Wondering what to do with your winter lockdown time? Perhaps you’ll make some instruments out of ice, like Terje Isungset, pictured here at the Norway Music Festival. Perhaps you’ll sort through old tapes and make a sonic collage. Perhaps you’ll dig out that old cajon and thumb piano. Or perhaps you’ll simply invite some friends over to jam. If you don’t play an instrument or sing, you might invite your vaccinated friends over to hear some of the amazing new music being released this season: a statement against the cold and isolation, a declaration of joy in the art of creation. Whatever you have planned, we hope that it’s fun and creative – and we’ve got your soundtrack. The albums listed below are but the opening salvo of an action-packed year!
We’ve placed a quartet of Room40 albums in our Ambient and Drone preview, and two more entries from 2021’s Label of the Year land here. Maria Moles opens a window to Philippine Kulintang music, using percussion, tape loop and synth. Just as “In-Pan-as” from For Leolanda begins to settle into a drummer’s trance, the timbre shifts to singing bowls and bells (January 21). Then on Inshallahlaland, Saint Abdullah makes a statement about speech and identity through spoken word samples and morphing instrumentation (February 4). Lawrence English also remasters Nate Scheible‘s Fairfax (first released on ACR), which surrounds melancholic, time-abraded voicemail messages in an ambient sheen (Warm Winters Ltd., February 4).
The self-titled album from The Arteries of New York City is a concept album, with hints of jazz, field recordings and spoken word samples. While the moniker is new, the names of the composers ~ Alex Kozobolis and Jamie Cameron are familiar (March 18). Sound poet Enzo Minarelli presents an ambitious tribute to Copernicus on De Revolutionibus, combining utterance, trill and pop with drums and unusual background panels (Other Minds, January 14). Spoken word meets strange sample on going blind for the weekend going mute for the rest of your life, pairing Jonah’s Jubilee with Shaun Robert (Wormhole World, January 21). Also on the label: the return of R. Weis (Parrot & Paperback) with Installed: Sound for Exhibitions. The highlight is clearly “Dog Choir,” but the sampled antique door squeaks of “Victoriana” are a close second (February 25).
The Hidden Notes label has a fun double release on its winter docket, the product of on-the-spot compositions during the podcast excuse the mess. Joining Ben Corrigan are familiar names such as Gold Panda, Manu Delago, Galya Bisengalieva and many more; and each volume comes with a paperback book (February 4)! Featuring composers such as KMRU, Rie Nakajima and Siavash Amini, Paint your lips while singing your favorite song has a head start on the competition. Each track is a translation of word into sound, based on the scores of Salomé Voegelin (Flaming Pines, January 27). KMRU also pops up on Ale Hop‘s Why Is It They Say a City Like Any City?, an exploration of global sensibilities that sees the composer in dialogue with musicians around the world. An AV installation is set to follow (Karlrecords, February 4).
One of the season’s keepsake releases is the elaborate 5-LP or 5-CD box set electroacoustic works from composer Iannis Xenakis, celebrating the composer’s 100th anniversary. Born in 1922, Xenakis passed away in 2001, leaving behind an incredible body of futuristic work (Karlrecords, January 28). The always unpredictable Sontag Shogun has shifted gears once again, as Flutter & Scrape is an abstract album for prepared piano, “room and objects,” EMF and more (Flag Day Recordings, January 7, pictured right). The combination of reel-to-reel tape, abraded loop and backward masking make Mark Vernon‘s Time Deferred an exercise in modern hauntology; the time-washed 8mm video is an additional treat, as seen below (Gagarin, February 25).
Pan Daijing can obviously do it all, because in addition to landing her second album in a row on our year-end chart, she’s now written and performed an opera. The Tissues exhibition included a dozen dancers and opera singers, but the audio element is far more intimate: another glimpse into the mind of this beguiling composer (PAN, January 21). The original version of Elías Merino and Daniel del Río‘s exhibition Structures for Wave Field Synthesis featured 192 speakers, but it’s okay if you don’t own that many ~ it was recorded in binaural sound and the algorithms retain their impact. An explanatory booklet is included (Superpang, January 1).
Do you know someone who likes potatoes? I mean really likes potatoes? Matilde Meireles‘ cassette Life of a Potato may be the perfect gift: field recordings of soil and stems, cooking and crackling. Listening may create hunger pangs, so be sure to have a potato or two nearby (Cronica, January 25). The Italian label Canti Magnetici has four releases on the winter docket: Emmanuele Holterbach‘s cold and frozen Le rêve, l’ombre et la vision, featuring the sound of ice crackle and blazing fire and inspired by the poems of Finnish writer Eeva-Liisa Manner; the forlorn tape loops of Andrea Penso‘s Oh! Uomo, reflecting the numbing despair of emigration and exile; Alexandra Spence‘s Submerged tape loops, which were literally buried and recovered; and Joshua Bonetta and Judith Hamann‘s Re-Recorder, featuring fragments of re-purposed cinema sound. All are released January 29.
Improvisation and Avant Jazz
We’ll start with the prolific 577 Records and sister label Orbit577, who continue to amaze by really having their act together in terms of advance publicity. Pacifica Coral Reef is the year’s first release, a trumpet-laden set that imitates rhythms beneath the Antarctic ice, presented by Wadada Leo Smith, Henry Kaiser and Alex Varty (January 7). This will be followed by Personal Breath, a wintry album from Pepa Päivinen and Jussi Miettola that uses woodwind and percussion to relay a stark Finnish tale from the 1918 civil war (January 18). Then Daniel Carter, Ayumi Ishito, Eric Plaks, Zach Swanson and Jon Panikkar join forces for the freeform Open Question Vol. 1, stemming from a series of Harlem jam sessions (January 21). On February 4, the two-part Conversations concludes with its second volume, pairing Cooper Moore and Stephen Gauci on piano and sax. Then on February 18, the long-lost Mahogany Rain reappears, featuring Keith Tippett, Julie Tippetts, Philip Gibbs and Paul Dunmall. The label isn’t kidding about a “little preview,” as it lasts only 18 seconds!
A sax and drums concert from 1986 makes its way from handheld tape recorder to wide release on Mitochondria, from Akira Sakata and Takeo Moriyama (trost, January 21). More Wadada Leo Smith ~ much more than fans ever dreamed ~ can be found on the seven-disc box set String Quartets 1-12 and the 4-disc Emerald Duets, both due March 18 on TUM. Also forthcoming on TUM: The OGJB Quartet‘s Ode to O, dedicated to Ornette Coleman (January 21) and Andrew Cyrille, William Parker & Enrico Rava‘s 2 Blues for Cecil, dedicated to Cecil Taylor (January 21).
We’d normally put solo piano under Modern Composition, but Benoit Delbecq‘s The Weight of Light is improvised piano, playful and light, like a series of imagined winks (Pyroclastic, February 12). Also on Pyroclastic: Tony Mallaby‘s The Cave of Winds, recorded in one day on Long Island with a sax-led quartet (January 7, pictured to the right). The Oùat trio makes its debut with Elastic Bricks, a languid set showcasing the ivories while giving other performers space to exude (Umlaut, January 7). And while we’re excited about Satako Fujii‘s Thread of Light with Joe Fonda, it’s “only” the artist’s 99th release as a leader or co-leader; we’re right on the brink of #100, which should be cause for intense celebration (FSR, January 28).
On the other end of the spectrum lie Eric Wubbels / Charlmaine Lee, whose Field of Action may be subtitled Piano Duos, but is as harsh as it gets (Out of Your Head, February 25). Fans of abrasion may also like Mark Harwood‘s Offering, which screeches and squawks, then whispers and hums, content to be discontent (Penultimate Press, February 6).
Inspired by “dance and protest,” Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double recorded March, an album whose title straddles both concepts. With two drummers, two guitarists and two cornet/trumpet players, the sextet makes a rambunctious sound (Firehouse 12, March 4). Sirens sound, thunder roars and knives sharpen in the early foregrounds of The End Is the Beginning, introducing pieces by trumpeter Max Gollehon. The experience is akin to a series of vignettes (Nefarious Industries, February 4). Free jazz meets Zen on Jone Takamäki, Umut Çağlar, Fahrettin Aykut‘s Myth Of The Drum, a mystical piece in two sides that might cause reflection or ecstasy (Zehra, January 28). The sonically curious duo DunkenpeK combines guitar and percussion in a manner that can veer suddenly from contemplation to cacophony, as seen below. Fire’s Hush is out February 4 on AKP Recordings.
Grammy nominee Bill O’Connell returns with the upbeat sounds of A Change Is Gonna Come, a direct reaction to the current climate, with a positive twist (Savant, January 28). Bassist Martin Wind follows last fall’s My Astorian Queen with Air, featuring the New York Bass Quartet (Laika, February 25). The Bernie Senensky Quartet / Quintet presents a melodic, semi-improvised sound on Don’t Look Back, due January 14 on Cellar Live. Fred Hersch mingles jazz and classical sounds in an accessible fashion on Breath by Breath, based on the artist’s meditation practices (Palmetto, January 7). Tenor Time may be a tribute to Chick Corea, but it’s not a cover album; instead, it’s a series of homages and interpretations by saxophonists John Wojciechowski, Geof Bradfield and Scott Burns (AFAR, January 21).
Is it Appalachian music? Free primitive? New jazz? Whatever the genre tag may be, the overall feeling of J.R. Bohannon‘s Compulsions is spacious and relaxed, a respite for couch sitters and campfire roasters alike (Astral Editions, January 14). Space jazz improv can be found on Invite Your Eye, a psychedelic, smoke-filled journey from Ilhan Ersahin, Dave Harrington and Kenny Wollesen. As it spins, one may drift back to a prior decade, all anxieties eased (Nublu, March 4).