a closer listen

Winter Music Preview 2018 ~ The Next 150

The old year has ended, the new year has just begun!  We enter 2018 with dreams of brighter things: kinder politicians, cleaner air, freer people.  Shared dreams keep possibilities alive, because they encourage us to work together to create a better 2018.

Great art has kept us going through the lean years.  As long as musicians exist, we know that good things are possible, that the horizon is still light.  We already have a lot to look forward to.  Thank you to all who make music and share your talents with the world.

Our cover image is taken from Kenard Pak’s wonderful 2017 children’s book, Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter, from Henry Holt and Co.!

Ambient

Rich’s Pick:  Ian Hawgood + Danny Norbury ~ Faintly Recollected (Home Normal)
Ian Hawgood launches the new year with two collaborative albums on his own Home Normal label.  The first is our top pick of the season in the Ambient category, a perfectly toned long-form piece best heard as a single track.  Faintly Recollected flows as slowly as a winter stream, yet is graced by lovely chimes sounding atop the dark cello (January 9).  Three weeks later, Hawgood teams up with Giulio Aldinucci for the similarly expressive yet restrained Consequence Shadows.  Each of these albums takes its time, notes caught in suspension like fish in fast-frozen lakes.

 

We’re super excited about the return of Strië, who recently unveiled her identity as violinist Olga Wojciechowska.  Now that we’re able to write freely, we’re also able to express our admiration for an artist who has been able to succeed under two different names without using one to capitalize on the other.  Perpetual Journey is yet another jewel in her sonic crown, inspired by the story of Laika the space dog, released on Serein February 2.

 

The digital score for the videogame Future Unfolding was released last October, but Thomas Carleberg and Emil Nilsson‘s work will receive a well-deserved die-cut clear vinyl release January 15 on Minimum Records.  Like Everything, the score falls between the ambient and modern composition categories, and is quite lovely in its own right, even without a console.  In a similar vein we find Niklas Paschurg, now signed to the !K7 imprint.  Oceanic is inspired by beaches and piers, and sounds like the winter getaway most of us would love to enjoy (February 9).  Piano, synth and the sounds of a loving home warm the grooves of Skylight, the fourth album from multidisciplinary Minneapolis composer Elskavon (January 26).  Electronics and ambience combine on Romantic Electrons, an album that sounds just like its speculative title (Neptic, January 11).  And fresh from its winter compilation, Eilean Records returns January 8 with the sounds of Ljerke (Romke Kleefstra, Jan Kleefstra, Hilde Marie Holsen, Machinefabriek and more).

The year’s first frozen ambient release comes from Powlos, its sound immediately apparent from its cover (pictured right).  Pareidolia is released this January on Faint.  We’ll be taking a look at the entire roster later this month.  We love the name of new label Piano and Coffee Records, and their website offers a variety of options including music, art and reviews.  The label’s next release is the wintry, piano-laden The Amsterdam Sessions, from Klangriket & Sjors Mans (January 19).  And while it’s not billed as a winter-themed album, it’s impossible not to glean a sense of winter from the blue and white cover of Invisible Cities, the upcoming set from Aidan Baker + Gareth Davis.  A more restrained effort than we are used to hearing from either artist, the set is perfectly fitting for the season.  The album and track titles refer to the speculative novel of the same name by Italo Calvino (Karlrecords, January 19).

 

Future Museums just wants you to relax, and has prepared a guided meditation video for Rosewater Ceremony (Holodeck, February 2).  Patient Sounds has announced a quartet of tapes for January: Drum Songz 2 (Migraine Thought) by WRECKED, an exploration of plunderphonics; A Sad Story in Temporal Dissonance by site favorite CinchelForgiveness Circle, a new age release from Former Selves; and I Do This For the Ocean, a quiet release from the appropriately named naps.  The latter artist will join Matt Fox and members of Friendship as Hour for Tiny Houses, a warm acoustic release that sounds a bit like a stripped down Do Make Say Think (Sleeper Records, February 16).  And while release info is still forthcoming, we can announce that M. Mucci and Jakob Rehlinger will release a split album of 12-string and ambient guitar.

Already unveiled as part of our Christmas article is the amazing roster of releases forthcoming from Fluid Audio in 2018.  We’ve come to know the imprint for its fantastic physical packages as well as its great music.  The nearly three-hour mix belong was lovingly prepared by Daniel Crossley just before the holidays, and includes music from Jason van Wyk, Ben Chatwin, Humble Bee, Marconi Union, Antonymes, Peter Jørgensen, Tape Loop Orchestra, Cameron Day, Dalot & Sound Awakener, Giuseppe Cordaro, James Murray, Kirill Mazhai, Moss Covered Technology and The Seaman & The Tattered Sail.

 

The Touch imprint already has a huge year planned, so we’ll let them tell you themselves:  “2018 sees the long overdue new album by Mark Van Hoen and new releases by Yann NovakChris Watson, Fennesz, Ipek Gorgun, Phill Niblock, Simon Scott, Jana Winderen and others; we also welcome Strafe FR back into the fold, as well as a new version of the TouchiOS app and one or two other surprises.  The Tapeworm starts the new year with tapes to be scheduled by Hanno Leichtmann, Orchestra of Constant Distress and The Dead Mauriacs; plus vinyls on The Wormhole from Howlround/Marta De Pascalis and Achim Mohné, alongside a compendium of Finn Johannsen’s interviews to be published by The Bookworm.”  We do have a release date for Novak’s album, The Future is a Forward Escape Into the Past, which investigates time and memory and will be unveiled on February 23.

Dark Ambient and Drone

Dedekind Cut‘s Tahoe (ded007) is already available digitally, with the double LP due February 23 on Kranky (pictured right).  The sound is barren and forlorn, a match for the most difficult season.  DunJIN‘s debut The Conqueror Worm is as bleak as the Edgar Allan Poe poem that lends it inspiration.  One imagines cold, white fields, and not a drop of color (Enough Records, January 2).  Turning to Lewis Carroll we find Noone‘s quietly dramatic How doth the Little Crocodile Improve His Shining Tail, an hour-long track decorated with field recordings and a heavy atmosphere (Midira, January 19).  Dean McPhee blends tracks new and old on Four Stones, collecting a series of wayfaring strangers from prior releases on Folklore Tapes and adding some new compositions for electric guitar (Hood Faire, January 5).

returns as N[54] with his 54th release (get it?), offering two versions of Suedfall, one recorded in a spacious church and the other featuring Vanessa Kreutz’ electric violin.  Each track grows gently to an engulfing peak (Midira Records, January 19).  On the same day, Midira releases Zenjungle‘s thick and hazy Fragmented Lives, highlighted by tenor sax and a sense of hope in the midst of chaos. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of JOHN 3:16, Alrealon Musique will be releasing a double-disc compilation set this March.  kutin | kindlinger‘s DECOMPOSITION IV (variations on bulletproof glass) is a standout in the field of confrontational drone, living up to its aggressive title (Ventil Records, March 1).

 

Electronic

Rich’s Pick:  Mahdyar ~ Seized (Kowloon, February)
Once in a while, an album comes along that wows on first listen.  Seized is one of these albums.  A powerful blend of hip-hop, Persian rhythms and modern productions styles, it comes with a heartfelt backstory.  The artist, considered a threat to Iranian youth due to his forward-thinking mindset, was blacklisted and now lives freely in Paris.  Having suffered for his art, he’s filled with a sense of purpose, apparent throughout the grooves of Seized.  Listen to the preview track below ~ there’s plenty more to enjoy throughout this electrifying record.

 

Jonas Reinhardt is in a meditative mood on the subtly entrancing Conclave Surge, which focuses on the power of ritual and ceremony.  Live guests make this more than a strictly electronic affair (Lucian Lift, January 23, pictured right).  Pancyle offers a series of synth explorations on Channels, with references to the Tarot and the Kabbalist Tree of Life.  A special bonus track will be created live at the release party (February 16).  Long-distance collaboration led to an in-face meeting and the recording of MARMO‘s debut album, culled from hours of improvisation (January 15).  Fabriclive 96 showcases the mixing skills of Skream (January 19), while Ostgut Ton’s 140-minute Berghain 08 stars Fiedel (January 26) and the 58-track Balance 029 features James Zabiela (February 9).

 

Only one recording exists of Mika Vainio + Ryoji Ikeda + Alva Noto, captured live in 2002.  Noton will make it available for public consumption on January 20.  This will be followed on February 16 by Glass, a live improv set from Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto, recorded in Philip Johnson’s Glass House.  Ivan Arlaud may have chosen 1954 as his moniker, but he draws more from the 90s for inspiration, his trip-hop beats and stuttered vocals sending us briefly back in time.  A Part of Me is nostalgic yet joyous, the score to a person enjoying his life (Project: Mooncircle, January 26).  Shifting the beats to hip-hop we find Up High Collective, who mixes in mallets on opening single Centipede.  Solitude is released February 23 on Tangram.  Sparse beats and vocal snippets figure strongly on the latest release from Ant Orange; the Right There EP is released February 23 on Karaoke Kalk.  The lead single from Cedie Janson is anything but still, yet the Stillness EP seeks to promote calm in the midst of chaos (January 26).  Palmbomen II continues to eulogize on Memories of Cindy, which collects four EPs on two discs (Beats in Space, January 26).  And Frank Bretschneider all-out grooves on Lunik (Shitkatapult, February 16), which also boasts our favorite cover of the young year (pictured above).

Denovali is preparing a trio of electronic releases for early 2018.  The first is Orson Hentschel‘s Facades EP, which hides its beats for quite a while, concentrating instead on Cage-inspired spoken word (January 26).  On the same day, the label unveils Wælder‘s Non Places, which finds a home for church organ and vacuum cleaner.  But the one we’re looking forward to the most is Nanook of the North, a collaborative effort between Stefan Wesolowski and Piotr Kaliński, which began as a new score to an old film but ended up as something far colder and greater (February 23).

 

His first appearance on our site was as The Meets, his second as Stage Hands, but now Brandon Locher abandons these monikers to appear under his own name.  EP1 is a short introduction to a finely-honed sound, a harbinger of things to come (Hush Hush, February 9).  Build Buildings will release the Glass EP on Audiobulb (January 10); expect a crisp and playful patina.  The label follows release this two weeks later with Jules‘ Adventures & Explorations.  Missing Teeth sings and plays synth on the Olympic EP (January 18), operating as a solo artist for the first time.  Modular synthesist Bana Haffar will unveil her Matiere EP on January 16: a pair of deep explorations that together form a whole (Make Noise Records).  Warm, uplifting synth forms the backbone of the Lethean EP, due January 9 from Substrates; the temporal inspiration is reminiscent of the film Interstellar.  More foreboding in nature is the eerily titled Lowered Flaming Coffin, a series of city-inspired, percussively piercing pieces by Nick Klein (Alter, January 26).  But for the intentionally frightening we turn to The Exorcist GBG, whose II takes up where the debut left off (Hoga Nord, January 26).  

Here’s a fun one: a series of techno EPs (Vozduh, Voda, Zemlyafrom) from St. Petersburg’s Nocow, based on the elements.  The first of the records drops February 12 on Figure.  Steady techno beats are strewn across two 12″s from Cleric x Setaoc MassIsolate drops January 26 on Clergy.  In the same vein we find SSTROM‘s Vitriol, due January 26 on Rösten, while those interested in techno with a beach theme are directed to Alexis Tyrel‘s I Know You Know I Know (Lessismore, January 19).  Techno godfather John Tejada returns with his thirteenth album, Dead Start Program, on February 9 (Kompact), while Jeff Mills sees a physical release for his score to the Japanese thriller And Then There Was Light (Axis, January 26).

Suba offers world beats, polyrhythms and a melange of influences across two 12″s on Waying.  While the music was recorded in the 90’s, one would never guess without the liner notes (Often Music, January 15).  The Tru Thoughts label is set to release Dawn Chorus (Remixes), a dancier version of the band’s orchestral album released last June (January 26).  Expect intricate beats from Japanese artist Aalko, who has switched names and adjusted her sound for No Man Is An Island (Kebko, January 19).  Swift, glitchy electronics join occasional guest vocals on the new album from Morr Music’s longest-standing artist, B. FleischmannStop Making Fans is due February 2.  And so far the happiest release of the season is Groundislava II, which sounds like a vintage video game.  The album is out January 26 on Friends of Friends.

Hard Beats

The enigmatic Abyss X offers the intriguing Critical Path as the first taste of her EP Pleasures of the Bull (Danse Noir, February 16).  It’s yet another example of the resurgent strength of female artists in the electronic realm.  Brullend Staal (Weeping Steel) seems an apt title for the debut of industrial solo artist Eindkrak.  The beats are tough, the tone harsh, the metal sheets and drums a backdrop for 242-esque synth and occasional buried vocals (Unknown Precept, January 15).  Operant splays hard beats and industrial textures across the Harnessed to Flesh EP (Instruments of Discipline, 12 February).  To celebrate its 10th anniversary and 100th release, Mannequin Records is preparing the comp Waves of the Future, looking forward and back like Janus (February 16).  The brand new Refined Productions label makes its debut with a pair of EPs featuring remixes of We Will Fail by artists including Ziúr and M.E.S.H.  The first appears in January, the second in March.

Experimental

Rich’s Pick:  Rutger Zuydervelt with Ilia Belorukov and René Aquarius ~ The Red Soul
(Sofamusic, February 9)
Jessica Gorter’s documentary The Red Soul traces the scars left by Stalin.  This sensitive topic needed a sensitive score, and Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) was an inspired choice.  The set incorporates speech and old Soviet records, adding saxophone and percussion to produce a haunting soundscape.

 

Thrill Jockey is already prepping for a great 2018, with new releases from Keiji Haino & SUMAC (American Dollar Bill – Keep Facing Sideways, You’re Too Hideous to Look At Face On (February 23), Yoshimi / Susie Ibarra / Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Flower of Sulphur, February 23) and Mouse on Mars (April).  They also sell knit caps.

Ambiances Magnétiques has scheduled three electro-acoustic releases for January 23: Maxime Corbeil-Perron‘s aggressive, immersive Political Ritual; Jean Derome‘s intricately tuned Résistancesfeaturing a wide variety of known and invented instruments; and Ensemble SuperMusique‘s occasionally atonal, challenging Les porteuses d’Ô (The Water Carriers).  All will be available through Actuelle.  Quatuor Diotima + Reinhold Friedl organize string quartets “that are not string quartets” on Alamuse, purposely avoiding symmetry and water breaks (February 9).  Tarab + Artificial Memory Trace exchange and manipulate files on Obex, resulting in a blend of field recording, found sound and electronic crunch (Cronica, January 9), while pure field recordings can be found on Andy Backhouse‘s A Sonic Map of Dornoch, an edited version of a 14-hour work (Focused Silence, February 9).

Lea Bertucci has been growing a steady following over the past few years, due to hard work and a series of residencies.  Her latest LP, Metal Aether, consolidates three years of experimentation with alto sax and magnetic tape.  The first 100 copies are pressed on frosted purple vinyl (NNA Tapes, February 10).  Vocal experimentalist Phew folds, bends and mangles her utterances on Voice Hardcore, which is in turns abrasive and haunting, like dark ambience with an angry yet creative specter (Mesh-Key, January 19).  More upbeat, yet equally alluring is Cucina Povera‘s Hilja, in which the Finnish artist layers her vocals atop synth and tapping stones (Night School, January 26).  It’s been years since we last heard from Thembi Sodell, and Love Songs is one of our most anticipated records for 2018.  We haven’t heard any previews, but we’ve liked everything she’s ever done (Room40, early 2018).

Lo fi for a reason, Die Tödliche Doris’ Sprechpause revisits material from 1981, adding Moog and Ableton to the bass and static of an old analog tape (Fang Bomb, January 12).  Carlo Domenico Valyum‘s important-looking Cronovisione Italiana imagines a series of radio waves intercepted from the future by a scientist living in 1937.  The patina may be ambient, but the concept and execution are purely experimental (Undogmatisch, February 23).  Factory Floor’s Nik Void joins forces with Peter Rehberg (PITA) as NPVR.  Their sparse electronic compositions leave little invitation to the dance floor, but intrigue in subtler ways.  33 33 is out January 12 on Editions Mego.  The name Subtle Degrees may sound unfamiliar, but the leader of the tenor sax and drums duo is also the co-founder of Battle Trance, which should provide some indication of their eclectic sound.  Dance That Empties is out February 23 on New Amsterdam.  Spoken word and electronic improvisations join forces on Thirsty Ears, from Jaap Blonk & Terrie Ex (Terp, January 26), while Elio Martusciello folds improvising singers into electronic structures on Incise, with an ear to the avant garde (EM, March 9).  Eclectic musician Jasun Martz has worked on a number of high-profile projects throughout the years, and his solo output is about to be honored with an 8-disc box set.  Jasun Martz: Solo Exhibition is set for release on Music Brut on the first of the year.

The name may be a mouthful, but Schlammpeitziger‘s Damenbartblick auf Pregnant Hill is surprisingly accessible: part electronic, part polite punk, part just fooling around.  The artist’s 11th album is due January 19 on Bureau B.  Toc describes its sound as “Kraut jazz-core,” and proclaims, Toc Will Never Play These Songs Again.  But at least we’ll always have the video!  The album is out February 1 on Circum-Disc.  Led by Mats Gustafsson, jazz rock trio Fire! returns on January 26 with The Hands on Rune Grammofon.  The fratto9 label has announced that its first 2018 releases will be Graefenerg‘s Plug and a self-titled tape from Virtual Forest.

Modern Composition

Rich’s Pick: Spindle Ensemble ~ BEA (Adderwell Music, January 17)
A big thanks to Dan at Fluid Radio for introducing us to the sounds of Spindle Ensemble.  Part of the Bristol collective Bloom, the ensemble hearkens back to a distant past while creating music solidly in line with the 21st century.  One listen to “Moonglow” and we suspect you’ll be smitten; as smitten as the family of baby Bea, for which the album is named.

 

Steve Reich has enlisted the aid of ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) for his latest opus, Pulse/Quartet.  The notes leap from the speakers with bright and cheerful tones.  The official release is February 2, with valued vinyl to follow on March 30 on Nonesuch, which also makes it our first album of spring.  Eclectic trio GoGoPenguin mixes modern composition, jazz and electronics on A Humdrum Star, named after a Carl Sagan quote (Blue Note, February 9, pictured to the right).  Matt Dunkley follows 2016’s Six Cycles with the sequential numbering of Cycles 7-16 on Village Green.  The German Film Orchestra Babelsberg is back, and the sound palette has been extended to include a septet of pianos and a full symphony (January 19).  Yes, the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

 

Nils Frahm is extremely proud of his brand-new studio, and he should be; a lifelong dream that took him two years to complete.  So we can forgive him for putting the studio on his album cover and in the teaser video for All Melody, due January 26 on Erased Tapes.  The sonic results should be sublime.  We’ve already mentioned Home Normal in the ambient section and return to them here, as Stefano Guzzetti’s Short Stories – Piano Book (Volume Two) is set for release on Valentine’s Day.  Pianist Richard Luke joins forces with violinist Amira Bedrush-McDonald for the sumptuous debut Voz, due February 23 on 1631 Recordings.  Piano and percussion form a united front on the self-titled album from Nightports with Matthew Bourne (Leaf, March 3).  Poppy Ackroyd is now signed to Björk’s One Little Indian, which may mean “she’s arrived,” but we’ve loved her from the start.  The Calm Before continues her measured explorations on violin and prepared piano, and reflects its title with a consequent mood (January 26).

 

Listening to Verso, one taps into the frantic pace of L.A. and thinks, Tongue must be an incredibly fast album.  And yet, Anenon takes his time on other tracks, exploring different speeds and timbres. There’s jazz here, and ambience, and modern composition, but most of all tenderness.  The artist may no longer live in the City of Angels, but he’s composed a loving ode (Friends of Friends, February 9).  Snorri Hallgrímsson first came to our attention due to his work with Ólafur Arnalds; he steps out on his own on Moderna March 16.  Preview track “Homeless” is available here.  Fans of mallet instruments will love the upcoming score for the children’s film Paddle to the Sea, performed by Third Coast Percussion and including pieces by Philip Glass and the Shona people (Cedille, February 9).  In the more traditional classical department we encounter a host of January releases from the Navona and Ravello labels, highlighted by Steven Kemper‘s Mythical Spaces, including everything from piano prepared with marbles to a band of musical robots (January 12), while pianist Liza Stepanova pairs music with visual art on the synesthetic Tones & Colors, performing pieces by both classic and modern composers (Concert Artist Guild Records, January 19) and Eliza Garth performs pieces by Shiree Clement and Perry Goldstein (Albany Records, March 1).

One wouldn’t think an album about a mausoleum would sound so sweet, and yet it does.  One might also be surprised to learn that the composer is also the drummer for Teenage Fanclub.  Yet Francis Macdonald makes a wonderful left turn on Hamilton Mausoleum Suite, confirming the talent on display in Music for String Quartet, Piano and Celeste (TR7/Shoeshine Records, January 26).  On the emotional front we find NYC cellist Maya Beiser‘s the day, which was written by David Lang. The album pairs an imaginative work about 9/11 with a new prequel (Cantaloupe Music, January 26).

 

Rock, Post-Rock, Folk & Jazz:

Rich’s Pick:  Bronnt Industries Kapital ~ Arsenal (I Own You, 12 January)
We’re a great fan of new scores to silent films, and Arsenal is a particularly effective example of the practice.  The film (considered one of the finest of 1929!) addresses the Russian Civil War and is the center film in Dovzhenko’s Ukraine trilogy.  Fun fact: despite natural associations with the moniker and subject, the artist is British!

The Constellation label continues its streak of high profile releases with Efrim Manuel Menuck‘s Pissing Stars on February 2.  No stranger to politics, the veteran artist turns to an odd source for inspiration: a romance between a TV personality and the son of a Saudi arms dealer.  But there’s plenty more where this comes from; see the poster on the right for additional clues.  Another post-rock release with vocals comes from yndi halda, who didn’t wait so long this time; the 12″ A Sun-Coloured Shaker is out February 16 on Big Scary Monsters.  Six years have passed since their debut, but Le Reveil des Tropiques will return on January 16 with big bang, offering a welcome blend of post-rock, drone and bombast (Music Fear Satan). Pittsburgh post-rockers Steel City Ruins are all under 21, but it doesn’t keep them from competing with the grown-ups.  Their debut album ONE is released January 15, preceded by the single Center Earth.  And returning for their fourth album (does this make it their “senior album”?), the international collective Iglomat sounds like they’re having a whole lot of fun, mixing post-rock and electronica like peanut butter and chocolate.  The Man Made Man is already streaming in full, and is out January 29 on KFM.

 

Those seeking a mental break from the cold winter months will find it in Terry Gomes’ The Tropical Dream, filled with jazzy Caribbean rhythms and a positive vibe (January 16).  Incorporating post-rock, ambient and drone, YNICORNS‘ INTERVALS tells the story of birth and early childhood through the eyes of a parent (Flag Day, January 1).  Retep Folo fills Galactic Sounds with Farfisa organ, xylophone and a pleasingly retro vibe; expect the usual handmade packaging from Clay Pipe Music (early 2018).  Psychedelic rock is on the menu when Mildlife is around; the Australian quartet integrates vocals, but their elastic jams are primarily instrumental.  Phase is released February 23 on Research.  Jarvis Probes offers a series of squawky bass and guitar pieces on the energetic Something About Hands (Wolves, February 16).  The super-heavy Divide and Dissolve offers a powerful message by challenging white supremacy on the sludgy Abomination (Dero Arcade, February 16).  Happy listening, everyone ~ wishing you the best of 2018!

Richard Allen