Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 16 October 2020.
The Messenger is Hélène Grimaud’s dialogue between Mozart and the Ukrainian-born contemporary composer Valentin Silvestrov. The recording sessions took place at the start of this year at an historic Mozart site in Salzburg, the Great Hall of the University, where Grimaud was joined by the Camerata Salzburg. The album includes three works by Mozart: the unfinished Fantasia in D minor K 397, the famous Piano Concerto in D minor K 466 and the Fantasia in C minor K 475. Grimaud sees his use of the minor as suggestive of “confrontations with fate or destiny”. She now appreciates that there is more to his writing than Apollonian elegance and restraint, noting that it took her “many years of inner cultivation to fully recognise those burning, unpredictable currents rippling beneath the transcendental beauty”. Valentin Silvestrov’s ‘The Messenger – 1996’ offers both a response to and an echo of Mozart’s music – this idea of acknowledging and paying tribute to what has gone before is central to his art as a composer.
Visionary DJ/producer Whethan has released his debut album, FANTASY. The groundbreaking project is highlighted by the single ‘Clouds’ (feat. The Wombats). “Fantasy is getting on a spaceship and teleporting anywhere your dreams can imagine,” Whethan shared. “I wanted to make a project that was full of energy and artists that I’m inspired by. There was an underlying theme of alternative meets psychedelic dance music and I wanted to be able to blast every song at my shows or have it feel like you’re at a show when listening at home or in the car.” FANTASY sees Whethan uniting with a remarkably eclectic collection of fellow artists, including Chrome Sparks, Jaymes Young, Jasiah, The Knocks, Mr Gabriel, The Front Bottoms and RL Grime.
Serpentine Prison, the debut solo record from Matt Berninger — frontman of critically acclaimed group The National — is out now. The album, produced by famed Memphis multi-instrumentalist Booker T. Jones will be released via Book Records, a new imprint formed by Berninger and Jones in conjunction with Concord Records. The album features contributions from a wide array of notable artists, including Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater), Andrew Bird, Mike Brewer, Hayden Desser, Scott Devendorf (The National), Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz), Booker T. Jones, Teddy Jones, Brent Knopf (EL VY, Menomena), Ben Lanz (The National, Beirut), Walter Martin (The Walkmen, Jonathan Fire*Eater), Sean O’Brien, Mickey Raphael (Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan), Kyle Resnick (The National, Beirut), Matt Sheehy (EL VY, Lost Lander) and Harrison Whitford (Phoebe Bridgers).
As a drummer in the Melbourne music scene, Nick Martyn aka Las Mar has worked with some of Australia’s most renowned artists including Gotye, D.D Dumbo, Nai Palm (Hiatus Kaiyote), Matt Corby and Barney McAll, and was also a founding member of acclaimed outfit Clairy Browne & The Bangin’ Rackettes. Las Mar has performed live throughout Japan, Australia and Europe, his part-realised, part-improvised live one-man-band show showcasing an incredible energy from behind the drums, combined with angelic vocals and impressive sleight-of-hand synthesizer skills. Inspired by disparate elements – surrealist paintings, Afro-Cuban chants, sad-boy songs, The Funk, travels to distant lands, electronic dance music – Las Mar has created a home for a unique artistic voice on his sophomore LP, Don’t Read Everything You Believe. As with his previous releases, Don’t Read Everything You Believe, sees Nick Martyn recording every sound from scratch using ageing keyboards, exotic strings and percussion, guitars, the human voice, and field recordings to deliver an epic sound from a DIY ethos.
After their highly acclaimed 2014 debut album as a duo, Moderato cantabile, Anja Lechner (violoncello) and François Couturier (piano) widen the scope of music even further on Lontano, out now on ECM. The duo sings in a voice of its own, be it with original compositions, free improvisations, drawing upon a Bach cantata or an Argentine folk lament or subtle inclusion of works by Henri Dutilleux, Giya Kancheli or Anouar Brahem. Having internalized influences and repertoire the German cellist and the French pianist not only locate atmospheric and expressive connections among far-flung sources, but also create new music that reflects and refracts its inspirations.
Melbourne’s Ex-Olympian, aka Liam McGorry, has released his debut album Afterlife via Dot Dash Recordings / Remote Control Records. Ex-Olympian is the new musical vessel for McGorry – songwriter & musician for bands such as Saskwatch and Dorsal Fins. Named after the neon sign that adorns ‘Borsari’s Corner’ in Melbourne’s Lygon St, Ex-Olympian reflects the times we all need to shift things forward into a new phase. Afterlife is a record about growing, moving on and learning from your mistakes… finding yourself again, making the road by walking. Written and recorded over a three year period in a series of phases; spurred on by wanting to be more directly involved in the playing and creation side of music, after working in larger ensembles for a long time.
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David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television