Late last week one of my go-to iPad music app developers, Igor Vasiliev, released Soundscaper. I have recently being using his Altispace Reverb a bunch–after plugging into its library 325 convolution wave files from my own vast collection. Nowadays, I don’t pull the trigger on every intriguing music making app that gets released. Soundscaper had already earned a preview from Doug at The Soundtest Room. I’m not a big fan of the 8 bit, lo-fi ethos and even though I am an ambient-oriented, deep listening, slow music, (sure) soundscaper, I held off on Igor’s new app.
The review at musicappblog turned a phrase, And, like the difference between a blindfold, inexperienced potter with some lumps of clay and a spinning wheel, and an expert pot maker who can craft something beautiful with their eyes closed, mastering SoundScaper’s control set is going to take a little time…, and I pulled the trigger.
I started out with one of my raw drones in the first oscillator slot and approached Soundscaper as a performance interface. Instead of hearing its goal to be the result of the oscillator, instead I intuited that its goal is to perform the sample using manipulations of its interface. Soundscaper is not a synth, it’s a multi faceted means for manipulating a sample in real time.
Over the past week I’ve unveiled some of the music that brought me satisfaction and, often, extraordinary moments of sonic alignment–which is how great music strikes me, and, has struck me for forty-five years.
Nowadays it is clear that musical culture in the USA revolves around everybody being their own mix master. Almost all the music mentioned in the previous week’s post can be sampled via Spotify or Pandora. It can be purchased at iTunes or Amazon or GooglePlay, yet the best place to purchase it, is at the artist’s web site–where such an opportunity exists.
The following is my ordering of my very favorite releases from last year. This evaluation isn’t intended to parse artistic merit. It just serves my desire to name Wussy the album of the year, and to put their superb Attica in the company of other peerless examples of vital musical artistry.
12 ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS – 2014
1. Wussy – Attica |buy direct| ***record of the year***
2. The Swans – To Be Kind |buy direct|
3. Sam Newsome – The Straight Horn of Africa A Path to Liberation (Art of the Soprano, V2) |buy Amazon|
4. Noura Mint Seymali (Mauritania) – Tzenni |buy direct|
5. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah |buy Amazon|
6. Hassan Hakmoun (Morocco) – Unity |buy Amazon|
7. Tisziji Munoz – Taking You Out There! Live |buy direct|
8. Irma Thomas – Full Time Woman (The Lost Cotillion Album)
|buy Lousiana Music Factory|
9. Aya Nishina – Flora [from 2013] |buy|
10.The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream |buy direct|
11.Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music |buy direct|
12.FKA Twigs – LP1 |buy Amazon|
When one of my most favored bands follows up their finest hour with two even more finer hours, there isn’t much I can say. Both The Seer and this year’s To Be Kind are absolutely essential documents of 21st century sonic demolition. And, like the Grateful Dead, whatever is superlative on record is transcendent on the best nights on the road.
Scott Walker + Sunn O))) – Soused
EXPERIMENTAL Brian Eno & Hyde – Someday World Bing & Ruth – Tomorrow Was the Golden Age Andy Stott – Faith In Strangers
Bitchin Bajas – Bitchin Bajas
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Hang On to Each Other EP
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – Fuck Off Get Free
VOICE Aya Nishina – Flora (from 2013; missed it then, but not now!)
Helena Tulve – Arboles lloran por lluvia
Tujiko Noriko – My Ghost Comes Back
Ian William Craig – A Turn of Breath
DRONE Lawrence English – Wilderness of Mirrors
Kevin Drumm – Trouble
MINIMALIST / POST-CLASSICAL John Luther Adams – Become Ocean
Trepanning Trio – The Man Killed the Bird
TECHNO/ELECTRO Aphex Twin – Syro
AMBIENT Meg Bowles – The Shimmering Land
Steve Roach & Jorge Reyes – The Ancestor Circle
Alio Die and Sylvi Alli – Amidst the Circling Spires
REiSSUE/ARCHIVAL Charles Cohen – A Retrospective
Muslimgauze – Chasing The Shadow Of Bryn Jones
Jon Hassell – The City – Works In Fiction
1. The original City:Works of Fiction
2. The legendary Wintergarden Concert September 1989
Eno & Hyde’s High Life is, for me, one of the highlight’s of the year in electronic and experimental music. Obviously the recording contains a bounty of wonderful sound, yet what really brightened my appreciation was learning that the duo made the record in five intense days of dedicated collaborative experimentation.
This reminds me of how I work. Although Eno is more a spiritual influence over thirty years rather than a direct sonic influence, some of the rough experiments for my next records are somewhat Eno-esque in their being unfinicky, ambient, experimental outputs.
In which I learn that Robert and I have a lot of roots in common. This isn’t surprising, yet it is a pleasing and resonant confirmation of a sonic ethos I apparently share to a degree with Mr. Rich. He’s been an inspirational force in my musical outlook for over twenty four years.
Experitronic is my catch-all terms for: electronica, experimental, modern classical, ambient, noise, soundscapes, drum & bass, techno, and did I mention experimental? It names the sonic space my own music making takes place in.
Growing up in rural Louisiana and then later on a farm in Missouri, Julianna Barwick was a preacher’s daughter at a church whose organ got very little use. “We would always sing a cappella,” she explained in an interview a few years ago, “And instead of instruments we would clap or sing in rhythmic rounds.” A curious kid and a bit of a loner, Barwick showed a precocious fascination with the human voice. Her hobbies included harmonizing with random sounds, making up songs about whatever she was doing at the moment, and singing long, loud notes in hollowed-out spaces like parking garages and inside the trunk of a giant tree just to see what the echo would sound like. “It sounds kinda psycho, I know,” she admitted in our interview, but sometimes “I would sing to myself and get so lost in it that I would cry.”
Actually, it doesn’t sound that crazy; it’s very easy to become lost in the music that Barwick now makes as an adult. Over the span of her career, from her imaginative 2006 debut LPSanguine up through 2011’s dazzling breakthrough The Magic Place (the name is a nod to that aforementioned giant tree trunk, where she’d unwittingly discovered reverb), Barwick’s gradually refined a process that is at once inventive and incredibly simple. She sings short, reverb-drenched, often wordless vocal fragments into a loop station (though she made the loops on the painstakingly lo-fi Sanguine using just a guitar pedal) and layers them into luminous compositions that feel like the aural equivalent of an airplane ride through a cloud. Toweringly sublime yet invitingly human, her music has an uncanny power to transform whatever space it’s played in. It can make a cramped apartment feel like a high-ceilinged cathedral, or– when she plays in one– an actual cathedral feel like a gear-cluttered basement show. –Lindsay Zoladz, Pitchfork
comment, new releases: This year it turns out the top of the list elevates lots and lots of experiments gone very very right. Ms. Barwick uses her voice and Rebekah Heller uses a bassoon, but the end result is equally gripping. The most mainstream electronica here is Darkside’s Psychic, yet Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington seemingly render an 80’s soundtrack as if such a thing could be built today using the audio equivalent of Photoshop. It is splendid in its imagining what a mind meld between Derrick May and Pink Floyd and Giorgio Moroder might have sounded like.
Brian Lustmord’s journey with the human voice is unique in his output of grey scale ambient, and, it provides one of the best covers of the year. Aidan Baker is prolific; releasing eleven recordings this year. Likewise, Steve Roach, now on Bandcamp, released ten recordings. In any given year, if any two musical giants do so, it is highly probable I will note where the highest peaks are located at year-end. Curran, Cohen, and Krause are all older than I am and more power to aging explorers! Special thanks to Morphosis for bringing Cohen’s spare Buchla techno back into the light of day.
The reissues travel from Lustmord’s dark ambient, to The Hafler Trio’s UK techno, to Muslimgauze’s dependable Middle-eastern industrial, to Celer’s ambient scraping. Different strokes for different folks and each is delightful in, well, unique and different ways.
Kamelmauz is on Bandcamp and now Steve Roach is too. The prolific ambient musician–and influence on my own music–has always maintained a stellar DIY web site, but the move to the egalitarian territory of Bandcamp is a big transformative move.