Our selection of the best new music across a range of genres from the week ending 2 February 2024.
The new album Peacemaker follows Vera Sola’s critically acclaimed 2018 debut Shades. It marks a dramatic shift from the shadowy, enclosed nature of her first recordings, to a sweeping new sonic landscape and renewed focus on her remarkable voice. Recorded predominantly in Nashville over the fall of 2019, Vera Sola, ever the orchestrator, opened herself up to the magic of collaboration, working alongside co-producer Kenneth Pattengale, to bring in dozens of musicians to embellish the sound. The record is at times bold and orchestral while retaining some of the dirt and grit that was present under the fingernails of Shades, realising a whole world while managing to also find remarkable detail in snapshot vignettes.
With his new album Letter(s) to Erik Satie, Bertrand Chamayou pays tribute to two idiosyncratic, innovative and influential composers, one born in Normandy in 1866, the other in Los Angeles in 1912. There is a strong connection between them: John Cage considered Erik Satie a source of inspiration. Satie takes pride of place on the album with such pieces as the three Gymnopédies and the seven Gnossiennes, while Cage is represented by five pieces and a work attributed to him following its rediscovery amongst the papers of his disciple James Tenney – whose musical homage to Satie also features in the programme. Chamayou recorded the album at the state-of-the-art Miraval Studios in Provence, which inspired him to take an experimental approach: “I thought we should do something a little different – and I thought of Erik Satie. This was an opportunity to get really intimate with the piano … Satie is really a special case, a strange musician unlike anyone else.”
The Smile’s new album Wall Of Eyes is the follow up to the band’s 2022 debut LP A Light For Attracting Attention, which received critical acclaim from the likes of The Guardian, Pitchfork, The Observer, The Needle Drop, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, Uncut and MOJO, and more. The Smile played a series of brilliantly received live shows in the US and Mexico in June and July of this year and released “Bending Hectic” from the new album in June.
Pianist-composer Vijay Iyer follows his 2021 ECM disc Uneasy — the first to showcase his trio featuring bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Tyshawn Sorey — with Compassion, another album in league with these two gifted partners. Compassion, Iyer’s eighth release as a leader for ECM, continues his drive to explore fresh territory while also referencing his forebears along the way, two of them long associated with the label. The album includes a lyrical homage to Chick Corea via the late pianist’s valedictory interpretation of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed.” Another tip of the hat comes with “Nonaah,” a whirlwind of a piece by avant-garde sage Roscoe Mitchell, a key mentor for the pianist. Then there are Iyer’s own melodically alluring, rhythmically invigorating compositions, ranging from the pensive title track to the hook-laced highlights “Tempest” and “Ghostrumental.”
After living in Los Angeles for a few years, MORGXN decided to confront his past and return home to his Tennessee roots. Currently building a farm in the Nashville area, he has become passionately involved in activism around the city. “I’ve got a hit song called ‘home’ that’s sending me around the world, and yet I was terrified of going home,” he details. “Talk about being in Nashville, at a time where queer lives are on the line, drag is on the line, trans rights are on the line, women’s rights are on the line…” He wrote and recorded all of the new album Beacon from his hometown, the title track even being penned from his childhood piano. Coming into the making of the album with over 100 songs, he teamed up with producer Marshall Altman (Natasha Bedingfield) who helped pare them down into a collection of his most powerful tracks.
In August 2022 the Australia-based, French-born new age musician and electronic music composer Ariel Kalma was invited to participate in BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction series of special collaborations. The program pairs artists who have not previously worked together to create new music cooperatively. Kalma was quick to suggest working with two musicians whom he had never met – International Anthem recording artists Jeremiah Chiu and Marta Sofia Honer, whose critically-acclaimed duo debut Recordings from the Åland Islands had been released just a few months earlier. His invitation was received with enthusiasm, as Chiu had long been a fan of Kalma’s work, even citing him as a major influence on his approach to electronic music composition. Their new album is The Closest Thing to Silence, and it’s out now.
Australian artist, actor, writer, provocateur and musician Kirin J Callinan has shared his new album If I Could Sing, out now via Worse Records / [PIAS]. Written between Sydney, Los Angeles, and an extended period of pandemic-era isolation in a coastal batch in New Zealand, If I Could Sing is a deep and personal exploration into the depths of Kirin’s inner workings. From pure pop bliss, to grosgrain-like hymns, the record spans all corners of Callinan’s creative world. The record features previously released singles including, synth-heavy, pop possessed, Bowie inspired ballad, ‘Crazier Idea’, pop ditty ‘Young Drunk Driver’, and the refreshingly honest number, ‘Eternally Hateful’.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- New music round-up (for w/e 16 February 2024)
- New music round-up (for w/e 23 June 2023)
- New music round-up (for w/e 22 September 2023)
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television