Top 20 of 2010
This collection is purely based off of what I listened to the most and of that, what made a lasting impression. Hopefully something therein will strike a chord with you as well. And of course, please go purchase the album and support the artists if so.
Enjoy. I hope 2010 has been good to you. Happy 2011. (Photo: Abbey Powell-Thompson)
20 Tracks, 01:01:25, 129.94mb, MP3
With the achingly tender cover image aside, the spare-then-chaotic musical formula works well here for Mueller on his first release with one of my favorite labels, Type. Mueller’s numerous other projects ranging from Pele to Collections Of Colonies Of Bees, both chime in on typically more uplifting motifs whereas The Whole treks around a dark fringe amidst the dulcimer, heavy percussion and yes, even wordless vocals.
He Runs Without Feet and Holds Without Hands
Carve Out The Face Of My God
Post Present Medium
Kyle Parker and his Infinite Body project essentially shove the envelope of sonic behavior to its threshold. The densely arranged pieces churn into maelstroms before finally nestling into a fetal curl, softly heaving on the edge of these sheer cliffs of sound.
The Fun Years
Breech On The Bowstring (Excerpt)
God Was Like, No
The Fun Years last full-length was #1 on Boomkat’s top list a couple years back and ever since I have thusly lent a close ear. Looped baritone guitar paired with turntableism infused by a swarm of micro-processed tones and samples drop down a perfect blanket of sound to give form to the cheeky song titles.
Erased Tapes took a chance perhaps on this literal 3-minute release from Berlin’s piano maestro Frahm. The idea works somehow, as the lone thought after the two pieces end was, “Oh, please let there be more.” Hopefully Unter/Uber is a preview of a larger body of similar work to come in this next year.
In The Event Of A Sudden Loss (Excerpt)
Until The Hushed Point Of Support
I first listened to this music while riding underneath the English Channel last spring. The hypnotic flashes of light coupled with the slight warbling of the train married perfectly to the soft-dark tones being emitted through my headphones. Haines, now a Berliner by-way-of Southern England has fully harnessed the use of space and breath in his compositions. Each movement cinematically hovers and dissipates like blurry eyes closing and reopening in slow motion.
The Water’s Burden (Excerpt)
From Which The River Rises
The physical grasses, rivers and root systems of rural England that surround Richard Skelton have long-since grafted their presence into his musical process and forethought. Clouwbeck, one of Skelton’s many alter-egos is, as with most of his previous releases, designed exquisitely and pressed to extremely limited quantities through his own Sustain-Release label. Existing within just two drawn-out pieces, From Which The River Rises is a curt exercise in balance and restraint.
Loosely Based On Bees (Excerpt)
As one half of the Philly-based electro-acoustic outfit Mountains, Holtkamp splays before us his 2nd solo release and his first on Chicago’s long-time Thrill Jockey imprint. A diptych of massively gorgeous tracks span the two planes of this record. Ample field recordings pulse and intertwine with swaying tones as they ascend slowly, twirling and spinning into honeyed cacophonies of sound.
Climbing High Mountains
I See The Sign
Amidon’s tightly-woven bevy of old folk and traditional numbers continue to bode well for him in this, his second release on Iceland’s Bedroom Community. Hallowed composer and collaborator Nico Muhly adorns the record beautifully with his gilded piano arrangements as do additional vocals and guitar from Beth Orton and Ben Frost amongst others.
Erik K Skodvin
Etching An Entrance
Erik Skodvin has mastered the art of dark and brooding auditory concoctions. This Norwegian is perhaps better known for his Miasmah label (featuring such artists as Greg Haines and Rafael Anton Irisarri), his Deaf Center duo or his solo moniker Svarte Greiner (both on Type), while Berlin’s Sonic Pieces had the lovely order of releasing his first offering under his own name. Skodvin holds fast to his clean and brutally dim musical output whilst treading the border of some newly ravishing acoustic architectures.
Nils Frahm engineered this live recording at Berlin’s Grunewald Church, which is also the setting from which Frahm’s The Bellswas also culled. O’Halloran, an LA native who is now a Berliner, delicately draws back the drapes and sets a full stream of light to gently land on his hands over the keys – the sole members of this music. Released true-to-form in highly limited (and now long sold out) quantities, Sonic Pieces is slowly making some of the most beautiful records (briefly) surfacing these days.
A Long Journey
Mr. Hatakeyama’s artful release from Home Normal perhaps marks his best work since the Kranky-released Minima Moralia in 2006. Quite fitting is the floating girl in water that graces the cover image, as the feathering waveforms of music similarly seem to rise and fall like human breath. Each piece equally contributes a patchwork to this quilt softly floating with atmospheric down.
Endless Falls (excerpt)
The long-gray Vancouver sky no doubt is cast as an integral role for Loscil’s newest release, Endless Falls. Warm chords gather and swim darkly in the mysterious current of this music; each phrase minutely parsing the ambling shards like a magnet. A lovely counterpart to a bold spiraling out from one’s proverbial trailhead – having now drifted elsewhere from whence one began.
Arp & Anthony Moore
Wild Grass II (For Robert Wyatt)
Frkwys Volume 3
The “Wild Grass” pieces truly lodge into place the cornerstone of this airy nest of songs for me. The delayed drones and playfully reprising piano weaves an apt niche they’ve carved out – it is all but enveloping in its hypnosis.
Guitar Meditations Volume 2
Emeralds’ axe-toting member, McGuire is perhaps too prolific. Yet, each release, with it’s short print runs and unconventional formatting always beckons the listener hither. Recorded just down the avenue from the cover image’s grandly-steepled church, this collection of looped guitar music rings ever-true to McGuire’s specificity that has firmly cemented him in an almost stand-alone genre.
Tack & Tower
Slightly filtering out some of the drones and dense layering of vocal processing, Lasted bares more resemblance to folk-based forebears than to previous releases from this Portland, Oregon mainstay. Pioulard always etches in several opulent pieces of old, sown gingerly amidst concise, addictive, and rhythmic clusters of song.
Clear-striding out from the forest floor of the Pacific NW, Jurado returns donning a direct and full-banded palette with another stunningly beautiful release. Having spanned North America and Europe almost countless times over the past decade, Jurado’s aim never ceases to embody a poised and blunt grace with his approach to his recordings and his live performance. The gothic throwback cadences herein threaded with exceptional story-telling and Jurado’s distinct vocal styling set forth a plentiful and fetching quiver of songs.
Sun Kil Moon
The Leaning Tree (Excerpt)
Admiral Fell Promises
Mark Kozelek puts away his band and his trusty steel-string steed is skirted aside to instead wield and hone the nylon Spanish guitar. The songs, as per usual with most everything Kozelek touches, move glacially at times and hold many verses in their lengthy excursions. But his swooning voice and intricate guitar work do nothing less than slowly entice and further engrain upon each listen.
This sweet ensemble raise the bar high this year with their Magic Chairs release on the coveted 4AD. After an intense touring schedule all over the world and performances with such diverse accompaniments varying from full orchestras to children choirs, Efterklang will finally take some time off in 2011 to breathe, and hopefully begin slowly working on another masterpiece.
Several Tries (In An Unelevated Style) (Excerpt)
The Effective Disconnect
Stars of the Lid is brushed aside this year for McBride’s solo scoring venture. McBride has applied a tinge more of humanity in these compositions, adhering more to the classical side of his nature. These works are tautly akin, cast a triumphant shadow, and long after multiple listens the reverberation still peals.
Keith Kenniff’s Goldmund project never ceases to administer paralysis in such acute bliss. The sparsely arranged piano pieces (often accentuated by minuscule tones and soundscapes) have seemingly been forever on repeat this year for me. Famous Places traverses a great distance and at the end of the journey, one just might want to retrace their steps yet again (and again, and again, and…).