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/
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.
Record Label & Sound Samples: Low Point (2012) LP049
Artist Website: https://sites.google.com/site/kylebobbydunn/
CD 1 Time: 57:34 CD 2 Time: 64:10
Tracks CD 1: 1) Canticle Of Votier’s Flats; 2) La Chanson De Beurrage; 3) Ending Of All Odds; 4) Douglas Glen Theme; 5) An Evening With Dusty; 6) The Hungover; 7) Diamond Cove (And Its Children Were Watching)
Tracks CD 2: 1) The Troubles With Trés Belles; 2) Innisfal (Rivers Of My Fathers); 3) The Calm Idiots Of Yesterday; 4) Parkland; 5) Complétia Terrace; 6) In Search Of A Poetic Whole; 7) Kotylak; 8) Moitié Et Moitié
I consider listening to Kyle Bobby Dunn’s work to be like how I imagine time travel could be; sitting in a chair in a dimly lit room, the button is pressed, and the journey begins. Then the walls and world around dissolve and nothing matters, but everything is there through the passage of time.
A Young Person’s Guide To…
Being a relative newcomer to KBD’s work (having A Young Person’s Guide To… , Ways Of Meaning, and this double CD), I find his work to be mysterious and boundless. I also sense in some of his writings (around the internets and within the liner notes of his albums) that KBD has a rather wry sense of humor (I note the “beurrage” and the stick of butter on CD 1)—an homage to the mundane, but pleasurable. The instrumentation (I have read) is mostly processed guitar, loops and treatments, yet throughout the album almost none of the sounds are readily identifiable—makes it all the more mystifying. The ethereal simplicity of the resonance belies its depth.
Ways Of Meaning
While his work can sound serious at times, there is a charming and timeless delicacy that instills a sense of wonderment and discovery, but without overt sentimentality. It is like being set free in weightlessness and seeing new things at every turn or blink-of-an-eye and wanting to see and hear more. There is also a sense of being at peace and a reverence to places (of note, Votier’s Flats, Douglas Glen and Diamond Cove; areas close together in the Calgary, Alberta, Canada locale…and is Innisfal actually Innisfail?). I think there are deeply cherished memories in this work.
This latest double-CD has a mix of long and short tracks. Canticle Of Votier’s Flats (in Fish Creek Provincial Park) is a short preamble to the journey. There is soft warmth in the slow layering of La Chanson De Beurrage and imagery of trains or ships in the far away during a deep night in Ending Of All Odds. There are some points where there are comparisons to the works of others (not SOTL!). There is a subtle idée fixe that appears in the Douglas Glen Theme that is reminiscent of An Ending (Ascent) from Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks by Eno, Lanois & Eno (which just happens to be one of my favorite tracks from that 1983 album). And what about An Evening With Dusty? I smile.
Douglas Glen Theme and The Troubles With Trés Belles have the slightest of hints of sonorous brass similar to the recent Tape Loop Orchestra (Andrew Hargreaves – CD 2) album The Burnley Brass Band Plays On In My Heart. The latter KBD piece possesses a deeply held sense of another time and place, as if the journey is temporarily paused to have a look around…and to remember. The expansiveness of Parkland contrasts with the apparent visceral darkness of the introverted Complétia Terrace. In Search Of A Poetic Whole gracefully surges like an awakening. The album closes with two rather somber pieces and I speculate that Kotylak is a calm dissonant statement of reaction.
Works such as this take time to gestate—they’re not just knocked-out in the studio. Understanding memories (often appearing in dreams) are sometimes nebulous, and with time to ponder and sculpt, do clarify into ageless and timeless music such as this. The cinematic parallels are also clear…when I see the long takes of Tarkovsky’s Solaris (flowing water, sinewy highways…) it is as if KBD has translated visions into fluid sonorous existence.
This is powerful stuff and I would love to hear it live too.