15 Releases for the End of 2014
Welcome to my 15 Releases for the End of 2014. I’m still in a bit of shock that it’s already January 31st. I remember putting together my 15 Must Hear Releases of 2014 article. Now with this being the last day of the year, I have to look at all of the reviews from the year and try to pick my favorite releases. This is a daunting task.
The Missing Releases
Let’s start things out with a few releases that were missing from the 2014 Top 50 Reviews for the year. How did they get left off? I discovered an issue with the statistics that caused me to miss several releases. And it’s a shame because these are definitely some of my favorite releases for the year.
With Tape Productions, Colin Sweeney turned the production ideas of Lo-Fi music on it’s ear. On Mono Box, Colin has gone a completely different direction. This time, instead of using a production technique to enhance and modify the sound of the music he has keyed the work around a monophonic synthesizer. And, instead of using highly processed and sequenced sounds he recorded a lot of the instruments (drums and guitars) live, layering track on track. This was a surprise release for me, the second of the year (the first being Talk Less, Say More’s release above). Sometimes a change in direction doesn’t work. But in this case it totally does work. Collin is the type of artist that totally throws himself into a project and doesn’t release his work until it is complete and really brings something new and different to the table.
This was the third release that I didn’t expect this year. And, as I originally stated, I get worried when I start seeing releases from artists that I don’t expect to see. I get worried that the quality of the release isn’t going to be up to expectations, I get worried that the artist is trying to capitalize on the popularity of a release by rushing a new release out. Fortunately this was a release that I needn’t have worried about. The detail in each track, the freshness of everything, the arrangements and mixing, everything is really quite well done. And, lots of credit should be given to the collaborators on this release. It’s obvious they put in their time working to make this recording as excellent as did Spiedkiks themselves.
Mr. and Mrs. Smith is actually the incredibly talented Hollis Smith. Alone with her guitar she has written and recorded music for years. She started releasing her music as far back as 2009. She has over 40 releases on her Bandcamp page, and has been featured on two previous netBlocs from blocSonic. he manages to blend country, folk, honky-tonk, blues, torch songs, and even some touches of noir in her music. The range of her vocal styles is every bit as impressive from old country crooners, to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Hollis Smith is an incredibly strong musician, vocalist, writer, and artist. Definitely an artist that must be heard.
This is Weldroid really extending himself in many directions. He’s always had a wide range of influence, but this release seems to have taken things to a new level. Production and engineering is impeccable. The choice of material, styles, structures is really wonderful to listen to. And Weldroid can keep you guessing with each track, keep challenging the listeners expectations, without ever going too far out is perfect. Weldroid was one of the first artists I encountered on the Khavi Collective several years back. It’s good hear new work from him, and I can’t wait to hear more.
There were some releases that came out later in the year that have found their way into my long term playlist. Some of these should be no surprise, but there are a few that might be.
This is something that people might think was a bit of a surprise. I’m not known for being a major metalhead. Cloudkicker, aka Ben Sharp, is probably the biggest exception to this. His form of ambient / minimal metal really works and is totally unlike anything I’ve heard in the metal area. Little Histories is the first Cloudkicker release since his tour with Intronaut earlier this year. The energy from the tour really shows in this release.
Alexander Kohanovsky (aka Pankifared) and Alexei Mikryukov (aka King Imagine) had the idea to compose a series of works for two keyboards. They started working on the pieces and have written a series of forty “episodes”. This recording sees the duo taking the original electronic music compositions and re-arranging them for two pianos and string quartet. There’s very little classical music available in the Creative Commons, a subject that I’ve talked about before, so this is a very welcome addition to an area that is in need of expansion.
Crossworlds is the duo of Alexey Mikryukov (King imagine) and vocalist Irina Skrypnikova from Kiev. They began collaborating and experimenting using traditional forms infused with downtempo style a little over a year ago. The result is documented on Ivana Kupala Night. This is one of those releases that caught me off guard. It is a joy to hear the collaboration between Alexey and Irina, they have created a set of atmospheres and textures that is seductive.
There’s been a lot of ambient releases this year. Almost a few too many to try to chose from. However there are a few that really standout.
For ambient musicians Steve Roach’s Structures From Silence is the pivotal release, it’s a recording that is highly revered by many listeners as well as musicians. For the 30th anniversary of the release of Structures From Silence Free Floating Music has put together two and a half hours of music inspired by Structures From Silence. This is one of those releases that is spectacular. It’s guaranteed to stir many emotions in the listener from beginning to end, and makes a really excellent complement to the Steve Roach’s seminal work.
This may be one of the deepest, and most affecting releases I’ve encountered all year. It is not a surprise to me that it was four years in creation. There is a deep, close and personal connection to these pieces that is breathtaking and all-encompassing. The mastery of tonal control is astounding, seriously worthy of comparison to other impressionist composers. The resulting images are astounding, they engulf the body mind and soul of the listener. They are affecting and transformational, and that is the measure of any artist: are they leaving something behind that will affect you, the listener. In this case, listening to The Year I Tried To Kill My Love is to face our own inner isolation, to understand how our emotions are expressed, to understand who we are.
Possibly the most anticipated of the year, and it didn’t disappoint. A retrospective of fourteen years of music from Cousin Silas is a great way to be introduced to the wide range of work that he has done. Being one of the most prolific ambient artists (next to Mystified) being able to have an overview of his work is indispensable. No matter how you go about listening to this massive two and a half hours of music, you are likely to find there are many more hours of music from Cousin Silas that will keep you listening to him for years to come.
This whole project gets a special shout-out. Aural Films has undertaken a project to release 24 hours of ambient music based on the theme of Fog. There are 28 releases in the series so far, and two live recordings. And there is a music festival scheduled for the end of January in San Francisco. Check out the details it’s really a stunning project.
Okay, so we are at the end of this article. This is a few more releases that I haven’t mentioned in the Top 50 that really deserve being checked out.
Psycho by Plusplus is the third part of the “Evils Trilogy” which started back in 2008 (however, there were delays in releasing each title, so they didn’t start appearing until 2011). Plusplus is Adam Radmall, and on this release he collaborated with Bryan Styles and Rob Scillitoe to produce a recording that is very earthy and grounded in sound.
This is a release that you can listen to over and over, and find something new at each turn. Each piece is more engaging than that the last, and the variety of textures is simply sublime. Joe has a way with finding an interesting ground between the organic acoustic instruments an voices and electronic elements of his compositions that seems completely natural. This isn’t electronic music for the sake of electronic music. It isn’t experimental for the sake of being experimental. Every element is finely honed to fit the composition and the needs of the song. And that is what makes this, and Joe Frawley’s works in general, stand out in the very crowded musical landscape we have these days.
The Perry Ferya Band strives to seek a new level of hearing and communication through pure improvisation. While there are some groups and ensembles that still practice, to varying degrees, the kinds of improvisation found in the work of Stockhausen or Free Jazz, the majority of improvisation and fusion has not been found in many ambient or electronic artists works. This is where the Perry Ferya Band steps in by building on free jazz, psychedelic rock, pure improvisation, and world fusion music they build a bridge to the newer forms of ambient and electronic music.
The duo of Paul Yashan (guitars, lyrics, and vocals) and Arkadiy Tronets (electronic instruments, mixing, and mastering) spent the last two years developing a new style of Downtempo infused Dub elements, organic textures, experimental twists and a crystal clear production. Now it’s time to hear the world In a drop of Shamanizm Parallelii.
This is a quick list of releases that have found their way on to my special list. IE, they are recordings that I reach for whenever I have time to just listen to stuff for enjoyment. I say that these recordings have given me hours of enjoyment, and will continue to give me many more hours of enjoyment.
If you haven’t heard them, check out the releases in 15 Must Hear Releases of 2014 and 2014 Top 50 Reviews articles.