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For the Record: July 3, 2020

Keeping tabs on new recordings of interest to the new-music community, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital-only formats—including the Album of the Week from multifarious minimalist David First.
For the Record: July 3, 2020

For the Record is a weekly round-up of new and pending 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  correspond to U.S. release of physical recordings, for the most part,  and are subject to change. (Links to Amazon, where used, do not imply  endorsement.)

After publication, these new listings will be incorporated into On the Record: The Master List, a continuously compiled and updated resource exclusively accessible to paid 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 nightafternight@icloud.com.

Happy birthday, Antoine Beuger

As I mentioned in the newsletter I sent out earlier today, today is the latest – and, barring some new announcement, the last – of the fees-waived sales days Bandcamp has run during the pandemic, wherein the popular music-sales platform has ceded its share of each sale to help artists and labels affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This also happens to be the 65th birthday of Antoine Beuger, a Dutch composer and performer, and an architect of the increasingly influential Wandelweiser composers collective.

To mark the occasion, this morning I spontaneously threaded up a dozen recordings available on Bandcamp that represent his work well – along with his contribution to the AMPLIFY2020: quarantine online music festival, available for free download – and posted them in the Twitter thread embedded above.

Beuger accompanied his AMPLIFY piece, froberger - affligée et tombeau (repeated), with these words:

so let’s be radically sad,
appalled by the state our world is in,
appalled even more by the arrogant composure of the destroyers of our world.
for our grief is our strength,
and whoever cannot grieve is dead.

“Radically sad” is an appropriate term for a condition that has become familiar to so many of us lately. In response, Beuger’s music offers humility, modesty, intimacy, and solace.

Happy birthday, Mr. Beuger, with appreciation and deep gratitude for the gifts you’ve shared with us all.

Recording of the Week

David First
Photograph: davidfirst.com

David First/The Western Enisphere
The Consummation of Right and Wrong

It’s hard to imagine a magnum opus less concerned with its own significance than The Consummation of Right and Wrong, a stunning new release from the New York composer and performer David First. Make no mistake: this is a benchmark recording of a massive work that encapsulates a lot of what makes First a crucial creative mind. But this isn’t music that demands you sit up straight and genuflect; it’s music that invites you to come inside, get comfortable, and stick around a while.

Describing First’s work in a manner that does his conception justice has never been easy. From his start as an improvising guitarist in an orchestra Cecil Taylor led at Carnegie Hall in 1974, First dug into kinetic electric jazz and psychedelic rock with seductive results. He showed an early affinity for drone-based music, a practice he would refine for decades. The composer and critic Kyle Gann, who covered First’s work in the Village Voice with an erudition, insight, and precision that render me agog, termed him a totalist, alongside the likes of Glenn Branca, Michael Gordon, and Mikel Rouse. But even Gann confessed, “Whenever I’m obliged to wrap up Downtown music in 25 words or less, First is one of the hardest composers to place.”

I’m tempted to think of First’s approach as a kind of arte povera take on minimalism, achieving elemental results without being precious about the means of production. His music shows the mathematical detail, focus, and deliberation found in works by Alvin Lucier, Éliane Radigue, and Phill Niblock, to name three clear antecedents—in fact, First could be viewed as a bridge between those composers and latter-day drone disciples like Ellen Arkbro and Kali Malone. But, as a working musician seasoned on the bandstand, First comprehends that modest Casio keyboards, harmonicas, and penny whistles can be the most amenable tools to achieve his rarefied ends.

Close followers of First’s work will recognize that Consummation is a statement toward which he has been building for some time now: from the blissfully dizzying beats he conjured with the World Casio Quartet, through the rhythmic complexities he mined from microtonal frictions in the works compiled in a crucial 2010 anthology, Privacy Issues (droneworks 1996-2009), and onward through the tactile research and development phase of his four-LP series Same Animal, Different Cages—the third volume of which almost certainly is the most extraordinary unaccompanied harmonica album, ever.

After completing the Same Animal series, First reveals in his notes for Consummation, he reconvened the Western Enisphere, the versatile band he’d previously assembled and drilled to interpret the exacting demands of his work—including its reliance on what First terms Gestural Improvisation. First describes that practice like so:

I define GI as a set of procedures that isolates those musical elements traditionally considered ornamentation or aspects of expression, and elevates them to the level of most significant extrapolative detail. Examples of fundamental GI techniques would be the implementation of glissando/pitchbend/vibrato in the area of frequency, active filtering/overtone isolation in the area of timbre, and tempo modulation/rubato in the area of rhythm. Proper employment takes what I call “the virtuosity of slowness.” One has to learn to move at a glacial pace in order to perceive the teeming sea of values that lie between the official culturally sanctioned demarcations.

What’s important to note, though, is that no special powers of perception are required to comprehend the blissful deep listening prompted by Consummation. The work is compulsively approachable, and wholly comprehensible simply by listening. Part One is divided into 15 segments First designates as “scenes.” Each highlights a different instrument or instruments, alone or in ensemble, set against a fundamental drone. Scenes featuring trombone, viola, bass clarinet, and the like show off the sympathetic skill of First’s players; the 15th scene, especially arresting, involves a sine tone, First’s slippery penny whistle, and the bones of your inner ear.

Part Two, a continuous 46-minute expanse for the full ensemble, starts off with 11-and-a-half minutes of motionless drift—at which point the subtlest imaginable rhythm section enters, and the meditative bliss becomes a full-body somatic experience. After the pulse drops out roughly 11 minutes later, the music writhes and curls back toward the elemental tones from which it emerged. The process blurs science and shamanism, with results that are utterly mesmerizing.

Stated simply, Consummation is among the most important recordings that will appear this year. But its significance is worn lightly, and never outweighs the pure mental, spiritual, and physiological succor of the sounds First and his players produce.

In a word: essential.

New This Week

Alvin Lucier
Photograph: Krisanne Johnson

Thomas Adès - In Seven Days - Kirill Gerstein, Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra/Thomas Adès (myrios classics)

Anteloper - Tour Beats, Vol. 1 (International Anthem)

Bob Bellerue - Transient Orbits (self-released)

Kyle Bruckmann/Tim Daisy - Loop Language (Relay Recordings)

Elizabeth Chin, Anetude “Zaza” Geffrard, Casey Anderson - yon ti vizit (a wave press)

Deerhoof with Wadada Leo Smith - To Be Surrounded By Beautiful, Curious, Breathing, Laughing Flesh Is Enough (Joyful Noise)

Gahlord Dewald - Coherent Light Enclosed Without (Community of Sound)

Grant Evans - Doppelgänger/Correspondent (self-released)

David First/The Western Enisphere - The Consummation of Right and Wrong (Important)

Carol Genetti & claire rousay - Live at Elastic Arts (Astral Editions)

Forbes Graham - Neighborhoods of x, y, z (self-released)

Hupata! - Microclimates (Astral Spirits)

Brian Krock’s Liddle - Viscera (self-released)

LiKWUiD and Teodora Stepančić - zen af (Love Records)

Alvin Lucier - Music for the Ever-Present Orchestra (Black Truffle)

Hamed Mafakheri - Durations (Flaming Pines)

Qasim Naqvi - Beta (Erased Tapes)

Miles Okazaki - Trickster’s Dream (Pi Recordings)

Spike Orchestra - Splintered Stories (Tzadik)

Sun of Goldfinger (David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith) - (Congratulations to You) (9donkeys)

Thomas Wally - Jusqu’à l’aurore - Thomas Wally, Mondrian Ensemble (Col Legno)

Matthew Welch - The Favrile Opalesence - performances by Clocks in Motion, Quartet Metadata, and the Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble (Kotekan)

Coming Soon

Gyða Valtýsdóttir
Photograph: Lilja Birgisdóttir

July 17

Collage Project - Off Brand (New Focus)

July 21

Toshiya Tsunoda/Taku Unami - Wovenland 2 (Erstwhile)

August 7

Bloodmist (Jeremiah Cymerman, Mario Diaz de Leon, Toby Driver) - Phos (5049 Records)

Suzanne Ciani - Music for Denali (Finders Keepers)

Robert Honstein - Soul House - Hub New Music (New Amsterdam)

August 14

Eiko Ishibashi - Hyakki Yagyō (Black Truffle)

August 21

Christopher Cerrone - Liminal Highway - Timothy Munro (New Focus)

Huntsville + Yuka C. Honda, Nels Cline, Darin Gray, Glenn Kotche - Bow Shoulder (Hubro)

August 28

claire rousay - Both (Second Editions)

Gyða Valtýsdóttir - Epicycle II - compositions by Ólöf Arnalds, Daníel Bjarnason, Úlfur Hansson, Jónsi, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir, Kjartan Sveinsson, Skúli Sverrisson, and Anna Thorvaldsdóttir (DiaMond/Sono Luminus)

September 11

Cat Toren’s Human Kind - Scintillating Beauty (New Focus)

September 18

Sarah Davachi - Cantus, Descant (Late Music)