Happy New Year, everyone! If you’re like us, you’ve already checked out all of the year-end lists and you’re ready for some new music! With over 75 releases on the docket, this is the article for you! Releases are arranged by genre, with one pick in each category. We’ll never get to review them all, so we hope you’ll use this feature (as well as our News page) to find your next favorite album. Thanks to all of the labels and artists who sent their music in time for inclusion; there’s no substitute for early promotion. Now set aside some time, brew a pot of coffee or tea, and enjoy what’s coming next!
Our cover image is taken from the incredible Ice Music Festival, which takes place under the full moon, 21-24 January in Geilo, Norway. Musicians play instruments made entirely of ice! Tickets are still available, so find your best cold weather clothing and read all about this amazing festival here.
Ambient and Drone
Rich’s Pick: Max Richter ~ Sleep Remixes (Deutsche Grammophon)
In the Most Obvious Pick of the Year Department, we find the final piece of Max Richter’s Sleep release. Our Album of the Year is about to receive the remix treatment, and while we don’t have many details, we do have a preview track from Mogwai. Sure, this one isn’t quite quite ambient, but we expect to find a few somnambulant pieces in the set, and we’re excited to hear the other selections!
Our old friend Celer returns on 2 January with Akagi on Two Acorns. This music was initially performed at a live yoga event; some of the attendees fell asleep, while others remained in a meditative state. This makes it the perfect accompaniment for either or both. Federico Durand offers tiny loops and lullabies on the bell-flecked A Través Del Espejo (Through the Mirror), which offers an aural reflection of endless mirrors (12k, 8 January). Similarly sedate is Thomas Köner‘s Tiento de la Luz (Denovali, 5 February), the second part of an electronic trilogy. Köner’s palette expands for this installment, which includes piano, percussion and viola de gamba. Rutger Zuydervelt, fresh from multiple appearances on our year-end charts, returns in collaboration with Steven Hess (Pan American, Haptic) to present the subtle-hued Re: collecting, one of three Umor Rex tapes to be released on 8 January; the others are found in our Electronic section. Winter music fans will be pleased with the latest release from Glacial Movements, as Chihei Hatakeyama and Dirk Serries unite for The Storm of Silence (15 January), presenting a pleasingly desolate, sprawling set.
Hot on the heels of their winter compilation, Eilean Records unveils its first release of the new year, a collaboration between Autistici and Justin Varis. nine is set for release on 16 January. Psychonavigation Records’ Keith Downey steps out from label duties to release his own music as No Mask Effect. Quick Smart is released on 30 January, preceded by a 22-minute preview track. Home Normal managed to sneak an album out on the last day of the year (Stefano Guzzetti‘s Ensemble), but their first release of 2016 is still a couple weeks away. David Cordero‘s gentle El Rumor del Oleaje is graced by waves of ambience, both literal and figurative, and will reach the shoreline on 15 January. Sabbatical honors its name with a set inspired by sacred time; Sundown is released 19 January on the sweetly-titled label Love All Day. Drawing from multiple influences, pianist Reluctant Participant releases the soothing Source and Origin (2011-2015) on the first day of the new year. Pop Ambient artist Max Würden expands from compilations to unveil his debut album Transit on Bine Music 5 February. Fruits de Mer Records goes the picture disc route with Michael Padilla‘s Atmospheres, spinning its way into ambient ears on 4 January.
Discrepant Records launches their Ambient Exotica Soundscapes Series with the first vinyl issue of Mike Cooper‘s New Kiribati, which was originally released in a small run way back in 1999 (29 January). The art is seen to the left. David Toop‘s Life on the Inside was initially heard only inside a sculpture; on 29 January, fans will get to hear what it sounds like in the big world, courtesy of Sub Rosa. And now to the drone department …
How to Cure Our Soul‘s Luna (Low Point, 18 January) is inspired by the moon and offers long, low, slow tones that match the celestial body’s changing phases. But those interested in the harsher end of drone are directed to Blue Tapes for Chemiefaserwerk‘s latest C40; check the preview track below for some aggressive tones and “secular drones” (late January). Still too sedate? For a blast of pure, adulterated, all-out noise, head straight to Gareth Davis and Merzbow‘s Atsusaku (Moving Furniture, 21 March). The album is also available in a pre-order bundle along with Orphax‘s Time Waves and Modelbeau‘s Four Squared Wheel, both released on 21 February.
Rich’s Pick: Roly Porter, Third Law (Tri Angle, 22 January)
Who needs dance music? That’s what Roly Porter asked himself when composing his third album. “4101” may be the most epic track we’ve heard in the new year, and it’s only a fragment of a larger work. The beats are slow and mysterious, inspiring comparisons to artists such as Ben Frost, Peter Kutin and LAND. We like Porter’s sonic shift, and believe our readers will feel the same way.
HOWES makes his debut with a series of modular synth jams, preceded by the head-nodding single Overveen (Melodic, 15 January). More modular synth can be found on M. Geddas Gengras‘ Two Variations, a pair of side-long compositions due 8 January on Umor Rex. On the same day, the label releases a split cassette from Shapes and Melfi; these tracks are a bit darker and sadder. Saroos adds organic instruments to the synthesizers of Tardis (Alien Transistor, 12 February), creating a sound that’s part space age, part Southern porch. Nuel has been around for a while, but Hyperboreal is only his second album. Using an extinct synth, the artist creates sounds that run the gamut from consonant to dissonant (Further Records, 29 January). Those who enjoyed Matthew Bourne‘s Montauk Variations a few years back may be surprised at the sound of moogmemory, as the composer shifts from piano to all-out Moog (Leaf, 4 March). Meanwhile, Dextro veers from soothing to jamming on the guitar-flecked in the crossing (16k, 29 January).
The story of nonkeen begins with a series of 4-track tapes recorded by Nils Frahm and friends a decade ago. Now the band is back together again, and revisiting old tapes. Their new electronic jams integrate samples from their younger selves. the gamble is out 5 February on R&S. Shoegaze finds a friendly electronic home on Luneworks, by newcomer Mmoths; the album is out 11 March on OYAE/Because Music, preceded by the split screen video single Deu. Even a fish can be hypnotized into dancing, as seen in the amusing teaser video for We Will Fail‘s Hand That Heals/Hand That Bites (seen below), a head-nodding excursion due 7 March on Monotype. We’re also fans of the artwork, and when March comes around, we’ll be happy to see butterflies and blooms.
Atomnation (home of Gidge) unveils another winner on 5 February with Thaw, the slow-grooving sophomore effort from Russia’s Koett. J. Sintax is the more instrumental minded half of J. Sintax & Sonambient; their debut collaboration drops 6 January on 51beats. Kalipo‘s The Wanderer EP takes 4/4 as its starting point, but quickly expands into other nearby arenas (Audiolith, 22 January). Tadeo‘s club friendly techno album Chronicles of the Future takes listeners on a guided sci-fi journey (nonseries, 29 January), while kraut-rave duo 1115 offer visions of a danceable dystopian future on The Drowned World, drawing inspiration from the J.G. Ballard novel of the same name (Alien Transistor, 21 January). Continuing on the futuristic trip, we find Thug Entrancer, whose album Arcology (Software Recording Co., 4 March) is preceded by the video single Curaga/Low-Life. And Lumosokea goes drum-crazy on “Generation Z,” the percussive first single from Transmissions from Revarsavr, due 22 January on Opal Tapes (artwork above right).
Ricardo Donoso made our charts with two releases in 2015. Denovali capitalized on his success with a boxed set of his first three albums late in the year, and is now preparing to release Sarava Exu Remixes on 22 January. The EP features reworks from multiple artists whose specialties range from ambient to modern composition to electronic. Yves de Mey offers slow, distorted beats and unfurling hums on Drawn With Shadow Pens, due 22 January on Spectrum Spools. One man industrial band Celestial Sight unveils Through the Flat Fields on 3 January, hearkening back to the classic sounds of Intermix, Aphex Twin and their related offshoots. Venetian Snares may be calling his latest album Traditional Synthesizer Music, but while the cover is retro, the beats are modern. The album drops 19 February on Planet Mu. And Benny Boeldt competes with Venetian Snares for the fastest beats of the season on 8 of Cups, as heard in his megamix teaser (Carpark, 29 January). This is no surprise as the artist’s other name is Adventure.
Rich’s Pick: Paul Jebanasam ~ Continuum (Subtext, 5 February)
Jebanasam doesn’t release much, but when he does, we take notice. The composer first appeared on our radar with the stunning EP Music for the Church of St. John the Baptist in 2011, followed two years later by Rites. The new work tackles nothing less than the cosmos. Organ tones and drones perform a pas-de-deux as celestial visions arise; Continuum is another winner.
Even those familiar with the geomungo (a traditional 6-string Korean instrument) may be surprised when they hear the sound of KEDA. E’Joung-Ju’s sonic explorations are masticated and re-arranged by Mathias Delplanque on the intricate Hwal, dropping 1 February on Paranthèses Records. Matmos‘ latest effort uses an entirely different instrument: the washing machine. Including contributions from Dan Deacon and other friends, this percussive effort sounds entirely original and has the chance to cross over into the mainstream press. Ultimate Care II is out 19 February on Thrill Jockey.
Lars Graugaard’s last appearance was in the Modern Composition category, but his other project Infernal Machines is far more eclectic. At times the music seems purely electronic, but this isn’t club music; it’s a blend of Graugaard’s computers and Hans Tammen’s abrasive guitar. Rife is out 12 February on Clang. Zeitkratzer tends toward abrasion, but creates the sound via organic instrumentation. Stockhausen: Aus Den Sieben Tagen, their collaboration with Keiji Haino, is out 26 February on Karlrecords. The electronic and the acoustic collide on Daniel Wohl‘s Holographic, which applies various experimental techniques to the recording process. Co-producer Paul Morley has also worked with Ben Frost, Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point never, and Wohl’s guests include Bang on a Can All Stars and Olga Bell; New Amsterdam has gone all-out on this one (January 29). Buddha Machine fans will be overjoyed with Chang Fo Ji – Buddha Loops from China and Tibet, which includes numerous loops never before heard outside of their native countries. The release will be available in both LP + Buddha Box and locked-groove formats (Discrepant, 12 February). ini.itu will be releasing a twinned set from Wieman in January. Cryptonesia includes the funky sounds of the synthesized gamelan and a hypnotic art print (seen in the brief teaser below; just ignore that original release date) and is accompanied by Live in Cyberia.
Field Recording & Soundscape
Rich’s Pick: Joshua Bonnetta ~ Lago (Shelter Press, 22 January)
For some reason, artists in this field tend to hold their sounds back until the release date, but we do have a good one to tell you about. Lago is an aural accompaniment to a photo book by Ron Lude. The LP (streaming onsite) includes field recordings made in the Salton Sea area, intermingled with local dialogue. The listening experience is akin to reading a novel. And Gruenrekorder has already announced eight upcoming releases, listed here; release dates and more info are forthcoming.
Rich’s Pick: Hélène Grimaud ~ Water (Deutsche Grammofon, 5 February)
Many composers have tried to tackle the Ultimate Water Album and fallen short, but pianist Hélène Grimaud isn’t taking any chances. She’s enlisted the aid of Nitin Sawhney and adapted works by nine different composers ~ apart from Debussy, she’s avoided the obvious, and many of these compositions will be new to the average listener. The album investigates the various states of water, from snowflake to stream, which makes it an album for all seasons.
Fans of piano and strings are going to have a lot to choose from this season. Dakota Suite & Emanuele Errante‘s gorgeous piano-based album The North Green Down is being reissued on double vinyl by Karaoke Kalk on 22 January. The album is a tribute to Chris Hoosen’s sister-in-law, who lost her battle with cancer at the age of 37. One new track is included. Vitaly Beskrovny adds beautiful bells to Imperfect, which covers a gamut of emotions, from “Worry” to “Joy” (Preserved Sound, 11 January). Tender vignettes are the new arena of Library Tapes, whose short but sweet Escapism drops 29 January on 1631 Recordings/Auetic. Federico Albanese offers a lovely ode to The Blue Hour on 15 January (Berlin Classics Neue Meister). For best effect, listen at twilight. Brave Timbers (now a duo) returns with the gentle, lulling piano and violin of Hope (Gizeh Records, 26 February). Those who order early will also receive the bonus disc Hope Remixed. Tiago Sousa expands his tonal palette by inviting multiple guests to perform on the colorful Um Piano Nas Barricadas, due 16 February on Discrepant (cover above left). And blending piano with classical and electronic components is London’s Iván Muela; his Fluttery debut Unsound drops 9 January.
Spektral Quartet delights in humor, which is why its latest album is titled Serious Business; expect a few orchestral curve balls (Sono Luminus, 29 January). A more heavenly-minded album can be found in Levitation, the upcoming collaboration between Tobias Preisig & Stefan Rusconi. Recorded in a Swiss church, this reverberant organ and violin duo brings the spirit of transcendence to the earthly masses (Qilin Records, 11 March).
Rock, Post-Rock, Folk and Jazz
Rich’s Pick: Glenn Jones, Fleeting (Thrill Jockey, 18 March)
Fleeting may be released only two days before spring, but the timing is perfect, as the album sounds like new life and the cover displays a bunny sitting on a big egg. Jones’ guitar and banjo burst with ebullience, as heard on the sneak single Flower Turned Inside-Out.
The finger-picking style can also be found on Guy Blakeslee‘s The Middle Sister: one side acoustic, one side electric, with singing bowl and other instruments (Leaving, 15 January). Similarly warm-toned is the latest album from The Big Ship, a duo (and occasional quintet) who draws from the American Primitive style and post-rock for its timbres. Searchlight Casting is out 8 January on Fire Talk. Cavalier Song calls its sound “post-minimalist,” but it often sounds maximalist. Debut album Blezard covers a great deal of sonic and material ground, from sprawling desert soundscape to noisy urban sprawl (God Unknown Records, 25 January). And while it’s quite a mouthful, Ternoy/Cruz/Orins‘ Qeqertarsuatsiaat is well worth the time; the trio creates a languid, laid-back vibe that disguises the complexity of its interplay (Circum-Disc, January).
Tortoise‘s first album in nearly a decade has an appalling overbite cover (not shown here), but it is called The Catastrophist. Fans of the classic post-rock band have been enjoying the single Gesceap since October, but they won’t have to wait much longer; the album drops 22 January on Thrill Jockey. One-man band We Deserve This tries to have it both ways on Fusion, as the press release claims, “You can’t even say that this is a post-rock record,” then tags it as post-rock on the bottom of the page. But it’s certainly more ambient than previous releases, so we can hear where he’s coming from (Fluttery, 16 January). On the same label we also find Kovlo‘s Timelapse (23 January), a more obvious post-rock release which at times even draws comparison to the long instrumental passages of The Cure. The unusual artwork can be seen above left. Germany’s Kokomo is more aggressive, and their fourth album, Monochrome Love Noise, sounds a bit schizophrenic as it claims to be “darker … with a new discovered lightness.” The album builds as it unfolds; expect memorable riffs and a sense of flow (triple-released on i.corrupt.records, Dunk!Records and Aloud Records, 12 February). But for all-out wildness, check out Za! The band’s new single seems like a clash between Mr. Bungle, Battles and System of a Down. Loloismo is out 29 January on The Audacious Art Experiment/Hot Salvation Records.
We hope that you’re excited about the winter release slate! For more, check out our News page for streaming samples of everything we have, updated daily!