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London, 2021

In the summer of 2020, in the middle of the international COVID-19 pandemic, the English label nonclassical released the first volume of its compilation, I hope this finds you well in these strange times; the project aims at showcasing the creative response to the crisis and its effects through a diversity of works and artists in the modern and contemporary classical world — including the label founder Gabriel Prokofiev and regular collaborators such as the Ligeti Quartet. The fourth and final volume, and subject of this review, was released almost a year later and similarly to its predecessors includes an eclectic mix of acoustic, electric, avant-garde, ambient, creativity and audacity. 


Through this somewhat somber initial theme of the pandemic, I hope this finds you well in these strange times - Vol. 4 compiles a diversity of both ambiences and subjects as well as music mediums and genres.  From the ideas of abandonment – with the haunting tenor recorders and live processing of Maunders’ “None of Them Are Ever Coming Back” —, austerity — Riley’s “The Years Midnight”, performed by Riley, Melanie Pappenheim and Jeremy Avis, is both grim and comforting and reflects so much of the mixed feelings we have experience during these strange times — to anxiety — the sublime “Two-Way Mirror” by Goves, for the Solem Quartet and electronics, comes straight out of a Lanthimos score — and wonder — KGB’s free and layered “Flare”.There is quite an array of musical genres and approaches such as the Reich-like “Knotwood” from the composer and percussionist Hiscock, halfway between minimalism and musique concrète, Foldable Sounds’ avant-garde sound collages “RND4_GRP10 (Toby Kilby-Pollard, Monte McLean, YinYang)” and two modern impressionistic works: Lever’s “Watermark Prelude i.” and rand’s “Siegfried 2.0”. Some additional interesting surprises include the beautiful “warm-blooded vertebrates” by Jasmin Kent Rodgman x Sansara, made using Sansara’s virtual choir, Dicker’s “Schwarzschild Radio, recorded broadcast No.29028.118.2 (excerpt)” which uses modular synthesis and processed recordings of numbers stations and Ret Frem Ensemble’s lockdown isolation session “In the absence of heather”, by Mattison. 


Some of the music that I found the most interesting in the compilation includes; Folkraton Sessions’ “Return Again feat. Juhan Maaker’s tune nr 22”, a piece extracted from Skiver — a multicultural album —, and which layers the main musical phrase based on an Estonian folk tune, and superimposed field recordings of Paris’ metro, blurring the lines between music and noises. Bartosik’s “Internal Dialogue”, which approaches philosophical subjects such as the inner dialogue of the mind, noticing thoughts and letting them come and go, and translates the feeling in music. Gorski-Brown’s “GALLUS D/H_z (prod. BL*ME+HGB)” with the French horn of Molly Edwards; a beautiful blend of ambient sound recordings and instrumental melody, almost nostalgic in its own way. Fetokaki’s “The Resurrection”, inspired by her native culture — Cyprus — provides an alternative for the isolated lockdown traveller and brings him to the spirituality of the island. 


What seems the most interesting — and rewarding — about I hope this finds you well in these strange times and this particular final volume is the audacity in both the selection of the artists and the works themselves; when it comes to the artists, the performers and the composers, it is a noble and humble compilation of well-known and lesser-known individuals, allowing the opportunity for the music itself to shine and speak, and in good faith. When it comes to the music itself, through the eclecticity of the mix, one hears the true expression of music; the expression of creativity, feelings, impressions and responses — in this context, to the pandemic. The music has been carefully selected between studio and home recordings, old and new material; purposed or repurposed works which all eventually seem to relate to each other. A fabulous demonstration of the power of creativity, society and technology. 

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