Here comes that section my main shit stain Bench probably rolls his eyes at and mutters, “Meandering piano music bullshit…”
Yes, it’s a clusterfuck of a genre selection, but they’re so related that it was unavoidable.
Yes, I’m still trying to sell my term ‘Doombient’ into immortality like advertising execs jumping on the HipHop-sells-shit bandwagon five years too late in the mid-90’s. What can I say, I was born in late April. I’m stubborn.
Given the girth of releases I’ve wantonly consumed over the last 52 weeks, I won’t be able to address each release with a full, proper thought. It’s just too exhausting. In no apparent order of appreciation, here are your candidates for Best of yadda yadda yadda, strings, blah blah blah, piano, splish splash splah, field recordings, meow meow meow, weird noises.
– Max Richter Infra. A fine orchestral backing to a ballet I’ll never see. Some classic Richter string sweeps that hone in on the most romantic, melancholy fibers of your being. In some odd way, I keep hearing parallels to Johann Johannsson’s Fordlandia; the slow, oceanic surges of sound and emotion the touchstone of both artists/composers. Honestly, this album deserves more attention than I was able to give it this busy year. Here’s the poem I wrote to accompany the album, particularly the first track full of satellite chatter. Along with Johannsson and Fernando Corona, some of the finest in modern composition for Classical media.
– The North Bend by Rafael Anton Irisarri. This dude has always rubbed me wrong when I run into him at Decibel Festival shows. I’m no star fucker, and he’s no star, so he could return a kind ‘whatsup?’ to showgoers who pay his rent. That said, this is a solid Drone record that actually does a fair job capturing the environment and climate of our shared home area of the Pacific Northwest.
– Ken Camden Lethargy & Repercussions operates on some shared neural level with Jan Jelinek’s Kosmischer Pitch does in my mind and how it insanely processes music. “Raagini Robot” is one of my favorite tracks of the year, something I can completely space out to. My kind of meditative process. I wish I could bathe in those sitars!!
– On the other side of the spectrum, anytime I want to do a seance or incantation of the devil, I can slap on Officium Nocturnum by Wicked Messenger. What I wanna know is how did Wicked Messenger capture a field recording of an active nuclear blast?!!?
– And bouncing back to the sunnier side of Melancholy Avenue…Brian McBride released The Effective Disconnect, a soundtrack to a documentary about the disappearance of bees. The vinyl is a beautiful sight and the tunes it produces are sheer bliss churned with the truest lament. McBride is a master of understanding that what stews in the silences and spaces between is just as important as the notes already laid down. In this way, each piece grows with an honest organic push and contraction flow to them. Notes suppressed by patience flutter up to join those who’s voices already ring out and every shift is as rewarding as before. Without identifying McBride’s compositions as ‘predictable’, they make sense to the ear at first vibration, yet can still alight with surprise. This sort of distant familiarity betrays so much in human nature and relationships (one of these being with the vanishing bees). How do we insistently come to ‘know’ someone or something, while barely delving beneath, without having the slightest twitch of humility to how little we do know. Part of this is due, I believe, to our self-repression of instinct. How do I know this? Instinctively, just as I know this record’s beauty.
– If the Memorial Clevon Little Awards Committee here at Sheriffbart gave out an award for Coolest Packaging (Vinyl or CD), then it would have to go to E & I An Inch of Air. In a hand-crafted box, a folder package is fabricated from old hardbound books and other cast-aside library materials. Pretty sweet!
– The coolest series of releases has to be a tie between two artists and their work. Indignant Senility Plays Wagner Parts 1 & 2, by Pat Maherr in Portland is a wicked little Loop-Drone project. This is certainly a down time type of listening, unless you need help getting some shuteye (that’s not a diss, but a compliment…some music is great for slowing the biorhythms). The other is one of these cheating reissue releases y’all hate me for including. Thomas Koner’s three part epic of polar exploration, Nunatak, Tiemo & Permafrost, are so chilling and haunting that they fit right in with 2010’s addiction to Hauntology/Doombient. You’d be forgiven for forgetting they were originally released in 1990. Thanks to Type Records for the vinyl redux! Sometimes it sounds like the soundtrack to the nightmare of fighting with Orca whales and other behemoths of the polar waters. Always at a disadvantage.
– Marcus Fjellstrom’s Schattenspieler is one of the most unnerving records of the year. The atonal attack of “Bis Einer Weint” and “Antichrist Architecture Managment” are the scariest back-to-back tunes of the year. With dripping, intermittent percussion propping up drunkenly wavering synthesizers from a 70’s Horror flick, you have no place to hide for comfort. You will be possessed by the rapture attended by evil here.
– And you could really be in for a psychotic break when you follow up Fjellstrom with Richard A Ingram’s Consolamentum. Though, Consolamentum does concern itself a bit more with melodic structure. The album title refers to a religious rite practiced by the Cathars (11th-13th Cent.) in the south of France. Here’s an excellent description of the practice by someone who seems to actually know what they are talking about (not me, that’s for sure…unless it’s about music). Nice and grim…tasty.
– Andrew Liles An Un World (vinyl only release). More dark and gloomy to fill my tummy.
– Pussygutt Gathering Strengths. Fuckin’ insanely awesome band name. Pretty cool sounds from Idaho. Wonder if they skin animals to this record?
-Olan Mill’s Pine was the second masterful record from the Serein label this year. It also happens to be home to the less famous half of Deaf Center than Erik Skodvin (below). A gorgeous work all around, but I find sometimes it hinds in its own subtlety, like some sort of musical Nautilus pulling into its shell. The entire album hums with the anticipation of love and the sorrow of missing it by the narrowest of margins. The melodic motifs of the album fall slowly in swirls and spirals like a snow storm without wind. Something tells me that Serein is the label of the year (with only two releases) and that former members of Deaf Center and their new projects will dominate.
– Erik Skodvin’s Flare is one of the most beautiful Experimental albums of the year. Some truly groundbreaking sound sculptures here. The slow building fire of “Matine” plucks away your protective down feather by feather until you are a flightless, naked bird. The whole album haunts its listener in a way akin to courtship. The haunting is not to drive away the listener, but to lull them into Skodvin’s sonic clutches. A superior talent for sure. Especially since he also released Penpals Forever (And Ever) under the Svarte Greiner moniker. Another classic in the canon as well.
– OK, now I need to just kick out a few names and titles of things considered, but lacking the need for a paragraph. Francisco Lopez #228; nice Ambient field recordings. Higuma Den of the Spirits; Doombient group with a Metal band’s name. Sohrab A Hidden Place; yes they still make music in Iran! Library Tapes Like Green Grass Against A Blue Sky; sincerely one of their weaker releases. I’ve just heard better from those guys, that’s all. And now to the winner of 2010’s Best of Experimental/Neo-Classical/Doombient/Hauntology.
– As I alluded to, Serein and the former Deaf Center guys are the clear winners this year and maybe they can come to be the driving force in the genre, helping to shape it into something a bit more solid, cohesive. What do I mean by all this? Well, the clear cut winner, by a light year, is Retold by Nest, a duo consisting of Serein label-head Huw Roberts and former, less-famous Deaf Center member Otto Totland. Luckily, I was able to review this album early in the year, so you don’t have to suffer through too much more of this article. You should, however, get your hands on a copy of this album and read my review while listening. I am so right. Congrats boys, I’ve already listened to this album well over 200 times (no hyperbole or exaggeration, I’m serious)!!