Ten Interesting and Sometimes Accessible Albums in New Classical (on eMusic).
What I own of three of my very favorites, Alarm Will Sound, Hauschka, and yMusic, came from eMu's earlier incarnations, but there’s actually quite a bit of other nice albums still available. I’m not one to draw the line between new classical and avant-garde, and this absolutely has to be the first list of the new year.
At least two from 2019 would have been in my favorites list, but putting new classical (or jazz, for that matter) in a general list of mostly pop just doesn’t feel right.
(back to meaningless numbers just for quick reference rather than ranking)
1. “Hydromantia“ - Yuri Vinogradov (2019). My only point of reference might be the ironically titled “Pop Music” by Todor Kobakov, which I also highly recommend for solo piano enthusiasts (I think Kobakov is Canadian; Vinogradov is the real Russian deal). This album doesn’t have vocal help from TVotR or Metric and has to let its challenging yet highly engaging compositions stand on their own. I admit I went with this one rather than his other album to save a buck fifty. Should I come into wealth, I’ll certainly pick up “The Possibility of Non-Linear Logic” too. https://yurivinogradov.bandcamp.com/album/hydromantia
2. “Ideogram” - Surreal Players (2019). While this particular album is egregiously miscategorized as jazz (though do correct me if it is I who have erred), the label here (Sjrecords) and next (To Pikap) both coincidentally have only five titles, all from 2019, and all very interesting. Don’t judge this one by its first track, with an accordion. There’s quite a lot of stylistic variety, but it’s all fairly pleasant and fits in classical as a whole. Cello, violin, guitar, and piano alternate at first, but most end up like something like a conversation between strings and piano. I suppose there are some slightly jazzy numbers after all, like the Bolero and “Lifesaver.” Regardless of what style any particular song chooses to be in any given measure, the album is cohesive and should please purists who want to be moved or at least engaged without any vocals.
3. “Piano Voices” - Sakis Papadimitriou (2019). Of the three (mostly) solo piano albums mentioned so far, 1. is in the middle, while this one is most in the vein of experimental piano noise, though I expect it is still composed rather than improvised. This isn’t to say there aren’t melodic or otherwise obviously musical moments here, and maybe piano noise is less grating than, say, its electronic cousin. With alphabetical titles, it could be that he intends this album to be a compendium of piano playing methods and techniques (rather than styles), which are just plain different. Using the keys is clearly optional. https://topikaprecords.bandcamp.com/album/piano-voices
4. “Argument for Strings” - Dan Michaelson (2019). A short EP for $1.49 is as contentious as its title, with piano accompaniment (mediation?) to what might be an instrumental debate complete with opening and closing statements. Someone with technical training could describe what’s going on here more accurately, but rest assured that these are impassioned but not overbearing in these short doses. Each “argument” makes its point and moves on. I’m going to assume this is a different guy than the singer for UK rock band Absentee, which are the other releases under this name on eMu and Bandcamp.
5. “The String Theory” - Marcello Fera and Ensemble Conductus (2018). An hour of almost pure string bliss, with passages achieving the too rare feat of being aggressive and loud without giving way to dissonance. The Italians on the a simple lunch label can be counted on to cook up something interesting every time. A female voice on the fourth track says “Aaaah” quite nicely on a sad, quiet number. Others display quite a lot of heft and belie the ensemble’s apparently small size. CORRECTION: They’ve actually got twelve players, hardly tiny, and they’re apparently just as comfortable composing jazz. https://asimplelunch.bandcamp.com/album/the-string-theory
6. “Recitals” - Daniel Stewart (2017). eMu too frequently indulges people who think they can call their music “classical” because they play a piano. There are “enhancements” on this EP, but overall I think it fits better in new classical than elsewhere and is fairly interesting. https://blankeditions.bandcamp.com/album/recitals-2
7. “Esque” - Zephyr Quartet (2007). Middle East folk elements add spice to the lush string proceedings here, with more on the $2 EP “Resonance.” This is part of an elite group of 21st century albums that I could enjoy with my grandparents. The world needs more of them. Similar but overall preferable to Taiwan’s Cicada, also available https://cicada.bandcamp.com/album/light-shining-through-the-sea. https://zephyrquartet.bandcamp.com/album/esque
8. “Obras Electroacústicas” - Alejandro Iglesias Rossi (2012). Three tracks of 10-17 minutes each make for a highly immersive, experimental experience on one of the most distinctive 99-cent albums I’ve tried. Washes of what sound like traditional, religious or folk music come and go through the mix, with sounds that approximate what anyone stuck in the catacombs and dungeons must hear and fear at night. Quietly haunting for the most part, though not without louder passages filled with a scary, whooshing thump.
9. “Karmanov: Re-music” - Nazar Kozhukhar & The Pocket Symphony (2013). A mix of fluttery strings in somewhat circular arrangements and fairly somber piano, this would be recognizable to most anyone as classical music. Serious, but only somewhat experimental, and there’s quite a dynamic range from track to track as well as with them. FancyMusic might be the most interesting and reliable new classical label left on the site. https://fancymusic.bandcamp.com/album/re-music
10. “Music for Destroyed Orchestra” - Andy Fosberry (2018). Ambient music with apparently classical instruments. I can’t tell if they’re synthesized, and there’s definitely something electronic going on here. Nonintrusive but plenty interesting if you’d rather pay attention rather than read to it. https://3rddebutrecords.bandcamp.com/album/music-for-destroyed-orchestra
11. “Encounters” - Ferr (2018). If #6 pushed the boundaries of what should be allowed on a new classical list, this one pushes past them into new agey, solo piano with other elements that nonetheless stop just short of Harold Budd territory. There are lots more examples of this kind of music on the site, and being a 99-cent EP is admittedly why this one’s here. Don’t consider it part of this list.
“Chamber Music: Alvin Lucier & Morton Feldman” - Anthony Burr (2019). A big-name emusers recommendation, this one turned out to be a little too academic for me.
Also recommended: Vitor Rua (prolific, experimental piano), Dolce Rima (female vocals over classical guitar?), Alexander Campkin.
Big fan of Slow Six https://christophertignor.bandcamp.com/album/tomorrow-becomes-you
Also file Resina under formerly available and still on Bandcamp https://resina.bandcamp.com/album/resina-2
Not a ton of record labels have new classical, so I’ll just append the album list: Chrom, a simple lunch, Bahadirhan Koçer, PFT, Rivoalto, Tañidos, Szescian, Taukay. Each has at least something I’d wishlist.