Spring includes both Piano Day (March 29) and Record Store Day (April 21), and labels are gearing up for each. The season’s biggest release is set to devour everything in its wake, but there’s plenty more to enjoy after that. One of the nicest surprises is a trio of albums related to Jóhann Jóhannsson; the composer’s legacy lives on.
If you like piano music, this is your season. We worry a bit that so many releases in a single genre may cancel each other out; there’s only so much ivory love to go around. But records have survived, so we’re sure the piano will too. The pianist just may need to adapt, as Scroeder has done over to our left.
And now, without further ado, A Closer Listen presents the spring slate of Modern Composition!
Rich’s Pick: Various Artists ~ 1+1=X (Erased Tapes, 13 April)
When a new single from A Winged Victory for the Sullen appeared without warning in early March, it almost broke the internet. Okay, that’s an exaggeration; but every instrumental music fan suddenly sat up and started Googling the track to figure out what was going on. Hours later, the label announced its tenth anniversary compilation: a massive 3-LP box set including new music from the entire roster, with artists collaborating with each other and producing some astonishing sounds. Everyone is involved, from Nils Frahm to newly signed Hatis Noit, and the results are sublime. We can’t say enough about this project, but it’s the sort of release that sells itself. Happy Anniversary, Erased Tapes!
Sonic Pieces and Miasmah have a pair of great albums lined up for spring. First in line is Erik K. Skodvin & Rauelsson‘s A Score for Darling on 23 March. This Danish film score is lush in instrumentation, with Otto A. Totland, Anne Müller and Christoph Berg as guests (Sonic Pieces). Then on 6 April, Miasmah will release the first album by cellist Clarice Jensen, highlighted by a piece co-composed with Jóhann Jóhannsson. While the timing is bittersweet, the opportunity to hear such a piece is a treat; and the entirety of For this from that will be filled marks Jensen as one of the next wave of great composers. Meanwhile, Deutsche Grammophon will be reissuing Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s first album, Englabörn 23 March, after receiving the blessing of his family. A second disc, Variations, includes re-workings by A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Hildur Guðnadóttir and more. Echo Collective, frequent collaborators of the composer, are set to release an orchestral reimagining of Radiohead’s Amnesiac. Echo Collective Plays Amnesiac is out 30 March on 7k!
We expect to see a rush of piano albums for this year’s Piano Day, a holiday whose only downside is that too much piano music at the same time competes against itself. It’s a good thing we have Zinovia Arvanitidi, whose Ivory is released by Kitchen on matching ivory vinyl on 29 March. Some may remember her as half of Pill-Oh, but with this solo album she is making a name for herself as a solo artist. Rachel’s alumnist Rachel Grimes returns with the lush score to The Doctor from India, joined by a small ensemble of flute, violin and sax (18 May). Stefano Guzzetti revisits a successful venture of the past as he returns to solo piano on Short Stories. Piano Book Volume Two. This lovely collection will be released on Home Normal on 27 April (pictured right). Goldmund returns with Occasus, lending the piano a patina of warp and wear (Village Green, 13 April). Oly Ralfe‘s Notes from Another Sea is an aural reflection of waves and tides, out 13 April on the appropriately named Ghost Ship. The title Hammer Frenzy may conjure images of heavy metal or a rapper with baggy pants, but these hammers are found in Theo Alexander‘s piano. The album Broken Access will follow 27 April on Luau. Dominique Charpentier follows his score to The Cakemaker with Réminiscence, featuring the contributions of Klangriket on “Berlin” (Modern Piano Recordings, 4 May). August Rosenbaum‘s Rasa is a prequel of sorts to last year’s Vista, the fruits of a non-stop recording session (Tambourhinoceros, 13 April). And what would Piano Day be without 1631 Recordings, who teams with Schole to release Tim Linghaus‘ memory drawings? This peaceful album incorporates synthesizer for a well-rounded sound, while saying goodbye to loved ones lost (29 March).
When one sees the cover of Solan Goose, one expects something amusing, but Erland Cooper is far more concerned with cultivating a sense of calm following a stint in the city. The title track does include a goose; in fact, every track is named for a specific bird, inspiring thoughts of seasonal migration and definitions of home (Phases, 23 March). Group Listening is actually a duo, and Piano & Clarinet: Selected Works Vol. 1 is a brave name for a debut. Their rearrangements of tracks by Brian Eno, Roedelius and (surprise!) Disasterpeace make us eager to hear what they have in store for for Vol. 2 (PRAH, 4 May). Elizabeth A. Baker alternates between solo piano, electronics, spoken word and their hybrids on Quadrivium, an album that would be equally at home in the experimental category (Aerocade, 18 May). Icelandic “outsider artist” Stórval is honored by Charles Ross & Ensemble Stelkur, who translate their impressions of his work into intricate scores. The pieces range from harmonium to choir to mini-orchestra (Traktorinn, 21 April).
We’re very happy to have Lost Tribe Sound back in the picture after a quiet winter. The label’s first release of spring is Luton‘s Black Box Animals, an expressive set that melds traditional instruments with electronics, lending it an exciting appeal (27 April). The modified guitars of David Garland‘s 27-track Verdancy may take center stage, but they are not the only instruments; the album also contains cello, flute, electronics and voice, to name a few. The album is packed with sound and celebrates friendship, as well as the new season (20 March). Similarly stuffed is Dissection, the upcoming album from Invisible Anatomy, which manages to incorporate everything from torch song to rock opera (New Amsterdam, 30 March). Also on New Amsterdam is the sophomore album from tri-percussionists Tigue. Strange Paradise is much more than drums; expect everything from “gongs to garbage” (27 April, right).