albums of the year 2011

February 11, 2012

A final look back at 2011, with a countdown of my ten favourite albums of last year.

#10
Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972

Tim Hecker: Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#09
Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir: Pan Tone

Hauschka & Hildur Guðnadóttir: Pan Tone (Sonic Pieces)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#08
Emika: Emika

Emika: Emika (Ninja Tune)
Featured on the close to 94 compilation good in 2011

#07
Kangding Ray: Or

Kangding Ray: Or (Raster-Noton)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#06
Chris Watson: El Tren Fantasma

Chris Watson: El Tren Fantasma (Touch)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#05
Kreng: Grimoire

Kreng: Grimoire (Miasmah)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#04
Pinch & Shackleton: Pinch & Shackleton

Pinch & Shackleton: Pinch & Shackleton (Honest Jon’s)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#03
Swod: Drei

Swod: Drei (City Centre Offices)
Featured on the close to 94 compilation good in 2011

#02
Nils Økland & Sigbjørn Apeland: Lysøen: Hommage À Ole Bull

Nils Økland & Sigbjørn Apeland: Lysøen: Hommage À Ole Bull (ECM)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

#01
Jacaszek: Glimmer

Jacaszek: Glimmer (Ghostly International)
Featured on the close to 94 mix reaching down

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albums of the year 2010

December 29, 2010

Another bountiful 12 months for the open-minded listener, and a great first year of music for this blog to dip its toe into. Below I list my top ten long-players of 2010. Tracks from each of them will be featured on my annual compilation or mix, both of which will be published before the bells ring in 2011.

#10
Album cover for Hidden by These New Puritans

These New Puritans: Hidden (Angular Recording Corporation)
£4.62 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Amazon.co.uk]

A welcome sign that British pop has not lost neither its ambition nor its precociousness. These New Puritans reached far beyond their Southend-on-Sea origins with their second album, Hidden, somehow weaving art-pop, dancehall rhythms and orchestral interludes into a coherent listening experience. The juxtaposition of a forlorn clarinet harmony with 8-bit toms on Drum Courts-Where Corals Lie is one of many sublime moments.

#09
Album cover for Endless Falls by Loscil

Loscil: Endless Falls (Kranky)
£3.36 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £5.99 from [Boomkat]

For his fifth album on Kranky Scott Morgan (a.k.a. Loscil) continued his exploration of crackling drones, this time animated by an almost organic heartbeat. Its moment of truth occurs at the last, the breathtaking The Making Of Grief Point, in which Dan Bejar’s (singer-songwriter for Destroyer, for whom Morgan drums) dystopian stream of consciousness finally gives voice to Locsil’s brooding soundscapes.

#08
Album cover for Pong by Senking

Senking: Pong (Raster-Noton)
£3.78 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Boomkat]

Stark, crystalline, minimal electronic music supplemented with deep (and deeply satisfying), booming synth bass pulses. In Pong – an homage of sorts to the seminal computer game – Jens Massel (a.k.a Senking) has created what should become the reference standard for any musician looking to take dubstep into darker ambient territory – paying attention to the stunning V8 in particular. A work of unnerving beauty.

#07
Album cover for Rivers by Wildbirds & Peacedrums

Wildbirds & Peacedrums: Rivers (Leaf Label)
£4.20 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Boomkat]

Rivers in fact brings together two EPs released earlier in the year. On the first, Retina, the Swedish husband-and-wife duo (who also made my end-of-year compilation for 2009) were joined by a chamber choir, adding a sacred dimension to their primal purity. Though less adorned, Iris (the second EP) is no less powerful. Wildbirds & Peacedrums also provided one of my most memorable live experiences of the year. Truly special.

#06
Album cover for Black Noise by Pantha Du Prince

Pantha Du Prince: Black Noise (Rough Trade)
£8.99 from [Boomkat]

The opening track title – Lay In A Shimmer – says it all. German techno musician Hendrik Weber’s (a.k.a. Pantha Du Prince) third album is minimal, sure, but it’s also rich with atmosphere and soul. Its potency lies in its accumulative use of layered, ringing chimes as a call to meditation. On Black Noise Weber offers to lead you through rituals simultaneously ancient and modern. My advice: submit.

#05
Album cover for Infra by Max Richter

Max Richter: Infra (Fat Cat)
£5.46 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Amazon.co.uk]

From my album review back in September: “It is everything it should be, and nothing more: melancholic but melodic, intricate but intimate, contemplative but concise… Richter’s unerring ability to allow his music to communicate meaning with the minimum time and effort, with no unnecessary repetition or waste, is the key to Infra‘s rewarding coherence. True minimalism.” It is yet more affecting in a live setting.

#04
Album cover for Swim by Caribou

Caribou: Swim (City Slang)
£3.78 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Boomkat]

Another immaculate set from Dan Snaith (Caribou née Manitoba), who hasn’t really put a foot wrong in ten years. Swim is at least equal to his last album, 2007’s Andorra. No mean feat. Stylistically ploughing a similar furrow to Black Noise (see #06 above) – minimal-techno-with-chimes must be one of this year’s micro-memes – but warmer, freer and more lyrical, Swim sounds like something Arthur Russell would have produced had he been at his peak today. That’s high praise indeed, by the way.

#03
Album cover for Generator by Keith Fullerton Whitman

Keith Fullerton Whitman: Generator (Root Strata)
£2.94 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £4.99 from [Boomkat]

From my album review published, um, the day before yesterday: “On Generator, Whitman creates the conditions for the machine to direct proceedings… It’s mesmerising. In some ways it’s not useful to dissect tracks individually, though there’s ample variation among them to warrant it. From the blissful arpeggios of 1 to the atonal space communications of 3, from the minimal techno of 7b to the white noise of 8, the constant is a purity of expression – a vacuum into which you can pour your own meaning.”

#02
Album cover for This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening (EMI)
£7.49 (deluxe edition) from [Amazon.co.uk]

Reportedly James Murphy’s swan song as LCD Soundsystem, part of me didn’t want to love This Is Happening. It’s just too inevitable, almost as if it is a duty not a choice. The knowing Heroes pastiche on All I Want was, I thought, the perfect opportunity to scoff that Murphy was all out of hipper than thou post-punk references. He had finally Lost His Edge. No such luck. Like his self-titled debut and follow-up Sound Of Silver, this album is another collection of perfectly pitched post-post-punk. Music for now and forever.

#01
Album cover for Does It Look Like I'm Here? by Emeralds

Emeralds: Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)
£5.04 from [eMusic] (requires membership) – £6.99 from [Boomkat]

You know those times when you’re caught in the rain but it feels like the most wonderful thing? That’s what listening to Does It Look Like I’m Here? is like. It has something to do with the way notes cascade down like synthesised water droplets, glancing off you but adding, particle by particle, to the gathering euphoria. On their umpteenth recording in just five years Cleveland, Ohio-based Emeralds have wrought their sometimes untamed blend of Kosmische, minimalism and drone into an hour of intense but harmonious oblivion.

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