It's that time of the month again for the new releases show on New Sounds. John Schaefer carefully sorts through the stacks of new CDs, Soundcloud files, and the highly anticipated digital submissions which have come across his desk and into his inbox over the past month to present some of the finest new releases. He'll skim off the cream. He'll pick the lentils from the ashes. You get it.
This New Sounds is all about party music from the Balkans, Near East, and Central Asia. From the frantic and sweaty pop that provides the soundtrack for celebrations in Egypt, to Punjabi wedding music, it’s all here. Listen to music from the Albanian horn band Fanfara Tirana, along with a Bjork tune arranged by Syrian pop legend Omar Souleyman. Then there’s music from Egyptian DJs of the Cairo Liberation Front, and music from Brooklyn-based Punjabi sweaty-making party band, Red Baraat. Plus, listen to the highly danceable Syrian electronic dabke music, also heard at weddings and parties. And more.
There’s music from Finland for this New Sounds, which is a musical hotbed of many genres: classical, folk, weirdly dressed heavy metal rock bands, and some of the less easily defined new music types. We’ll hear from accordion virtuoso Maria Kalaniemi along with something else for accordion (& electronics) by Kimmo Pohjonen.
Chandrika Krishnamurthy Tandon, a 2011 Grammy nominee, sings world music fusion, mainly informed by Indian classical music. On her record, “Soul Call,” she set a six thousand-year old eight-syllable chant to music, with each of the eight songs following a different raga. For this New Sounds, we’ll sample from this record and its mélange of acoustic Indian classical, Indian folk instruments and Western instruments, together with her voice. Also, we’ll listen to music from Najma, Sheila Chandra, and more.
For this New Sounds, listen to musicians from Belgium, Switzerland, the U.K., and Italy working together with musicians living in Kenya, Senegal, Mali, Ethiopia and Burkina Faso. Hear the late American slide guitarist Bob Brozman (he passed too soon, on April 24, at the age of 59) working together with Guinean kora player Djeli Moussa Diawara from a record called “Ocean Blues.” Then there’s music from another American guitarist Ry Cooder, collaborating with the late great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure, along with some Saharan desert blues from Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara.
For this New Sounds show, listen to post-minimalist works that are somewhat keyboard-centric. Hear brand new music by Daniel Wohl, from the musicians of TRANSIT, and featuring vocals by Julia Holter. There’s also music from French composer Sylvain Chaveau, from a collection of works for cinema, along with another piece used in film by Clint Mansell, his “Welcome to Lunar Industries.” Plus, the Irish composer Simon O’Connor reworks J.S. Bach for the Ergodos Musicians, and a multi-part work by Nico Muhly from his “Drones” release.
A few days late to the Earth Day Party, on this New Sounds, listen to music inspired by natural phenomena. We’ll hear songs and pieces written around themes of nature and science, - from atomic to cosmic- and humanity’s relationships with said same. From Bjork’s innovative and collaborative project, “Biophilia,” where instruments and apps were designed for the multimedia experience, there's a meeting of astrophysics, string theory, neurology, biology - and music. We'll sample from this latest concept project, and more.
Hear an hour of Sufi devotional music, mostly Pakastani and usually sung by men, known as Qawwali for this New Sounds program. Listen to this ecstatic prayer music performed live by the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Party in the WNYC studio, from a November 1993 appearance. Then there’s an arrangement of Nusrat’s “Allah Hoo” by the Brooklyn Qawwali Party, using jazz band instrumentation, recorded live from the 2009 Globalfest.
For this New Sounds, we’ll hear some global acoustic works from the Touré-Raichel Collective. It’s a collaboration between Malian musician Vieux Farka Touré and Israeli producer/keyboardist Idan Raichel which came about following a concert in Tel Aviv. The results are stunning and elegant conversations between guitar (Touré) and piano (Raichel), where the strings of the piano are sometimes plucked like a harp or kora. The songs are anchored by Israeli bassist Yossi Fine and Malian calabash player Souleymane Kane.
We’ll hear a quintessential Philip Glass piece, “Glassworks” (1981) from a live recording made in April of 2010 at the Manhattan venue Le Poisson Rouge. Featuring the super-tight new music all-star ensemble, Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman with keyboardist/composer Michael Riesman, this happens to have been the New York premiere. For this New Sounds, we’ll sample from the six-part work and listen to music by other keyboardist/composers for hybrid ensembles.
Electric-guitar based ambient music created in the moment by Robert Fripp is what you’ll hear on this New Sounds. Best known as the founder and leader of King Crimson, he developed a tape-looping technique eventually dubbed “Frippertronics,” which he used when he worked with Brian Eno in the mid 1970’s. (Fripp also formed an acoustic steel string performance-ensemble - the League of Crafty Guitarists in the mid-80’s - which has influenced countless guitarists.)
Brian Eno's Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (recorded in 1983), was the musical setting for a non-narrative collection of NASA stock footage from the Apollo program, and was something that Eno didn’t perform live. A talented cast visits our studio to bring to life a re-imagining of the nearly 30-year old Eno tribute to the Nasa moon landings.
On this New Sounds, we remember composer, professor, instrument inventor, and multi-instrumentalist, Dean Drummond. Drummond, who passed away on Saturday, was the founder and conductor of Newband, which played the famous Harry Partch Instrumentarium - the 43-note-to-the-octave instruments that Partch invented in the middle of the 20th century. Dean was the curator of this unique collection for many years, and was also an instrument inventor himself and a composer. From a February 1995 New Sounds Live concert, hear his arrangement of Thelonious Monk's "Round Midnight" for Partch instruments, Partch's own "Two Studies on Ancient Greek Scales," and Drummond's major piece, "The Day the Sun Stood Still." Drummond also explains how he came to meet and play with Harry Partch, develop his own instruments, and more.
Watch out for more music for the duduk (a reed instrument indigenous to Armenia) than you can shake a stick at! We'll hear from the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble, along with music from Andrew Cronshaw's latest cross-cultural collaboration (Armenian & British), "The Unbroken Surface of Snow," at times an unlikely combination of zither and duduk.
Maybe the guitar wasn’t originally an African instrument, but it certainly has become one. For this New Sounds, take a listen to music from the late Cameroonian guitarist Francis Bebey, along with music from Gabonese guitarist singer and musician Pierre Akendengué. There’s also guitar music from South Africa's Derek Gripper - who does arrangements of music from other parts of Africa, especially Mali. Plus, music from fellow South African Guy Buttery, in addition to selections from classical guitarist John Williams, and his versions of pieces of African works for guitar from the “Magic Box” record.
For this New Sounds program, listen to smaller groups who are capable of large expansive sounds. There’s music by the Cinematic Orchestra, led by keyboardist/composer Jason Swinscoe, which is surely filmic in scope, while informed by jazz and electronica. Then, sample music by bass player Skúli Sverrisson & sax player Óskar Guðjónsson, from a record that they did together, “Box Tree,” which comes folded up in a map.
For this New Sounds, we’ll hear an hour of songs without words, maybe even without voices. This kind of tradition reaches back to Felix Mendelssohn and his Lieder ohne Worte (Songs without Words), and his series of short, lyrical piano pieces. Two Norwegian musicians, saxophonist Trygve Seim & pianist Andreas Utnem, have just released a new recording of similarly lyrical songs – without voices or words – called Purcur. It was recorded in a church in Oslo, and manages to work in the sound of the room’s personality. We’ll hear some of these folk-rootsy lyrical songs for saxophone and piano and more.
A Bulgarian, a Greek and a Turk walk into a bar… Not the opening of a joke, rather it’s the vocal group Trio Tzane, who make music together under the motto “Balkan polyphonies and other vocal stories.” We’ll hear from them, along with a few selections from Huun Huur Tu, the throat singers of Tuva. Also, listen to some Norwegian sami singing, or joiking, from Jienat, with a whole lot of Brazilian, and West African percussion that renders the music utterly danceable.
For this New Sounds, enjoy an hour of works for brass, from the 19 piece French band Bigre! and sample some of the just-out release, “Brooklyn Babylon” from Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, (only 17 pieces strong.) There’s also music from east and western Africa - Ethiopia and Benin, along with music from Macedonia, Manhattan and even Albania. The Albanian outfit Fanfara Tirana meets London’s Trans-Global Underground on their fabulous record, “Kabatronics,” and for more brass band power, there’s the Kocani Orkestar from Macedonia. Plus, listen to classic 1970’s Ethio-groove from Mahmoud Ahmed and Benin’s classic funk heroes, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo.
View it how you will, a nod to the George R. R. Martin series, "A Song of Fire and Ice" or an optimistic look back at snow, but this New Sounds program gets all close and personal with the cold and the white, with the "Icy Sleeves of Green" by Todd Reynolds, and some songs from Kate Bush's most recent record, "50 Words for Snow." We'll hear songs about melting snowflakes and icicles, soundscapes evoking the blindingly white and bleak, and other works to paint wintry portraits of powdery drifts or stark frozen mountains.
Take a new look at early music on this New Sounds program. Listen to selections from the Luce Trio, involving Indian Shruti box, saxophone, electric guitar and bass. Their album is based based on and/or inspired by music of past centuries, both originals and reworkings. Also, there's music from the Irish music production company, Ergodos, based on the German hymn, Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ by J.S. Bach. Then, listen to Gregorian chant, remixed, by vocal group New York Polyphony, using alto and bass recorders, tin whistle, and violin. Plus, music by Brian Eno, riffing on Pachelbel's Canon, and more.
Sample some music from a compilation of rare instrumental works by Irish composers and electronica artists/musicians on this New Sounds program. The anthology, “On the Nature of Electricity & Acoustics” was curated by Daniel Figgis, and includes a work by Vincent Doherty, who combines the sounds of electronic music and American minimalism. We’ll hear from Doherty, along with music from Sunken Foal, chiming delicate electronic music that isn’t afraid to groove. Also, listen to entire armies of electronic guitar drone from Enda Bates, along with a shimmery electronic piece, “Error Messages,” by Linda Buckley. And more.
On this New Sounds program, we’ll hear a sampling of works from a concentrated new music hotspot: Iceland. It’s a scene where rock music, orchestral music and electronics are blended freely and without regard for genre lines. To get an idea, we’ll hear music by composer/producer Valgeir Sigurdsson, who balances chamber and classical against rock and electronica. Plus, something from the now San Diego-based Anna Thorvaldsdottir, whose frosty orchestral music seems to invoke a shimmery soundworld of texures, even though it is played using just acoustic instruments on her record, “Rhizoma.”
There’s new music from the California Guitar Trio on this New Sounds show, from their recent release, “Andromeda,” which has the talented and crafty guitarists playing with effects, keyboard textures, and a guest musician – Tony Levin of King Crimson. We’ll hear their Reichian “Improv 8: Layered Circulation” and possibly some fingerstylin’ middle-eastern influenced tunes as well.
Hear unexpected blends of traditional music on this edition of New Sounds. We'll listen to selections from bagpiper/composer Matthew Welch's band Blarvuster, an outfit that somehow pulls in Balinese/Indonesian gamelan, Celtic influences, minimalist licks, and a rock attitude to emerge with irresitible and unusual textures, both traditional and non.
Listen to music from Niger, Mali, Senegal and Uganda on this New Sounds program. Hear selections from “Delicious Peace,” a new collection of songs by the Peace Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) interfaith fair trade coffee farmers from Uganda. The songs, each sung in the regional language, are about the economic benefits of growing coffee, to the importance of peace among different regions, encouraging neighbors to join the cooperative and teaching methods for producing higher quality coffee. Rather than being harvest songs, these are performed at community gatherings, at meetings of the cooperative, and at wedding receptions of members. Enjoy “Get Up and Grow Coffee!” as a free download on our blog.
For this New Sounds, hear arrangements of Jewish wordless songs of praise from around the world. There’s Nigerian style Afrobeat, trancey jazz, Afro-cuban dance music, a DJ collaboration, and music from the Jewish people of Uganda. A Fela Kuti-style band, led by guitarist Jon Madof does up the prayers that Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach set to music, and takes as its name “Zion80,” a nod to Fela’s “Nigeria 70/Africa 70.”
For this New Sounds, listen to music by the sons and daughters of really fine musicians. We’ll hear Shona music from the country of Zimbabwe by Baba Maraire (formerly Tendai.) His father, Dumisani (Dumi), an ethnomusicologist, was one of the first African musicians to build a grass roots movement of marimba, and came to be informally dubbed, “Godfather of Shona Music.”
For this New Sounds, sample virtuoso works for piano and/or saxophone, including music from a set of duets by saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran. Composed by Lloyd and dedicated to his great-great-grandmother, who was taken from her home in south Mississippi at age 10 and sold to a slave-owner in Tennessee, the suite of pieces is something of a meditation about her life - the loss of her family, loneliness, dreams, sorrow, and songs to her newborn children. It's eloquent, thorny, and heartfelt.
Sample some of the new works premiered at our New Sounds Live concert series featuring the Brooklyn Phil and their new music director, Alan Pierson, along with the final concert of the American Composers Orchestra’s SONiC Festival for this program. We’ll hear the premiere of Bryce Dessner’s "St. Carolyn by the Sea," written for the American Composers Orchestra and two electric guitar soloists (Bryce & his brother, Aaron), from the World Financial Center in October 2011.