Last October I posted a piece titled, Into The Esoteric, which was kind of a fudge on my part. I was trying to group together music that wouldn’t have been played at Ibiza`s Amnesia. Perhaps wouldn’t have been played at the Cafe Del Mar. That wasn’t Funk, Jazz, Reggae or Soul. That, in fact, that wasn’t so easy to classify. It was kinda Ambient. It was modern. It was often beautiful. One of the labels whose output featured heavily in this “category” was 130701. The Post-Classical of Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch, and Shida Shahabi`s solo piano romances. The deconstructed song of Ian William Craig. Choral works sung from the eye of a storm. The haunting Techno Pagan of Maarja Nuut & Ruum, and Resina. Enchanted, nocturnal, fairy-tales and fever dreams. All were among some of the most interesting, and my favourite, releases of 2018.
Selections & Text by Dave Howell (130701 Records)
Top Three New Singles
Wino D – Wino D (Wah Wah Wino)
Fantastically wonky, electronic oddness with zero sleeve / label information. Five great tracks from this Irish label, all of them sharply produced – from slightly whacked-out rhythmic psychedelia, to bustling motorik drum drives and woozy fourth world percussion and ambience. Everything you want from an oddball Electronica 12, and perfect tools for after-hours action.
Tatu Ronkko – Spheres (Sonic Pieces)
Another neatly out-there rhythmic E.P., and a clever curveball for Sonic Pieces. Ronkko is a Finnish drummer / percussionist who uses everyday objects alongside regular kit, and this has both a really nice production, and something of a home-baked feel to it. Lithe, fluid, hypnotic workouts alongside some nicely sprawling ambient sections, whilst one track features the vocals of Islaja, who I’d not heard for a while. As the cherry on the top, the vinyl comes in one of Sonic Pieces beautiful die cut sleeves.
Galya Bisengalieva – EP One (Nomad)
On a totally different tip, Galya is a violinist and leader of the London Contemporary Orchastra. This E.P., her solo debut, sees three tracks – one composed by Galya, one each by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch and Claire M Singer – each showing a different trajectory. From beautifully layered and drawn-out drone suspension to picked and looping structures. All beautifully played. It’s rich and deep and a great first move.
Top Three New LPs
Tirzah – Devotion (Domino)
I haven’t actually read anything about this record but her voice is gorgeous and I love the spareness of the production, which of course has Mica Levi’s fingerprints all over it. The album’s strength lies both in its sense of conviction and the way it conveys emotional intimacy through largely stripped-back, simple means. It’s really strong, smart stuff and deeply intimate. I don’t know if I can recall ever hearing an album where every track was addressed to a single person. It feels like a series of diary entries or notes to ex / current lovers, obsessively tight-focussed and with the world outside almost entirely closed off.
Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands Of Love (Warp)
Alongside Tirzah, this is probably the best produced record I’ve heard this year, but in an almost opposite way – deeply layered, broad in focus and pallette. I love the way it mixes a really nice sense of tension and darkness with some flat out euphoric Pop, and tracks where everything coheres into this sense of almost excessive hugeness.
I was a massive fan of AR Kane back in the day, the 69-period stuff moreso than the later material, but I can’t hear this without thinking of their i era stuff.
The Caretaker – Everywhere at the End of Time – Stage 4
James Kirby’s conceptual series of six bi-annual releases, documenting the progressive process of dementia, edges to ever darker territory. This is pretty terrifying gear, slipping into sheer confusion and chaos. Hard to bear in places, but the whole thing is a brilliantly conceived and realised masterpiece.
Top Three Reissues
Jean C Roche – Birds Of Venezuela (Sub Rosa)
Roche is a French ornithologist and wildlife recordist. Originally released in 1973, this record is an utterly sublime immersive treat that mixes a series of stunningly recorded bird songs and environmental sound (frogs, monkeys, cicadas) through a series of different Venezualan locations. It’s a subtle and incredible mix and just an absolute treat for the ear.
Ursula K Le Guin & Todd Barton – Music And Poetry Of The Kesh (RVNG)
First ever vinyl pressing of this recording which was originally released in 1985 as a cassette alongside early copies of Le Guinn’s science fiction novel, Always Coming Home. It’s an elaborately invented ethnographic documentation, set in a post-apocalyptic future California, with Barton using his skills as an editor and composer to brilliantly realise and render Le Guinn’s imaginative construct and invented language. It’s a mixture of intimate solo and group singing (Le Guinn’s vocals pitched and layered), environmental field recordings and music. Playful, clever and again, deeply immersive stuff.
Massimo Toniutti – Il Museo Selvatico (Black Truffle)
Another field recording-based reissue. This one was first released in 1991 and the reissue includes an extra disc of recent studio work, and is lavishly packaged in a gatefold sleeve with printed card inner sleeves. I don’t know too much about Toniutti, but these recordings – and the original material particularly – are beautifully loose, long-form compositions made up of a myriad of little sound event – creaking and groaning, all manner of foley-esque clatter, shake and drone – and field recordings. Toniutti refers to each of these as a “relic”, and the collected whole as a “museum”. There’s no obvious narrative or rhythmic drive, the soundscapes instead appear in an evocative system of suspension around the listener. If you’re a fan of industrial archaeology / urban exploration or Artemiev’s Stalker soundtrack, this is great gear.
One Thing You`re Looking Forward To In 2019
Minor Pieces, Ian William Craig’s new songwriting duo project, whose debut LP is going to be out on FatCat this summer. It’s an absolutely incredible record. Low fans should fall hard for this one.