Sunday, January 1, 2012

:::: ALBUMS OF 2011 ::::


Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto "Summvs" (Raster-Noton)
V/A "The Tree of Life - Soundtrack" (Lakeshore)
Elaine Radigue "Transamorem - Transmortem (1973)" (Important)
Deaf Center "Owl Splinters" (Type)
Jacaszek "Glimmer" (Ghostly Intl.)
Tim Hecker "Ravedeath, 1972" (Kranky)
Ben Frost & Daniel Bjarnason "Solaris" (Bedroom Community)
V/A "Music for Merce Cunningham (1952-2009)" - Box Set (New World)
Nils Frahm "Felt" (Erased Tapes)
HTRK "Work (Work, Work) (Ghostly Intl.)
Richard Skelton "The Complete Landings" (Sustain-Release)
Mountains "Air Museum" (Thrill Jockey)
Leyland Kirby "Eager To Tear Apart The Stars" (HAFTW)
Andy Stott "We Stay Together" (Modern Love)
NHK "YX aka 1CH aka SOLO" (Skam)
Boris "Attention Please" (Sargent House)
Boris "Heavy Rocks" (Sargent House)
Liturgy "Aesthethica" (Thrill Jockey)
Vladislav Delay "Vantaa" (Raster-Noton)
Cyclo "ID" Book/CD-Rom Edition (Raster-Noton)

A curious thing has transpired in the past two years, and in-particular this past year in my listening habits; I've dramatically decreased my listening of music on the go, though headphones and on the ipod and have more and more, made dedicated home listening on the Hi Fi just about my singular source context of sonic input. Interesting in the age of seemingly most-everyone doing the inverse, and the home hi fidelity dedicated stereo being a thing of the past in most music consumers lives. Even at 320kps and above, the MP3 doesn't deliver on the level of the old 16bit 44mhz CD, and yes, lossless FLAC and WAV can bring you some real listening benefits... assuming you have a quality digital-to-analog converter and a very high end pair of headphones to compliment. Otherwise, even the 'outmoded' CD format (not to mention the LP and a quality turntable combination) is still kicking fidelity ass over all of the laptop/ipad/iphone/pod listening that has consumed more and more listeners. And even then, with a quality DA and a multiple hundreds of dollars headphones and headphone amp... you don't have true stereo reproduction and stereo image in as extension of the more abstract, intangibles of your listening experience. Even then, with quality gear and tech, your largely hearing a detailed, finely tuned, precise representation of the 'surface' of the work... and that's where my shift in listening has become most pronounced. I'm less interested than ever in the 'surface' of the experience... but more the overall space, ambiance, physicality, abstraction and intangibles that come of sound-in-space. Good thing then that the music that I've most occupied myself with these past few decades is largely concerned with replicating, molding, defining and manipulating those intangibles!

Continuing from the films list above... in the year of sounds there were many works that took the ears to exciting places, and that did so in distinct, expressive and adventurous ways. Particularly at the strange crossroads where modern classical, lo-fi folk, musique concrete, improv, metal, ambient, 'noise' and avant jazz traditions are all meeting as hypermodern, as-yet unnamed genre mutations. The bizarre math-rock, hardcore, avant-noise meets metal rumblings of the new Liturgy stands as a good example, as does the disorienting fusion of hip-hop, noise and electronic minimalism that was Kouhei Matsunaga's NHK release. To these ears Keohei's unquestionably the one of the more adventurous visionary torchbearers for the post-Warp era of beat-oriented electronic music of this past decade. His works have almost consistently been on par with the most advanced of the late-90's/early-00's Warp visionaries - it's no wonder he's found a home on labels like Skam and Raster-Noton and last year saw him in collaboration with both Autechre's Sean Booth and Mika Vainio of Pan(a)Sonic.

Live sonic adventures were heard around the Northwest, and all across the continent in it's major cities. And good thing for the travel too, as this year (for the first time in two decades) I didn't attend Earshot Jazz Festival due to the serious dearth of compelling Avant performers. Also, with Decibel Festival not really looking to challenge as much in their exploration of the 'fringe' and non-dancefloor oriented sounds, good thing Substrata Festival had the foresight to see the void not filled and choose to be even more conceptually exacting and theory/aesthetics oriented in their hosting and curation. Between Substrata and New York City's increasingly adventurous Unsound Festival, I was wanting for nothing in exceptional, dynamic, powerful live realizations of neoclassical, ambient, instrumental, electronic, sensorial experiences in fitting, complimentary, sometimes almost dreamlike, settings. Special note to Morton Subotnick's surround sound audio-visual "Silver Apples of the Moon" with Lillevan and Ben Frost, Daniel Bjarnason and Sinfonietta Cracovia performing "Solaris" both at Lincoln Center during Unsound. As well as the Decibel highlight of Simon Scott's brilliantly abstract guitar work in collaboration with the deep, gorgeous, vague immensity of his perfectly complimenting visual artist Tana Sprague. Oren Ambarchi bringing the heavy and resonant (as usual) for Substrata along with Nils Frahm delivering some of the most, nimble, dynamic, emotionally crushing works for prepared piano that I've heard in my life. Deaf Center in a cathedral at Midnight and Olafur Arnalds at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco were easily worth the travel as well. Metal brought it this year too, with Wolves in the Throne Room descending deeper and deeper into crepuscular Doom sounds beyond category and Boris, returning (again!) to bless us with the joyous insanity of their hyperfrenetic Psych-Metal-Shoegaze whirlwind.