This was an accidental discovery, found browsing Youtube for new music, and it looks like luck was on my side today, as I would probably have not found out about Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, a French pianist who has enthralled me this evening.
On her Bandcamp website, there is an incredibly detailed essay with notes discussing the album and its creation. The paragraph which caught my attention follows:
Compared to Emilie’s 2015 debut, ‘Like Water Through The Sand’, the feel of the new album appears generally darker and grittier, though in an organic way. It’s more grounded and less cold, with the piano recorded using warmer microphones and preamps. The string writing uses more extended playing techniques, such as bow overpressure on viola and cello, and multiphonics on bass guitar. Emilie also explains that “although the piano has always been a way of expressing how I feel and I wanted to create pieces that featured melodies, I wanted to use the fact the piano is a percussive instrument that can handle strength, rhythm and force just as well as gentle, intimate playing.” This powerful, emotive physicality is clearly audible on tracks like ‘Redux’, ‘Fracture Points’ and ‘Époques’. There are other pulsating/ rhythmical elements running through the record – from chopped up field recordings of waves (‘The Only Water’) to looped bowed bass guitar in ‘Ultramarine’, and the effects applied to the piano throughout ‘Morphee’.
Though seminal artists like Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran and Jóhann Jóhannsson should be seen as reference points, Emilie has carved a niche of her own on her sophomore release. All praise to 130701 and FatCat Records for releasing yet another gem.
Tijana Stanković is a composer from Serbia who offers a work played on a prepared violin and vocals. From her Bandcamp site on LOM Records out of Slovakia:
Freezer is an album of raw and emotive improvisations by Serbian violinist-vocalist Tijana Stanković. Her chosen theme, the proverbial ‘freezer’, makes for a stark setting, serving as both a musical metaphor and literally the echoey meat freezer in Bratislava where the music was created and recorded. “Freezer is a place of cruelty and hope,” Stanković says. “It is a metaphor – an inner place where thoughts and feelings wait to be addressed.”
Though a dedicated free improviser, Stanković’s background in folk and Ethnomusicology puts her in touch with an ancient emotional syntax. Her key tools – violin and vocals – both yearn with an organic and creaking fragility, tied irrevocably to old cultures. As a means to express, they offer boundless possibilities (something Stanković has long explored in a vast array of collaborative groups, ensembles, and projects), but locker herself in the Freezer, on these recordings Stanković gains access to some potent introverted sonic realms, putting them in stasis to keep them at their most genuine, honest, and revealing. “To freeze,” she explains, ”is to preserve.”
Each of the four lengthy improvisations captured on Freezer takes its aesthetic to a logical endpoint. For example, ‘From dust and shine’ is a trip into gentle bow strokes over jarring and fragile violin strings, droning and grating between ethereal half-melodies and gentle moans. Stanković’s violin can at times evoke a creaky wheel as much as a musical instrument.
Though very much locked away in her own world of free and idiosyncratic music, the melodic character, stark sentiments, and heterophony of Balkan folk also play an important role. Closing track, “salty words” has Stanković meditate loudly on a trembling violin string repetition, wordlessly vocalizing a vast spectrum of inner angst.
Freezer is the culmination of Stanković’s abilities as both instrumentalist and improvising, coalescing her experience into a uniquely personal statement, aptly captured to tape in a freezer. Living until recently in Budapest, Stanković is now based in Belgrade.
“I would like to dedicate this release to my dearest friends who were there for me when I needed them the most.”
Be patient with this release. It will grow on you.
Konstantin Trokay (Kosta T) is a violinist out of Perm, Russia. His music meanders in a pleasant way, something like a walk through a dark forest. There are plenty of twists and turns, and some are not always gentle. Intriguing.
I grew up in a house that appreciated the work of Frédéric Chopin. My Mom was and is still a big fan of his compositions. It came as a pleasant surprise to hear that a North Carolina pianist issued some arrangements of Chopin’s music which were recorded beautifully.
Pianist Chad Lawson is joined by Judy Kang on violin and Rubin Kodheli on cello. They update Chopin’s work into a modern, minimalist landscape.
Two of the gems of the ECM Records talent roster, violinist Kim Kashkashian and pianist Keith Jarrett, take on Johann Sebastian Bach’s piece for viola da gamba and harpsichord.