Sir BN's Best Of / Notable Albums Of The Year 2017 list . . .

edited January 7 in whirling dervish
Same procedure as last year . . .

- In an attempt to to highlight some of the most signifficant releases for me, with the usual caution that, at another time and day, the list and the sequence would shurely be different.
- Not to mention all the albums under my radar, I have'nt had the time or capacity to dig into.

So for what it's worth, here is the first batch.

Commissions by Timo Andres, Christopher Cerrone, David Crowell, Tawnie Olson and Paola Prestini

Vision Into Art Records 2017

Ian David Rosenbaum

- "Praised for his “excellent” and “precisely attuned” performances by the New York Times, percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum has developed a musical breadth far beyond his years. He made his Kennedy Center debut in 2009 and later that year garnered a special prize created for him at the Salzburg International Marimba Competition.

Mr. Rosenbaum joined the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s CMS Two program in 2012 as only the second percussionist they have selected in their history. He has appeared at the Bay Chamber, Bridgehampton, Chamber Music Northwest, Music@Menlo, Norfolk, and Yellow Barn festivals. Highlights of the 2016-2017 season include the world premiere of Quixote, an evening- length theatrical work with music by Amy Beth Kirsten and direction by Mark DeChiazza, a visit to the Adam Chamber Music Festival in New Zealand, and world premieres by Andy Akiho, Christopher Cerrone, Thomas Kotcheff, and Polina Nazaykinskaya, among others. In the fall of 2016, Mr. Rosenbaum will release his first solo album, Memory Palace, on VIA Records. It features five commissions from the last several years and includes collaborations with Brooklyn Rider and Gina Izzo. Mr. Rosenbaum is a member of Sandbox Percussion, HOWL, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Foundry, and Novus NY. He has recorded for the Bridge, Innova, Naxos, and Starkland labels and is on the faculty of the Dwight School in Manhattan. Mr. Rosenbaum endorses Vic Firth sticks and mallets."

Ian Rosenbaum performs Christopher Cerrone's Memory Palace




Co-composed by Lao Luo and Bang on a Can founders Michael GordonDavid Lang, and Julia WolfeCloud River Mountain is an edgy cross-cultural collaboration between the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the extraordinary Chinese vocalist Gong Linna, whose dynamic voice covers a vast canvas of sonic colors. Linna has drawn comparisons to Björk with her adventurous range, embracing Chinese folk, pop, and avant-garde art music with a sure-footed confidence that transcends borders. 

On Cloud River Mountain, she sings in both Mandarin and English over the groove-driven melodies and lush soundscapes of the All-Stars, weaving ancient Chinese storytelling together with Western songwriting in a raucous musical mix. Inspired by the verses of classical Chinese poet Qu Yuan, these seven songs channel the mystical stories of the past and merge them with the churning, clanging sounds of the future.

- Cantaloupe Music


Composers: Daníel Bjarnason, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, María Huld Markan Sigfúsdóttir (Amiina), Anna Þorvaldsdóttir, and Hlynur A. Vilmarsson). 
- "Can you hear a country in its music? Does Venice echo in Gabrielli’s buoyant antiphonies? Can you glimpse Bohemia in the lyrical effusions of Dvorak and Smetana? Does the United States of America sound like Copland’s heartland or Ellington’s Harlem? Like Peter Garland’s desert, or John Luther Adams’s tundra? There can be no definitive answer; every traveler usually brings personal baggage. I reckon that I do sense Iceland’s mutable skies and rugged terrain in the slow-moving luminosity of Thorvaldsdottir’s Dreaming. Likewise, the static/chaotic duality in Daníel Bjarnason’s shivering, rumbling Emergence evokes awesome powers coalescing in some act of primal creation. Thurídur Jónsdóttir’s Flow and Fusion, with its seamless blend of acoustic and electronic sounds, conjures the ineffable chiaroscuro of Iceland’s sky."
- Sono Luminus - WQXR Review
This CD premieres ten works from David Lee Myers, the “Darwin of electromagnetic lifeforms."

The album’s content spontaneously emerged from Myers’ self-designed, hand-built conglomerations of elaborately interconnected sound processing devices, with no external audio input. Some call the results “sounds from the ether” (hence this album’s title).

The CD’s music is distinctive and enticing. We hear an hallucinatory trip to a Martian jungle; irregular bongos overlaid with frog-croaked arpeggios; a rapidly sputtering, helium-inhaling synthesizer; a demented organ, gasping for life; all concluding with the placid atmosphere of dorsal streaming, tinged with calming panpipe-like chuffing.

- Starkland - Bandcamp

"My sound works are the result of capture, selection, processing and combination.  Essentially, I do not create sounds or compose, but allow latent or unseen forces and processes to present themselves via simple technologies.  I select the methods, set the stage, and as the phenomena emerge I of course introduce my own aesthetic judgements to the mix.  Therefore the sounds which are presented are neither completely random science nor the gesture of an artist's hand, but something between the two, and I believe this to be the most effective approach toward evoking meaningful impressions of unseen worlds." 

Collaborations with other artists have included Asmus Tietchens, Tod Dockstader, Ellen Band, Marco Oppedisano, Thomas Dimuzio, Gen Ken Montgomery, Alexander Ross, and VidnaObmana.

The One Ensemble's new album 'Saint Seven'. A through-composed 40 minute piece of post-punk orchestral folk, featuring accordions, bass clarinets, cello, percussion, guitar and voices.

Saint Seven, played in the round by The One Ensemble, is a dramatic hybrid of voices and instruments that seamlessly interweaves elements of experimental, folk and classical chamber music. Challenging conventional approaches to performance, this epic acoustic quartet is shot through with a rare theatricality.
The One Ensemble is a Scottish-based quartet comprising cello, clarinet and bass clarinet, guitar, accordions, percussion and vocals. Working collaboratively, this highly individualistic group creates songs and compositions that weave esoteric narratives around joyous centres, chameleon-like in its ability to move between various genres without losing its unique identity. Incorporating Eastern European traditions with a distinctly Anglo-Scottish twist, classical chamber music, minimalism and the experimental avant-garde into a heady brew, their music is otherworldly, magical and unmistakable. Individually and together the members of The One Ensemble are artists who draw on hidden folk heritages and influences from diverse European musics whilst retaining a distinctly contemporary sound of their own.

To be continued . . . the plan is about 20 to 25 albums followed by some honorable mentions, reissues and stuff from the vaults.


  • edited January 10
    Batch 2:


    Russell Greenberg, percussion; David Shively, cimbalom; Dan Lippel, acoustic guitar; Taka Kigawa, piano; Jennifer Choi, violin; John Popham, cello
    Keeril Makan (b. 1972) composed his longest instrumental work to date, Letting Time Circle Through Us (2013), on commission for the New York City-based ensemble Either/Or, with whose musicians Makan has worked intimately over the course of many years and on several projects. The larger trajectory of Makan's musical explorations has not been a linear one, so this close collaboration was invaluable in arriving at the final recorded realization of the project.A near-constant in Makan's work is his use of the power of expectation and disruption via the establishment, continuation, variation, and interruption of musical cycles, whatever their content. Repetition and recurrence, periodicity - whether of rhythm or of complete musical fragments - change things, are capable of completely upending the listener's expectation of the syntax and flow of an idea, and thus of its expressive significance within a piece. Related to this are parallels between musical periodicity and the cycles we experience in life - sunrise/sunset, the phases of the moon, the seasons, and other, including perhaps more personal patterns - that are reflected explicitly in Indian and Indonesian musical traditions.These patterns or recurrence are acknowledged, at least obliquely, in Letting Time Circle Through Us, Makan's most direct and extended engagement with cyclic structures and periodicity. To quote his brief description of the piece, "The friction between two contrasting types of music creates the emotional journey of Letting Time Circle Through Us. From the foundation of a single note, stable music emerges that repeats throughout the piece. Between these repetitions, singular, novel musical events occur which contrast with the initial stability. Over time, these singular events darken, while the repetitions of the opening music strain to move past the stressful interruptions. Eventually the desire for a return to stability merges with the reality of continual change, and the tension of the piece dissipates."
    - New World Records.

    Keeril Makan

    Either/Or Ensemble
    - More Keeril Makan at Emusers here and here

    "The Godfather Of Minimalism"


    - Editions Mego is proud to present the latest opus from legendary British composer, actor, sound designer and all round fine human Simon Fisher Turner. Giraffe is a new major work which blurs the lines between sound design and song, machine severity and narrative sentimentality. Subtitled ‘living in sounds and music’ Giraffe take the listener through a vast journey where an abstract clacking of unknown origin rubs up against a melancholic electronic sequence. ‘Life sounds’ were captured with a portable hard disc recorder and i-phone and appear alongside contemporar sound design. Emma Smith provides the narrative on ‘Slight Smile’ whilst electronic machines grind amongst background industrial klang in ‘Mud Larks’. 'Save As' revolves around a beautiful simple piano motif which soon folds into an unnerving field recording and drone combination.

    Giraffe is a document of interior and exterior duality. A living space where machines and the surrounding world collide, a sonic landscape where musical and nonmusical elements are placed on an level hierarchy. The alchemy of these constituent parts results in the magic of Giraffe, one where the symbiotic sequence of events highlights a unique approach to sound as rapturous matter in whatever form it takes."


    "This album is a bit different than other music I created. The tracks on this album were created as the audio background for an audiobook. That audiobook contains stories about my hometown. As the stories are pretty dark (full of murders, breakouts, explosions, arrests by communist regime), the music is sometimes dark and disturbing, too. The music on "Stories of an Old Man" are reworked versions and they are a bit darker, full of ambient, experimental sounds and even some techno pulses.
    Also it is worth mentioning that the album was mastered by Michał Wolski, so you can be sure that there will be many beautiful noises and tape hiss! ENJOY."

    -  as an artist consequently introduces field recordings and electroacoustic sounds into his compositions which are the combination of the melodic ambient, guitar sounds and sometimes noise. He cooperated with many artists from USA, Canada and China. His latest compositions can be described as organic ambient with the elements of noise and field recordings. He has cooperated with many artists from the USA, Canada and China. Grzegorz is the co-founder of ChoP project where he concentrates his efforts on multicultural collaboration between artists from China and Poland. Together with Zen Lu, Grzegorz collaborated with British film director Isaac Julien on his project “Better Life” (“Ten Thousand Waves”). Grzegorz cooperates with many labels like Preserved Sound (PL), Etalabel (PL), Twice Removed (Australia), Dynamophone (USA), Post Label (CZ), Soft Recordings (FR), Twin Springs Tapes (USA), OHM Resistance (USA). Grzegorz performed during many festivals, such as Unsound Festival (PL), Shanghai Electronic Music Week (CN), Ambient Festiwal in Gorlice (PL), Ambient Park (PL), and Firmament Festival (PL), Festiwal Ambientalny (PL) and ChoP Festival, Shenzhen and Hong Kong (CN).


    Paola Prestini
     - "An astrophysicist searches for his wife in the stars. As the cosmos unfolds, the birth, life, and death of a star trace the couples loss of their child. With stunning images from the Hubble Space telescope, the space-inspired cantata culminates in a five-minute virtual reality film that launches the audience into an immersive voyage through the universe. Starring Nathan Gunn and Jessica Rivera. Written by Royce Vavrek, Film by Eliza McNitt, conducted by Julian Wachner. Through his narration, New York Times best-selling author and eminent astrophysicist Dr. Mario Livio explains the larger celestial implications at stake, placing the characters’ story within the grand scheme of the cosmos. In a final gesture, this family-friendly performance incorporates virtual reality cardboard headsets, simulating an immersive voyage through the universe, expertly created by The Endless Collective, a leading VR FX firm, with a 360-degree soundscape developed by Arup, the global leaders in acoustic and sound design. This mesmerizing live experience, co-produced by VisionIntoArt/National Sawdust, Beth Morrison Projects and Arup, reflects Livio’s poignant themes and the powerful realization that humans discovered, explore, and continue to expand the understanding of the universe, and man’s place in it. Commissioned by Jill Steinberg. Original commission by Bay Chamber Concerts for A New Frontier 2013. The Hubble Cantata is supported in part by generous individual donors, Time Warner Inc. in collaboration with 150, an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in Partnership with the City Council, and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.


    - Vision Into Art   -


    - More Paolo Prestini at Emusers



    Vocals and instruments: Amanda Palmer and Edward Ka-Spel
    Violins: Patrick Q. Wright
    Singing saw: Alexis Michallek
    I CAN SPIN A RAINBOW marks the first full-length collaboration between Palmer and Ka-Spel, founding member of visionary Anglo-Dutch psychedelicists The Legendary Pink Dots and one of her greatest artistic heroes. I CAN SPIN A RAINBOW is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream for Palmer, an avowed fan of Ka-Spel and the Legendary Pink Dots since discovering their psycho-theatrical, multi-textural work in her teens. As noted in her best-selling 2014 memoir, The Art of Asking, the LPD have long been an inspiration to Palmer, their deeply connected relationship with fans as important to her life and work as their fearless autonomy and impossible-to-pigeonhole musical approach.
    Recorded largely on Ka-Spel’s computer, I CAN SPIN A RAINBOW is a truly collaborative effort, “a spiritual experience,” says Palmer, in which both artists’ stories, song fragments, poems, and lyrics became wholly meshed with loops, melancholy piano playing, melodic beds, and strange rhythms. The results range from the enchantingly minimal The Clock at the Back of the Cage and the album-opening Pulp Fiction mysterious and strange with a luxurious theatricality that conjures both of its creators’ prior oeuvres while also opening a curtain into a heretofore unheard shared sonic world. Sensing the need for strings, the pair enlisted frequent LPD collaborator Patrick Q Wright, who contributed violin tracks from his studio in Italy. Alexis Michallek, Heap’s longtime studio assistant, contributes singing saw to Beyond The Beach.
    “We merged our songwriting heads and poetic worlds to make a new universe,” Palmer says. “We would sit in Imogen’s house drinking cups of tea, bemoaning the state of the upcoming election, binge drinking in the UK, the refugee crisis, our internet addictions, frightening news we had read, our relationships… and then we’d distill all of the ingredients of our fears and conversations into song form. The Rainbow metaphor – which is also a nod to the ‘spinning beach ball of death’ on a Mac – was a wide-open image that kept popping up as a recurring theme on the record. It’s both dark and light at the same time. To me, the songs are simultaneously frightening and comforting, like a thunderstorm heard from a living room.”
    “Making this record with Amanda felt a little like discovering a twin you didn’t know you had,” says Ka-Spel, “until a mysterious email lands in your inbox at a particularly auspicious moment. Some things are just meant to be…”

    - Cooking Vinyl


    - To be continued . . . .
  • Some good stuff here.... thanks!
  • soulcoal said:
    Some good stuff here.... thanks!
    - Five more:

    Composers: Caroline Shaw, Hans Thomalia, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen
    Anna Thorvaldsdottir, David T. Little
    Santa Radniece, Lewis Spratlan

    - "A substantial double album that never loses sight of the human voice at its heart, Seven Responses from Philadelphia’s superlative choir, The Crossing, began as a project to explore the topic of suffering. Seven extraordinary composers were asked to respond to one of the cantatas of Dieterich Buxtehude’s 1680 oratorio, Membra Jesu Nostri (The Limbs of Jesus). Performed by The Crossing and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the resulting pieces are diverse and uniquely personal yet together create a whole body of work that has an uncanny logic and leaves a powerful impression. One to remember.

    Hailing from Denmark, Latvia, Germany, Iceland and the USA and including two Pulitzer Prize winners (Caroline Shaw and Lewis Spratlan), the composers have produced works that cover a broad swath of styles. Hans Thomalla calls on the wind instruments to play multiphonics, blurring our perception as the choir shimmers around their distorted pitches, while Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s piece moves from violent string effects to prayerful contemplation in a fully synthesized color palette. David T. Little creates a sonic bath of low, reverberant tones and chants, broken by the hammering of brake drums and the power of an electric guitar and drums piercing the mystical atmosphere. And Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen -- who passed away just two days after the premiere of his “Ad cor” -- crafts three movements that come together, overlap, and form a whole in the final movement, in an astonishing amalgamation of form and content. Lewis Spratlan teams with poet Paul Kane to create a modern cantata that recalls Ancient Greek tragedy in its treatment of the chorus and soloists. Here, ICE is lush and descriptive, providing the aural backdrop on which the story of the suffering, dying earth is played out in lyric, sometimes sorrowful, at other times exhilarating, colors. Hope, warning, and lament, all wrapped in his facile, powerful musical language."
    - Innova Recordings 

    - "The Crossing is a professional choir dedicated to expanding the contemporary choral music experience through commissions, collaborations, community, and performances that are characterized by a distinctive unity of sound and spirit. . . . . .

    (David T. Little)


    Grant Cutler - Self Portrait

    Grant Cutler - Chris Campbell - Michelle Kinney - Jacqueline Ultan - Sara Pajunen
    Jef Sundquist - Michael Lewis - Aby Wolf

    - "We tend to think of the past as what happened, the present as what’s happening right now and the future as what’s to come, but the truth is that we are constantly engaged in the work of refashioning and recontextualizing the past. For composer and musician Grant Cutler, that process is at the center of his work. Self Portrait is Cutler’s third album for innova, following 2012 in 2011 and his collaboration with composer and producer Chris Campbell (Schooldays Over ) in 2013. As with those albums, the mechanism of composition is not effaced from the final work, but integral to it. Working with acclaimed musicians including Michael Lewis (Bon Iver, Andrew Bird, Gayngs), Aby Wolf, Sarah Pajunen, Michelle Kinney and Jacqueline Ultan (Jelloslave) and others, Cutler recorded artists improvising to delayed recordings of themselves, a kind of sonic déja vu where memory and experience blend together in an evolving present. Slowly evolving colors wash over the listener; as though placing a mic in front of a fresh Rothko. In this way, this Self Portrait becomes a portrait not just of Cutler but of all the musicians involved, and even becomes an act of memoir, an active reimagining of the self. Weaving together the capsules of time created by the musicians, Cutler pulls the tangent together into a long, circling recollection. This allows the music to become landscape, story, and document all at once. At first, the music here might sound spare, but repeated experiences with it peel back layers and reveal the beating human heart beneath it. Sound becomes a memory, cut up and rearranged in the retelling, then recorded again as a new memory, beginning the process over again."

    Innova Recordings - Emusic

    Grant Cutler


    Leyland Kirby - We, so tired of all the darkness in our lives

    "It's free because I mean it and you're worth it. Give it all or nothing."
    Sounds created by Leyland Kirby.
    Artwork by Ivan Seal.
    Audio mastered by Stephan Mathieu.
    - "These days it feels like it's at an all time low for positive outcomes.

    The music here is free for you to download or to pay for. It's your call. It's not free because I place no value on this work. It's free because I mean it.

    It shows a slightly different side and production value to previously released works. These are the tracks I've personally revisited most in the past four or five years. They have all helped me out. I'd like to think you don't see this as throwaway work. It's been collated carefully.

    Production wise I think it's more in focus and it gives some indications to early influences. It goes somewhere, it goes nowhere, there are drawn out synths, drums, piano and drift. It's about the fact that not everything need be angry, distorted or bombastic to show defiance. It's every bar stool I've sat on and am yet to sit on. It's me throwing myself down stairs again and again because I'm as sick of things as you are.

    If it's not released now then this work just sits on a drive for even longer gathering digital dust which I feel is a shame. Maybe you will find some solace in the sounds if your mood is right or you need them. Maybe one track hits home, maybe more do. Hopefully it can help here and there.

    I still greatly believe in the value of music and of true independent music. This is in spite of the constant devaluing of music by big business and streaming services. I'm not creating work to help push cans of energy drink or to look for cheap clicks on playlists or to get involved in scenes.

    The bottom line here is if you have no coin right now then this one is on me with pleasure. If you can support the work then this is great too. It's always a lot of hard work and a dream.

    I've been hard at it lately with The Caretaker work so now I afford myself a night out finally sinking the odd whisky or two down at my favourite Krakow bar, Propaganda. It's been a good while since the last time.

    I'll raise the whisky glass in there for us all. You know the score."
    - JLK xx

    As one of the most socially conscious young composers in contemporary classical music, Ted Hearne has drawn on a multitude of influences to create Sound from the Bench—his first project for Cantaloupe Music.

    Written for the supple, ethereal voices of Philadelphia’s world-renowned chamber choir The Crossing, the four works presented
    here tap into themes as varied as racial divides (Privilege), government secrets (Ripple), love and its dark permutations
    (Consent), and corporate personhood in the eyes of the US Supreme Court (Sound from the Bench).

    The title piece also features the edgy electric guitars of Dither’s Taylor Levine and James Moore, as well as the rhythmic flourishes of percussionist Ron Wiltrout. Taken as a whole, this is some of Hearne’s most wide-ranging and adventurous work—a siren call that resonates with unusual passion in these politically charged times.
    - Cantaloupe Music - Emusic
    More The Crossing at Emusers
    More Ted Hearne at Emusers

     Composer-guitarist Steven Mackey and composer-percussionist Jason Treuting's (So Percussion) their first collaborative album, Orpheus Unsung, released October 6 on New Amsterdam Records.

    Orpheus Unsung
    -  is an hour-long narrative for solo electric guitar (Mackey) and drums (Treuting) that traces the Greek myth of Orpheus in the underworld,casting Mackey's electric guitar as the disembodied voice of the legendary musician, poet, and prophet Orpheus.
    Mackey's virtuosic and exposed performance portrays Orpheus as he seeks to reverse fate and regain his irrevocably lost love, Eurydice, through the power of his divine musical gifts.
    According to legend:
    Orpheus marries his true love Eurydice. Following the wedding, Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies. Orpheus cannot bear this and embarks on a perilous journey to the underworld with the aim of bringing her back. Orpheus’s musical gifts are supreme, animals, plants and even stones move in order to better hear him sing and play his lyre. He sings his plea to the ruler of the underworld who does allow him to take Eurydice back with him under the condition that he not look back to check to see if she is still there. When Orpheus crosses the threshold back to the surface he can no longer resists and he looks back but Eurydice has not yet crossed and she is immediately drawn back to the underworld, gone forever. Orpheus mourns but eventually comes to terms with his loss. Later, a mob of Thracian women in a Dionysian Orgy rip Orpheus apart. Dismembered, his head and lyre float down a stream, his head still singing and his lyre still playing, until they rest at the head of the stream and become an oracle.

    Although Orpheus's tale is slim, it feels expansive. The story encompasses huge mysteries and complex truths about separation, loss, love, will, weakness, and perhaps most compellingly, the artist’s dream embodied by Orpheus himself: of creating expression so persuasive, clear, and powerful that it might even alter the immutable, and stand against death.

    The concept of Orpheus Unsung was first developed as an opera without words by Mackey and filmmaker, designer, choreographer and director Mark DeChiazza, with Mackey composing the score with Treuting. The project was co-produced by the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series and Guthrie Theater, and premiered in June 2016 at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis in a production conceived, choreographed and directed by DeChiazza and featuring performances by Mackey, Treuting and an ensemble of three dancers.
    - New Amsterdam - eMusic

    - More Steven Mackey at Emusers here, here, here, here and here.

    To be continued . . .
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