to-back.  Hauschka‘s previously unreleased “Quiet” may hail from 2008, but it still sounds fresh, and offers the opportunity to remind readers that the label has just re-issued the artist’s classic Room to Expand with an entire side of bonus tracks.  Also a fan of prepared piano, Dustin O’Halloran makes the strings twing and twang on the otherwise sedate “Constreaux No. 2,” adding soaring violins in the final minute for a delicious kick.

Sylvain Chauveux makes the most of his three minutes with the hazy guitar of “NB,” while Max Richter (still celebrating his ACL Album of the Year Award, we hope!) presents a meditative “Bach Study,” withdrawing the haze halfway through to reveal the piano.  But the longest track is presented by Jóhann Jóhannsson, who closes the album with a 12-minute live rendition of “They Being Dead Yet Speaketh,” the opening piece of The Miners’ Hymns.  It’s a reminder of all that has gone before and all that is to come.  We wish 130701 a happy anniversary, and many more to come!  (Richard Allen)

Available here

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