For much of this year I felt like I had less time than usual for active music listening. I got married, my wife was pregnant, she gave birth to our beautiful daughter, I had work commitments, my band The Twilights recorded and released a new album, etc. As a result I have a huge backlog of albums that I wanted to check out that I have not listened to yet.
So, this year’s list consists of albums that I did hear that made a strong enough initial impression on me that I either 1.) wrote it down to remember for this list, or 2.) immediately suggested some like-minded friends have a listen — with the caveat that my survey was woefully incomplete as I probably only made it through half of my to-do list of albums.
Anyway, here’s my list in alphabetical order:
Beak〉 – 〉〉〉
Geoff Barrow (of Portishead fame) has brought his attention to groove and atmosphere to a fusion of prog rock and krautrock. It’s not highly technical music, but I use the prog rock label because of the production style and drum sounds as well as some pretty precise playing.
Francis Harris – Trivial Occupations
This album is a set of dance music-inspired pieces layered with performances on acoustic instruments. The melodic minimalism and the repetitive structure are familiar entry points for fans of house or techno and the improvisation elevates the tracks beyond dance floor utility.
Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
This mostly instrumental TX-based guitar trio has escaped most of the expectations that come of being guitar-based and TX-based by avoiding blues and rock cliches. Instead they take a solid soul/rhythm & blues foundation and pepper it with melodic and tonal influences from African and South East Asian pop. The grooves are unfussy and the lead guitar is always tasteful.
Mary Jane Leach – (f)lute songs
Gorgeous, slowly unfolding compositions (spanning 1985-2018) that inhabit the same universe as Morton Feldman, Phill Niblock, and Alvin Lucier (especially his pieces for slow-moving oscillator).
Noinonoinonoino – 8
Dark fuzzy electronic improvisations with smears of analog delay feedback self-oscillating over bass-heavy beats.
Lucy Railton – Paradise 94
Dark and richly textured debut release from this composer and cellist. Plenty of extended techniques to pull out cello creaks and groans that blend seamlessly with her electronic sound design and effects. Really engrossing compositions that seem almost stream-of-consciousness in their flow but never feel aimless or unstructured.
Debashis Sinha – The White Dog
This release was brought to my attention by a post on Create Digital Music. The White Dog is patiently paced and restrained electronic music with nods to 90s ambient techno and IDM. It name checks Alvin Lucier in its titles but I don’t hear an obvious sonic influence. It’s always a pleasant surprise to hear electronic music that is not easily labelled into its component sub-genres.