Spring Music Preview 2019 ~ Modern Composition

The weather is warming up, and so is the release slate! We’re about to cover nearly 250 albums in the next five days.  Consider this your shopping list for spring!  We’ll eventually review one out of eight, but we’re happy to list everything we have.  For just the music, our News page is the place to go; for analysis, stay right here!

With Piano Day coming up fast, it’s no surprise that we’ve got a huge slate of piano albums to write about. But the spring release calendar offers plenty of stringed music as well, along with a select group of high-profile orchestral albums ~ some that may surprise you!  We hope you enjoy our preview of this season’s Modern Composition releases.

Our cover image is a piece of cropped, royalty-free art from Shutterstock.  We’re always amazed at their inventory, and we invite our readers to take a look!

Rich’s Pick:  The Matthew Herbert Big Band ~ The State Between Us (March 29)
Britain, we are rooting for you to pull through.  But if the borders close on March 29, you’ll still be able to buy The State Between Us at your local shoppe.  This distinctly British double LP includes evocative samples, as seen in the trailer below, as well as a song dedicated to fish and chips and another to the women of England.  The political commentary is biting, but all in good cheer, something we’ll all be needing in the coming days.  The most timely album on our list may become the season’s score.

88 Keys

Piano Day is held on the 88th day of the year, which this year happens to be Brexit Day, as well as a Friday, the industry’s normal release day.  In many cases, they all line up.  Szun Waves’ Luke Abbott expands beyond his normal electronic boundaries to release Music for the Edge of an Island.  Abbott describes the album as “about being on the edge of England, almost ready to fall off a cliff into the sea but keeping your balance on the edge” (FLOAT, March 29).  Ian Williams looks into the future and sees a populace controlled by billionaires and megacorporations; the piano-based The Dream Extortionists is billed as “gothic folk,” which makes sense as Williams was once a member of Beautiful Pea Green Boat (March 29).  Taz Modi (Submotion and Gondwana Orchestras) takes a political stance on Reclaimed Goods, addressing immigration and border concerns and “the concept of British whiteness.”  We’re starting to think that March 29 might be a good day to stay in bed.  Fortunately the day also sees a lovely four-track EP from Dominique Charpentier.  Chrysalide includes one piano piece to represent each of the four elements (Memory Recordings).  On the same day, Akira Kosemura will release the restive EP In the Moonlight, in hopes that those who experience a day of anxiety may find a night of solace (Schole).  And Contemporary Noise Sextet’s Kuba Kapsa strikes out on his own with Supersonic Moth, adding a few electronic elements for balance.  The artwork is as strange as the artist is original (Denovali).


Nico Casal makes his debut with a surprisingly tender cover of Four Tet’s Two Thousand and Seventeen; full-length Alone is out April 5 on Point of Departure.  Alex Kozobolis returns on April 26 with Somewhere Else, a miked piano excursion led by the thoughtful Barcelona (AllPoints).  After participating in a couple Piano Days, Antlerman is set to release the intimate As the Patterns Grew.  A restive feeling is conveyed not only by the music, but the titles (April 15).  Richard Luke adds violin and double bass to Glass Island, producing a comforting vibe, immediately apparent on lead single “Everything a Reason” (Moderna, April 12).  The album is a purposeful expression of hope and nostalgia in the shadow of Brexit.  Vargkvint‘s lovely Hav embraces a general ocean theme with gentle vocals, harmonium and zither.  This is the Piano and Coffee Records debut for Sofia Nystrand, paying tribute to her early life in a Swedish seaside town (April 5).  Polish pianist Hania Rani has a long history of collaboration, but Esja is her first solo album, a statement of strength from a seasoned composer (Gondwana, April 5).  Roedelius & Tim Story continue their ongoing collaboration on Lunz 3, released on April 13 as part of Record Store Day (Groenland).  And Ludovico Einaudi has embarked on an ambitious excursion to release seven albums in seven months under the title Seven Days Walking, based on a series of winter walks.  The first of the albums was just released; stay tuned for the rest!


We loved Hafdís Bjarnadóttir‘s Sounds of Iceland a few years back, and since then she’s recorded a rock album, as well as this evocative suite.  A Northern Year follows the Reykjavik sun from solstice to solstice, translating its position into music.  As performed by Passepartout Duo, this beautiful and concise recording makes us want to stay outside all year long, looking at ~ or for ~ the sun and other stars (March 20).


Bill Laurance concentrates on the piano, but adds electronic textures to Cables, as seen in this live video captured last month in Paris.  The album visits many genres along the way, but always returns to home base (March 29).  “Gentle giant” Joep Beving offers two different covers for Henosis on Deutsche Grammophon, but we think the cover for that triple LP is misleading, looking more like a death metal set.  We prefer the art for the single Into the Dark Blue (April 5).  The recurring motifs of Giancarlo Erra‘s End VII include snow and sea, sand and stone, the Northern Lights and a cozy winter home.  In like fashion, Ends is a warm suite for piano and strings suitable for any season (KScope, April 12).

String Theory

Last season, we made William Ryan Fritch‘s Deceptive Cadence: Music for Film Vol. I & II our pick of the winter.  The release was delayed, but now the copies are in and they look beautiful!  (I’m not just saying that, I’ve seen one!)  The new release date is May 17.  This hardbound edition is available separately and as part of Lost Tribe Sound’s latest subscription series.  Also (slightly) delayed from winter is Justin Wright‘s Music for Staying Warm.  The cellist has supported artists such as Colin Stetson and Hauschka, and now he’s stepping into his own.  A sweet, slow video for Drone I: Meditation has just been released (First Terrace and Sleepless Records, April 5).  Every week for the past two months, Marquis Classics has been releasing a brand new preview track from Yevgeny Kutik‘s Meditations on Family.  Kutik is featured on the cover of the March / April edition of the popular Strings magazine, but has chosen a different person for the cover of his own album!  Each of the violinist’s pieces is written by a different composer and inspired by a family photograph (March 22).  Laura Cannell channels the music of the spheres with bowed violin on The Sky Untuned, out April 26 on Brawl Records.  Her timbres are thick and immersive, like galactic clouds.  And Attacca Quartet performs the work of Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw on Orange, due April 19 on New Amsterdam/Nonesuch.  The video looks and sounds like spring!

He Shoots, He Scores!

Disasterpeace impressed us a couple years back with the original score to It Follows.  Now director and artist return for Under the Silver Lake. The music is more orchestral than pulsating this time around, and there’s a bit of trepidation around the film, originally scheduled for release a year ago.  Don’t let that interfere with your enjoyment of the score (Milan, April 19).  Working in Albania, Mardit B. Lleshi has compiled an extensive film scoring resume, one that has not been shared with the world – until now.  Fluttery Records compiles some of the composer’s best works on Listening Among the Scenes (A Score Collection), along with two new songs (March 29).  Long-time fans may be surprised to learn that Eleven Eleven is Danny Elfman‘s premiere violin concerto.  As one of the season’s high-profile releases, we expect it to do well in the popular market (Sony Classical, March 22).  Film score veteran and Kanye West collaborator Trevor Gureckis is about to release a set of non-commissioned cinematic music; Corte is out April 12 on Supertrain Records.

Don’t confuse Labelle with Lady Marmalade; the composer’s work on Orchestre univers is fully-fledged chamber music, tinged with maloya (April 5). Ralph Heidel // Homo Ludens are an eight-piece jazz ensemble and string quartet.  The Kryptox label is now part of the K7! family, a show of confidence that bodes well for the success of this full-bodied set (April 5).  Moments of Resonance also includes electronics, moments of funk and at least one potential single, “Pictures,” which is one of two vocal tracks on the album. Anticipatience is a portmanteau for the modern era, and fits Jesse Maddox‘s 90-minute suite, which includes Tibetan throat singing and the participation of musicians from King Crimson and Front Line Assembly (Lessons from the Dreamtime, April 15).  Later in the season we’ll look forward to the sophomore album from Derek Hunter Wilson.  Steel, Wood and Air is an evocative cycle that promises to be one of the season’s highlights, due late May on Beacon Sound.  In the meantime, we invite you to enjoy last spring’s single Mammother.


Finally, by now you’ve likely heard about another new rendition of Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs).  It was only a couple years ago when Colin Stetson’s version made a huge splash on our pages (while splitting some of our readers).  Now Beth Gibbons and the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra take a turn.  Most people love Portishead, but how well will Gibbons’ voice translate to this material?  Judge for yourself in the video below (Domino, March 29).

Richard Allen

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