Playlist, Wallflower Edition

A compact set of music centered around bassist Sverisson, as leader or sideman. All this music was released this year, one disc recently (two days late due to technical issues):

  • The Box Tree: a set of duets with saxophonist Óskar Gudjónsson. Exceptionally lovely and tender music, unobtrusive but with a lot of emotional presence. The two play the themes, there is some improvisation, but the overall effect is that of two musicians who love their material and want to state it simply and clearly. This falls into no pre-defined genre or style. The context is more cinematic than musical, the music touches parts of the imagination that have grown out of the global experience of sitting in the dark, watching movies. Call it a soundtrack to life, it is one of the most affecting releases of the year. The CD package is notable for the gorgeous map of an imaginary sky.
  • AlasNoAxis: Antiheroes. Every release from this band is notable and welcome. Sverisson anchors the harmonies and lays into the bands subtly monumental grooves. This disc has a fascinating, unsettled quality to it; Black is taking the music in two different directions. In one, he’s anchoring the basic material deeper into rock, with not-quite clichéd foundations in monumental anthem and power-ballad forms, while in the other he’s letting the band stretch much further and more freely from the starting points of each track. Sverisson is particularly to the fore, laying down and then disrupting the pulse.
    itsnotyouitsme: This I. The only band that can play ambient/drone music, actually play it live with instruments, and make it gripping. Guitarist Grey McMurray and violinist Caleb Burhans are joined by Sverisson and the great Theo Bleckmann, who fit completely into the aesthetic while pushing it wider and deeper. Voices rise and fall out of the sonic landscape, which is ever-flowing and rich with the details of shifting colors and timbres. The music doesn’t sit there like too much drone-based work, it is in constant motion. Their most mysterious and rewarding release yet.


I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.