OK, I've finally found a moment to sit down and start to put this together. Yes 2011 is already almost 1/12 over but 2010 still deserves some recognition as a year with some amazing music. I'm going to attempt to post my list here as three seperate posts to make it more digestible. First up will be honorable mention-y kinda stuff: reissues, non-albums, small format things and the like. Then I'll due a Top 10 (10-6 and 5-1 or something like that). So here goes. I'll be posting this incomplete and updating it over the next couple days as well.
Non-Albums and Reissues
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Paul Clipson - Within Mirrors DVD
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Paul Clipson have been putting out collaborative releases for some time now but until this gorgeously packaged DVD release they were all but impossible to come by. The mighty Root Strata label run by Ledesma put out each of these DVD-rs in an edition of 100 copies and needless to say they sold out within a day or two every time. Now for the first time all those previous audio/video collaborations from two of San Francisco's finest have been collected with a bunch of new collaborations, remastered, put on a real DVD, and stuck in a awesome sleeve-envelope thing. Clipson's vibrant, avant-garde super-8 collages are gorgeously abstract yet deeply embedded in the modern world, one of radio towers and train depots, chain link fences and electrical wires. Ledesma's music is often wonderfully spare, masterfully restrained and impressively immersive for its minimalism. At other times its all guazy, nearer to shoegaze than pure ambiance. It's always gorgeous, almost hypnotic in any case. Check out a couple short samples below to get a feel for this amazing package.
CONSTELLATIONS (2006) excerpt from Paul Clipson on Vimeo.
TWO SUNS (2005) excerpt from Paul Clipson on Vimeo.
Ajilvsga - Origins of the Chaul 4xCS
Brad Rose is a mighty prolific dude. One of his best projects, in my mind, is Ajilvsga, his duo with Nathan Young. The two create intensely noisy oscillator and guitar murk, pitch black cacophonies. Origins of the Chaul collect 4 cassettes worth of previously unreleased material and puts them in a large vinyl case. Only 32 copies were made (originally it was 22 but 10 extra copies were released shortly after the initial run sold out). The 9 songs collected here, none of which fall below a 12-minute run time, could be the soundtrack to some epic surrealist Western, a vicious, sprawling take on Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian perhaps. Savage and abbrasive, this is possibly my favorite release yet from Ajilvsga.
Preview (download part 1)
Origins of the Chaul is long sold out but you can buy some other great stuff from Ajilvsga here
Thomas Koner - Nunatak/Teimo/Permafrost Reissues
German minimalist sound-sculptor Thomas Köner originally released his Nunatak/Teimo/Permafrost triptych as three seperate albums between 1990 and 1993 but always intended them to form a trilogy of sorts. Thanks to three seperate LPs and a 3xCD boxset released by Type this year, they can now be heard as they were meant to. Remastered to perfection, these three albums exemplify the notion that minimalism is anything but boring. Each offers a unqiue and immensely deep listening experience. Perhaps best summed up as a brilliant exploration of dark ambiance, I find this music hard to write about so I'll let it speak for itself. Streaming of all three albums below.
Thomas Köner - Teimo by _type
Thomas Köner - Permafrost by _type
Jasper TX - A Voice from Dead Radio 2xCD
Jasper TX is Swedish ambient maestro Dag Rosenqvist and A Voice from Dead Radio is a collection of three previous small-format and long out-of-print releases by Rosenqvist. But this is no simple reissue. A second disc is also included, this one featuring remixes and covers of each of the tracks compiled on disc one plus something new stitched together by Seaworthy. The quality of these reexaminations of Rosenqvist's work is pretty staggering. Zelienople's 17-minute cover of Harrisburg pt. 2 is dark and brooding, the menacing buzz of processed guitars lurking over skittering live percussion. Peter Broderick turns A Beacon to Lead Us There into a kind of folk song recorded to deteriorating tape, his soft vocals and acoustic guitar playing over a distant sea of static and far-off sound. Xela turns A into something almost dance-y, a near throw back to his early days of IDM. A scuzzy, propulsive drum machine thumps beneath shimmering high-end waves of white noise. There are ten covers/remixes in all featuring other artists such as Jefre-Cantu Ledesma, Pillowdriver, and Simon Scott each remaking their chosen song in really exciting ways. A Voice from Dead Radio is long out of print, only 300 copies being made.
Disc 1: the original pieces
Disc 2: The remixes and covers
Catherine Christer Hennix - The Electric Harpsichord
From Boomkat: Although her music is largely unknown - even among the experimental music community - those who've been exposed to Hennix's work tend to rank her among the elite of American minimalist composers of the twentieth century. The Electric Harpsichord (recorded in 1976) is talked about with the highest reverence by the avant-garde's cognoscenti, with Glenn Branca describing it as "a pure perfect piece of music" and "a work of transcendent power"...or all its droning stability on a 'macro' level, The Electric Harpsichord's continually recombining layers ensure it remains ceaselessly shifting in 'micro' terms. Significantly, none of this gets out of hand and you can still make out the individual pitches ebbing and flowing within the sound mass. Paying close attention reveals some incredible oceanic movements within the sound waves, and repeat listens reap considerable rewards. This recording lasts twenty-five minutes, though in the strictest terms it should be considered as only a fragment of what the composition represents; in conceptual terms The Electric Harpsichord would be an endless, perpetual entity. "
Sadly this is long out of stock but this incredible piece of music can be downloaded below.
Favorite New Artist
Motion Sickness of Time Travel
To call Rachel Evan's Motion Sickness of Time Travel solo project new isn't exactly fair. The Georgia-based musician has been putting out music for a few years now. But 2010 was the first year the project came to my attention and I know the same is true for many others. Previously Evan's mostly released her music on cassettes in editions of occasionally under 10 copies. In 2010, Evans sent off a demo to Brad Rose of Digitalis records, one he would later call something along the lines of "one of the best demos I've ever recieved." One listen and it's not surprising why. Called Seeping Through the Veil of Unconscious, Rose put the demo out on Digitalis Limited, still on a cassette and still in a criminally small run of 75 copies or so. But the album quickly garnered more critical acclaim and internet buzz than previous MSoTT releases. The recognition is long overdue. Imagine if Grouper traded in her murky guitars and hazy keyboard for a small army of synthesizers and a spare drum machine or two and you might start to get a feel for MSoTT and especially STtVoU. As this was my first introduction to Evans' music and as 2010 really seemed to be the first year Evan's put out a number of more widely available and acclaimed releases, I think New Artist is a fair title and Favorite New Artist completely deserved. Haunting, gorgeous, totally unique, MSoTT should be on everyone's radar. It's especially cool to see that STtVoU and another album of all new material will be getting the vinyl treatment on Digitalis later this year.
Download Seeping Through the Veil of Unconscious
Motion Sickness of Time Travel blog/website