2019 Winter Music Preview ~ Modern Composition

We continue our march into the new year with our report on the season’s slate in Modern Composition, including everything from solo piano to full fledged orchestra, movie scores to melting glaciers.  On this page, we’ll encounter the sweetness of strings and the sharpness of bells.  Some of the year’s top albums are always found in this category, so we’re eager to hear what’s coming next!

Our cover image comes from Jackie Morris’ Christmas card On the Way to Foxes’ Wedding, designed exclusively for Help Musicians U.K.  Even though the holiday is over, the card may still be purchased, along with a beautiful 2019 calendar, also designed by Morris, all for a good cause!

Rich’s Pick:  William Ryan Fritch ~ Deceptive Cadence: Music for Film Vol. I and II (Lost Tribe Sound)
As our regular readers are aware, we’re big fans of William Ryan Fritch, especially of his work for film.  We reviewed Vol I four years ago, and now the album is being reissued in a shiny new version along with Vol. 2 as part of Lost Tribe Sound’s latest subscription series We Stayed the Path That Fell to Shadow.  With 45 tracks spread across two discs, there’s a lot of music here, all of it solid.  After this we expect him to be tapped for a mainstream film, but his run through the independent scoring world has been nothing short of fantastic.  While the albums are available separately, we encourage our readers to check out the sampler and decide if the series is a better option (Early 2019).

Fans of last year’s Melting Landscapes will be interested in Matthew Burtner‘s Glacier Music, which continues the field recording theme while adding electro-acoustic compositions like little avalanches.  The opening track was commissioned for a President Obama conference in 2015, and the closing piece by a Thomas Hill painting, so as one might expect, this is a highly intelligent offering. At first it sounds like two albums in one, but eventually the work begins to flow like the melting glaciers that inspired it (Ravello Records, January 25).  Aukai returns with the brief yet lovely Reminiscence EP, introduced by the picturesque La Jova video from Anton and Irina Drozdov Schastlivtsev.  The video displays the natural beauty of the cold northern world, making the same point as Burtner by implication (January 18).

Sony Classical is a pretty big label, and we’re happy for Hauschka‘s success.  We’re also happy to report that his return to the “pure” piano (as opposed to prepared piano) strips nothing from his genius.  A Different Forest is lovely, dark and deep, like the Frost poem ~ a worthy reflection of the subject matter (February 8).  Ô Lake‘s moniker is inspired by the famous Alphonse de Lamartine poem, his soft music by the great outdoors. Debut album Refuge features gorgeous violin and cello, is preceded by the video Holocene and sounds like rain and light mist (Patchrock/Night-Night Records/Believe Digital, February 1).  Colin Alexander & Beni Giles team up for Addelam, a cello-centered album that borders on drone and incorporates field recordings inspired by “the natural beauty of Deal, East Kent” (January 25).  And Yann Tiersen‘s ALL includes field recordings from a Devon redwood forest and a gorgeous earth from above video, while boasting a conservation theme (February 15).  Is it too early to say that we’re going back to nature in 2019?  

Julia Kent returns after only a few months’ absence with Temporal, a cello set comprised of music written for theatre and dance.  Performers’ voices are threaded throughout the compositions, yet subtly and in nearly unrecognizable fashion, treated as texture rather than word (Leaf, January 25).  CabinFever takes a slightly different tactic on Respire, the score to a modern dance performance in Chicago; the artist allows the voices to break through the strings: unadorned, exuberant, at times choral and occasionally raucous.  Order now for pretty pink vinyl (Dead Definition, January 18).  Phill Niblock‘s Music for Cello is given new life by David Gibson, who transforms tones into drones and makes these tracks sound new ~ despite the fact that the oldest is 45 (Important Records, January 3).  Family photographs are the inspiration for Yevgeny Kutik‘s Meditations on Family.  The violinist asked eight composers to write short pieces for him to perform and record; the result is a warm album that glows with familial affection (Marquis Classics, March 8).  The new Vangelis album includes an invitation to unlock preview tracks by submitting photos of the moon.  Nocturne includes re-workings of themes from Bladerunner and Chariots of Fire alongside new nighttime works (Decca, January 25).

Bit Rosie web director, producer, and musician Adele Fournet expands her repertoire with a new set in which each piece is “dedicated to a salient female figure in (her) life.”  Foremothers is a warm piano set that invites other instruments to the party as well, culminating in the near post-rock of “Omelas” (February 8).  Elliot Cole may use computer code in his compositions, but it’s not apparent from the glow of his debut Nightflower.  The music alternately bursts with energy and grows beneath the snow (Long Echo Records, January 25).  Recently signed to Temporary Residence, Bruno Bavota starts the new year off right with RE:CORDIS, a live piano recording that embraces the sounds of the performer and the room (January 18).  Prolific solo pianist Bruno Sanfilippo indulges a long fascination with puppets, mechanical dolls and the circus on Pianette, which is also released as a sheet music book on January 1.  The Dresden Dolls may become fans.  Chris Child (Kodomo) returns to his roots and birth name on the plainly titled Pieces for Piano, collecting music recorded on his iPhone during a series of U.S. road trips (Foil, February 1).  Sylvain Chauveau gathers a series of piano pieces on Pianisme, many of them recorded for film, and offers them a single home (Sub Rosa, January 11).  Björk/Madonna collaborator Guy Sigsworth just released a solo piano EP this past November; the full album stet will follow March 8 on Mercury KX.  Peter Sandberg follows suit with Motion, an album that battles its title by pursuing stillness.  The compositions are piano-based, but include other instruments that dance on the peripheries (Phases, February).

The 12-minute Spells is the first taste of Nils Frahm‘s Encores 2 EP, a further extension of last year’s All Melody.  Fans may be surprised to hear the artist veering in a more electronic direction (Erased Tapes, January 25).  After composing the short film score On This Rock, Garret Harkawik expanded the set into an EP, set for release on January 22, preceded by the bell-inflected “Such Relief, Such Inner Joy, Such Freedom.”  A great contrast between old and new is created on “Orthodox Bellringer,” which sounds like a happy church performance on New Year’s Eve before morphing to tonal ambience.

Richard Allen

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