As the new year starts like every other blog I do my best of list for the previous year’s releases. What this list is is a celebration of the artists and labels that made some fine music that I heard and want to share with you. This is a relatively simple list, just 21 (I couldn’t separate 2 for the final place) of the releases sent my way that I have enjoyed. Not separated into genres, artwork or in numerical order. Just the ones that I have enjoyed the most.
Amparo – Palm House (Modularfield).
One of the true joys of the year for me, just some great music that I do not tire of listening to. “I hope I have made my feelings for this release as crystal clear as possible. The musical world of ambience, much like any genre for that matter, can be from time to time a little uninspiring. A release such as this (and Bedroom’s “The Inner Pattern”) are ones that need to be held aloft and shown to people “Hey! This is the standard to live up to”. Don’t let this release pass you by.”
Mathieu Karsenti – Aitaké Suite for Solo Violin (self released).
A great release from a composer we will be hearing more from in the new year. “I genuinely feel a loss words to describe the sounds, feelings and mood of this ep. If ever I assumed incorrectly what a piece of music would sound prior to hearing it, it is this. Just to state it in simple terms, this is quite an impressive piece of work.”
Gavin Miller – Shimmer (Sound in Silence).
One of the discoveries of the year for me, not that he is a new artist. This particular release stop me in its tracks when I first listened to it. “I mentioned that the music was effortlessly good. This is because the way Miller constructs his pieces come across as instantly enjoyable. When you listen the music is so easy to listen to.There is a sense of thoughtful construction in his compositions. The pieces all flow together and maintain a narrative that binds them all together. When you listen to them all the layers and depths are revealed. This is a work that is best suited to listening in its entirety and just absorbing it. To be honest, I am at a loss for words to eloquently convey or give justice to how good this is. While I take the time to think of those words I will just press play and start over again. Totally recommended.”
The Prairie Lines – Today Leap and Storytime (Eilean Rec).
Another who returns from last years list, quite simply beautiful. “Bawden creates music that will make you want to shut the door to the outside world and just let wash over you. Micro glitches, static wash over hazy tremolo guitar in loop forms to create music that for you to drift of too. There are hints of nostalgia, melancholia and mindfulness permeating through the tracks. Textures change throughout, with some having a more light filled sound and others buried in static, but all are imbued with a relaxing pace for the listener to absorb it all.”
Various – We Stayed the Path that fell to Shadow (Lost Tribe Sound).
In my humble opinion Lost Tribe Sound can do no wrong and this sampler of the likes of Gavin Miller, The Phonometrician, and a bunch of collaborators including Mute Forrest, William Ryan Fritch and others is a great introduction to the releases of the near future. ““We Stayed The Path That Fell To Shadows” is successful because of the quality of each of the tracks. LTS finds artists that share a vision of sound and who are successful either as solo artists or as collaborators in continuing the ethos of the label. Where other labels rosters or catalog might have a variety of disparate and different sounds, LTS have consistently added artists that compliment the other artists that they have previously released. That is not say that the artists on the label sound the same. Each has their own individual approach and sound, but the standout feature is the quality of the music. When you listen to a release on this label you know that you are in for a treat of music of the highest order. This compilation, new subscription series and added artists look to be spreading more great music into the new year.”
The Green Kingdom – Seen and Unseen (Sound in Silence).
Following from last years placing on my best of list, Michael Cottone brings forth a stunning work. “In the press release label boss Mastrokostas mentioned about this being one of Cottone’s finest works to date. This was not an idle statement, if anything it is a slight understatement, as this could be his finest work. Twelve years into his career Cottone has reached a level few can reach and many could be envious of. Totally Recommended.”
James Murray – Landscape of Lovers (Fluid Audio).
A strong year from Murray this year, who also expanded on his label Slowcraft’s catalog. “Over the course of the two tracks “Landscapes of Lovers” and “And So Goodbye For Now”, Murray takes the listener on an ever winding journey through tones, at times bordering on orchestral soundscapes. Murray has an ability of creating long form tracks that are ever evolving, growing pieces of work. Some artists can rely on minimal elements and set about repeating them throughout the course of the piece, while others cram the proverbial kitchen sink into their pieces. There is an organic flow that is noticeable as Murray introduces electronic elements that highlight different moods within the drone soundscape.”
Bedroom – The Inner Pattern (Self Released).
Just a really nice album that I keep going back to. “London has created an extremely nice release that brings you back to a musical setting of pure ambience, where the sound is not cluttered, the instruments used are complimentary to each other and it is just a pleasure to listen to. “The Inner Pattern” is available on limited CD (only 100 copies) and Digital and is recommended listening for people who are looking for well recorded and constructed music.”
A-Sun Amissa – Ceremony in the Stillness (Gizeh).
When the boss of a label puts out a record like this, it shows leadership and sets a bar for other artists to follow. “Would it be fair to say that this is the finest A-Sun Amissa album? I think so. Knox has been musically active for over a decade and a half as well as releasing other people’s music via his Gizeh imprint. With this album you get the feeling that he has been distilling all his musical knowledge and this is what he has come up with. The album is a rich rewarding listen that is multifaceted. The more you listen to it, the more illuminating it becomes, especially if you take notice of the many layers of activity included in each track. The album consists of six tracks with each of those being standouts in their own right. Knox and his collaborators take the listener on a sonic journey which is deeply engaging. If you are looking for music that is full of atmosphere, rich sounding, excellently composed and beautifully presented, then look no further. Totally Recommended.”
Rhian Sheehan – A Quiet Divide (Loop Recordings).
Words don’t give this album justice. A high water mark has been set. “It’s quiet easy to notice a bad album, they tend to be quite obvious. They are not a joy to listen to, the parts can be clunky or uninspired. However, when you come across an album such as “A Quiet Divide”, the music flows so well that you can easily get lost in it and you need to take a step back and just appreciate what a work of art it is. The music comes of as effortlessly good, that is not to say that little effort has been put into the album, quite the contrary, the talent involved here makes it seem so easy because the album is that outstanding. Sheehan and his list of highly talented collaborators and studio crew have made a record that is deeply impressive and one that rewards the listener with repeated listens just because A) how good it is and B) how sonically rich, emotive music is. Easily a contender for album of the year.”
Stray Theories – All that was Lost (n5MD).
n5MD had another strong year with a few more of their releases contending for this list like Tangent, Ocoeur and Okada. This was my pick of their 2018 crop. “I am not sure if the album is a concept one, but there is a feeling of coming full circle and of an emotional journey. The cover, a stunning obscured photo by fellow musician Alex Kozobolis (1631 Recordings, Unknown Tone Recordings) hints at the music, looking at a person from behind that could be a murky reflection from a puddle. As mentioned previously this is an album that is impressive without a single let down throughout the album. The music shows depth and creativity with an emphasis on creating rich, dense and rewarding music. Recommended.”
Jochen Tiberius Koch – Walden (Schole).
As a person who ascribes to the minimalist school of thought/ theory of life, an album about one of the important pre-cursors to modern minimalism would naturally interest me greatly. “This year Schole Records has released full length albums from flica, Tim Linghaus and Daisuke Miyatani as well as digital only singles/ep’s from K-Conjog and label boss Akira Kosemura. “Walden” shows no abating of their quality releases with a release that is quite simply a delight to listen to. The music is multifaceted and always engaging, which rewards with each listen. If Koch was not as well-known prior to this release, then this should get people talking. Totally Recommended.”
Ian Hawgood – 光 (Eilean Rec / Home Normal).
Ok, I have a bias. A release so good it came out on two labels and two physical formats. “Having a casual look at Ian’s Discography and I can see around 20 physical releases that I own, plus a big bunch of the early net label releases he put out. Judging this you will know that the likelihood is that I am going to appreciate this album. When you think that the download from the Home Normal vinyl version contains an additional ninety minutes of material, then there is plenty of great music to absorb. Recommended.”
Kaada – Closing Statements (Mirakel Recordings).
I think this quote says it all. “Some people like magicians for the sleight of hand tricks and the illusions. The audience wants to know ‘how they did that’. I feel the same when it comes to music, especially when it comes to music like this. There is so much going on, such varied textures, tones, sound, styles and approaches. I wonder how people are able to come up with such things that reveal so much and seem so effortlessly beautiful. This wanting to know ‘how people did this’, is what I feel about when it comes to an album such as this. This is just jaw dropping and essential.”
Andrew Sherwell – Orthodox Tails (Whitelabe Rec).
A new name to me, but one that intrigued me with his music. “Traditionally I don’t always embrace music that has a theme that runs through the core of it. However, for this release I feel that Sherwell has executed those stories told by is grandfather all those years ago into a cohesive work of art. The original release sold out almost instantly but the digital version is still available and a physical version as part of the Whitelab Rec’s 21-40 box set (of the 20 releases from the “Whitelab Sounds” compilation through to Daliah’s “White Mountain”) is an option. This is well worth a listen. Recommended.”
Silent Vigils – Fieldem (Home Normal).
The first of hopefully many more from this duo of James Murray and Stijn Huwels. “Silent Vigils have released an album that in this fast pace world is suited to taking it slow and being present. The music is Ambient without being light and fluffy with a darkness and depth to it that is not overpowering. The two artists involved have proven over the course of over forty minutes, to be perfect collaborators and hopefully will continue working together. An impressive debut.”
Bruno Sanfilippo – Unity (Dronarivm).
Another fine work from this consitently impressive artist. “In my opinion for piano based music to be successful it needs to have a soul. The instrument is one of the most flexible and exciting, but it can also be one of the coldest and starkest instruments that can truly reveal the stark qualities it possesses and the stark qualities in life. Sanfilippo’s music has soul. If you like listening to pianists you simply can’t do wrong with him, so much so you can use him as a yard stick to other composers – while some write nice music, Sanfilippo writes music that moves you. A tip of the hat must go to Ian Hawgood who mastered this fine work with the attention to detail and skill he has honed over the years.”
Illuminine – #2 Reworks (Dauw).
I debated about including this one, purely because of the reworking nature to previously released works. That said it earned its place because of how impressive it is. “This album is a success. For the majority of the album the reworkers have been faithful to the original works, but have also added their own touches to create utterly new pieces that work in tandem with the original works. The record comes in an edition of 200 standard copies, with a special edition of 50 copies featuring an additional cassette album “#2 Reworks Addendum” (which contains a collection of B sides, live versions and rarities) and a tote bag. The cassette can also be purchased separately as a digital download only. I recommend getting both this and the original work. Both are quite stunning.”
From The Mouth Of The Sun – Sleep Stations. (Lost Tribe Sound).
Another release from the duo that never fails to please. “You would be hard to find a duo based in two different countries that are as compatible and engaging as Martin and Rosenqvist. The way they interact and utilize their collective knowledge from their own solo careers enables them to put out release after release of simply some of the finest music you will hear. If you are lucky enough to have snagged yourself a copy of the tape you can just flip it over and press play again. For the rest of us, just go back and start over again. Totally Recommended.”
Skyence – Companion (Modularfield).
A release that has grown on me more over time. ““Companion” is an enjoyable Ep with four strong tracks that highlights the varied composition style of Jochen Mader and his genre crossing eclectic pieces. Fans of genres like Modern Classical and IDM with find things to take out from it, as well as those who like a certain amount of dirt and decay.”
Hannu Karjalainen – Drift (Kingdoms).
Another year, another strong, beautiful release from Hannu. “Karjalainen with both his albums under his full name have highlighted his talent of creating slow-moving evocative works which nicely balance the styles and elements that he employs. You get classical ambience, Drones, Electronics – all with his touch and take. The music, while definitely grounded in the ambient genre, is not all the same which makes for a full and well-rounded album and intriguing listen.”
My many thanks to all that sent through music to this blog over the year. I am still trying my hardest to get the queue down before the onslaught of the new year. I honestly appreciate all submissions sent my way and anyone who reads my ramblings. Here’s to another great year of music.