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         Awakened by Decay – 1 Mile North

This recent release floats up out of a yawning gap, so let’s back up the story a little for anyone who lost the thread. 1 Mile North’s first album, Glass Wars, was a collection of pretty guitar cogitations a little reminiscent in places of some of the quieter moments on How Strange Innocence, the first album by Explosions in the Sky from a year earlier. At the time it was one of quite a few of its kind floating around at the gently lyrical end of the post-rock spectrum. It was the second album, Minor Shadows, released two years later in 2003, that made me sit up and take notice. While somewhat similar in feel to its predecessor, it achieved an increased tautness and sense of purpose and space, moving deftly from sparse beauty to wistful, melancholy drift to occasional pockets of darkness. It did not sound quite like any of its rivals, and it remains one of my most-returned-to albums from the post-rock binge that filled a chunk of my hard drive around that time. It’s a lonely, fragile, contemplative work, and the haunting opener “In 1983 he loved to fly” is to my ear perhaps its finest moment.

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As I prepared this year’s top 20 list, I discovered that several of my favorite releases this year were not full albums, but brief EPs. Including them in the top 20 albums list felt a bit like trying to compare novels and short stories, so I decided to list them separately. These were my top 5 favorite EPs of 2016:

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It’s been a quiet 2016 at Music is Good. Professional commitments have left some regulars with less time for blogging. But we’re still listening. Here are my top 20 albums for 2016. I excluded compilations (though Orbital Planes & Passenger Trains, Vol. 1 from Serein, Into the White from Dronarivm, and Eleven into Fifteen from 130701 all delighted me). As ever, this is the best in my subjective judgment of what I heard and liked, no more, and the numbering is less important than the chance of helping someone find something good that they missed. This year I am treating EPs separately, in a second post.

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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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1

May

2015

Review: Still by M. Ostermeier

By David Smith. Posted in Ambient, Reviews | 2 Comments »
Still

M. Ostermeier – Still

 

The Tench label is definitely about quality more than quantity, with a mere seven releases over the last five years. All are worth attention. The last before the current release was Porya Hatami’s Shallow, over a year ago. The latest is from label head M. Ostermeier, and its title, Still, succinctly yet accurately captures its mood.

Listening to this album the first half dozen times I found myself having to repeatedly reorient my horizon of expectation despite the apparent consistency of its palette. The album opens with an oscillating hum, over which a slow piano meditation begins, soon accompanied by a background of small creaks and rustles. The sound put me in mind of the intimacy of Nils Frahm’s Felt, in which the creakings of the piano itself are an important presence that adds to the emotional intimacy.

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Shallow Remixed

Shallow Remixed

Porya Hatami increased his profile in 2014 with a string of excellent releases on various labels. Shallow was my favorite album of the year, and I am still listening to it regularly a year after its release. (Review and stream here.) It was therefore intriguing to learn that a remix album was in the works, with contributions from notables such as Loscil and The Green Kingdom. Would it extend the listening pleasure or render the sublime mundane?

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Rae Sremmurd - SremmLifeRae Sremmurd – SremmLife

SremmLife is the debut album from Rae Sremmurd (‘drummers ear’ spelled backwards for…reasons?) a Mississippi rap duo currently based in Atlanta.  Comprised of brothers Slim Jimmy and Swae Lee, Rae Sremmurd made waves in 2014 with hit singles “No Flex Zone” and “No Type” and a sound bridging the gap between chart rap and the ‘weird’ rap currently coming out of Atlanta.  Produced by Mike WiLL Made It (and the first release on his Eardruma label), SremmLife is bouncy southern trap highlighted by those previous singles and the Nicki Minaj/Young Thug collaboration “Throw Sum Mo”.  The rest of the album doesn’t quite rise to those heights, but remains an enjoyable listen and makes for a very promising debut.

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