The Songlines Story

Established in Vancouver 1992, Songlines produces modern and avant jazz that typically crosses musical borders (with contemporary classical, rock, non-western folk and classical musics, ambient, etc.) and contemporary world music, usually with an Asian focus (Arabic and Persian music, Javanese gamelan), featuring artists based in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. The term “songlines” refers to Australian aboriginal performances of song and dance in which tales of the ancestral creator beings are enacted in the very places where those events unfold in the now-and-always Dreamtime. This idea of a deep-roots musical storytelling journey crisscrossing one’s home turf seemed to offer a kind of metaphor for music in our globalizing world that forges imaginative new paths through different cultures and traditions without sacrificing the depth of those traditions themselves.

From 2001 to 2009 almost all our releases were hybrid SACDs (50 in all), mostly mixed in stereo and multichannel. These and all releases since are available as 24-bit stereo downloads at HD Tracks, Qobuz, ProStudioMasters and Highresaudio. (In addition, 19 releases originally recorded or mixed in DSD are available for DSD download at Acoustic Sounds.) Special SACD projects included a Nick Drake tribute record and music by Bill Frisell inspired by Gerhard Richter paintings.

Since 1997 Songlines has worked closely with pianist/keyboardist Benoît Delbecq (winner of the 2010 Grand Prix International du Disque for jazz), including the collectives Kartet and Poolplayers, duos with François Houle and Andy Milne and a double trio with Fred Hersch. Other prominent artists with releases on Songlines include Wayne Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, Ben Monder, Theo Bleckmann, Dave Douglas, Han Bennink, Misha Mengelberg, Samuel Blaser, Brad Shepik, Peter Epstein, Michael Blake, Chris Speed, Tony Malaby, Jerry Granelli, Ellery Eskelin, Marty Ehrlich, Gordon Grdina, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian, Dylan van der Schyff, Harris Eisenstadt, and Jean-Jacques Avenel. We’ve also worked with many young artists deserving wider recognition.

A Note on Genre Categories

When it comes to “creative music,” genre designation can be a vexed and vexing process. The map is not the territory, and a lot of the music on Songlines doesn’t conveniently fit pre-defined slots. There’s a whole world of sounds out there that musicians are listening to and giving their imaginations free rein to work with.

The website is fully searchable by keyword, but we’ve also updated the genre/style designations applied to releases to facilitate sorting the music via the pulldown genre menu. For sort purposes, rather than trying to pinpoint specific combinations of genres and styles, we’ve tagged each release with up to three or four of nine general categories, e.g. avant jazz, world music, fusion. That doesn’t mean you will always find those things represented in an obvious way throughout the record. “Ambient” doesn’t necessarily imply beats or even electronics. “Third stream” could for example involve classical music influences in instrumentation and approach and/or contemporary compositional elements. The dreaded “fusion” is just a convenient catch-all for rock/pop/funk/post-rock leanings of any kind. Genre descriptors that are sometimes more specific are displayed under the cover images and on each release page, offering starting points for exploring the rich diversity and often unique confluences of styles and methods which the release writeups and artist interviews go into in more detail. And do check out the download and streaming tracks. As they say, hearing is believing.