End of 2017: two lists and a mix by net
The usual caveat: It’ll be months before I get around to Izabela Dłużyk’s Soundscapes of Spring. Might as well leave it till 2018’s actual spring. And it’ll be a couple of years for Björk’s Utopia. And so on.
Here are listed the albums released in 2017 to which I listened the most and enjoyed the most, ranked alphabetically by artist. Bandcamp players inserted where possible. Then there’s a second list of other good, memorable listens.
And here’s an hour-long, genre-disinterested mix of excerpts selected from various of all these releases.
AGF aka poemproducer aka Antye Greie – SOLIDICITY (self-released)
When I reviewed this album for Irregular Crates, I forgot to remark much on what it meant for me personally. Right outside most Finnish windows, the forest is always there, human and far from human, branches open and closed and mossy leaf litter thick and soft, and you’re drawn to it. It’s calming and restorative to brush through it, to get damp and muddy, smelling and feeling its endless textures, soaking up its greenness, earthy browns and listening to its wordlessness. Besides all of AGF’s vital concepts and narratives, at once well-defined individually and linked together stylistically, those inspiring feelings of the texture of the forest – which make up most of the album’s raw acoustic material – are what also lie beneath my great appreciation for it.
Standout track: ‘MOSQU-ito’
Aging – Suitable for Night (Tombed Visions)
Two searching, bourbon-drenched tenor saxes – and on one piece, the sultry poetics of Lauren Bolder – duel over a trudging kit and double bass. Total noir sleaze.
Standout track: ‘Doused in the Moon’
Bola – D.E.G. (Skam)
Bola returned after a decade’s absence, piloting the same characteristically glum and immaculately-produced IDM as if he’d been gone a day. Something about this one recalls the early style of Soup a tad more than usual to me, though. No bad thing.
Standout track: ‘Evensong’
Coil – A Cold Cell in Bangkok (Optimo Music)
A single track, but I played it so much that it ought to go here. As usual, Coil – in this case, just Sleazy – have a stunning skill with sampling choirs. Jhonn’s vocal line, as ever, is all pathos. Amazing.
Standout track: ‘A Cold Cell in Bangkok’
Yannick Dauby – 蛙界蒙薰 Wā Jiè Méng Xūn (Kalerne Editions)
Herpetological field recordings augmented with modular synthesis and sound spatialisation. Electroacoustics that never lose sight of the chirping, gurgling, croaking objects of their homage. This is a real celebration of the beautiful sonics of frogs – mixed up with the textural fancies of the sound artists who record them, if you’re into that.
Standout track: ‘Part 2’
Toni Dimitrov / Jared Sagar – Sapience (Lagerstätte)
Remarkable soundscapes. It could be all the computer games and fantasy literature, but for me this conjures irresistible and haunting imagery of desolate, unknown places. Lightless. Seems trite to say it, but they’ve captured the wonderful, seductive strangeness of dreams.
Standout track: ‘4’
Jan Eerala – Taiga Gust (Sonospace)
Eerala is a brilliant, skilled field recordist. On this release, with immaculate clarity he captures winds and their gusty brushes and harmonics across various spaces.
Standout track: ‘Stairway (to a Windmill)’
Fever Ray – Plunge (Rabid Records)
Much more provocative and frantic than the previous album, with a sort of mix of anger, wry incredulity and saucy playfulness. Late-era Knife narratives applied to much more concise and satisfying songwriting. Overall, it’s wonderful.
Standout track: ‘Mustn’t Hurry’
Gas – Narkopop (Kompakt)
Wolfgang Voigt’s hallucinatory forest techno finally began another chapter this year. Overall, it misses the simple elegance of Pop, but it’s easily the richest-sounding Gas album. Tracks 5 and 10 are impeccable career highlights.
Standout track: ‘Narkopop 10’
Ewa Justka – Acid Smut (Fractal Meat Cuts)
Demented acid from the marvellous electronic artist and instrument builder Ewa Justka. I love that it’s a room recording.
Standout track: ‘Horny 1’
Phil Maguire – defekt fabrik (Self-released)
A lot of good material this year from Phil Maguire. I especially liked this one, which presents gentle mechanical found sounds and a disintegrating, unidentifiable cassette loop. The latter sounds perhaps as one of Basinski’s Disintegration Loops might have done if left running for another few hours.
Standout track: ‘fabrik’
Mew – Visuals (Play It Again Sam)
Mew’s doe-eyed, quirky dream rock doesn’t electrify my life as it did when I was fifteen, but what does. I can’t give up on them now. Too many close, private associations to list here. There’s a few duff numbers as always, but otherwise it’s a charming and glistening time. Combined with the previous album, Mew’s redemption for 2009’s dire No More Stories Are Told Today, I’m Sorry They Washed Away / No More Stories, The World Is Grey, I’m Tired, Let’s Wash Away is about complete. Could’ve done without the brickwalling though.
Standout track: ‘Twist Quest’
Pata-Particles – Pata-Particles (Dead Voices On Air)
Certainly didn’t hear anything else like this in 2017. An ingenious and refreshing album by the formidable trio of Mark Spybey, Steve Dinsdale and Richard Sanderson. They range freely between post-punk, prog, musique concrète, ambient and outright improvisation; I’m sure it’s their longstanding friendship and great experience as musicians that allow them to keep all this (and more) together without it feeling like a mess. It sounds like talented and experienced musicians who, crucially, didn’t forget to enjoy themselves.
Standout track: ‘Radix Occlusion Slider’
Radius – Interpolation Tapes (Restoration One) (echospace [detroit])
Restored and rearranged 8-track recordings from the 1990s. This may be because I’d never taken the time to investigate the early Echospace, Deepchord etc. style, but this album has changed the dub techno game for me entirely. This is far beyond any dubtech I’ve ever heard before, and also far older than most of it. Such a pleasure to discover it.
Standout track: ‘interpolation [one]’
Slowdive – Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
Hardly an unusual choice, but I have my reasons for cherishing Slowdive – even if I shan’t divulge them.
Standout track: ‘No Longer Making Time’
Dino Spiluttini – To Be a Beast (Cut Surface)
This guy’s honed a talent for squeezing such shuddering, gnashing despair and euphoria out of his looping productions. He understands what’s needed to pull off the art of loudness. He also has the vital skill of knowing when a track has gone on long enough; the durations are all perfectly balanced. He’s very dear to me.
Standout track: ‘Wreck the Infinite’
The Telescopes – Stone Tape (Yard Press)
Surprisingly mellow for a Telescopes record, despite the reliably sinister atmosphere. The guitar feedback, almost bell-like piano harmonics and barely-there vocals on ‘Everything Must Be’ are the winning combo.
Standout track: ‘Everything Must Be’
- 1982 – Chromola (Hubro)
- Anjou – Epithymía (Kranky)
- Graham Dunning – Monochrome (Fractal Meat Cuts)
- Dälek – Endangered Philosophies (Ipecac Recordings)
- Anni Elif – Edith (Eclipse Music)
- Equally Stupid – Escape from the Unhappy Society (Eclipse Music)
- Jonáš Gruska – Spevy (LOM)
- Jasmine Guffond – Traced (Sonic Pieces)
- Daigo Hanada – Ichiru (Moderna Records)
- Yüksel Güney Hanedan – The Voyage (self-released)
- Ill-Considered – Live at The Crypt (self-released)
- Inner – Black Label (Signal Life)
- Luka Productions – Fasokan (Sahel Sounds)
- Stephanie Merchak – Impacts, Reflections and Feedback (Arell)
- Francesco Maria Narcisi & Giacomo Fidanza – The Accordion Sessions (Time Released Sound)
- Saint Etienne – Home Counties (Heavenly)
- Sea Trials – Sea Trials (Whitelabrecs)
- Sky High Diamonds – U n b o r n (self-released)
- Sote – Sacred Horror in Design (Opal Tapes)
- Gregory Talbot – Recordings on an Empty Stomach (Midnight Circles)
- Jo Thomas – Sunshine Over Nimbus (Soft Apple)