releases

sound

Bethan Kellough - Aven (Touch)

This is a stunning performance of field recordings and strings, filled with drama and intrigue, grand gestures and detailed sounds. Diana and I were at the Touch showcase where this was recorded, and we both left agreeing that this performance (which was not headlining) was the best, so it's great to get to hear that confirmation in this touching release, which manages to be sonically intriguing and very human. This approach can sometimes sound like a space station 200 years in the future, whereas here it's more like humanity crawling from the caves, which accesses deeper.

August 2

Dan Cray - Outside In (Origin)

Really nice, mellow, mostly straight-ahead jazz. I have decided it will be present among snow and a fire. It will happen.

Convextion - 2845 (Mojuba)

There's that one label doing the electro thing and every release sounds the same. Not this! Great to hear from Convextion again.

one

Ka - Honor Killed the Samurai (Iron Works Records)

Not exactly bangers, but this has a distinct tone carried through in the instrumentals, the delivery, and the content, vivid imagery, poetic constructions.

3 musicccs

Ian William Craig - Centres (FatCat Records)

Beautiful album in the vein of Fennesz, Sakamoto, Sylvian, but ultimately its own.

1-800 DINOSAUR Presents Trim

Maybe the best grime-or-not full-length I've heard. Balanced toward letting the beats / unique instrumentals shine, but since they're not particularly dense or saturated this fits well with the vocals.

WWWINGS - PHOENIXXX (Planet Mu)

From noise to rhythms, it's a particularly well-executed collision of the old "splintered beats" IDM thing and the current "post-club" thing with some moments that are undeniably [non-post] club. Lots of concrete samples.

good ones

These are pretty different from each other.

Glauco Venier - Miniatures (ECM)

This is a beautiful album of small piano and barely-percussion pieces. At times sounding like Sakamoto, at times sounding like Jarrett, but ultimately sounding like its own thing.

Christian Fennesz & Jim O'Rourke - It's Hard for Me to Say I'm Sorry (Editions Mego)

I'm glad this lived up to the sum of its parts and more. I've seen opposing views, but I feel like the best of both artists are brought together into something neither would make on his own. The sound is thick. 2 long pieces.

David Toop - Entities Inertias Faint Beings (Room 40)

Toop proves himself a master of sound minutiae or at least the music that provokes listening for it. Environmental sounds haunted by memories of performed instruments.

J Balvin - Energía (Capitol Latin)

This is very pop, but I can't deny the album. Have probably played this in my car every day for the past 3 or 4 weeks, I guess subtracting my trip, though I heard Ginza and Bobo out in Spain. This could probably be divided into songs that really go and songs that are whatever, but it's been on repeat.

3 for June

Jesse Osborne-Lanthier and Grischa Lichtenberger - CSLM (Cosmo Rhythmatic)

Intense, varied, sonically precise exploration of sound, rhythm, and texture that I'm surprised to read comes from performances on CRTs and VHS machines... the remixes fit in perfectly, iterating interestingly on the themes but maintaining the flow as something that can be listened to like an album.

Objekt - Kern vol. 3 (Tresor)

This mix reminds me of the Journeys by DJ series (and maybe I'm thinking specifically of Coldcut's well-known mix) in its variety, but is rooted in techno. It experiment but stays solid. Worthy as a catalog release.

Golfam Khayam & Mona Matbou Riahi - Narrante (ECM)

Amazing contemporary chamber performances of Persian-rooted music from the Naqsh Duo, clarinet and guitar. Would love to attend a performance.

these go here

these are going to make it.

Jungle - Live at Okuden (ESP-Disk)

Tyshawn Sorey - The Inner Spectrum of Variables

Next Time it Will Be Summer

Autechre - elseq 1-5 (Warp)

Sounds in line with what I heard on their recent/current tour. Some wild noise, some evolving drones, some heavy beats... good mix of approaches from their history, a wide range of content here. There have been some complaints (not looking at watmm) about length. While I suppose I could agree that finding the best 100 minutes or so of content here might make a more concise and rewarding listen (I just tried to do this and managed to take it down to 120), there's just so much that's good here for that to be a major downside. Autechre do it.

M.E.S.H. - Damaged Merc (Pan)

There's this "post-club" label that gets thrown around (I normally use the term "noisy stuff," though this is quite different from Merzbow), and it really applies here (post-club). This music is noisy, danceable, IDM from the future rather than the past. Feels a lot more rhythmically driven and precise than the excellent Piteous Gate album. Anyway, cool music.

Masabumi Kikuchi - Black Orpheus (ECM)

This is a beautiful recording, from the atonal clusters to the lyrical moments. Never feels over-played. Excellent closing statement. Had the pleasure of seeing him at the Motian memorial...

Klara Lewis - Too (Editions Mego)

The pieces on this album are arrestingly narrative, in that they progress in a way that is abstract enough to be unpredictable but paced to be follow-able. Despite the sounds and methods used here, the music does not leave you grasping or disappear into a background, but impressively guides you along. More interesting than I expected.

I need to hear her last album and see a show... this is cool:

SHXCXCHCXSH - SsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSsSs (AVIAN)

Excellent contemporary techno.. Not super dancefloor-oriented, but it could work and could easily be tooled. This reminds me heavily of a conversation once on this forum I used to be on (erave) where someone (won't name names) brought up some graphic related to waves of sunlight and was relating to to some ideal of techno. It was probably all pretty pretentious, but I feel like this would fit into that conversation. That person had a great handle... Listening to it a 4th time or so I also was struck by the dub buried in parts of it it, from the little echoey passages to the use of noise... like taking basic channel to a new place.

It's Almost June

Antwood - Virtuous.scr (Planet Mu)

I wonder how many more of these surgical, refined noise albums can sustain my interest. At the moment, despite the demands of the sound, there's no fatigue in sight, and this is another great one. (In the vein of Ash Koosha, Arca, etc.)

John Zorn - Flaga Book of Angels Volume 27 (Tzadik)

Christian McBride is on point, we already know Craig Taborn is the man, and percussionist Tyshawn Sorey is on fire. It's great to hear Book of Angels material in this traditional jazz trio setting with such excellent players. I thought this was just going to be another good album of Zorn competitions, but it stands out.

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool (XL Recordings)

It's another excellent Radiohead album. Melodies, rhythm, lyrics, elements all on point. Everything to like.

Elon Katz - The Human Pet (Diagonal)

This one's pretty weird, but it definitely grew on me. For me it kind of picks up where Jamie Lidell left off before Multiply, with some more contemporary approaches, advancing the tight, Prince-inspired electronic funk of various Eurofolk I could list. Has some aesthetic ties with the last Holly Herndon album as well, but with an industrial edge. whatever this all means...

Aesop Rock - The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers Entertainment)

I don't have much to say, but the album is great. Unfolds, unfolds, and unfolds upon repeat listens. Personal, touching, funny, catchy, thought-provoking... good.
Aesop Rock's one of these artists who just keeps getting better and is in my top 5.

rap and rap

smith and iyer were fantastic

anyway, two very different rap albums

Dälek - Asphalt for Eden (Profound Lore)

It's cool to hear a rap album this drowned-in-sound. Dälek make their own lane. The instrumentals would stand on their own, but then we also have the lyrics/concepts to work with. It's good.

Royce da 5'9" - Layers (Bad Half Entertainment)

Rapping and rapping. I keep going back to this in the car... Many flows/concepts in the album, some of which I don't completely understand, but for me there are too many great rapping moments here to deny, as well as strong instances of emotion, introspection, commentary, etc... ultimately it's a fairly "traditional" rap album at a high level.

4 for the Now

Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith - A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM)

There’s a kind of natural/inevitable-feeling progression of this music, as the sounds and spaces generated by Smith & Iyer weave a contemplative space that grooves without being locked, twists without meandering, flows without passivity. The album manages to surpass its automatic on-paper greatness, and both artists are pretty much on top of things.

Looking forward to Friday.

Studio OST - Scenes (2012-2015) (Lustwerk Music)

Sublime techno nightdrive.

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - Ears (Western Vinyl)

Wow. Gorgeous, sensitive atmospheres, calling to mind the organs and horns of Terry Riley, the minimalist spirals of kosmische, and the vocal treatments of The Knife and Laurie Anderson. This will make the list.

Ash Koosha - I AKA I (Ninja Tune)

Exciting moves in the pretty-big-right-now vein of noisy IDM. Enough obnoxious pitched up samples to push me out of my comfort zone, the obliterated shreds of sound for automatic noise interest, and the rhythms/groove actually go. The album’s on-trend while both pushing forward and speaking to the past (of stuff I like). Mudafossil. Cool stuff.

More Music

Is this all I'll ever post about?

OK, well here's some new great stuff...

Anenon - Petrol (Friends of Friends)

Great melting atmospheres of electronics, field recordings, saxophone, but with a strong narrative musicality.

Julian Lage - Arclight (Mack Avenue Records)

I'm usually not crazy about jazz guitar (I write as I listen to Kenny Burrell's "God Bless the Child"), but I find myself coming back to this album and its unique exploration of techniques and moods, if within a general range. Had a chance to see Lage locally about a year ago and was totally impressed (with Eric Harland instead of Kenny Wollesen... I'm fans of both). I was excited about this album but enjoyed it more than I expected...

Julian Lage- Ryland from Lost Pilot on Vimeo.

joefarr - Sense of Purpose (Bloc)

super solid ravey quality that goes. thank you

Elzhi - Lead Poison (GLOW 365)

Not the next-level instant classic I think he has potential for, but it's still a solid album with good songs, and a release from Elzhi is welcome and long overdue. I love the soul-sampling beats of songs like "Weedipedia," "Friendzone" (my favorite on the album), and "Cloud."

Steve Kuhn - At This Time (Sunnyside Records)

This is fairly straight-ahead stuff (meaning I'll enjoy it but not get too excited about it), but after multiple listens without paying attention, I finally sat down at home and felt the fire. The group is so "on" in this record. Will have to look out for touring... (I suppose LA is unlikely, sadly).

dBridge / Loxy & Resound - Average Echo / Heritage (Convex Industries)

It's just a single, but the first track from dBridge KILLS.

beats are alive and well
all good:
elusive - textures
samiyam - animals have feelings
knxwledge - hex.9.8_ (remixes)

here's your music

Ling - Attachment (Codes)

More awesome noisy craziness

Tim Hecker - Love Streams (4AD)

Doing what he does best. Am I too early on this?

Skee Mask - Shred (Ilian Tape)

cool techno / breakbeat / bass

Rangda - The Heretic's Bargain (Drag City>

When do I get to see a live show?

ok, more music

Savages - Adore Life (Matador Records)

Frank has done it again. I do prefer the prior, but this is good. Too bad I'll have to miss the show. Would like more dynamic range. It's been said.

Roly Porter - Third Law (Tri-Angle Records)

Sure, I already talked about it last year, but I was way ahead of time. Amazing spacey future sound design.

Junior Boys - Big Black Coat (City Slang)

Great poppy album. Clear ties between this and the Jesse Lanza that got massive rotation in the car. Really impressed with the handle on electronic music styles, from house to techno to 'bass music' (Love Is a Fire), all with their own idiosyncratic signature on production. Great What You Won't Do for Love cover. It's good.

nonkeen - The Gamble (R&S Records)

Supreme electroacoustic listening jams.

Paul Jebanasam - Continuum (Subtext Recordings)

This and the Roly Porter album. What if I could only keep one?

Genevieve Lacey - Pleasure Garden (ABC Classics)

This is a strange and intriguing album that I came across browsing iTunes' classical page at the beginning of the year. Did not expect to be listening to it over and over.
It's a mix of performed music, often/mostly flute, and natural sounds. The flutes range from slow, meditative, and oddly-expressed, to Renaissance-sounding melodies (likely the Jacob van Eyck works I see mentioned in the descriptions) that are smartly paced and pensive, as the Renaissance flute sound can unfortunately superficially come across as goofy, depending on the performance and recording.
This project actually follows an installation for the garden of Vaucluse House as part of Sydney Fesetival. Read more about it here.
Translated to a great album.

David Bowie - Blackstar (ISO)

I heard it a couple of times before he died and enjoyed the music but wasn't really struck.
I've listened to it more times since, and its lyrical and total power have grown on me.

cole

Forest Hills 2014 should have been on my favorites of 2014, not just an honorable mention.
(listened to it again yesterday)

2015 music

Time for my favorite albums of the year.

15. Simon Scott - Insomni (Ash International)

Atmospheric textural album of guitar distortion, picking, field recordings. Music from instruments made to feel like a cohesive natural environment.

14. Milo - So the Flies Don't Come (Ruby Yacht)

Milo steps up with stronger songs and fewer stream-of-consciousness-seeming non-sequiturs, while further developing his voice and idiosyncrasies. The songs pay off in content, sound, delivery. In other news, Hemlock Ernst featured on EVERYTHING this year.

13. Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment - Surf

Hard-to-deny positive, poppy album. Free to download.

12. Kamasi Washington - The Epic (Brainfeeder)

There may be something a little obnoxious about how much attention this attention-deserving album received, but it's an epic presentation of orchestration, soul-jazz, and multiple other modes of afrocentric art centered around an excellent player. Its sound is a little out-of-tune with other leading jazz releases, in a good, unapologetically romantic way.

11. Akira Rabelais - The Little Glass (Akira Rabelais)

With the help of Harold Budd, Rabelais constructs an ethereal work that draws on the tradition represented so well in this year's Rothko Chapel release on ECM and can also be compared with the Sleep album on DG. Minimalist sculptural fragments make way for Disc 2's droning hypnotism.

10. M.E.S.H. - Piteous Gate (Pan)

Precision noisy music is in good shape these days, and this was an awesome release. Warped visions of contemporary styles.

9. Mette Henriette S/T (ECM)

Unique, mysterious, fascinating double album, beginning with one side of ultra-sensitive treatment among strings and at times barely audible air passing through the reed. The great album artwork doesn't lie.

8. Arca - Mutant (Mute)

Arca destroys with this album, a noisy one. Easy favorite:

7. Bjork - Vulnicura (One Little Indian)

Bjork's fairly settled in her amazing sound, which has always engaged electronic music/cultures in interesting ways. The songs on this album are lyrically brutal, with more engaging emotional stakes than recent projects.

6. Holly Herndon - Platform (4AD)

Dance music's great, but we can do more with it. Herndon's album sounds great on the surface, but engaging with her ideas behind the music, expressed mostly in interviews and videos (aside from of course in the album itself) make for even more rewarding listening.

5. The Uppercut: Matthew Shipp Mat Walerian Duo - Live at Okuden (ESP-Disk)

Amazing sympathetic piano-sax interaction. Often somber, sometimes blues-inflected, sometimes explosive. I wasn't familiar with Walerian, and Shipp had already released another excellent album this year, so this was a nice surprise. Reminds me of the performances I was able to hear at The Stone.

4. Vijay Iyer Trio - Break Stuff (ECM)

Continuously interesting. Every time I listen to this it strikes me as an exceptionally "modern" ideal for the type of thing contemporary jazz ensembles should be doing. I of course love that there's a Robert Hood tribute, but most of all I enjoy the complex and beautiful music. Leading band.

3. Joanna Newsom - Divers (Drag City)

I never thought I'd have Joanna Newsom in one of my year-end lists, but I've slowly (stupidly) come to appreciate her voice over the past few years and finally found this album to be gorgeous. Often with music it takes some effort to give full attention for the duration, being distracted by everything the machine in front of me or the environment around me has to offer. With this album I instead found myself stopping whatever I was doing to just lie down and listen to nothing but these captivating songs.

2. Busdriver - Thumbs

Busdriver's better than ever, following up last year's excellent Perfect Hair with this album, constantly pushing sounds, delivery, lyrics forward with a poetic, intelligent, honest, and still celebratory perspective on his art, the media, race, and culture in general. His perspective carries a complex nuance calling for repeated close listening, and unlike many rap albums the repeated listens are thought-provoking rather than disappointing. Again features the everywhere-this-year Hemlock Ernst as well as the other person who was everywhere this year (perhaps even moreso), Anderson Paak. I really went back and forth between TPAB and this as a favorite. While the former's precision-calculated polish (budget), with great decisions made along the way, helps push it more firmly into masterpieceland, Thumbs' unpredictability and experimentalism (while sounding great) speak more to my sensibilities. I've switched the two back and forth on this list and had thought of Thumbs as being more like Cassavetes' Shadows and TPAB more like Wyler's Ben-Hur (to choose two from the same year), in which case I would go with Cassevetes, but...

1. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (TDE)

It may be a major label release with a big budget and likely many people to review, but this 79-minute album does actually take some interesting chances and come out on top. Another album with rewarding ambiguities, though I may share fewer final sentiments here, is Kendrick Lamar's latest epic classic. Tired words from C-sections, but appropriate here. It's at once extremely personal and also broadly social/socially-relevant, with a peerless future-jazz sound. The album's scope is huge and places his activity on a plateau above anyone else with anywhere near his popularity. So hopefully this is the last time I'm saving this already-published post.

Some final notes:

1. Kind of a lot of saxophone...

2. This was a great year for noisy albums. Although only a few are on here, albums from Roly Porter, ADR, Dialect, Oneohtrix Point Never, Kenneth Kirschner, Robin Fox, Pinkcourtesyphone, Shapednoise, Mika Vainio, and many others were all very good. There's always a lot of these albums coming out, but it seemed particularly strong this year.

3. I've always been a bit critical of publications' year-end lists featuring their predictable darlings, but it makes sense. If my favorite artists release albums, I guess I'm likely to be appreciative.

4. This, right now:

5.

last batch

OK, here's the last set before final evaluations begin tomorrow.

arca - mutant
noisy and goes

akira rabelais - the little glass
great minimalist expression

adr - deceptionista
crisp and detailed, more noisy

roly porter - third law
you've done it again

dawn richard - blackheart
pop maximalism, checked out due to #1 placement on fact list

and so the shortlist is:
EDITED OUT

big loada

Trying to post this the way I used to... with images, videos, etc., but kind of hating the way things are set up. So here's a list... lots of good stuff, from a broader encounter w/good stuff:

 

Rothko Chapel (ECM)

Kim Kashkashian, Sarah Rothenberg, Steven Schick, Houston Chamber Choir, Robert Simpson performing Morton Feldman, Erik Satie, John Cage

Rothko Chapel’s excellent program draws together work of contemporaries John Cage and Morton Feldman, along with Cage’s beloved Erik Satie (I’ve wondered what Satie would think of Cage’s response to his work). Feldman’s “Rothko Chapel” grounds the program and extends the connection to the visual arts, as the work was created for Houston’s Rothko Chapel and reprises a program performed for its 40th anniversary in 2011.  The following stops between Cage and Satie give context around both a shared musical disposition and a historical trajectory of innovative 20th century arts, the relation to the prior century, and the clear affect on music today.

 

Divers (Drag City)

Joanna Newsom

I’ll jump on the praise wagon. Divers has beautiful lush songs with intriguing instrumentation, a large sound palette, and enjoyable lines drawn through Americana/country and anglo folk, all filtered through Newsom’s idiom. The album’s enjoyable with typical distracted listening, but it took a focused, doing-nothing-else sitting to take the impact of the songs/lyrics and enjoy the depth and direction of the arrangements.

 

Cory Arcane (Raster-Noton)

Kangding Ray

A lot of strong techno albums come and go, but few stand out from the crowd. Kangding Ray delivers an album of superb sound design, sounds ranging from sensitive and exploratory to pummeling, and a playful approach to rhythm, showing that there are still more places to go with this music beyond lo-fi regressions (which I can appreciate) and wrenches in the gears.

 

The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear)

Mathew Shipp

It is good. Shipp has a strong voice.

 

A Small Prometheus (Emego)

Robin Fox

Weird patterns, rhythmic clipping, minute phasing, tiny sounds, and sometimes large atmospheres. This type of noise-oriented music is rarely this engaging. If I was working on stuff I’d be going for something like this.

 

Winter Light (ACT)

Scott Dubois feat. Gebhard Ullmann, Thomas Morgan & Kresten Osgood

There have been so many “beautiful” jazz albums lately, but this one stands out. So much atmosphere and interplay, with guitar and bass textures/pads, brushed drums. Despite the percussion it reminds me of Carta da Amor. Really like this.

 

Mette Henriette (ECM)

Where did this come from? This album pushes across pensive, free, hot, and texture-telescoped sax worlds. Many modes in a striking narrative/program. Really exciting album.

Milo - So the Flies Don't Come

Stronger beats. Sounds great. Maybe I'm responding to the dash of conventionality, but I connect with it more.
More interesting writing, fewer philosophical name-drops and more invitations to conceptual exploration.
My favorite Milo release.

slow and low

pinkcourtesyphone - sentimental something
simon scott - insomni (saw him recently perform at touch show, basically around last album's material)
the necks - vertigo

vril and raiz were good
but that doesn't belong here
more soon, there will be more soon

BS is the key

catch up

I've been away. Favorite releases so far this year:
vijay iyer - break stuff
mike eagle’s EP
to pimp a butterfly
junior loves & scientific dreamz of u - the dreamcode
giovanni guidi trio - this is the day
holly herndon - platform
robert aiki aubrey lowe & ariel kama - we know each other somehow
nils frahm - solo
kamasi washington - the epic
jenny hval - apocalypse girl
keith jarrett - creation
david torn - only sky
lakker - tundra
maria schneider - the thompson fields
donnie trumpet and the social experiment - surf
the fear ratio - refuge of a twisted soul
vince staples - summertime '06
thundercat - the beyond
blondes - rein
john zorn - pellucidar
mesh - piteous gate
kenneth kirschner - compressions & rarefactions
chelsea wolf - abyss
FKA twigs - M3LL155X
talib kweli - fuck the money

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