Steve Hadfield - Bangers and Mash
Released: April 30
Released on the Bricolage label, Steve Hadfield's latest EP (Bangers and Mash) is something a bit unexpected but also perfectly in line with what Steve is known for. Throughout the album, we get to hear odd synth lines playing some unusual melodies and harmonies punctuated by somewhat erratic and slightly off-kilter rhythms. While loosely defined as IDM, this album seems to have quite a bit in common with earlier jungle and drum & bass rhythmically.
One of my favorite moments on the entire EP is the track "Belly Bop." It's an off-putting track that opens up with a repetitive bass growl that is joined later by a weird little synth line and rhythm that is both sparse yet rapid-fire that lets much of the jungle/drum & bass influence shine through clearly. If I were to choose another favorite on this album, it would definitely be "Murmur on the Dancefloor," another track that opens up with a weird semi-growl bass and joined by a sparser but still irreg rhythm plus a slightly haunting synth melody. This is the formula for Steve's latest EP and it works splendidly.
wiley soule - Been Midnight
Released: January 15
In his debut EP, wiley soule takes what seems to but a random assortment of noises and puts them together into a compelling and cinematic assortment. Each track seems to breathe in an odd but aurally pleasing manner with lulls and moments of intense movement. This motif can be heard right off the bat, just two minutes into the first track "Prefer the Lie." Starting off slow but then quickly picking up speed into a series of intense percussive hits that are both aggressive and exhilarating. This is the case for the second track "Mostarda, Been Midnight" as well, although the intensity has been dialed back a bit as it heads into the final track. The final track, "Univer Zeroth / On Twig Fond Provençal," gives a nice, slightly ambient finish that perfectly rounds off the intensity.
Cucurbitophobia - Nexus Insidias
Released: April 30
In his latest release, Rob Benny (a.k.a. Cucurbitophobia) takes an opportunity to change up his sound in a dramatic but perfectly appropriate manner. At the very beginning with the very first track "Nexus Insidias," we're hit with an epic sound that carries us through a 17-minute journey of metal complete with persistent riffs and interspersed melodic soloing. It's truly great to hear Rob showing off his fantastic guitar chops.
Once this epic opus ends, we are introduced to two tracks that are a bit more ambient than what Cucurbitophobia is known for, "The Reckoning" and "The Coven." Both tracks are filled with extremely airy pads and subdued keys playing lower tones and set an extremely foreboding and hostile tone, which perfectly ques up the final track. "The Final Reflection" begins as though it is a continuation of the previous two. That is, until the pads slowly fade to the background and the piano rises in the mix and we hear the heavily key-driven sound Cucurbitophobia is known for. A perfect cap for this fantastic expansion of the Cucurbitophobia catalog.
Blessed are the Hearts that Bend - I woke up and forgot what happened
Released: December 23
A late entry for the past year, "I woke up and forgot what happened" is a far more hopeful sounding track than the name suggests. At an epic seventeen minutes long, this single from Blessed are the Hearts that Bend opens up with bright shimmering pads that are deep, rich, and filled with a mysterious quality. At times, it almost sounds as though it is the sound of an out-of-body experience. The serenity of the track is interrupted very intermittently by a subtle discordance that passes quickly enough to not disturb, only to remind the listener that this is not exactly a happy piece of music.
Ceridwen McCooey - The Conference of the Birds
Released: April 30
The Conference of the Birds is the debut album from Australian composer on cellist Ceridwen McCooey and it is an impressive feat of music from this young artist. Comprised of only eight compositions, McCooey tells quite a story and creates an impressive variety of sounds using (presumably) only her cello.
The first seven tracks introduce the cast of characters which is a variety of birds including "The Nightengale," "The Peacock," and "The Sea Heron." Each of them is introduced in their own composition which includes some impressively bird-like sounds created by the strings of a cello. What is most impressive is that each bird seems to be given their own personality in its corresponding composition with "The Nightengale" sounding emotive yet somewhat aloof and "The Peacock" sounding somewhat elegant while also a bit pompous. This character building culminates in the final track, "The Conference of Birds," in which a bit of each bird can be heard in a talkative meeting that is reminiscent of the classic Watership Down. With this, McCooey's well-crafted story comes to a satisfying conclusion.
Released: April 30
Radials by Ffion (a.k.a. Thomas Ragsdale) marks the first official release on the Disintegration State label for this rather prolific artist. The pace of the album is a bit slower than what is expected but the result is a beautifully lush and cinematic EP that envelops the listener in what feels like a cool, hazy cloud. Each track is comprised of a slowed-down arpeggiated melody that never really picks up in speed, only in intensity. As the cloudiness created by the wonderfully airy pads gives way to the arp, these otherwise very ambient tracks such as "Opal Rose" gain a sense of momentum that waxes and wane through the runtime as they slowly filter in and out. These four evenly paced tracks would not feel out of place in an exploratory space title such as No Man's Sky.