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Albums of the year: 2018

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Presented here is a list of our favourite (ten) albums from 2018. As difficult a task as this proved, we decided ultimately to choose the albums that we found ourselves turning back to time and again over the last twelve months. 

 

10. Earl Sweatshirt – “Some Rap Songs” (Columbia Records)

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Thebe Neruda Kgositsile, otherwise known as Earl Sweatshirt is a rapper, producer and DJ whose third studio album ‘Some Rap Songs’ was released last month to universal acclaim. The sublime hip hop voyage deals – in part – with the loss of his father, poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile.

“Me and my dad had a relationship that’s not uncommon for people to have with their fathers, which is a non-perfect one,” Earl wrote. “Talking to him is symbolic and non-symbolic, but it’s literally closure for my childhood. Not getting to have that moment left me to figure out a lot with my damn self.”

On the opening verse of the seductive dub groove ‘Shattered Dreams’, Sweatshirt asks “Why ain’t nobody tell  me I was bleedin’?” Masterful production and sun-blissed harmonies serve the rich ebb and flow of the cut’s gradual flow. The rapper pleads “Please, nobody pinch me out this dream” beneath the dreamy, hypnotic beats on the following line.

Memories of his father permeates throughout the lucid ‘Red Water’: “Papa called me chief/Gotta keep it brief” beneath stunning soulful  pop hooks. On the R&B inflected rhymes of ‘Nowhere2go’, the Los Angeles rapper explains the need to “redefine himself” and ultimately ‘Some Rap Songs’ finds Kgositile do exactly that.

The poignant ‘December 24’ is a menacing, slow brooding gem that places Earl’s poetic prose beneath cinematic piano tapestries. ‘On The Way!’ contains a sumptuous soul/funk groove. The tempo is slowed on the transcendent single ‘The Mint’ (featuring Navy Blue), another slice of pristine hip hop that serves a parallel alongside the likes of Madvillain and J Dilla such is its divine spell.

This compelling fifteen-track album reflects a hip hop artist that has further evolved and continually develops his unique and immense talents.

‘Some Rap Songs’ is out now on Columbia.

http://earlsweatshirt.com/
https://www.facebook.com/EarlSweatshirtMusic/

9. Marissa Nadler – “For My Crimes” (Bella Union/Sacred Bones)

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Marissa Nadler, one of the most cherished songwriters of our time, returned with her captivating eighth studio album ‘For My Crimes’ last Autumn. The Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter has carved out eleven deeply affecting and soul-stirring sparse laments whose immediacy and emotional depth resonates powerfully throughout.

It feels as if the essence of the song is captured magnificently to tape wherein each beautiful folk noir exploration navigates the depth of the human heart with naturalness and ease. In contrast to the more polished and layered records that came previously (the magnificent ‘Strangers’ and ‘July’ LPs), Nadler’s intimate song cycles contain quite minimal instrumentation that crafts a hypnotic spell and striking intimacy (intersecting the sound worlds of Townes Van Zandt and Stina Nordenstam).

Nadler co-produced For My Crimes with Lawrence Rothman and Justin Raisen at Rothman’s Laurel Canyon studio, House of Lux. A stellar cast of incredible female musicians joined the recording sessions,  including vocals from Angel Olsen, Sharon Van Etten and Kristin Kontrol, Patty Schemel (Hole, Juliette and the Licks) on drums, Mary Lattimore on harp, and the great experimental multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin on strings.

Some of the finest, most empowering songs of Nadler’s career is dotted across ‘For My Crime’s intense narrative. Emotive strings and meditative acoustic guitar drift beneath Nadler’s majestic vocal delivery on the windswept beauty of the album’s glorious title-track (and fitting opener). Nadler asks “Please don’t remember me/For my crimes” on the deeply moving, dusk-lit chorus.

The swell of electric guitar and drums create a post-rock grandeur on the sublime ‘Blue Vapour’: a raw energy is unleashed with each and every pulse. The hard-hitting impact of Nadler’s supreme songwriting gifts is distilled on the heartfelt lament ‘Dream Dream Big In The Sky’ which feels as if the words and music are somehow encapsulated in the faded dreams of the clouds above.

‘For My Crimes’ is out now on Bella Union/Sacred Bones.

https://www.marissanadler.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MarissaNadlerMusic/

8. Tirzah – “Devotion” (Domino)

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The year’s finest debut album undeniably comes from London-based songstress and producer Tirzah. The immense talents of this young artist can be felt throughout the album’s utterly contemporary and unique eleven songs. Steeped in R&B, soul and pop spheres, Tirzah’s fresh and alluring compositions very much belong to the here and now whose beguiling song structures forever push the sonic envelope. ‘Devotion’ is written and produced with composer and childhood friend Micachu with gorgeous pop sensibility and minimal production at the heart of the album’s gripping heart and soul.

The striking immediacy – and directness – of these songs makes a profound impact. The deeply affecting downbeat-soul of ‘Gladly’ is a delightful, heart-warming love song with hypnotic vocals and gradual beat. “All I want is you/I love you/Gladly, gladly, gladly” sings Tirzah on the breathtaking chorus. There is simplicity in the song (so it seems) but a complexity in the emotional connection. A gospel, R&B lament. ‘Holding On’ contains a quiet confidence and strength as the 80’s synth pop feel radiates throughout. Again, the minimal nature of these songs forges such deep emotions and colour.

The album’s towering title-track features guest vocalist Coby Sey with his soulful falsetto serving the perfect counterpoint to Tirzah’s understated voice and pristine beats. “So listen to me” is repeated like a mantra; reminiscent of James Blake’s downtempo creations. Tirzah sings “I want your arms” on a later verse, sung with such emotion and sincerity. This duet forms the vital heart of the album’s second half.

The guitar funk groove of the following cut ‘Go Now’ packs significant weight: “Don’t raise your voice to me” is sung in a delicate, near-hushed falsetto on the opening verse. Vulnerability is inherent in this breath-taking soulful lament. Acoustic piano patterns serve the sonic backdrop to the sparse ‘Say When’, brimming with melancholic shades of loss, “I felt you gone and now I am lost”.

Devotion’ heralds a significant new voice in contemporary music.

‘Devotion’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://tirzah.net/
https://www.facebook.com/TirzahMusic

7. Mary Lattimore – “Hundreds Of Days” (Ghostly)

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Having first discovered Los Angeles-based harpist and composer Mary Lattimore’s 2013 debut ‘The Withdrawing Room’ (released on Desire Path Recordings), each new release has been a hugely exciting discovery. On this year’s ‘Hundreds Of Days’ – and third release for the prestigious Ghostly label – Lattimore’s ethereal, dream-wave bliss of her harp-based compositions casts a spacious, luminescent and captivating sound world of unknown dimensions.

The gorgeous album opener ‘It Feels Like Floating’ feels just like that: the sacred harp tapestries drift in the ether of faded dreams amidst swathes of celestial harmonies. Utterly timeless. Jonsi’s Healing Fields remix is a fascinating re-interpretation that conveys the inspirational quality of Lattimore’s hugely unique and shape shifting compositions.

Guitar, keyboard and percussion is added on the poignant folk gem ‘Never Saw Him Again’: forging a dreamy pop opus from a past we have not yet quite arrived upon. The soundscapes and intricate layers continually build, as if reawakening some once-vivid memories of a loved one. The sparse ‘Hello From the Edge of the Earth’ maps the human heart and Lattimore’s love of the natural world. The lyrical quality of this piece is quite something to behold.

Baltic Birch’ blossomed from Lattimore’s trip to Latvia where she was struck by the abandoned resort towns along the Baltic Sea.  A desolate landscape is etched across the ambient soundscapes with the electric guitar haze recalling Lattimore’s collaborations with Jeff Ziegler.

The LA-based harpist – in much the same way as fellow contemporaries Julianna Barwick, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and so on – possesses the ability to transport you to an entirely new realm wherein the music becomes beautifully buried in the pools of one’s mind. ‘Hundreds Of Days’ is yet another gleaming treasure in the composer’s storied career.

‘Hundreds Of Days’ is out now on Ghostly International.

https://marylattimoreharpist.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/harpistmarylattimore/

6. Actress & London Contemporary OrchestraLAGEOS” (Ninja Tune)

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‘LAGEOS’ is the utterly compelling, shape shifting debut full length release from renowned electronic producer Darren Cunningham (aka Actress) and the London Contemporary Orchestra. At the heart of this captivating record is both artists’ ceaseless fascination with sound wherein new pathways of discovery are forever attained.

The first traces – committed to tape at least – was last year’s beguiling ‘Audio Track 5’ EP. The divine title-track (which is also found halfway through the record’s second half) comprises of beautifully drifting strings that float amidst crunching percussive rhythms and piano patterns. The splicing of the various components creates a shimmering odyssey of rapturous, luminous soundscapes, where the abstract techno sphere is masterfully blended with modern classical elements. Importantly, lines become blurred throughout ‘LAGEOS’, one cannot pinpoint to any one musical landscape, for it is a far-reaching kaleidoscope of timbres, textures and tones.

LCO’s Hugh Brunt has described the collaboration as being “about exploring an ambiguity of sound that sits between electronic and acoustic spaces.”

It is a joy to discover new contexts and insights into the cherished Actress discography as classics such as ‘Hubble’, ‘N.E.W’ and ‘Voodoo PosseChronic Illusion’ become a deep stream of consciousness and energy flow. The meditative bliss of ‘N.E.W’ with an endless array of enchanting instrumentation, supplied by the LCO, flows deep into your veins. The irresistible cosmic groove of ‘Voodoo Posse’ serves the record’s fitting penultimate track before the joyously empowering ‘Hubble’s techno fueled odyssey maps one’s innermost fears and dreams.

‘LAGEOS’ is out now on Ninja Tune.

https://www.ninjatune.net/artist/actress
https://www.lcorchestra.co.uk/

5. Low – “Double Negative” (Sub Pop)

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The much beloved Minnesota trio sculpted one of their finest, most empowering works to date with ‘Double Negative’, released earlier this year on the Seattle label Sub Pop. In similar fashion to 2015’s ‘Ones and Sixes’, the band enlisted B.J. Burton (James Blake, The Tallest Man on Earth) for production duties but here, the dazzling experiments are developed much further, forging deeply moving collages of cinematic, charged rock odysseys that seep into one’s very own consciousness. Abrasive beats and dazzling electronic components melt alongside Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk’s heavenly – soul searching – harmonies and Neil Young-esque guitar echo and reverb.

A dark undercurrent permeates throughout the record, reflecting these dark, uncertain times we find ourselves in. The brooding and hypnotic ‘Trying To Work It Out’ is classic Low with the slowcore bliss of Sparhawk’s highly emotive vocal delivery: “I saw you at the grocery store/I know I should have walked over and say hello/It seemed like you were in a hurry/I didn’t want to slow you down/So I figured out I should let you go.” Dissonance abounds. In many ways, the record serves a parallel with Nick Cave’s latest ‘Skeleton Tree’ – both records are borne out of a sea of darkness and despair but both records ultimately possess an incalculable empowering capability.

The delicate beauty of the meditative ‘Always Up’ is a precious ballad that depicts the frustration dispelled by the world today. The chorus refrain of Mimi Parker’s angelic vocal delivery “I believe I believe I believe I believe/Can’t you see Can’t you see Can’t you see?” emits a cathartic energy flow that is steeped in an unfathomable beauty. Rawest of emotions flood out of these recordings, feeling both vital and colossal in equal measure.

How the songs fade into one another is another marvel of ‘Double Negative’: the multi-layered textures and static that envelopes the space; creating something considerably larger than the sum of its parts. ‘Fly’ is one of the album’s most stunning moments with its Mimi Parker-led soulful dimension “Leave my weary bones and fly” is the deeply affecting chorus that reduces you to tears upon each visit. How the infectious bass groove melds with Parker’s falsetto leaves you dumbfounded such is its unwavering beauty. Uncertainty breathes heavily throughout. But there is hope buried deep in its gorgeous soulful strut.

‘Double Negative’ is out now on Sub Pop.

https://www.chairkickers.com/
https://www.facebook.com/lowmusic/

4. Djrum – “Portrait with Firewood” (R&S Records)

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UK producer Felix Manuel (AKA Djrum) is responsible for one of the most poignant, soul-stirring electronic records of the year with his R&S debut full-length ‘Portrait with Firewood’. The wide range of sounds – everything from modern classical and ambient soundscapes to gripping techno and dubstep flourishes – is one of the hallmarks of this remarkable tour-de-force. The emotional depth of Manuel’s electronic works is perhaps the most alluring trademark of Djrum’s scintillating sonic voyage. For example, the intoxicating electronic-infused classical opus ‘Blue Violet’ (one of the most mind-bending tracks of 2018) unleashes a timelessness that is all too rare in today’s dance music. Analog synths and strings are masterfully woven together amidst beautifully cinematic spoken word segments. “Do you remember how you told me about lightning striking? All of those things you told me to wait for?” is softly uttered by a female voice, beneath meditative piano notes. ‘Blue Violet’ details love, passion, obsession and all points of the human condition – the spirit of Nils Frahm and Jon Hopkins radiates throughout this towering composition.

Waters Rising’ sees Manuel collaborate with vocalist Lola Empire, crafting a beguiling soulful R&B techno gem. Several of Djrum’s piano improvisations serve the initial sketches of these compelling explorations. Techno bliss is etched across the album’s central tracks ‘Creature Pt 2’ and ‘Sex’; the latter fusing introspective piano and violin motifs and intoxicating techno/jungle beats (further highlighting the boundless nature of Djrum’s enveloping sound).

Describe by Djrum as a “confessional record”; the melancholic shades come to the fore on the record’s final third. The highly immersive ‘Sparrow’ is one of the record’s defining moments wherein a spoken word segment floats majestically beneath intricate layers of jazz inflections: “I’ll show you my scars/You show me the stars”. A rich poignancy is inherent in each of ‘Portrait with Firewood’s luminous musical works.

‘Portrait with Firewood’ is out now on R&S Records.

https://djrum.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DjrumMusic/

3. Penelope Trappes – “Penelope Two” (Houndstooth)

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London-based artist Penelope Trappes’ sophomore full-length ‘Penelope Two’ – and follow-up to her essential debut ‘Penelope One’ for Optimo Music – casts a hypnotic, luminous spell through its stunningly beautiful song cycles: drenched in reverb that somehow drift into the ether of our innermost fears. The stark intimacy of the Australian-born composer’s compositions is what strikes you immediately; evoking the timeless spirit of early 4AD artists (This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins) and kindred spirits of Grouper’s Liz Harris and Tropic Of Cancer.

On the album’s gripping centrepiece ‘Maeve’, the chorus refrain of “let go” is repeated beneath delicate piano chords and lucid guitar haze. I feel ‘Penelope Two’ becomes a process of letting go: to allow the waves of anguish and pain wash over you and, in  turn, to wrap your troubles up in dreams. The raw emotion distilled in Trappes’ soaring vocals casts infinite rays of solace and hope as light flickers from within the depths of darkness.

The way in which the drone infused ambient instrumentals (‘Silence’; ‘Kismet’; ‘Exodus’) are masterfully interwoven with the vocal-based song structures (‘Connector’; ‘Burn On’; ‘Maeve’) creates one cohesive whole of staggering beauty and emotional depth. The ethereal dream pop gem of ‘Connector’ possesses endurance to overcome the darkness. The immaculate production and divine soundscapes immerses the listener inside a wholly other realm. The chorus refrain “I am the connector” epitomizes the magical, far-reaching qualities of Trappes’ immense songwriting prowess.

‘Penelope Two’ is out now on Houndstooth.

https://penelopetrappes.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/penelopetrappes/

2. Julia Holter – “Aviary” (Domino)

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The peerless Los Angeles songwriter and composer Julia Holter has long been carving out the most ground breaking and breath-taking avant pop masterworks and this year’s ‘Aviary’ reveals an artist at the peak of her powers. The album’s enthralling fifteen compositions explore further into bewitching experimental terrain as an abstract canvas of vivid textures, colour and timbres ascend into the forefront of one’s heart and mind.

The immaculate instrumentation and mesmerizing arrangements – a constant throughout Holter’s cherished songbook – lies at the heart of these stunning song cycles. The epic ‘Chaitius’ opens with gorgeous orchestration of strings, brass and choral lines that conveys the kaleidoscopic vision of the American composer’s newest musical venture. These sprawling, vast pieces feel as if the soundscapes could glide forever into infinity (and beyond). Holter sings “Open my wings with joy” on the opening verse; conveying the artist’s search for love and solace “amidst all the internal and external babble we experience daily”. The way the composition evolves and develops is akin to a process of self-discovery or acceptance. The vocoder/spoken word segments emits such rich imagery that reflects “the melting world” of today’s chaotic world we find ourselves in. Euphoria and an awakening sensation abounds on the glorious crescendo of Holter’s trusted ensemble (double bass as ever adding seductive rhythmic pulses to the sacred sound worlds effortlessly created). The continual striving for direction never feels far away: “Who will tell me what to do? Don’t say to feel so alove.”

It is clear with ‘Aviary’ that Holter effortlessly delves deeper into experimentation with sound; perhaps the first cue for the song’s inception was a sonic idea during the music-making process. The hypnotic, meditative lament ‘Voce Simul’ begins with a cosmic jazz bassline groove beneath Holter’s hushed vocal delivery and ethereal trumpet lines. The spoken word passages are masterfully blended with this cinematic backdrop: “I was just about to go outside” utters Holter on a later verse – inviting the listener on a wholly unique journey. As ever, the past and future become masterfully placed together – at once akin to “a distant mirror” of “a hundred minds” as Holter asks “How did I forget I’m part of the dust?”

The lead single ‘I Shall Love 2’ combined with its sister song – and symphonic rejoice – ‘I Shall Love 1’ form integral components of each half of ‘Aviary’s striking narrative. The former is yet another pristine pop oeuvre with gorgeous melodic flourishes and an awakening of the senses. The song’s deeply empowering rise “That is all that is all/There is nothing else” is a joy to savour; I visualize the moving scenes of the guiding angels in Wim Wender’s ‘Wings of Desire’ who listen to the thoughts of its human inhabitants. In a similar fashion, ‘I Shall Love’ (both movements) offers comfort and warmth.

The soaring beauty of ‘Words I Heard’ is steeped in 60s pop grandeur and Laurel Canyon pop perfection. How Holter’s achingly beautiful voice blends with the strings evokes a dream within a dream; a labyrinth of ancient and modern times – transposed to one sprawling, poignant canvas. The creative process is beautifully articulated on the fitting album closer ‘Why Sad Song’: “Oh ideas, Idea – oh why the words are made of?” But it is the dazzling, contemporary pop tour-de-force ‘Les Jeux To You’ that illustrates just how far ‘Aviary’s journey takes you on. The playful use – and richness – of words combined with the futuristic pop backdrop carves out something wholly unique and otherworldly. The deeply moving quality of Holter’s sacred artistic works is forever etched in the song’s gripping foundations: “I can hope for it today/I wonder though, if my heart tells me everything I need.”

‘Aviary’ is out now on Domino Recordings.

https://juliaholter.com/
https://www.facebook.com/juliashammasholter/

1. Nils Frahm – “All Melody” (Erased Tapes)

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Our most cherished record of the year undoubtedly comes from world-renowned, Berlin-based composer Nils Frahm’s latest masterpiece ‘All Melody’.

The immense beauty – and immensity – of the far-reaching soundscapes dotted across “All Melody’s musical landscape is a joy to savour. A myriad of sacred tones are effortlessly spliced together like that of the double helix pattern of each DNA molecule found inside our cells. It is as if a towering composition like “Sunson” unfolds, mutates, and transforms before your very eyes: the soaring juno synthesizer is melded gorgeously with the otherworldly sounds of the handmade pipe organ. The seamless array of colours and textures creates an empowering ripple flow of emotions. Choral odysseys dissolve into this vast sea of forgotten dreams. As the piece continually builds, the interlinked rhythms are forever over-lapping; magical moments within moments are captured at each and every pulse.

Modern-classical, dub and avant pop spheres are masterfully blended together on ‘A Place’. The inner dialogue between the components (choir, strings, percussion, synthesizer, and rhodes) creates a deeply bewitching symphony of celestial sounds. How the female voice is mixed with the luminescent juno synthesizer provides a significant milestone in “All Melody’s mind-bending oeuvre. Gripping dub beats awash with soul-stirring strings. The sonic terrain has expanded, almost exponentially. It feels as if a deep symbiosis exists between all of its vital elements; each one inter-dependent of one another, reacting, breathing and growing as the loop drifts forever into the ether of unknown dimensions.

The possibilities are endless. “#2” fades in – almost subliminally – as the embers of “All Melody” gradually dissolve. Techno bliss is masterfully etched across the sprawling canvas of synthesizer arrangements, creating, in turn, psychedelic dreams orbiting the furthest reaches of one’s inner consciousness.

The album’s penultimate track “Kaleidoscope” conveys the visionary nature of Frahm’s music: the pattern of the interwoven elements (choir, organ and synthesizer) is constantly changing; forever in motion and altering in sequence (in turn, generating endless possibilities). The immaculate exploration feels at once ancient and utterly contemporary; a joyously uplifting creation with its dazzling ebb and flow akin to a river finding its sea.

All Melody” is a defining record for the ages. This is a journey into sound.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.nilsfrahm.com/
https://www.facebook.com/nilsfrahm

Mixtape: Fractured Air – “You Grow Closer”

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“You Grow Closer” features: the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based independent music treasures A Hawk And A Hacksaw (Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost), who released their latest album “Forest Bathing” earlier this year via LM-Dupli-cation. Like every record made (or influenced) by the hands of Barnes and Trost, the results are nothing short of astounding. Also featuring other 2018 gems including: peerless songwriter Marissa Nadler’s majestic “For My Crimes” (due for release this Autumn via Bella Union & Sacred Bones); world-renowned UK cellist Oliver Coates’s scintillating “Shelley’s On Zenn-La” full-length, his first for RVNG Intl which is scheduled for release on 7th September; Laurel Halo’s “Raw Silk Uncut Wood” (Latency); Helena Hauff’s “Qualm” (Ninja Tune); Steve Hauschildt’s “Dissolvi” (Ghostly International).

Fractured Air – “You Grow Closer” – August 2018

01. Aretha Franklin“You Grow Closer” (Checker, Chess)
02. Laurel Halo – “Mercury” (Latency Records)
03. A Hawk And A Hacksaw“The Shepherd Dogs are Calling” (LM Dupli-cation)
04. Zazou Bikaye“Mangungu” (Crammed Discs)
05. Talking Heads“Houses In Motion” (Sire)
06. DJ Lilocox“Vozes Ricas” (Principe)
07. Actress & LCO“Hubble” (Ninja Tune)
08. Oliver Coates“A Church” (RVNG Intl)
09. Helena Hauff“It Was All Fields When I Was A Kid” (Ninja Tune)
10. Steve Hauschildt feat Julianna Barwick“Saccade” (Ghostly)
11. Gang Gang Dance“J-TREE” (4AD)
12. Tim Hecker“I’m Transmitting Tonight” (Kranky)
13. Aïsha Devi – “DNA” (Houndstooth)
14. Caterina Barbieri – “Curve Sciolte” (Σ)
15. Colin Stetson – “Aftermath” (Hereditary OST) (Milan Records)
16. JOYFULTALK – “Monocult” (Constellation)
17. Exploded View – “Raven Raven” (Sacred Bones)
18. Szun Waves – “Constellation” (Leaf Label)
19. Brigid Mae Power – “Down on the Ground” (Tompkins Square)
20. Papa M – “Walt’s” (Drag City)
21. Marissa Nadler – “For My Crimes” (Bella Union)
22. A Hawk And A Hacksaw – “The Magic Spring” (LM Dupli-cation)
23. John Jacob Niles“I’m Goin’ Away” (LM Dupli-cation)

 

Guest Mixtape: Marissa Nadler

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We are delighted to present to you a special guest mixtape compiled by the world-renowned Boston Massachusetts-based songwriter Marissa Nadler. 2016 saw the release of Nadler’s latest masterpiece, “Strangers”, released via Bella Union (UK) and Sacred Bones Records (USA). “Strangers” finds Marissa Nadler’s sonic palette expanding (synths and drumbeats are at times added to Nadler’s voice and guitar). But despite the added instrumentation and more intricate arrangements, a purity forever remains in the treasured songbook of Nadler’s forever timeless oeuvre. Beautiful subtleties exist within the sonic tapestries while striking imagery such as disintegrating cliffs, towering skyscrapers, darkening woods and deep rivers are offset with characters often feeling at odds with the world they find themselves in (or more accurately find themselves suspended into, all of a sudden). There’s a tangible sense of contrasting dichotomies lying at the heart of “Strangers” (between the familiar and the unfamiliar; safety and danger; darkness and light; life and death) which makes the journey Nadler takes us on all the more real. Tangible. Life-affirming. And like a silent witness we can quietly navigate that darkness with her. For we are not strangers after all.

Marissa Nadler – Fractured Air Mix – January 2017

01. Gene Clark“Gypsy Rider” (live) (Firefly Entertainment)
02. Scott Walker“Duchess” (Philips)
03. Black Mountain“Cemetery Breeding” (Jagjaguwar)
04. Black Mountain“Space to Bakersfield” (Jagjaguwar)
05. William Bell“I Forgot To Be Your Lover” (Stax)
06. Sonny Sharrock“Who Does She Hope To Be?” (Axiom)
07. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds“Rings of Saturn” (Bad Seed Ltd.)
08. Funkadelic“Maggot Brain” (Westbound)
09. Angel Olsen“Shut Up Kiss Me” (Jagjaguwar)
10. White Lung“Kiss Me When I Bleed” (Domino)
11. Grouper“Headache” (Yellow Electric)
12. Grouper“I’m Clean Now” (Yellow Electric)

‘Strangers’ is out now on Bella Union (UK) & Sacred Bones (USA).

Compiled by Marissa Nadler, 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

https://www.facebook.com/MarissaNadlerMusic
https://marissanadler.bandcamp.com/

Albums of the Year: 2016

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Presented here is a list of our favourite albums from 2016. As difficult a task as this proved, we decided ultimately to choose the albums that we found ourselves turning back to time and again over the last twelve months. The exercise also reminded me of memories when growing up of reading interviews featuring our favourite musicians, what used to strike me so much was the number of times they would describe their favourite albums as being like “friends” to them. These albums were anything but material possessions, these wax and cardboard sculptures were simply part of their lives: their very identity, even. The following is a selection of sixteen albums released during 2016 which we feel fortunate to now call friends of our own.

Artwork: Craig Carry
Words: Mark Carry

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(i). Oliver Coates – “Upstepping” (PRAH Recordings)

Several ground-breaking records from 2016 can be attributed to the gifted talents of British cellist and composer Oliver Coates. The London-based composer’s sophomore full-length release ‘Upstepping’ is undoubtedly the year’s most accomplished, innovative and compelling musical journeys with its meticulously crafted and sumptuously layered cello-based compositions that carves out techno-fueled waves of pure bliss and transcendence. ‘Upstepping’ is indeed (in the words of Coates) “pumped-up body music”. From album opener ‘Innocent Love’, which immediately evokes the sound of Four Tet’s ‘There Is Love In You’ with its hypnotic female vocal line to the deep house groove of ‘Perfect Love’ (think Autechre, Aphex Twin), a world of shimmering cello-based sound-worlds are being channeled from the cosmos. Coates’s current activity of “distorted cello play over sequenced dance music” (Coates wrote for his exclusive Guest Mixtape) remains the most ground-breaking and original sounds to have surfaced in 2016.

“Upstepping” is out now on PRAH Recordings.

http://www.olivercoates.com/
https://www.facebook.com/olivercoatesmusician/

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(ii). Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “EARS” (Western Vinyl)

Last Spring during a conversation with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, she described her primary objective for her latest full-length ‘EARS’: “I wanted to create a sense that the listener was on a 3-D motion ride through a futuristic jungle and I had to create an arc from start to finish that took the listener on a journey”. These eight otherworldly compositions created by the L.A. based composer and producer were immediately noted for their extraordinary colours, textures and striking multi-dimensional forms. The rich instrumentation encompasses a myriad of organic and synthesized sounds as Smith’s utterly hypnotic voice melds with her trusted Buchla synthesizer and an intricate array of woodwind and brass arrangements. Cosmic bliss appears at each and every turn: the dazzling mantra of ‘Rare Things Grow’ is steeped in African music traditions; ‘Envelop’s meditative melodic pulses and the epic closing transcendence of ‘Existence In The Unfurling’. Later in 2016 came the equally exceptional ‘Sunergy’ LP – a collaboration between Smith and electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani – as part of the RVNG Intl label’s FRKWYS series.

“EARS” is out now on Western Vinyl.

http://www.kaitlynaureliasmith.com/
http://westernvinyl.com/

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(iii). Jóhann Jóhannsson – “Orphée” (Deutsche Grammophon)

This year saw the eagerly awaited new studio album – and first in six years – from the renowned Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Incorporating music for solo cello, organ, string quartet, string orchestra and unaccompanied voices, ‘Orphée’ represents Jóhannsson’s finest hour, whose fifteen divine compositions captured here feels like a distillation of the master composer’s life’s work. The utterly captivating ‘A Song For Europa’ belongs in the same stratosphere as Gavin Bryars’ ‘Jesus Blood’ such is its cinematic brilliance: a spoken word sample becomes embedded deep in the music, speaking so profoundly. ‘A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder’ is steeped in unwavering beauty as rejoice and hope flicker onto the horizon amidst a soaring string section (performed by Air Lyndhurst String Orchestra). A lost companion to George Delerue’s ‘Camille’.

In the words of Jóhannsson: “Orphée is for me about changes: about moving to a new city, leaving behind an old life in Copenhagen and building a new one in Berlin – about the death of old relationships and the birth of new ones”. As ever, the Icelandic master composer has crafted a challenging, utterly breathtaking and shape-shifting experience. A piece such as ‘Good Night, Day’ (featuring Jóhannsson’s close musical collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir) paints life’s fleeting, transient nature onto a vast canvas of enchanting sound, before ‘Theatre of Voices’ (conducted by Paul Hillier) brings ‘Orphée’ to an astounding climax.

“Orphée” is out now on Deutsche Grammophon.

http://www.johannjohannsson.com/
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/

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(iv). Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – “Skeleton Tree” (Bad Seed Ltd.)

On lead single – and album opener – ‘Jesus Alone’, a devastating apocalyptic world descends upon us amidst sparse arrangements of piano and brooding synthesizer drones: “You fell from the sky/Crash landed in a field/Near the river Adur.” On Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ sixteenth studio album, a captivating, harrowing and deeply moving experience is forged as Cave’s songs navigates the heart of darkness.

The achingly beautiful gospel lament ‘Rings of Saturn’ exudes a healing power, which could belong on ‘The Boatman’s Call’ alongside ‘Brompton Oratory’. Scenes from John Hillocat’s ‘The Road’ (one of the many breathtaking scores Cave & Ellis have penned) is etched across the heartbreaking, tear-stained canvas of ‘Girl In Amber’. On a later verse, Cave mourns: “I used to think that when you died you kind of wandered the world/In a slumber til your crumble were absorbed into the earth.” A brooding darkness seeps into your bones on ‘Magneto’ – the album’s most gripping and intense moments – where buzzes of electric guitar drifts beneath Cave’s whisper-like pleas. The hypnotic mantra of “In love, in love, I love, you love” shares the cosmic spirit of Van Morrison’s ‘Astral Weeks’ ventures in the slipstream. A catharsis permeates the “heaven bound sea” of ‘Anthrocene’ with surreal, near-mythical dimensions somehow attained, which could depict Herzog’s ‘Aguirre, The Wrath of God’s haunting, doomed expedition. The sublime ecstasy of ‘I Need You’ is wrapped in impossible beauty; an empowering ballad that could belong to the ‘Lyre Of Orpheus’ sessions.

Skeleton Tree’ is a lament from the depths of darkness and despair: “With my voice, I am calling you.”

“Skeleton Tree” is out now on Bad Seed Ltd.

http://www.nickcave.com/

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(v). Jessy Lanza – “Oh No” (Hyperdub)

The Canadian songwriter and producer’s sublime sophomore full-length ‘Oh No’ (Hyperdub) showcases an artist at the peak of her powers, crafting some of the most beguiling synth pop creations of 2016 (and beyond). Made in her hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, with production partner Jeremy Greenspan from Junior Boys, the seductive pop hooks and R&B gems crafts a joyously uplifting haven of euphoric sounds. As Lanza says “I want to make people feel good and I want to make myself feel good”. Infectious energy permeates ‘VV Violence’ and ‘Never Enough’ (reminiscent of classic Junior Boys and Caribou) whilst elsewhere the stunning ballads ‘I Talk BB’ (Lanza’s voice ascends to the forefront of the mix) and ethereal haze of closing cut ‘Could B U’. The infectious groove and affecting vocal delivery of ‘It Means I Love You’ crafts one of the record’s defining moments, soaked in reverb and compelling drum machines. Most recently, ‘Oh No No No’ remix EP has surfaced, with gorgeous reworks by DVA (‘Going Somewhere’), DJ Taye x DJ Spinn’s remix of ‘Could B U’ and Morgan Geist’s rework of ‘I Talk BB’.

“Oh No” is out now on Hyperdub.

http://jessylanza.com/
http://www.hyperdub.net/

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(vi). Peter Broderick – “Partners” (Erased Tapes)

The gifted American composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist has crafted his most captivating, emotive and transporting works to date on his latest masterwork ‘Partners’. This collection of solo piano music not only sees the beloved sound sculptor come full-circle in many ways but also delving deeper and further into music’s boundless orbit and life’s great mystery than ever before. In essence, the artist has effectively removed himself from the activities of the sounds he makes, in turn, creating piano music so pure, mysterious and far-reaching, evoking the timeless sounds of older generation masters such as John Cage and Lubomyr Melnyk. Hugely inspired by John Cage’s chance techniques and visionary spirit, Cage’s own composition ‘In A Landscape’ serves the vital pulse to ‘Partners’s aching canvas (having fallen in love with the piano once again during the process of transcribing this seminal piece, note-by-painstaking-note). Compositions such as the utterly transcendent ‘Carried’ unleashes a haven of heart-wrenching emotion as celestial harmonies meld effortlessly with mesmeric piano patterns, and ‘Up Niek Mountain’s drifting cosmic reverb-laden piano tapestries become interwoven deep inside the listener’s thoughts and dreams. The closing ‘Sometimes’ is a cover version of Brigid Mae Power’s divine ballad, the record for which is dedicated to Brigid. A freedom abounds on ‘Partners’ as the sacred piano notes become transcribed from the very composer’s subconscious mind.

“Partners” is out now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
http://www.erasedtapes.com/

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(vii). Xylouris White – “Black Peak” (Bella Union)

Xylouris White is the inspired collaboration between Greek lute player George Xylouris and the Australian, Brooklyn-based drummer Jim White. Both composers are legends in their own right, the former through his Cretan lute-led sounds of the Xylouris Ensemble, the latter through his membership of mythical Australian trio Dirty Three and myriad of collaborations over the years. The sheer expanses covered on the band’s sophomore full-length ‘Black Peak’ is staggering. The opening rock opus ‘Black Peak’ and ‘Forging’s momentous rock’n’roll rhythms are followed by the poignant parable of ‘Hey, Musicians!’ and divine epic love song, ‘Erotokritos’. Ancient traditions are interwoven with contemporary, avant-garde musical structures, forever embedded deep inside a mysterious, enchanting and cosmic space. ‘Black Peak’ invites the listener to inhabit the far-reaching plains of life’s mysterious and kaleidoscopic landscape. As depicted on the striking narrative of ‘Hey, Musicians!’, music indeed never ends.

“Black Peak” is out now on Bella Union.

http://www.xylouriswhite.com/
http://bellaunion.com/

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(viii). Loscil – “Monument Builders” (Kranky)

The Canadian ambient artist Scott Morgan’s latest masterwork unleashes a cathartic, hypnotic spell throughout; belonging to a dichotomy of worlds where an engulfing cloud of prevailing darkness prevails in tandem with the radiant light of hope and survival. Delicately beautiful ambient soundscapes drift majestically in the ether alongside the more intense, pulsating sound worlds. Take for example, how the fragile pulses of ‘Deceiver’ flows effortlessly into the glorious crescendo of ‘Straw Dogs’ or how the stunningly beautiful album opener ‘Drained Lake’ is gradually followed with the techno-infused ‘Red Tide’. A wall of intense moods, colour and textures flood these sonic creations, creating one of Morgan’s most accomplished and concise records to date. The addition of horn arrangements (recalling Philip Glass) immediately casts an ethereal quality; harmonies meld beautifully with a collection of old synths, warm textures of drone soundscapes.

“Monument Builders” is out now on Kranky.

http://www.loscil.ca/
http://www.kranky.net/

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(ix). The Avalanches – “Wildflower” (XL)

2016 saw the return of The Avalanches after sixteen years with their long-awaited second album. The pertinent question for the duo was how could a band follow-up a seminal classic like ‘Since I Left You’ but the duo have managed to create a kaleidoscope of rejuvenated, cosmic sounds. An endless array of samples, hip-hop rhymes, lucid beats, celestial harmonies and pop-laden hooks fill ‘Wildflower’s exhilarating voyage where cameo appearances from Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue, Dirty Three’s Warren Ellis, Father John Misty and Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick all stop by. ‘Wildflower’ is one of those perfect summer records: the Laurel Canyon-era sunshine pop of ‘If I Was a Folkstar’ and ‘Because I’m Me’s funky soulful strut and seductive Ariel Pink-esque ‘Subways’ are just some highlights. The heart-stopping ‘Saturday Night Inside Out’s dreamy haze and poignant epicentre serves the perfect closer to ‘Wildflower’s glorious psychedelic pop oeuvre.

“Wildflower” is out now on XL Recordings.

http://www.theavalanches.com/
http://xlrecordings.com/

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(x). Amiina – “Fantômas” (Mengi)

Icelandic outfit Amiina’s latest adventure, ‘Fantômas’, was originally composed as a live score to a silent masterpiece from 1913 (‘Fantômas’ was a French silent crime film serial directed by Louis Feuillade, based on the novel of the same name). Importantly the music stands on its own, independent of the visual narrative that, in turn, marks a brave new chapter in Amiina’s cherished songbook. The band’s Fantômas score is menacing, dark and brooding as it is steeped in delicate beauty and vivid hope. The cinematic opening title-track begins with a slow rhythmic pulse before haunting strings cast an eerie disquiet. The main theme’s melodic motif is masterfully revisited on the sublime ‘Lady Beltham’ before vivid dappling of light ascend on ‘Crocodile’. The closing electronic-oriented ‘L’Homme Du Noir’ explores adventurous new horizons. As ever, immaculate instrumentation of violin, cello, drums, percussion, metallophone, table harp, ukulele, and electronics graces the listener akin to the gradual fading light at dusk or a bird’s majestic flight across vast skies.

The score Fantômas premiered in Paris in 2013 at the prestigious, Théâtre du Châtelet, where Amiina, together with musicians James Blackshaw, Tim Hecker, Loney Dear, and Yann Tiersen, took part in a special Halloween event (curated by Tiersen), celebrating the centenary of the Fantômas series, directed by the French film director Louis Feuillade in 1913-1914.

“Fantômas” is out now on Mengi.

http://www.amiina.com/
http://www.mengi.net/

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(xi). Carla dal Forno – “You Know What It’s Like” (Blackest Ever Black)

The Australian singer-songwriter’s masterful debut solo album ‘You Know What It’s Like’ marked undoubtedly the year’s most dazzling and exciting debuts. Released on the prestigious Blackest Ever Black imprint, lead singles ‘Fast Moving Cars’ and ‘What You Gonna Do Now?’ revealed adventurous avant pop song structures to get beautifully lost in. Forno asks “Did you want this to last a long time?” over a gorgeous haze of meditative bassline grooves and drumbeat on the luminous ‘Fast Moving Cars’. Forno’s voice – a truly formidable instrument – melts and dissolves in the other-worldly pop spheres, conjuring up the timeless sound of ‘Tragedy’-era Julia Holter and Brian Eno’s visionary early 70’s pop gems. A striking emotional depth resides throughout, reflecting on failed relationships, love, loss and the impermanence of it all. Loneliness is etched across the canvas of the album’s title-track, sharing the colours and shades of Miles Davis’s ‘Kind Of Blue’ and Nico’s celestial voice with its yearning, searching feel: “What you gonna do now that the night’s come and it’s around you?” Elements of dub, post-punk, psychedelic folk and avant pop sounds shimmer majestically throughout: from the late 60’s psych folk of ‘Drying In The Rain’ to the dub-infused odyssey ‘DB Rip’s wave of synthesizers. The stripped-back closer ‘The Same Reply’ serves the record’s most breath-taking moments; distilled in lost love.

“You Know What It’s Like” is out now on Blackest Ever Black.

https://www.facebook.com/carladalfornoyes/
http://blackesteverblack.com/

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(xii). Andy Stott – “Too Many Voices” (Modern Love)

The renowned UK producer Andy Stott delivered his highly anticipated follow-up to 2014 classic ‘Faith In Strangers’ in the form of ‘Too Many Voices’ last Spring via the peerless Manchester-based imprint Modern Love. The gifted producer continued to explore new sonic terrain and tap into new emotional depths with gorgeous dub step, electronic, grime and 80’s synth pop flourishes. On Stott’s fourth studio album, breathtaking synth washes of ‘New Romantic’ (with nods to This Mortal Coil) and soulful seduction of ‘Butterflies’ (the record’s lead single) are interwoven with utterly compelling dubstep techno for the dancefloor (‘First Night’) and crystalline ambient chill-wave bliss (‘On My Mind’). The title-track and album closer perhaps serves the record’s glorious climax with masterfully arranged choral harmonies (supplied by longtime vocal contributor Alison Skidmore who appears on half of the record) and euphoric production (think Holly Herndon crossed with the Yellow Magic Orchestra), providing one of the tracks of 2016 in the process.

“Too Many Voices” is out now on Modern Love.

http://modern-love.co.uk/

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(xiii). Katie Kim – “Salt” (Art For Blind)

‘Salt’ sees the revered Irish musician explore deeper into the ethereal dimension, for which she has long ago established. The hypnotic guitar drone of ‘Day Is Coming’ envelops the deepest of fears and anguish, culminating in a swirling symphonic haze of heavenly harmonies and brooding strings. ‘Someday’ is a delicately beautiful piano lament and searching prayer for hope. The striking intimacy and hypnotic spell cast by the gifted songwriter throughout ‘Salt’ unleashes the most deeply affecting batch of songs to have been unearthed for quite some time. Sonically, the latest record is a partnership between O’ Sullivan and producer John Murphy, whose expansive, guttural soundscapes of album opener ‘Ghosts’ and centerpiece ‘I Make Sparks’ are masterfully contrasted with the closing fragile piano ballads ‘Thieves’ and ‘Wide Hand’. One of the album’s defining moments arrives with the pulsating ‘Life Or Living’; a euphoric exploration into the depths of darkness. An image depicted on the second verse becomes the engulfing embodiment of ‘Salt’s realm of raw emotion and blissful transcendence: “Holding my hand now the tides incoming/Make us a shield so the light won’t get in.”

“Salt” is out now on Art For Blind.

https://katiekim.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DANCEKATIEKIMDANCE/

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(xiv). Marissa Nadler – “Strangers” (Bella Union, Sacred Bones)

“Strangers” finds Marissa Nadler’s sonic palette expanding (synths and drumbeats are at times added to Nadler’s voice and guitar). But despite the added instrumentation and more intricate arrangements, a purity forever remains in the treasured songbook of Nadler’s forever timeless oeuvre. Beautiful subtleties exist within the sonic tapestries while striking imagery such as disintegrating cliffs, towering skyscrapers, darkening woods and deep rivers are offset with characters often feeling at odds with the world they find themselves in (or more accurately find themselves suspended into, all of a sudden). There’s a tangible sense of contrasting dichotomies lying at the heart of “Strangers” (between the familiar and the unfamiliar; safety and danger; darkness and light; life and death) which makes the journey Nadler takes us on all the more real. Tangible. Life-affirming. And like a silent witness we can quietly navigate that darkness with her. For we are not strangers after all.

“Strangers” is out now on Bella Union (UK) / Sacred Bones (USA).

http://www.marissanadler.com/
https://marissanadler.bandcamp.com/

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(xv). Brigid Mae Power – “S/T” (Tompkins Square)

Brigid Mae Power’s stunningly beautiful latest solo full-length – and Tompkins Square debut – is an album drenched in reverb-soaked emotion and lament. Enchantingly performed and produced, the record showcases a songwriter of immense talent in a soundscape that naturally merges itself to Brigid Power’s engulfing sound. The magic lies in the songwriter’s expression of raw emotion, in all its delicate beauty. Themes include transformation, change, motherhood, acceptance, strength, courage and trust. In the words of Power, the album is about “trusting if you lose yourself or your way — you can come back.”

Such is the album’s timeless brilliance, the nearest parallels that can be drawn to Power’s quietly unassuming, divine artistry are those blessed folk spirits of bygone times such as Sibylle Baier, Tia Blake or Margaret Barry. As reflected in the lyrics of closing heartfelt lament of ‘How You Feel’, this deeply personal and intimate set of songs become a place of hope and solace where the path laid out in front you is filled with the light of day and sea of love.

“Brigid Mae Power” is out now on Tompkins Square.

http://brigidmaepower.com/
http://www.tompkinssquare.com/

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(xvi). Syrinx – “Tumblers from the Vault (1970–1972)” (RVNG Intl)

A collection of experimental synth music culled from the early 70’s Toronto music scene is beautifully celebrated by the ever-indispensable Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl label on the shape-shifting, genre defying musical document, ‘Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)’. The band in question are the avant-garde three-piece Syrinx whose wholly unique hybrid of chamber pop and electronic experimentation crafts an utterly timeless journey into the limitless possibilities of music. The dreamy, lo-fi gem ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’ remains as vital and fresh as the day it was recorded. The sprawling epic ‘December Angel’ dumbfounds the listener in its sheer beauty and compelling sound: a piece of music from some future age, unknown and mysterious all at once. Psychedelic flourishes are etched across the more electronic-oriented ‘Ibistix’; the amalgamation of distorted voices and cosmic strings creates a symphony of rapture and transcendence.

Syrinx consisted of composer and keyboardist John Mills-Cockell, saxophonist Doug Pringle, and percussionist Alan Wells. Syrinx’s self-titled debut arrived in 1970, followed in 1971 by ‘Long Lost Relatives’, which is highlighted as the first album on Tumblers From The Vault. Re-issue of the year, hands down.

“Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)” is out now on RVNG Intl.

https://igetrvng.com/syrinx-tumblers-vault/

Designs for the first ten albums are by Craig Carry, a limited edition series of screen prints (each edition is limited to 25 copies) have been created to coincide with Fractured Air’s favourite albums of 2016. Prints will be available to purchase online from January 2017. 

With very special thanks to each and every one of our readers. Wishing you all a peaceful and happy new year.

https://fracturedair.com/

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S01E10 | October mix

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October’s mixtape contains an exclusive unreleased track by the world-renowned electronic composer Loscil (Canada/Kranky) ahead of the release of his forthcoming album “Monument Builders”, due for release on November 11th via Kranky.

For over nearly two decades Loscil (Vancouver-born Scott Morgan) has been amassing a constantly evolving, soul-stirring body of work. Beginning with his 2001 debut “Triple Point”, Loscil has developed his own unique style of textural rhythms that ceaselessly blur the lines of ambient, techno, drone and modern-classical. Next month sees the hugely anticipated release of Loscil’s “Monument Builders” (his eighth release for the Chicago-based independent Kranky) and follow-up to 2014’s magnificent “Sea Island” full length.

Also included in October’s mix are two selections from the latest masterful guest mix by Late Night Tales – this time with Belfast-born producer extraordinaire David Holmes at the helm – which ranks amongst the most irresistible contributions in the vast Late Night Tales archive to date. Featured here is the heart-stopping tribute to the late Henry McCullough, the Northern Irish guitarist who was a member of Spooky Tooth, Paul McCartney’s Wings, Sweeney’s Men and also performed with Joe Cocker. Holmes collaborates with the Irish DJ, musician and author BP Fallon for the gorgeous “Henry McCullough”, a most loving and poignant tribute to his memory.

October’s mix also features new releases by the Irish-based electronic producer Ellll (pseudonym for Cork-based artist Ellen King) who releases her sublime debut EP “Romance” next month; Katie Gately’s stunning debut album “Color” on the Tri Angle label; the impeccable “Stranger Things” soundtrack composed by Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein from the Austin-based band S U R V I V E and the second album by Xylouris White (legendary Cretan-lute player George Xylouris and Dirty Three’s Jim White) entitled “Black Peak”, out now on Bella Union.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S01E10 | October mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2016/10/21/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e10-october-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. John Carpenter“Hofner Dawn” (Sacred Bones)
02. Colleen“Your Heart On Your Sleeve” (The Leaf Label)
03. Ellll“Romance” (Art For Blind)
04. Katie Gately“Lift” (Tri Angle)
05. Jessy Lanza“Could Be U” (Hyperdub)
06. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein“This Isn’t You” (Stranger Things OST, Lakeshore)
07. Black Marble “It’s Conditional” (Ghostly International)
08. Madvillain“The Illest Villains” (Stones Throw, PIAS)
09. Betty Harris“There’s a Break in the Road” (Soul Jazz)
10. J Dilla & MF Doom“Sniper Elite” (Gold Dust Media)
11. Virginia Wing“Daughter of the Mind” (Fire)
12. Marissa Nadler“High on the Road” (Bandcamp)
13. Nick Cave & Warren Ellis“Texas Midlands” (Hell or High Water OST, Milan)
14. Stars Of The Lid“Tippy’s Demise” (Kranky)
15. Low “Untitled 1” (Bandcamp)
16. Bob Dylan“Song To Woody” (Columbia)
17. Xylouris White“The Feast” (Bella Union)
18. the Marquis de Tren and Bonny Billy (with Angel Olsen)“Solemn 28” (Drag City, Domino)
19. The Children Of Sunshine“It’s A Long Way To Heaven” (LateNightTales)
20. Townes Van Zandt“Waitin’ Around To Die” (Charly, Poppy)
21. Ennio Morricone“The Ecstasy Of Gold” (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly OST, United Artists)
22. The Avalanches“The Wozard Of Iz” (XL)
23. BP Fallon & David Holmes“Henry McCullough” (LateNightTales)
24. Primal Scream“Inner Flight” (Creation)
25. Katie Kim“Ghosts” (Art For Blind)
26. Boom Bip“I See Me” (Sun Choke OST, Lex)
27. Loscil“Varia” (Unreleased)
28. Jóhann Jóhannsson“A Song for Europa” (Deutsche Grammophon)
29. Claire M Singer“Wrangham” (Touch)
30. Gavin Bryars (with Tom Waits)“Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” (Obscure, Island)

Compiled by Fractured Air, October 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/

 

Chosen One: Marissa Nadler

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Interview with Marissa Nadler.

“The times you think of speaking
There is nobody near
The times you think of listening
There is nothing to hear
There is nothing to hear”

—Bill Fay, “Narrow Way” (1971)

Words: Craig Carry, Interview: Mark Carry

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For well over a decade now, the beloved Boston Massachusetts-based songwriter Marissa Nadler has been quietly amassing a soul-stirring body of work which is both unrivalled amongst her peers while (almost effortlessly) managing to channel the same spirit as earliest U.S. folk musicians from bygone times. Two years on from the mesmerising “July” (an album that “details the events of my life from one July to the next”) there are noticeable points of departure on “Strangers”, Nadler’s seventh full-length album, released via Bella Union (UK) and Sacred Bones (USA).

Interestingly, “Strangers” finds Nadler’s sonic palette expanding (synths and drumbeats are at times added to Nadler’s voice and guitar). But despite the added instrumentation and more intricate arrangements, a purity forever remains. Beautiful subtleties exist within the sonic tapestries (feint synth passages hinting at harmony or choral works, recalling the likes of Bert Jansch or Townes Van Zandt, L.A. Turnaround or Our Mother The Mountain, for example). Crucially, Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Black Mountain) remains on production duties. Like kindred souls Tucker Martine or Thomas Bartlett, Dunn’s mystical sleight of hand somehow manages to faithfully preserve the spirit of his subject’s artistry while making the songs an even more heightened experience for the listener in the process. He manages to bring us closer, even – we are less strangers than witnesses – all the while meticulously fine-tuning Nadler’s prized songs, only always for the sake of the song.

While previous works have been explicitly “autobiographical” in nature, lyrically there is a certain sense of the surreal mixed with the personal here. Songs do not seem to occupy clear focal points while their genesis don’t seem to be limited only to lived experience. Imagery such as disintegrating cliffs, towering skyscrapers, darkening woods and deep rivers are offset with characters often feeling at odds with the world they find themselves in (or more accurately find themselves suspended into all of a sudden). There’s a tangible sense of contrasting dichotomies lying at the heart of “Strangers” (between the familiar ad the unfamiliar; safety and danger; darkness and light; life and death) which makes the journey Nadler takes us on all the more real. Tangible. Life-affirming.

While the listener looks to navigate their own way through the dense maze of Nadler’s grippingly challenging and irresistibly cinematic sonic canvas on “Strangers” one finds oneself looking for recognisable points of reference, as if on the search for evidence of the familiar (reassurances, even). The lack of a fixed point of view (and therefore no clearly defined sense of a known space or time) forms the basis to Nadler’s haunting gothic tales here. We find ourselves suddenly suspended inside an already-moving orbit or an already-unfolding story with no known sense of a beginning or ending. The startling effect is akin to experiencing the short stories of George Saunders, Chris Marker’s ‘La Jetée’ or perhaps the still photographs of Paolo Pellegrin.

Like all of Nadler’s previous works, it proves a futile exercise to limit an album’s achievement by merely isolating individual songs. For Nadler has over the last twelve years also attained a true mastery and wide-eyed appreciation to the full potential of the album as an individual piece of work, a living document to her own craft (and life). From the heart-stopping piano-led ballad “Divers of the Dust”, we can immediately feel the impending sense of danger that may be about to unfold: “Divers of the dust / You can help me if you must”. “It’s hard to know / When to let go” sings Nadler in the haunting “Katie I Know” (interestingly, referencing names – whether fictional or otherwise – has often formed the basis for some of Nadler’s most prized songs, take “Dead City Emily” or “Janie In Love” for instance), it seems like a perfect analogy to what a songwriter’s mindset must be: constantly aware of the present tense even as it becomes the past, open to every living experience as it unfolds in the here and now. Whether such gifts can be attributed a blessing or a curse must be oftentimes blurred.

As the world in the songs of “Strangers” begin to disintegrate and dissolve around us, moments of epiphany and realisation abound too. Central characters find themselves at places they formerly called home only to find themselves feeling an unnerving sense of alienation; only seeing the unfamiliar in the familiar. Other moments of realisation occur on “All the Colours of the Dark” when Nadler sings: “This is not your world anymore” across a glorious backdrop of chime-like piano notes and a steady (as if reassuring) drumbeat (recalling the timeless songs of Mark Linkous’s Sparklehorse).

Indeed, Nadler’s divine art has always been about losing oneself in a moment only to regain that sense of self (ultimately through the songwriter putting pen to paper) once more. The cycle continues as we continually – and ultimately – find out more about ourselves in the process. One can always find solace and hope in the joy that Marissa Nadler’s timeless songbook brings, for she majestically navigates that narrow way so we don’t have to. And like a silent witness we can quietly navigate that darkness with her. For we are not strangers after all.

“Strangers” is available now on Bella Union (UK) and Sacred Bones (USA).

http://www.marissanadler.com/

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Interview with Marissa Nadler.

Congratulations Marissa on your sublime new record, ‘Strangers’. This batch of songs represents your finest work to date; such empowering songs of heartbreak awash in a kaleidoscope of ethereal and otherworldly musical patterns. Please discuss for me the making of ‘Strangers’ and how the (music-making) process changed in any significant way from your previous ‘July’ LP?

Marissa Nadler: Thank you so much for the very kind words. My process is always about the song. You can’t build a house without the foundation. These songs could have gone many different directions sonically, though I knew I wanted the melodies, structures, harmonies, lyrics, instrumental lines to remain the same. I was more open to experimenting this time around with adding drums and creating more dynamics in a purely musical sense.

‘July’ marked your first collaboration with producer Randall Dunn and he remains at the helm for ‘Strangers’. I feel this deep dialogue between you both can be felt throughout the new record’s expansive and adventurous sonic terrain. Can you talk me through the transformation of these songs (from the original demos) as they bloom into their final entities? How do you feel the collaborative process has developed with Randall?

MN: I think Randall has a very good pulse on what my influences are- ranging from girl groups to spaghetti western soundtrack- to shoegaze- to 70s prog rock to classic rock to country balladeers.. I think he’s also into stuff I’m not as familiar with, and working with someone who brings their own unique influences into the mix can result in a unique amalgamation of sounds. He’s also a great friend and has a wonderful circle of talented musicians with him that make working with him even better.

‘Katie I Know’ embodies the rich beauty (forever) inherent in your mesmerising folk tales. Tell me about the characters depicted in ‘Strangers’, Marissa? The layering and sumptuous arrangements of a song such as this leaves a profound impact on the listener. I wonder was this song a significant breakthrough or gateway into the rest of the record? 

MN: I don’t think of them as characters (this record or the last few).. They are real people in my life but I guess they’ve become characters now that they are in these songs.
Katie I know is a really personal song. I’m very happy you like the layers. I wasn’t sure what people were going to make of it but at the same time I knew that I was happy with it so…

Please take me back to the recording of ‘Strangers’? One record that comes to mind when reflecting on the immaculate production and highly emotive quality is Julee Cruise’s ‘Floating Into The Night’. ‘Strangers’ encapsulates that ethereal dream-pop realm so masterfully. Would you often have reference points (in terms of records or perhaps poetry, authors, films) when it comes to beginning a new chapter in one’s songbook?

MN: I honestly don’t intentionally go about making any certain genre. Influences just have a way of getting into the brain. I will say that the impetus is not usually books or records.. it’s usually personal relationships and experiences that are catalysts to my songwriting.

The sparse lament ‘Dissolve’ serves the perfect close. Again, the record’s aesthetic quality and dynamic range creates a surreal backdrop to your deeply moving songs of loss and heartbreak. As always, an undying light of hope resides deep in the songs. Can you shed some light on the writing process, Marissa? 

MN: Thank you. My writing process is very organic and intuitive. I just led the melody lead me.

What do you feel were the defining records for you Marissa, in terms of leading you towards your songwriting path?

MN: There’s so many it’s truly impossible to list.. but I would say generally that I gravitate towards pure music.. pure voices, pure emotion. It doesn’t matter what genre. My first true music loves were Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Elliott Smith, Townes Van Zandt, Kate Bush, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Pink Floyd, Neil Young. I mean more than anything I truly grew up immersed in those kinds of songwriters.

I would love for you to discuss your earliest musical memories: the first song you wrote, the records in your family home that made a big impression and your life in music to this day? 

MN: I have to say that I have very few childhood memories that are more than colors and feelings. It’s very strange but I do not know the first song that I wrote. I remember always loving to sing though.

“Strangers” is available now on Bella Union (UK) and Sacred Bones (USA).

http://www.marissanadler.com/

Written by admin

May 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E5 | May mix

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fracturedairmix_may16

 

For May’s mixtape we are delighted to present a pair of exclusive tracks by two of Ireland’s finest songwriters: Adrian Crowley and Katie Kim.

Since his debut release at the turn of the century (“A Strange Kind”), Adrian Crowley has quietly established himself as one of the finest songwriters of his generation. With seven studio albums to date (Crowley’s most recent record is “Some Blue Morning”, released in 2014 via Glasgow-based label Chemikal Underground) Crowley’s reputation has been built upon his poetic lyricism, distinctive baritone and a natural gift for storytelling. Presented here exclusively for this mix is Adrian Crowley’s haunting cover version of U.S. folk legend Jackson C. Frank’s “Milk And Honey”.

While the Buffalo-born musician Jackson Carey Frank only released the one album during his lifetime (his Paul Simon-produced self-titled debut from 1965) Frank’s reputation has steadily grown in recent times, in no small part due to Ba Da Bing’s release of “The Complete Recordings” (2015) and the 10″ vinyl issue of “Forest Of Eden” (Secret Records, 2013), a collection of previously unreleased tracks and demos.

We’re equally thrilled to present an exclusive track by another of Ireland’s best-loved and consistently intriguing songwriters, Katie Kim (the pseudonym for Waterford-born Katie Sullivan). With two full-length albums to date (2008’s “Twelve” and 2012’s double LP “Cover&Flood”) a third LP, entitled “Salt”, is scheduled for release later in 2016. Katie Kim has supported the likes of Low and Slint to date while her diverse influences stem from the realms of experimental, folk, post-rock, shoegaze, ambient and outsider folk.

Also presented in May’s mixtape is a number of long-established cornerstones to the independent music scene who have debut records for their latest projects: Four-piece Liima features Efterklang’s Mads Brauer, Casper Clausen and Rasmus Stolberg who are joined by Finnish percussionist Tatu Rönkkö. The band’s 4AD debut is entitled “ii”.
Dieterich & Barnes is the new collaboration between Jeremy Barnes (A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Neutral Milk Hotel) and Deerhoof’s John Dieterich who released their scintillating debut “The Coral Casino” on LM Duplication earlier this year.
“You + Your D.Metal Friend” is the latest improvisational project from Cico Beck (Joasihno, Aloa Input, the Notwist) and Markus Acher (the Notwist, Tied & Tickled Trio, Rayon). The duo’s debut album “Sonnier” is available via the forever-dependable German independent label Alien Transistor.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E5 | May mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:

http://www.blogotheque.net/2016/05/27/fractured-air-x-blogotheque-s01e05-may-mix/

 

Tracklisting:

01. William S. Burroughs“Origin and Theory of the Tape Cut-Ups” (excerpt) (Sub Rosa)
02. Jóhann Jóhannsson“Melodia (I)” (4AD)
03. Moondog“Each Today Is Yesterday’s Tomorrow” (Columbia)
04. Mark Pritchard“Beautiful People” (feat. Thom Yorke) (Warp)
05. Tim Hecker“Music of the Air” (4AD)
06. Andy Stott“Too Many Voices” (Modern Love)
07. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith“Envelop” (Western Vinyl)
08. Joasihno“Wondrous Sibling” (Alien Transistor)
09. Dieterich & Barnes“What” (LM Duplication)
10. Liima“Amerika” (4AD)
11. Wildbirds & Peacedrums“Soft Wind, Soft Death” (The Leaf Label)
12. Max Richter“Path 5” (Mogwai Remix / Edit) (Deutsche Grammophon)
13. Adrian Crowley“Milk And Honey” (Unreleased)
14. The Beacon Sound Choir“Drone 1” (excerpt) (Infinite Greyscale)
15. You + Your D. Metal Friend“Sonnier 6” (Alien Transistor)
16. Homeboy Sandman“God” (Stones Throw)
17. DJ Danger Mouse“Interlude” (Self-Released)
18. Dick Dale & His Del-Tones“Angry Generation” (Ace)
19. DJ Shadow“Nobody Speak” (feat Run The Jewels) (Mass Appeal)
20. Ria Bartok“Tu La Revois” (Ace)
21. Julianna Barwick“Same” (Dead Oceans)
22. Georges Delerue“Paul” (Le Mépris OST, EmArcy)
23. Katie Kim“Warm Bait” (Unreleased)
24. Christina Vantzou“Stereoscope” (Steve Hauschildt remix) (Bandcamp)
25. Marissa Nadler“Waking” (Bella Union / Sacred Bones)
26. Harold Budd“Afar” (All Saints)

Compiled by Fractured Air, May 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

http://www.blogotheque.net/
https://fracturedair.com/