7 New Albums from 7 Countries
Here's a showcase of creative new music from outside the usual cities—all released in just the last few days
I’ve done more interviews than usual this month, and every time I’m asked the same question: Where do you look to find good new music?
I spend several hours every day listening to new releases—this is the single most time-consuming part of my vocation—so I ought to have answers. And I do. Despite the gloominess of my pronouncements on the music industry, I’m quite upbeat about the state of the music. I just wish the economics of the art form were healthier.
When put on the spot, I try to call attention to the extraordinary creativity of artists outside the United States—and especially non-English speaking countries. The digital revolution has opened up a whole new world of music to our ears, but it’s almost impossible to find if you don’t know where to look.
Music fans (especially the savvy subscribers to The Honest Broker) deserve more specific recommendations, so here are 7 brand new albums of exceptional merit—each released in just the last few days.
And where do they come from? The line-up here originates in Gdansk, Northumberland, Nizhny Novgorod, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Copenhagen, and Dresden. These are rocking my world, and I suspect you might enjoy them too.
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Hania Rani: Live from Studio S2
(Mystical Singer-Songwriter from Gdansk Blends Minimalism with Jazz, Pop, Prepared Piano, and Electronica)
I knew nothing about this musician until two years ago, when I was frankly blown away by her album Home. I included it in my best of year list, and described Rani as the “mystical singer-songwriter from Gdansk.” She soon started to attract a larger audience, although Rani still isn’t on the radar screen of many US critics or listeners. But on January 21, she released a live album drawing on her successful YouTube videos from last year. It’s more focused on instrumental music than Home, but just as mesmerizing.
Here she’s delivering a hypnotic blending of minimalism, jazz, pop, prepared piano, and electronica that’s so fresh and exciting it defies precise definition—yet still might find a large crossover audience in America, where Gdansk musicians rarely get noticed. I do wish there were more vocals on the new album (although don’t miss Rani’s singing on the third track, a live version of “Leaving”), but the instrumental work is as smartly done as the finest current jazz. If you don’t know this artist, make her acquaintance right now.
Jodie Nicholson: Live at the Old Church Studio
(One Singer, One Piano, One Room in Northumberland)
This is the best singer-songwriter album I’ve heard so far this year. But nobody knows about it. Nicholson has only gotten around a thousand views for her recent YouTube videos, and that’s a crying shame. But what a voice! Her stark piano playing is very effective, and the songs are deep and moody and unforgettable. The only reason she isn’t better known is because she’s sitting at a piano in an old church in Northumberland, and not banging on doors in Hollywood and New York. (Here’s another video featuring her music, this time from last August, and it strikes me as possessing genuine crossover appeal—but once again, it only picked up a tiny number of views on YouTube.)
Tony Karapetyan Trio (with Sebastian Studnitzky): Point Of View
(Russian Jazz Piano Trio Meets German Trumpeter)
It’s easy for US jazz fans—especially in LA or New York—to ignore the creativity rising to the top of the genre overseas. But you’re missing out if you focus too much on just the Anglo-American jazz scenes. Consider the case of Tony Karapetyan, a piano prodigy from Nizhny Novgorod. I’m not sure what the jazz economy is like in that part of the Russian provinces, but Karapetyan is formidable at the keyboard, and full of fresh ideas. His new album Point of View, released on January 22, features his piano trio joined by German trumpeter Sebastian Studnitzky. Here’s a recent video of the same ensemble in live performance.
Hermeto Pascoal: Planetário da Gávea
(Two-Chords Destroyed Live in Concert in Brazil)
This is a brand new album, like the others showcased here, but in this instance the music was recorded four decades ago. I’ve written before about my enthusiasm for the musicality of Hermeto Pascoal, who breaks all the rules and invents a few new ones, but this live concert from 1981 is strange and wonderful even by Pascoal’s lofty standards.
You will probably be put off when I tell you that this is two hours of music mostly built on a two-chord vamp (the famous “Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression”). You will probably think it’s boring and repetitious. But the opposite is true—the shifts and variations in Pascoal’s conception over the course of 118 minutes is extraordinary. Everything eventually shows up from pastoral melodicism to avant-garde theatrics. At times the audience sings along. At no point in this performance will you be able to guess what’s coming next. And, yes, it’s mostly two chords.
Noël Akchoté: Philippe Verdelot—Il Primo Libro De Madrigali a Quattro Voci, 1533
(Renaissance Madrigals Played on Steel Guitar)
Noël Akchoté is a French guitarist, who has worked with everyone from Chet Baker to Marc Ribot. In the last few days, he has uploaded onto Bandcamp a series of solo recordings of Renaissance music played on steel guitar. I haven’t seen any reviews or even heard a single mention of them, and when I found a YouTube video it had zero views—that’s no exaggeration, a total of zero views. But this is glorious music, and I refuse to keep it a secret.
SVIN & Århus Sinfonietta: ELEGI
(Experimental Rock Band Collaborates with Chamber Orchestra)
Here’s another fresh, genre-busting recording that you won’t hear on the radio. The Danish avant-garde rock group SVIN, operating out of Copenhagen, has collaborated with the chamber orchestra Århus Sinfonietta on an album that deserves more attention. In fact, there’s a whole rock-meets-classical movement underway right now that I want to write about at greater length.
Philippe Herreweghe / Staatskapelle Dresden: Edition Staatskapelle Dresden, Vol. 51: Johann Sebastian Bach
("Memento Mori" Pandemic Concert for an Audience of Ten)
The music here is more familiar than the tracks featured on the previous albums, but the context is quite unusual. In the face of a devastating pandemic, the musicians of the Staatskapelle Dresden were determined to continued their tradition of an annual commemorative concert for the city’s “Day of Remembrance,” a tribute to those killed in the terrible bombings that devastated the city in February 1945. Because of COVID, only around ten people attended the concert, and the music took on a heightened level of intensity due to the hardships surrounding its staging. This is a true memento mori, and one of my favorite classical recordings so far in 2022.
Final notes: I wanted to feature non-US talent in this article, but let me also mention in passing 8 outstanding albums from Anglo-American musicians released so far in 2022 (or coming out in the next few days).
I highly recommend:
Michael Chapman: Another Fish
Fred Hersch: Breath by Breath
Janis Ian: The Light at the End of the Line
Ethan Iverson: Every Note is True
Cécile McLorin Salvant: Ghost Song
David Skidmore: 24 Etudes for Marimba
Immanuel Wilkins: The 7th Hand
Lady Wray: Piece of Me