Releases of the Month

April 2024

27 April, 2024 | Kristoffer Cornils

A cassette tape stuck to the wall of a house. Someone has drawn a boombox and dancing stick figures around it.
©Nikta Vahid-Moghtada

Everything ends, but the music keeps playing. After three years and four months, I'm saying goodbye to field notes as an editor—voluntarily, but somewhat wistfully. When I started my job in January 2021, the world was a different place. There were no concerts and the prospects seemed more than precarious. Since then, not everything in this world has changed for the better, of course, but at least the musical landscape in this city has picked itself up. I am delighted to have been able to accompany this process for a little over three years, both with our regular print edition and on our website.

With the introduction of Releases of the Month some time in 2021—I can't remember exactly when, as the old entries in this column were unfortunately lost when we moved to our new website—I was able to expand the spectrum of our reporting from and for the scene somewhat. We were able to cover the work of the recording artists in the scene and the many labels based in the city in more detail. Unfortunately, this will now change. The upcoming summer issue of field notes will be my last and this series is also coming to an end. Don’t worry, I’m not getting sentimental here, but just do what I’ve always done: present more than a dozen releases from the month of April (or March and May, I've never been that strict).

That may be good news to end on, but it gets even better: I'm delighted to announce that I'll still be able to write about new releases for field notes in future, albeit not quite as regularly—and with a new concept and name that I still have to think about. Until this column returns in a new guise in autumn, I would like to thank the entire team at field notes and initiative neue musik for their trust, the amazing times together and for being top-notch people, as well as say goodbye to all readers, labels, and artists.

Anyone who would like to send me new releases can find my contact details on my website. I’m saying goodbye for now—let the music play.

Blue and Yellow through Black and Gray (Syrphe, digital)

The compilation »Blue and Yellow through Black and Gray,« released on Cedrik Fermont's label Syrphe and presented by the Amsterdam imprint AEMC, brings together the poems of twelve Ukrainian writers with the music of 15 different music projects from various countries. Pasha Brodskii and Dmytro Postovalov respectively compiled the poems, all of which were written during the first year of the war, and the music; translations of the texts came courtesy of Guy Richardson. The pieces created in dialogue between the participating, AEMC-affiliated musicians are as stylistically diverse as the vocal interpretations of the poems. Individually, they come together to form an impressive mosaic of international artistic solidarity.

Christina Kubisch & Trondheim Voices – Stromsänger (Important, LP/Digital)

Christina Kubisch recently took the MaerzMusik audience on a stroll through a »Kupfergarten« (»Copper Garden«) and is now back on the US quality label Important with a collaboration with the Trondheim Voices. »Stromsänger« for six voices and electromagnetic waves is the result of Kubisch's sonic research in Trondheim, during which she also travelled by tram and captured electromagnetic waves through special headphones, which she combined with recordings of the choir. Kubisch recorded the piece she had mixed in Berlin’s St. Elisabeth-Kirche again and again until it was charged with a decidedly ethereal sound quality through these re-recordings. The resulting recording, divided into three acts, follows the structure of the tram ride, sometimes abstracting the sound and voice beyond recognition or leaving them to stand on their own.

Dell-Lillinger-Westergaard – DLW: Extended Beats (bastille musique, 2LP/CD/digital)

Christopher Dell (vibraphone), Christian Lillinger (drums and percussion) and Jonas Westergaard (double bass) are at home in different musical worlds and also extremely busy. While Lillinger recently returned with another entry in his decidedly beat-orientated ongoing collaboration with Elias Stameseder, »Extended Beats« is now an even more extensive exploration of rhythm and its various possibilities. For the album, released via bastille musique, the trio teamed up with the Sonar Quartet, pianist Tamara Stefanovich and electronic musician Johannes Brecht, among others, to continue the productive and conceptual work with the »Beats« they dedicated themselves to on their album released in 2021 via Lilinger's label Plaist. This happens in every conceivable stylistic, sonic and rhythmic respect. This is a monumental work that manages to integrate unexpected connections between different genres, aesthetic approaches and musical practices.

Frank Gratkowski & Ensemble Modern – Mature Hybrid Talking (Maria de Alvear world edition, CD/digital) / Frank Gratkowski's Entrainment – Frank Gratkowski's Entrainment (Klanggalerie, CD)

Frank Gratkowski remains as hard-working as he is versatile. The saxophonist has released two albums in recent weeks, and they could hardly be more different. »Mature Hybrid Talking« was recorded in Frankfurt am Main in March last year and documents the joint interpretation of Gratkowski's composition of the same name with the Ensemble Modern. Gratkowski worked closely with the ensemble to realise the piece, which is dedicated to Iannis Xenakis and James Joyce, giving them the greatest possible freedom in the interpretation of its dynamics and thus spurring them on to a kind of conducted improvisation, as Richard Barrett vividly explains in the liner notes of the CD released via Maria de Alvear world edition. While this work builds a bridge between new music and improvisation, »Frank Gratkowski’s Entrainment,« the quartet's first release, is a document of the free energies that unfold between Gratkowski, electric bassist Dan Peter Sundland, guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi and drummer Steve Heather: these four improvised live recordings are wild, energetic and lysergic.

Hannes Strobl – Transformation Sonor (Crónica, digital)

Hannes Strobl has a lot on his plate at the moment. He has just returned together with Hanno Leichtmann and David Moss as part of the group Denseland with the new album »Code & Melody,« but has also released a new composition via Crónica. The composer and ((electric) contra)) bassist recorded »Transformation Sonor« together with the similarly tireless Elena Kakaliagou on horn. The almost 28-minute piece took an approach as its starting point that is reminiscent of Éliane Radigue and also recalls some of Alvin Lucier's or Phill Niblock's ideas: Constantly changing textures and glissandi create constant tonal shifts in a music that, if listened to carelessly, could give the impression of consisting of nothing but static drones. The gestures are small, the nuances varied: this single piece traverses a broad spectrum of sound qualities and intensity values, but does so with unrivalled patience.

Hunter Brown + Eric Wong – Si Distributions (Party Perfect!!!, CD/digital)

Eric Wong was last mentioned in this column in February along anarchist sound artist Yan Jun, and now he's back with a new collaboration. »Si Distributions« is being released on a Chicago label with the charming name Party Perfect!!!, but is a Berlin affair through and through: electronic musician Hunter Brown and the improv artist met in Wong's Berlin flat in August last year after they had performed separately at an event at Petersburg Art Space a few days earlier. The two improvised not only with each other, but also with the specific qualities of the space. Wong's work with the spatialisation of sound through the distribution of Bluetooth speakers in the room formed the starting point for these two works that work with white noise, piercing notes and occasionally accentuated rhythmic elements. Accordingly, the duo’s electro-acoustic noise has a great deal of depth to it.

Kaan Bulak & Simon Höfele – No Clouds in Haraz (Neue Meister, LP/CD/digital)

Kaan Bulak not only favours a mixture of styles as co-owner of the Feral Note label, he also constantly seeks to build bridges between different musical worlds in his work as a composer and musician. For »No Clouds in Haraz,« he teamed up with trumpeter Simon Höfele and places the results somewhere between »Sufi ritual and Berlin clubs.« That is an understatement: Höfele's extremely flexible playing enters a or rather several different dialogues with the throbbing mid-tempo techno of the opener »Pulse of Water«, the piano reverie »Late at Someet« and the rumbling percussion of »Kindi's Rays« through to the jazzy closing track »Reposado« in various modes with very different compositional frameworks and moods contributed acoustically or electronically by Bulak. »No Clouds in Haraz« is an adventurous album: constantly changing, never standing still—a world of its own.

Memeshift – Echoes (CHINABOT, MC/digital)

With the album »Echoes,« Morgan Sully travels from Borneo to Berlin. Under the pseudonym Memeshift, the L-KW co-founder creatively deals with his involuntary migration story, which took him from Indonesia to Borneo, on to Hawaii and finally to the US mainland. Over the course of the nine tracks, the Berlin-based artist uses field recordings that he made when returning decades later to Borneo as well as samples of popular and folkloric music. They are integrated into rugged, complex rhythms that are reminiscent of industrial music, but whose unpredictability places them stylistically close to IDM and braindance. Influences from the Berlin club scene mingle with fragments of memories from Sully's personal history and the sound artefacts of the different cultures that shaped the constantly shifting contexts of his journey.

Phill Niblock / Anna Clementi / Thomas Stern – Zound Delta 2 (Karlrecords, LP/CD/digital)

»Zound Delta 2« is part of a growing series of posthumous releases by composer Phill Niblock, who passed away in January. It will not be the last. Karlrecords owner Thomas Herbst received two proposals for new Niblock releases last summer. In addition to the reissue of an album previously only available on CD, which will be released by the Berlin label in future, this also included a proposal by Anna Clementi. Together with Thomas Stern, a member of the so-called Geniale Dilletanten and co-founder of the Berlin iteration of the band Crime And The City Solution, she had recorded a piece that Niblock had written for the singer. Until his death, he was involved in the release of the two different versions of the piece, which now posthumously emphasise how much freedom he granted the interpreters of his works: In both, Clementi and Stern each work out very distinct moods and arcs of tension from the original score.

Splitter Orchester – splitter musik (Hyperdelia, 3CD/digital)

The Berlin label Hyperdelia kept a low profile for a while, but after two years of radio silence is now back with two new release. The duo Sun Kit is made up of co-founder Andreas Dzialocha on bass and Jules Reidy on guitar and vocals. »All The Patterns Inside« allows the structures of rock and pop to fray in order to create both psychedelic and abstract meditations on the changing seasons. Even more ambitious is the release of »splitter musik« by the Splitter Orchestra, which brings together three pieces created by the Berlin scene’s supergroup big band: »Vortex« was recorded at silent green in 2019 and captures the orchestra's collective improvisational approach, »Imagine Splitter« was created as an amalgamation of solo improvisations from lockdown isolation and »PAS« documents a performance in which the orchestra was separated from its audience by the River Spree. As different as the experimental arrangements and results of the three pieces are: No album could have better captured the conceptual and methodical idiosyncrasy of this group.

su dance110 – Shang Can (3087 Records, LP/digital)

Dan Su alias su dance110 remains highly productive. Following the release of »Stille Oper« for Feral Note in February, the soundtrack to an installation work, »Shang Can« on 3087 Records is another musical work that was created in the context of a performance: »Gentle Brutality« is described as an opera that explores the theme of homelessness. According to Dan Su, the nine pieces on the subsequent album are in dialogue with Heiner Goebbels' music theatre piece »Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten« (»Landscape with Distant Relatives«), though the relationship seems to be more of a spiritual one—although the voice also plays a decisive role in su dance110, it is framed by an eclectic interplay of codes from different genres: Noise cascades and clattering rhythms, irreverent references to metal and rumbling drones set the stage for a no less versatile vocal performance.

Theo Nabicht / Circle Line Project – Circle Line Project 15 London & Circle Line Project 18 Wien (Moloko Plus, LP/digital)

Most recently, Theo Nabicht and his Circle Line Project travelled on the Berlin Ringbahn, but now, together with Alexandre Babel Percussion and Joke Lanz on the turntable, the double bass clarinettist is getting on the tube instead. The »Circle Line Project 15 London« stops at no fewer than 62 stations and doesn't stay anywhere for longer than 50 seconds. The interplay between the three musicians is as dense, concentrated and explosive as you would imagine it  to be, with Babel in particular setting the pace. If that's too fast for you, you can always hop on the more cosy Vienna train: The album »Circle Line Project 18 Wien,« released at the same time, chugs through the Austrian metropolis at a more leisurely pace, while narrator Lisa Spalt moderates the journey.

  • Releases of the Month
  • Releases des Monats
  • Frank Gratkowski
  • su dance110
  • Splitter Orchester
  • Hyperdelia
  • Phill Niblock
  • Karlrecords
  • Memeshift
  • Kaan Bulak
  • Feral Note
  • Eric Wong
  • Hannes Strobl
  • Dell-Lillinger-Westergaard
  • bastille musique
  • Christina Kubisch
  • Syrphe

For further reading

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