Fall Music Preview ~ Modern Composition

Seasons produce a synaesthetic feel.  Post-rock and electronic are perfect for summer driving, because one can hear the music with the windows down.  Subtle ambience reflects the bloom of spring.  Drone matches the darker months, and modern composition fits the fall.  This is an oversimplification, of course; but fall would normally launch a new indoor concert season, and we can imagine strings scoring the falling leaves.  While we may not be going to many concerts this year, the music is arriving as quickly as shorter days and cooler evenings.  We hope this selection refreshes your mood and provides solace for the long months ahead.

Rich’s Pick: Ólafur Arnalds’ ~ some kind of peace
(Decca, November 6)
We weren’t sure what to expect when we heard the first single: an electronic crossover track with vocals from JDFR.  Then We Contain Multitudes dropped, featuring the artist alone at his keyboard, and we let out our breath.  The set is composed around a central theme: we can’t always control events, but we can still control our reactions.

The gorgeous Volutes highlights the Ondes Martenot, as Christine Ott pairs with Mathieu Gabry as Snowdrops.  This bittersweet set also includes Anne-Irène Kempf on viola (Injazero, October 16).  Ondes Martenot resurfaces on Joshua Van Tassel‘s Dance Music volume II: More Songs for Slow Motion, along with string quartet.  Eagle-eyed readers may remember the artist from Crossworlds, a Lovecraftian book + album.  This one is a different beast, but no less beguiling, already added to our Recommendations page (Backward Music, September 11).   We couldn’t wait to review Galya Bisengalieva‘s Aralkum, which has already been featured on our site and is also listed on our Recommendations page.  This stunning set is an ode to the Aral Sea, from lushness to aridity to slow rebound.  The violinist is in fine form, melding modern composition to drone like salt to water (NOMAD Music, September 4).  But wait, there’s more!  As part of London Contemporary Orchestra, Bisengalieva is also revisiting the oeuvre of under -publicized composer Giacinto Scelsi, whose output influenced Morricone (SA Recordings, October 2).


Members of BOW have played with Jóhann Jóhannsson, A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Christina Vantzou and more, and now the string quintet is set to unveil its self-titled album.  Fans of the aforementioned artists can safely purchase this without hearing a single snippet; the music is suffused with emotion and intellect (Sub Rosa, September 18).  For more lovely strings, investigate the cello textures of Lukas Lauermann, whose I N travels the semitones of the traditional scale in an untraditional manner (col lego, September 18).  J Pavone String Ensemble takes a more experimental approach on Lost and Found, drawing the ears with texture and dissonance (Astral Spirits, October 9).

Lost Tribe Sound continues its Fearful Void series this fall with new albums from Claire Deak and Tony Dupé and Vieo Abiungo.  the old capital features over two dozen instruments, an unexpected treat that justifies the name “home orchestra.”  At Once, There Was No Horizon is presented by one man ~ William Ryan Fritch ~ but sounds like a small orchestra marching into the heart of the jungle.  Both sets arrive in exquisite hardback binding, like keepsake books (October 9 and 16).

Anna von Hausswolff returns us to the Gardens of Bomarzo on All Thoughts Fly ~ we last visited the region in 2013, due to a stellar album from Clorinde.  Eschewing vocals, the composer connects the mystery of the Garden (referred to here as Sacro Bosco) to ancient sacral music through the use of a restored seventeenth century pipe organ (Ash International / Southern Lord, September 25).  Moving backward and forward through the history of the instrument, Sarah Davachi plays everything from a 1479 Van Straten to a 1975 Poul-Gerhard Andersen.  Vocals also feature on Cantus, Descant, but the primary mood is sacral (Late Music, September 18).

Minihi‘s Hallowed Halls is an early taste of a late fall album on Unperceived Records.  As an “homage to architectural spaces,” the celeste-laden track yearns to reverberate in a great hall.  The piece addresses “the places yearning to be filled with life again.”  Are you looking for something cinematic?  The Last Dinosaur‘s Wholeness is rife with orchestras and thunder, balanced on the softer end by typewriters and spoken word, and rightfully being compared to Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks (Phases, October 23).

Mary Lattimore‘s harp sounds stunning on Sometimes He’s In My Dreams, the lead track from the upcoming Silver Ladders.  A frequent guest on other artists’ albums, it’s great to hear her own work showcased once again (Ghostly International, October 8).  Pianist Derek Hunter Wilson returns with harpist Joshua Ward as Niksen.  The word is Dutch for “taking time to do nothing.”  The lovely Invisible City, enhanced by electronics and cello, will be released on September 4; the cover is also the featured image for this post.  Luke Howard and Tilman Robinson team up for the electronic-minded Dark Angels EP, which uses the Shards vocals from The Sand That Ate the Sea as texture and instrument (Rough Trade, September 10).  Electronics are also found on Lambert‘s diverse False, which features fourteen collaborations with artists across the board.  Flow is the first taste, but not the only timbre (Mercury KX, November 13).

A fitting reflection of the Black Lives Matter movement, SPAZA‘s UPRIZE! is the score to a film that takes place in June 1976, a turning point in the battle against apartheid.  The incorporation of dialogue and song recalls Matana Roberts (Mushroom Hour Half Hour, October 16).  Sarod, tabla and rubab combine on Bombyx Mori, a tribute to the Silk Road, courtesy of 3,14.  Fans of the exotic will be treated to Herati dutar, fretted hurdy gurdy, Oğur sazı, tanpura, oud, sagat, gong, Azeri tar, daf, Afghan rabab, basslaute, swarmandal, kudüm, zil, udu, kayamb and calabash.  Time to start Googling! (Worlds Within Worlds, October 2).  The tabla also appears on Mark Vickness‘ Interconnected as part of a quintet led by the fingerstyle guitarist.  The album is warm and inviting, a showcase not only for the composer, but for each player (September 15).


We’ve had a hard time classifying Andrew Wasylyk‘s Fugitive Light and Themes of Consolation, which seems on the surface to be jazz ~ until it’s not.  Singing saw nudges the album over to modern composition, while an occasional pop/rock feel surfaces as well; lead single “Last Sunbeams of Childhood” is reminiscent of Chicago.  This concludes the artist’s Eastern Scotland trilogy (Athens of the North, September 4).  Lumiere‘s Phases is another outlier.  Sometimes there’s poetry, sometimes there’s opera, sometimes there’s yelling, and “Doppler” has a rock feel, but most tracks blend piano and strings.  Listeners may need to withhold judgement until they hear the whole thing (September 18).  Violins and noise coexist on Patrick Higgins‘ TOCSIN, which includes contributions by the Wet Ink Ensemble, Vicky Chow and Mivos Quartet, along with a finale from Bach.  If this seems eclectic, the artist’s connection with Zs helps it all make sense (Telegraph Harp, October 16).


It’s rare for instrumental composers to release sets of rarities and remasters, but Ludovico Einaudi has earned the right after 25 years.  Undiscovered is a tongue-in-cheek title, but the music is straightforward.  The first taste is Due Tramonti (Decca, September 18).  Rael Jones returns with string quartet and piano on Mother Echo, one of the latest releases on our docket (November 17).  We can, however, share that we’ve heard the whole thing, and it’s amazing.  Circadian Live offers a new take on Manu Delago‘s hit album of last year; the set is due September 18 on One Little Independent.  The music of Alvin Curran finds new voice on Inner Cities, as performed by Gabriella Smart: a collection spanning two decades (Room40, October 2).

Gerry Owens‘ The Remnants is dark and harrowing, suffused with a sense of suspense.  The artist was inspired by time in the house of poet Robert Waters Grey.  We may find it on a few Halloween playlists (September 17).  Dramatic strings and loops populate Oliver Coates‘s unusually titled skin n slime, whose lead video embodies the season of the witch ~ that of the harvest and not of the haunting (RVNG Intl., October 16).  Paul Zambrano’s Death Is Beautiful looks like a gothic comic book, and sounds like a dark thriller.  Chimes dominate lead track Sleepless (CD Baby/Hear Now, October 2).  Now scheduled for on-demand release September 18 is Lionsgate’s highly anticipated thriller Antibellum.  The evocative score, by NateRocket” Wonder and Roman GianArthur, will be released the same day on Milan.


The Keys to the Kingdom

Here’s a beauty:  Goldmund‘s The Time It Takes seems to speak to the need for patience in a time of global crisis, and is graced by a cover image that connotes kindness.  Lead single Day In Day Out is intensely relaxing, auguring well for an accumulation of peace (Western Vinyl, October 16).  The Preserved Sound label has been quiet for a while, but is returning in a big way this fall with albums from Adrian Lane and Ales Tsurko, along with a “blind compilation” of 11 Preserved Sound artists.  Bigo & Twigetti has been releasing Perceptions two pieces at a time over the course of the summer, beginning with Olan Mill’s “Reconstructing Nature,” featured earlier on this site.  The recently reviewed Madeleine Cocolas is also included here along with Leah Kardos and many other keyboard-based artists (September 3).


Laraaji‘s Moon Piano is a companion EP to Sun Piano, released earlier this year.  Far more introspective than its sibling, this soft set is closer to what fans have come to expect from the new age artist (All Saints, October 9). Hennik Lindstrand‘s NORDHEM completes a piano trilogy that began in 2017.  The art displays the phases of the moon, a gentle analogy (One Little Independent, October 23).  Chad Lawson‘s tender piano music inspired a pair of dancers to perform outside during “Manhattanhenge;” You Finally Knew is out September 11, preceded by the single Prelude in D Major.  Recorded in one day, Runar Blesvik‘s Threads EP has the feel of a home concert given for a small circle of friends.  A tiny bit of strings is added like sugar (Fluttery, September 8).  glacis has had a really hard time during the crisis, with his entire family coming down with COVID-19.  Thankfully, everyone’s okay now, and he got a couple EPs out of the ordeal.  Memory Pool and Death & Piano are both out on September 4.


Prepared piano populates Ray, composed for a film about John Cage.  Yui Onodera adds synth and strings to produce a particularly active sound.  The album is out September 18 on Serein, with the film “Cage 64” to follow.  Ceeys is a piano-and-cello duo that often sounds louder than two; Hausmusik is a double album that showcases their sound.  Percussion is suggested without the drums (Neue Meister, October 9).  Piano music isn’t normally viewed as dark, but John Bence‘s Love is a different beast.  The concluding piece of a triptych that began with Kill and Disquiet is the artist’s first album recorded in sobriety, but some of the demons remain.  It’s a somber listen, but an enlightening psychological window (Thrill Jockey, November 13).



In addition to the Goldmund album above, Western Vinyl has also launched a singles series titled Composure: Classical Reworks for Modern Relief.  The fourth to appear is an astonishing version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as reimagined by Christopher Tignor (September 8).  This follows adaptations of Satie, Bach and Arvo Pärt by Joseph Shabason, Bram Gielen and Peter Broderick, all of which can be previewed on the label’s YouTube channel.

Michi Wiancko‘s Planetary Candidate may have been written for solo violin, but it didn’t stay that way.  The title track includes “a wooden spoon, a library card and seashells,” while others use electronics.  A slew of composers appear on this New Amsterdam album, due September 18.  Mathias Halvorsen & Jan Martin Gismervik add a new layer to the onion On Goldberg Variations.  The album is due September 11 on Backlash Music.


Another Timbre is looking ahead to an active November, led by a quarantine-commissioned solo cello album from Judith Hamann, chased by “two or even three CDs from Apartment House,” including music by Belgian composer Maya Verlaak and Canadian composer Martin Arnold.  If that seems a long way off, check out the label’s five newest releases, less than a week old!

New Focus Recordings sent out an already hyperlinked press release; if everyone did this, we’d have an easier time writing these previews!  Three of their September selections appear in other sections, while three appear here.  Green Mountain Project performs Monteverdi‘s Vespers on Vespro della Beata Vergine (September 4), while cellist Dan Barrett plays Dominique Lemaître on De l’espace trouver la fin et le milieu (September 18) and the pianist Eric Huebner plays Ligeti on Désordre (September 25).

NMC Recordings will release a trio of albums on September 25.  Nicola LeFanu‘s  The Crimson Bird is an undulating set containing works composed over a 45-year period, performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra.  Linda Buckley‘s From Ocean’s Floor combines the talents of Crash Ensemble, ConTempo Quartet and sean nós singer Iarla O’Lionaird, while Wet Ink Ensemble‘s Smoke, Airs combines chamber and electronics and covers the works of a quartet of modern composers.

Richard Allen

One comment

  1. Pingback: A Closer Listen Fall Music Preview ~ Modern Composition – Avant Music News

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