In February, New York is gray. The buildings are always gray, but I think they’re a little more gray in winter. We had a couple warm days, where the sun bathed the city in yellow, the first color in weeks besides the bright pinks and reds in the drugstore’s Valentine’s Day aisle. But for the most part, it’s gray, and things seem to slow down, to take a rest. And while I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of the pause that winter forces onto the world, this February seemed different than others—it flew by, full of concerts and music and people that matter to me. Community keeps the world going.
Here are four albums (or, in one case, a longform track) that offered a little more color to the sameness, too. Happy listening!
Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer, Leaving Grass Mountain (Longform Editions)
Leaving Grass Mountain offers a pop of vibrancy. A meeting of modular synthesizer (Jeremiah Chiu) and viola (Marta Sofia Honer), the track is fluid, made of pillowy melodies and gurgling undercurrents, always maintaining a sense of buoyancy. No moment is stilted—rather, the music moves like the tides, drawn out by some invisible force. Time is alive yet subtle: As it passes, melodies gradually shift from one pattern to the next, changing with the intuition of the seasons.
Amanda Irarrázabal & Eli Wallace, Entre Pliegos (Dinzu Artefacts)
On Entre Pliegos, double bassist Amanda Irarrázabal and pianist Eli Wallace make tactile music, weaving together soft- and rough-edged textures to form groovy patterns. Their approach to their instruments brings out a sense of spontaneity: Both musicians explore every aspect of their tools, uncovering surprising textures and sounds in the process. Gritty bowed bass interweaves with crinkly prepared piano and percussion; piano hits puncture fuzzy bass tones. It’s a distant rumble—ever-present, ever-evolving.
Tristan Kasten-Krause & Jessica Pavone, Images of One (Relative Pitch Records)
On Images of One, violist Jessica Pavone and double bassist Tristan Kasten-Krause play with consonance and dissonance, drawing out textural shifts from simple motion. Their playing is unadorned, colored by the sharpness or speed of their bows rather than flowery vibrato, putting the quality of each sound on full display. It’s patient music, and the patience pays off—tracks like “Double Cross,” which is made of delicately layered tones that gradually fall together in ethereal consonance, feel otherworldly. Like partners in an intricate dance, their tones collide and separate, gracefully reaching unison.
Joanna Mattrey and Steven Long, Strider (Dear Life Records)
Violist Joanna Mattrey and sound artist Steven Long recorded much of Strider on the coldest day of 2022, and its sonic palette reflects what it may have felt like then: prickly, icy tones weave between serene, quiet layers, capturing what it feels like to be numbed by the cold yet calmed by the quiet on a still day. Throughout, resonant viola melodies float above flickering electronics and rustling field recordings, singing out folksy melodies that mix fiddling with drone. And while each track weaves together an array of ideas and textures, they each feel like a snapshot of a moment, concise packages of bustling sound.