The 2019 Hit List.

2019 was another busy year with more releases coming through. For a minimally based music scene, the output of some labels was truly maximal, which has it’s positives and negatives. The positives include the amount of music being made and the negatives include the amount of music being made. It kind of changes it from art to product as you (the consumer, the artist or the label) are quickly moving onto the next thing. Thankfully some artist and labels held back with a handful of releases this year (maybe a rule could be no more releases than there are months of the year?). What you have below are Nineteen release that I liked this year. A few were unlucky and are mentioned at the bottom and a bunch are still waiting to be fully discovered. There is no ranking, no best drone list, best modern classical list or labels of the year. Just releases I enjoyed. Don’t get me started on best of the decade lists. Without further ado here is my class of ’19.

 

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“Over the fourteen tracks of this collection Richardson has created a cohesive album that is nicely balanced throughout. We are none the wiser to the age or origins of the individual pieces, but that does not matter as they are all contemporary and sound great placed next to each other. Last Days is now a name for me to check out more in the future.”

 

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“This album is a part of the evolution of Vargkvint. Not in a rush to release the music (and still only fourteen tracks over two releases), Nystrand instead builds on what has come before and adds more layers to her style. While “Brus” hinted at more darker, moodier works with a hint of whimsical etherealness, “Hav” takes her music one step further and confirms her as a talent to take notice of. A mention should also be made of the label Piano and Coffee Records and how they themselves are nicely tracking with each release. If neither have been on your radar before (or indeed Jakob Lindhagen) I implore you to check all three out, as you will not be disappointed. Totally recommended.”

 

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“Luke and Bedrush-McDonald (along with Matheson) have created an album that is full of beauty, sweeping romanticism, experimental electronics and ambience. It’s never bombastic, but does have its own epic moments, it’s relaxed without being too laid back. In short, it is just a really impressive work that revels in composition with everything sounding in its rightful place. It is an album that will reward listeners with multiple listens. Totally recommended.”

 

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“A look at the track list gives an indication of its narrative as well (“From Lakes to Rivers”, “From Rivers To Seas”, “Leave Everything You Love Behind”). It shows the changes through the titles and drops clues as to how they represent the music.”Blood Transmission” is one of those albums best listened to in a sitting track after track. Dissecting each track or listening to them in isolation from each other doesn’t give the full force of this very visceral and enjoyable release. The album is available on standard CD, deluxe CD and Digital.”

 

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“At the top of this review I mentioned about how listening to this album while doing things gave me the feeling of a whole conceptual piece. As the press release that the release is a continuous linear piece, the end product is an album that is best listened to on the whole rather than isolating particular tracks. Initially I was thinking it was a travelogue, but now I am more on the train of thought that this is a dreamscape sort of piece largely because of it’s flowing connectedness and how it moves through movements with hints from where it has come. It most definitely has it’s feet in the electroacoustic experimental genre but also welcomes, post rock, ambient and pure field recordings styles into it’s overall aesthetic. It doesn’t hurt that it is one of the most dynamic recordings that I have heard in some time.”

 

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“This album has been on constant rotation recently and for good reason. It is quite simply an amazing piece of work that is simply all killer no filler. Pappas clearly has fined tuned his compositional skills over the course of the six albums prior to this release. The way that he organically lets the music evolve is testament to its success. The pieces contained herein reveal a producer at the height of his powers who has clearly dropped an album destined for the best of list for this year.”

 

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“This is an album to get lost in. Silence, minimalism and innocence abounds within. There are no directions leading the listener down a particular path. Just an openness and freedom which rewards over time.”

 

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“For my own personal taste the first four tracks are worth the price of admission. The only thing I really wish is that the pieces were pushed further in length. I could easily listen to ten to fifteen minutes versions of them. “Reveal” was nicely mastered by Rafael Anton Irisarri.”

 

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““Four Moons” is a delight to listen to and one that for myself will be more than a soundtrack or a celebration of the moon landing, it will act as a soundtrack to introspection and a reminder that next time I find myself evaluating things to check out what cycle the moon is in at that particular time.”

 

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““Tranquilo Trasciendo” with its six pieces coming it around at thirty minutes in length is the perfect sort of package as it doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and it offers many different styles, tones and structures to find yourself immersed in. Simply, perfect for me.”

 

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“Like a journey you are taken through different environments, these include the experimental and electroacoustic (“Fever Dreams” and “Storm Returns”), the minimally mysterious (“Epiphany Ignored”) ,the more extreme and noisy (“The Halo of My Memory”), the purer pastoral drone (“Haven Returns” which features the unmistakable Aaron Martin – who has had a relatively quiet year, so may have a big 2020 up ahead), and large scale retro abstractions (“Fragmented Boundaries). Although they can be listened to and appreciated singularly, they together they work nicely as one big giant piece. In this age of homogenisation it is always nice to hear artists that are still interested in pushing the (Fragmented) boundaries.”

 

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“Sometimes music is bigger than words. It helps to know the intention behind the pieces, but after that they in a way become redundant because in some cases with art such as these, words merely become a redundant form when listening to such breath taking beauty. If you are Hammock fan and have been following their career and this trilogy you will love this. If you are relatively new to their oeuvre, then sit back and be transported to a special place.”

 

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“The number Piano albums released these days has definitely seen a saturated market which makes it hard for artists to stand out for the simple fact that there is a lot of beautiful music being made, but it can also sound quite samey. Over these five tracks Shahabi (with Olsson’s help) clearly stakes out her own territory with an album where each track is a real pleasure to listen to.”

 

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“One thing the ambient community does exceptionally well is charity compilations. Past releases like “Kanshin” (Hibernate/Fluid Audio), “Dayalu / For Nepal” (Hibernate) , “And Darkness Came” (Headphone Commute) and “For Nihon” (Unseen Music) come to mind as great examples of what happens when a community comes together. If you are going to buy one compilation this year, for both a good cause and some exceptional music, then you can’t go past “Place Language”.

 

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“The beauty of artists that take time between releases is that the releases become statements or time capsules rather than just another release. In the last year Amparo has released just under forty minutes of music which adds an importance to the material and leaves you wanting more. There are certain artists that have featured on these pages on a regular basis because of how I feel about their music and how I hope by featuring them it will inspire someone to listen and discover the joy of their music. Amparo is clearly one of those artists.”

 

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“If you are a new listener then “A Light Below” is a fantastic entry point with its mix of Modern Classical, Electronics and Experimental influences coming together to create an album full of engaging, intelligent and enjoyable pieces.”

 

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“The point I made about the feminine quality of the music still feels relevant at the end of the album as it did at the start. The impression I get is one where a humanistic approach has been taken in the construction of the pieces and it more about this approach than it is about layering of sound. Kenniff’s use of her voice is an inspired decision as it’s employed as an instrument, enhances the music and in some way steers it’s direction. Hopefully this is just the first of many releases in the ambient sphere.”

 

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“One thing that comes across in the pieces is that they feel both joyous and expressive, but also exploratory. It seems like Vandiver is a traveller of the world, as well as being acute about sound and the natural world, and that these pieces are less about music and more about telling stories. The press release above alludes to the time that Vandiver takes to create his pieces. The three years between his field recordings albums and this release are evident in the highly inventive painstaking sound design which exists on many levels. There is no laziness in the piece and no filler – in essence Vandiver utilises a variety of sound sources to create his lush vibrant pieces with an emphasis to space and clarity.”

 

“Upward, Broken, Always” is easily in the list for the best albums of the year. It delivers on what you would expect and then some. It highlights how time and attention to an album can result in such as resounding success. It also shines a light on how using influences that are from outside the Ambient sphere can steer artists and set their works in a new light.

 

Unlucky to miss out: