Winter is typically seen as a slow season for new music, but it's not completely quiet. Far from it, in fact. My 2023 release calendar already lists 53 albums I'm excited to hear before we even hit the first day of spring! So really, there are plenty of new sounds to keep us all company across these dark and dreary months.
So to combat these musical doldrums (if they are even doldrums at all), I've chosen ten upcoming albums that should help us get through January and February. Go ahead and cozy up on your couch under a blanket with some hot tea, and enjoy reading about (and eventually listening to) some of my favorite winter 2023 releases.
This piece was supposed to be a pure preview, but I've decided to include a couple of solstice releases. At the point of this publication, both offerings have been out for a couple of weeks, and if you haven't caught them yet, be sure to circle back around. And hey! They're both solo piano works by Portland artists! What a beautiful coincidence.
Last solstice, Saloli gave us The Island: Music For Piano Vol. 1 (a tape which has gotten a lot of play in my house), and this year she's back with Ghosts: Music For Piano Vol. 2. Both albums were recorded on the same 1900 Chickering grand piano, and include songs that the artist composed between 2017 and 2022. Opening track Remember Spring Is Coming is a reminder that this freeze will eventually thaw, but Sarabande Dream is the album's epic centerpiece, much like Promenade was on The Island.
And this second solstice release was a surprise! Last winter, Luke Wyland performed a solo piano set at United Congregational Church in downtown Portland (I woulda been there if it weren't for holiday travel plans getting in the way), and now Beacon Sound has released it on cassette. Winter Solstice (Live at UCC) features Wyland's animated, semi-improvisational playing style, the six tracks bending together seamlessly to create a single connected, cohesive work.
And now to the yet-to-be-released stuff! Cynthia Bernard, a dear friend to the site who records under the moniker marine eyes, is releasing her Pacific-spanning collaboration with IKSRE on January 13th. The album is titled Nurture, and it's literally up for preorder tomorrow (hence the missing hyperlink and embedded track), so you better just follow Past Inside The Present on Bandcamp to stay on top of all their releases. I've heard Nurture already, and gotta say that it's the perfect January album for all you dry-monthers, yoga-doers, and resolution-makers. Listening to the album feels like healing, like being good to your body and mind. It's a gorgeous layering of vocals, field recordings, and instrumentation - perfect ambiance to take with you into the new year.
Okay, so here's the first album I've included in this writeup that I haven't heard through completely, and am going on description and preview tracks alone. On January 6th (Got my dates mixed up and previously though it was on the 20th - whoops!) Juni Habel will release Carvings on the ever-excellent Ba Da Bing label. And though I hate to do this, instead of wasting words, trying to describe a work I've never heard, I am just going to copy/paste the album's liner notes below:
"Crackled radio-like transmissions from Norway’s rural hinterland. Juni Habel’s fragile finger-picked lullabies warm themselves by the open fire with her rich intimate voice atop twinkling arrangements and strange percussive instrumentation. Like glowing embers in the dark, these songs are odes to life and death, the beauty of belonging and human kinship with nature."
So great, right??? Now you can see why I'm so intrigued. I can't wait to hear the whole thing this Friday (or on the 20th), but until then, the tracks available on Bandcamp will have to do.
I'm going to fudge the rules again (but really, there are no rules in the music blog game), and blow up this next recommendation into four. On January 20th, Simon Scott is set to release Long Drove on Room40. It's an album of field recordings running under tape loops and various other textures, and the five compositions explore themes of ecological preservation, climate change, and human impact. Reminds me a bit of this DC piece I ran last June.
But that's not all from Room40! They might be the most prolific label that I follow closely, and three more of their winter releases could have easily made it into this roundup. I've just gotta shout out and hyperlink Zane Trow's envoûteuse haleine (out February 3rd), Megan Alice Clune's Furtive Glances (out February 25th), and Matt Rösner's Empty, Expanding, Collapsing (out March 4th). Put 'em all on your radar.
And the final January release of note comes from Portland's best label, Beacon Sound, who has earned a second mention in this piece. Purple Decades is the new project from composer Tristan Eckerson, and Journey Test is his first album using this moniker. Typically a pianist, Eckerson dives into a world of hypnotic electronic soundscapes, creating softly-hued ambiance. It's a beautiful listen from start to finish, and a winter season highlight.
Quick side note: Eckerson was one of the first artists I featured on deepestcurrents.com, when I talked up his album, Decades. Check out that blast from the past by clicking here.
I just finished reading You're With Stupid by Bruce Adams, and while I've always been pretty into to kranky's output, I feel especially drawn to the label right now. On February 3rd, loscil and lawrence english, two musical legends, will give us Colours Of Air, an album of processed pipe organ and pulsing electronics. Each track is named for the color its music suggests, from Cyan to Magenta, and I expect the album to be quite the sonic journey across a palette of moods and textures.
I thought that Hollie Kenniff's The Quiet Drift was one of the best ambient albums of 2021, and on February 10th, she's returning with We All Have Places That We Miss on Western Vinyl. Like its predecessor, her new album is staggeringly beautiful (I've had the pleasure of listening to it a few times now), and Kenniff, using reverb-heavy guitar, piano, synth, and her angelic voice, transports us somewhere between dreaming and waking worlds.
I don't really get into reissue world here on DC, but I couldn't resist highlighting Laraaji's Segue to Infinity, which is only sort of a reissue. Out on February 10th via Numero Group, this box set includes the new age legend's first album from the late 70s, but also THREE additional LPs of unreleased material recorded around the same time. It appears that this box set is gonna set you back a hundred bucks (plus shipping), so unless you are super into zither or get a banging tax return, you better hope that it eventually lands on streaming services. Nothing posted on Bandcamp yet, so hit the link above if you're a zither freak or flush with cash.
I've long been a fan of Elskavon's neoclassical compositions, but on Origins (out February 17th on Western Vinyl - the label's second mention, woot woot!), the composer seems to be moving in a new direction. The piano is still there, sure, but so too is the artist's voice, a little IDM flare, and some pop song structures. Elskavon's new sound is as beautiful as you would expect, just slightly more propulsive and dynamic. Really, it's a perfect midwinter reminder to get up and move a bit.
That's all I've got for now, but we've just gotten into January, and by midwinter I'm sure that there will be many many many more new albums to get excited about. Keep following the site, and happy listening!