A Sweet Quasimodo Between Black Vampire Butterflies

Hearing Charlemagne Palestine’s magical approach to the piano live is one of the great “have to be there” experiences. As wonderful as his all-too-rare appearances on recordings have been, none really captures the total experience: in which his maniacal minimalist solo piano pyrotechnics are often accompanied by a sea of teddy bears and a snifter […]

Surviving Death

Brovold gets a lot of mileage from a simple collection of instruments—guitar, bass, drums, violin, and a few saxophones—in crafting a hypnotic blend of droning jazz-rock. But for this title track, he adds tympani, which combined with the repeated rhythmic figures on electric guitar and violin to create the feel of a curtain-raising overture. Instead […]

Labor and Breath

Feeling a severe lack of music performed solely on electric bass in your life? Worry not! California’s intrepid new music label, New Albion, comes to the rescue with Jeffrey Roden’s Seeds of Happiness. The stripped-down aesthetic consists of simple melodies with straightforward accompaniment captured with a pristine approach to the recording process. Hey, it helps […]

not a single night’s sky

New Millennium Ensemble Although the eight members of the Common Sense Composers’ Collective are spread all over the country, they mostly share a similar post-minimalist compositional aesthetic. And their shared sensibility has made the previous collective discs remarkably consistent for multiple-composer recordings. But on first listen, the omnivorous post-modernism of Ed Harsh (who also serves […]


Whenever composer Dennis Kam hears the old saying “it takes two to tango,” he must be thinking to himself: Sure, but three would make things a little more interesting. Take his composition Trio. At any moment the piece feels capable of breaking into a soft-shoe routine. The Ibis Camerata delivers a buoyant performance that really […]

Scherzo Grosso

This piece brilliantly integrates a cello soloist into a big-band sound. It was written in tribute to a former member of the band who passed away, and a wide range of emotion—anger, agitation, surprise—can be heard in cellist Matt Haimovitz’s playing. The turbulent instrumentation invites full-throttle wailing from all sections of the band, and a […]

Clap Hands

Steve Evans, vocals; Jake Vinsel, bass; Noritaka Tanaka, drums; Leandro Lopez Varady, piano According to the booklet notes on his new 2-CD set, jazz vocalist Steve Evans originally intended to release a live recording of his quartet, but “technical difficulties” intervened. So instead he imposed strict restrictions on his studio process in the hopes of […]

Concerto for Oboe, Clarinet, and Strings

Peggy Pearson, oboe; Jo-Ann Sternberg, clarinet; Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra; Scott Yoo, conductor I’m not a concerto fan. It all boils down to this: the huge chasm separating the sense of intimacy inherent to chamber music from the power monolithic sound that only the orchestra can produce. When I listen to a concerto, this gap is […]


William Kopecky, electric bass; Dan Maske, keyboards; Angela Schmidt, cello; Craig Walkner, drums Although all of the tracks on this second CD of the primal Milwaukee-based post-prog outfit Far Corner are credited to keyboardist Dan Maske, the opening “Inhuman” is a group improvisation that shows off the chops of all four members of the group, […]

Stay With Me

What do you get when you cross Scottish indie rockers Mogwai with the Kronos Quartet? I’ll give you a hint: It’s languid, laidback, and darkly evocative, veiled with pathos but featuring the occasional turn-on-a-dime energetic outbursts while somehow still being restrained by its own melancholy. It’s Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for Darren Aronofsky’s latest flick, The […]

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