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29

Jan

2016

Favourite classical albums of 2015

By Stephen J. Nereffid. Posted in Classical | No Comments »

This has been another excellent year in classical recordings for me. I remain amazed at how much fine music of the past there is for me to discover, not to mention the brand-new delights that are increasingly catching my ear. This process of exploration means that, as usual, my list tends to avoid the standard classical repertoire but nevertheless covers plenty of ground.

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Vince Staples

Saw a lot of live music this year, with well over 100 different bands represented.  These were the best of the bunch:

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25. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

Waxahatchee - Ivy TrippIvy Tripp is DIY singer/songwriter that draws on Katie Crutchfield’s punk past.  Lyrically, the album continues her exploration of feminist ideas, and uses her experiences, or more specifically her mistakes, to demonstrate how a strong, independent woman is formed in today’s society.

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Here is my top 20 music releases for 2015, with no claim that they are somehow objectively the best or that I listened to everything anyone else did. I have found things that delighted me on other people’s lists, and the point of the exercise is not to replicate or compete with those lists but to highlight some things you may not have found, things that might delight you. The sequence changed every time I made a shortlist, so take the numbers with a pinch of salt – all of them could be at least plus or minus 5 on a given day.

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14

Dec

2015

Review: City of Brides by En

By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Drone, Electronic, Reviews | No Comments »
City of Brides by En

City of Brides by En

En’s last album, Already Gone, (review here) was notable both for its distinctive palette of sounds and for its cohesion. It offered a succession of tracks of increasing length, culminating and resolving in a 20-minute meditation on Elysium, the mythical Greek isle of the blessed. City of Brides (the title of the new double LP and of its closing track – another eschatological tinge, I wonder?) is less linear. Indeed it thrives on a restless exploration of shifting and contrasting sounds, skipping from noise to clarity, from stasis to rippling motion, from soft to abrasive as we wander from moment to moment and from track to track. And yet there remains a sense of deep unity, as if the various tracks are somehow probing the same question, prodding at the same possibility.

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Inscriptions by Wil Bolton

Inscriptions by Wil Bolton

I didn’t plan to write a review tonight. But the CD was playing and it caught me up and carried me away and I had to write…

Wil Bolton’s music is part of the texture of my world. I always enjoy his releases to one degree or another, but a handful of them have risen from “this is nice” to “this is one of my favorite things”. The expressive chimes of Time Lapse and Chimes for a Wall Drawing call forth wonder and remain in my listening rotation years after their release.

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Arovane - dwell_tevvel_structure

dwell_tevvel_structure by Arovane

Germany’s Arovane has been putting out some striking ambient material of late, including the recent dwell_tevvel_structure on the UK label …txt recordings. I have no idea what a tevvel is, and neither does Google; it’s an anagram of velvet and bears a passing resemblance to the Dutch teviel (“too much”), but who knows if that is relevant. Dwelling, in the sense of settling down and taking time, and structure, here in the form of careful layers of sound, are both terms that illuminate the music on this album. The album consists of four long sound pieces (ranging from 14 to 20 minutes), each with its own distinct character yet tied together sonically in an arc that suggests four movements of a whole. The first opens with a gently undulating drift and fluttering patters of brightness – perhaps it’s the cover art, but I find it hard not to think of sunlight sparkling on waves.

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Titus Andronicus - The Most Lamentable TragedyTitus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy

The Most Lamentable Tragedy is a double, concept album focusing on a protagonist dealing (like Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles) with mental illness.  Stickles has been actively working on TMLT for about the last 4 years, but in many ways the album has been foreshadowed (both thematically and musically) for the band’s entire existence.

Lyrically, TMLT is dark and beautiful, despairing and hopeful, and will move many to tears.  Divided into 5 parts, the lyrics follow the unnamed person through all the ups and downs of manic depression: Breakdown, treatment, prescriptions, the highs and lows that still affect everything you do, and how to connect with your loved ones who, despite their best efforts, can’t begin to understand what you’re going through.  Mostly, though, the album is about the internal war between a person and himself, and this war does not have a happy ending.

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Omar Souleyman - Bahdeni NamiOmar Souleyman – Bahdeni Nami

The best known Syrian dabke wedding singer, now based in Turkey due to the Syrian civil war, is back with his second studio recording following 147,692 (number approximate) tape releases in his native country.  Souleyman, who uses electronics and his soulful voice to craft fun, incredibly danceable tunes, again worked with Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden on Bahdeni Nami and the album does not disappoint.  Souleyman’s lyrics are, of course, in Arabic, so very few native English speakers will be able to understand them, but the sound of his voice blends so well the music’s high pitched keyboard sounds that their meaning is really irrelevant.  All that matters is the music irresistibly makes hips shake and heads bob.

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Tame Impala - CurrentsTame Impala – Currents

Prior to his third album as frontman of Tame Impala, Kevin Parker collaborated with Mark Ronson on his mega hit Uptown Special (including singing lead on that album’s actual best song “Daffodils”), and it appears he learned a few things from Ronson.  Currents is still very much a Tame Impala record, but where InnerSpeaker and Lonerism were insular psychedelic rock made for putting on headphones and shutting out the world, Currents takes the band’s sound in a dancey new direction that begs to be played at high volume at BBQs and on beaches.  Whether it’s the sprawling jam of “Let it Happen”, the earworm hook of “‘Cause I’m a Man”, or the pure beauty of “Eventually”, Currents is, quite simply, the perfect summer album.

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