The Complete 10-Inch Series from Cold Blue CB0014
Matachin Dances by Peter Garland
Two Pieces for Piano Solo (1978), Piano Solo (1976), Vocalise, and Veil for Two Pianos by Michael Jon Fink
Clay music by Barney Childs
Mile Zero Hotel and The Blueprint of a Promise by Read Miller
After, Santa Fe, October ’68, and Scircura by Chas Smith
These Things Stop Breathing and Taken From Real Life by Rick Cox
Slow Motion Mirror, Midnight White, Solar Cadence, and Dancing on the Sun by Daniel Lentz
Back by popular demand (and available for the first time on CD), this boxed set of three CDs collects all the music released on a popular series of 10-inch vinyl records that were put out by Cold Blue in the early 1980s. During the Cold Blue label’s first incarnation, this music by seven West Coast composers—Barney Childs, Rick Cox, Michael Jon Fink, Peter Garland, Daniel Lentz, Read Miller, and Chas Smith—created much of the company’s reputation as a challenging and always interesting source of new music.
Although bound together by a common concern with music’s basic sensuality, the pieces collected here are wide-ranging in style—process-driven works, carefully through-composed pieces, ambient soundscapes, and music that draws on influences from around the world. In instrumentation, this music is also wide-ranging—from violins accompanied by gourd rattles to an ensemble of clay ocarinas and whistles and flutes to works for piano (solo and duo), synthesizers, singers, speaking voices, cello, electric guitar and clarinet, and perhaps the only known piece of new music for pedal steel guitar accompanied by multiple dobros.
The diverse, free-spirited, genre-bending music in this set was characteristic of certain trends in West Coast music of ‘80s. And, to some degree, most of this music tangentially addressed the lingua franca of ’70s minimalism—embracing certain of its aspects, fleeing others.
Gramophone magazine Critics’ Choice 2004: “Aurally luscious, but thought provoking…the music is so various and the sounds so inviting, that all three discs will be enjoyed in a single sitting.” —Arved Ashbey, Gramophone
All recordings were all supervised by the composers and collectively make up an unusual and wonderful musical document of the place and time.
Garland’s Matachin Dances for two violins and gourd rattles is a moving and graceful set of six dances. Influenced by the Mexican culture in which he has lived for many years, it shows Garland at the top of his game—uniting contemporary musical forms with hints of the folk music he has encountered on his many global wanderings. Through repetition and variation processes, he weaves simple, enticing structures that almost seem to alter the listener’s time perception. Recorded live at the New Music America1982 festival.
Fink’s music on this recording beautifully represents two stylistic traits that he has cultivated throughout his career: a Feldmanesque consciousness of each note’s weight and decay and a simple, heightened lyricism. Fink’s spare and elegant musical tapestries tend not to impose themselves on the listener, but seem to just exist, out of time, awaiting someone’s ear. The four pieces collected here are for piano (solo and duo) and cello.
Childs’ Clay music builds wild, swooping and chirping textures from Susan Rawcliffe’s handmade clay wind instruments patterned after pre-Columbian designs. It is music that by its instrumentation alone stands out from the composer’s considerable output. However, it is a classic example of Childs’ wonderfully idiosyncratic mixing of musical styles, notational practices, and degrees of determinacy. Once it starts moving along, the performers interacting with each other and the score, the piece takes on a quirky life of its own.
Miller’s work for speaking voices utilize texts that he derived from messages on old postcard found at rummage sales. These pieces embrace the power of unadorned speaking voices as musical instruments. As they hauntingly develop, the listener becomes keenly aware of the speech rhythms that make up the fabric of Miller’s work.
Smith, labeled “a classic American original” by the Los Angeles Times, marked his debut as a new-music pedal steel guitarist with this disc. His shimmering and elegant music for pedal steel and 12-string dobros puts a new spin on these instruments of classic Americana and reflects his long-standing interest in carefully wrought sonic textures that seem to speak of the Southern California deserts, where he spends much time.
Cox’s dark, swirling prepared-electric-guitar music, with its rich harmonies, gritty textures, and melancholy lines also features clarinetist Marty Walker and the composer’s speaking voice. This disc marked the first release of any of Cox’s magical prepared and extended-technique guitar sounds, which he began exploring in the mid 1970s, and which later found their way into the musical landscapes and textures of many notable Hollywood film scores written by various composers.
Lentz’s intricate music for multiple keyboards and singers churns and pulses with great propulsive energy. The four works here reflect two concerns that have shown up in his music throughout the past 30 years: forms that slowly accrue their final shapes and texts that are cleverly deconstructed and reconstructed. This recording was one of Lentz’s first excursions into music that has clear “pop” influences in its timbres and harmonies. The composer writes about his works of this period: “… the spiraling materials are kept in a state of becoming, rather than a static state of being. The resulting effect can be compared to walking through an orchestra.”
The liner notes
New Sounds by John Schaefer
The early 1980s was a strange time to start a radio show devoted to new and unusual music, but that’s just when I started my New Sounds show. Judging by what many record companies were sending me (note to you kids: in those days there were many record companies), “new music” meant either New Age swill or old-guard Euromodernism. I imagine it was also a strange time for Cold Blue, a record label devoted to new and unusual music, to start. At a time when the music scene seemed to be waiting for the next big thing, the series of 10-inch records (EPs) that are reissued here was definitely not it—this series was something else altogether. To those of us who stumbled upon Cold Blue’s odd little “ism”-skirting discs, they were gold records; and they helped crystallize the direction that my New Sounds program would take for the next (gulp) 20-plus years.
Cold Blue’s 10-inch series was a musical sleight of hand. Somehow, seven composers, each so different in approach, in instrumentation, in what they considered “musical,” collectively suggested a freewheeling, sensually driven approach to sound—they loved playing with it, and with our expectations of it. This was California—post-Modernism but not yet Postmodern. Daniel Lentz was a revelation, with his witty deconstructions of pop music processes and the inscrutability of the avant-garde. I imagined Peter Garland as a crazed musical shaman, coming out of the desert just long enough to share a peyote-fueled trance vision. And what to make of Chas Smith’s eerie soundscapes? It said “pedal steel guitar and dobro” on the cover, but you just had to take their word for it. And Fink and Childs and Miller and Cox each had something delightfully distinctive to say.
At a time when pursuing new music seemed a lonely enterprise, this collection of records offered the sense of a musical community—at work and at play. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that around this time people started talking about a “California school.” (I believe there is one; although like pornography, it’s one of those I-know-it-when-I-see-it kind of things.) Maybe the Cold Blue EPs didn’t actually define a school or style, but they did stake out a whole wonderful world of new sounds.
[John Schaefer is the producer of WNYC Radio’s New Sounds since 1981]
Barney Childs (1926–2000) was particularly noted for his innovative and influential scores in which indeterminacy and improvisation sit side by side with traditional forms of structure and notation. Eclectic in nature, his compositions from the 1960s through the 1990s freely explore diverse avenues of musical thought, drawing inspiration from many sources, including traditional Western concert music (especially that of such composers as Ives, Ruggles, and Copland), the open form works of John Cage, and jazz of all periods and styles. A Rhodes Scholar to Oxford, where he received an M.A. in English literature, Childs was poetry editor of Genesis West magazine (1962-65) and an editor of Perspectives of New Music. He was the author of numerous articles, co-edited the New Instrumentation series of books from University of California Press and, with Elliot Schwartz, edited the book Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music (1967, second edition 1998). From 1964 through 1982, he ran Advance Recordings, a company that championed the music of such composers as Richard Maxfield, Harold Budd, and Robert Ashley. His compositions include symphonies, concertos, wind and brass music, string quartets, chamber pieces for unusual groupings of instruments, and many solo works (often written specifically for such new music virtuosi as Bertram Turetzky). His music has been recorded on the New World, Avant, Folkways, ABC-Command, Cold Blue, Cambria, CRI, Gregorian, Advance, and Crystal labels.
Rick Cox is a Los Angeles-based composer and multi-instrumentalist whom guitarist/composer and sometimes Cox-collaborator Ry Cooder called “the hidden master of the crepuscular and the diaphanous.” As a featured performer (woodwinds, guitar, and electronics and/or sampler), he can be heard on such popular film scores by Thomas Newman as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty and on recent recordings by jazz/new-music trumpeter Jon Hassell. He has also collaborated with guitarist/composer Ry Cooder, arranging, composing and performing on the film scores Last Man Standing and Wim Wenders’ End of Violence. Cox’s own scores include Inside Monkey Zetterland and Corrina, Corrina. He often performs in the Los Angeles area with new music, avant-rock, and jazz-oriented ensembles, and he is a member of the improvisation group Tokyo 77 (on the InTone label). His concert pieces, which often employ himself (electric guitar, woodwinds, and/or electronics) in the company of other instrumentalists, have been performed throughout the U. and recorded on the Cold Blue (including three albums devoted exclusively to his work—Maria Falling Away, Fade, 35 Whirlpools Below Sound—and numerous appearances on various anthologies), Grenadilla, Advance, and Raptoria Caam labels. According to the British music publication The Wire, “His enveloping harmonies are less innocent than they first appear. Prettiness with a tough core.” Cox was an early explorer/developer, starting in the mid 1970s, of “prepared electric guitar” techniques (like John Cage’s prepared piano, prepared guitar has various objects inserted between and intertwined in the instrument’s strings to produce unusual and uncharacteristic sounds).
Michael Jon Fink’s instrumental and electronic music has been presented at the Green Umbrella Series of the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New Music L.A., the Monday Evening Concerts, the SCREAM Festival, the Fringe Festival, New Music America, Festival Commune di Chiesa, the Martes Musicales, the Marquette Festival of New Music, the CalArts Contemporary Music Festival, Outpost, and other festivals and individual concerts throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has performed and recorded with the new music ensembles Negative Band and Stillife. Recent orchestra works have been commissioned and performed by the Classical Philharmonic, the Symphony of the Canyons, and the Santa Monica Symphony. Fink has also composed incidental music for two plays of William Butler Yeats: The Herne’s Egg and Deirdre, the latter of which was featured at the1996 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Fink’s music has been released on the Cold Blue (including three albums devoted exclusively to his work—I Hear It in the Rain, Temperament for Angels, From a Folio—and numerous appearances on various anthologies), Raptoria Caam, Bare Bones, Wiretapper, TrancePort, Contagion, and CRI record labels.
Peter Garland’s music has been commissioned and performed by noted new music ensembles and soloists around the world, including the Kronos Quartet, pianists Aki Takahashi, Herbert Henck, percussionists William Winant and Chris Shultis, accordionist Guy Klucesvek, and the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio and the ensemble Essential Music presented a twenty-year retrospective of Garland’s work in New York City. Garland is the author of two books of essays on American music and culture and was the editor and publisher of Soundings Press (one of the primary outlets for scores by American composers during the 1970s and 1980s). He has lived in New Mexico, California, Maine, Michoacan, Oaxaca and Puebla (Mexico) and maintained long-term student-mentor friendships with Lou Harrison, Conlon Nancarrow, Paul Bowles, and Dane Rudhyar and a life-long interest in Native American musics. For thirty years, Garland’s music has been marked by a radical consonance and a simplification of formal structure influenced by Cage, Harrison, early minimalism, and an interest in world musics. Recordings of his music have been released on the Cold Blue (including two albums devoted exclusively to his work—String Quartets and After the Wars—and numerous appearances on various anthologies),New Albion, Tzadik, Mode, Avant, Toshiba-EMI/Angel, New World, What Next?/Nonsequitur, and Opus One labels.
Daniel Lentz’s works have been commissioned and performed by noted ensembles and soloists around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, Zeitgeist, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. A prolific composer whose works are often characterized by intricate musical processes, a bit of theater, and an interest in the human voice, Lentz has written large- and small-scale works for most common instrumental combinations, many unique ones, and the many ensembles (usually consisting of multiple keyboards, singers, and electronics) with which he has toured his music throughout the US, Europe, and Japan since the early 1970s. Lentz has been the recipient of many awards and grants, including five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Video presentations of his work have been seen on Alive From Off Center (PBS), the Preview Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver, BC, NHK-TV in Japan, NOS-TV in Holland, BBC-TV in England, West German Television, Czech Television, and many local television stations in the U.S. and abroad. Recordings of his music have been released on the Cold Blue (including five albums devoted exclusively to his work—Los Tigres de Marte, On the Leopard Altar, Point Conception, In the Sea of Ionia, and River of 1,000 Streams—and numerous appearances on various anthologies), New Albion, Angel/EMI, Fontec, Aoede, Les Disques du Crepuscule, Gyroscope/Caroline, Icon, Materiali Sonori, and ABC labels. Lentz
Read Miller is a poet, percussionist/drummer, and composer. After spending many years in the Los Angeles area, where he performed as a drummer in a number of jazz-based ensembles and a number of avant-pop groups, including the Dwindle Family Orchestra, the Improvisors’ Orchestra, Colin Gorman, Snakepit, the Red Poppies, Stillife, and many others, he moved to rural Virginia in the late 1990s. His poems have been published in various poetry periodicals. His musical and text-sound compositions have been recorded on the Advance and Cold Blue labels.
Chas Smith is a composer, performer, and instrument designer and builder who, in the spirit of Harry Partch, creates much of his music for his own exotic instruments—large, beautiful, metal creations: resonators that sprout tunable rods that are struck and bowed, clangorous titanium “sculptures,” vibraphone-like arrays of metal plates. His compositions always display his dualistic fascination with the scientific and the sensual. As a performer, Smith is often heard on feature film scores, playing both pedal steel guitar and his own unique instruments. (He may be heard on such popular film scores as The Shawshank Redemption, The Horse Whisperer, and American Beauty.) Smith has also been featured on recordings by composers Harold Budd and Rick Cox as well as recordings by numerous country-and-western groups. Smith has performed his own works at various new music festivals and art galleries. His music has been recorded on the Cold Blue (including six albums devoted exclusively to his work—Nikko Wolverine, Aluminum Overcasr, An Hour Out of Desert Center, Descent, Nakadai, and Twilight of the Dreamboats—and numerous appearances on various anthologies), Arc Light, Cantil, MCA, and Straw Dog labels. Smith’s music is extremely engaging: As one critic put it when reviewing one of Smith’s recordings: “If the house band on the Titanic sounded this gorgeous when the ship went down, you might have been tempted to stay aboard.”
Joanne Christensen was a popular West Coast nightclub singer/pianist and a composer who performed regularly throughout the Southern California area. She died in the late 1990s.
Janyce Collins, a former harpist and published poet, is a teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is the featured speaking voice on the recording of Jim Fox’s The Copy of the Drawing and the recording of Miller’s Weddings, Funerals, and Children Who Cannot Sleep, both of which are released on the Cold Blue label.
Rick Cox (see composer bios above)
Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick is an active soloist, chamber musician, and specialist in contemporary music. She has performed world and local premieres of solo and chamber works throughout the United States and Europe including the L.A. Olympic Festival, the Computer Music Festival in Zurich, the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and the San Francisco Symphony’s “New and Unusual Music” series. She recently recorded Elliott Carter’s Enchanted Preludes, a work written for her and flutist Dorothy Stone. She has toured with Joan LaBarbara and Morton Subotnick since 1981, and Jacob’s Room (on Wergo Records) marks her fourth appearance in recordings of Subotnick’s music. Among the many other composers who’ve written works for her are Mel Powell, Alvin Lucier, and Michael Jon Fink. She is a founding member of the California E.A.R. Unit, a Los Angeles-based new music ensemble, with which she toured throughout the United States and Europe. She has also given master classes and recitals under the auspices of the U.S.I.A. “Arts America” Program in Central and South America. Ms. Kirkpatrick has recorded for the Nonesuch, Wergo, New Albion, Voyager, and Cold Blue labels.
Arlene Flynn Dunlap, a pianist, vocalist, conductor, composer, and teacher, has been a member of various performance ensembles organized by Daniel Lentz since the early 1970s. As pianist and multi-keyboard performer, vocalist, and conductor, she has recorded Lentz’s music for seven albums and has appeared as soloist in U.S. and European tours of his music. Music has been written specifically for her by Daniel Lentz, Harold Budd, Garry Eister, Jim Fox, Michael John Fink, Steve Dickman, and others. She has presented performances at The Kitchen, P.S.1, Experimental Intermedia Foundation, New Music America, Acadamie der Kunst, Cafe Einstein, National Gallery (Berlin), Belgium Radio and Television, Radio France. When not performing, she composes music for film, video, and dance. She may also be heard on Cold Blue performing Lentz’s Point Conception (CB0028).
Richard Dunlap is an intermedia artist who began performing visual/sound works early in the 1970s and has appeared in New York, Boston, Berlin, Stockholm, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and in Los Angeles and San Francisco. He has participated in New Music America festivals in San Francisco and Hartford. In Santa Barbara, Richard participated in the PULSE II exhibition at UCSB and in the FLUXUS exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Dunlap has been a jazz performer since the 1950s and has also written music for film, video and dance. He has performed with a diverse list of musicians, including Steve Reich, Daniel Lentz, Malcolm Goldstein, Jim Pomeroy, Terry Allen, Jo Harvey Allen, Joyce Lightbody, Pauline Oliverez, Joe Venuti, William O. Smith, Mal Waldron, Dave Freisen, Bill Fontana, John Bergamo, Emmett Williams, Dick Higgins, and Alison Knowles. He has received many grants and awards, including a Creative Arts Fellowship from the University of California, grants from the Bloom, W.M. Keck and Esperia Foundations, a Tiffany Award in Painting, and a Santa Barbara Arts Fund award for music composition. In the 1970s, he taught in the Art Studio Department at UCSB. Numerous articles have been written about his artwork in Artweek and other periodicals.
Garry Eister is a composer/performer who has had a long association (since the 1970s) with Lentz’s music, performing with Lentz’s groups on the West Coast and on four European tours. Eister, who has a Ph.D. in music composition from UC Santa Barbara, studied composition with Edward Applebaum, Peter Fricker, Emma Lou Diemer, and Daniel Lentz. Eister’s compositions have been performed and/or recorded by the Emerson String Quartet, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival Orchestra, Just Strings, the USC New Music Ensemble, the Cuesta Master Chorale, the San Luis Obispo Symphony, glass harmonicist Dennis James, flautist Fred Lau, percussionist Doug Ovens, the Synchronia new music ensemble of St. Louis, Nancy Nagano and Kyomi Kato, singers Jacalyn Kreitzer, Jonathan Mack, and many others. In 2002, the Kreitzer/Davies/Nagano Trio performed his monodrama Like Writing on Water at Carnegie Hall. His Quintet for Glass and Strings is available from Sony Classical Records.
Ronald Erickson, a champion of modern American chamber music, is a violinist who tours extensively. He has performed as a soloist and with numerous ensembles, playing new music, standard repertoire, and early music. He has played with the Seattle, San Francisco, and Oakland Symphonies (principal second violinist); the San Francisco Opera; and was concertmaster of the Berkeley Symphony. He has also played with the Pacifica Chamber Players, the Skywalker Orchestra, and the Luzerne Chamber Players. He has recorded violin works by George Antheil, Arthur Farwell, Charles Seeger, and Larry Polansky, and recorded with many non-“classical” musicians, including the Cecil Taylor Ensemble, Ron Carter, Forever Tango, Aaron Neville, Linda Ronstadt, Kitaro, and Jeff Beal. A graduate of the Juilliard School of Music, where he studied with Ivan Galamian, Paul Makanowitzky, and Louis Persinger, he is a former teacher at the University of California Berkeley and now teaches privately. Among the labels for which he has recorded are Orion, Arch, Musical Heritage Society, and Artifact.
Michael Jon Fink (see composer bios above)
Peter Garland (see composer bios above)
Read Miller (see composer bios above)
Duncan Goodrich studied piano at CalArts with Leonid Hambro, specializing in 20th-century repertoire. During the mid-seventies and early eighties he performed as a soloist and ensemble player on many new music concerts in the Los Angeles area, including several CalArts Contemporary Music Festivals. In 1984, he moved to Indonesia to pursue advanced studies in Balinese and Javanese music and dance.
Daniel Lentz (see composer bios above)
Susan Rawcliffe, an explorer of primeval sounds, is a master ceramic flute maker, player, and researcher as well as a master didjeridu player. Rawcliffe learned her instrument-design craft by studying the ceremonial flutes of Pre-Hispanic cultures—Olmec, Mayan, Zapotec, Aztec, and others. As an instrument designer and builder, she makes copies of ancient instruments and, while mastering their playing, develops insights into the design and construction of new contemporary instruments. She has made ceramic flutes, pipes, ocarinas, whistles, primitive trumpets, musical bowls, sound sculptures, and many other instruments. As a soloist and with various lineups of the Rawcliffe Ensemble, she performs and lectures widely. She has performed on and off Broadway, in Europe, and at universities and cultural institutions in the USA and Canada. She has exhibited nationally; lectured for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Smithsonian Institution, the Instituto Nacional de Antropologia y Historia (Mexico City), and the Metropolitan Museum; and been published by the Smithsonian Press. She has received a McKnight Visiting Composer’s Project grant, support from the Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals and Exhibitions, several grants from the California Arts Council and the Dept. of Cultural Affairs of the City of LA, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. (In Rawcliffe’s ensemble on this recording, she is joined by three Los Angeles musicians: woodwind player Georgia Alwan, early music performer Lisette Rabinow, and Scott Wilkinson, a performer on exotic and traditional woodwinds and brass.) Rawcliffe
Chas Smith (see composer bios above)
John Tenney is an active Bay-Area violinist who has performed with the San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose Symphonies; the San Francisco Ballet; the Bolshoi Ballet; American Ballet Theatre; the San Francisco Opera; the Western Opera Theatre; and the San Francisco String Quartet (a group that had ties to the 1750 Arch Street new-music venue and Mills College). He’s also been concertmaster for Tony Bennett, Dionne Warwick. Joel Grey, and Liberace, and has performed and/or toured with Van Morrison, Marlene Dietrich, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Barry Manilow, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Boz Scaggs, Bjork, and many others.
Marty Walker is a clarinetist who specializes in the performance of new music. (He has premiered more than 90 works written especially for him.) Among the labels for which he has recorded are Cold Blue (appearing on numerous CDs, including two devoted primarily to his playing), CRI, O.O.Discs, Tzadik, Grenadilla, Echograph, New World, and Rastacan. Walker tours and records with various new-music ensembles, including the California E.A.R. Unit (the in-residence at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art), Some Over History, eXindigo, Viklarbo, and Ghost Duo. As a soloist, he has presented live radio concerts on NPR, Pacifica, and other radio venues and has performed at numerous new music festivals, including New Music America (Miami and Houston), the International Festival of New Music (Los Angeles), and New Music International (Mexico City), and various new music venues, including Real Art Ways, FaultLines, the Monday Evening Concerts, Knitting Factory West, and Wires. The Los Angeles Times has called Walker’s playing “masterfully expressive;” El Nacional (Mexico City) wrote that his playing “took the audience to another musical dimension;” and Option magazine called him “one of the finest new-music clarinetists in the country.” Fanfare magazine wrote of Walker’s 2002 CD Adams/Cox/Fink/Fox, “The performances are about as ego-free as one can find, they seem indivisible from the compositions themselves.” 21st-Century Music magazine wrote of his 2001 CD Dancing on Water (music by Lentz, Fink, Garland, Byron, Fox, and Cox): “If people are best known by the company they keep, then clarinetist Marty Walker is blessed indeed. He keeps wonderful company with an excellent series of composers…. [T]he playing and the recording quality are sparkling.”
“A new three-disc set reissued from the hip southern-California label Cold Blue has me so mesmerized I can hardly quit listening to it…. In the 1980s, like a flash in the night, Cold Blue released seven 10-inch vinyl records epitomizing the then-state of California minimalism…. The Complete 10-inch Series from Cold Blue makes me realize that California minimalism was a broader and richer scene than most of us east of the Rockies ever knew…. I’ve always felt like I ended up on the wrong side of the Rockies, and that I was meant, by nature, to be a West Coast composer. And this gorgeous set of discs makes me feel, somehow—homesick.” —Kyle Gann, Arts Journal
“My favorite item this month…the work of composers whose work might be described as avant-garde but which also exhibited the back-to-fundamentals approach which is so often an aspect of the best American music (the term ‘minimalist’ seems too po-faced in such a context)…. [A] striking set…. This spare, uncluttered music is a compelling listening experience, sounding as fresh to day as when it originally appeared.” —Roger Thomas, Int’l Record Review
“Daniel Lentz’s extraordinarily beautiful music for processed voices meets Chas Smith’s un-country music for pedal steel and dobro. A hootenanny for ocarinas (wish I was playing along with them right now) by the late Barney Childs rubs shoulders with Read Miller’s spoken word vernacular catechisms. Also featured are four compositions by CalArts’ Michael Jon Fink, two treated guitar works by occasional film music composer Rick Cox, and Peter Garland’s six Matachin Dances for violin duo accompanied by the composer himself on a gourd rattle, a haunting Native American-inspired chamber music.…” —Frank J. Oteri, NewMusicBox (American Music Center)
“The reissue of each of these mini-albums is welcome…. It has retained a distinct sense of place, and in these times of ever-increasing uniformity of language and aesthetic in new music, that’s not something to be derided…. It’s all beautifully performed and recorded, and genuinely touching in its simplicity. And that’s not something you find very often anymore in contemporary composition.”—Dan Warburton, Signal to Noise and Paris Transatlantic
“Back in the hazy daze of the early ’80s, a brave little label out of Los Angeles, Cold Blue, was busy working the margins, documenting a new music scene with no name. Label mogul Jim Fox released a series of 10-inch vinyl records that were decidedly cool—in hipness quotient and emotional temperament. Beguiling…the music adhered to the particular ambient Pacific coast minimalist aesthetics of composers such as Daniel Lentz, Peter Garland, and the late, underrated post-Cage composer Barney Childs…. Now, the newly revitalized label has re-released the entire collection of 10-inch records on a wonderfully expansive three-CD set. It’s as if discrete patchwork has been assembled, after the fact, into a logical and generally hypnotic tapestry. In other words, the extended format does this music good. The music also seems to sound even better than it did even back when, or maybe it’s just that our battered 21st-century sensibilities are even more in need of a balm, free of that sentimental aftertaste.” —Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara Independent
“The sounds are spare, wistful, innocent and soft-spoken, often beautiful in a way no other music is.” —Arved Ashby, Gramophone
“Some 20 years later, the compositions on these three discs seem just as vital as they must have been when they first appeared, and, similarly, today’s Cold Blue seems haunted by the same spirits as when it first began, compelled by the same desire to discover new musical forms, often with the most simple of gestures, but always with the most suggestive and nuanced of results.” —Richard di Santo, Incursion Music Review
“[A]n invaluable resource for what might be called part of the new ‘California School’…a particular viewpoint and consummate good taste.” —Joan LaBarbara, High Fidelity / Musical America
“Compositions by some of LA’s finest composers can be found on Jim Fox’s excellent Cold Blue Records label.” —Dean Suzuki, Los Angeles Reader
“The [Cold Blue] label defines a certain ‘Southern California sound,’ uncluttered, evocative and unusual, with a wistful emotional edge.” —LA Weekly
“Music with less affinity to the prevailing camps of modern music than to personal explorations of the human spirit…. And the music stands as timelessly as it did the day each was first issued…. It was a series that was ahead of its time. This time around, the audience may have caught up. Check it out! —Daniel Buckley, Tucson Citizen
“Highly recommended” —Sequenza21
“Those 10-inch singles have been rereleased as a boxed set of three CDs, sounding as fresh as they ever did. From the first seconds of Peter Garland’s Matachin Dances, for violins and gourd rattles, your find yourself taking the musical equivalent of a cold shower. This is bracing music, not only because of the directness of its ideas, but also the appealing starkness of its sonorities. It is not music where you ever ask yourself what the composer means. Other works in the box include Barney Childs’s unearthly Clay music for a group of ceramic wind instruments, Read Miller’s work for speaking voices…Chas Smith’s beguiling pedal steel pieces, and Daniel Lentz’s solar-inspired ensemble music which showers you this time not with cold water, but with brilliant light.” —Andrew Ford, Australian Financial Review
“Scented with a distinctly laid-back, at times lonely, West Coast feel, there’s a wealth of music here, from Michael Jon Fink’s somber, limpid piano music to Chas Smith’s haunting tunes for pedal steel guitar that howl and moan like coyotes in the distant desert.” — Christopher DeLaurenti, The Stranger (Seattle)
“A quietly stunning look back at how a particular aesthetic was formed in Southern California, and how that aesthetic informed virtually everything that came after it…these three CDs make for one of the most delightful and enduring listening experiences of the new music, and do not sound dated in any way. They offer the same challenges and edification to listeners that they did in the 1980s, and perhaps—given the cynicism that greets new works these days—even offer listeners a kind of solace from their own skepticism.” —Thom Jurek, All-Music Guide
“Adventurous music…groundbreaking composers…an unusual and satisfying musical document of the place and time.” —New Classics (U.K.)
“A Cold Blue collection…. The usual high-quality sound and art work, of course…. Garland, a US expatriate residing in Mexico, finds antique, lyrical and violent minimalism in gourd rattles and two violins to striking effects…. Fink’s music…is a pleasure from beginning to end. Likewise it is a pleasure to hear Barney Childs’ Clay music…. Wow! Space whistles! Tuba flutes!… Read Miller’s Mile Zero Hotel, a series of sonic postcards with the laconic ritornello ‘Love, Miriam’…. Chas Smith…Aloha. Amen…. Cox takes other evocative paths…attention-grabbing earie and eerie listening…. Lentz’s beautiful spirals complete the collection…like pop angels ascending…a demented nirvana.” —Mark Alburger, 21st-Century Music magazine
“This is truly manna from heaven.” —Sands-Zine (Italy)
“The Complete 10-Inch Series is abundant with fascinating sounds that offer something unexpected with each disc spin.” —ei magazine
“A very fine collection of a nice cross-over between classical music and the more serious avant-garde pop music of the early 80s.” —Vital Weekly (Netherlands)
“There is a lot to take in here, and even after many repeated listens you can still find arrangements and melodies you didn’t notice before, most likely because the discs pull you in immediately, seducing you to simply listen and experience.” —Michael W Woodring, SONOMU
“Among the elements commonly associated with the Cold Blue label is a propensity for inviting, even mysterious sonic beauty; an appeal to the senses that, strangely enough, seems to reach beyond sound. Collected here on three CDs is the entire series of 10-inch vinyl recordings –seven albums, each showcasing the work of a single composer. Taken alone, each composer presents a compelling sound world. Viewed as a single collection, the context deepens, and the resonance of each artist’s work extends into that of the next…. Obviously, there is a lot to listen to here. One could well get lost for days in the spacious music spread across these three discs, and continue to find sounds that invite, fascinate, and mystify.” —Dusted
“While the artists represented on this set vary widely in approaches and results, their music shares an uncommon simplicity and beauty, far away from any sort of prevailing musical mainstreams.” —Exposé
“This long-awaited re-issue is elegant…we can now hear again this demanding music, cultured and meticulous.” —Deep Listenings (Italy)
“The 2003 release of The Complete 10-Inch Series from Cold Blue brought considerable (and deserved) attention to the Venice, California-based label. Its three discs of extraordinary music by seven composers proved especially satisfying for highlighting their works’ dramatic contrasts. Certainly the two violins and gourd rattles of Peter Garland’s Matachin Dances, for example, sounded completely unlike the pedal steel guitar and 12-string dobros of Chas Smith’s Scircura or the clay ocarinas and pipes of Barney Child’s Clay music. Even more striking, though, was the discovery that this superb music was more than two decades old, having been released originally as vinyl EPs in the early 1980s. If the original cover designs (displayed in an accompanying booklet) look of their time, the music, now made available for the first time on CD, sounds anything but. Heard separately, the works captivated but, assembled, resonate with a grander significance by cohering into an encompassing portrait, essentially acting as an implicit manifesto of purpose for the label’s aesthetic.” —Ron Schepper, Textura and Stylus