Sam Prekop – “Showrooms” (1999)
Prekop’s first solo album winningly calls to mind the bossa-lite cocktails served up by Stan Getz in his collaborations with Charlie Byrd and João Gilberto, with a nice dash of West Coast sunshine pop and chamber pop. Most indie rock absorbs the surface trappings of other forms, but remains at its core unambitious indie rock. Prekop has managed to break free of such shackles, tapping into a timeless feel that is elusive to most of his peers.
Robert Schumann – String Quartet A Major, O41 N03 “Adagio Motto” (1842)
I’ve heard Schumann described as “weepy,” and I guess this piece wouldn’t dissuade anyone who saw that as a pejorative. But I find the interplay of this chamber orchestra considerably more emotionally diverse than mere maudlin. On the whole, melancholy is central; but there are moments of elevation, joy, expectation, perhaps hints of anger, and the piece shifts subtly and nimbly between them in a way that rings true and avoids sentimentalism.
Arthur Russell – “Terrace of Unintelligibility” [Part 2] (1985)
This is an excerpt from the short film that was included with the first copies of Audika Records’ reissue of ‘World of Echo,’ featuring live performances of tracks from that album (especially “Answers Me”). The meditative fullness that Russell could achieve breaks my heart every single time, hundreds and hundreds of listens on, after so many years. I can’t begin to fathom how he could do so much with so little, but I’ve heard nothing truly like it. This film nicely reflects the intimacy one feels when hearing ‘World of Echo’ in the dark through headphones. [Find previously featured incarnations of Mr. Russell at Musicophilia Daily here, and mixes which incorporate his music at Musicophilia here.]
Luciano Cilio – “Dialoghi dal Presente, Part 5” (1977)
Similar to some of the avantgarde chamber music undertaken by Franco Battiato, echoing the Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s focus on sweet simplicity in a more melancholic vein, Luciano Cilio’s sole album (I think) is a hidden jewel for fans of this sort of music. Bell-like acoustic guitar, reed instruments, and mournful cellos create a perfect little vespertine moment. This album, with other tracks, was reissued under the name ”Dell’ Universo Assente’ a few years ago and can still be found in good shops as an import.
Review of Arthur Russell’s ‘World of Echo’ (1986, reissued 2004)
I can’t think of a record that changed the way I thought about sound and music–by being exactly what I’d always wanted to hear but never thought existed–more than ‘World of Echo,’ which I first heard around the summer of 2001. The first album I heard was Phillip Glasses’ posthumous 1993 compilation ‘Another Thought,’ then the only thing in print, and that was love. When I finally tracked down ‘World of Echo’–that was love forever. And so it was a wonderful surprise and a joy when around 2004 many of his recordings began to be reissued (most by Steve Knutson at Audika Records) and more importantly, appreciated by many more people than ever heard his music in his lifetime. Since then, a number of very good to revalatory reissues and compilations have been released, and I continue to be amazed as new facets of this sublime artist are revealed. [Don’t miss, for example, the collaboration with Peter Zummo, “Song IV,” previously posted here at Musicophlia Daily. And you can hear more Russell featured in mixes here, here, here, and here at Musicophilia.]
Here is a track not from ‘World of Echo,’ but appended on Audika’s 2004 reissue which seems to have been recently re-pressed–so please buy it! This is one of the most heartbreaking, beautiful, true songs I’ve ever heard: “Our Last Night Together”
Beyond the “more…” link is a review I wrote for Localist Magazine around the 2004 reissue of the album. I sent it to Audika’s Mr. Knutson, who passed it on to Arthur’s parents and partner; it was a moving moment when I heard back from Steve that they approved, and reportedly said I’d really gotten to the core of things.
Antonio Vivaldi – “Double Concerto, Largo, G Minor” (1780s)
I know fairly little about pre-20th Century Classical music–it seems to me the journey of a lifetime, so I’m not rushed. I do know, though, that my ears gravitate toward chamber music, string-based sounds, the less bombastic and portentous, more melancholic and contemplative end of the spectrum. And from that range, this is one of the most devastatingly beautiful pieces I know. [This Vivaldi is featured in a “duet” with an instrumental percussive piece by Bjork in this short mix at Musicophilia.]