Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 24 April 2020.
Following acclaimed recordings of concertos by Dvořák and Shostakovich, the Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing returns to her roots with Grieg: The Violin Sonatas. She’s joined by Simon Trpčeski at the piano. Each of Edvard Grieg’s violin sonatas marks a decisive phase in the composer’s artistic development. He completed the F major Sonata at the age of 22, while still trying to break free from the heady influences he had received during his training at the Leipzig conservatory. Two years later, in 1867, Grieg had become deeply involved in the project of constructing a national culture, as part of the movement for an independent Norway. His Sonata No. 2 exploited national characteristics far more consistently than before and his Norwegian audience reacted with great enthusiasm. Grieg’s final ‘crime for the violin’, as he described it, was the Violin Sonata in C minor, composed 20 years after Sonata No. 2. It was and the last piece of chamber music that he completed. Closing out the disc, Hemsing plays her own composition ´Homecoming´. It is a set of variations on a tune from the valley where she grew up, as well as a friendly nod to Grieg; who used the same tune almost 150 years ago in his large-scale Ballade Op. 24.
Other Lives have released of their new album, For Their Love. Taking its name from one of the earlier tracks written for the album, the band’s creative lynch-pin and frontman Jesse Tabish explains; “something about the title feels both inclusive and also of a larger scene whilst embodying the path we wanted to take.” Self-produced, the album sees Tabish and his bandmates less inclined to over-finesse. The resulting tracks show the band “trying to capture the vibe of something altogether more instant. I was adamant there would no tricks and nothing to obscure me which I had been doing psychologically and musically” says Tabish.
Tabish is one again joined by drummer Danny Reisch who played on Rituals. They’re bolstered by an array of musicians featuring strings, brass and percussion as well as Kim Tabish and Onstott contributing choral-style backing vocals reinforcing the overall cinematic feel that permeates the album.
Following their 2017 debut A Quality of Mercy, RVG seek to combine rock’s urgency, punk’s anarchy, and pop’s empathy on their sophomore album, Feral (out now). Recorded at Head Gap studios with producer Victor Van Vugt (Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), the album marks the beginning of a new era for the band. To Romy Vager, RVG’s lead singer and lyricist, to feel feral is to feel outside of everything. Throughout this album that feeling of isolation is incited, but it never feels hopeless: these songs channel the raw energy of despair and frustration into melodies that often feel victorious, if only because they supply a soundtrack to the end of days.
The United States has been in the midst of a foreign military engagement nearly every year since composer Joel Harrison’s birth in 1957. This endless state of war has had lasting impacts on the country’s wellbeing, and far reaching repercussions on generations of soldiers and their families. Guitarist and composer Joel Harrison’s new large ensemble recording, America At War, is a musical meditation on a lifetime of ruinous armed conflicts conducted by the United States.
The ensemble includes 18 musicians game to the task of presenting this demanding and emotionally charged music. Matt Holman was called in as conductor, and expert instrumentalists like trumpeters Ingrid Jensen, Dave Smith and Seneca Black, trombonists Curtis Hasselbring and Alan Ferber, and a “murderer’s row” of woodwinds, Ben Kono, Jon Irabagon, Stacy Dillard and Ken Thomson, make the music incredibly rich and emotive.
Automatic Changer is the latest record from Canadian garage-rockers, Dead Ghosts. Formed nearly a decade ago in Vancouver, the band grew out of founders Byran Nicol, Drew Wilky, and Mike Wilky’s desire to hang out, listen to records and play music. After the trio uploaded a few demos to Myspace – this was 2008, after all – a small punk record label reached out and asked if they wanted to do a single. The single quickly led to the group’s first full-length album, the self-titled Dead Ghosts. Defying their own expectations, by 2015 the group had released two more albums – Can’t Get No and Love and Death and All the Rest – and embarked on several tours across Europe and US. Playing a distinctive brand of swaggering, blues-infused lo-fi rock, the five-piece quickly won over transatlantic fans and scored fresh fodder for their lyrics with their punk-rock antics.
mxmtoon’s new EP dawn is now out unveiling a new chapter for the 19-year-old singer/songwriter. On dawn, mxmtoon (a.k.a. Maia) expands her sonic world, embracing lush soundscapes and pulsing beats. These songs were written months before COVID-19 had taken over our daily lives but the lyrics which deal with issues including social isolation have a whole new meaning. dawn speaks to our uncertain times while embracing a general truism that’s always important to remember, “I wanted to remind people that things will be okay and even on the darkest day, the sun still rises,” Maia states. “I want to lift people up. I still love making sad songs, but I wanted to make something that felt refreshing to me this time.”
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television