Back to work, back to school, back to the daily grind: shorter days, cooler nights and questions of how the summer flew by so fast. Fortunately, our end-of-summer sadness is offset by the anticipation of fall music. Some of the year’s best music will be released this season: it’s the final push, as labels and artists unleash a cavalcade of exciting sounds. For those who miss summer, fall music is a consolation; for those who love fall, it’s an annual highlight that has just come around again. We’ve listed ten picks and multiple highlights below, but for the full batch of over sixty samples, we invite you to our News page, where Soundcloud and Bandcamp streams are updated daily.
Our cover image comes from the amazing interactive sound installation Piano In The Woods, which began with a simple concept: a piano would be moved to the woods and played at various times over the course of a year as it deteriorated. The project led to a series of performances and a short movie. Check out the site at the link above. And now, without further ado, our Fall Music Preview!
Ambient and Drone
This category continues to dominate submissions to the site, although it is even with the other genres in terms of coverage. This discrepancy is explained by the fact that it is easy to make ambient music, but difficult to make exemplary, memorable ambient music. While some might argue that memory is not the point, one still has to remember the music long enough to buy it!
Rich’s Pick: Nick Gill ~ Grey Season (Effra Press, 3 November)
Ambient and drone live together on this piece of vinyl from a letterpress studio. The handmade touch benefits the release, a follow-up to On neni jako on, which made a solid impression earlier this year. As a member of The Monroe Transfer, Gill is keenly aware of the power of structure, and as a result, Grey Season is an especially articulate release.
Also in Ambient and Drone
Hammock revisits the Sleepover Series with Volume Two (Hammock Music, 23 September). A direct sequel to the first volume (2006), the new two-hour collection is meant more as a sleep aid than as entertainment. As such, the double disc set contains neither catchy melodies nor memorable riffs, but subsumes such pursuits in the service of a higher cause.
Another of the season’s high profile releases is Vladislav Delay‘s Visa (10 November). The double album could fit in our Electronic category, but the ambience is high and the beats are few, while the mood and texture take center stage. Mark Templeton‘s Extensions, a vinyl/DVD collaboration with filmmaker Kyle Armstrong (also due in November), continues the audiovisual tradition of Acre Loss, his 2009 collaboration with aA. Munson. While the electronic element is ever-present, the overall timbre is that of studied ambience.
Dino Spiluttini adopts the new moniker Islands of Light for the peaceful piano-based Ruebke (Home Normal, 26 September). The ivories also get a workout on Andrea Carri‘s Chronos (Psychonavigation, 15 September), Emil Klotzsch‘s 14 Arten Den Regen Zu Beschreiben and Ross Baker‘s Periphery (the last two on Twice Removed, 1 September). The latter also contains static and field recordings, and concludes a busy year for the composer. And while piano figures strongly on Old Amica‘s Drone and Hum (self-released, 5 September), the album is best characterized by the timbres of a rocking hull. The Swedish duo has dropped the vocals on this outing, allowing listeners to focus on the languid textures.
Field recordings and ritual music form the basis of David Shea‘s Rituals (Room40, 22 September); on the same day, the label releases Chris Herbert‘s sweetly chiming Constants. Chihei Hatakeyama‘s Winter Storm is similarly relaxing, recalling a huge storm that hit Toyko last year; the “space ambience” of Off Land‘s Quinarian (Psychonavigation, 27 October) comes across like a long cryogenic freeze.
On another side of the spectrum, Christopher Willits calm yet active Opening (Ghostly, 2 September) and Timedog ‘s debut album Objects of Mind (Diametric Music, 8 September) mix beats into ambience, while percussionist Massimo Discepoli (also known as Nheap) introduces a modified sound on Parallex (DOF, 1 September), with melodic ambience that borders on post-rock.
Dark ambience is represented by Rapoon‘s Cultural Forgeries (Alrealon Musique, 14 September), with the frequent use of dissonant violin. Less dark (let’s call it shaded) is Andrea Belfi‘s Natura Morta (Miasmah, 7 November), which combines synth and percussion to reflect the vibrancy of Renaissance painting. Pan & Me makes the switch from experimental drone/modern composition to synth-driven ambience on Ocean Noise (Denovali, late September). Function/Vatican Shadow‘s Games Have Rules (Axis, 7 October), is said to be neither dark nor noisy, but ambient; no preview is available, so we’ll have to take their word for it.
Two Labradford veterans team up with Steven Hess to present textured drones as Anjou; the self-titled album drops 15 September on Kranky. Everything old is new again as Supersilent unveils Supersilent 12 (Rune Grammofon, 19 September). Undulation is the name of the game on Marble Sky‘s self-titled album (Students of Decay, 16 September). Two types of drone – one quiet, one loud – can be found on the Luciernaga/La Mancha del Pecado split, due 7 September on Fabrica; and Dropland vs. Silent Time Machine‘s From Ashes Comes the Day (Holodeck, 14 October) blends the best of each performer, which means drones plus lots of electric guitar.
Rich’s Pick #1: Aphex Twin ~ SYRO (Warp, 22 September)
Murky live tracks on YouTube, a supposedly fake Soundcloud mix (the jury is split), and a flurry of anticipation: only Aphex Twin could have such an effect on the general public. We all want to know what it sounds like, and have been following every rumor! One thing is sure: we’re going to listen.
Rich’s Pick #2: Chapelier Fou ~ Deltas (Ici d’Ailleurs, 22 September)
No mysteries here: this is just a fun, happy album, with sprightly beats, creative timbres and a sense of ebullience. The colorful cover is a perfect indication of the sounds within. It’s a reminder of summer, released just in time for fall.
Rich’s Pick #3: Gidge ~ Autumn Bells (Atomnation, 23 September)
We love the simple idea of releasing an autumn-themed album on the first official day of fall; we’re just surprised only one artist thought of it this year! This album would already be worth purchasing on the basis of “Norrland” alone, but there’s plenty more where that came from.
Also in Electronic:
bvdub‘s A History of Distance (n5MD, 2 September) presents four extended vapourware tracks, which recently mesmerized James Catchpole and are likely to do the same for the general public this fall. Brock Van Wey didn’t invent the genre name; it found him after many years of beautiful releases. A longer name now graces Hieroglyphic Being & the Configurative or Modular Me Trio; The Seer of Cosmic Visions (better title) is released on Planet Mu (7 October). Also returning on Planet Mu is Ital, whose minimalistic Endgame is released September 8.
Rejections side project Marreck offers harsh soundscapes along with techno beats on Thirteen Losses (Bomb Shop, 22 September). Call Super follows a set of successful 12″ techno singles with debut album Suzi Ecto (Houndstooth, 15 September). Tin Man offers “post-rave techno” on the half-instrumental, half-vocal Ode (Absurd, 22 September). The eighth chapter in Jeff Mills’ Sleeper Wakes series, Emerging Crystal Universe, arrives on Axis 6 October. Atom TM resurfaces with two acid tracks on the Ground Loop 12″ (The Bunker New York, 29 September). But if it’s really acid, does one really need to say the word in the song? Those who like the laser beam in the Steve Miller Band’s “Jungle Love” will encounter it again on the track “Friday Night”, from the self-titled album by Big Brother On Acid (Alrealon Musique, 28 October). We detect a theme. The Hyperdub label presents 10.3, the third of four anniversary compilations, on 23 September. Dorian Concept calls Joined Ends “sonic geometry”, and the description fits; the album is precise without being predictable. Look for it on Ninja Tune 20 October. Meanwhile, Ninja Tune imprint Counter Records unveils the slightly more vocal In Return from Odesza (8 September).
Prostitutes (formerly on Spectrum Spools) returns with the percussive Nouveauree on Night School (8 September). anodyne‘s IV (Psychonavigation, 8 September) presents techno with industrial beats. The same is true of Imugem Orihasm‘s slightly darker More anxious, more favorable terms (Nute, 15 September), whose middle tracks are the hardest; while Involved‘s Revolving Maze (Hidden Shoal, 19 September) contains a healthy dose of dark ambience and Eric Copeland‘s Logo My Ego (L.I.E.S., 15 September), dabbles in the downright bizarre. We’d expect no less from the Black Dice alum.
Veteran Manual is set to drop the self-explanatory Memory and Matter: Selected Remixes, Rarities and Unreleased Tracks 2007-2014 on Darla Records (7 October), while Future Sound of London shares the fifth part of its Environments series on 15 September (FSOLdigital). It’s a good season for seasoned artists, as Boojoo Bajou also returns with the Hirta EP on 29 September (Apollo). Caribou continues to tumble toward the mainstream on Our Love (City Slang/Merge, 4 October), while Flying Lotus invites a host of guest stars to sing and rap on You’re Dead! (Warp, 7 October). Kiasmos (‘Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen) follow a series of singles and EPs with their self-titled debut album on Erased Tapes (27 October). Arnalds has been chameleonlike in recent years, and this is one of his better moves. Also due on Erased Tapes is the Sonne EP from Rival Consoles (15 September). Suicideyear may have a depressive moniker, but Remembrance (Software Recording Co., 23 September) is surprisingly upbeat, even hopeful, as exemplified by lead single “Hope Building A”. Japan’s Bugseed graces Spring Break Tapes with cuts and samples, pianos and hip-hop beats, on the sprightly Some Foods (2 September). Toy instruments and samples inhabit Super Magic Hats‘ Kumori (Hush Hush, 29 September), but that’s still nothing compared to the childlike joy of Twink‘s Critter Club (September 30), which adds a horn section this time out, increasing both the energy and the depth.
Kevin Drumm seems to be having some Trouble with his latest release, as the Soundcloud sample has come up blank (shades of John Cage). The disc drops 7 October on Editions Mego. Also on Editions Mego: Locust‘s synth-happy After the Rain, which occasionally drops the electronics for ambience. Also on the synth tip is Jo Johnson‘s Weaving (8 September), described by Further as minimalist but more properly billed as beatless. Finally, Arms & Sleepers surprises by completing its transition from post-rock to electronic ambience; the dynamic Swim Team drops 28 October on Fake Chapter, but pre-orders receive two tracks now.
Experimental and Jazz
Rich’s Pick: Gabriel Saloman ~ Movement Building Vol. 1 (Shelter Press, 17 October)
Gabriel Saloman only makes quality music. Whether solo, duo (Yellow Swans) or trio (Shivers), the artist continues to thrill and intrigue in equal measure. The first part of a diptych, Movement Building Vol. 1 offers ambience and noise, drums and drone, thrilling listeners with an ever-changing array of sounds. No public samples were available at press time, so you’ll just have to trust us on this one.
Fabrica has an intriguing trio of releases set for 7 September. Sindre Bjerga‘s Future Jazz Loops is the quietest of the three, although these loops are elegantly disturbing. Kilt‘s She’s Got the Evil in Her Ear contains live performances for scraped metal on factory floors and jukeboxes in jet engines; Parashi‘s Tovarich is even noisier, with tape loops and vast drones. BJ Nilsen, Stilluppsteypa and Anla Courtis team up for the abstract and unusual Golden Circle Afternoon (Editions Mego, 13 October), which sounds like a seance at an Antarctic substation. Soiled/Marcus H mixes styles on the eclectic Splices and phases (Elm Lodge, 6 October), his first album in four years. Trumpet and saxophone feature strongly on Konstrukt & Joe McPhee‘s two-track Babylon (Roaratorio, 15 September), which incorporates copious Turkish rhythms and timbres. C. Spencer Yeh and friends team up as the She Sells Strings Trio to present Negatively Complicating a Procedure That Is Already Flawed (8mm, 4 September). Finally, Pauline Oliveros, David Rothenberg and Timothy Hill join forces for the Cicada Dream Band (Gruenrekorder, 1 September), which contains the expected buzzing creatures in conjunction with loud, jazzy improvisations.
Cuneiform has six releases scheduled for fall, so the label gets its very own paragraph. The first three are scheduled for September 30 and the last three for October 14. Jonathan Badger includes everything but the kitchen sink on Verse: banjo, flugelhorn, cello, even human beatbox. Happy Family presents a hybrid of progressive rock, jazz and metal on Minimal Gods, the loudest of the six releases. Dylan Ryan/Sand uses a simple setup of drums, guitar and bass on Circa, but this free jazz is anything but simple. The same core instruments can be found on Anthony Pirog‘s Pale Colorado Dream, but glockenspiel and vibraphone add a different dimension. Vibraphone also features strongly in the “garage chamber” sound of the cellar and point, whose ambit includes a cover of Ligeti. Rob Mazurek and Black Cube SP‘s Return the Tides: Ascension Suite and Holy Ghost is an intensely personal album, recorded two weeks after Mazurek lost his mother to cancer. One can hear the sadness and the hope entwined in the cornetist’s compositions.
Field Recording and Soundscape
This is probably the best place to make an observation: artists and labels in this category tend to be stingy with their streams and seldom announce releases in advance. The exceptions include the 3leaves label (which is still promoting its latest pair of releases) and Gruenrekorder. In addition to the Oliveras project above, the latter label is releasing a pair of winners on September 1. Louis Sarno‘s field recordings of bayaka music are preserved on Song from the Forest: The Soundtrack, a mixture of tribal singing, local sounds, stories and interviews. But the crown jewel is (Dr.) Hein Schoer‘s The Sounding Museum: Box of Treasures, which is indeed a box of treasures: a book, a DVD and a CD all in one package, chronicling Schoer’s adventures in acoustic ecology, especially his long piece Two Weeks in Alert Bay.
Rich’s Pick #1: A Winged Victory for the Sullen ~ Atomos (Erased Tapes, 6 October)
A Winged Victory for the Sullen‘s debut album was everyone’s darling in 2011. Adam Wiltzie and Dustin O’Halloran continued to cement their fan base with a number of astounding shows, including string quartets and small orchestras. This spring, they unleashed “Atomos VII”, and now we’ve been given “Atomos VI” to preview (play below). Every indicator points to this being one of the season’s highlights, if not one of the year’s best albums.
Rich’s Pick #2: Death Blues ~ Ensemble (Rhythmplex, 9 September)
Jon Mueller (Collections of Colonies of Bees, Volcano Choir) has gone all-out on his latest project, which includes a series of essays bound in a 12″ x 12″ hardback containing the vinyl. Along with William Ryan Fritch (who’s been busy himself lately!), Mueller has produced a work of orchestral elegance and intellectual grace. No samples yet, but if you like either artist, you’ll love this.
Rich’s Pick #3: Robert Curgenven ~ “They tore the earth, and like a scar, it swallowed them” (Recorded Fields, 27 October)
The new album boasts a post-rock title and is closely related to Curgenven’s earlier release, SIRÉNE. That pipe organ collection includes a piece that is presented here in its original form; the composer unveiled the remix first, but soon listeners will be able to hear how the two interlock. The preview provides hints that drone and experimental elements make frequent appearances.
Also in Modern Compostion:
A trio of releases from Preserved Sound drops this September; all are previewed on the latest album compilation, The Blinding White Heat of Summer Days. Richard Youngs merges acoustic guitar with active strings on Red Alphabet in the Snow; Tess Said So folds orchestral elements into the ivory mix on I Did That Tomorrow; and North Side Drive adds a seasonal element on Snow/Sea/Sky. Mike Vass’ In the wake of Neil Gunn (Unroofed Records, 20 October) may sound placid on the surface, but it belies a dark undercurrent; the album was composed on a three-month boating trip following a serious struggle with Lyme disease. And Chicago ensemble a.pe.ri.od.ic makes its debut with more or less, an interpretation of works by Swiss composer Jürg Frey (New Focus, 9 September).
Rock, Post-Rock and Related Genres
This summer was a great season for post-rock, thanks in large part to the ArcTanGent Festival: over a hundred post-rock bands in the same place at the same time, a celebration of the strength of the genre. Capitalizing on the festival, many bands released albums in the waning weeks of summer, including stellar efforts from Maybeshewill, This Patch of Sky and Rumour Cubes. But there’s still much more to look forward to, including high profile releases from Earth (Primitive and Deadly, Southern Lord, 2 September), Scott Walker & Sunn O))) (Soused, 4AD, 20 October) and Blueneck (King Nine, Denovali, 7 November). The return to earlier timbres may please fans of Earth, while the addition of Walker to Sunn O))) will likely thrill and infuriate in equal measure. Yet all of these albums contain vocals, so our top picks go instead to the return of two familiar, well-loved names.
Rich’s Pick #1: This Will Destroy You ~ Another Language (Holodeck, 16 September)
Years of hard work and touring have helped to make This Will Destroy You one of the world’s best-loved post-rock bands. While some envy their success, they are never content to rest on their laurels. The new album continues to push into new territory, with nuanced textures and abraded sounds that fit the cassette format perfectly. It’s clean and dirty at the same time. The epic riffs are destined to please old fans while bringing new ones to the fold.
Rich’s Pick #2: JAKOB ~ Sines (The Mylene Sheath, 21 October)
We’ve only heard one track so far: but what a track! “Blind Them With Science” is already good enough to justify the purchase of the album. JAKOB has been gone for eight years, but this return finds them in fine form. The time away has only made them stronger; newer bands still have a lot to learn from this influential heavy music trio.
Also in Rock and Post-Rock:
Those who enjoy long post-rock tracks will be thrilled by Saturday’s Child, a languid, slowly-building, half-hour piece from one-man band Honesty Box, featuring guitar, reverb, glockenspiel and birds (1 September). The same holds true for fydws‘ The Sound (four movements in the key of D), a 42-minute guitar symphony that remains thick and swirling throughout (1 September). Slightly shorter: the two tracks found on the 46-minute Zubberdust (Constellation, 30 September). This album represents a reunion of sorts, as Fly Pan Am veteran Jean-Sebastian Truchy returns as the leader of new quartet Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche. The tracks are energetic, krautrock-influenced, and anchored by wordless, exuberant vocals. The electronic side of post-rock is represented by Kontakte‘s These Machines (The Collapse of Everything, 8 September). Also in post-rock: BC band glaswegians drops its self-titled debut on 14 October, led by the ten-minute preview track “Silicon”, while Summon the Octopi follows single “Apricots Alligate” with Nonversations on Sober Up (November 14). And also on Constellation: Timber Timbre veterans reform as Last Ex to present the remains of a horror noir project on their self-titled debut (14 October).
The collaboration theme continues as members of Pontiak, Guardian Alien and Beach House team up as Heat Leisure to present Heat Leisure III & IV (Thrill Jockey, 21 October), the follow-up to Pontiak’s “bonus disc” Heat Leisure I & II. The blend of guitar, bass and horses – yes, horses – is simultaneously psychedelic and down-to-earth. Multiple time signatures come into play throughout The Brackish‘s debut album Big Guys (Lava Thief, 22 September), as the trio manages to reference math rock, surf music and jazz improv, often in the same song. Anchored by Aidan Baker’s guitar, the Caudal trio’s krautrock-influenced Ascension drops 14 September on ConSouling Sounds. Adam Coney‘s The Fall of the Flamingo Gardens (Trestle, 1 September) is a deep exploration of guitar timbres, with a soft spot for jazz and improv. And the heaviest fall release we know about is one-man-band Oecist‘s XVIII LIII (1 September, Crowquill Records), which has enough slow-churning riffs to satisfy even the hungriest metal fans.