Thank you to all the artists and record labels for such wonderful and diverse music.
This is one list of many, it’s my list, and it leaves off many other favorites that I have enjoyed over the year in addition to the thousands of other albums and single tracks that make up music throughout the World. What has helped me arrive at this list is what I have always loved about music: Does it move me? In addition, is it creative, well recorded and produced with a degree of care that makes me pay attention to it? There was a time when I was obsessed with highly produced and tightly engineered works, then I learned about artists such as East River Pipe and Sparklehorse, and many other genres of music were opened to me.
If you don’t see your favorite album on this list (or even your own album), it doesn’t mean a thing. If an album has been reviewed on my website this year, it’s meaningful to many others and me, but this is only a very, very small slice of the music world. Often people ask me about new music, and what I recommend. When I started this website in late January, 2012 it was first a means to write about music that I enjoyed, but also to get to know other artists and learn about new music that they create, so I could pass it on. Often, the best new music is that referred by a friend. Please feel free to send me your comments and recommendations.
Special note: There are still three or four late 2012 releases that are either enroute to me, have yet to be released or have just arrived. I need to spend proper time listening to and absorbing these albums. Rather than delaying this list further, and if after listening to those last 2012 releases I feel that they hit a sweet spot, I’ll review those albums in early 2013. I know of at least two 2012 releases that I’ll likely not receive until 2013.
I have three categories: Albums (12), Individual Tracks (6), and Special Releases (3) that don’t necessarily fit into a category.
Albums (Artist – Album Title – Record Label)
1) Twigs & Yarn – The Language of Flowers – Flau
2) Lambchop – Mr. M – Merge Records
3) Zammuto – Zammuto – Temporary Residence
4) Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited II – Inside Out Music
5) Taylor Deupree – Faint – 12k
6) Billow Observatory – Billow Observatory – Felte
7) Gareth Dickson – Quite A Way Away – 12k
8) Pill-Oh – Vanishing Mirror – Kitchen. Label
9) Brambles – Charcoal – Serein
10) Almost Charlie – Tomorrow’s Yesterday – Words On Music
11) Cody ChesnuTT – Landing On A Hundred – One Little Indian
12) Stick Men – Deep – Stick Men Records
Individual Tracks (from other albums)
1) Library Tapes – Sun peeking through (from the album Sun peeking through) – Self Released
2) Cock & Swan – Orange & Pink (from the album Stash) – Lost Tribe Sound
3) Alex Tiuniaev – Daylight (from the album Blurred) – Heat Death Records
4) Kyle Bobby Dunn – In Praise of Tears (from the album In Miserum Stercus) – Komino
5) Kane Ikin & David Wenngren – Chalk (from the album Strangers) – Keshhhhhh
6) Olan Mill – Bleu Polar (from the album Paths) – Fac-ture
1) Celer & Machinefabriek: Maastunnel/Mt. Mitake, Numa/Penarie, Hei/Sou – Self Released
2) Birds Of A Feather: Michael Frommer – The Great Northern Loon, Porya Hatami – The Black Woodpecker, Darren McClure – The Black Kite, The Green Kingdom – The Great Blue Heron – Flaming Pines
3) Simon Scott, Corey Fuller, Marcus Fischer, Tomoyoshi Date and Taylor Deupree (Recorded live in Japan October, 8, 2012) – Between (…The Branches) – 12k
Record Labels Noted Above
Merge Records: http://www.mergerecords.com/
Temporary Residence LTD: http://temporaryresidence.com/
Inside Out: http://www.insideoutmusic.com/
Kitchen. Label: http://www.kitchen-label.com/
Words On Music: http://www.words-on-music.com/
One Little Indian: http://indian.co.uk/shop/landing-on-a-hundred-1.html
Stick Men Records: http://stick-men.net
Library Tapes: http://librarytapes.com/
Lost Tribe Sound: http://www.cockandswan.com/ Note: I have not listed the weblink to the record label as Google has noted that the website MAY be compromised.
Heat Death Records: http://www.heatdeathrecords.co.uk/
Kesh (Simon Scott’s label): http://www.keshhhhhh.com/
Flaming Pines: http://flamingpines.com/
Twice Removed Records – Time: About 39 Minutes – Limited Edition CDr (50 copies)
Tracks: 1) Anchors and Roots; 2) Either By Storm Or Low Frequency; 3) With Closed Mouth; 4) Melting Tines; 5) Waiting for the Rain; 6) From Ebb To Flow
Coming from Twice Removed Records on January 1, 2013 (a small label in Perth, Australia that releases short-run limited editions) is the latest (third) solo album from Benjamin Dauer. I have great admiration for the various interests that BD pursues. He has diverse accomplishments, from his design and digital media day-job at NPR (National Public Radio) in Washington, DC to raising awareness and environmental activism projects like Save The Pollinators.
I also appreciate BD’s musical pursuits as both a multi-instrumentalist solo artist and collaborator (with other musicians near and far), including his active participation with the Disquiet Junto (an ongoing music-making project where restrictions are used as a catalyst for inspiration). Recently, I’ve been following with great interest the sound-sketch development (posted on SoundCloud) for a forthcoming album by The Dwindlers (his ongoing collaboration with poet Michelle Seaman).
From what I have heard of Benjamin’s previous solo work, it tends to be less rhythmic, a bit darker and more saturated than his (often Jazz-rooted) work with The Dwindlers. There is an enmeshed yet subtle grittiness recalling earlier analog electronic and instrumental works (like the 1970 soundtrack to Frederic Rossif’s documentary L’Apocalypse des animaux by Evangelos Papathanassiou), while continuing to explore new aural horizons and narratives. BD has an interesting quote at his website, which I think reveals that his solo work is less about an arrival at a particular sound, but more about the journey:
“As a musician & composer, I explore the boundaries of modern music through experimentation and play.”
In The Pace of Which, BD seems to be investigating different methods of creating musical atmospheres by blurring distinctions between musical genres (such as ambient, drone or others). Each track takes a different approach, but there are some common elements in varied intensities. Some of the pieces focus more on background with minimal foreground, whereas others the foreground elements are more pronounced, as well as the in between.
The background is predominant in Anchors and Roots. The sound is broad, resonant on the edges, and heavily blended. There are subtle placements of keyboards into the foreground, along with gentle clicks. At a point where there seems to be a recognizable rhythm or melody, it disperses back into the haze.
Either By Storm Or Low Frequency takes time to develop; initially it has more hushed surroundings, with distance pulses and slow waves. Sounds are buried down deep, almost immersed in rolling surf, reminding me of the analog warmth of Tangerine Dream’s album Rubycon (one of my favorite TD albums). BD is quite good at disguising the instrumentation—sounds seeming to be more keyboard-based, with purer tones entering the sound-mantra and slowly dissolving as if being pulled back into a sonic undertow.
The foreground takes a more prominent role in With Closed Mouth. The contrast of far and near is sharper. The more dominant sounds could be the concurrent mechanics of the music being created, or blended field recordings. There is interplay between reverberant sustained guitar and muted keyboards. The result is a feeling of suspension, yet with some of the most tangible sounds on the album. Melting Tines returns to clustered tones. It’s a gentle wall of sound, punctuated by an almost reluctant guitar, and then veiled appearances of a piano. An environmental-dominant foreground opens Waiting for the Rain. It could be an early morning street scene of a city coming back to life on a gray morning with placid breezes. The album closes with From Ebb To Flow, which again blends the sounds of the outdoors with an expanding tonal haze and an undercurrent of low frequency pulses before fading.
Since I tend at times to prefer more discreet sounds in mixes, I found that there were brief moments (particularly in the last track) where I was distracted by a “tape-saturated” ambience, but I stress that this is a particular quirk of mine. I listen to music in the ambient and drone realms as vehicles to either clear my mind or to transport to a different (and often more pleasurable) zone. Listening to works on the drone side of the spectrum, however, tends to be a more sensory intensive experience, even if the desired end result is a more numbed state of being.
Benjamin Dauer’s explorations in The Pace of Which will take you to many places with transformative and lush fabrics of sound—his work blurs the edges of the recognizable with richness beyond expected musical genre norms. I’m looking forward to the further results of his experimentation and play.
More on Benjamin Dauer’s band The Dwindlers here: http://thedwindlers.com/
The Pelican and the Girl – From Allegories
Komino Records – K0M1N0-003 (12” LP & Digital) Time: About 36 Minutes
Tracks: 1) Buncington Revisited; 2) Lake Wapta Rise; 3) In Praise Of Tears; 4) Meadowfuck; 5) The Milksop
A sesquidecade ago, I had a pretty regular gig as a lone passenger in a twin-engine Piper Seneca. I sometimes had work to do as I traveled, but often I was able to sit in the co-pilot seat and put on a closed-ear headset with a microphone and either listen to radio chatter, talk with the pilot or sit silently and look at the scenery. The travels took me over a mountainous wilderness. The pilot was a pretty quiet guy, with a very steady hand in rough weather (and we saw some—snow storms too). I was fortunate to even get a few short flying lessons during the trips, but mostly what I appreciated was the solitude of the vistas, leaving the towns and cities behind.
The views were broad landscapes of largely unpopulated forest areas. Whether I had a headset on or not, focusing on what I was beholding would often silence the noise of the plane’s engines. Every so often I’d get distracted and the sound of the synchronized engines would enter my consciousness. At times the engines would have a slight harmonic pulse, as their RPMs fluctuated in the crosswinds.
Those halcyon memories of soaring above the wilds return when listening to Kyle Bobby Dunn’s latest album (self-deprecatingly titled) In Miserum Stercus. About 5 minutes into Buncington Revisited is one of those points of distraction, and the harmonic of the Twin Sixes enters the picture, and then is gone and the passing landscape and feeling of seclusion returns. KBD has his own distinct sound; it’s often just off in the distance and rarely head-on, but despite this tangential nature there is clarity. And although he sometimes disguises the intent of his work in irony, I feel like there are often lucid memories evoked of places, especially in Lake Wapta Rise*, northwest of Banff, in British Columbia. The landscape there in many ways is like what I saw on my journeys, although even more dramatic. There is an expansive desolation in the restrained and blended sounds of this track, although the tones become purer and stronger, before fading.
Machismo apparently isn’t one of KBD’s distinct musical qualities, and so a layer of his thick outer skin is washed away to reveal some lachrymose tendencies with In Praise Of Tears. Measured, peaceful and resonant waves calm the scene, before leading into the not-so-gently titled Meadowfuck. Oh the irony of Mr. Dunn. Although somewhat hushed, this track seems to be making an announcement with its rolling and distant brass-like atmosphere. It builds, and then dives swiftly into The Milksop, which is staunch and paradoxically titled. Have a listen…
So, buckle-up, enjoy the views and happy flying. Oh, and KBD, don’t be so hard on yourself ;-)
* Postscript: I have since been given a geography lesson, on the finer specifics of Calgaric Locus–operative term “Rise”, which just so happens to be one Province east in the plains of Alberta, but I’ll cling to the romantic notion of the mountains.