For the Record is a weekly round-up of new and upcoming recordings of interest to the new-music community – contemporary classical music and jazz, electronic and electroacoustic music, and idioms for which no clever genre name has been coined – on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, digital-only formats… you name it.
This list of release dates is culled from press releases, Amazon, Bandcamp, and other internet stores and sources, social-media posts, and online resources such as Discogs. Dates cited typically correspond to initial U.S. release, and are subject to change. (Links to Amazon, used when all else fails, do not imply endorsement.)
After publication, new listings are incorporated into For the Record: The Master List, a continuously updated resource exclusively accessible to paying Night After Night subscribers, found here.
These listings are not comprehensive—nor could they be! To submit a forthcoming recording for consideration, email information to email@example.com.
Please note that all opinions expressed herein are solely my own, and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.
Album of the Week.
KOI – Performing the Music of Tim Berne
There's a world of economy and nuance in the music of saxophonist, composer, bandleader, and serial record-label impresario Tim Berne, but I'll be the first to admit I don't always think about it that way. Koi, the new album by guitarist Gregg Belisle-Chi, is the latest in a succinct line of timely correctives: an album keenly focused on the pithy tunes Berne writes, shorn of the long and winding arrangements though which he provides his bands with room to stretch.
There's a reason hurtling momentum and teeming density come to mind first when I think of Berne: his otherworldly 1987 Columbia Records debut, Fulton Street Maul, did a number on my undergraduate ears. Berne's akimbo thrusts and acidic wail sailed over and pierced through guitarist Bill Frisell's discombobulating slashes and washes, cellist Hank Roberts's hearty wood and woodsy heart, and drummer Alex Cline's elemental pulse. The album made a lasting impact.
Cline especially, undersung among East Coasters, set a precedent extended by Joey Baron, Jim Black, and Tom Rainey: different drummers all, whose approaches balanced subtlety and abstraction with ferocious reserves of visceral groove. Berne deployed forces unconventionally, drummers included. Some of his pieces unspooled in a more or less linear fashion. But increasingly his compositions seemed more intent upon sneaking up on a melody, insinuating a pulse until suddenly it burst into full thrust. (In a 2008 essay, my old friend and colleague Hank Shteamer coined an appropriate and useful term: gradual coalescence.)
Four years ago, with an album called FØRAGE on Berne's Screwgun label, pianist Matt Mitchell presented Berne's music in a new way: crystalline, succinct, distilled to its essence. Mitchell – a member of Berne's latest, most transparent band, Snakeoil, also featuring reedist Oscar Noriega and percussionist Ches Smith – cut a personal path into the heart of Berne's language, assembling bits of existing compositions into what amounted to a book of new tunes.
The notion of Belisle-Chi expressing his interpretations on solo acoustic guitar, it turns out, was Berne's, hatched after he heard the guitarist accompanying his solo saxophone tracks on Instagram. Stated Berne, in a press release:
“I felt like the acoustic offered a more personal sound, as well as a certain intimacy similar to the alto. I sent him a stack of sheet music, ranging from recent compositions and some chestnuts from past years and encouraged him to choose freely. What I really love about Gregg is that, like Matt, he made his own rules. I didn’t want him to be a slave to the written music. His interpretations are great in the way they’re able to integrate the composition with improvisation in such a seamless way.”
Accordingly, Belisle-Chi takes a free hand distilling études from the saxophonist's loose canon. It's fascinating to fact-check his versions of tunes from earlier Berne releases. "Huevos" on the dense 2001 album Science Friction sounds like a Meters strut mirror-flipped, beginning with the run-out groove and then creeping up on its Berg on Bourbon Street melody. Belisle-Chi seizes the tune straightaway, fixing upon and shining its melancholy facets.
Likewise on Feign, a 2005 release by Berne's trio Hardcell – Berne, Rainey, and keyboardist Craig Taborn from Science Friction, sans guitarist Marc Ducret – the band creeps slowly into "Brokelyn," and then accumulates intensity at a pace familiar to Berne devotées. Belisle-Chi, on the other hand, prefaces "Brokelyn" with another tune, "Huh," and then plays up long tones and weighty silences.
Given that Belisle-Chi reports the spark for Koi came out of his efforts to transcribe Sacred Vowels, Berne's guerrilla-recorded pandemic solo recital, it makes sense that the guitarist finds plenty to work with in Berne's more transparent work. Angel Dusk, Berne's 2018 duo session with Mitchell, yields three choice selections: "Reception," "Starfish Blues," and "Chance."
The origin of certain other pieces, like "Three Whisky Exception" and "Trauma One," remains a mystery—which bothers me not at all. What matters most is that the contents of Koi hang together beautifully, illuminating simultaneously Berne's compositional originality and Belisle-Chi's interpretive courage.
I persist in sharing a standard disclaimer anytime I write about Berne, seeing as how I worked with/for him in launching Screwgun during the late '90s. You'll find it in the last few paragraphs of this 2007 blog post.
Lost and Dizzy.
I mentioned in last week's newsletter, in a cop-out excuse for why I wasn't reviewing my Album of the Week pick, that I would be writing and talking elsewhere about Lost Coast, the new album by composer Gabriella Smith and cellist Gabriel Cabezas, abetted by producer Nadia Sirota and other colleagues.
I've got good news, and bad news.
The good news is that Lost Coast did indeed factor into my debut writing for NPR Music, the consistently strong and smart digital-first sibling of my present employer. The album is featured among what formerly was titled "NPR Music's 25 Favorite Albums Of 2021 (So Far)," but now has expanded to include 26 releases.
I also contributed to a second list, "NPR Music's 25 Favorite Songs Of 2021 (So Far)," which included 26 entries almost immediately after publication, and now has grown to 27. There, I wrote about "Rang Dizzy," a song from what for the moment remains the newest Ryley Walker LP, Course in Fable, and a tune that's been stuck since I first heard it months ago.
Naturally, I enjoyed Walker's response.
The bad news is that, because I had to concentrate on editing and publishing a timely news story on Thursday morning, I was unable to complete the "talking" part of what I promised last week. Alas. Some other time…
New This Week
Laura Andel - Khartes (Zoar)
Ausland - Plateau (Superpang)
Mattie Barbier - 146A (self-released)
Greg Belisle-Chi - KOI – Performing the Music of Tim Berne (Relative Pitch)
Bent Duo - Ramble (self-released)
Tom Chiu - The Live One (XI Records)
Daniel Corral - Circle Limit III - Los Angeles Electric 8 (MicroFest)
Simon H. Fell/Alex Ward/Mark Wastell - Bailey: With Apologies to G. Brecht (Confront)
Huvudry - Vi kanske borde prata (self-released)
Eiko Ishibashi - Tokyo 2021 Variantic (Superpang)
Ayumi Ishito - Ayumi Ishito & The Spacemen Vol. 1 (Relative Pitch)
anne-f jacques - poudrerie (winds measure)
Stevie Jones - Static Cling (Takuroku)
Roland Kayn - Remake A (Reiger-records-reeks)
Klaus Lang & Konus Quartett - Drei Allmenden (Cubus)
Jordan Munson - Make a Killing Year (self-released)
Phill Niblock - NuDaf - Dafne Vicente-Sandoval (XI Records)
BJ Nilsen - Irreal (Editions Mego)
Jim Nollman - Music for Swimming and Flying (Other Minds)
Lance Austin Olsen - Polishing the Mirrors of Psychosis (Infrequency Editions)
Stéphane Payen, Ingrid Laubrock, Chris Tordini, Tom Rainey - All Set (RogueArt)
Christian Rønn & Bob Bellerue - Intoku Inversions (Nische)
Taku Sugimoto - 13 & 14 for Guitars (2009) - Cristián Alvear (self-released)
Mark R. Taylor - Music for Violin and Piano - Darragh Morgan, Mary Dullea (Digital Sofa)
Various artists - Oscillation ::: Tuned Circuits 1 - selections by Jonáš Gruska and Farida Amadou (umland editions)
Various artists - Oscillation ::: Tuned Circuits 2 - selections by Billy Roisz and Jeroen Uyttendaele (umland editions)
Various artists - Oscillation ::: Tuned Circuits 3 - selections by Stellan Veloce and Yannick Guédon (umland editions)
Various artists - Oscillation ::: Tuned Circuits 4 - selections by Catherine Lamb and Lukas De Clerck (umland editions)
Various artists - TUSK Editions #4 - selections by Otomo Yoshihide, St. James Infirmary, Tina Krekels & Rebecca Mahay, and more (TUSK Festival)
Doug Wieselman - Hope for the Trees/Blodeuwedd (figureight)
Tatsuhisa Yamamoto - Ano Kane wo Narasu (Takuroku)
Robbie Avenaim, Chris Abrahams, Jim Denley - Weft (Relative Pitch)
Michel Doneda, Frederic Blondy, Tetsu Saitoh - Spring Road 16 (Relative Pitch)
Juraj Kojš - Imagine - performances by Eric Umble, Adam Marks, Juraj Kojš, [Switch~ Ensemble], and Splinter Reeds (Neuma)
Mihailo Trandafilovski - Step(pe)s (Neuma)
Ora Clementi (crys cole and James Rushford) - Sylva Sylvarum (Black Truffle)
Kate Carr - dawn, always new, often superb, inaugurates the return of the everyday (self-released)
Matias Riquelme - 7 (Orbit577)
Sally Decker - In the Tender Dream (NNA Tapes)
fluke-mogul/Liberatore/Mattrey/Mendoza - Death in the Gilded Age (Tripticks Tapes)
Field Works - Maples, Ash, and Oaks: Cedars Instrumentals (Temporary Residence Ltd.)
Brendon Randall-Myers - A Kind of Mirror - Miki Sawada (slashsound)
Trio Sin Tiempo (Leo Genovese, Mariano Otero, Sergio Verdinelli) - Ritmos de Agua (577 Records)
Lawrence English - A Mirror Holds the Sky (Room40)
Susan Howe & David Grubbs - Concordance (Blue Chopsticks)
Travis Laplante/Jason Nazary - Tunnel to Light (Tripticks Tapes)
David Toop, Akio Suzuki, Lawrence English - Breathing Spirit Forms (Room40)
Frank Kimbrough - Ancestors (Sunnyside)
Aakash Mittal - Nocturne (self-released)
Francisco Mela featuring Matthew Shipp and William Parker - Music Frees Our Souls, Vol. 1 (577 Records)
David Lee Myers - Reduced to a Geometrical Point (Crónica)
Chet Doxas Trio - You Can't Take It With You (Whirlwind Recordings)
Matthew Stevens - Pittsburgh (Whirlwind Recordings)