Spring Music Preview 2020 ~ Experimental

If you’re looking for something different this spring, the experimental section is the place to find it!  This is the home for improvised jazz, electro-acoustics, glossolalia, abstraction, dissonance, the hard to categorize and the just plain weird.  If it doesn’t fit in the other genres, it ends up here.  There’s a huge variety to the selections, but we’d be shocked if anybody liked everything; that’s kind of the point.  Outsiders, iconoclasts and originals will likely bond with at least one of these albums and declare it brilliant, then play it for their friends, who in turn will roll their eyes or run screaming from the room.  Why do we like this sort of music?  Sometimes we’re not sure; in the words of the classic Apple Jacks commercial, “we just do.”  We’re glad you do too!  And now we hope you enjoy the fourth of our five spring previews.

Hearing Voices

Some may remember Simon Kirby, Tommy Perman and Rob St. John from their project Concrete Antenna.  Now the Random Spectacular label has a new offshoot called Blackford Hill, and the first release is an exploration of voice ~ very specifically, English words that begin with the letters “gl.”  An octet of Scottish vocalists brings Sing the Gloaming to life (June 19).  Soon afterward, the label will unveil the double-disc compilation Transmissions Vol. 1, including contributions from the above artists as well as Kate Carr, Ultramarine (yes, that Ultramarine!) and more (June, pictured at top).

Beatriz Ferrayra produces works unlike any others.  The opening track of Echos + is comprised solely of looped recordings of her niece, who died tragically in a car accident.  Such a tribute is challenging in many ways, but she delivers a tender and otherworldly piece.  Another of the album’s compositions relies entirely on percussion.  The album is out March 27 on Room40.  The artist follows this on May 5 with Huellas Entreveradas, a collection of works new and old, on Persistence of Sound.  Lyra Pramuk‘s Fountain is pure (not simple) voice, electronically layered and looped; the album is described as “post-human, non-binary” and sounds like an a cappella group from another solar system.  This is the artist’s first solo album following collaborations with Holly Herndon and others (Bedroom Community, March 20, pictured right).  Strange vocalizations are embedded in even stranger forms on the percussive, self-titled album from Luz Azul.  Greeting cards and potato slicer are two of the instruments.  Part of the mystery is solved when we draw back the curtain to reveal Anna Homler (Breadwoman).  The album is out March 20 on Corti Zona.


Capac‘s After Lights Out with Tom Harding features poetic narration embedded in evocative evening textures; the dramatic set will appear April 3 on This Is It Forever. Drums, piano and voice create a tribute to Cuba on Inside Rhythmic Falls.  Multiple styles are referenced by Aruán Ortiz and friends, all involving love and rhythm (Intakt, March 20).  What Is the Word is Benjamin Dwyer‘s tribute to Samuel Beckett, and includes segments of his words in dramatic settings, often in raised voice.  But like Ferrayra’s album, it also includes instrumental pieces, soft and subtle, with a nod to modern chamber music.


Dwyer’s album is one of five Diatribe is releasing on April 6.  The others are Morton Feldman‘s For John Cage, an 84-minute piece for violin and piano; Lina Andronovska‘s A Way A Lone A Last, for flute and percussion, featuring five composers; Xenia Pestova Bennett‘s unusual Atomic Legacies, which engages a Magnetic Resonator Piano along with an abstracted string quartet; and Guillaume Orti and Stéphane Payen‘s alto sax-drenched Volume I, available here.

Think Diatribe is ambitious?  Try a new wave of jazz, who has eight albums set for April 15, available solo or bundled:  Andrew Cheetham & Alan Wilkenson‘s The Vortex of Lost Time (percussion, sax and clarinet); Jürg Frey‘s installation-based Echo.Trio.Fragile,Eyot, which features everything from bird pipes to harmonica; Tom Malmendier & Dirk Serries‘ Vanguard (drums and acoustic guitar); Serries/Taylor + Verhoeven, recorded live in the Netherlands; Serries/Verhoeven/Webster‘s Praxis (seems like everyone here is friendly!); Colin Webster & Dirk Serries‘ Light Industry (by now you should probably know that Dirk runs the label); Daniel Thompson‘s Finch (improvisations on acoustic guitar; won’t somebody invite this man to play with them?); and Sett‘s First and Second, which features Serries, Edwards, Taylor and Thompson.  All are available here.

But wait, there’s more!  On Heavenly GuideLuca T. Mai offers a set of occasionally dissonant baritone saxophone; some may know him from his work with Zu (trost, March 20).  Weston Olencki offers a new series of Solo Works for brass, whose piercing tones are met with silence (April 6), while Gorovitz/Manela launches the edelfaul label with Timber Framing, a collision of stormy sax and flute with drums and distortion (March 20, pictured left).  Patrick Shiroishi is releasing two solo saxophone albums in three days: the improvised Eye for an Eye on Armageddon Nova (March 25), then the reverberative Descension on Thin Wrist (March 27). Polyorchard‘s ink combines trombone and double bass in intricate ways, stretching seven tracks over two discs (Out and Gone Music 13, May 15).


Innova has three new recordings lined up for March 27: Drew Whiting‘s In Light Starkly Different for saxophone and electronics; Jeremy Beck‘s by moonlight for cello, strings and voice; and Illari Kaila‘s The Bells Bow Down for piano quintet.   Sabir Mateen (sax), Patrick Holmes (clarinet) and Federico Ughi (drums) team up for Survival Situation, an album title that today seems oddly prescient (577 Records, May 8). Recorded live on sitar and tabla, Josh Feinberg‘s Time Does Not Exist for Light offers long, meditative pieces likely to melt the minute hands from the clock (Worlds Within Worlds, May 8).  The MacroQuarktet of Robertson / Ballou / Gress / Rainey is releasing the double-disc The Complete Night: Live at the Stone NYC; disc one is a reissue while disc two is brand new, preceded by the 24-minute single “Neuroplasticity” (Out of Your Head, May 1).  With a title like the small case nocturnes and lullabies, one might expect a placid piano set, when instead the opposite is true; Richard Vallitutto attacks the ivories like a nightmare (New Focus Recordings, March 20).

Cuneiform Records has two jazz/improv records lined up for release this April: Tatsuya Nakatani & Shane Parish‘s Interactivity and Chad Taylor Trio featuring Brian Settles & Neil Podgurski‘s The Daily Biological.  Chicago Underground Quartet is set to release the upbeat Good Days on Astral Spirits on March 27; just be careful requesting the lead single “Orgasm!”  The label also has two waiting in the wings: Alex Cunningham & claire rousay‘s Specifically the Water, which highlights violin and percussion; and Cameron / Carter / Håker Flaten‘s Tau Ceti, which includes one acoustic side and one electric (April 17).  Webber/Morris Big Band is a sunny collective, no surprise as the band has eighteen members, equally comfortable slipping into timbres of jazz and rock. As the album title suggests, Both Are True (Greenleaf, April 3).  Four performers billed as Mako Sica/Hamid Drake play a total of 24 instruments (including lightbulb!) on Balancing Tear, a languid, rock-oriented set (Astral Spirits, April 17).  GRID offers jazz/noise on Decomposing Force, led by the single Brutal Kings (NNA Tapes, April 24).  The curiously named TRRMA’ plays polyrhythmic jazz rock jams on The Earth’s Relief, proving once again that a duo can sound like a band (577 Records, April 28); the label will follow this with Borrowed From Children by freeform quintet Paul Flaherty, Randall Colbourne, James Chumley Hunt & Mike Roberson on May 22.


Mr. Robot

Is it Unnatural to remix works for solo percussion?  Not in the minds of Patrick Graham & John Sellekaers.  This intriguing project took 13 years to come to fruition; we’d rather call it unusual Parenthesis, March 24).  The improvisations of Razen‘s Robot Brujo are lengthy, stripped-down excursions that tend to accelerate in tempo as they progress; one can’t dance to all of it, but one can dance to some (Hands in the Dark, March 27).  Palestine Vainio Thelemens combines the talents of the three composers under the banner PVT, available mid-April on Matiere Memoire.  The 13/Silentes label has two electro-acoustic works scheduled for March 31.  Anacleto Vitolo | Luca Buonnifante‘s AEND offers heavy texture that borders on drone, while K. Henry Dunham‘s Sol Evocations is more subtle, at times ambient, which makes sense considering his involvement in Our Lady of the Flowers.

Accordion drone meets guitar feedback on the archival Telematic Concert, a live 2009 collaboration between Pauline Oliveros and Alan Courtis available for the first time (sPLeeNCoFFiN, 3 April).  Composed 40 years ago, Bernard Fort‘s Fractals / Brain Fever find new light thanks to Editions Mego, who brings their drone tones to a whole new generation (March 27).  Electric Indigo‘s Ferrum is a lesson in abstraction, with fragile percussion tumbling down a flight of electronic stairs (Editions Mego, March 20).  The 1924 film Entr’acte receives a fresh, winding, electro-acoustic score on NNO#1, which is paired with a series of vintage tracks.  Felix Kubin/Ditterich von Euler-Donnersperg are the artists on this first installment of an ongoing series from 90% Wasser (March 23).  Schrecken & Peter Kutin team up for the original score to The Trouble With Being Born, a mysterious OST that contains the season’s best collection of track titles (Ventil, March 23).


cKeener‘s Decoration is one of those in-between recordings that could land in multiple categories.  Odd electronics surge and retreat, but seem designed to repel dancers; strong flavors of plunderphonics are present.  The EP will appear March 27 on Them There Records.  In like fashion, if Harold Nono‘s album stuck with club electronics, we’d place it there, but the tracks swerve into curious realms, carrying static, opera and theremin in their wake.  As a result, We’re Almost Home seems intensely cinematic, with a sense of humor (Bearsuit, March 20).  Morgen Wurde presents another outlier in Für Immer (Forever).  On the surface, it’s an album of vibraphone, trumpet and violin (which would normally land in Modern Composition), but disc two contains techno and IDM remixes, making it another split-genre release (Off Rec., April 10).  Then on Mutations forJC Leisure blends old tapes into a morass, offering a commentary on rave culture and the near-extinct mixtape.  Dialect guests on one track (Warm Winters Ltd., March 20, pictured right).  After 30 years in the business, R Weis is still going strong.  On Cassette Assembled Scores for Dance 1991-1993 he revisits his first works, including a horror score and a sample-based collage (TQ N-aut, March 27).



There’s fun to be had on Minna Miteru (A Compilation of Japanese Indie Music), which holds pop and vocal music along a sprinkling of the avant garde (Morr Music, May 1).  A mixture of styles both vocal and instrumental can also be enjoyed on Mark Barton’s The Sunday Experience.  The album is dedicated to the deceased music reviewer, which makes it especially poignant for those who write about music.  It’s all for a great cause, as proceeds go to Macmillan Cancer Support (Bearsuit, March 27).  But the season’s most unclassifiable album is probably Söng Söng: Polychrome Sounds from the Underground, because it contains so many genres, from free jazz to Krautrock to loop to spoken word; definitely worth the spin if you’re daring (Les disques linoleum, March 27).

Field Recording (singular) and Soundscape

Finally, we have one field recording album to tell you about, which is ridiculous for an entire genre!  Field recording artists, get your acts together!  Ironically, the album is the aural reflection of a camp attended by our own Josh Hughes, and Campbient Volume One distills the recordings of the 44-hour residency to two extended pieces.  Enjoy it at Realmorereal, and ask about the next residency today (March 20)!  We have one soundscape listed as well: a high profile OST to the book and movie NESS, enlisting the involvement of one Robert MacFarlane (Landmarks, Underland).  Drew Mulholland‘s hauntological score A Haunting Strip of Marshland includes manipulated recordings of Orford’s The Ness, including lichen ground into the tape itself (Castles in Space, April 18/Record Store Day).

Richard Allen

One comment

  1. Pingback: A Closer Listen’s Spring Music Preview 2020 ~ Experimental  – Avant Music News

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