Attempting to recreate the golden yesterdays of Jose Padilla`s White Isle sunsets with the tunes of today…
Looking back and taking stock, for me at least, on the laidback front, 2021 seems to have been a year of albums, and quality compilations. I guess, personally, this might be a consequence of yet more time spent indoors – and more hours listening longer – but also I suppose that during the lengthy lockdowns, without the opportunity to perform, people have had more time to “compose” – producing LPs, rather than E.P.s, worth of new material.
Sorry there are too many tunes here for me to post Youtube clips – the weight would crash the site.
You might think that you’ve got enough ECM / ECM-esque fusions of folk / new age / jazz – but the answer is actually “No, you have not.” Everything on this album is flawlessly done – perfect. Also check Max Santilli`s solo release on Growing Bin, which also shone this year.
Prime pedal steel, or pedal steel-esque, business. Tremolo`d arcs treated to heroic reverb, recalling in places both Robin Guthrie and Vini Reilly. Their track, Coiling, took the Cocteau Twins homage to another level, and was the standout on Kompakt`s pukka Pop Ambient 2022.
An understated “jazz” late night listen, best “experienced”, uninterrupted, all the way through, preferably wrapped up warm with a loved one.
A dope distillation of all the accessible bits of “avant” “ambient” – it`s a drift, and it`s a darn pretty one.
Perky, percussive, and life-affirming, The Departure Lounge Awaits is a stone cold sunset classic in the making.
A wonderful record of acoustic 6-string symphonies, and gentle latin samba shimmies, that just grows and grows. The vinyl pressing is jaw-dropping.
Lush, lush, Library Music vibes – split equally between the Giallo / cinematic and the serene. Trust me, there’s not a dud on it.
The extremely talented Mr. Ellis, enlists assistance of The BBC National Orchestra Of Wales for some absolutely amazing arrangements – paying timeless tribute to Brazilian maestros such as Antonio Carlos Jobim and Arthur Verocai.
To be honest, I haven’t heard the full album yet, but I’m a huge fan of Jacob`s playing, and the singles so far – Breathe, La Ville, Melancolia, and Song For Sol – have all been simply smashing.
Two LPs from Claremont 56 that showcase some stunning musicianship. Italy’s Hear & Now channeling Pat Metheny`s more prayer-like moments in places – check also their “rocking” remixes of Cantoma and Tony Esposito – while Hillside – kinda Paqua without the vocals – serve up a superlative set of soft / yacht rock boogie. The Joe Claussell`s Spiritual Healing rework of their Walpole Days was a real surprise, total beatless Innovative Communication / kosmische bliss.
Without a doubt my album of the year, while Hard Drive was the “top”, defining, song. Its narrative touched me deeply. If you see someone struggling, pretending that they ain`t, please reach out. Caring makes all the difference.
Sublime, classical guitar reworkings of Susumu Yokota`s electronica masterpiece, Sakura. Witnessed live, this was out of this world.
A record that I kept coming back to, that kept finding its way into my chillout sets and mixes. The Eighteen Beautiful Memories and Marking Time are both moving moments, while Equatorial Sunrise puts a subtle emotive spin on stuff like Richard Wahnfried`s Grandmas Clockwork. Pauline Anna Strom Rest In Peace.
My copy of this arrived only just before Christmas, and I’m still hoping to give it full review. Billed as new age, it`s a magical mix of field recordings and haunting ethereal vocal harmonies (immediately I was struck by similarities to Claire Hammill). Waterfall Winds was comped a few years back, but every track is enchanting.
Lovingly remastered, reissued, and packaged with care, from a mid-80s cassette, this Barcelona-born treasure contains a full spectrum of electronic ambient hues, a complete journey from dark to light, dusk til dawn. The Sea In Winter, to me, sounds very much like something that Jose might have played.
The Hawaiian exotica maestro`s last recorded work finds him reinterpreting the folk songs of his birthplace with slyly psychedelic washes of sampled tides and otherworldly vibraphone.
The genius that is Gigi Masin gets his epic, evocative, composition, Venezia 2016, finally pressed on to vinyl, partnered with two new exquisite, extended, pieces dedicated to Harold Budd, and Gigi`s hometown in the fall.
Gorgeous, intricate, `80s guitar duets – Mancunian jams like a jazzier Durutti Column – rescued by California’s Smiling C.
Q Base – Il Sole – DFC
A chunky, chugging, downtempo slice of slomo `90s Italian deep house, previously revived and championed by Young Marco.
Psychedelic Research Lab – Tarenah – Midnight Drive
A certified Jose Padilla Cafe del Mar twilight trance monster, reissued by all round diamond geezer, Brian Not Brian. Not sure if this is officially out yet, but a few copies have surfaced in Japan. Expect more words, and a possible interview, imminently.
Tabu Tabu is the out and out essential, but there are so many nuggets on this set of sweet, swinging, `70s, Mexican, easy-listening.
Phil Mison made Atmosphere a Cafe del Mar classic, but from beginning to end the LP is beautiful, and again, and the vinyl pressing is stellar.
When I first started buying records “seriously”, compilations provided a gateway into music – they were one-stop snapshots, entry points, into unknown scenes or genres – but as I began to DJ, I became more “sophisticated”, more of a snob – and so I`d cherry-pick from album track-lists and pay through the nose for OGs instead. Such are the illogical shackles of an obsessive. Recently though I seem to have picked up quite a few comps. Perhaps with all the “classics” and obvious avenues already covered, people have thought hard, and worked hard, to make their collections extra special. In the past, there was always one mega-rare track included – to lure and tempt aficionados – but this year selections have been far more weighted toward the obscure.
Artist retrospectives from labels such as Time Capsule and Hot Mule would be practically impossible to recreate – and definitely impossible to recreate in anything more than VG condition. Savvy selectors, such as Music From Memory on last year`s Virtual Dreams, pressed not only rare, but also previously CD-only, tracks on to vinyl – making them essential for everybody, “experts” and the uninitiated alike.
Mining unreleased archives is also a winner, something that Music From Memory did for their magnificent MLO set, Oumuamua. MLO member, Jon Tye`s own label, Lo Recordings, laid out another, alternative tack, and commissioned totally new pieces for their expansive mind-expanding New Maps Of Inner Space. Re:Warm employed the same trick for their wonderful HOME.
Other outfits, such as Higher Love Recordings, put together showcases – which, sure, put the spotlight on themselves, but also long lists of aspiring, underground, producers. Hell Yeah! did the same with their second volume of Buena Onda: Balearic Beats – cementing and extending La famiglia – the robust roster of artists associated with the long-running Italian imprint.
A righteous retrospective from Hot Mule that as well as aligning crystals also packs a funky punch. Raising Sun On Bali is the beatific highlight, bolstered by the digital bonus of a blinding remix from Lexx.
1990s UK ambient techno that draws heavily on Cluster. The two-part Wimbourne is my favourite.
SINGLES / E.P.s
Sophomore release, with no sign of the songwriting, or musicianship, dropping. I don’t understand why this guy isn’t huge. Perhaps some live shows will put paid to that.
Winston Neale – Sinnerman – Re:Warm
Slightly spooky gospel, recorded in the late `80s but sounding much older than that. Imagine Eden Ahbez in Sun Studio`s echo chamber.
I`m not sure if too many people picked up on this, but its an E.P. that I’ve played and played. Super, super, nice production. Slo-mo, trippy electronics in the early `90s vein of The Orb and Sun Electric. Really looking forward to hearing what they do next.
Probably THE crossover “chillout” tune of the year. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love this cover of the Frankie Knuckles / Eric Kupper house classic.
All of these recordings really deserve a physical release.
Often imitated, but never equalled. When I called Phil Mison an “OG”, he politely declined the compliment, but this chap DJed entire seasons at the Cafe del Mar during the `90s, and he learnt from, and was close friends with, the master. All of Phil`s stories and anecdotes are first, not third hand. Dune People do right by A Night At Apres Midi, and that Hear & Now remix is off the hook as well.
The lovely Lady Blackbird will feature more prominently when we get to this year`s soul and jazz joints, but all of the commissioned remixes of her Black Acid Soul – Bruise, KDA, and Black Science Orchestra for the dance-floor, Chris and Greg for staring out to sea – were fabulous.
Joana Law – Calling All Angels (Early Edit) – Tangential
Great, recently unearthed, early `90s gear, that, had it not been shelved, would surely have popped up on a Padilla mixtape.
Straight outta Ojai, California, Projections launched their new label with this outstanding uplifting offering.
Everything this Danish duo do is quality – from remixing Chris Coco, and Hard Feelings, to this tribute, taken from their E.P., Celestial Hike.
Long-term associate of Chris Coco – who may or may not be King Krule`s brother Jack – teased with two terrific singles, both sashaying slowly between jazz and pop – this was The First.
Adam at The Bagging Area said “Siouxsie”, and I said, “Marianne Faithfull”, but one thing`s for sure, Nina Walsh here channels a whole lotta heartache and hard earned wisdom. Recommended for fans of Jose favourite, El Gavilan.
Idee Du Femelle – The Sea In Winter
MLO – Wimbourne
Teddy Lasry – Raising Sun On Bali
Cass – Snow Stills
Ayane Shino – Hagoromo
Bremer McCoy – Gratitude
Amanda Whiting – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
Angophora – Oscell
Hear & Now – Bassa Marea
Pablo Color & Lexx – Air Nocturno
Blank Gloss – Hollowed Out
Angophora – Currents
Kevin McCormick & David Horridge – Glass Dreams
Jacob Gurevitsch – Song For Sol
Hillside – Walpole Days (Joe Claussell`s Spiritual Healing Remix)
Pauline Anna Strom – Equatorial Sunrise
Arthur Lyman – Waipio
Winston Neale – Sinnerman
Sola – Oye Mama Oye Papa
Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Y Ferch Ar Y Cei
Cantoma – A Night At Apres Midi (Dune People Remix)
Joanna Law – Calling All Angels (Early Edit)
Discodor – Ascension
Jacob Gurevitsch – Breathe
Reggae Disco Rockers – The Whistle Song (Silent Dream Version)
Steve Cobby – The Departure Lounge Awaits
Glass Coffee – Kunafa With Jose
Mike Salta & Mortale – Behind The Rainbow (Ode To Jose)
Pablo Color & Berlin Lama – Recuerdos
Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 – Botafogo Blue
Sola – La Ultima Palabra
Jacob Gurevitsch – La Ville
Angophora – Starting
Tony Esposito – Kalimba De Luna (Hear & Now Remix)
Sara Loreni – Mushrooms Project & Leo Almunia Remix
Projections – Original Cell
Discodor – To Drift Like Stars
Lady Blackbird – Collage (Greg Foat Remix)
Sonlife – The First
Cassandra Jenkins – Hard Drive
Common Saints – Starchild
Cantoma – To The Sea / To The Sea (Hear & Now Remix)
Hillside – Walpole Days
UMAN – Atmosphere
Q Base – Il Sole
OK EG – Intertidal Zone
Kayroy & Greetings – Imagine (Gallo Remix)
Psychedelic Research Lab – Tarenah (Chill Mix)