about Cold Blue Music

Cold Blue was started in the early 1980s (in the days of vinyl). Through a series of 10-inch EPs and 12-inch LPs, the label released music by Daniel Lentz (Point Conception, After Images, etc), Peter Garland (The Matachin Dances and Three Strange Angels), Barney Childs (Clay Music), Chas Smith (Santa Fe and Beatrix), James Tenney, Ingram Marshall, Harold Budd, Michael Byron, Michael Jon Fink, Rick Cox, and others.

By the time of its demise a few years later, Cold Blue was recognized by many new-music critics as a label with a unique focus—particularly West Coast minimalism and post-minimalism.

Reemerging after a fifteen-year hiatus, Cold Blue releases three to six new CDs per year.

Writing about the label in the 1980s . . .

“[Cold Blue] is an invaluable resource for what might be called part of the new ‘California School’…a label with a particular viewpoint and consummate good taste.” —Joan LaBarbara, High Fidelity/Musical America

“The [Cold Blue] label defines a certain ‘Southern California sound,’ uncluttered, evocative and unusual, with a wistful emotional edge.” —L.A. Weekly

“Compositions by some of L.A.’s finest composers can be found on Jim Fox’s excellent Cold Blue Records label.” —Dean Suzuki, Los Angeles Reader

“Cold Blue could be to the ’80s what the Rounder, Blue Note and Chess labels were to other times and places…. some of the music is simply superb.” —Marina LaPalma, High Performance

Writing about the label in the 2000s . . .

“I don’t see the point in art that doesn’t take any risks. Fortunately, Cold Blue does that for us, and does it all the time.” —Harold Budd

“The Cold Blue label was started by Jim Fox in the early 80s. In its short lifespan it became recognized for its clear identity as a focus for West Coast minimalism and post-minimalism…. Now he has resurrected the label, and based on evidence of the initial batch of releases, its again setting the highest standards in an area of musical endeavor where banal facility can be a danger.” —The Wire

“Jim Fox’s Cold Blue Music label, home to many a musical treasure.” —Matthew Hallam, Late Junction, BBC3

“There is a very small group of labels that offers up a transcendent experience every time a promo lands in my mailbox. Cold Blue Music is one of them.” —Marc Medwin, Fanfare magazine (2018)

“When Cold Blue Records collapsed in the mid-1980s…the label had already established a reputation for its discerning support of what was sometimes called the New California School. Now, 15 years later, it is back, as these three splendid discs resoundingly indicate.” —International Record Review (2001)

“Cold Blue discs—at least since the company’s revival a couple of years ago—have tended to present music of stunning and poignant strangeness.” —International Record Review (2001)

“Since its relaunch slightly more than four years ago, Cold Blue Music has done sterling work in bringing to a wider public the music of a group of (mainly) Californian composers. The three latest releases, bringing the number of discs in the new Cold Blue catalogue to more than 20, are worthy contributions to a distinctive body of music—a virtual Cold Blue ‘school’—forged in the wake of American musical experimentalism.”—Christopher Ballantine, International Record Review (2005)

“Does anyone remember a time when record labels had their own sounds? Can you recall the last time you bought a CD solely on the basis of what the label was? … there are still a few labels out there that insist on maintaining a certain profile. One obvious example is Germany’s hardy ECM outfit. Another much closer to home is Cold Blue, which not only puts out albums with a unified profile but also makes use of the much-neglected, much-needed CD single format.” — Richard S. Ginell, Los Angeles Times

“[O]ne feels that [Cold Blue] already has a personality, and it is quickly defining itself as a dependable source of contemporary music in the Minimalist and post-Minimalist genres. To heck with categories, though. Let’s just say that the label has the potential to be a deep well of wonder.” —Fanfare (2001)

“Each release from Cold Blue is a letter from an alien civilization…. Cold Blue—how aptly named this label is!—is the soundtrack to today’s film of postmodern detachment, dread, and desire.” —Fanfare (2002)

“Those who stereotype modern classical music as either cacophonous or simplistic would be forced to add a third category—elusive—when confronted with the Cold Blue catalog.” —Fanfare (2002)

“Cold Blue is hardly the most prolific imprint and, in fact, its last seven releases (including the three reviewed here) have been CD Singles. But that strategy makes the LA-based label’s meager output even more delectable; basking in the glorious beauty of its ‘West Coast Minimalism’ is like sipping the most alluring aperitif, each moment a treasure to be deliciously savoured…. In both musical quality and packaging design, these releases are exquisite. And while they’re clearly different from one another, each composer demonstrates through his work a penchant for controlled emotion, a desire to suffuse his music with a depth of feeling that never lapses into sentiment. Put simply, this remarkable music only bolsters Cold Blue’s reputation as a superb resource for contemporary American music-making of the first rank.” —Ron Schepper, Signal to Noise (summer ’05) Textura (May ‘05)

“Cold Blue—the post-avant-garde ‘California Sound’ of Chas Smith, Harold Budd, Michael Jon Fink, Jim Fox, Daniel Lentz, Ingram Marshall, James Tenney and others.” —L.A. Weekly (August 2002)

“In 2000, to the astonishment and delight of those who treasured the old Cold Blue recordings, Fox decided to revive the label.” —New Music Box (American Music Center)

“This is an intelligent independent label putting out well-designed and produced CDs of new music.” —Rupert Loydell, Tangents (UK)

“The return of the legendary Cold Blue! It’s a triumph, a great response to today’s feeble avant-garde.” —Deep Listenings magazine (Italy)

“Cold Blue is developing a fine reputation…. Cold Blue offers a groove and a point of view. It’s a Southern Californian meditative and hip spin on what’s happening in new music.” —21st-Century Music magazine

“Another record label worth celebrating is Cold Blue. This is the stuff of which cults are made.” —Andrew Ford, Australian Financial Review

“Cold Blue Music has releaed a series of CD singles featuring beautifully recorded music with suitably artistic packaging. They seem to specialize in a yet-unnamed (to my knowledge) sub-genre of new music…. These works are designed for the discerning listener and share a common regard for well-placed sounds, yet each is distinct in its approach…. I recommend buying all of them, because this is definitely music worth spending time with.” —Randy Raine-Reusch, MusicWorks

“Wandering trough the records released by the Venice, California-based label Cold Blue is like taking a stroll into some peaceful repository of living musical treasures. A repository that has summoned over the years some of the best representatives of the aptly named Southern California sound…. Listening to the music released by this South Californian label is like overhearing some joyful and delightful discussion between old friends celebrating their long-standing relationship in the realms of musical experimentation. You can feel privileged to be in their midst.”—I Heard a Noise webzine (Romania)

“A very special label.” —Blow Up magazine (Italy)

“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.” —Dusted webzine (2003)

“Cold Blue is a label that releases music that evokes the American west – not the smog and the stars of Los Angeles, where many of its artists are based, but the empty expanses of the deserts of southeastern California and New Mexico and of the woods of Alaska.” —Dusted webzine (2004)

“Cold Blue…confirms itself as the star of a type of aestheticism that, at the moment, best represents that tiny piece of land enclosed by stretches of desert and rocky mountains, sweltering mesas and abandoned pueblos, insistent modernity and ancient cultures on their way to extinction…. Journeying along its trails is a good panacea for those who cannot go to sorcery school.” —Sands-Zine (Italy)

“Tailor-made to frustrate those obsessed with categories and labels…. The label’s music is minimal without sounding rigorously systems-based; nor is its sound minimal in a way that suggests kinship with Glass and Reich beyond the inviting accessibility of their collective musics. Its uncluttered spaciousness evokes open plains and deserts, and, in spite of its name, the music eschews austerity for sensuality without lapsing into sentimentality or banality. With a lonely wistfulness at its core, its music is seductive and almost unfashionably pretty yet never cloying.” —Ron Schepper, Textura and Stylus

“Cold Blue is an LA-based label, focussing on modern composition in the realms of ‘West Coast minimalism’ and ‘post-minimalism.’ Lately it has chosen the medium of CD EPs, (15 to 30 minute short duration releases), allowing the listener to concentrate on singular works w/ o the clutter. It is slowly evolving into one of the most important labels in the history of contemporary American composition.” —from AB-CD catalog

“I use the word ‘gorgeous’ when describing Cold Blue’s recordings. And through Cold Blue I’ve become aware of a number of composers and their music who were not on my radar. This is definitely a CD catalog to watch.” —Richard Friedman, Director of Other Minds

“One reason so many Cold Blue recordings are so good is that they feature production far better than classical music listeners are accustomed to hearing. Most recordings of chamber music, no matter how good they sound, are just documents of music written for the stage rather than the studio. Chamber music composers almost never adjust their scores to adapt to studio environments, so what musicians play in a piece in its onstage premiere is exactly what they play in the studio. Recordings of classical music are typically treated as documents rather than creative works in themselves. There are some notable exceptions, such as the ECM label…and, now, the Cold Blue label…that feature beautiful and direct production.” —Charlie Wilmoth, Dusted Magazine

“As with the other Cold Blue Music EPs I’ve reviewed, engineering and production are sterling and the accompanying digipack artwork displays an eye for uncommon aesthetics. Covers of Cold Blue Music releases are, basically, true artwork and Descanos, past does not break from that tradition.” —Wind and Wire

“Never has a label been so aptly named, and here they continue their obsession with various takes on slow, pastoral, beautiful minimalism.… Cold Blue’s consistency and dedication is to be applauded, as is their packaging.” — Rupert Loydell, Tangents (UK), 2005

“Cold Blue, a fascinating new music label based in Los Angeles, revived itself five years ago, after a long winter’s nap …. Run by Jim Fox, himself a fine composer with an appreciation for the glory of space and a tendency to teach notes how to swim in it, Cold Blue is building up a consistent catalogue, with goods by the likes of Chas Smith (pedal steel and sound sculptures), former Santa Barbaran Daniel Lentz, Minimalist pioneer Charlemagne Palestine, critic/composer Kyle Gann, and others who live happily in the cracks of established “serious music” corners.” —Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara Independent

“Twenty or so easy-to-find albums represent the Californian contemporary music scene. In fact, the location has had such a strong influence on these productions’ climates that one couldn’t imagine them being recorded anywhere else than in the vicinity of Joshua Tree and the Mojave Desert. Each album is like a feature film that the listener is free to watch as he pleases. Or a vaporous, ethereal soundtrack made of celestial harmonies.… In the ‘70s, inspired by the collaborative work of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, the Frenchman Richard Pinhas (of Heldon fame) was hoping to create—in his own words—’music as cold as a giant block of blue ice.’ Cold Blue made his dream come true, thanks to music that is never needlessly finicky, music serenely laying down its obviousness. If one detects in the process the combined influences of Debussy, Satie, Morton Feldman and—closer to us—Gavin Bryars, it also—and mostly—evokes desert-like stretches, the Great North, abandoned towns swept by the winds or the road one traces when wandering around aimlessly, as in a road-movie. The long, appeasing suites invite contemplation and irradiate a sense of fullness. Be warned, though: if this music stimulates a state of dreaminess, the thread running from one release to another has nothing to do with new age concepts. What Cold Blue offers is wholly immersive music.… The peacefulness thus created leaves room for moments of thought. Ghostly resonances wander about distant horizons. And there is an obvious intention to break free from the stress of a world more frantic than ever—just like the quest for infinite space and the race for total fulfillness. Most of these works filter in like colorful hues and, in turn, paint their surroundings, as Brian Eno would say.”—Philippe Robert, Coda (France)

“The presentation and artwork are subtle and gorgeous.… Everything about these discs encourages fresh, attentive listening. … Cold Blue’s series of CD singles is an extremely welcome and refreshingly daring experiment in the marketing of works that otherwise would not get heard, and for this they deserve a great deal of credit.” —Evan Johnson, Sequenza21

“One of the greatest new music labels of the early ‘80s, Cold Blue has made a remarkable return from the dead.” —Michael Draine, Twisted Vista

“The Cold Blue Music label illustrates the dynamic creativity propelling composers from the U.S. West Coast.… [I]ts sound universe stretches out far beyond the steppes minimalism pioneers once colonized. Through its 14 titles, the compilation album Cold Blue demonstrates how rich its catalog actually is…. The whole thing may be drawing ties between Brian Eno’s impassible ambient music and A Silver Mt. Zion’s wild lyricism, or even between Morton Feldman’s esthetic inventions and Sylvain Chauveau or Clogs’ neo-chamber experiments.” —Richard Robert, Vibrations (France)

“Thanks to Orkhêstra now distributing the Cold Blue label in France, the ‘Southern California California Sound’ is finally ours to discover. Founded in the early ‘80s by Jim Fox, not far from the Mojave Desert and the famous Joshua Tree, Cold Blue has released to this day more than 20 albums by Minimalist and Post-Minimalist composer. … Cold Blue’s roster of musicians shares with the Electronic Ambient scene a particular attention to sound and silence, something they do by using almost exclusively classical instruments. Another parallel must be drawn with labels driven by a certain sculptural approach to sound, like Manfred Eicher’s ECM label or Obscure, the brainchild of ambient music pioneer Brian Eno. From CD to CD, we notice the same dusky and desert-like atmospheres, always rendered in clear, precise strokes, as if born out of a “blue and cold” dream, as Heldon’s Richard Pinhas described his dream music in the early ‘70s.… All the recordings may be distilling meditative and appeasing sounds, but they are neither similar to one another nor boring. Each album offers a diverse, contrasted sound world.… Through Jim Fox’s label, a new perception of time is expressing itself and makes itself heard. Time without landmarks or limits, unlike the time found in our modern, fast-paced, noisy and sliced-up world. Against that time, the works on Cold Blue offer a music of the spheres in which we can endlessly immerse ourselves, again and again, without ever running out of riches and subtle details to marvel at.” —Gérard Nicollet, Octopus (France, ’06)

“Cold Blue Music, a Californian record label that everyone enjoying contemporary ambient/electronic/minimalism should follow closely” —Peter van Cooten, Sound Is Audible Time (The Netherlands)

“If ECM is ‘the most beautiful sound next to silence’ then Cold Blue, which has ECM DNA (but which isn’t jazz and not quite ECM New Series) is maybe the most austere sound next to silence.” —Richard Grooms, The Improvisor

“The prototypical release by Cold Blue intermingles classical, electronic, and field recording elements into a genre-defying whole that’s always provocative but never alienating. Bolstering their appeal, the California label’s releases are infrequent, so their arrival becomes something of an event.” —Ron Schepper, Signal to Noise (2007)

“The California-based Cold Blue label challenges assumptions about what the phrase ‘listening to music’ is all about. This is what we have come to expect from this label, which specializes in the more abstract or ambient forms of modern ‘classical’ music, and seems to favor mellowness and atmosphere over angst and academic theory. —Raymond Tuttle, Classical.Net

“This is a label with a clear musical vision … and pristine production.” —Peter Thelan, Exposé magazine (’05)

“Redefining the ambient/neo-classical landscape for decades now, California’s Cold Blue Music, steered to its privileged status by owner/musician Jim Fox, is virtually alone amongst the aforementioned genres. Sure, a lineage exists between the label and kindred outfits (New Albion springs to mind), but the artistic bar set by Cold Blue, in rendering a worldwide schemata of 21st-century “new Californian classicism,” is perched awfully high, out of reach and envied by its peers.” —Darren Bergstein, e/i magazine

“Cold Blue has been gracing listeners with marvelous music for a good many years.” —Ron Schepper, “2007 Ten Favorite Labels,” Textura

“[Cold Blue] … the Californian label for which an artistic misstep or a less than satisfactory release would apparently be considered a deadly sin.” —Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes (Italy), Jan. ’08

“Cold Blue is a plucky little label, under the dedicated stewardship of Jim Fox, that’s been advancing a very definite aesthetic and consistently advocating a set of composers over the years. As such it performs an important service to the cause.” —Robert Carl, Fanfaremagazine (2013)

“Whenever a release from Jim Fox’s label arrives, a couple of certainties are enclosed in the same package. One, generally well-over-average artistic quality … Two, sounds that become part of the surroundings in such a natural way … where everything, and I mean everything, is in the right place at the right time.” —Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes(Italy), June ’08

“Thanks for the excellent recordings. It’s nice to have Cold Blue back. I’m looking forward to the re-release of the Cold Blue anthology…. I still cherish my LP copy!” —Steve Davis, Associate Producer, Hearts of Space radio

“Cold Blue is one of those labels that truly has its own recognizable sound.” —Peter Thelen, Exposé

“For more than three decades, Cold Blue Music has been highlighting the work of composers working on the outer edges of contemporary music, many of whom are based on the West Coast.” —Alexandra Gardner, NewMusicBox

“The few Cold Blue Music releases I’ve heard take the stereo spectrum into account in a way other labels would benefit by observing. Each detail inhabits its own environment, not just a part of the soundstage. Maybe it’s better to say that the whole notion of a soundstage has been subverted, or at least expanded, and this is especially evident with good speakers in a suitable listening environment.” —Marc Medwin, Fanfare magazine

“I like Cold Blue Music a lot, and one of the things I like about it is its advocacy for the specially priced CD single. It’s nice to know that not everything needs to be stretched or padded, and that a 20-minute work can be sufficient unto itself.” —Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare magazine

“Striving for an excess of beauty in music tends to cheapen rather than ennoble the enterprise, as shown by some of the music written by the so-called ‘holy minimalists’—Kancheli, Vasks, Taverner, et al. But beauty can also arise naturally, without being forced. That’s true of much of the music published by Cold Blue.” —Brian Marley, Signal to Noise magazine (2010)

“From the introspection of John Luther Adams to the panache of Charlemagne Palestine—the Cold Blue Label has rarely, if ever, failed to put out music whose provocation seems the greater for its thoughtfulness.”—Richard Whitehouse, Int’l Record Review (2013)

“Cold Blue Music…releasing CDs by innovative minimalist and post-minimalist composers and their small ensembles since the 1980s.”—Daily Planet, ABC Radio

“The Cold Blue label has revived what the stickers describe as the CD single (although CD EP might be more accurate), which is something of a statement in the era of the download, although there’s perhaps a new-old kind of logic in a physical package that contains a single composition much as a pair of covers usually contains a single book.”—Roger Thomas, International Record Review

“I like Cold Blue Music a lot, and one of the things I like about it is its advocacy for the specially priced CD single. It’s nice to know that not everything needs to be stretched or padded, and that a 20-minute work can be sufficient unto itself.” —Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare magazine

“Jim Fox has quietly been pressing some remarkable CDs on his Cold Blue label out of Venice, CA for a number of years now. It’s a wonderful catalog of treasures.” —Richard Friedman, Producer-Host, Music from Other Minds (KALW)

“Cold Blue…. There is nothing ‘cold’ about their music. For many years now they have been releasing some delightful minimal music which is perhaps ‘sweet’ and ‘romantic’ (both terms to be used with care).”—Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly

“Cold Blue is a lovely label.” —Kyle Gann, PostClassic

“Cold Blue Music, a Californian record label that everyone enjoying contemporary ambient/electronic/minimalism should follow closely.”—Ambientblog

“As I listen to these recordings [The Wind in High Places and In the Sea of Ionia], I’m reminded once again of the invaluable contributions Cold Blue has made to the musical landscape over so many years. That the West Coast label has been a primary outlet for the works of Adams and Lentz, as well as so many others, is something for which any listener appreciative of high-calibre contemporary music must be grateful.”—Ron Schepper, Textura

“Cold Blue Music’s singles, a medium that the label does better than everyone else…. The idea is to offer a single work and to let it stand on its own, rather than making it share space with other music, and perhaps diminishing its impact on the listener. Less is more, Cold Blue Music seems to say, and that’s a sentiment I generally agree with.”—Raymond Tuttle, Fanfare magazine (2015)

“Reaffirming its status as one of the most exciting innovations in the recording and marketing of modern composition since the introduction of magnetic tape, Cold Blue Music‘s series of ‘singles’—a new, minimalist or post-minimalist work rarely longer than twenty minutes, premiered on its own disc in the label’s usual beautiful packaging—issues three new gems.”—Stephen Fruitman, Igloo Magazine

“In recent years, Cold Blue has issued as many singles (EPs, if you prefer) as full-length recordings, but the label’s releases, regardless of format or length, are always of the highest quality, and these new singles by three Cold Blue artists of long-standing are no exception in that regard…. All three releases uphold Cold Blue’s reputation for high-quality music and do so using different approaches.” —Textura magazine (2015)

“As with all Code Blue recordings, the music is fascinating and the sound is impeccable.” —Guitar Moderne

“The Radical Tonality of music on the Cold Blue label to me is important, as it steps beyond Minimalism and blurs its on occasion rather sharp matter-of-factness.” —Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review (2019)

“The American Cold Blue Music series, directed by musician Jim Fox, is exceptional in many ways. Above all, its selection of recordings does not abide by fixed rules; on the contrary, the diversity and singularity of its individual recorded works merely enhances its profile.” —His Voice, 2019 (Czech Republic)

“Harp notes trickling and tumbling like eddies in a stream; pianistic shell bursts interspersed with wounded reflection; chromium dreamscapes seeping out from resonant metal sculptures and steel guitars. In terms of style and content there’s little overlap in the music on these three new releases from the Californian label Cold Blue. Yet each emerges from a recognizable and distinctly American compositional outlook, sensual and approachable while also robustly individualistic and aesthetically self-determining…. Each of these three pieces lasts a little over 20 minutes and is issued by Cold Blue in the form of a CD single. Each lodges in the memory as sensation, rather than as realized idea or abstractable form, and the concise format suits that aspect of the music perfectly.”—Julien Cowley, The Wire (2015)

“Cold Blue, a label devoted to the post-Minimalist, immersive LA sound (whether the composers happen to be Angelenos or not).” —Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times (2018)

“Sometimes, when all music starts to sound the same, you may feel the need to listen to something ‘different,’ ‘outside the box,’ but at the same time ‘familiar’ in the ‘not-too-extreme’ sense. Something ‘surprising.’ Cold Blue Music might be the label to turn to to find some surprising music.” —Peter van Cooten, Ambientblog

“If ever a label deserved recognition for its contributions to musical culture and for demonstrating an unwavering commitment to its artists and their works, it’s Cold Blue.” —Ron Schepper, Textura (2019)

“That Cold Blue can keep releasing music of such originality and intrigue that also works on an emotional level, with neither compromise nor condescension, is to label owner Jim Fox’s credit. The fact that each release is performed and recorded with such obvious commitment and expertise makes reviewing them a highly anticipated pleasure.” —Marc Medwin, Fanfare magazine (2019)

“I’m always excited to receive new CDs from California-based Cold Blue music. Their carefully curated releases are consistently intriguing and intelligent, somehow—despite the diversity and range of their catalogue—managing to stay focused, offering a quietly experimental and different approach to contemporary music.”—Rupert Loydell, International Times (2021)

“The Cold Blue label is very, very important to know about. . . .  It is a very, very important part of the history of avant-garde music in America.” —Jim O’Rourke, interview with Noisextra

“At a different extreme, the longtime, invaluable L.A. new music record label Cold Blue Music.” —Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times (2022)