Old Friends

And New Acquaintances

My recent Spotify Release Radar playlists have yielded a glut of riches. So, this week, I’m offering around 45 minutes of music covering a range of styles, spread over two playlists.

Old Friends

The Old Friends collection features artists that have appeared in these pages before: the Canadian acoustic guitarist, Calum Graham (Sympatheia); the Italian prog and art rock musician, Stefano Panunzi (Beyond the Illusion); and the French jazz guitarist of Vietnamese parentage, Nguyên Lê (Hippocampus).

Calum Graham, Stefano Panunzi, Nguyên Lê

It’s always a pleasure to meet old friends, isn’t it? Especially when they have something new to tell us. In the case of Calum Graham’s Sympatheia, I obtained my copy directly from the artist in July last year, but Spotify has a release date of April 25, 2023, so the track I’ve chosen may be new to you. Every track on the album is equally exquisite. I could no more pick a favourite than you could nominate your most lovable child. But it’s perfectly OK for you to listen to Journey of Love as a taster for an album full of sonic delights.

The second entry on my Old Friends playlist is genuinely new. It is the opening track from Stefano Panunzi’s latest album, Pages From the Sea, which was released just a couple of weeks ago. The Crotchety Music Appreciation Panel hasn’t had a chance to assess the rest of the album, but Which Truth rumbles along sprightly with an uplifting flügelhorn melody. And that bodes very well indeed for the other 61 minutes or so on the record.

And, to complete the trio of old friends, we have the single, Birds’ Unrest, by Per Mathisen, Nguyên Lê and Audun Klieve. This invites us into jazz territory. But this bird is not completely unsettled. It doesn’t stray too far from the fields of tuneful jazz that we have all wandered through and where many of us calibrated our listening apparatus. If this is a sampler for a forthcoming album, it will certainly be one to look out for.

New Acquaintances

In the New Acquaintances playlist, we have new releases from artists that haven’t featured before in these pages: The Tallest Man On Earth, Meredith Monk et al., and Vanishing Twin. Between them, they represent singer-songwriter, minimalist and art rock genres.

The Tallest Man On Earth, Meredith Monk et al., Vanishing Twin

We kick off the playlist with Kristian Mattson under his stage persona of The Tallest Man on Earth. According to Spotify, he is “a guitar-slinger rooted in folk, and his songs are troubadour ballads at heart”. That’s certainly a fitting description of Bless You, the first track on his Henry St. album. The rest of his portfolio remains unheard at Crotchety Mansions, so I will make no further comment on the artist or the album.

Next we have Ellis Island, track 2 on what Spotify lists as a 5-track, 28 minute single (sic) called Dream House Quartet. The musicians on Ellis Island are given as: Meredith Monk, Katia Labèque, Marielle Labèque, Bryce Dessner and David Chalmin (in that order). Curiously, that is the only track on the EP that credits Meredith Monk, and all those musicians work in the hinterland of modern classical composition, so it’s hard to know what each individual player brings to the piece. Still, the result is a rather lovely ambient guitar and keyboard instrumental that would be perfect for your next Reiki session … or, indeed, any form of meditative relaxation.

Finally, Vanishing Twin give us another long single. This time, it’s a 19-minute piece that I have categorised as art rock because it doesn’t fit any other pigeonhole. Singularity 08: Tell Me Not Here is a song with words that the fuzzy Crotchety ears can’t quite decipher. But it chugs along on an oriental choo-choo beat and carries microtonal melodies that trigger fascinating patterns in the auditory synapses. Odd it may be, but it doesn’t out-stay its welcome – there is a steady stream of thematic variations and those 19 minutes pass in no time.

Old friends or new acquaintances? Both are good.

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