Welcome to a new year of “experimental” music here on The Road to Sound! I’m once again making an attempt to bring back my monthly list, this time keeping it to five favorites from each month (so it’s a little more manageable). I’ll also only be highlighting things here that I didn’t write about elsewhere (if you’re looking for my writing on Does Spring Hide Its Joy?, for example, check out my interview with Kali Malone over on Bandcamp Daily).
I also hope to eventually start these posts with some thoughts on the world, but January was fairly quiet in terms of my mental breakthroughs. Call it hibernation. That said, I did get two weeks straight of lovely snow and a whole lot of drones to listen to, so I’m not going to complain. Here are a few of the albums I was spinning through it. Happy listening!
Melaine Dalibert, Magic Square (FLAU)
On Magic Square, Melaine Dalibert presents a series of gentle piano vignettes that find depth in simplicity, offering great variety while maintaining a sense of ease. Tracks like “Choral” tug at the heartstrings, with stark chords that barely move, while tracks like “Ritornello” float through rolling, echoing melodies. But more importantly than the mechanics of each piece, every note Dalibert plays rings with a feeling of deliberateness, finding grace in interiority.
Lori Goldston & Greg Kelley, All Points Leaning In (Broken Clover)
All Points Leaning In captures a moment of spontaneity between cellist Lori Goldston and trumpeter Greg Kelley. Their music deals in textural swaths, digging deep and emerging with thunderous drones, though occasionally, the music softens, traversing to less turbulent territory (see: “You’re In Good Company” or the moments of distance in “Seeing Stars”). Both Goldston and Kelley are classically trained, but this music is about eschewing structure for exploration, about letting texture and timbre guide the way to unexpected places.
James Ilgenfritz, Sandy Ewen, and Michael Foster, Ekphrastic Discourse (Infrequent Seams)
On Ekphrastic Discourse, bassist James Ilgenfritz, guitarist Sandy Ewen, and saxophonist Michael Foster make the most out of very little volume. The album captures the trio’s spontaneity within the confines of dynamic, finding experimentation within quietude. Instead of rocking out on any of their instruments, they deal in muffled squawks and distant rumbles, nearly silent plucks and whistles. In their restraint, they inspire presence: Their sounds may seem chaotic or random, but listen closely and they weave together, creating a delicate lattice of muted textures.
Adrianne Munden-Dixon, Lung (Gold Bolus)
Lung, recorded by Adrianne Munden-Dixon, presents a snapshot of modern violin music, from minimalist gestures (Cassie Wieland’s “Lung”) to resonant, full melodies (Phong Tran’s “Generation”) to frenzied explorations (Carrie Frey’s “seagrass / reed”). These pieces emphasize the instrument’s broad palette and highlight its (and the performer’s) versatility. Though there’s a great difference between each—some require restraint, while others find themselves in abandon—Munden-Dixon handles them all with ease, showcasing her incredible skill on the instrument as well as her willingness to go wherever the music takes her.
Note: I’m friends with some of the composers involved with this album and with Munden-Dixon.
Éliane Radigue, Occam Delta XV (Collection QB)
Éliane Radigue’s Occam pieces follow the motion and resonance of just a few long-held tones, gradually finding liberation. Occam Delta XV is a little gentler, and a little more pastoral, than some of Radigue’s other Occam works, but catharsis still emerges as its centripetal force. Each lush harmony the quartet finds, each glimmering tone, is made more meaningful by the music’s brief crunches and subtle motions, and with the careful consideration of every tiny waver, the piece becomes more than just a balm—it becomes a release.