Rounding the Fringes - December 9

Willebrant & Scarless Arms - Jake & Jan Went to the Land

Released: December 3

Another fantastic two-track collaboration between two talented ambient artists from opposite sides of the world, Jake & Jan Went to the Land sees Willebrant and Scarless Arms put their collective skills together. Both tracks are recorded by Willebrant using a variety of synths and electric bass then further reworked by Scarless Arms to create a serene experience complete with the finest of touches. Smooth basses drone alongside thick pads and muted keys while the faint hum of electrical currents, gentle ocean waves, and cars passing play in the background. The signature sounds of both composers are present here as the interplay of the sonic textures with one another come off smoothly and subtly. This is, without a doubt, atmospheric ambient at its finest.

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Alpha Chrome Yayo - Soaking

Released: November 26

Having heard a few of Alpha Chrome Yayo's albums in their entirety, I always know that I will be smiling when I hear something from him. His charming goofball style is channeled into the unexpected subject of bathing this time around and lyrically, well, wow. It's rather impressive to hear about a robot's hygienic needs in the form of digitized verse. What really stood out to be here though are the handful of purely instrumental tracks with "La Porte D'Argent" being a surprising ambient interlude cleverly hidden in between layers of funky basslines and bath-related rhymes. Similarly, the final track "Life's Washing Machine" gives us a gentle synth-driven outro for what is a surprisingly high-energy album, considering the luxurious source material. Recommended listening when you're feeling low and a little dirty.

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Leifendeth - Speak to the Dead

Released: November 1

Technically, this release is a single. But in true Leifendeth style, we don't just get one track - we get four. The original, which is a collaboration between Dan and longtime collaborator Wraithwalker, is joined by three remixes. The original version gives us a heavy, but not overbearing industrial tech track with hard-hitting percussion and a driving baseline with eerie vocals appearing only to attempt to communicate with the dead, adding the perfect atmosphere. The two remixes that really stand out here are those by Baying Ridges and Wraithwalker, the first being an ethereal ambient re-imagining with airier pads and an unsettling absence of percussion that maintains the other elements skillfully. The second sees the track placed in overdrive with speedy breaks and an energetic synth line that almost turns the track into a drum-n-bass madhouse. A perfect little collection of collaboration here.

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Distraxi - Castration Fantasy

Released: November 22

Somewhere between the realm of dark ambient and crushing harsh noise is Distraxi's latest EP released on Bent Window Records. The subject matter is grim but also delightfully esoteric as it sonic explores an aspect of the theological devotions of St. Origen, one of the early fathers of the Catholic Church. The album opens with gentle swirling synths that eventually devolve into harsh and unforgiving noise as it moves through the runtime with three unsettling tracks. The lyrics seem to serve two purposes - the first to be an exploration of the subject matter and the other to add the extra layer of dysphoric noise as they are processed in a multitude of ways. At times they are wailing and barely discernable (if at all) while other times they sound like a bizarre mantra being spoken by an isolated monk. If you are willing to dive in, it will not be an easily forgotten experience.

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Somnoroase Păsărele - COSMS

Released: August 9

This recent release from Romanian experimental artist Somnoroase Păsărele is a bit difficult to describe in many ways. At its core, it is a practice in extreme minimalism with odd cyclical percussive textures that morph, evolve, and even devolve through the course of each individual track with and bizarre and equally minimalist improvisation that occurs. The entire album is permeated with esoteric references to the cosmology of a previous era with a view towards understanding our world through symbolism. These odd sounds swirl through the sparse stereo field in convoluted ways that seem as though they loop over one another with a surprisingly acoustic quality to each of these sounds. It seems impossible to tell where these sounds originated from, but they are here now and swimming their way through your mind as they cycle through.

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A.J. Kaufmann - Stoned Gypsy Wanderer

Released: August 2

When I first listened to this album, the thing that stood out the most is the wonderfully classic aesthetic to the recording of each track. Yes, there are a variety of influences at play here including psychedelic folk and garage rock. But the constant thread between all of them is an encapsulation of the era to which it calls back. Listening to it is like jumping into a well-crafted time capsule taking you back to the era of bands like Jefferson Airplane and The Doors with a raw sound that lets the elements of each composition shine through whether they combine into the complexity of tracks such as "Wine of Rape" and "Whispering Egypt" or the simplicity of a guitar and voice in tracks like "Amaranth Blues" or "Stoned Gypsy Wanderer." This is the album where you can make yourself a cup of coffee, light up something special, and let yourself zone out to the reverberated guitars and psychedelic aesthetic.

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