March 10, 2013
The now-traditional companion to my annual compilation, this time themed to match the endless chill this winter has brought. Click on the Mixcloud embed above to listen.
Köner’s meditation on the eponymous Arctic archipelago marked his return to the frozen climate of his 1990s trilogy Nunatak Gongamur, Teimo and Permafrost (reviewed here). The intervening decade or so has done nothing to diminish his unexplained affinity with this landscape. Surrender to its cold embrace.
Another track with a strong sense of place: this time New Brighton, a coastal quarter in Scott Morgan’s (Loscil’s sole member; previously on close to 94) home of Vancouver. The tidal rhythm of “The Collision Of The Pacific Gatherer” aptly reflects the aftermath of the event it seeks to evoke: in 1930 a barge named “The Pacific Gatherer” ran into the Second Narrows Bridge, causing a section of the latter to fall into the water it spanned.
Dubstep grandee Sam Shackleton (previously on close to 94) continued his journey into the remoter regions of the genre with his double release Music For The Quiet Hour/The Drawbar Organ EPs. The former set is a foreboding, cinematic exercise in dub, with his now-trademark take on African drumming timbres and rhythms adding to its potency.
After making (in this blog’s opinion) possibly the finest electronic track of the past few years in 2011’s “Or” – featured on that year’s close to 94 annual mix – it was a racing certainty that, if David Letellier released anything in 2012, it would make the cut here too. He did, so it has.
A glitch music supergroup comprising Raster-Noton label heads Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) and Olaf Bender (Byetone), Diamond Version sounds every bit as assured as you would expect. The sparse, driven power of “Empowering Change” comes from the first of five planned EPs on Mute.
I was fearful that the demise of the Sandwell District project would spell the end of key artists in residence like Function and Silent Servant. Thankfully not. The latter re-emerged on Hospital Productions with a typically solid set of industrial techno in Negative Fascination, including the concept-encapsulating and ultra-hypnotic “Utopian Disaster”.
Robert Henke followed up 2009’s excellent Silence with Ghosts, a companion of sorts to the earlier album according to Henke’s own commentary. While not quite as successful as its predecessor overall, the uptempo “Hitting The Surface” bubbles along very nicely.
The second movement (the thaw, as it were) of this mix starts with a beautifully tortured piece from Icelandic composer Sigurðsson’s third album, Architecture Of Loss. As the ice cracks, the crumbling begins.
This trio of acts from the consistently rewarding Sonic Pieces label (previously admired by close to 94) generate, in their individual ways, warmth and contentment in these (still) cold and harsh winter months. Moon Ate The Water pairs Welsh pianist Anna Rose Carter with Canadian producer Christopher Bailey on a flowing hymn to days by the river; Kai Angermann, Insa Schirmer and Donja Djember conjure the reverie of childhood memories; and Dictaphone (Oliver Doerell and Roger Doering) seemingly rework The Cure’s “Lullaby” as meditative improvisation.
Thomas Bücker’s second album honed his reputation for rich, even epic, ambient composition. “Zum Greifen Nah” (“Within Reach”) is a typically cinematic piece, painting an aural picture of the search for a tantalising truth.
“The Cause Of Labour…” is taken from the score to The Miners’ Hymns, filmmaker Bill Morrison’s eulogy for the coal mining industry of north east England (watch the trailer). Jóhannsson’s stirring evocation of the tradition, dignity and pride inherent in the subject and its people shines through unequivocally.
On his Montauk Variations, Bourne turned his back on his hitherto mischievous, quirky take on contemporary jazz. As “Juliet” charmingly demonstrates, he has replaced it with a pastoral minimalism that provides the perfect end to a cold, cold winter.
1:13:35 / ends
December 31, 2010
My final post of the year, and my first ‘mix’ (I use that term loosely – it’s not an art I’ve remotely mastered as yet). It’s a companion to yesterday’s good in 2010 compilation and, for no reason in particular, it’s called rust to rust. Like the compilation it contains tracks from five of close to 94‘s top ten albums of the year, so even if the mixing isn’t up to scratch, be assured the music is. Happy new year.
0:01:13 / Far From Land by Nest from the album Retold (Serein)
0:12:32 / I Feel Your Soul by Ghostape from the compilation Milky Disco 3: To The Stars (Lo Recordings)
0:15:23 / Silent Servant (Regis Edit) by Sandwell District from the download Bleep X Sonar 2010 (Bleep.com)
0:25:48 / Stress Waves by Oneohtrix Point Never from the album Returnal (Editions Mego)
0:36:17 / Angel Echoes (Caribou Remix) by Four Tet original version from the album There Is Love In You (Domino)
0:43:34 / VCR (Four Tet Remix) by The XX original version from the album XX (Young Turks, 2009)
1:06:10 / Os Veix3 by Autechre from the album Oversteps (Warp)
1:18:22 / ends
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.