Lubomyr Melnyk: Fallen Trees (LP, Erased Tapes, December 2018)

Ukrainian-born pianist Lubomyr Melnyk came up with what he called ‘continuous music’ sometime in the seventies, but seems to have been having a bit of a moment recently, at least in parts through his involvement with Erased Tapes. This is my first real exposure to his work, and, boy, what an experience it is.

As far as I can tell, ‘continuous music’ means playing dense cascade of notes really fast without let-up, with a healthy usage of the sustain pedal. It’s obviously inspired by American minimalism, but it’s also quite melodic — much more so than, say, Charlemagne Palestine’s Strumming Music, which seems an obvious reference point. This record also includes a little bit of chanting (mostly from Japanese label-mate Hatis Noit) and a little bit of cello (from Anne Müller) — but it still has a much more direct purity than, say, Bing and Ruth (and, yes, I imagine it’s much more likely that David Moore is influenced by Melnyk than the other way around).

The A-side has three pieces, the sparkling Requiem for a Fallen Tree, the thunderous Son of Parasol, and the comparatively conventional Barcarolle (which even has, like, gaps between some of the notes! I have to say that I wouldn’t choose to listen to a record that’s all like this, but it’s a nice palate cleanser). The B-side is a single five-part piece called Fallen Trees, it covers a range of styles and emotions, and it’s absolutely stonking. In a just world, Melnyk would be filthy rich on the moolah from his finger sponsors. Ah well. Back in the real world, let’s hope his eighth decade brings us more records as good as this one.

I bought this from Norman Records. They call it Neo-classical / Classical / Orchestral and Drone / Kosmische / Minimal.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen: Atomos (CD, October 2014, Erased Tapes)

I loved Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran’s self-titled debut as A Winged Victory For The Sullen. At the time, I indulged myself by describing them as “a post-classical/ambient/drone supergroup”, based on contributions by Peter Broderick, Hildur Guðnadóttir, and Nils Frahm. This album, of music originally written for a modern dance piece, features no such big-name contributors. And while the tunes are pretty and the sound pleasing, it does lack the magic of the 2011 record for me. Where that recording had a wonderfully delicate balance between the piano and string arrangements and the drone effects, this seems to have erred a little on the tame side — perhaps my judgement is thrown off by having listened to this first the day after hearing them play a fantastic live gig in which Wiltzie’s guitar-driven effects took equal billing with O’Halloran’s keyboards and the string quartet, but I can’t help feeling the balance is off here. It’s still good stuff, but I can’t help feeling a little underwhelmed.

I bought this from the merch stall at their Barbican gig.

Peter Broderick: Music For Confluence (CD, Erased Tapes, November 2011)

Peter Broderick’s talent in a wide range of styles is hugely impressive, but it makes it hard for me to get a handle on his œuvre. What’s he going to come out with next? Well, I think I’d place Music For Confluence somewhere on an axis between the gorgeous orchestral sweep of Float and the rich Americana of Home. The strings range from the folksy to the classical, the piano has a jangly tone but a deftness of touch which almost sounds like a concert pianist has been hired to play in the bar of an old cowboy movie. As with all his previous work, it has an engaging intimacy. He’s still never equalled his debut, in my book, but this is a fine piece of work.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Home Listening / Modern Classical / Ambient.

A Winged Victory For The Sullen: A Winged Victory For The Sullen (CD, Erased Tapes, October 2011)

People laugh at me when I describe A Winged Victory For The Sullen as a post-classical/ambient/drone supergroup. Not quite sure why. To be fair, the description is stretching the point somewhat: both pianist/composer Dustin O’Halloran and Stars Of The Lids’ Adam Wiltzie are pretty super, but two hardly makes a group; however, the record does include greats such as Peter Broderick on the violin and Hildur Gudnadottir on cello, and some tracks were recorded by Nils Frahm… So I think I can get away with it.

Anyway. This music, unsurprisingly, combines the rich drone of Stars Of The Lid with O’Halloran’s delicate melodies. The strings are beautiful. And it is all perfectly recorded and mixed, in particular the piano, which seems to hover entrancingly just out of reach in front of me. The balance between these elements is subtle and perfectly judged, ebbing and flowing while never seeming in conflict. The effect is at once deep and accessible, and although there is a strong sense of yearning to this record it is hard not to describe it as ultimately uplifting.

I bought this from Juno. They describe it as Leftfield.

Ólafur Arnalds: Dyad 1909 (CD, Erased Tapes, December 2009)

Strings and piano combine with occasional ambient washes, devastating electronic thumping sounds, and computer vocals to excellent effect. This was written as the soundtrack for a dance piece, and is unashamedly dramatic. But it stands very well on its own. Some of it feels like modern classical. Some of it feels like ambient. Some of it feels almost like IDM (and Til Enda reminds me of Venetian Snares’ classically inspired Rossz Csillag Alatt Született album, with the clash of frenetic violins and breakbeats). Moody and magnificent.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Home Listening / Modern Classical / Ambient.

Nils Frahm: Wintermusik (Erased Tapes edition) (CD, Erased Tapes, December 2009)

I am finding a tendency to overuse words like “lovely” here. This short record of compositions for piano (with accompaniment on celeste, reed organ, and some kind of tapping I can’t identify) is, though, lovely. The three tracks each move between liltingly playful and hauntingly wistful. The third, Tristana, makes up over half the album, and is the most contemplative: it is also utterly bewitching.

I bought this from Boomkat. They describe it as Home Listening / Modern Classical / Ambient.