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For the Record: March 26, 2021

Keeping tabs on new recordings of interest to the new-music community, on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital-only formats—including three albums by String Noise and a campaign to support Tim Barnes.
For the Record: March 26, 2021

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 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 On the Record: The Master List, a continuously compiled and 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 nightafternight@icloud.com.

Please note that all opinions expressed herein are solely my own, and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

A Note About Tim Barnes.

Tim Barnes

If you’re involved in the worlds of avant-garde rock, new music, and free improvisation, most likely you know about Tim Barnes, an ingenious percussionist and industrious community organizer. During the ’90s and ’00s he collaborated with marquee acts like Sonic Youth, Mike Watt, Royal Trux, and Stereolab, while pursuing more recondite work alongside Tony Conrad, Jim O’Rourke, and especially Jeph Jerman, with whom Barnes has long performed in a sublimely balanced, supremely intuitive duo.

Barnes documented important work by himself and other artists on his Quakebasket label, founded in New York City, where he sometimes mounted extraordinary, intimate shows in his Spring Street work space, and later revived in Louisville, where he lives now with his wife and two teenage sons.

Now, he needs help. Borrowing words from a GoFundMe page established to garner attention and assistance:

The reason for this page is to share news that Tim has recently been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD). Over the past 2-3 years, his symptoms have become more defined, affecting his ability to recall words and concepts and express himself verbally. He has issues with concentration, using technology, and spatial and simple math problems.… Additionally, Tim’s history of having Lyme disease, toxic mold exposure, and his pre-existing autoimmune condition (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) has further complicated the picture, leading to questions about whether one of those conditions may have played a role.

The purpose of the GoFundMe page, beyond sharing information, is to raise money for a range of treatments and therapies. It’s surely a sign of the esteem in which this charismatic, generous artist is held that an initial goal of $35,000 has raised almost double that amount in just four days. Still, no one needs to be reminded about the overwhelming cost of health in the United States—apart from which, Barnes has been forced to give up his work, and his wife is taking time off for caregiving.

Information about Barnes’s present situation can also be found on a Caring Bridge page updated regularly by his wife, Erica Bricking. And among today’s new releases, listed below, you’ll find a recording of a mesmerizing set Barnes presented in a duo with British improviser Mark Wastell, known as The Scotch of St. James, during ErstQuake 2, a festival presented by the Erstwhile and Quakebasket labels in 2005.

Wastell’s label, Confront Recordings, issued the live set today to raise funds for Barnes. Listening to it now, I’m transported instantly back to the scene, awash in the sounds of gongs whispering conspiratorially and singing rapturously.

Warmest wishes, Tim.

Album of the Week

String Noise: Pauline Kim Harris and Conrad Harris (Photograph: Chris Bradley)

Eric Lyon
String Noise, Greg Saunier, International Contemporary Ensemble
(New Focus; CD, DL)

String Noise
A Lunch Between Order and Chaos
(Chaikin; CS, DL)

String Noise
Alien Stories
(Infrequent Seams; CS, CD, DL)

I’ve come to think about the three count ’em three new albums the violin duo String Noise issued on March 26 as a glimpse of an abundant past, a pragmatic present (or, optimistically, near past), and an idealized future. Of course, it doesn’t really seem so likely that Pauline Kim Harris and Conrad Harris explicitly intended this effect. Then again, here’s a pair of married fiddlers with busy individual careers, transforming the violin duo from a too close for comfort venture into an ensemble equally suited to the expressive vulnerability of Alvin Lucier’s Love Song and the hoodoo yawp of “No More Beatlemania” by Half Japanese. So really, nothing’s out of the question.

Giga Concerto represents the ghost of business past: a carnivalesque punk-Baroque concerto grosso by Eric Lyon, whose original works and indie-rock arrangements defined early String Noise recordings and shows. Originally composed for the duo to play with the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, it’s adapted here for the broader options of the International Contemporary Ensemble, whose members are conducted by Nicholas DeMaison.

The concerto’s six movements are infused with raucous humor, even timely in-jokes; nods to Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and Sun Ra’s “Nuclear War” evoke the brinksmanship-turned-bromance of Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong-un. They’re interleaved here with five Brahms songs stripped down by Lyon and recast for String Noise with Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. Sumptuously recorded by Ryan Streber in Sept. 2019, Giga Concerto takes a listener back instantly to a time when we could enjoy luxuries like ribald humor, raucous arrangements, and cramming close to 20 musicians into a recording studio at the same time.

A Lunch Between Order and Chaos, at the other extreme, crams just two musicians into closets – literally, closets – evoking the cramped quarters we’ve endured throughout pandemic quarantine. (It’s almost eerie to note that the sessions on this album, issued by Brian Chase’s Chaikin imprint, happened in 2016 and 2017.) The operative notion is to illustrate, in a ruthlessly close acoustic, the extent to which two players can function as one, playing endless lines and tumbling figures in exacting unison.

The predominately flat, dry affect grows slightly wearying in excess; I’d love to hear the rigorous affirmation of Caleb Burhans’s Escape New York and Tyondai Braxton’s labyrinthine Unison played in more resonant spaces. But the program offers ample variety: David Lang’s yowling Warmth might have wandered in from one of the duo’s punk-rock party platters, while Greg Saunier’s Superintendent for the Destruction of the Gods seems to evoke both courtly percussion and reeling Ornette Coleman tunes. And paradoxically, it’s the album’s sole vintage throwback, Philip Glass’s 1968 score Two Pages, that captures with precision and stark clarity the emotional roil and running-in-place exertion too familiar to all of us who’ve the last year cooped up.

It’s difficult to imagine calling any aspect of the last year, with all its horrors and loss, a “silver lining.” Still, I’m far from the first to note that a near-universal pivot from conventional concert-music life to unorthodox new ventures online brought with it an opportunity to broaden the repertoire so that it might reflect more convincingly the moment we’ve occupied together. Somehow, a confluence of maladies afflicting America’s heart, soul, and body – pandemic, authoritarianism, bigotry, and violence precipitated by the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others – prompted response, and responsibility, among many musicians.

I don’t mean to imply that String Noise is correcting course with Alien Studies, an exhilarating collection of disparate works by five young Black composers; in fact, Kim Harris and Harris have long intersected with an unusually broad range of new-music innovators. What I’m hoping, though, is that along with the understanding that classical music must expand and diversify in order to survive might come a recognition that the fruits of this transformation extend beyond equity to excellence. Listen to Jessie Cox’s gene-splicing futurities, Lester St. Louis’s radical collectivism, Anaïs Maviel’s defiant dance moves, Charles Overton’s robust tale-spinning, and Jonathan Finlayson’s expressive gestures, and you sense exactly how much the concert-music world has to gain by making space, paying attention, and embracing change.

New This Week

Ocelot: Yuma Uesaka, Colin Hinton, Cat Toren (Photograph: Fully Altered Media)

[Ahmed] - Nights on Saturn (communication) (Astral Spirits)

Leo Chadburn - Slower/Talker - performances by Leo Chadburn, Gemma Saunders, Quatuor Bozzini, and Apartment House (self-released)

Wendy Eisenberg - Cellini’s Halo (Garden Portal)

Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders, and the London Symphony Orchestra - Promises (Luaka Bop)

Hello@ - Listen to spring (self-released)

Christopher Hoffman - Asp Nimbus (Out of Your Head)

Douglas Kearney & Val Jeanty - Fodder (Fonograf Editions)

Lavena - in your hands - compositions by Gemma Peacocke, Jessie Montgomery, Caroline Shaw, Ted Hearne, Bryce Dessner, and Judah Adashi (Bright Shiny Things)

Lukas Ligeti - That Which Has Remained, That Which Will Emerge (Col Legno)

Eric Lyon - GigaConcerto - String Noise, Greg Saunier, International Contemporary Ensemble (New Focus)

Radu Malfatti - shizuka ni furu ame (live duo version) - Cristián Alvear & Radu Malfatti (self-released)

Manchester Collective - The Centre Is Everywhere - compositions by Philip Glass, Edmund Finnis, and Arnold Schoenberg (Bedroom Community)

Phicus - Liquid (Tripticks Tapes)

Michael Pisaro-Liu - an unrhymed chord - Cristián Alvear, Vicente Araya, Santiago Blanco & Diego Castro (self-released)

Vanessa Rossetto - “What is your middle-class American problem?” (No Rent)

The Scotch of St. James - Live at ErstQuake 2 (Confront)

Patrick Shiroishi - i shouldn’t have to worry when my parents go outside (self-released)

String Noise - Alien Stories - compositions by Jessie Cox, Lester St. Louis, Anaïs Maviel, Charles Overton, and Jonathan Finlayson (Infrequent Seams)

String Noise - A Lunch Between Order and Chaos - compositions by Caleb Burhans, Tyondai Braxton, David Lang, Greg Saunier, Paul Reller, and Philip Glass (Chaikin)

Andrew Tasselmyer - Yesteryear (Seil)

Thollem’s Astral Traveling Sessions - Thollem/Cline/Liebig/Gilcher/Wrenn (Astral Spirits)

Thollem’s Astral Traveling Sessions - Thollem/Nik Francis (Astral Spirits)

Yuma Uesaka, Cat Toren, Colin Hinton - Ocelot (577 Records)

Various artists - Splices - piano-based pieces by Daigo Hanada, Julia Gjertsen, Taylor Deupree, and others (Moderna)

Just Announced

Amirtha Kidambi (R) and Matteo Liberatore (Photograph courtesy Astral Editions)

April 2

Peter Gilbert - Burned Into the Orange - performances by Arditti Quartet, Iridium Quartet, Channeling the Waters, Jeremias Schwarzer, Richard White, Michael Veit, and Emanuele Arciuli (New Focus)

Hardcell (Tim Berne, Craig Taborn, Tom Rainey) - Sensitive (9donkeys)

Wolfgang von Schweinitz - Juz (a Yodel Cry) - Mattie Barbier (self-released)

April 9

Akropolis Reed Quintet - Ghost Light - compositions by Stacy Garrop, Michael Gilbertson, Niloufar Nourbakhsh, Theo Chandler, Marsha Music, and Jeff Scott (New Focus)

April 16

Curtis K. Hughes - Tulpa - performances by Aaron Trant, Boston Percussion Group, Amy Advocat, Sentient Robots, Yoko Hagino, Matt Sharrock, and others (New Focus)

April 23

Fraser/McCowan/Weinberg - Thip (Tripticks Tapes)

Scott Wollschleger - Dark Days - Karl Larson (New Focus)

April 30

Lisa Cameron & Sandy Ewen - See Creatures Too (Astral Spirits)

May 7

Amirtha Kidambi & Matteo Liberatore - Neutral Love (Astral Editions)

Sound Prints (Dave Douglas & Joe Lovano) - Other Worlds (Greenleaf Music)

May 28

Sarah Davachi - Cantus Figures Laurus (Late Music)

June 18

Ben Goldberg - Everything Happens to Be. (BAG Production Records)

June 25

Caroline Shaw & Sō Percussion - Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part (Nonesuch)