"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"

Friday, 31 December 2010

Juhla viisikymmentä

After another orgy of label of the year-ing (also here), some album highlights of the past year. Like two years ago, our couple of lists together form an LMYE Festive 50, a half-century of new records that particularly mattered to us in 2010.

Of course, the cut-off is arbitrary (& so is elevating albums over other formats, & music released this year over that from earlier years). Many more than 50 important records were released in 2010. Besides a few accommodating multiples, we try to acknowledge that with some honourable mentions below as well.

Duplicates (Celer/Chubby Wolf, Demdike Stare, En, Kyle Bobby Dunn, Rafael Anton Irisarri) were purged from one list - JL's, as it happens - to make room for more names. You could argue that these represent our top picks of the year since they appeared in both independently-generated selections. Not quite, but it's clearly significant that they made the cut twice over.

NB: lists are alphabetical & equal. Links to follow...

alan >
36 - Hollow | Memories in Widescreen | Tape Series: Blue [3six ]
Andrew Thomas - Between Buildings & Trees [Kompakt]
CelerPanoramic Dreams Bathed in Seldomness [Basses Frequences] | Generic City [w/ Yui Onodera, Two Acorns] | Chubby Wolf - Orni-theology [Digitalis]
Clem LeekHolly Lane [Hibernate]
David TaggPentecost [Install]
Demdike StareTriptych [Modern Love]
En - The Absent Coast [Root Strata]
Grasslung Sincere Void [Root Strata]
Jefre Cantu-LedesmaLove is a Stream [Type]
John Roberts - Glass Eights [Dial]
Keith Berry - The Cartesian Plane [Elevator Bath]
Kyle Bobby DunnA Young Person’s Guide to [Low Point]
Listening MirrorRin [Somehow Recordings]
lovesliescrushingcrwth [Line]
Pantha du Prince - Black Noise [Rough Trade]
PausalLapses [Barge]
PjuskSval [12k]
Rafael Anton IrisarriThe North Bend [Room40]
Sandwell District - Feed-Forward [Sandwell District]
Scott CortezTwin Radiant Flux [Line]
Scuba - Sub:stance [Ostgut Ton]
Senking - Pong [Raster-Noton]
Shinobu NemotoMelting Loop Trip [moufu-rokuon]
Simon Scott - Traba [Immune]
Thomas KonerNunatak|Teimo|Permafrost [Type]

JL >

BJ NilsenThe Invisible City [Touch]
Chris Abrahams - Play Scar [Room40]
Christopher Hipgrave - Slow, With Pages Of Fluttering Interference [Low Point]
Clouwbeck From Which the River Rises [Sustain-Release]
Erstlaub - Sleepwalking into the Underworld [Highpoint Lowlife]
Fabio OrsiLittle True Things Under the Sun | Permanent Mark [self-released] | Winterreise [Slow Flow]
Keith Fullerton WhitmanGenerator [Root Strata] |Disingenuity/Disingenousness [Pan]
Kenneth Kirschner7/17/10 [self-released]
Koen Holtkamp - Gravity/Bees [Thrill Jockey]
Le Berger - De fe'kun.dus ad salus [self-released]
Machinefabriek/Kleefstra-Bakker-Kleefstra/Liondialer - That It Remains Winter Forever [White Box]
Mark Templeton - Ballads [self-released]
Moritz von Oswald TrioLive in New York [Honest Jon’s]
Nickolas MohannaTransmission Hue [Low Point]
OnSomething That Has Form And Something That Does Not [Type]
Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal|Returnal 7” [Editions Mego]
OvalO|Oh |Ringtone [Thrill Jockey]
p joergensen - Sountracks_Remix [Under the Spire]
Philip Jeck - An Ark For The Listener [Touch]
Piipstjilling - Wurdskrieme [Experimedia]
Preslav Literary SchoolIn Fractals [self-released] | Sonuna [Razzle Dazzle]
Rose & SandyPlay Cat’s Cradle [Moving Furniture]
Scissor Lock - Broken English [hellosQuare]
Shoeb AhmadBlossoms [hellosQuare]
SohrabA Hidden Place [Touch]

Also outstanding >

Akira RabelaisCaduceus [samadhisound] / Alva NotoFor 2 [Line] / Andrea BelfiKnots [Die Schachtel] / ASC - Nothing Is Certain [Nonplus] / Asura Asura [Non Projects] / Ben Fleury-SteinerKeep A Weather Eye Open [Infraction] / Brian McBride - The Effective Disconnect [kranky] / Casino vs JapanNight On Tape [Attack Nine] / Chihei HatakeyamaVariations [Soundscaping] / Dag Rosenqvist & Simon ScottConformists [Low Point] / Deepchord - Liumin/Liumin reduced [Modern Love] / Dettman - Dettman [Ostgut Ton] / Donato Dozzy - K [Further] / Erik SkodvinFlare [Sonic Pieces] / Ex-Easter Island HeadMallet Guitars One [Low Point] / Floating SpiritsTransmit [Section 27] / Gareth Hardwick - Of The Sea And Shore [Low Point] / Giorgio Gigli & Obtane - Looking through a Mindscape [Zooloft] / Greg HainesUntil the Point of Hushed Support [Sonic Pieces] / Hessien Home is Where the Ghost Is [Handstitched] / Ithaca Trio - New Music by The Colossal Ithaca Trio & The Deus Ex Machina Arkestra | Par Avion (w/ Machinefabriek) [self-released] | Tesla Verses the Night [Under The Spire] / Jannick SchouNight [Under the Spire] / Loscil Endless Falls [kranky] / OrphaxSamen aan het water |Turn Loose The Goose [self-released] / Raime/RegisIf Anywhere was here he would know where we are [Blackest Ever Black] / Relmic StatuteAbscon (5.L) Ditus Ianua [H.L.M High Linear Music] | Live One [Hibernate] | Morning Tapes [Cotton Goods] / Scott WellsDay Songs [Root Strata] / Seaworthy & Matt Rösner - Two Lakes [12k] / Small Things on Sunday4AM [Moving Furniture] | Recalling [Audio Gourmet] / Spartak - Verona [Low Point] | Version Room [hellosQuare] / SpheruleusFrozen Quarters [Under the Spire] / Suum CuiqueMidden [Young Americans] / Swartz - Nighttide [Utter East] / Sylvain Chauveau - Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated) [Type] / T++ - Wireless [Honest Jon’s] / Taylor DeupreeShoals | Shoals (edition) [12k] / The Village Orchestra - We Can Remember It For You Wholesale [Broken20] / The End of All ExistenceThe End of All Existence [The End of All Existence] / Ubeboet Archival [Moving Furniture] / VCV HD 98618 [Second Sun] / Xela/Analog Concept - Air Rings Vol. 2 [Digitalis]

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Databases flee leer

Labels' role as visible exercisers of taste, as rallying points, as cultural lenses, was at least as crucial this year as last. Following our label of the year (Low Point), LMYE highlights five other curatorial efforts that helped define 2010.

Besides our picks - below, alphabetically - you could also make credible cases for Raster-Noton, Root Strata, samadhisound & Under The Spire, which all had notably strong years. So too did the fine alternative choices (just one overlap with our lot) over at The Liminal.

Broken20 - LMYE's new label of the year: making the alluring promise of "releases concerned with decay, erosion, entropy, mistakes and errors, line noise and tape hiss, hum and buzz" - & delivering. Even if only a couple of official releases emerged (though you could treat the excellent Rose & Sandy Play Cat's Cradle on Moving Furniture & Erstlaub's typically huge Sleepwalking Into The Underworld for the soon-gone-&-already-much-lamented Highpoint Lowlife as honorary B20 works), not only were they outstanding but their supporting cast of precursors & 'casts was spectacular - particularly the genius down-pitching of Erik XVI's The Fading Splendour of a Technological Future & label chief ruaridhTVO's 4-hour, cast of thousands Broken Roots epic...

hellosQuare - LMYE's neglected label of the year: distance may play a part in it, but hellosQuare's low profile was never more baffling than this year when the great Australian label was dishing up must-hear releases from Scissor Lock, Spartak & label head/Spartak member Shoeb Ahmad (plus a part-exclusive release for Mapstation) - deep & often deeply different sounds from down under...

Raven > In Marrickville, In The Dirt / Adrian Lim-Klumpes > Hillside (both from Bown.Hollo.Lim-Klumpes.Ahmad.Dorrian, hellosQuare; NB: lo-res - higher-res versions on free download)

Thrill Jockey/kranky - LMYE's larger labels of the year: while kranky had the edge on its fellow leviathan last year, there was little to separate them in 2010 as each underscored improbable vigour this far into their craggy careers with a raft of valuable releases (to both rack up an improbably gorgeous bee-related album. Yes, really...) Thrill Jockey had the somewhat bigger names - Oval/Fennesz Daniell Buck/Koen Holtkamp - but kranky's sponsorship of Brian McBride, Jonas Reinhardt & Loscil, plus its re-release of the Pan.American classic For Waiting, For Chasing, demands equal acknowledgement.

Touch - LMYE's pioneering label of the year: shepherding magnificent new releases by Philip Jeck & BJ Nilsen that were among the year's best anywhere is qualification enough for recognition. But Touch went further, bringing Sohrab's unmissable A Hidden Place, Daniel Menche's extraordinary Hover, early Hildur Gudnadottir goodness in the form of the Mount A re-release & further enhancing its Touch Radio series with 12 new instalments - including this Phill Niblock.

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Low rider

Hailed 12 months ago as our 'new discovery' label of 2009, Low Point is LMYE's label of the year after a near-flawless septet of releases that refined its traditional aesthetic to new levels of intensity & beauty, & moved beyond it with an invigorating boldness. What started life five years ago as a vehicle for Gareth Hardwick (both solo & as Bologna Pony) ends 2010 a benchmark of challenging, compelling music.

Read an exclusive interview with Hardwick below that explores Low Point's "logical progression", as well as vinyl love, streaming strategy & a tasty trio of forthcoming releases.

Low Point's outstandingly open-eared output this year - an unbroken run of that recalls the brilliant sequence that made Type our previous label of the year - ranges fully across the ambient-drone-experimental spectrum the label defines for itself. In the course of just seven records it travels the long & unobvious way from exquisite takes on drone like Kyle Bobby Dunn's post-classical masterpiece A Young Person's Guide To [previous coverage], the flooding, luxurious warmth of Christopher Hipgrave's ravishing Slow, With Pages Of Fluttering Interference & Hardwick's own Of The Sea And Shore to the clattering, loose-limbed vigour of Spartak's Verona [previous] & Ex-Easter Island Head's Mallet Guitars One.

KDB, Hipgrave & Hardwick mark some kind of apotheosis of the classic Low Point sound. Dense, detailed, lulling, even tender, this dominated last year's releases through peaks like p joergensen's To, Celer's Brittle, the Fabio Orsi/Seaworthy encounter Near And Faraway & Hardwick's all-star remix project Aversions.

Of course there were deviations last year, as there have been all the way back to the label's founding. But 2010 carried this to new heights as Spartak & EEIH supplemented the darker metallics of Dag Rosenqvist & Simon Scott's gripping Conformists soundtrack [previous] & the billowing neo-kosmischness of Nickolas Mohanna's Transmission Hue [previous].

How has Low Point developed this year (is this your biggest year for new releases)? Have you done anything different in 2010? Anything new you want to keep doing now it's started?
2010 for Low Point has mainly been about building upon the momentum established towards the end of 2009 where the frequency and unit run for releases increased significantly. I wouldn’t say that anything radically different has changed in the way the label is run, though I would say that the label has adopted a more focused outlook than before as in the past the release schedule was more casually planned out.

Why drone?
Ambient, drone and experimental music are genres that I’ve always been interested in. Beginning initially as a listener, then a musician working in that sphere of music, the reason Low Point was established was a way to self release my own material, so it has all been quite a logical progression.

Is there a Low Point sound or typical artist?
I’d like to think not, though it’s inevitable that artists working within the same genre(s) of music are going to draw comparisons to one another. When an artist submits a demo to the label for consideration, the last thing I want to do is spend the entire time comparing them to other artists who are already on the Low Point roster.

Any Low Point artists you believe merit more attention than they've had so far?
I think it’d be unfair to single out any particular release/artist, though it’s reasonable to say that on a couple of occasions, I have been really disappointed when an album hasn’t received the reaction I thought it deserved. I see each release as a real labour of love (for both the artist and the label), so when a release is overlooked it is something I do find it hard not to take it personally!

How do you see Low Point developing in the future? Any new artists you can mention &/or forthcoming new releases from established Low Point artists? More/less vinyl? Cassettes?
From now on, Low Point is hoping to predominantly produce vinyl releases. Vinyl has always been my preferred format and it seems that the popularity of cds is declining rapidly at the minute. I’m hoping to incorporate some sort of facility for digital downloads as well for the people who are that way inclined.

Personally speaking, I’ve never seen the appeal of cassettes, so it’s doubtful Low Point will ever do a release on that format.

The first three releases for 2011 are:
Tim Catlin and Machinefabriek ‘Patina’ LP
Gareth Hardwick ‘Sunday Afternoon’ LP
Chubby Wolf ‘The Darker Sex’ 7”

Best thing anyone's said/written about Low Point music? Worst?
On the whole I believe that Low Point has been fortunate enough to receive generally positive responses to each of its releases. It’s always flattering when someone has taken the time and effort to write something constructive and complimentary about one of the releases.

It’s inevitable that negative opinions surface every now and again, though in the majority of cases I don’t tend to dwell on them.

What's the thinking behind your use of Soundcloud streams?
In the past I have discovered mp3s of Low Point albums uploaded to file sharing websites/discussion forums literally within days of its release. This thoughtless distribution of music is one of my pet hates, though I’ll save this particular argument for another time.

The use of Soundcloud streams is a flexible way for me to allow previews of a release without the necessity of file sharing. Hopefully it whets the listeners’ appetite so that they will be keen to purchase a release but doesn’t ruin the surprise of listening to an album in its entirety for the first time.

How important is artwork to your releases?
As many of the artists on the Low Point roster either have an involvement in graphic design or are keen photographers, I’d say that the artwork is a key element of each Low Point release.

Though it’s fair to say that the majority of the releases on the label aren’t overly flashy (quite the opposite in fact) when it comes to their artwork, I’d like to think that they are all packaged in an attractive manner.

How challenging a time is this for labels?
To be honest, I’m not sure I can answer that question. The audience that has been interested in Low Point has been quite consistent during the period of time I’ve been releasing records, so fortunately I haven’t experienced any great downturn in sales.

I would say that it’d probably be a completely different situation if I started Low Point in the present day though. There seems to be a significant increase in labels catering for the same people in the last year or so, which would make it more difficult for Low Point to compete.

Important: LMYE only makes music available that artists/labels have chosen to share freely. Let us know if something here shouldn't be.
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