The 2016 spring release schedule is the best that we can remember, with one release date ~ April 1 ~ stacking up to be the biggest in years. As early as January, we started to get an inkling that something was in the air. Big announcements started to come in, all clustering around the first of April: Hammock, Sasha, Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky. More names swiftly joined them, announcing albums with release dates from March 21 to May: Brian Eno, Tim Hecker, Gold Panda, Colin Stetson. Every day more previews were added to our News scroll, so many that it seemed about to collapse. After listening to over 100 albums in part or whole, we’ve prepared this preview. Everything you need to know is in here, including hyperlinks. This is still just a fraction of what will be released this spring, but these artists and labels are ahead of the game, and we love being able to reward them in this way. As usual, we’ve broken the albums into categories, with a top pick in each one; we’ve also highlighted some of the best artwork. You may find your new favorite album right here! And be sure to visit our News scroll, which contains only the music, and is updated daily with new announcements and tracks!
Ambient and Drone
Rich’s Pick: Various Artists ~ The Quietened Village (A Year in the Country)
Pre-orders won’t start until 11 April, and the album won’t be released until 25 April, but we’re already enamored with the lineup, the sound and the presentation. David Colohan, Richard Moult and many others pay tribute to lost locales and submerged villages, incorporating field recordings and folk trimmings along with a sweetly melancholic vibe. The CD comes in a choice of night and day versions, and is especially recommended to fans of the historical and nostalgic. A preview of the contents is displayed to the right. While you’re on the site, be sure to check out the back catalog as well!
Michael Tanner returns to Kit Records with the languid and self-explanatory Suite for Psaltery and Dulcimer, inspired by memories of new age cassettes. It also bears another beautiful cover print, as seen to the left (21 March). 36 embraces his ambient routes on Seconds & Forever, which features two 18-minute tracks (totaling 36!) and is out 1 May on Mystic & Quantum. Order early if you want a sweet slice of gray vinyl. Two tracks, including part of a Velvet Underground cover, and no previews to share as of yet, but Brian Eno‘s The Ship is out 29 April on Warp. Hammock makes a triumphant return with Everything and Nothing (Hammockmusic, 1 April), available in multiple formats; two of the three preview tracks contain vocals and a heavy shoegaze vibe is apparent throughout. Completists, order now to receive the bonus tracks and exclusive ambient EP!
Celer returns as Mogador this spring, ironically drawing comparisons to the aforementioned Eno. Overflow Pool sounds as sedate as its cover (seen directly to the right) and is out 25 March on Further. In the quiet department we also find the aptly named Soft Decibels, a lovely and lulling album from Tapes and Topograhpies. The album drops with a whisper on 29 March (Simulacra). Icelandic duo Calder (including Stafrænn Hákon) has found a new home for their peaceful sounds on Nature Bliss. Calder Down is a blend of guitar, piano, synth, organ and strings, and is out 23 March. Chihei Hatakeyama releases a lot of music, but it’s all restful, and we expect no less of Requiem for Black Night and Earth Spiders, released on his own White Paddy Mountain (25 March). Ocoeur‘s Reversed is due the same day on n5MD, and features comforting strings and calming piano.
One look at the sci-fi cover, and one can tell that Trust the Guide and Glide, from Matthewdavid’s Mindflight, is a cosmic, new-age inflected journey; expect time distortion during playback (Leaving, 25 March). The same holds true for Nacht Plank‘s Alien (Carpe Sonum, 25 March), which begins with watery sounds and ends in an extended beat track; and Lorenzo Montana & Mick Chillage keep the pace slow and sweet on Deviazoni Cosmiche, drifting gently through space (Carpe Sonum, 29 April).
Fresh from their success with Cicada, flau records returns with the ambient / dronescapes of Submerse. The artist mixes beats into the batch for an extra-chilled experience; the bonus track is called “Polar.” Awake is released 27 April. We can always expect cold music from Glacial Movements, and Rapoon‘s latest set engages in extended meditations on a changing earth. Song from the End of the World is due 25 March.
The LINE label has two releases lined up for April. Robert Crouch‘s A Gradual Accumulation of Ideas Becomes Truth offers sprawling pieces for modular synthesizer, while Luigi Turra‘s Alea offers periods of sudden sound and silence, experimenting with the placement of fragments and echoes.
It’s probably not too wise to name your project drone (okay, drøne, but still), as search engines will have a hard time finding it. But this drøne is surprisingly good, so we’re glad to have the link. Look for reversing into the future on Pomperipossa Records 16 April. Larkian returns on new Swiss label Cruel Bones with the meditative guitar drone of Iterations: alterations (15 May): four long pieces on double vinyl. Austin’s Amulets has been on a tear lately, and the hot streak continues with Personal Power, inspired by a batch of motivational tapes (26 April). Extended tones form the basis of braeyden jae‘s aptly-titled Fog Mirror (Whited Sepulchre, 4 April). Room40 re-issues Swans veteran Norman Westberg‘s MRI on 1 April, including the new piece, “Lost Mine.” Recent Arts by Tobias Freund & Valentina Berthelon offer granular, modulated drone on Recent Arts (Non Standard Productions, 30 March), preceded by a matching video teaser. The most powerful track: “The History of Darkness.”
The best album cover of the season goes to Julia Guther for Mikael Lind‘s Intentions and Variations (Morr Music, 8 April). The album begins with tender piano, but the tracks end up swallowed in drone. Maybe it’s just the cover art talking, but the sound seems like that of stars falling. We’re not sure how Daghraven got so dark, as his last album was recorded as Illuminine and inspired by Sigur Rós. But one look at the video for De Admiraal Heeft Geschoten, and one can tell that something drastic has changed. #1 is out 26 March on Consouling Sounds. And for those who like drone to border on noise, this season’s go-to album is Gareth Davis & Merzbow‘s Atsusaku (Moving Furniture, 21 March). Play it loud, and you’ll never hear the doorbell or the phone.
Rich’s Pick: Ash Koosha ~ I AKA I (Ninja Tune, 1 April)
Not many artists are jailed for their music (one thinks immediately of Pussy Riot), but Iranian-born Ash Koosha is one of them. Now residing in London, Koosha has also become a filmmaker and is about to launch I AKA I as a “virtual reality album” (see link for details). Despite his appealing backstory, his music earns him this season’s pick: a mix of creative textures and solid beats, inspired by his own synaesthesia.
Gold Panda‘s Time Eater is the first single from the upcoming Good Luck and Do Your Best (City Slang, 27 May). We’re already in love with the sound of the eastern chimes, and expect great things from this album. The same holds true for “Idol” from Model Man‘s alliterative Pieces for Prepared Piano and Percussion; the added “nuts and bolts” give the piece a playful, childlike innocence.
Andrew Cosentino‘s lo-fi, home-grown Country Western Star made an impact on our pages last year, and since then he’s been picked up by Hush Hush Records, who will be releasing his slightly-higher budget EP Gosh on 1 April. vgxc introduces his unique brand of “art hop” on his self-titled, self-released, laid back debut (1 April). The prolific Ross Baker returns as International Debris on Aloe City this April, presenting the beat-oriented side of his personality.
Outis Music may be calling this the launch of their “Opera Series”, but Dino Sabatini‘s Ominimo is anything but that; it’s a synthesized collaboration with jazz musician Antonello Salis (8 April). The jazz spirit remains in full effect on “Space Carnival”, the first single from The Comet Is Coming‘s percussive Channel the Spirits (Leaf, 1 April, art pictured to right), with a riff reminiscent of Melt Yourself Down. So it should surprise no one that Melt Yourself Down is responding with Last Evenings On Earth, a more vocal affair, only a few weeks later on the same label (29 April). Borrowing Steve Kuhn for even more authentic jazz vibes is Jameszoo, whose debut Fool includes everything from piano to video games (Brainfeeder, 13 May). Seiho‘s Collapse draws influence from free jazz and hip-hop (Leaving, 20 May). Ritornell‘s If Nine Was Eight (Karaoke Kalk, 29 April) blurs the line between jazz, modern composition and electronics by including guest players on the jazz tuba, saxophone, flute and Rhodes. And a month later (27 May), the same label will release Astrobal‘s Australasie, which looks and sounds like summer and includes numerous references to sun and sea.
Damian Schwartz returns after eight years with beats intact on The Dancing Behavior (A Harmless Deed, 25 April); the artist’s sound hasn’t aged a day. Kenneth James Gibson ignites the dance floor on The Evening Falls, due 29 April on Kompakt. Club veterans will quickly embrace Transport, the latest set from Juan Atkins & Moritz von Oswald (Tresor, 24 April). And remember Sasha? The veteran DJ tones it down for his entry in the Late Night Tales series, presenting a mix of tracks that never found their way to other releases. Scene Delete is out 1 April.
Synth patterns abound on Kunlun‘s self-titled set on audioMER (25 March); the artist is also known as Max. P, High Wolf and Black Zone Myth Chant. The sounds of the Prophet 8 are lovingly investigated on Marc Melià‘s Music for Prophet (Fortune Collective, early April), while the Buchia Music Easel gets a workout on Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith‘s EARS (Western Vinyl, 1 April, art pictured left). Smith’s vocals are featured more prominently on this release, softly melted into the synthesizers and woodwinds. COH continues to offer steady-tempoed patterns on Music: Vol., whose preview track seems surprisingly restrained, given the title (Editions MEGO, 31 March). Fans of “passive monotone repetitive electronics” are directed to the self-titled Trauma & Trauma, due 8 April on Flora & Fauna.
Sau Poler offers a blend of house and disco timbres on Memorabilia, due 29 April on Atomnation. Techno and musique concrète collide as veterans Arnaud Rebotini & Christian Zanési collaborate on Frontieres (Black Strobe Records, 22 April). Imaginary Forces‘s Visitation is slow and spooky, an older work that borders on industrial (Fang Bomb, 21 March). Motorik jams decorate #N/A from Nisennenmondai, offering steady paces and a trance-like atmosphere, put through the wringer by Adrian Sherwood (On-U Sound, 1 April). If you like the sound of Kyoka‘s >>SH<< (Raster-Noton, 25 March, track streaming below), you may want to order the Japanese version, which comes with two exclusive digital tracks in addition to the four on the EP.
Fairy tales, flute and improvised vocals find a home on Lucy‘s ambitious Self-Mythology (Stroboscopic Artefacts, 6 May). Baba Yaga would be proud. Footwork fans are directed to Low Jack‘s Lighthouse Stories (Modern Love, 25 March), as the genre continues to evolve. Synthpop is the flavor of the day on Güiro Meets Russia‘s friendly Dystopia (Verlag System, 29 April). Acid makes a comeback on Milton Bradley‘s dark and dramatic Tragedy of Truth (DoNotResistTheBeat!, 25 April), while rave rears its ugly head on Darq E Freaker‘s ADHD EP (Big Dada, 1 April), not at all subtle, but colorful and fun.
Rich’s Pick: Harry Bertoia ~ Complete Sonambient Collection (Important Records, 27 March)
Yes, experimental artists, we know it’s impossible to compete with an 11-CD box set and 100-page book. But this is the sum of a life. As he began to accumulate metal sculptures and gongs, Harry Bertoia’s barn became a wonder. This lovingly presented tribute collects his work and re-presents it to the general public. Unfortunately, he never got to hear his own magnus opus; after dying in 1978, he was buried behind a giant metal gong.
Analog improv is the name of the game on Frank Benkho‘s A Trip to the Space [Between], due 1 April on clang; the title is meant to be both literal and metaphorical. Jan St. Werner‘s intricate Fiepblatter Series continues with Felder, due 1 April on Thrill Jockey. Live performances will include appearances by Olivia Block, as well as members of Beirut and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. The insides of a piano are investigated, processed and torn apart on Angelina Yershova‘s Piano’s Abyss, due 21 March on Twin Paradox; “Icy Breath” is the key track, sounding just like a winter storm. F.S. Blumm and Nils Frahm team up for a decidedly avant-garde excursion on Tag Eins Tag Zwei, due 31 March on Sonic Pieces. This is far from the typical piano work Frahm is associated with; prepare to be surprised. Kim Myhr & Jenny Hval‘s In The End His Voice Will Be The Sound Of Paper pays tribute to the abrading voice of Bob Dylan; it’s a lovely tribute, reminiscent of mid-80s works on 4AD (Hubro, 8 April).
Hoopsnake‘s One Unique Signal (Fuzz Club, 8 April) mashes up the work of 25 contributors, each operating with a single riff. Just don’t expect the album to be single-toned. Francis Dhomand‘s Le cri du Choucas is exceedingly strange. An electro-acoustic work inspired by Kafka, it includes various spoken-word voiceovers and goes to some very dark places (empreintes DIGITALis, 1 June). The Cray Twins call on the aid of BJ Nilsen and others for the evocative The Pier, which uses voiceover more sparingly, preferring to set the mood through grainy textures (Fang Bomb, 21 March). We’ve already reviewed Michael Begg‘s Let the Cold Stove Sing (Omnempathy, 1 April); originally composed for theatre and installation works, the set offers a wide range of timbres that meld together as a single suite. The teaser video for Markus Mehr‘s Re-Directed (Hidden Shoal, 29 April) begins with drone before heading to some very strange places; we must admit that we’re highly intrigued. And David Coulter & Seb Rochford offer a stripped-down set of drums and jaw harp on Good Friday, which unfortunately won’t actually be out on Good Friday, but on 20 May (Trestle Records).
Field Recording and Soundscape
Robert Curgenven presents recordings made in nine countries through the open apertures of James Turell’s Skyscapes. The double-disc Climata is due 22 April on Dragon’s Eye Recordings. And we’re extremely proud of Mark Lyken, whose album The Terrestrial Sea was reviewed here upon its initial release and has now been picked up by Important Records. We think it’s important, too: an excellent soundscape involving a lighthouse installation. The reissue is due 29 April.
Rich’s Pick: Colin Stetson ~ Sorrow (52hz, 8 April)
The life of a classical composition often stretches far past the death of the composer. Henryk Mikołaj Górecki passed away in 2010, and in a bold ~ and as it turns out, powerful move, Colin Stetson has reimagined his most famous work, the 3rd Symphony. This release will likely see a cavalcade of media attention, following the release of Górecki’s 4th Symphony this past winter. This is a modern classic, adapted for a new generation.
Tim Hecker‘s Virgins was our top album of 2013, so we have high hopes for the follow-up, Love Streams (8 April, 4AD). The new album is described as “more melancholic” than its predecessor, with layers of processed choir and woodwinds. It’s one of the few albums in this preview that we haven’t heard, but we’re super-excited about the release!
You’ll need a breath after this one: 1631 Recordings continues to go on a tear this spring, beginning with the release of Akira Kosemura‘s Buddhists EP on 25 March. The best way to keep up with the label’s incredible release schedule is to be in constant contact with its Soundcloud page, because here’s what’s next: On Piano Day (28 March) we’ll hear a collection of accumulated works from Matt Stewart-Evans (Collected EP), a new EP from Luke Howard (Forgotten Postcards), a single from Nino Keller (Farewell Waltz) and the re-release of the stellar piano compilation Keys (featuring Nils Frahm, Peter Broderick, Library Tapes, Rafael Anton Irisarri et al). These will be followed by the re-release of Flying hórses‘ Tölt, which was pleasantly reviewed here last year (1 April) and Jacob Pavek‘s Bloom (8 April), and then a trio of new albums from Marco Caricola (22 April), Bruno Sanfilippo (The Poet, 29 April) and Julien Marchal (INSIGHT II, 6 May). Fans of modern piano composition need not look much further than this label, which seems to be making a full-out effort to corner the market.
Before 1631 Recordings gathers the entire piano world under its wing, we should mention that there are still a few recording for other labels. glacis turns in a stunningly beautiful set with a great title: love, if you love me, lie beside me now is out 28 March on Finland’s Tavern Eightieth. Jean-Michel Blais‘s II may be short, but it’s strong (Arts & Crafts, 8 April). Michael Mizrahi covers compositions from Sarah Kirkland Synder and others on Currents (New Amsterdam, 25 March). Jean-Philippe Collard-Nevin‘s Out of Focus includes originals, as well as covers of tracks by Mancini and Jobin. Yes, “Moon River” is among them (flau, 7 April). And M. Ostermeier welcomes the spring migration with the sparse and sensitive Tiny Birds (Home Normal, 29 April).
First Credence, then Decadence, and now finally Concession, the third and final part of Tomonari Nozaki‘s EP series on For/wind. The closing piece is his most dramatic to date, building to an epic conclusion (21 March). One of the season’s key releases comes from Antonymes, who enlists the aid of fellow luminaries such as Stefano Guzzetti and Christoph Berg for Towards Tragedy and Dissolution, which also includes evocative spoken word. The album is out 21 April on Hidden Shoal. All of Ales Tsurko‘s pieces are numbered, save for the title track of Transliaciya (Preserved Sound, 1 April). Strings and soprano are the distinguishing marks, and drums and dissonance keep things from sounding too smooth. The artist has been building these tracks for years, making this is a long-expected set. There’s some pretty wild music to be found on Yurodny‘s Haivka, including swirls of orchestral sound, folk melodies, and electronics; it’s out 8 April on Ireland’s Diatribe Records.
Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz
Rich’s Pick: Explosions in the Sky ~ The Wilderness (Temporary Residence, 1 April)
Looks like the joke is on us, because we’re all going broke on April Fools Day. It’s been a long time (5 years) since the last “regular” album from Explosions in the Sky, and we can expect all of the usual questions to accompany this one. Isn’t post-rock dead? Didn’t EitS peak a decade ago? Is the new album “innovative” enough? We think it is; just play “Logic in a Dream” to hear hints of the old and the new. It’s hard to have so many expectations placed upon a band, so it’s always best when a band simply ignores them and makes the album it wants to make. This is what has happened here, and we’re happy to be lost in this wilderness.
Some thought that William Ryan Fritch‘s Leave Me series had ended, but Lost Tribe Sound has one more trick up its sleeve: a final album entitled New Words for Old Wounds offered in two ridiculously elaborate formats, the rarer of which is shown on the right. But wait, there’s more! A surprise digital EP, Clean War, has just been thrown into the mix as well. This has been one of the best series we can remember, marked by fine composition, incredible mastering and a sense of largesse. Like some of its predecessors, New Words for Old Wounds is half-vocal, half-instrumental, but the emphasis remains on high quality. And while at Lost Tribe Sound, check out the new LP and EP from Western Skies Motel, whose languid guitar playing evokes the sights and sounds of the American West. Settlers/Generations is out 21/22 April.
Mogwai has been increasingly involved in scoring work as of late, and Atomic (Temporary Residence / Rock Action, 1 April) is their newest such release, re-working tracks from the documentary of the same name. The album is moody and foreboding, as fits the source material; it’s a fine follow-up to the band’s recent retrospective. Folk and fiddle meet guitar and post-rock on Det Andre Rommet, from Erlend Apneseth Trio. These stretched compositions travel into territories unexplored by former surveyors (Hubro, 29 April).
Languid finger-picking guitar can be found on Manuel ADNOT‘s Dix-mille yeux, which helps launch the new French label Tropāre (20 April). Acoustic guitar duo Mixed Doubles releases the fun, sprightly Unforced Errors on Naxos / Composers Concordance Records on 24 May. Don’t let the “duo” label fool you; they often conjure a racket far greater than listeners might imagine, especially on the closer “Spain.” The same holds true for drums-and-keys duo sallo, whose full-sounding, self-titled debut is released on 1 April. Expect jokes about modern jazz ensemble Large Unit, but at 14 members (*cough*) they really are large; ANA is out on PNL 4 April. Dave Harrington Group may top out at 12, but their sound is no less impressive; Become Alive is out 15 April on Other People. Moskus calls upon the fiddle of Nils Økland for the expressive Ulv Ulv, a modern jazz set on Hubro (29 April), and Editions MEGO tones it down with the nocturnal jazz vibes of Licht-Akiyama Trios‘ Tomorrow Outside Tomorrow (31 March).
Torn Hawk‘s Union and Return is inspired by Romantic paintings and literature; with hints of progressive rock, the album is a perfect pick for dreamers everywhere (Mexican Summer, 13 May). Cape Town’s WVV weaves electronics and some modern composition into its upbeat rock-based instrumentals; Pulsar is due 4 April. Dark and dirty, a little bit gothic, a little bit noir: this is how one might describe Inwolves, whose similarly-titled Involves arrives 25 March on Consouling Sounds. John 3:16‘s The Burnt Tower/Babylon the Great may be billed as drone, but it’s really powerful instrumental rock with a drone base. The two-track EP drops 23 March on Alrealon Musique. Szun Waves may also incorporate drone into its compositions, but the finger cymbals make it more psychedelic. At Sacred Walls is out 20 May on Buffalo Tample. A sacred vibe can also be found on Astral Triad‘s trance-like Arm (sensorisk verden, 27 March), while the sound of trio Poly-Math should be obvious from its name; Melancolia drops 8 April on Superstar Destroyer.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed what you’ve read and heard; be sure to return to our site daily for new reviews on our home page and streaming tracks on our News page. A happy spring to all!