Solilians - In the Running 2 - American Klezmische
Released: January 10
Released earlier this month on I Heart Noise, this newest effort from psychedelic indie rockers Solilians sits on the borders of being a spiritual experience and a gentle soundtrack to your next smoke session. All manner of folk elements are included here and they all coalesce beautifully under a persistent haze with airy vocals and minimal drums.
While all of these folksy elements create the proper atmosphere, the voice of Neptune Sweet really ties everything together. The vocals are set in such a perfect space and maintain the perfect presence throughout the album, while also allowing the other elements to shine. I, personally, am also a sucker for a great banjo part and this contribution from Benjamin Malkin strangely works incredibly well with the modular synth provided by Gabriel Walsh. What is interesting about the guitar is that it seems to take a backseat to the banjo until it is time to shine through, specifically the incredible solo in "Stratoshmear." I positively could not get enough of that. If you are looking to be drawing back into the late 70s with just the proper touch of modern sensibilities, I would highly recommend this album.
Salvatore Mercatante - POST
Released: January 14
This album is quite the oddity. A collection of thirty-two tracks ranging in length from a few minutes to well under thirty seconds, the soundscapes presented here are thoroughly diverse and varied. The nature of these widely differing sounds makes it near impossible to sum up the entire album in a few words. But that is a big part of the reason I enjoyed it so much.
What's particularly interesting is that we are told that we should listen to these tracks in any order we choose. So I downloaded the album and proceeded to shuffle it in several ways. It's true, this album is good no matter the order you hear it in. We are given all types of soundscapes that include sparse and blipy pieces like "min IV" but also smoother and much more ambient-leaning pieces such as "uqvl."And then, there are the short pieces between some of these longer tracks that are somewhat perplexing like "flk_2" which is just a grainy tone that rises slightly in pitch for fifteen seconds.
I can only wonder what the inspiration from much of this album was. The wildly differing tracks made for some of the best ear candy I have heard in quite a bit. Especially with the interesting stereo effects and the unusual placement of sounds. I recommend listening in order and then listening again on shuffle. It's quite the experience.
Heavy Cloud - Beyond the Last Beach House
Released: January 13
Known for his unique soundscapes, Ryan Hooper (a.k.a. Heavy Cloud) seems to step into something of a whole new world on this latest EP. Filled with loads of vinyl static and crackle, pieces of the past fade in and out with the old recordings of jazz, waltzes, and other assorted musical stylings of the thirties and forties play while buried under the noise. It's odd to feel nostalgia for a time that I never saw but I felt it throughout.
What I found to be the most powerful thing about this album is how the music of the past was always present but never seems to be allowed to take center stage. Instead the static, the crackle, and the noisy oscillations of what felt like a timewarp on "Fading Memories of Our Last Hurrah" always buried the music under it. Almost as if you are trying to remember but you are denied the ability to see it clearly.
bleed air - Ogehiko
Released: January 3
This lovely two track single is part of the ongoing Cassingle series from Superpolar Taips, which is set to be released as a compilation once the series is finished. This contribution from bleed air is nothing short of wonderful. The tracks, while related, strike two different tones. The first "Ogehiko" is a soothing soundscape of lush pad sounds and a gentle warbling of raw audio tape while the second "Yahiko" strikes a somewhat darker tone and leans heavier on the warping noises. However, both have a gentle saturation of tape noise that perfectly complements the drones contained within as well as the not-so-subtle twisting of a pitch wheel. A somewhat haunting, if not short, listening experience.
Oceanographer - Sugar Bath
Released: January 20
Normally playing around in the land of purely ambient music, Ryan Howell takes this two track single as an opportunity to explore a bit more beat driven musical pursuits. The name of the EP is rather fitting for what we actually hear. "Sugar Bath" opens up with light and playful synth lines bouncing across one another with these synth lines continuing and morphing as the track progresses and the simple yet effective percussion comes into the mix. This uplifting downtempo is followed by the more abstract, yet still playful, "Prism Rinse" with its complex rhythm that bends much closer to the world of IDM. Though a somewhat short experience, both of these tracks complement my playlist quite well.
Martin Rach - clothed scars
Released: December 6
This three track exploration of the limits of tape driven sound is filled with wonderfully broken and uncomfortable sounds. While you can hear pieces of the synth work at play, the focus here is those odd and broken tape loops. The sounds warble, whine, and even sometimes seem to scream as if in pain for before being abruptly, although temporarily, silenced. The archaic sound of the tape loop, most notably on "rag two" reminds me of some of those old educational tapes that elementary school teachers would play alongside a hand crank projector, complete with the occasional beeps. However, these tapes have been cut up, unspooled, rewound, and then twisted beyond recognition. It is certainly an odd and disquieting trip.