Jherek Bischoff: RSD 7″

Happy Record Story Day!

Like 170 or so other recording artists, Jherek Bischoff is in the mood for Record Store Day’s fifth anniversary celebration. Brassland is releasing a limited 7″ vinyl single featuring collaborations between Bischof and David Byrne, Zac Pennington, and Soko.

This Weekend: Brooklyn Village at Roulette

The hot ticket this weekend is in Brooklyn, about Brooklyn, and performed by Brooklynites. Check out the trailer for Brooklyn Village below.

A multimedia piece starring the Brooklyn Phil and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, it features repertory standards, new pieces by David T. Little, Sarah Kirkland Snider, and Matthew Mehlan, and a tale as old as the Brooklyn Bridge. In fact, slightly older: its story concerns the buildings razed to make way for said bridge. All that plus Mellissa Hughes and Sufjan Stevens: talk about bringing out the star power!

Event details

Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 7:30 PM
Sunday, March 25, 2012 at 7:30 PM

Roulette, 509 Atlantic Avenue
Tickets: $20-$35 (www.roulette.org)


Brooklyn Philharmonic; Alan Pierson, conductor

Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Dianne Berkun, director

Mellissa Hughes & Lauren Worsham, sopranos


Beethoven: Scherzo from Symphony no. 3 (1804)

Copland: Prelude to Symphony no. 1 (1924/8)

Sufjan Stevens: The B.Q.E. mvt. 6: Isorhythmic Night Dance With Interchanges (2007)

Shape Note song for chorus with audience participation (early 19th century)

Plus three world premieres:

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Here (2012, commissioned by Brooklyn Youth Chorus)

David T. Little: Am I Born (2012, co-commissioned by Brooklyn Phil & BYC)

Matthew Mehlan: Canvas (2011/12)

Cuddle Magic readies 3rd LP for release

After finishing school, New England Conservatory of Music graduates find all sorts of ways to collaborate together: orchestras, recording sessions, chamber music, etc. Members of the indie band Cuddle Magic met while studying at NEC. They’ve taken the classical chops they honed in Boston and brought them into a hybridized chamber pop scenario that owes as much of a debt to Steve Reich and Moondog as it does to Beirut and Animal Collective.

Now based in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, Cuddle Magic is preparing Info Nympho, its third CD, for release on FYO Records. It combines classical instrumentation with a penchant for 80s keyboards (including the vintage Casio seen in the video below), whimsical toy instruments, and honey-sweet vocal harmonies.

Much of this is captured in the close-miked immediacy of apartment recording. But the band has also been recording at Old Soul Studio in the Catskills, enlisting the help of toy pianist extraordinaire Phyllis Chen (video below). They also guested on Chen’s recent Uncaged Toy Piano Festival. Both Chen and Cuddle Magic are able to re-purpose unorthodox materials to create music that employs a light touch, but is never lightweight.

Courtesy of the band, here’s a free download of album track Moby Dickless.

Brassland offers free 2012 sampler on Amazon

Brassland 2012 Free Sampler
(Download it now at Amazon here. US only.)

1. Buke and Gase – “Your Face Left Before You”
2. Clogs – “Cocodrillo” (ft. Shara Worden)
3. The National – “90-Mile Water Wall”
4. Doveman – “Aftermath” (ft. Norah Jones)
5. Baby Dayliner – “The Way You Look Tonight”
6. Pela – “Episodes”
7. Clogs – “Kapsburger”
8. Erik Friedlander – “May It Please Heaven”
9. Baby Dayliner – “Raid!”
10. The National – “Cold Girl Fever”
11. Doveman – “Sunrise”
12. Clogs – “Pencil Stick”
13. The National – “About Today”
14. Doveman – “Tigers”

Bedroom Community shares Yule 2011

Bedroom Community is one of our favorite indie classical imprints. The Icelandic label has released CDs by Sam Amidon, Nico Muhly, Daniel Bjarnason, Ben Frost,

Valgeir Sigurðsson, and other artists. As they did last year, BC has released a Yule mix, filled with previously unreleased material. It’s free with any purchase from their online store.

To whet your appetite, we’ve included a piece by Valgeir, with stirring accompanying images, below.

Jeffrey Biegel’s Christmas album (CD Review)

A Steinway Christmas Album: Music for the Season

Jeffrey Biegel, piano

Steinway & Sons

I’ll admit that this holiday season snuck up on me a bit. And while it’s taken me longer to get into the spirit than usual, I’m grateful to have had this CD at hand. It’s been an excellent aid to snapping out of the winter blues.

Pianist Jeffrey Biegel presents a classical crossover album of holiday chestnuts that is a cheering antidote to its all too ubiquitous nemeses: holiday schlock music. The latter’s execrations include forced gaiety and dubious associations with conspicuous consumption. Via prominent commercial placement, this mortal sin of Christmastime has even befallen many good holiday albums past. Instead, on A Steinway Christmas Album, the tunes are presented adorned only with a tasteful amount of music tinsel, in sparkling arrangements that are eminently adroit, showing off Biegel’s nimble dexterity without ever obscuring the underlying original pieces.

Even if you think you’re so sick of “Sleigh Ride” and “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” to never want to hear them again, the classy music-making here may yet charm you into changing your mind. Besides, things always sound better on a 9′ Steinway Concert Grand, don’t they?

Wintry greetings from itsnotyouitsme (video)

Everybody’s Pain is Magnificent
New Amsterdam Records

Grey McMurray and Caleb Burhans have been performing together as itsnotyouitsme since 2003. In the past five years, they have released three recordings. Their latest, Everybody’s Pain is Magnificent is a sprawling double album set of material. It celebrates the gradual developing soundscapes and lushly ambient sonics that are signatures the group’s sound. Unlike many ill-fated double albums, which run out of steam or seem padded, EPiM requires the extra time to develop its sweeping musical architectures and allow the listener to luxuriate, bathed in the music’s honeyed harmonies and finely spun textures. It’s been in heavy rotation in these parts this Fall. If you haven’t heard it, you are missing out on one of 2011′s most rewarding ambient treasures.

Below, the band shares a ‘wintry’-sounding video of a recent live performance.

yMusic share single; upcoming (belated) release show

We wrote about yMusic a little while back on the blog, but their CD is cause for celebration anytime, even after its formal release. This past week, the group played a “release party” show at Rockwood Music Hall. But if you missed it, fear not, they are also performing at the Beacon Theatre, sharing the bill with My Brightest Diamond.

Shara Worden has done more than share a bill with yMusic. She’s collaborated with them on both her recent CD All Things Will Unwind and appeared as guest vocalist on yMusic’s Beautiful Mechanical CD. The band is sharing “Skin and Bones,” a track featuring Worden, via their Bandcamp page.

Björk: Biophilia; “Thunderbolt” live (CD Review; video)



One Little Indian/Nonesuch CD (digi; vinyl; digital app versions also available)

Björk’s latest release is more than just a studio album. For her Biophilia project, the artist has embraced both 21st century technology and espoused an aesthetic that reconnects music-making with the natural world. In the latter quest she’s in good – and venerable – company: Hildegard von Bingen promulgated a similar agenda through her own writings and musical works back in the 12th Century! Of course, Björk’s vantage point is decidedly more secularly ecumenical than Hildegard’s. But the notion of embracing the life force, being aware of (wo)man’s interaction with the environment and the cosmos, and the joy in eliciting the listener’s participation in the creation of music, are all affinities that resonate between them. Indeed, it’s in this participatory spirit that Björk has also released the album as a set of apps, encouraging listeners to dig in to some of the concepts behind the record’s creation and to explore some of the music in a more hands-on fashion. Those who prefer a less tech-fancy product can get a deluxe boxed set, limited edition vinyl, or one of several CD/digital formats.

All of these organizing principals and methods of distribution create high hopes: are the expectations and aesthetic pronouncements that surround Biophilia outsized when compared to its actual songs? No, the music remains central to the album’s design. It is ambitious in spirit and carefully crafted. Björk incorporates some of the classical music signatures she has incorporated on previous efforts – brass ensemble, vocal choirs, strings, etc. Beats and electronics are liberally added as well. Throughout, there’s a particular emphasis on plucked and percussive timbres – harps and dulcimers create a delicately clangorous soundscape that serves as a frequent through line on Biophilia.

This is still nominally a pop album, and as such the song designation is retained. But Björk is really creating compositions which stretch the boundaries of the song form, filled with digressions, changes in texture, demeanor, and even style. While the tendency towards the atmospheric has been abundantly present in her work (at least) since  2001′s Vespertine, Biophilia embraces a wide swath of sonic profiles. Some are quirky and endearing, like the organ-driven “Hollow.” Others are more beat-driven, like the astonishingly variated “Crystalline.” Electronica presents itself here n a glitchy fashion rather than embracing a standard dancehall-ready beat template. And then there is “Dark Matter,” a thoughtful, deliciously dissonant piece of chamber music: a piece that will likely prove polarizing: enervating to Björk’s detractors and riveting to kindred spirits.

The one constant amidst all of this musical diversity is Björk’s voice, which remains a singular, expressive, and powerful instrument, capable of great dynamic range and innumerable timbral adjustments. And while Biophilia demands much from its listeners, even by the standards set by the increasingly adventurous approach found in each successive Björk release, it’s likely that her voice alone is sufficient enough a beacon to light the pathway for listeners. Those who persist will find many sonic revelations and cherished musical moments therein.

Here is a video of a recent live performance of album cut “Thunderbolt.”

Here’s a video taster course for the Biophilia app suite