Albums

Sounds Heard: Mary Ellen Childs—Wreck

Would I have been able to smell the sea salt in the air quite so powerfully while listening to a recording of Mary Ellen Childs’s Wreck if I hadn’t already seen the image of a man face down in the water that graces its cover? Possibly not, but knowing that at the outset, I swear I could feel the waves crashing against the boat and a brisk ocean breeze hitting my face.

Sounds Heard: Joseph Byrd—NYC 1960-1963

An undogmatic, uncommitted, exploratory spirit is one of Joseph Byrd’s chief virtues as an artist. Although it’s easy to see how this same quality makes him difficult to pin down in our increasingly soundbyte-based world.

Sounds Heard: Ehnahre—Old Earth

Ehnahre, the Boston-based experimental metal group, has a knack for dissonance, amplified into bone-crushing clouts of familiar overdrive distortion. But the real, dark fun of Old Earth (Crucial Blast) is the way the music, fueled by dissonance, constantly slips free of such genre expectations.

Sounds Heard: Mariel Roberts—Nonextraneous Sounds

If anything is clear in the first few moments of Mariel Roberts’s debut CD Nonextraneous Sounds, it’s that this will not be just a polite collection of unremarkable wallpaper works for solo cello. Actually, unless you are already prepared for what’s coming, it’s not even completely clear that a cello is what’s at the forefront of the mix.

Sounds Heard: Amos Elkana—Casino Umbro

The music of American-born, currently Israeli-based composer Amos Elkana, featured on the new CD Casino Umbro, is a clear by-product of his internationalism which includes a very strong American influence, particularly in its stylistic eclecticism.

Sounds Heard: Gabriel Kahane—February House

I’ve long been a fan of Gabriel Kahane’s songwriting. With February House, he has taken the strengths of his previous projects—smart lyrics, even smarter compositional choices—and played them out across a larger storyboard, creating distinct voices for his characters that still solidly carry the attractive marks of his own.

Sounds Heard: Michael Harrison & Maya Beiser—Time Loops

For the recording Time Loops cellist Maya Beiser teams up with composer/pianist Michael Harrison to perform a number of Harrison’s works inspired by “music from ancient Greece and the Renaissance, Indian ragas and Minimalism.” All of his music is performed in just intonation, and the result is an ear-openingly clear, bright sound that fits the instrument beautifully and highlights the ecstatic, spiritual nature of the compositions.

Sounds Heard: Christopher Bono—Invocations

While much of 21st-century contemporary composition is not beholden to any rules, to the extent that I could probably claim everyone to be an “outsider” in some ways, Bono’s music sounds as though everything he writes is something he is discovering for the very first time.