NEW YORK TIMES: Simon Rattle’s Goodbye to Berlin: The Week in Classical Music

NEW YORK TIMES: Simon Rattle’s Goodbye to Berlin: The Week in Classical Music


"New Amsterdam Records is getting serious about the albums it is offering to fans who 'subscribe' to the label, by way of Bandcamp. In the past two months, the imprint has delivered a pair of recordings to only its most committed admirers. (The label’s cheapest subscription level is $85, and nets digital copies of a year’s worth of the more public-facing releases, subscriber exclusives and some back-catalog items.)

So far, these bonus recordings are proving up to the label’s usual high standard. One current subscriber-only album, 'Until My Last,' comes from the Indianapolis-based composer and performer Jordan Munson; his pieces merge acoustic melody and electronic rhythm with thrilling purpose. And the other recent exclusive — 'Siren Islands,' from the composer and multi-instrumentalist Arooj Aftab — is easily one of my favorite releases from the first half of this year.

When recording, Ms. Aftab looped her own singing, synth lines and electric guitar playing. She describes her compositional goals here as involving 'spiraling soundscapes for lo-fi dreaming.' She more than meets that objective. But to me, what’s most interesting is the way her ethereality can feel paradoxically active. On 'Island No. 2,' quickly moving guitar and synth lines provide some tension when layered next to more gradually developing vocal patterns. Sometimes “dreamscape” pieces can sound like they’re coasting. Not so here. (You can hear a brief taste of one finished track on Ms. Aftab’s Instagram account. You can also see the composer-performer at work in another recent post.)