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December 4, 2014

special announcement

OTHER MUSIC GIFT CERTIFICATES

Available year-round, Other Music Gift Certificates can be redeemed for purchases made both in the store and off othermusic.com. You can buy a gift certificate in person at the shop (just ask the staff member at the register counter), or right here off our mail-order site where you have a choice of various increments between $15 and $200. (Email orders@othermusic.com if you would like an amount not listed as an option.)

You can also choose to have this sent as a Paperless Gift Certificate, in which the Gift Certificate will be emailed as a PDF file to the recipient, thereby eliminating shipping costs. Make sure to include the recipient's name and email address in the "Additional Comments" box of the check out page. After the billing section you will then be able to choose different shipping options -- select "Paperless Gift Certificate via Email." 

in this week's update

FEATURED NEW RELEASES

Jurg Frey
Vladislav Delay
Raspberry Bulbs
Parquet Courts
J Rider
Nazoranai
Elodie Lauten
Charlemagne Palestine
Lawrence
Shiny Two Shiny
 

ALSO AVAILABLE

William Onyeabor (CD & LP Box Sets)
Making Pictures: Three for a Dime (Book)
Ty Segall
Powell
Yo La Tengo (Deluxe Painful Reissue)
Pixies (Doolittle 25)
Destroyer (Your Blues on LP)
M. Ward (Transistor Radio on LP)
Dennis Johnson (Back in Stock)

announcements

DOGFISH HEAD CRAFT BREWERY ANALOG-A-GO-GO NYC 2014

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14

Eataly: 200 5th Avenue, New York, NY
Analog-A-Go-Go NYC 2014 Event Page
 

We're always excited to get together with our friends from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery for some great music and beer, and after trekking to their Delaware brewery for the last few years for the always awesome Analog-A-Go-Go vinyl market, beer and craft festival, we convinced them to take it on the road and set up shop in New York! On Sunday, December 14, we are hosting a very special party with Dogfish Head and Eataly, featuring rare beers, great food, some amazing handpicked craft vendors, and records! Other Music will be curating a selection of our favorite LPs of the year, as well as a ton of other vinyl goodies. We'll also be DJing some of the best music of 2014, and we invited Steve Gunn to perform too! All the details are listed here and tickets are limited and on sale now. (The 2 to 5 p.m. session is now sold out but there are still a handful of tickets available for the second session from 6 to 9 p.m.) We hope you will join us for this premiere edition of Analog-A-Go-Go NYC!


WIN TICKETS TO TUNE-YARDS

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 7

Music Hall of Williamsburg: 66 N. 6th St. Brooklyn, NY

It's been a stellar year for tUnE-yArDs, with her releasing the excellent Nikki Nack on 4AD and touring the world over. She's kicking off a string of dates at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight, all of which are sold out except for the Sunday performance that closes out the run. It'll probably be the last time to catch her in New York for a while, so don't miss. Email giveaway@othermusic.com for a chance to win tickets to tUnE-yArDs' Sunday concert with Cibo Matto and BEEP opening!


ANGEL OLSEN TICKET GIVE-AWAY

MONDAY & TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8 & 9

Bowery Ballroom: 6 Delancey St. New York, NY

Released in February, Angel Olsen's stunning Burn Your Fire for No Witness is sure to land on many Best of 2014 lists, and the singer-songwriter will be in NYC for a couple shows later this week and early next. Her Saturday night performance at Roulette is sold out, but there is still a chance to catch her at the Bowery Ballroom on Monday, 12/8 and Tuesday, 12/9. Other Music is also giving away one pair of tickets to each of these shows, and for your chance to win, simply email tickets@othermusic.com. Make sure to list a date preference if you have one.

this week's update

JURG FREY
Pianist, Alone
(Irritable Hedgehog)

Without doubt one of the greatest new obsessions to enter my life in 2014 has been the work of Swiss composer Jürg Frey. Born in 1953, he's spent the last couple of decades being one of the prime members of the increasingly influential Wandelweiser Group, a loose coterie of international composers who (to put it very briefly and simplistically) are interested in post-Feldman/Cage approaches to sound in relation to silence and duration, amongst other factors. Just a couple of weeks ago we reviewed another member of the group's newest works, Michael Pisaro's extraordinary Continuum Unbound box set, and we're pleased to follow that up with this two-CD edition of Frey's Pianist, Alone series, here gorgeously interpreted by R. Andrew Lee, whom many of you are probably familiar with from the Dennis Johnson November box set, which was amongst our favorite releases of 2013. This is his second disc to feature Frey's piano music (the first, concisely titled Piano Music is also incredible), and he's also recorded the piano music of Wandelweiser Group member Eva-Maria Houben (again, highly recommended).

Frey's clearly internalized the group's concepts, and has emerged as a highly sympathetic interpreter, with an almost anti-heroic approach to the piano that's nevertheless positively attuned to its pure sound aspects. This is music that is so attentively focused and nearly Zen like in its perfection that you get the sense that Frey, via Lee, has reached some heretofore unattainable endpoint of music. It seems nearly impossible to encapsulate what a radical effect this music can exert on you, but I'd just liken it to being every bit as earth moving, in its own quiet way, as the times I first heard Morton Feldman, Terry Riley, Giacinto Scelsi, or Luc Ferrari. The rare music that renders everything else you hear around it totally superfluous. [MK]

$21.99 2CD


VLADISLAV DELAY
Visa
(Ripatti)

After being forced to stay at home by the unwelcoming bureaucrats of the State Department who denied his entry visa to tour in the US, Vladislay Delay a/k/a Finnish electronic producer Sasu Ripatti decided to channel this experience into the making of a new record. The result might be one of his most vital and urgent statements in a long time. In some ways, Visa signifies a return to those early, unsettling ambient records on Mille Plateaux and Chain Reaction on which he so masterfully balanced off thick atmospheres against click-clack detritus. But to call Visa merely a revisiting of earlier, successful achievements would miss the point altogether, as the record's adventurously composed extended tracks are some of the most impressive of his extraordinary career. Following the somewhat mixed results of Ripatti flirting with footwork and free jazz, it feels more as a return to its maker's core aesthetic concerns, presenting a revitalized take on his already well-established musical sensibilities.

Recorded in merely two weeks time and released on his own Ripatti label, which the producer brought to life last year to accommodate his recently invigorated output, Visa's muscular density highlights a remarkable forward motion. Opener "Visaton" pulls you in with a dense, unnerving texture: an animated drone forms the base of a constantly shifting succession of chords and flickering noises that build towards an extremely energized apogee. It turns out to be one of Ripatti's most ambitious compositions, its unpredictable 22 minutes providing a strong case for his unusual and wicked take on ambient music. A lack of beats make the remainder of the record's perpetually changing, dynamic flow all the more striking.

Visa is testament to its author's ability to turn an undoubtedly frustrating moment into a pinnacle of artistic achievement. If denying Ripatti a working visa yields such satisfying musical results, we now have at least one reason to be thankful for the United States' often hostile and irrational border politics. Do yourself a favor, and immerse yourself deeply in Visa's brilliant, attention-grabbing sonic details, which are vibrant and stimulating all the way through. [NVT]

$17.99 CD
$27.99 2LP

RASPBERRY BULBS
Privacy
(Blackest Ever Black)

Privacy is the second LP from Brooklyn avant-rockers Raspberry Bulbs, and this time around they sound meaner, nastier, and more focused then 2012's excellent Deformed Worship. Firing out of the Bone Awl shadow, RB have mastered the technique of rolling up a multitude of influences into an aesthetic entirely their own. Drawing from scenes as seemingly disjointed as Norwegian black metal, the fist-pumping, raw punk of Touch & Go, and an obvious submersion in the greater experimental community, Privacy utilizes elements of each and turns it all into a sweaty, frenzied mess.

Pairing a pumping drum pattern (played by Other Music's Ning Nong) with lightning bolt guitar squeals, first track "Lionhead" inevitably spirals into a Celtic Frost-styled dirge and is unrelenting for five-plus minutes. It's a truly solid album opener. Later, "How the Strings Are Pulled" approximates Danzig in vocal delivery while "Nail Biting" utilizes a deceptively simple, heavy riff with woozy bends and drum breaks to almost Bleach-era Nirvana excess. But one of the real treats, and trust me there are many, is that Privacy stretches out far beyond their last LP by incorporating many interludes between tracks that range from tape manipulation and blackened dark ambient to musique concrète sketches. By tastefully patching these sound sources together Raspberry Bulbs fluidly represent their roots, and it's a smart way of making sure the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts. [RN]

$22.99 LP


PARQUET COURTS
Content Nausea
(What's Your Rupture?)

Originally slated as a tour-only EP, this modified lineup of NYC favorites Parquet Courts (principles Andrew Savage and Austin Brown, abetted by a handful of friends) has churned out a second album to close out 2014. Even though it lacks the polish and care of this summer's Sunbathing Animal, somehow Content Nausea not only bests it, but speaks to the city in this moment of massive, unevenly distributed wealth like no other record in recent memory. The Quarts wrap up sadness, enmity, restlessness, and surprise into a non-flashy, stripped-down dozen of new tracks, informed even further by UK DIY and its tendrils into US indie rock of the '80s and '90s than any of their previous releases. The title track in particular races through reams of lyrical couplets, all informed by the actions of the day and approaching a claustrophobic madness that belies the calm under which roughly half of the album is delivered (ten originals, and two brilliant covers, a Pavement-esque rootsy wander through the 13th Floor Elevators' "Slide Machine," and a version of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" that drips with sarcasm). Hardly a throwaway, this is protest music for the young soul who feels it all slipping away. Incredible stuff. [DM]

$9.99 CD


J RIDER
No Longer Anonymous
(Machu Picchu)

Anonymous, the amazing group whose Inside the Shadow LP from 1976 made plenty of year-end reissue lists in 2013, gets another heavy obscurity unleashed. The band would change their name to J Rider, and No Longer Anonymous is a collection of rarities and unreleased gems from principal songwriter Ron Matelic during the same time period. The tracks found on this disc still mine similar territory to that great Anonymous record -- which paired plenty of Fleetwood Mac-isms against classic Grace Slick/Neil Young guitar licks -- only it's heavier not to mention more rollicking and expansive. Opener "One Sided Lover" has a deep groove to it, with banging cowbell and fuzz holding the whole thing together. "Kiss of Your Soul" has a Zeppelin-esque chug with lead female vocalist Marsha Ervin belting the chorus. There's even an alternate version of "We Got More," a proto power-pop gem with a lilting refrain a la Parachute-era Pretty Things, and a long, drawn-out Jerry Garcia-styled ending. Completists could argue they've heard some of these tracks before, but with the addition of 10 (!) previously unreleased songs, I'd say this is essential for all enthusiasts of psychedelic, beautifully folk-inflected, vintage heavy rock. Highly recommended. [RN]

$14.99 CD


NAZORANAI
The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once Has It Arrived Already..?
(Ideologic Organ)

Though they never rehearse, this trio of Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi and Stephen O'Malley, active since 2011, surpasses the expectations of "improv" and sound as if they have been playing together for years. Haino offers plenty of soaring guitar work and lets loose his trademark caterwaul throughout, but he does drop out now and again to leave the rhythm section some room to shine. Ambarchi's drumming is impressive, displaying adept free jazz ride cymbal work and a pulsing simplicity that one might find on a Swans album, while O'Malley's chugging bass playing provides a perfect foil for Ambarchi's playfulness. For all the passages of hectic cacophony, there are also more meditative sections. These three understand that dynamics are important in order to keep an audience engaged for over an hour. If the thought of "rock improv" sounds like a boring and self-indulgent exercise, let this trio prove that the format can actually yield more successful, and even emotional, results, when handled by hands as capable as theirs. [NN]

$14.99 CD ON SALE
$31.99 2LP

 


ELODIE LAUTEN
Transform
(Wilde Calm)

We were saddened to hear of the passing of composer Elodie Lauten this past June, not long after she won this year's Robert Rauschenberg Award. Long a denizen of the East Village, she practically embodied the notion of the "downtown" composer, a punk who fell in with La Monte Young, a musician who investigated microtonality and minimalism, and collaborated with the likes of Arthur Russell, Peter Zummo, and Allen Ginsberg. Though much admired by other composers (see Kyle Gann's touching tribute and attendant comments here), for much of her career she flew pretty far below the public's radar, but in the last several years her work has begun to be discovered or reassessed, due in part to the efforts of the great label, Unseen Worlds, whose Lauten titles we've previously reviewed (The Death of Don Juan, Piano Works Revisited).

Before succumbing to cancer, she'd been working with local label Wilde Calm on getting some of her modular synthesizer pieces pressed on vinyl. Sadly she didn't live to see this album released, but it's a great tribute to her legacy; endlessly inventive and spry, these tracks sound like they could have been recorded anytime in the last thirty years. There's an innate intelligence and compelling rhythmic component to all these pieces, with interesting explorations of counterpoint that keep songs moving along at a brisk, evocative clip. It definitely operates in a similar zone as Laurie Spiegel's Expanding Universe album, and if you like that (as well you should!) this record is complete no-brainer. [MK]

$10.99 12"


CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE
SchlingenCassettenBlangen
(Close/Far)

Wow, this is something! One of the first Charlemagne Palestine pieces I ever heard (and immediately fell in love with) was his magnificent Schlingen-Blangen, a monumental work for solo organ wherein Palestine fixes a drone based on a single chord, and which he then proceeds to subtly alter over its (often quite lengthy) duration by changing the stops, or sticking bits of cardboard between the keys. It's dense, meditative, immensely physical, brilliant in its simplicity, but nevertheless seemingly unlimited it its possibilities. If there were ever to be a Charlemagne Palestine Greatest Hits album, this would surely be included, and indeed he continues to regularly perform it to this day.

The version most people are familiar with was published by New World Records in the late '90s, and featured a crisp, digital recording that had been captured in Holland in 1988, and which lasted around seventy minutes. But what Palestine and the good people at Close/Far Recordings have now dug up is a 90-minute version of the piece, recorded on the exact same organ, but 11 years previously, in 1977. Captured on an analog magnetic cassette tape, this version sounds somewhat radically different than the one released by New World due to the fugitive nature of the cassette master, with its tape sliding and warping the proceedings. Palestine has rechristened his composition SchlingenCassettenBlängen for this release, and what you'll hear is a wonderfully amorphous and spectral performance, with the flaws of the tape adding their own specific character to the piece, not unlike what you'd find in, say, William Basinski's Disintegration Loops. Issued in a mere edition of 369 copies and very beautifully packaged, this is a great addition to Palestine's canon, and one best snatched up, rapidly. [MK]

$9.99 CASSETTE


LAWRENCE
A Day in the Life
(Mule Musiq)

On his seventh full-length album, Dial label co-founder Lawrence a/k/a Peter Kersten strays from his by now well-known and highly respected formula of melancholic yet groove-oriented beats and cascading synth escapades. A Day in the Life takes us by surprise, presenting an entirely beat-less affair that glides efficiently into delicate headspace. In retrospect, this candid move was perhaps already subtly announced on the excellent Enjoy the Silence Vol. 3 compilation from earlier this year, to which the German producer contributed a lightly feathered track. Similarly to that single contribution, there's an immediate appeal to be found in A Day in the Life, where short, miniature tracks deliver an absorbing listening experience throughout a perfectly sequenced, 41 minute whole. Pleasurable, casual, occasionally strange, yet always decisively fresh and focused, the album unmistakably highlights a more vivacious approach than on previous releases. Kersten strips his material from its signature sculptural elements to let it breathe and sway in awe-inspiring, spacious tenderness. The result is a delicious album full of bright twinkles and sparkles, without ever becoming superficial. Another strong ambient statement for 2014! [NVT]

$17.99 CD
$27.99 LP


SHINY TWO SHINY
When the Rain Stops
(Captured Tracks)

Shiny Two Shiny released one mini LP entitled Halfway Across the Rainbow and one single, "Waiting for Us" c/w "Ritual Hate" on 7" and 12" formats, on the UK's Red Flame label back in the early '80s. Needless to say their career was short, playing just a few live TV performances and touring Europe, including an opening slot for Pink Industry. Now, Brooklyn imprint Captured Tracks has compiled all of this English cult band's rarities onto one super solid LP collection called When the Rain Stops. Shiny Two Shiny's sound is similar to many of the prettier, poppier bands of the C86 ilk, with lots of acoustic instrumentation, minimal drum machine patterns, and breezy, floating vocals. Gayna Florence Perry and Robin Surtees made nostalgic, contemplative mood music in an era of Balearic synth-wave that should appeal to fans of Antena, Ben Watt, Weekend, and the Blue Nile. Awesome stuff. [RN]

$13.99 CD
$15.99 LP

also available

WILLIAM ONYEABOR
CD Box Set
(Luaka Bop)

Luaka Bop turned heads last year with the label's release of their Who Is William Onyeabor? compilation, a vital and long-overdue synopsis of the work of a Nigerian synth-funk recluse. They've just upped the ante considerably by reissuing his albums in their entirety via this 9-CD box set, or for vinyl collectors, a couple of LP box sets that split his oeuvre into two hefty halves. (Volume 1 is sold out but Volume 2, which features 4 LPs and a 7", is now on our shelves.) All of Onyeabor's LPs are killer in one form or another and much like fellow Nigerian funk maestro Fela Kuti, one can throw any of his records on and guarantee themselves a deep, grooving good time. As the holiday season approaches, this is one of the most primo splurges one can make -- be it for his/herself or a loved one. This set is all killer, no filler, and its presentation is, frankly, quite beautiful. [IQ]

$69.99 9CD BOX SET


MAXINE PAYNE
Making Pictures: Three for a Dime
(Dust-to-Digital)

A companion piece to the double-CD set, Arkansas at 78 RPM: Corn Dodgers & Hoss Hair Pullers, Dust-to-Digital's recently released Making Pictures: Three for a Dime offers a similarly eye-opening view into life in Depression-era Arkansas. This 180-page hardcover book compiles the surviving images made by the Massengill family of Almond, Arkansas, who traveled rural Arkansas throughout the '30s, photographing assorted Arkansans, young and old, in their portable photo studio.

$35.00 BOOK


TY SEGALL
Singles 2
(Drag City)

To call Ty Segall a prolific dude is an understatement. He's released a slew of albums since his last singles comp came out in 2010, and that's not counting all the 45s, covers, and other sorts of one-offs which are collected here. These recordings find Segall at his scrappy, murky best, from great rockers like "Mother Lemonade" and "Hand Glams," to covers of the Groundhogs' "Cherry Red" and the VU's "Femme Fatale." As Drag City notes, "for those who thought Manipulator was a little too clean -- here's your money shot."

$14.99 CD
$19.99 LP


POWELL
11-14
(Diagonal)

"Powell's club-breaking series of 12" singles is now available on CD as 11-14, this killer, comprehensive two-CD collection. It charts the uncompromising development of one of this decade's most ruthless new artists through 18 original tracks taken from five EPs for three different labels -- including his own, Diagonal -- and features a searing collaboration with national noise treasure Russell Haswell. Syncing the muscle memory of late '90s drum and bass with a kink for the toughest '80s industrial and bleeding-edge electronics, Powell's music has emerged as a virile antidote to the conservatism of current dance music. With his first pair of self-released singles, The Ongoing Significance of Steel & Flesh (2011) and the Body Music EP (2012), he established an ascetic, bare-bones approach that resonated with the original no wave mantra -- "rip it up and start again" -- in a barefaced challenge to what was then deemed acceptable on the dancefloor. Precedent set, the controversial four-track Untitled EP (RAVE 002EP, 2013) revealed a more optimized, muscular take on his rollicking torque and freeform, caustic electronics at the cusp of the analog/digital schism. Late 2013 saw the coiled hard-step of Fizz and his most explicit alloys of motorik jungle-techno, before the Club Music EP (DIAG 009EP, 2014) combined all of these influences and exploded with spectacular, unpredictable brilliance, dosing a whole rave's worth of overloaded sensation into three brutally edited constructions, including the notorious "Maniac," starring label-mate and hardwave peer Russell Haswell. Central to it all, from the swaggering stomp of "Body Music" and "Oh No New York" to the deadly jag of "No U Turn," is a tensile, insatiable sense of urgency and a healthy disregard for convention."

$17.99 2CD


YO LA TENGO
Extra Painful
(Matador)

It's safe to say that more than a few of our Update readers caught at least one of Yo La Tengo's two nights at New York City's Town Hall this week, and with the band celebrating their 30th anniversary, Matador has just reissued this deluxe version of their 1993 classic, Painful. Featuring favorites like "Big Day Coming" and "From a Motel 6," this double LP comes with a bonus 7" along with a download coupon for 15 extra tracks, not to mention extras like photos, an original band-aid sticker, the first YLT Gazette in 14 years, and liner notes by Matador's Gerard Cosloy and the group. The double CD includes a download coupon for the two tracks on the "Shaker" 7", as well as the 15 bonus songs, all housed in a jewelcase brilliant box with a booklet featuring all the artwork.

$15.99 2CD
$22.99 2LP+7"


PIXIES
Doolittle 25
(4AD)

Marking the 25th anniversary (!?!) of Pixies' watershed Doolittle, 4AD has just released a three-CD deluxe version featuring the original album (containing hits like "Debaser," "Wave of Mutilation," "Here Comes Your Man," "Monkey Gone to Heaven," and "La La Love You" -- to name a few) plus two full Peel Sessions, six B-sides, and 22 demos (almost half never officially released until now).

$22.99 3CD

now on vinyl

DESTROYER
Your Blues
(Merge)

Destroyer's Your Blues is available in the US and Europe for the first time ever on LP, pressed on 180-gram vinyl, and also includes a download code. When first released in 2004, we wrote:

Destroyer's 2002 This Night may have technically been the follow-up to their much loved Streethawk: A Seduction, but the latest from Vancouver-based Daniel Bejar feels more like Streethawk's rightful successor. Forgoing the unhinged, loose, full-band approach of This Night, Bejar goes it solo this time, using just a few instruments (mostly guitars) and a wild arsenal of MIDI sounds. While the backing tracks are pushing the outer limits -- to the point, at times, of post-modernism -- his lyrics and singing, mixed right to the forefront, are his smartest and most nuanced yet. The orchestra of MIDI sounds takes on an audacious feel -- imagine Scott Walker's over-the-top production, only Bejar generally has a lot more in common with the Mountain Goats or Syd Barrett than with Pulp or Divine Comedy.

On previous albums, Destroyer utilized a fairly standard "rock band" assortment of instruments -- pianos, guitars, bass, drums -- but this time around there are (synthesized) harp, hand claps, flute, horns and strings, all done in a completely vulgar yet oddly compelling way. Lyrically, he's come up with more fascinating narratives than ever before, yet somehow the listener still has even less of an idea what his meaning really is by album's end. And it's all delivered with Bejar's unmistakable yet indescribable voice (which you've heard on the New Pornographers albums).

Whether he's detailing, "I was a desert/in love with extremes/you married well/a gentle woman of means who/kept the word 'destroyer' embroidered on her jeans, too" or "an actor will seek revenge/upon the ones who fed him those ridiculous lines/saying, 'what we really need now is an emotional history of the Lower East Side, 'cause it was wild! It was wild!'/ Oh no, here we go," it's his most evocative set of lyrics yet, every line infectious and poetic.

All this may lead to head-scratching, which is likely part of Bejar's intent, but what we are left with is not only Destroyer's finest yet, but a wholly original and groundbreaking work. Your Blues not only merits a slot among the classics on your modern music shelf, it might deserve its own row. [PW]

$19.99 LP+MP3
$14.99 CD


M. WARD
Transistor Radio
(Merge)

M. Ward's Transistor Radio has also been reissued on 180-gram vinyl, and also includes a CD featuring four previously unreleased recordings. When first reviewed in our Update upon its release in 2005, we wrote:

Appropriately titled, the new record from M. Ward is like a ghostly radio transmission that you can only pick up on your tiny transistor radio, hiding under the covers when everyone else has been asleep for hours. Almost defying description with his utter straightforward simplicity, Ward's songs are haunting concoctions of strummed acoustic guitar, lazy piano, brushed or tapped drums and tremolo leads that crackle and hiss as if from another era. Embracing elements of gospel, country, blues and early rock and roll, Ward's melancholy songwriting and expressive voice nonetheless make him a complete original, and Transistor Radio is already on my list as one of the best albums of 2005. [JM]

$19.99 LP+MP3+CD
$15.99 CD

back in stock

DENNIS JOHNSON
November
(Irritable Hedgehog)

Well, it's not often we're presented with an album that does nothing less than end up the traditional history of minimal music in America as we know it, but that's exactly what this record does. In the late 1950s, the now mostly entirely unknown composer Dennis Johnson was a friend and classmate of La Monte Young at UCLA, where he wrote a (quite endlessly) melancholy and austere piano piece full of beautiful, subtle modulations called "November," whose duration can last for up to six hours. Five years later, Young debuted his similarly lengthy and earth-shattering composition "The Well Tuned Piano," and directly credited Johnson's piece as an influence. Johnson, in the meantime, despite having been included in Young's influential 1963 book, An Anthology, was mostly relegated to the dust-bin of history, having moved away from composing music to study geometry.

I first heard about "November" on composer and music historian Kyle Gann's blog maybe five or so years ago, where he recounted the story of La Monte Young giving him a fragment of Johnson's piece on a one-hundred minute tape in the early 1990s. Intrigued, Gann eventually received the score from Johnson, and ultimately reconstructed the piece and posted a somewhat lo-fidelity version on his site. From out of that work comes this exquisite, commercially released version, the piece performed here by the great pianist R. Andrew Lee across four discs, for a total of five hours of music, and issued by the great new-ish record label Irritable Hedgehog who specialize in fantastic, under-heard minimal and post-minimal music compositions by the likes of Tom Johnson and Ann Southam.

Far from being just a historical curiosity, "November" is a superb composition in its own right, wonderfully full of silent spaces between decaying notes, slowly accumulating pauses and resonances that sculpt time in a way that only the best minimalist music can. In addition to its influence on Young, it also presages the long durational work of Morton Feldman in the 1980s, but without that composer's sometimes-extreme variances between notes. The music here is actually a quite fluid and listenable sound world, the only bar to easy accessibility being the time commitment required of it. In the excellent twenty-page booklet that accompanies this disc, Gann calls this recording a "major work that has been lost to history for fifty years." How wonderful then to have it back. [MK]

$34.99 4CD BOX SET

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