The musical branches have begun to bloom. With over 100 spring titles already announced, 2015 continues on pace to be one of the best years in recent memory. From fascinating frontrunners to left-field surprises, we’ve got your guide to what’s next. As usual, if you just want the sounds, head straight to our News page; but for a more in-depth look, stay right here. We’ve made top picks in each category and provided links to every release; this article is your one-stop shop for spring music!
Rich’s Pick: Strië ~ Struktura (Serein, 6 April)
Iden Reinhart’s third winning album takes up where 2012’s Õhtul left off, but is even more abstract than its predecessor. Given its inspiration – the paintings that lend the tracks their titles – this comes as no surprise. The joy is in the matching of art and sound. Hints of lost violin passages, stray beats and a snatches of wordless song form a picture whose lack of obvious form is its form: an abstraction of an abstraction, with clear entry points along the way.
Also new on the Serein label, we find Yui Onodera & Vadim Bondarenko‘s Cloudscapes (3 May), which combines piano and electronics in a soft and pleasing manner and should be perfect for cloud-gazing on a lovely spring afternoon. An intentional drift occurs in 36‘s Sine Dust (3six, 15 April), a tasteful homage to Voyager 1. M. Ostermeier‘s Still is also reflective of its title, a pure pool of pristine ambience that sparkles like sunlight on metal (Tench, 24 March). Continuing on the sedate tip, the super-quiet Mirror Neurons from France Jobin & Fabio Perletta drops 21 April on Dragon’s Eye Recordings. Inspired by the artists’ interest in the “infinitely small and invisible”, the album rewards the careful, patient listener. Marsen Jules reflects the ice of a Nordic winter on the filigreed The Empire of Silence (Oktaf, 30 March); those who pre-order receive a 38-minute bonus track. And Students of Decay’s Alex Cobb grows introspective on Chantepleure, an album born from pain and disillusionment and far more ambient than drone (28 April).
On the heels of late winter releases from Christopher Hipgrave and Gurun Gurun, Home Normal unveils four releases this spring. First out of the block is fifto‘s with miur (3 April), an electroacoustic release that often uses bells in the position of percussion, but is not afraid to incorporate light beats, especially on “this curved”. A week later it’s Cass.‘ turn, as Magical Magical makes its appearance; music boxes and occasional vocals conjure a world akin to its title. After this, it’s a short wait until 8 May, when the mysterious Gurun Gurun drops the full-length Kon B, fulfilling the promise of the EP; check the ghosts on both covers to see the connection. This pleasantly odd, multi-faceted music could just as easily land in our Experimental section. Then it’s back to the purely ambient for Konntinent‘s The Empire Line, including contributions from Chantal Acda, Katie English and Cuushe; the sound may be benign, but the cover is deeply disturbing.
Biosphere Deathprod combines the talents of two respected artists; Strator is released 30 March on Touch. The lead track, “Baud”, is more restrained than we had expected, but the full album promises greater variety in volume. Informed by glitch is Monty Adkins‘ venture into microsound, Unfurling Streams, a follow-up to the dissimilar Borderlands (Crónica, 25 March). Temporary Residence caught everybody off guard by advertising a new William Basinski record, The Deluge, in The Wire, before any information had appeared online, but it’s really happening; the composition debuted in concert last year. Wobbly, nostalgic cassette warp abounds on Altars Altars‘ 1864, so we recommend the purchase of the tape over that of the disc (found toys, 20 March).
After releasing a series of compilations, the Shimmering Moods label is ready to unveil its first pair of artist albums. Gallery Six‘s Gasansui is the first to be offered, and offers a traditional ambient blend of water, birds and synth (31 March). This work will be followed by Michiro Aoyama‘s In a Dream, a meditative synthesized set that includes rain and other field recordings (24 April). Also grounded in real-life sounds, the newest installment of the Rail Cables series sees involvement from Christopher Royal King, Symbol, and This Will Destroy You, and will drop later this spring. Also branching from post-rock to ambience is Chris O’Connell, the bass player of Those Amongst Us Are Wolves, whose new album High Rise will be released 1 April under the moniker Love Like a Fool. And taking a page from the Rhys Chatham playbook, Ian Vine combines the sounds of dozens of guitars on forty objects/forty-five objects, smoothing them into a nearly opaque paste (27 March).
When it comes to dark ambient, the Cold Spring label is a proven leader, now enjoying its third decade in the business. This being said, the label is still capable of surprise, and SOL‘s Where Suns Come to Die is one of them. This bleak and depressing work hides a heart of beauty, and is a welcome counter-balance to the mainstream. Released concurrently on the label is the harsher Thus Avici from Tunnels of Ah, demonstrating that anger and depression are two sides of the same coin. Both are released on 30 March. For more dark music, see Défago‘s Weird Tales from the Countryside in the Electronic section, When‘s The Black Death and Nurse With Wound and Graham Bowers’ Mutation – The Lunatics Are Running the Asylum in Experimental, and The Eye of Time‘s ANTI in Rock and Post-Rock.
Rich’s Pick: Tim Catlin & Machinefabriek ~ Whorls (Low Point, 6 April)
Those familiar with the duo’s previous effort, Patina, may be surprised at the change in timbre. That record was more of an ambient release, while the new collaboration is full of beautiful abrasion.
The OO-Ray has been honing his work over the past few years, and his signature blend of cello and drone is now enriched by the presence of horns and woodwinds. The best moments arrive when the drones drop out (as at the end of “Crushpoint”), displaying the orchestral underpinnings. Empty Orchestra will appear on the Lifelike Family label 3 April. Miasmah’s last release came from the indomitable Kreng, and nothing from the label has disappointed, so we have high hopes for James Welburn‘s Hold (8 May). Following his excursion into beat-laden electronics, Marreck returns to his Rejections moniker for the abrasive, no-holds-barred One Machine, expected late March/early April. Petrels has announced a new album for 22 May, but no other details have been unveiled. The same holds true for the new Anthony Donovan & 3:16 album, set to drop the first day of April, and Richard Skelton’s Belated Movements for an Unsanctioned Exhumation August 1st 1984, his second excursion under the Inward Circles moniker (Corbel Stone Press, April).
Rich’s Pick: Holly Herndon ~ Platform (19 May, 4AD/RVNG)
When it was announced that the new Herndon album would include both “Chorus” and “Home”, I was immediately sold. But the treats don’t end there. In lead single “Interference”, Herndon continues to explore new sonic territories, utilizing her voice as a percussive instrument as well as a layered tonic. She’s one of the most dynamic performers around, and Platform should put her over the top.
The highly-anticipated collaboration between Ozmotic and Fennesz borrows from the free jazz, experimental and ambient arenas while keeping one foot solidly on the electronic side of the fence. AirEffect is set for release this June on Folk Wisdom/SObject; the extended preview track below provides as many questions as answers, but is never less than intriguing.
A less obvious electronic release is the first published collaboration between Anna Caragnano and Donato Dozzy. Sintetizzatrice (Spectrum Spools, 30 March) is a vocal experiment, filled by loops of Caragnano’s voice; the short LP is meant to be enjoyed as a whole, and peaks with the steady vocal beats of “Parola” and “Festa,” while offering moments of beatless beauty throughout. The Editions Mego family continues its hot streak with the 20th anniversary reissue of its first two releases: General Magic & Pita’s Fridge Trax Plus (Editions Mego, 25 May). These influential glitch works have never sounded so crisp. For a modern take on the genre, combined with elements of drone and industrial music, we recommend Chra‘s Empty Airport (11 May). Also on the label: I-LP-O IN DUB (Ilpo Väisänen)’s sparse yet beat-filled Communist Dub (11 May) and a reissue of Michel Redolfi‘s work for Synclavier synthesizer, Pacific Tubular Waves, on sub-label Recollection GRM (27 April). The album is released concurrently with the latest set from Beatriz Ferreyra, although GRM Works, which collects music recorded from 1967-2011, could just as easily fit in our Drone or Experimental sections.
Thousands of samples are found on Dylan Stark‘s debut album Heartland (Civil Music, 6 April), meticulously arranged like puzzle pieces and drawing shades of comparison to The Avalanches. A simple yet effective promo video (seen below) shows what a big impression one can make with a little time and effort. Specateur seems to be having fun with his own new portable beat-making instrument in the video teaser for the Tiphareth EP, available 30 March. Samples also abound on Serph‘s fifth album, Hyperion Suites (Noble, 15 April), especially cut-up vocals, a new focus for the prolific artist, whose sound has always been happy but is continuing to evolve. Also on the sample tip: Falty DL switches his name to Drew Lustman for The Crystal Cowboy (Planet Mu, 20 April).
Synths abound on a trio of Hands in the Dark cassette releases, all set to drop 4 May: Bitchin’ Bajas‘ Transporteur incorporates flutes, while Cankun‘s Only the Sun is Full of Gold concentrates on psychedelic guitar and Demien Castellanos‘ The Kyvu Tapes Volume I (1990-1998) brings us back to a bygone era. Also tipping a hat to this era is Buspin Jieber, whose modern retro We Came As We Left (Raftonar, 25 March) is aimed at future pop fans. Défago‘s Weird Tales from the Countryside pays homage to the soundtrack works of John Carpenter (29 March). The Orb’s Paul Harnall returns as 8:58, bringing along a host of friends on guest vocals; an instrumental edition is also available as part of the deluxe version (ACL Recordings, 30 March). Applescal‘s fourth synth album, For, will make its appearance 18 May on Atomnation. Contretemps brings the synths on Pronouncement, due 24 March on Safety Records. And Wave Multiplier is set to release the club-worthy 4040 on clang (23 March), preceded by the hypnotic teaser below.
We’re always amazed at the Psychonavigation label’s ability to get their press releases and sound samples out early; other labels take note! Derek Carr follows his ambient/electronic Almost Home EP with the Home album on 27 April; Lorenzo Montanà completes his ambitious album triptych with Vari Chromo on 18 May; New Composers (from Russia) team up with Brian Eno for Smart on 12 June (a better fit for our Ambient category, but we mention it here to keep the label’s releases together); and finally, International Debris (Ross Baker) unveils Ambifauna on 20 July, making it the first summer release to be mentioned on our site. Way to go, Psychonavigation!
The Glacial Movements label kicks off its new Iceberg Series of techno/dub releases with perennial label favorite Netherworld; Zastrugi is set for release 15 April. Team Morale brings the oud, along with other world instruments, to the 6 April release of Satori (6 April); “Ubuntu” is the groovy lead track, which made its debut on Bad Panda a couple weeks back. Demdike Stare’s Miles Whittaker provides a vote of confidence by mastering the rhythmic, hand-clapping self-titled debut from M/D/G (flau, 23 March). And Denovali’s Piano Interrupted gets the remix treatment from same label artists on The Unified Field Reconstructed (27 March); for the best reworks, go straight to the tracks from Hidden Orchestra and Origamibiro; they may not be what you expect, but we suspect you’ll be pleased.
Digitonal continues to mix organic and electronic influences on Beautiful Broken (Just Music, 4 May), which might also fit comfortably in our ambient department. Max Cooper‘s first collaboration with pianist Tom Hodge was a huge success, and we expect the new EP, Artefact, to be the same (FIELDS, 20 April). One of the highlight tracks is “Teotihuacan Part 2”; the first part can be enjoyed here. Piano and beats also feature strongly on the debut album from Grandbrothers; Dilation is out 23 April on FILM. Florian Hecker and Mark Leckey team up for Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera, a 12″ synthesis of voice, electronics and refrigerator (PAN, 23 March), while Jannick Schou releases Fabrik, his Experimedia follow-up to The Art of Shimmering on 12 May. An antique teaser video mirrors the restrained, nearly industrial sounds of the lead track. New artist Eaves also demonstrates an industrial influence on his 4-track debut EP Hue, due 23 March on Hush Hush.
The Aught label has made a quick splash in the past year with a series of clear tapes in clear bags, all of which have sold out. The hot streak continues with the latest release from Xth Réflexion, who was also responsible for the label’s fifth release. /\6 is a beats-and-synth excursion, heavy on rhythm and open space (23 March). The long-lost self-titled shoegaze/electronic set from Kitty will finally see the light of day on the first day of spring (Medical Records, 20 March); we’ll excuse the vocals because we’ve been waiting so long for this to appear. Raster-Noton’s leader Alva Noto continues his Xerrox series with Xerrox Vol. 3 (30 March), but you’ll have to venture to the end of a 48-minute mix to get a taste. Aphex Twin expands the Japanese Syro bonus track “MARCHROMT30a Edit 2b 96” (such a catchy title!) into an EP on 6 April, while Squarepusher is offering “Rayc Fire 2” as a free download in advance of Damogen Furies (20 April). Both are on Warp. For a great glitch album that one can preview in full, we recommend Yuki Matsumura‘s ironically titled Without a break (moph, 2 April), which expands on the examples of its predecessors.
Rich’s Pick: Rob St. John ~ Surface Tension
Rob St. John‘s Water of Life project made quite an impact around these parts, and he continues his investigation of currents with the elaborately packaged Surface Tension (10 April), which includes a 48-page book and a set of photographs. A sound map and exhibition are also related to the larger release. The 31-minute piece is chock-full of field recordings, intricate textures and intriguing melodies. As with Water of Life, there’s even a radio version!
A hard-to-categorize collaboration between Simon Whetham and Canned Fit will appear on Twice Removed this April 1. Chapter One is unusual given the pedigree of each performer: the former in field recording and the latter in electronic music. This pensive set combines the skills of both but sounds nothing like the prior work of either. A month later, Twice Removed’s new imprint The Long Story Recording Company releases Elian‘s Cutting Up the Sun, which seems to extend the artist’s reach from the dark ambient arena to the electronic. It’s exciting to hear performers stepping out from their comfort zones, and to encounter a label that encourages such experimentation. Next from the label: a 5″ lathe cut from Ten and a 7″ from Cetieu, back in more familiar ambient territory.
When‘s The Black Death sees a long-awaited reissue on Ideologic Organ on 25 May. This propulsive piece of musique concrète brings new nuance to the term “death metal”, as it’s both metallic (using real metal) and inspired by the Norwegian plague of 1349. Expect screaming, scraping, rustling and rats; it’s not an easy listen. Nurse With Wound and Graham Bowers return with the kitchen sink collage of Mutation – The Lunatics Are Running the Asylum, which packs more music into its grooves than one might think was possible (Red Wharf, 6 April). PAS Musique scored a coup with the debut of a new track on a recent Wire sampler; the upcoming Inside the Spectrum (Alrealon Musique, 12 May) is awash in samples, synths and bagpipes, and celebrates the twin disciplines of science and philosophy. Avid experimentalist Fabrizio Modonese Palumbo will unveil his latest work for Old Bicycle in early April; the first tracks will appear at the end of March. And the Fuzzylogics trio may have been born in 1957, but they haven’t run out of things to say; wisdom and experience come into play, and Rodach Schlothauer Weiser (Timescraper, 24 April) treads its own distinctive path.
Rich’s Pick: Michael Price ~ Entanglement (Erased Tapes, 13 April)
One can’t say enough about this amazing release, which we’ve been enjoying for a few months now. It’s the debut album for Price, whose orchestral EP was reviewed here a couple years back; suffice it to say that the artist has made good on his promise. Both orchestral and operatic, Entanglement stands out because it doesn’t sound like a film score; it sounds like a classical album for the 21st century, and should establish Price’s reputation for years to come.
Constellation artists Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld join forces for Never were the way she was, an instinctive marriage of sax and violin that melds the strength of each (28 April). Heading in the opposite direction, Temporary Residence is releasing solo efforts from members of two influential bands this spring. Paul de Jong (cellist and co-founder of The Books) unleashes the creatively experimental IF on 28 April; here’s one accessible track and one avant-garde. And on 26 May, Rachels’ pianist Rachel Grimes reunites with members of her former group along with Loscil and other guests on The Clearing, which promises to be one of the season’s strongest releases. We’re also looking forward to hearing the second volume of Michel Banabila & Oene van Geel‘s Music for viola and electronics, scheduled for release 20 March on Tapu.
A bonus for subscribers to William Ryan Fritch‘s subscription series is Music for Film Vol. 1, which will also be available separately to non-subscribers. This 30-track release makes a perfect coda to the series (21 April). We’ve already reviewed Rael Jones & Peter Gregson‘s lovely EP The Watched Clock; each of these composers has also scored a recent work. The Bigo & Twigetti label’s collaborative Forty-Eight EP (23 March) was reviewed in the same article; it’s a lovely venture, filled with piano and strings, composed and recorded in just 48 hours. We’re also looking forward to hearing Bigo & Twigetti’s full version of Nonsemble‘s Go (April). We suspect that Bruno Bavota took a little more time with Mediterraneo (Dronarivm, 25 May); the timbre is similar, but the set is four times the length. This follow-up to The Secret of the Sea literally begins where the last project left off, as the title track was found as a bonus cut on the Japanese version of that album. And pianist Radicalfashion returns after eight years with the jazzy GARCON, released on flau (22 April).
Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz
Rich’s Pick: Godspeed You! Black Emperor ~ Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress (Constellation, 30 March)
Did anyone really think another album would steal the top pick from GY!BE? Of course not. There’s always a moment of fear involved with the announcement of a new release from a favorite artist, and a huge sigh of gratitude and relief when it turns out that the new work is as good as expected. GY!BE doesn’t disappoint on its latest effort; they continue to remind the world how post-rock is done.
What does one purchase after Godspeed? Everybody wants to be compared to the famous innovators, but few are on the same level. The closest in talent and timbre is France’s Oiseaux-Tempête, whom we’ve compared to Godspeed before; and we use this comparison very sparingly. The collective’s second album (not counting a remix disc) is ÜTOPIYA?, which drops 20 April on Sub Rosa. The track below is the only one with vocals, but it still provides an indication of the collective’s power, now amplified with the addition of Gareth Davis on bass clarinet. Separated by only one degree of FareWell Poetry is the new EP from Tomorrow We Sail, which enlists the aid of Alexander Cummins on spoken word; Saturn is released digitally on 23 March. After this we recommend the first solo album from Mono’s Takaakira “Taka” Goto, who began working on Classical Punk and Echoes Under the Beauty (Pelagic, 27 April) a decade ago, but completed the work recently. Drenched in strings and filmic stylings, one can sense the connection with the larger group while enjoying this solo effort.
Solkyri greatly impressed us with its last album, Are You My Brother?, and expectations are high for Sad Boys Club , which is set for release on 10 April. The Australian quartet stands out from the pack by integrating orchestral instruments into its post-rock. French solo artist The Eye of Time combines cello, piano and beats on the symphonic ANTI (Denovali, 20 March), which will be followed by an acoustic set this summer. Some of the season’s cleverest titles appear on Maïak‘s A Very Pleasant Way to Die (Fluttery Records, 20 March), including “Nutributter Green Is People” and “I Am Not a Man, I Am a Free Number”. Extra points to those who understand the references. The album’s five long post-rock tracks are marked by busy, sprawling guitars and patient bass. Apocalyptica co-founder Max Lilja incorporates guitars (“Revelation”) and dance beats (“Silent Highway”) into his signature cello compositions on Morphosis (Fluttery Records, 10 April). The physical edition of Oregon’s ambient post-rockers Coastlands will be released on 19 April; the digital edition of Come Morning, a Radiant Light is available now. 25 copies is not enough, so we encourage them to make more. No such problems for Austria’s le_mol, whose upbeat, guitar-led Kara Oh Kee is released on vinyl and disc on 10 April. Moth Effect rocks out on Crocodilians (Sunstone, 30 March), preceded by the lead single Look Nicely. Signal‘s head-nodding Echoes is even louder, a surprise considering the size of the band (Handmade Records, 23 March). We’re also expecting a new album this spring from Haiku Salut, arriving on the heels of the “Periscopes” collaboration with Jilk; Etch and Etch Deep will appear on How Does It Feel to Be Loved?
Kit Wilmans Fegradoe‘s Issa contains some ambient elements, but overall has more in common with the work of James Blackshaw, as apparent in the first half of the track Shruti. The album is inspired by the travels of Jesus in the Middle East before the beginning of his ministry, and will appear nine days after Easter (14 April) on Important Records. Another guitarist in the fingerpicking style is Western Skies Motel, whose solo set Prism (Preserved Sound, 23 March) is pensive, peaceful and pristine. On the other side of the spectrum, dirty guitars and delay are the primary sources of [BOLT]‘s magic on (03) (Aentitainment, 26 March).
Prefer percussion? One of the more interesting releases of the season comes from Brooklyn by way of Cairo. Mutamassik‘s Symbols Follow (Discrepant, 6 April) is led by Arabic percussion and stuttered samples, never more apparent than on the alluring “Rhythms Rattle on Death Pawns.” Other tracks bring the strings, while many combine both, culminating in the all-out dance floor attack of “Aabye.” Or sample Dawn of Midi‘s Dysnomia (Erased Tapes, 1 June), which blends African rhythms, piano and double bass. Or for JUST the drums, try Liebezeit Mertin‘s Akşak (Staubgold, 24 April), a rhythmic collaboration between drummers of different generations. Meanwhile, free jazz makes its appearance on Kaze‘s horn-drenched Uminari (Circum-Disc, 6 April), featuring dueling trumpets, piano and drums. Preview track Tioky Atsimo is wild and experimental, constantly mutating over the course of its ten minute running time.
A hard-edged sound is present on Ava Mendoza‘s Unnatural Ways (New Atlantis, 14 April). Fiery guitar work is joined to occasional vocals on this rocking effort; check “That Furious Harpy’s Still Following Us” for a taste of what could have been the soundtrack to the recent horror film “It Follows”. Vocals are also present on Aidan Baker‘s slower Half Lives (Gizeh, 6 April), but tempo is the artist’s only drowsy characteristic; this is at least his 9th album in the past 6 months, and it’s a double. He’ll also be teaming up with Idklang for In the Red Room on Karlrecords 5 June; a month earlier, the label will introduce Zeitkratzer perform Column One: Entropium. Gnod has been known to scream, but there’s going to be plenty of instrumental work on the band’s triple album Infinity Machine, which will be breaking turntables beginning 20 April on Rocket. And switching from instrumental to modern folk is Colleen, whose Captain of None drops 7 April on Thrill Jockey. Apart from a couple vocal-free tracks, the artist has made a complete metamorphosis.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this Spring Music Preview; keep in mind that it represents only about a quarter of what will be released this season! To stay updated, remember to check our News page on a regular basis. Happy spring to all, and we hope you’ve found your new favorite album right here!