Happy New Year! We’ve finally finished our year-end lists, reflections, and vacations, and are about to turn our ears to the new. With nearly 75 new releases on the horizon for January and February alone, 2015 is already shaping up to be a winner. We’ve had the privilege of hearing many of these albums in full, and samples of many more. If you just want to hear the sounds, head over to our News page, which is a constantly updated scroll of upcoming music. But for initial observations and picks, stay right here!
A huge congratulations to all those artists and labels who sent their press releases out early. Advance notice is definitely the way to go. A happy and healthy new year to all!
Our gorgeous cover image comes from journalist, photographer and educator Tara Haelle at Tara Incognita. Tara writes about family, art, and social and health issues on a group of articulate and empathetic blogs. She can also be visited here. Thank you for the permission, Tara!
After landing on our Year’s Best Ambient chart and scoring our #1 Album Cover of the year, 36 is already throwing down the gauntlet for 2015. His 4-track 12″, Pulse Dive (3six, 2 January), continues the quality on both fronts. (An additional 12-minute remix is available to those who purchase the digital copy). The title track is the obvious highlight, five years in the making and incredibly beautiful, a tribute to a fallen friend. 36 also appears on the lovely aqua-tinged vinyl compilation Europe (A Strangely Isolated Place, January) along with Dalot, Marsen Jules and other like-minded artists. Each was asked to compose a track related to local geography; the pieces include instrumental odes to Reykjavik, Zurich and the Pyrénées. But more than anything, the album feels like the ocean; the initial visual impression is impossible to shake.
For those who seek to experience a variety of ambient artists in a single tidy place, Womblabel’s All Things Converge and Shimmering Moods’ Meditations 1 will hit the spot. The former is a double album with a light electronic bent; the latter is the first of a two-part series that leans toward the calm and relaxing. Both will be released in January. Japan’s Home Normal label also returns with a vengeance this January. After late December releases from Olan Mill and Melodia, the label now turns its attention to a triptych of solid albums: Hotel Neon‘s soothing self-titled disc (16 January), Elian‘s more discomforting yet no less alluring Harrowgate (23 January) and Fabio Orsi‘s ivory-tinged Just for a Thrill (30 January). Each album comes in a locally cultivated washi package! And while we say goodbye to Australia’s Twice Removed label, The Long Story Recording Company has taken its place. The label’s first release is Hessien‘s Your Empire, In Decline (15 January), which combines the talents of Tim Diagram (Maps & Diagrams) and Charles Sage (Rothko Chapel). Each release on the label will adhere to a single design template, so they’ll look great on a shelf! And Students of Decay has released a fine sampler (below), featuring sounds from upcoming works by Sarah Davachi, Billy Gomberg, Alex Cobb, Lejsovka & Freund, En, Aquarelle and M. Sage. In a word: wow.
12k starts the year off strong with a pair of releases on 27 January. We’re especially excited to see the elaborate packaging for Steinbrüchel‘s Parallel Landscapes, which includes a 60-page slipcased booklet of photography from Taylor Deupree, along with a CD of bells, static and scattered electronics. The prolific artist is also found on Perpetual, a live concert disc that was recorded with Ryuichi Sakamoto and Illuha. This lightning-in-a-bottle concert was not initially intended for release, but fortunately it was caught on tape. Pre-orders should be up very soon.
Still need a 2015 calendar? Act quickly, and you may be able to score a limited edition handmade cloth calendar from Time Released Sound, whose first release of the year will be Masaya Kato‘s Traces of Voices (4 January). This version is the deluxe edition, but a regular edition will be offered as well. Kato’s piano-based music is a gentle way to welcome in the new year.
Keenya‘s second effort for Hush Hush Records may be ambient, but it contains a strong electronic presence. With its smooth atmospheres and tender beats, Gone Home (12 January) is like a log on the fire on a cold winter’s night. Trumpet, guitar and tape machine join forces on Silent Period, a pairing of Gareth Flowers and Josh Mason (Sunshine Ltd., 19 January). The concept album is based on a short story and unfolds in four movements as it traces a single night in the life of a troubled man on the streets of Manhattan. But the strongest ambient release of the season may be Jasmine Guffond‘s Yellow Bell (Sonic Pieces, 30 January). This deeply-textured work has been compared to the output of Grouper, and we agree with this assessment; this one, however, is vocal-free.
Rio’s Ricardo Donoso has made a name for himself with a series of thick electronic releases. Denovali honors him with the twinned release of Sarava Exu and the rare but now reissued Deterrence, both on 30 January. The drones are joined by dark and often melodic beats, making Donoso a true cross-genre artist. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma returns on Mexican Summer with the shoegaze meets musique concrète sounds of A Year With 13 Moons (10 February). Inspired by a Fassbinder film, the album refuses to follow a single pattern, and twists from tape loop to modular synthesizer with wild abandon. After dropping a surprise Christmas compilation just last week, Russia’s wonderful Dronarivm label returns in early February with Light Loss, the latest effort from offthesky. Meanwhile, France’s Soft Recordings, fresh from its Christmas Day release of Kate Carr‘s Fabulations, returns in January with a winter-esque offering from Lost Trail. One Day We’ll All Walk Outside And Stare Up At The Blameless Sky And Wait For Something To Happen is also the season’s longest title. Also on the Soft label, Eus, Postdrome & Saåad continue their collaborative efforts with Different Streams on 23 February (co-distributed by Grains of Sand). Even Planet Mu gets into the drone field with Claude Speeed‘s Sun Czar Temple 12″, which borrows from the Petrels template and must be considered one of the season’s greatest surprises. Less surprising but no less alluring is the new album from Noveller, preceded by the gorgeous single “Into the Dunes”, which hides its drone elements until the closing minutes. Fire Records has to be super-excited about this one, due out on CD and aqua vinyl 26 January.
Rainbow Pyramid‘s Winter Batch of cobalt cassettes was released on 1 January, and includes a mix of drone, ambient, and meditation music, with a few field recordings thrown in. One can buy the entire batch for a special price, or choose between splits from Azaleus & Joshua Dumas/Creaton VI, Wave Temples/Heat Sureens, and Paw Paw/Pan del Indio, plus cloud sound‘s Spirit of Love as Infinite Life. Mind Over Mirrors began as a solo project from harmonium player and sometime vocalist Jaime Fennelly, but The Voice Calling (Immune, 27 January) enlists the aid of Circuit des Yeux’s Haley Fohr as well. Her incantatory lyricism lends the project a meditative sheen. Famed Nine Inch Nails veteran Alessandro Cortini completes his Forse trilogy this season on Important (12 January). Gondwana‘s quietly spooky Aum 12″ is out 19 January on Opal Tapes. But for the darkest of drones, one must visit Theologian, whose label (Malignant) and album title (Pain of the Saints) provide only a hint of what lies within (late January/early February).
Could Public Service Broadcasting be the next Daft Punk? From the looks of the “Gagarin” video, it’s entirely possible. After stunning us with debut album Inform – Educate – Entertain, the duo is back in fine form on The Race for Space (23 February, Test Card), continuing their blend of beats and dialogue samples, this time with a unifying theme. No longer a well-kept secret, the duo deserves to be even bigger, and we suspect this album will put them over the top.
Another potential cut-and-paste classic is Romare‘s Projections (Ninja Tune, 23 February). Utilizing samples from African-American spirituals, disco and Nina Simone, Romare makes a strong play for DJ Shadow’s crown. A string of successful compilation appearances has made us extremely confident about this album’s success.
Brandon Locher of The Meets returns in collaboration with drummer Gerald Mattis as Stage Hands, a bouncy, happy duo whose self-titled album is set to drop on My Idea of Fun 10 February. Lead single “The Populating of Empty Space” already has us nodding our heads. After a series of well-received singles, “Low end legend” DJ Clent drops Last Bus to Lake Park on Duck N’ Cover (3 February); later the same month, Egyptrixx launches his own label, Halocline Trance. The first release: his own hard dance workout, Transfer of Energy (Feelings of Power). After teaming up with Factory Floor in 2014, techno artist L/F/D/M is set to release his debut album M Is a Shape on Ecstatic (19 January). The set is a loving throwback to the techno-industrialism of the early 90s. In a similar vein, new Blue Tapes imprint X-Ray Records launches in January with the Moroder-influenced Tin Machine, from Pour Le Plaisir, along with a video featuring the Sarlacc (hope you got permission for that, boys!). Key quote: “You thought Blue Tapes didn’t do bangers. You got us all wrong.” Not to be outdone, Sydney disc jockey Dreems calls upon a multiplicity of electronic influences to produce the double vinyl LP In Dreams (Multi Culti, 19 January), accompanied by a quartet of videos that are suitable for both the chill-out room and the dance floor. The first can be seen below.
The intricate side of electronics is represented by Deison & Mingle, who follow up 2014’s Everything Collapse(d) with the similarly enigmatic & varied Weak Life on Aagoo (9 February). Darren Harper‘s Reduction & Variant (Disq An, January) combines ambient and glitch, resting against the outer edge of each genre. Abstract electronic glitch is Raster-Noton‘s bread and butter, and the trend continues as Frank Bretschneider‘s »sinn + form« is released on 19 January. The album is an investigation of the properties of the modular synthesizer, including randomly generated data. The last four releases on new tape label Aught have all sold out, so we’re giving you a heads-up on this one: Xth Réflexion is a “collaborative, iterative work” that delves into repetitions and algorithms; it’s due out 7 January. Also delving into the field of generative compositions is Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, who makes great use of Euclidean geometry and a Buchia synthesizer. More immediately engaging than last year’s Tides, Euclid is due 20 January on Western Vinyl, preceded by the single “Sundry”, below.
We’ve been waiting patiently for a new album from Kreng, and The Summoner (Miasmah, 6 February) shatters all expectations. Based on the five stages of grief, the album feels personally haunted, rather than cinematically haunted. A 12-piece string orchestra adds a touch of the immediate. The album flows as a suite, bringing listeners to acceptance, but not before putting them through the wringer.
Matana Roberts may be a vocal artist, but she’s nothing like the mainstream. Occasionally prone to onomatopoeia and even screaming, Roberts has been investigating the outer limits of music and the hidden histories of soul on her Coin Coin series. Chapter Three: river run thee is now set for release on Constellation 3 February, and based on the preview track, it may be the best of the batch.
Mark Templeton + Kye Armstrong‘s LP/DVD Extensions was originally slated for 2014, and even made Textura‘s year-end chart. But unforeseen difficulties pushed the release back to 28 January 2015. Fortunately the wait is over, and the physical copies have finally arrived on Graphical. The album is a multi-media tribute to Canadian visionary Marshall McLuhan, and the duo succeeds by combining musical metaphor and optical reflection.
The most unusual experimental release of the season is Jan St. Werner‘s Miscontinuum (Thrill Jockey, 27 January), the third part of the artist’s Fiepblatter Series. It began as a live performance, morphed into a radio play, and is now a vinyl package available in several versions, two of which include bonus tracks. Guest contributors Markus Popp (Oval), Dylan Carlson (Earth), Taigen Kawabe (Bo Ningen) and more make this a special affair. No single genre or timbre is dominant, as the sound slides all around from electronic to operatic, and the tone from smooth to abrasive. Spoken word interludes break up the tracks – better in German, but translated for this release. Also on Thrill Jockey is a new cassette from Peals, a limited edition release of two side-long tracks. The first is a live performance in a clock tower, while the second is a collage of improvisations. Seltzer is released 27 January, and swiftly in its wake will follow new works from Steve Gunn & Black Twig Pickers (Seasonal Hire, 24 February), Eternal Tapestry (Wild Strawberries, 24 February), Sam Prekop (The Republic, 24 February), People of the North (Era of Manifestations, 24 March) and Colleen (Captain of None, 7 April). We’re quite impressed at what Thrill Jockey has in store for 2015, and this is only the beginning!
According to a fellow journalist, Oren Ambarchi just can’t stop releasing music; the friendly observation is correct, as the prolific artist teams with Jim O’Rourke and Keiji Haino for the live set Time For Those Determined To Completely Exhaust Every Bit Of This Body They’ve Been Given, due 26 January on Black Truffle. After receiving a rush of publicity in the January issue of The Wire, Rie Nakajima is about to reap the benefits, as Four Forms will be released on Consumer Waste this January. The artist plays with tea cups and toys, rearranging their sounds into surprisingly sparkling sets. Brooklyn-based bass clarinetist Lea Bertucci is set to release a complex two-track 7″ on Swedish label I Dischi Del Barone in early 2015; Light Silence, Dark Speech is an intriguing appetizer to the much-anticipated full-length L’Onde Souterraine by Lea + Leila (cello). Tashi Dorji‘s electric guitar tape Blue Twelve will be reissued on vinyl this January, courtesy of Blue Tapes imprint X-Ray Records. Acorn Falling‘s sophomore effort, 2nd Plateau of Normalcy, combines vocals and instrumentation, but in a creative and often impressionistic fashion. Band members hail from established acts including The Bad Seeds, Peter Murphy/Bauhaus, Tuxedomoon, Current 93 and Backworld (21 January). And just in time for Lent: the creepy blue fifteen from Father Murphy, which combines chortled vocals with the sounds of cross building (out now digitally, out in January on cassette).
For the past year, fans have been enjoying William Ryan Fritch‘s incredibly ambitious 10-album Leave Me Sessions subscription series. This series concludes in sumptuous fashion with Revisionist ~ an LP housed in a vinyl book jacket (Lost Tribe Sound, 10 February). Featuring collaborations with Origamibiro and Benoit Pioulard, the album closes out the project with style. Similarly orchestral is The Notwist‘s The Messier Objects, a double-vinyl collection of soundtrack works with a post-rock flourish (Alien Transistor, 23 January). And cello fans will love the multi-tracked performance of William Mace on Monty Adkins‘ Borderlands (Audiobulb, January). Originally an installation piece with spoken word, the single 37-minute track is now entirely instrumental. Finally, those who prefer horns to strings will be well-served by the overdubbed saxophones of Bryan Smith, whose album The RE: Project is released on the first of the year.
Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz
If the early releases are any indication, 2015 is going to be a great year for post-rock. Digitally released in 2014 but now arriving on vinyl (30 January) is Whale Fall‘s stunning The Madrean, a worthy follow-up to their self-titled 2011 debut. The new album is awash in guitars and packed with crescendos, yet tender enough to include trumpet and violin. A 12-page booklet of photography from Jordan W. Lee sweetens the deal. Another exciting post-rock band is Platonick Dive, whose combination of guitars and electronics is instantly reminiscent of 65dos, albeit with a much stronger preference for the dance floor. Overflow is released on Black Candy on 17 February. And we’ve been excited for months about The Union Trade‘s sophomore effort, A Place of Long Years (3 February), which will be released on smoky clear vinyl. It’s post-rock done right, with light, emotive vocals, beautifully showcased on lead single “Murmurations”.
Cuneiform Records will begin its fourth decade as a label with a quintet of winter releases: as the label puts it, “something old and something new.” The season will introduce unreleased archival recordings from saxophonist Mike Osborn (Dawn) and a classic caught-on-tape concert from Soft Machine (Switzerland 1974), along with new albums from jazz-electronics ensemble Kandinsky Effect (Somnambulist), post-rock/post-jazz ensemble Schnellertollermeier (X) and improvised guitar duo Henry Kaiser and Ray Russell (The Celestial Sound). Release dates will be announced soon.
One of the season’s most interesting releases is the upcoming compilation South America Is Part of the Problem. Curated by a member of the Glenn Branca Ensemble, the set showcases 25 up-and-coming experimental and post-punk bands from the southern regions, including site favorite COSO. Unique in a different way is Denovali’s Second Moon of Winter, a rock/opera blend whose new album One for Sorrow, Two for Joy might not be for all readers, but will appeal to those of a gothic sensibility. We’ve only heard one track from new Denovali signee Fogh, but our #1 label of the year seems to be able to do no wrong, and we’re intrigued by the ambient/post-rock blend of the self-titled album’s lead track (February). Tonefloat imprint A New Wave of Jazz kicks off the new year with two records and two tapes: a trio of releases from YODOKIII and one from Dikeman/Serries. All are thick and emotional; Dikeman/Serries’ Cult Exposure is a live explosion of electric guitar and saxophone, while YODOKIII’s The Sky Flashes, the Great Sea Yearns borders on a GY!BE magnificence (16 January). Not wasting any time is Acker, whose hard-edged, shanty-like sea songs is being released today. Way to get a jump on the new year! And Dark Dark Dark‘s evocative soundtrack to Flood Tide receives a well-deserved vinyl release on 20 January, with an option to purchase the film along with the record, a pretty good deal.
This may be the most exciting batch of releases we’ve ever encountered so early in the year; we hope you’ve found some new favorites here!