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The Monthly List: April and May’s Top 21 Albums

A short and sweet “Monthly” this time around. Lots of changes on the horizon for me, including new work. Reviews will still come, probably at about the same rate, maybe slower, though this may be the last thing I put on the blog until the end of the month. My goal is always to write more, but coming home from one eight hour job and jumping right into another that requires an equal amount of hard work (or more) can be tiring.

Expect more, but smaller posts, and maybe a series of much briefer reviews to help get through all the amazing music that’s coming out this year (or that has already been out for awhile).

Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information can now be found in the sidebar. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.com, Dusted, Just Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat are good places to go if you’re looking for the more obscure stuff.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Further record-buying resources can be found in the sidebar as well.

  • Carl Hultgren, Tomorrow on BLUE FLEA (CD)
  • Windy & Carl, I Walked Alone/At Night on BLUE FLEA (7″)
  • Good Area, Cubic Zirconia/Bad Karlshafen on KYE (7″)
  • Fennesz, Bécs on EDITIONS MEGO (CD)
  • COH, To Beat on EDITIONS MEGO (CD)
  • Coppice, Vantage/Cordoned on CADUC. (CD)
  • Venetian Snares, Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding on PLANET MU (CD)
  • Photek, Risc vs Reward on ASTRALWERKS (CD)
  • Marcus Schmickler & Julian Rohrhuber, Politiken der Frequenz on EDITIONS MEGO/TOCHNIT ALEPH (MP3)
  • Jason Lescalleet, Electronic Music on RRR (LP)
  • Jason Lescalleet, Much to My Demise on KYE (LP)
  • Robert Beatty, Soundtracks for Takeshi Murata on GLISTENING EXAMPLES (LP)
  • Kyle Bobby Dunn, … and the Infinite Sadness on STUDENTS OF DECAY (MP3)
  • Ambarchi/O’Malley/Dunn, Shade Themes from Kairos on DRAG CITY (MP3)
  • Wen, Signals on KEYSOUND RECORDINGS (MP3)
  • Angus MacLise, The Cloud Doctrine on SUB ROSA (2CD)
  • Kuupuu, Sous Juju on EM RECORDS (2CD)
  • Loren Connors, Night Through: Singles and Collected Works 1976-2004 on FAMILY VINEYARD (3CD)
  • Jack Rose, Kensington Blues on VHF RECORDS (LP)
  • Shirley Collins, Sweet England on FLEDG’LING RECORDS (CD)
  • The Clean, Anthology on MERGE (2CD)
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The Monthly List: March’s Top 15 Albums

coppice_grass2014 continues with more great new music than any one person could possibly keep up with. I managed to cover one or two things in the last month, including Robot Records’ 3CD retrospective of Jacques Lejeune’s work. It’s probably the best GRM-related release I’ve seen since the INA-GRM put out those Luc Ferrari and Bernard Parmegiani sets in 2008 and 2009. I highly recommend it. If you’re looking for a place where you can get a copy, it’s currently available at Other Music.

I also covered Nicholas Szczepanik’s Not Knowing for Dusted in Exile, which is one of the more gorgeous recordings of 2014 so far.  As long as you’re there, you should also check out Jennifer Kelly’s review of Damien Jurado’s new record. Not so much on the experimental side of things, but a great record and worth checking out.

I’ve been catching up with and writing about Coppice and Haptic and I hope to get something together for The Patient as well. Those three recordings have most of my attention at the moment.

But there’s lots of new music coming from Editions Mego that I want to hear too. Along with the Schmickler/Rohrhuber LP below, which I’m slowly digesting, there’s new music from COH, LCC, Mika Vainio, Russell Haswell and Fennesz on the way. You can preview all of that on their website.

There’s also two new releases from Erstwhile, four new records and a 7″ from Kye, a boatload of Alga Marghen reissues, a new Thomas Ankersmit CD on Touch, and several new Sub Rosa projects that are either out now or soon to be available. Nevermind that Record Store Day is just a few days away, there’s more than enough music out there now to keep you record hunting for a good long time.

Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.comDusted, Just Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat are good places to go if you’re looking for the more obscure stuff.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Further record-buying resources can be found at the bottom of this page.

  • Coppice, Vantage/Cordoned on CADUC. (CD)
  • Haptic, Abeyance on ENTR’ACTE (CD)
  • Joseph Clayton Mills, The Patient on ENTR’ACTE (CD/BOOK)
  • Donato Dozzy, Plays Bee Mask on SPECTRUM SPOOLS (CD)
  • Voices from the Lake feat. Donato Dozzy & Neel, Voices from the Lake on PROLOGUE (CD)
  • Various Artists, Enjoy the Silence Vol. 2 on MULE ELECTRONIC (CD)
  • Dead Rider, Chills on Glass on DRAG CITY (CD)
  • Marcus Schmickler & Julian Rohrhuber, Politiken der Frequenz on EDITIONS MEGO (DIGITAL)
  • Jacques Lejeune, Parages and Other Electroacoustic Works 1971 – 1985 on ROBOT (3CD)
  • Michael Pisaro/Greg Stuart, Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds on GRAVITY WAVE (CD)
  • Nicholas Szczepanik, Not Knowing on DESIRE PATH/TANGENTS (DIGITAL)
  • Gas, Nah und Fern on KOMPAKT (4CD)
  • Damien Jurado, Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Sun on SECRETLY CANADIAN (CD)
  • Hiss Golden Messenger, Haw on PARADISE OF BACHELORS (LP)
  • David Bowie, Heroes on RYKO (CD)


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Monthly List Addendum: O’Neil and Sprinkles

tara-jane-oneil_setupBecause I was in a bit of a rush and because I don’t use software to track my listening habits, I managed to leave two of my favorite albums off the Monthly List for January and February. I even reviewed the O’Neil record for Dusted. That will teach me to file my records on the shelf too early.

So here they are, along with a pair of songs for you to check out, one from each album.

  • DJ Sprinkles, Queerifications and Ruins – Collected Remixes by DJ Sprinkles on MULE MUSIQ (2CD)
  • Tara Jane O’Neil, Where Shine New Lights on KRANKY (LP)

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The Monthly List: Jan + Feb’s Top 26 Albums

haptic_bandBetter late than never: here we go with a combined monthly list for the first part of the year. The last two months have been filled with tons of great new music, some of which I’ve had the chance to review, some of which I’m in the middle of writing about now. There’s lots more due out in the next few months too, which means I need to pick up the pace.

That said, here’s a list of what’s been in my CD player and on my turntable in the last couple of months. Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.com, DustedJust Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat are good places to go if you’re looking for the more obscure stuff.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

  • Tarab, Strata on UNFATHOMLESS (CD)
  • Haptic, Abeyance on ENTR’ACTE (CD)
  • Morton Feldman, For Philip Guston on DOG W/A BONE (4CD)
  • Morton Feldman, Piano and String Quartet on BRIDGE (CD)
  • Philip Corner, Italian Air: Wind, Water & Metal on RICERCA SONOROA (LP)
  • The Shadow Ring, Remains Unchanged on KYE (2LP)
  • Jacques Lejeune, Parages and Other Electroacoustic Works 1971 – 1985 on ROBOT (3CD)
  • Max Neuhaus, The New York School on ALGA MARGHEN (CD)
  • Michael Byron, Awakening at the Inn of the Birds on COLD BLUE MUSIC (CD)
  • Michael Byron, Music of Nights Without Moon or Pearl on COLD BLUE MUSIC (CD)
  • Anne Guthrie, Codiaeum Variegatum on STUDENTS OF DECAY (DIGITAL)
  • Machinefabriek, Attention, the Doors are Closing! on SELF-RELEASED (DIGITAL)
  • Joseph Clayton Mills, The Patient on ENTR’ACTE (CD/BOOK)
  • Michael Pisaro/Greg Stuart, Closed Categories in Cartesian Worlds on GRAVITY WAVE (CD)
  • Joe Panzner/Greg Stuart, Dystonia Duos on ERST AEU (CD)
  • Jim O’Rourke & Christopher Heemann, Plastic Palace People Vol. 1 on STREAMLINE (CD)
  • Claypipe, A Daylight Blessing on MIE (DIGITAL)
  • Robbie Basho, Visions of the Country on GNOME LIFE (LP)
  • Rodd Keith, My Pipe Yellow Dream on ROARATORIO (LP)
  • Autechre, Amber on WARP/WAX TRAX!/TVT (CD)
  • Poemss, Poemss on PLANET MU (DIGITAL)
  • Venetian Snares, Doll Doll Doll on HYMEN (CD)
  • Venetian Snares, Winter in the Belly of a Snake on PLANET MU (CD)
  • The Orb, U.F.Orb on ISLAND RED LABEL (CD)
  • No Right Turn, No Right Turn on EM RECORDS (CD)
  • Ida, Will You Find Me on TIGER STYLE RECORDS (CD)


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The Monthly List: 2013 in Review, Part Two

darkling_streamsPart two of the year in review. This one is a simple list of records I enjoyed throughout the year. That they weren’t included in part one doesn’t mean much: if I spent my time trying to write a summary for everything I liked last year, I’d be here until 2015. So this is as simple as it gets. Both Robbie Basho and Helm are on this list, and they easily got as much play as anything featured in part one.

The order is (almost) totally random. All records were released (or reissued) in 2013. Quite a few albums were technically released in 2013, but didn’t make it to my stereo until 2014. Even if I think they’re brilliant, they aren’t being included here. They’ll show up in the next monthly list and will probably be counted as a 2014 release because that’s how I want to roll.

You can find most everything for sale at one of the record stores/online shops/distributors listed at the bottom of this page (under GET MUSIC):

  • Robert Haigh, Darkling Streams (Primary Numbers)
  • Robbie Basho, Visions of the Country (Gnome Life)
  • Iannis Xenakis, GRM Works 1957-1962 (Recollection GRM)
  • Bernard Parmegiani, De Natura Sonorum (Recollection GRM)
  • Miles, Unsecured (Modern Love)
  • The Stranger, Watching Dead Empires in Decay (Modern Love)
  • Anonymous, Inside the Shadow (Machu Picchu)
  • Twink, Think Pink (Sunbeam Records)
  • Joe Panzner/Greg Stuart, Dystionia Duos (Erstwhile AEU)
  • Antoine Beuger/Michael Pisaro, This Place/Is Love (Erstwhile)
  • Jakob Ullmann, Fremde Zeit – Addendum (Edition RZ)
  • No Right Turn, No Right Turn (Em Records)
  • Body/Head, Body/Head (Open Mouth)
  • Body/Head, Coming Apart (Matador)
  • André Isoir/J.S. Bach, L’Orgue Concertant: Sinfonias, Sonates & Concertos (La Dolce Volta)
  • Bellows, Reelin’ (Holidays Records)
  • Aaron Dilloway, Modern Jester (Hanson Records)
  • Aaron Dilloway/Kevin Drumm, I Drink Your Skin (Hanson Records)
  • John Coltrane, Sun Ship – The Complete Session (Impulse!)
  • Songs: Ohia, Hecla & Griper (Secretly Canadian)
  • Richard Youngs, Summer Through My Mind (Ba Da Bing!)
  • COH, Retro-2038 (Editions Mego)
  • Helm, Silencer (PAN)
  • Kevin Drumm, Humid Weather (Self-Released)
  • Various Artists, Weary Engine Blues: A Tribute to Jason Molina (Graveface)
  • Bruce Gilbert and BAW, Diluvial (Touch)
  • Various Artists, Spiritual Jazz Volume IV: Americans in Europe (Jazzman)


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The Monthly List: 2013 in Review, Part One

old_map_paris

I dislike definitive lists and “best of” selections. Nobody has a definitive list. There’s no such thing. And no math exists that can produce a definitive inventory of great records from the average scores of a group of writers. It creates an order where none is needed and ends up turning apples into oranges.

But I enjoy checking out the records that people think deserve a special mention at the end of the year. To the extent that such lists are a personal account of what was “best” over the last 12 months, I think they’re helpful and fun. Plus some records leave stronger impressions than others, and I think those are worth giving extra time. 

And that’s all the below is about. It’s a list of the records that left the strongest impression on me in 2013. With the exception of the first spot, everything mentioned here is basically in random order:

rowe_lambkin-making_a_reviewAlbum of the Year: Keith Rowe/Graham Lambkin, Making A (Erstwhile)
I’ve already written quite a lot about this album, so I’ll just add a few remarks that weren’t in my review, or in my notes posted here.

Keith Rowe was responsible for my favorite record of 2012 too. I spent a lot of time catching up with his solo work in 2013 and I jumped headfirst into whatever AMM I could get my hands on, which turned out to be a lot. Then this enigma of a record landed in my CD player and I couldn’t take it out. As I said in the 2013 Brainwashed reader’s poll, Making A perplexes and frustrates. It moves without the aid of conventional musical propellants and it inspires more questions about music than it answers, but that’s part of the reason I love it.

That it’s filled with compelling sounds and bizarrely intriguing contrasts deserves equal emphasis. Making A belongs to the ears just as much as it does to the head. How we listen and what we listen for is always a factor in how we hear the sounds around us: Making A helps draw that fact out, and it does so with great music, not just a great concept.

What I said in my review: “In the absence of melody and a solid rhythm, without clear structural markers, on a record that barely even demands its audience’s attention, the musicians all but disappear, along with the music. The thought of instruments goes out the window. We’re left with the fading image of two men travelling, drawing, cutting, maybe pouring a drink of water. No message comes through these events; just a sense of place, the passing of time, and movement. A trace. Making A does for its audience what Cardew’s Schooltime Compositions are meant to do for the performers: give them a chance to react and interpret on their own terms.”

autechre_exai

Autechre, Exai (Warp)
A nasty recurring theme I noticed while reviewing and reading about Autechre’s 11th full-length record: some writers have little patience for music that makes even the smallest demand on their writing schedule. and they assume their audiences are as equally pressed for time and as equally impatient with new sounds. Over and over again, all I read about Exai was how challenging it sounded and how long it went on. Two full discs of abstracted beats and Autechre-like noise that’s “devoid of focus” and “completely random, offering nothing to grasp onto other than jagged shards of barely recognizable sound.” 

Total bullshit from where I’m sitting. Maybe it was just one big collective gut reaction, the product of the squeeze writers feel when their instincts run up against their deadlines, but Exai hooked me from minute one. And it’s only grown stronger with time. Is it a bit dense in places? Sure. Does it meander through some odd , bottomless bits and dabble in formlessness? Absolutely. But anyone paying attention to Brown and Booth would know that they have traveled much further afield in the past and landed some fairly lifeless duds in the process. Not that there isn’t something to love in Draft 7.30 or Oversteps, but Exai blows them out of the water. It sounds confident, heavy, melodic, focused, even catchy.  It’s the best thing Autechre has recorded since Confield and is in league with Tri Repetae and LP5.

What I said in my review: “Not everything on the album is equally excellent—the second disc is definitely the stronger of the two sets—but there’s nothing I’d want to cut. Digging into this music, stumbling on its nuances, and letting it work its magic is part of the fun. At two hours long, there’s plenty of time to get lost and forget about expectations and preconceived notions. Repeat listens offer up hidden patterns, previously unseen red threads, and a better lay of the land. Exai offers some upfront pleasures, but needs a little time to fully sink in. Once it does it sounds even better.”

songs_ohia-magnolia_electric_co_10th_anniversarySongs: Ohia, The Magnolia Electric Company (1oth Anniversary Deluxe Edition) (Secretly Canadian)
News that Jason Molina died on March 16th last year hit hard. He was my favorite songwriter of the past 10 or 15 years. Only a few other bands making rock ‘n’ roll mattered to me during that period, and none of them came close to touching the music made by Songs: Ohia and Magnolia Electric Co. The numerous tribute albums that were released in 2013 say a lot about the influence Molina had on other writers, as do all the stories people shared about his kindness. I took seriously the advice he gave to friends about getting up early in the morning and writing from a dictionary—it had an immediately positive effect on me, and gave me a new appreciation for the work that writers do.

None of which says anything about how amazing the music on this album is. And it is stunning. In my Brainwashed.com review I said it belonged on a list of the best rock ‘n’ roll albums I’ve ever heard, next to records by Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Jimi Hendrix. I know that looks like gushing, but it isn’t. I’ve lived with this album for ten years. I bought it the week it came out and played it hundreds of times in the months and years after. There were times I left it on repeat for weeks. And my enthusiasm for it hasn’t diminished an iota. I know it’s silly to rank things like that, but The Magnolia Electric Company hasn’t faded in the years since I first heard it, and I doubt that it ever will.

What I said in my review: “That spontaneity gives the music its loose, anything-could-happen feel; the sort of rambling, improvisational quality that causes listeners to draw connections to country and gospel music when they hear the album. Molina’s ideas, what he brought to the table as a writer, pull the record in the opposite direction. He’s the one that makes the music sound tightly wound; it’s his ability as a leader that makes it all sound inevitable.”

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youAND:THEMACHINES, Behind (Ornaments)
House music. With vocals. About “deep” music. The sort of thing I’d normally ignore and never give a second thought. But I listened to Behind a ton last year, almost against my will at first. It’s catchy, filled with interesting production choices, and stacked with colorful passages more focused on texture and tone than on solid beats, thought it has those too. It rides a thin line between club music and something less obvious—not exactly experimental, but not in line with the usual party fare either. It’s smart, fun, and addicting. And even I ended up falling in love with the vocals, which must count as evidence for a minor miracle.

What I said in my review: “This is how Martin works. He hypnotizes first with hammering rhythms and catchy melodies, then woos with slick, but seriously deep textures and sound effects, wrapping them all together in a way that makes taking them apart impossible. Nearly every song proceeds that way: the beat provides the canvas and the textures provide the color, as well as the energy and intrigue. Müller pulls it all off by concentrating on the smallest units. He builds his songs thinking less about form and more about how and where sounds will mingle. All the repetitive passages, small variations, and mirrored rhythms, techno-flavored as they are, pay more homage to tone color, texture, and density than to the almighty beat.”

g_park-subG*Park, Sub (23Five)
Marc Zeier’s take on electro-acoustic noise is microscopic, detail-rich, and unrelentingly dark. Sub’s 11 pieces combine grainy, heavily-processed surfaces and rough-hewn textures with recognizable scraps of field recordings and familiar noise, like bicycle bells and crows cawing from the trees. He works these elements into opaque sheets and then punctuates them with little blasts of noise and break-neck edits.

Despite the brief moments of familiarity, it all seems very mysterious, as if the record were the product of a field study from a remote location deep in the rain forest. The sense that G*Park brings something hidden into the light is a big part of Sub’s allure, but much of what I love about it consists in the fine details of its processed sounds. They’re distorted, dirty, and dust-strewn, as if they had been dug out of the earth and recorded from an old Victrola. You can feel them scratch against your ears and grate on your skin, and the often murky production only magnifies their tactile power.

kevin_drumm-earrach

Kevin Drumm, Earrach (Self-Released)
Another record so textured that it practically crawls with life, though this one is way more explosive. Kevin Drumm released a ton of music in 2013, much of it available on his Bandcamp page, but Earrach stood out. It’s messy, unrestrained, loud, persistent, and made from nothing but mangled tapes. The way Drumm uses that medium to reinforce the warped and wobbly sound of his recordings is absolutely brilliant. It has its subtler moments, but Earrach is a monster of an album. Push the volume way up for this one.

What I said in my review: “Earrach absolutely explodes with action. For nearly 90 minutes Kevin splices churning tape ruckus with slithering squeals, awkward gurgling, gooey mouth sounds, and other bizarre noises that have a rather wet, just-born quality about them… The tiny fluctuations in the tape’s surface, the variations in rhythm and color that emerge as it’s manipulated, the quiet music that bubbles out of apparently random interactions, all of it feels sculpted and palpable; physically present, like a cassette version of David Tudor’s Rainforest IV, but with the logic behind it, if it exists, totally obscured.”

va-EDM_B2

Various Artists, EDM A2/EDM B2 (Electric Dance Music)
Two Rephlex-ian comps that don’t have the word Rephlex printed on them anywhere. Twenty-five songs that Jodey Kendrick probably produced, but who can be certain? There’s nothing but aliases listed on either album: Heidi Lord, Jidomatix, Alain Kepler, Rod Kidley, Trevor Dags, and so on. Could one of them be Richard D. James?

It’d be nice to know, but in the end it’s an irrelevant question. EDM A2 and B2 hit a teenage pleasure center in my brain that I’d forgotten I had. They wield the awesome nostalgic power of hearing Autechre and Squarepusher for the first time and put that power to good use by mixing it with a melange of other electronic styles, including a few that have nothing to do with dance. I only want someone to take responsibility for them so I can know where to get more of their music.

What I said in my review: “Maybe old man A-F-X shows up somewhere in the middle, or maybe that’s what Rephlex wants you to believe. Either way, it’s a frustrating game. Whether or not he’s releasing music is less interesting than the music itself. Does Heidi Lord have another record out there somewhere? Has TX81Z—aggravatingly named after a Yamaha synthesizer—produced anything else as trippy as “Googol?” Is Jodey Kendrick secretly one of the best electronic producers out there and the sole man behind this series? For now, nobody knows.”

FKA_Twigs-EP2

FKA Twigs, EP2 (Young Turks)
Tahliah Barnett and Arca recorded my favorite pop record of 2013, if you can call it that. EP2 is a twisted and psychedelic album that bends and reflects the usual pop conventions without totally breaking them. A few writers called it an experimental outing, and though I disagree I can understand why. Its songs are ambiguous, sexy, and playful, and they totally lack conceit. Their looseness makes it seems like the whole thing fell out of the sky complete and ready to go.

But some of the little choices Twigs and Arca made, like the slow doubling of the strings on “Papi Pacify,” are so perfect that I have a hard time believing it could be so easy. And songs like “How’s That” and “Water Me” don’t just form out of thin air, no matter how effortless they sound. Those songs are thickly layered both lyrically and musically, and the videos for them complement their themes so perfectly—it’s all clearly the product of a determined and hard-working mind.

What I said in my review: “Nothing is as it seems, which is actually a nice summary of the EP. Twigs and Arca are working with a formula everyone knows. It’s pop music. But the way they handle their material disguises that fact. They know the shape and extent of their art, and rather than playing by the rules or trying to bust it wide open, they’re walking a middle path, finding smart ways to stretch, dye, and warp it. It’s tempting to call EP2 experimental, but it’s clear that FKA Twigs knows exactly what she’s doing.”

FiveAmericanPercussionPieces

William Winant, Five American Percussion Pieces (Poon Village)
Full disclosure: I worked on some of the promotional material for this album and helped with a few of the handmade covers too. But I got involved because the music is exciting, and because Winant’s performances are amazing. I was introduced to Michael Byron’s work through this album and I think “Trackings I” is one of the more beautiful songs I heard this year. The artwork, the construction of the sleeve, the heavyweight vinyl, and the care taken in putting the whole thing together all add up to a phenomenal record. The LP might be sold out, but digital copies are available from the usual suspects.

Here’s an excerpt from the bio I wrote for the press kit: “William Winant is the single greatest living avant garde percussionist. Few musicians of any kind—popular, experimental, or otherwise—are like him. During his career he has worked with musical acts as diverse as Sonic Youth, Mr. Bungle, John Zorn, and Oingo Boingo. John Cage, Terry Riley, and Lou Harrison have written music for him. He has studied with James Tenney, Steve Reich, and John Bergamo, played music with The Kronos String Quartet, Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Roscoe Mitchell, Keith Jarrett, and Yo-Yo Ma, and recorded music with Christian Wolff and Danny Elfman. He has performed on soundtracks for directors Tim Burton and Werner Herzog, and participated in numerous musical premieres throughout the world, including the American premiere of Luc Ferrari’s Cellule 75.

In the 20th century, America’s cup brimmed over with brilliant and legendary artists. But, as Peter Garland points out, William didn’t just play alongside them. Winant is a legend himself: ‘That’s why so many composers love working with Willie. Because he’s not just a performer. He’s a co-conspirator. He’s one of us.'”

philippe_lamy-drop_diary

Philippe Lamy, Drop Diary (Mystery Sea)
An effervescent and unassuming record that connects the sound of flowing water with the ineffable flowing of human consciousness. I had the chance to hear quite a few albums from Mystery Sea in 2013. Lamy’s album was the one that embodied the label’s mission statement in the most unexpected way.

Water figures heavily into the mix, but so does an unexpected stream of domestic and humble sounds, like those of a horse trotting down a brick road and the whoosh of wind blowing through the tress.  One of the album’s most interesting qualities is the way it connects invisible places  in a kind of four-dimensional photograph. Lamy’s studio is almost visible through the noise and the edits, as if it’s waiting somewhere beyond the album’s near-silent conclusion.

What I said in my review: “As the album progresses Philippe removes many of his sound sources. Instead of tumbling over one another, events start to come one and two at a time. Birds sing in the far distance, insects chirp and buzz with them, the sound of water echoes ever clearer. By the time it’s over, Lamy has slowed time down and reduced the music to an almost meditative hum. As the field recordings intermingle, an exciting sense of scope materializes; a feeling that the very smallest things in the world are all connected, and that something much bigger is waiting just over the horizon.”

lambkin_lescalleet_photographs

Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, Photographs (Erstwhile)
I reviewed the entire Lambkin/Lescalleet trilogy on Erstwhile right at the end of 2013 and ended up listening to their music more than anybody else’s in December. All three records are stunning (The Breadwinner has been a favorite of mine for a long time), but Photographs takes the cake.

Everything about it—the packaging, the music, the concept—feels perfectly executed. Like Making A, it’s an eye-opening and mind-expanding album totally divorced from the usual musical conventions. Unlike Making A, it puts the artists’ private lives in the spotlight, or at least it pretends to. Part of the fun of listening if figuring out what exactly Graham and Jason have done by focusing the camera on themselves.

What I said in my review: “From that point forward the listener is subjected to the same kind of confusion. By way of sudden edits, seamless transitions, and invisible leaps, Lambkin and Lescalleet navigate the streets and sights of Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom, where disc one was recorded. They capture a morning church service in ‘Quested to St. Hilda,’ converse with unnamed participants at tea time, and in the absolutely brilliant second half, hitch a ride with a banjo player, talk with Graham’s sister about her new car, fill up their gas tank in a rain storm, and discuss walking along the harbor during winter. It’s a whirlwind of bewilderment and constant flux made all the more exciting by the voyeuristic thrill it inspires.”

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Michael Pisaro/Oswald Egger/Julia Holter, The Middle of Life (Die Ganze Zeit) (Gravity Wave)
I wanted to write about this album immediately after I first heard it. There’s something spartan and alien about it that’s irresistible, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, and I’ve yet to find a satisfactory way of summing up what I think it’s all about. So in place of anything coherent, here are a couple of meandering thoughts I’ve had while listening to it, all of them reasons I keep coming back for more.

One, it’s composed by Michael Pisaro, but features contributions from a lot of people. And not just performance contributions, but material contributions too. The text comes from Oswald Egger, bits of a “home recording” are provided by Graham Lambkin, Pisaro inserts a portion of his own Ascending Series (5.2) into the mix (performed by the Dog Star Orchestra), and then he utilizes a recording of Julia Holter’s For One or More Voices near the end, which he performed himself. What any of these have to do with each other is well beyond me.

Two, the sentence Pisaro has his readers repeat throughout the album belongs to a poem by Egger, but it looks an awful lot like the beginning of Dante’s Inferno. Further complicating matters is the title of Egger’s poem, Diskrete Stetigkeit, Poesie und Mathematik (Discrete Continuity, Poetry and Mathematics). The artwork suggests something mathematical (though I can say why only vaguely), and two of the forms are so drawn that they appear to have no beginning and no end. How to tie that to the music, which avoids repetition despite the repeated poetic line, is something I’m still puzzling out, though I’m convinced it has something to do with the way the piece is organized.  The translations that Pisaro has posted of Egger’s writing get me part of the way there, but only part. A mysterious and absolutely lovely record, even if it continues to frustrate my best investigative efforts.


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The Monthly List: November’s Top 11

Here we go with the November list. Most magazines and digital publications are already publishing their favorite records of the year, or are at least setting the stage for their “best-of” list.

My year end review won’t show up until after the new year, as there are numerous releases from 2013 that I’d still like to hear, plus I’m not terribly inclined to rank things , so I’ve been doing very little calculation about what I’ve liked better. You can always look over my lists from the past months to get a sense of where my ears have been lately.

As for the records below, links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.comJust Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat places are good places to go looking for the more obscure stuff.

Formats posted are the ones I own; others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, Photographs on ERSTWHILE (2CD)
  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, Air Supply on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Graham Labmkin/Jason Lescalleet, The Breadwinner on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Jason Lescalleet, This Is What I Do Vol. 1 on GLISTENING EXAMPLES (CD)
  • Kevin Drumm, Earrach on SELF-RELEASED (2CD)
  • Songs: Ohia, The Magnolia Electric Co. (10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition) on SECRETLY CANADIAN (2CD)
  • Songs: Ohia, Didn’t It Rain on SECRETLY CANADIAN (CD)
  • Magnolia Electric Co., Trials & Errors on SECRETLY CANADIAN (2LP)
  • Loren Connors, Hell’s Kitchen Park on ENABLING WORKS (LP)
  • Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home on COLUMBIA (CD)
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland on REPRISE (CD+DVD)

 

 


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The Monthly List: October’s Top 13

the_shining_tommyA much delayed October listing, and an abbreviated one, which will probably be the norm from now on. I’m focusing more on writing reviews, with three finished and waiting to be published, three more in the works, and hopefully some interviews too.

Links to my favorite sites for reviews and information are found at the bottom of the page. You can always find good info at Brainwashed.com, Just Outside, and All Music Guide, and samples are available virtually everywhere. Forced Exposure and Boomkat places are good places to go looking for the more obscure stuff.

From now on I’ll only link to the labels here, and put more effort into making shorter posts about my favorite records throughout the month.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.

  • FKA Twigs, EP2 on YOUNG TURKS (LP)
  • Antoine Beuger/Michael Pisaro, This Place/Is Love on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Annette Krebs/Taku Unami, Motubachii on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Graham Lambkin/Jason Lescalleet, The Breadwinner on ERSTWHILE (CD)
  • Various Artists, Weary Engine Blues: A Tribute to Jason Molina on GRAVEFACE (2CD)
  • Joe McPhee, Nation Time on ATAVISTIC (CD)
  • Evan Parker & Joe McPhee, What/If/They Both Could Fly on RUNE GRAMMOFON (CD)
  • Albert Ayler, Nuits de la Fondation Maeght 1970 on WATER (CD)
  • The Stranger, Watching Dead Empires in Decay on MODERN LOVE (CD)
  • Jessika Kenney & Eyvind Kang, The Face of the Earth  on IDEOLOGIC ORGAN (LP)
  • Moniek Darge, Sounds of Sacred Places on KYE (CD)
  • Graham Lambkin, Abersayne/Attersaye on KYE (7″)
  • Kevin Drumm, Humid Weather on SELF-RELEASED (CD)


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The Monthly List: September’s Top 11

polo_grounds_imgLots of new music shows up on this month’s list. And though there’s a new Autechre EP on the way (out October 28th; some of you probably have it already), I went back to Exai all last month. Definitely one of my favorite records this year, and one of the best albums Warp has released in the last few.

I also spent a lot of time with some of the new Mystery Sea releases from Belgium. Both Philippe Lamy’s Drop Diary and (G)W(3) from the duo of Bruno Duplant and Darius Ciuta are excellent records worth seeking out. I wrote a review of the former for Brainwashed and hope to cover the latter soon. Both can be purchased on the Mystery Sea blog.

William Winant’s Poon Village debut—incredibly it’s his first solo artist record too—will be released shortly. I’ve been lucky enough to work with PV on the release of the album and have had the chance to hear it many times over the last month or two. It’s as good as the reviews make it sound and I’ve fallen in love with Michael Byron and Lou Harrison’s music because of it. Plus the presentation is pretty mind-blowing. A ton of work has gone into it and I’m excited to see how people react, so be sure to check it out. Sound samples are available online and there’s already a lot of press covering it.

Last but not least are two releases from Kevin Drumm; one from 2012 the other new this year. Keeping up with this guy is virtually impossible, but I keep trying anyway. You can read my review of Earrach here, and I’ll try to get a few words about Humid Weather together before long. With so much music to cover, I’ll probably end up writing a few brief summaries just to catch up. I desperately need more time to write.

Be on the lookout for more great music in the coming months. Erstwhile already has two more releases out that I’d love to cover as soon as possible, including one gorgeous looking double CD from Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescalleet. Lescalleet, like Drumm, is now on Bandcamp, and releasing new music there, as is Howard Stelzer and Intransitive Records. There’s also a new 3CD reissue of Eliane Radigue’s Adnos I-III out on Important Records, which is definitely a contender for reissue of the year.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: August’s Top 10

radio_towers

New music from Keith Rowe and Graham Lambkin, Rephlex, and Bruce Gilbert dominated my August listening habits, along with Recollection GRM’s excellent 2LP release of Luc Ferrari’s Presque Rien. 

I managed to write a review of Making A and both of the Electric Dance Music compilations, plus I have reviews of Helm’s Silencer 12″, COH’s Retro-2038, Kevin Drumm’s Earrach, and a series of Mystery Sea discs on the way. Two of those will  show up at Dusted Magazine if all goes as planned, my first two for that publication. I’ll keep publishing at Brainwashed.com as well, and I hope to get a series of short reviews under way, which will be exclusive to this site.

Last but not least, I’m going to return to WZBC this month with a twice monthly show of electro-acoustic, improvised, and generally experimental music. I’ll be on the air every other Sunday for two hours, starting at 6 o’clock Eastern. You can listen in Boston by tuning into 90.3 FM; or you can listen online at WZBC’s website. Just click the large red play button on the left.

Shows will be archived and available for replay for two weeks after the broadcast, at which time they will disappear forever. No permanent download links. That starts this week, Sunday the 15th. I hope you’ll tune in.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: July’s Top 8

visions_of_the_country-bashoBack after a brief spell of sickness.

Big news today in the form of a Robbie Basho re-issue from Gnome LifeVisions of the Country has been out of print for over thirty years, but is getting an LP and a CD reissue in the next couple of months. I’ve looked for a copy since I first downloaded it forever ago, but have only ever heard MP3 of FLAC copies. Searches on Discogs and eBay have always turned up empty. Record shop owners have stared at me dumbly, asking “isn’t that the Windham Hill record? Why would you want that?” Collectors never seem to have an extra laying around.

It was my most sought after record—and now I almost can’t believe I’ll get a copy, complete with liner notes and remastered sound. Were it not for the Bernard Parmegiani reissue from Recollection GRM, I’d go ahead and call Country the reissue of the year. De Natura Sonorum is every bit as good as I’d heard, and that double LP package looks and sounds top notch.

But Behind remains my most listened to record this month. You can read my review here. I’m behind on reviews but I hope to catch up in the next few weeks. Keep coming back as I want to ramp up the activity here going into September and the end of the year.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: June’s Top 9

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Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles” – the cover for “Spiritual Jazz Vol. 4”

The techno fever continues this month with a killer debut from youAND:THEMACHINES, aka Martin Müller of youANDmeBehind was released in June by Ornaments Records in three formats: CD, 3LP, and hand-painted, special edition 3LP. It is only the fifth full length from Ornaments. Two of the other four were compilations put together by Luke Hess and youANDme, so this is a special occasion. Müller mixes house, dub, and various other strands of techno together.

According to this interview, he uses nothing but analog equipment to do it and prefers creating his own sounds to using samples. I can hear that in the album’s production and in the way Müller builds his songs. He emphasizes texture and density as much as club-worthy rhythms and he shies away from conspicuous melodic themes. He also matches vocal contributions to the tonal color of his instruments and tosses ambient stretches of noise between dance tracks. I like it enough to get past those goofy house vocals, which together constitute the weakest part of the album. Though I’ll admit one or two of those songs have grown on me.

I’m almost certain the hand-painted edition is already sold out (it was limited to just 333 copies) but the CD and LP can still be found online and at certain record shops around the US. So don’t puss out and download it from some blog. Go find a copy, or at least buy the MP3s.

I finally got my hands on some of the new Erstwhile titles last month too. I plan on getting reviews up as soon as possible, but my review writing has slowed down recently due to other writing projects.

About this time of year, certain records solidify as my favorites so far, but there’s been such a glut of great new records that nothing’s become concrete for me. Only a few records carried over from last month, and I can’t decide which record among the three or four I like most is “the best.” So I want bother with a mid-year list or best of.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: May’s Top 8

nsa_bannerI listened to more techno in May than I did in the previous four months combined. The new Miles EP started it and Plastikman kept it going. Three records doesn’t sound like much, but for me it’s a virtual flood.

There’s a few carry overs from last month, and besides the Miles records, just three new releases; two are reissues and two are Jason Molina related. Of them, the Anonymous record on Machu Picchu got the most play.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: April’s Top 10

photograph by Kevin Baird

Solar Eclipse – “Ring of Fire” – photograph by Kevin Baird

The only new album on the list this month comes from the Phil Minton/Audrey Chen Quintet on Sub Rosa. Everything else is a reissue or a new collection of older music.

Impulse’s release of John Coltrane’s complete Sun Ship sessions snuck in right at the end of April, but didn’t make the list because I was too busy listening to MeditationsCrescent, and Interstellar Space to notice. Coltrane has been almost the only thing I’ve wanted to hear for the last two weeks and I don’t see any sign of that streak ending. Repeat plays of Crescent and Meditations were broken only by Human Ear’s reissue of Michael Pisaro’s Tombstones and Machu Picchu’s re-release of Inside the Shadow. Both are essential and I highly recommend seeking them out.

The first half of the month was also dominated by reissues. Recollection GRM’s Xenakis LP is outstanding, as is MCR’s treatment of Where’s My Towel/Industry Standard from Austin’s Big Boys.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: March’s Top 10 (or 11)

from Burritt's Geography of the Heavens, 1856

from Burritt’s Geography of the Heavens, 1856

Back after a short vacation. In the wake of Jason Molina’s death, I listened to almost nothing but Magnolia Electric Co., Songs: Ohia, and Jason Molina solo records. It’d been forever since I listened to much singer/songwriter stuff, so April turned into something of a binge.

I hosted the Brainwashed Podcast dedicated to Jason Molina last month, and on March 26th I hosted a two hour Molina tribute show on WZBC. I recorded almost the entire show and may post it soon, at least for a little while. If you happened to tune in but haven’t checked out Archive.org yet, you should. I pulled all the live performances from bootlegs freely—and legally—available on that site.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: February’s Top 8

autechre_anvil_vapre

Autechre’s Exai and a surprise reissue of Gila’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee top my favorite records for February 2013. The list is short this month as most of my attention was focused on a few releases—including the Wandelweiser set on Another Timbre and the Autechre EP box set—but a ton of new music is on the way, including four new Editions Mego LPs, a new series from Erstwhile called ErstAEU, a re-issue of Michael Pisaro’s Tombstones project, and the fourth part of Jakob Ullmann’s Fremde Zeit Addendum, which is actually available now. I just don’t have a copy yet. Ullmann also happens to be featured in the latest issue of Wire Magazine.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: January’s Top 13

blizzard_slippery_walkThirteen records stood out for me last month. Only one is from January 2013 (Dilloway/Drumm). Reviews of the Hearing Metal discs and Nate Wooley’s The Almond are forthcoming. Along with the Pran Nath album on Just Dreams and I Drink Your Skin, those were the albums I listened to the most. I’m still sorting through the Wandelweiser set too, which is amazing but hard to sum up. Make sure to check out the reviews posted for that title. Lots of great information there.

As always, formats posted are the ones I own. Others may be available. If you like any of the samples I link to, please buy the album. You can find numerous retailers carrying these titles at the bottom of this page.


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The Monthly List: 2012 in Review, Part Two

satantango_owlPart two of December’s Monthly List features my favorite movie of the year, which wasn’t even released in 2012, plus a few thoughts about a couple of books I read, one or two of the live shows I saw, and a brief reflection on visiting the Museum of Modern Art for the first time.

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The Monthly List: November’s Top 14

image still from Roulette TV's Christian Wolff feature

image still from Roulette TV’s Christian Wolff feature

Numerous new discs on the list for November, with Keith Rowe and Christian Wolff’s ErstLive disc being the only title held over from October. When I think of the best albums from 2012, that one is the first that comes to mind. Then there’s Rowe’s September, which sounds great and is getting a lot of positive press too, but I haven’t spent as much time with it. The Rowe/Wolff disc just clicked and stuck with me.

I listened to more new music in November than I did last month, but gave the albums I heard fewer repeat listens. Looking at the top ten lists that are already published, or that are in the midst of being published, I find it hard to believe that anyone’s prepared to rank anything. Having a favorite album or two makes sense, but I’ll be listening to a lot of this music well into January and processing it for longer. Plus there’s still new music on the way this year. I’m only now getting around to the new Scott Walker and Jakob Ullmann releases and I still want to get my hands on the Wandelwesier 6CD box set from Another Timbre. How anyone makes up their mind before 2013 is a mystery.

As always, formats listed are the ones I own, but releases may be available in other formats. This month there are 14 titles. Seven of them were released in 2012, of which two are reissues: