New to Me: Newly-found music gems (Vol IV)

Ah yes—the joys of diving into the Murfie shop and finding something surprising! Not everything we find is brand new. In fact, it’s especially fun when we discover music for the first time, only to find it’s been around a while! Here are some examples.

Brandon found Momentum by Joshua Redman Elastic Band

Momentum“I’ve been a Joshua Redman fan since 5-ever (because that’s more than 4-ever), but just recently found this album. It includes awesome covers of Led Zeppelin and Ornette Coleman tunes, and collaborations with Flea and Questlove. The album is all over the place; bizarre yet totally cool, and I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys funky jams!”

 

Andrew found Aphex Twin

Aphex Twin

“I had heard of Aphex Twin before this spring, but I had no idea what his music was like. I recently gave it a listen and I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not generally a huge fan of electronic music, but I was intrigued by the wide variety of styles he incorporates into his ambient works. Though his album covers can be distracting (apparently Richard D. James has a penchant for faceswapping) some of his tunes make great background music for hunkering down and focusing on work.”

Steve found Awake by Tycho

Tycho“I stumbled across this the other day while seeking out new ambient music for programming. Turns out they were playing in Madison that night! The show was sold out :( But the album is still awesome. The title track puts me in a great mood and helps me focus hard on whatever I am doing.”

 

Kayla found Whokill by tUnE-yArDs

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“I’m late to the tUnE-yArDs bandwagon, but so glad to be on it! I found this album after hearing the song ‘Powa’ recently (total credit goes to Andrew!). I enjoy Merrill Garbus’ dynamic voice. She goes everywhere from a breathy lower register to way high-in-the-sky notes. Her music is quirky, catchy, and fun. Just what I needed.”

Have you discovered something that’s not all-that-new? Take a look and let us know what you find in the comments!

Album Review: “Become Ocean” by John Luther Adams

Become Ocean is a moving work, to say the least. My first listen left me reeling in such a way that I immediately started over from the beginning. Mississippi-born and Alaska-based John Luther Adams won the 2014 Pulitzer for this piece, and it’s imminently clear he deserved the award.

John Luther Adams - Become OceanJohn Luther Adams (not to be confused with California’s John Adams, also nominated for a Pulitzer this year) has the heart of an ambient musician, the hands of a skilled composer and the spirit of the wild. If enjoyed without distraction, you can in fact, “become ocean.”

I first learned of Become Ocean (as many of my friends did) via this excellent episode of Radiolab, excerpting the equally impressive podcast Meet the Composer. Snippets featured in these shows drew me in, but none of that prepared me for how truly impressive as a whole Become Ocean is.

Alex Ross, a contributor to The New Yorker, shared this rough illustration of Adam’s form in an addendum to his review of the piece. The power behind Become Ocean emanates from the overlapping swells of an orchestra distinctly segmented. The result is an ever changing tide, the full ensemble hitting simultaneous crescendos thrice. Become Ocean strikes its most intense moments around the half-way mark; after that point, the piece is performed in reverse. Among many things, Become Ocean is a palindrome.

Alex Ross' diagram of Become Ocean.
Alex Ross’ rough diagram of Become Ocean.

In all honesty, Become Ocean feels like it shouldn’t be possible. At the very least, it’s hard to believe that it was not assembled in post production. Rather, John Luther Adams has created a solid 42-minute composition recorded with a real-life orchestra in full surround sound. Harps in the left ear swell into similar arpeggios on piano dead center, then strings in the right ear. At times, it’s easy to forget that the lulls in each wave are produced by real people, and not computer-built improvisations.

I can only imagine what it felt like to be John Luther Adams, experiencing his work in the flesh for the first time. After a year in composition, Adams did not hear Become Ocean until its third presentation: a packed house at Carnegie Hall. Become Ocean is a must-listen, if only to experience the subtlety and power a master of modern composition such as John Luther Adams can create.

In Adams’ own words:

Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.

Check out Become Ocean for yourself on Murfie. While you’re at it, make sure to hear the full story via Radiolab.


John Kruse
@mamtweet

John Praw Kruse is an Operations Manager, and Product Manager for the Murfie Vinyl Service. In his free time, John makes music, including scores for indie films and various shorts. He is the founder of Mine All Mine Records and the Lost City Music Festival. John devours new music.