2017: The Year in Review

Even though I probably say this every year, 2017 was an exciting one for music. What made this year special for me was the release of great albums from not only bigger names in the experimental field (Basinski, Voigt, Sakamoto), but rising artists as well (Yi, Davachi, Aris Kindt). The site received many excellent submissions, one of which made it onto my top ten and many others that I thoroughly enjoyed. Submissions just got rolling around March, and we only started accepting digital submissions at the beginning of November. Despite this, we managed to review 18 submitted albums and 17 other albums released this year. In 2018, we will no doubt surpass these numbers and will continue to highlight classic works through our SEEDBANK series.

On a personal note, the year also saw my first few reviews for A Closer Listen, where I hope to continue as a contributor all throughout next year. The last twelve months, however, were not without tragedy, and it would be foolish to not acknowledge our losses also. The loss closest to home was the death of the musician and painter Matt Shoemaker. It is difficult to come to terms with the idea that our world will never again be graced with new work from Matt. The man was a visionary, and in every sense of the word, an artist. I had an opportunity to pay tribute to Matt’s life and work in a piece for Tiny Mix Tapes. It was a challenging article to write, but so rewarding. At every step in the process I was reminded of the man’s genius. My heart goes out to his family and close friends.

Shoemaker

As far as my picks for the year’s best records, there were two that stood out above the pack: William Basinski’s A Shadow in Time, and Lee Yi’s An Instant for a Momentary DesolationOf all the work I heard this year, I was constantly coming back to these two. A Shadow in Time stands as a brilliant return to form for Basinski, the title track showcasing his patented synthesizer tonal exploration, while “For David Robert Jones” again proves the artist’s tape loop prowess. A brilliant release. Of Yi’s work, I wrote, “[the album] paint[s] a mystifying portrait of nature by way of wordless vocals and strings that are stretched out into cosmic melodies.” Furthermore, I noted that “[t]he more I’ve played this, the more I feel it has become a part of me, like it’s synching with my neural chemistry.” Upon discovering it, I listened to nothing but Yi’s album for days straight. Powerful stuff.

LP_Jacket_RE11183LeeYiAnInstant

Gas returned this year with another winner, Narkopop. On that release, I wrote, “[Voigt] finds near-perfect proportions on Narkopop, insofar as it never feels as though the drummer is trying to show up the band.” Sarah Davachi released a very strong record with All My Circles Run. Very recently I wrote: “Davachi’s touch is light but her music cerebral. Strings, voice, organ and piano all make an appearance in their purest forms, shedding all unnecessary embellishments.” Ellen Arkbro’s For Organ and Brass really caught me by surprise, the title track an absolutely gorgeous slab of minimalist composition. A compilation of artists from the PAN label, entitled Mono No Aware, was an early favourite of mine, while Byron Westbrook blew my hair back with tracks like “What We Mean When We Say Body Language,” from his album, Body Consonance.

GAS-NarkopopEllenArkbro
ByronWestbrookBodyConsonance

The abstract field recordist Eamon Sprod returned with another fine album as Tarab. On his album, An Incomplete Yet Fixed Idea, I wrote: “Compositionally, this is one of Tarab’s tightest, the transitions between his fragmented narratives feeling all the more succinct. An important factor in Tarab’s music is juxtaposition, and Sprod only seems to be getting better at it.” One of my all-time favourite acts, Australia’s The Necks released their North American debut with Unfold. When The Necks put their music into motion, you never want it to stop. The music on Unfold is no different. Lastly, Bing & Ruth returned this year with No Home of the Mind, capping out my top ten. I had this to say about it: “piano and some wheezing strings possess enough emotional weight to make me think that this music could somehow move mountains.”

TarabIncompleteYetFixedIdeaNecksUnfold

In no particular order, here is the shorthand list of The Alcohol Seed’s top ten experimental albums of 2017:

William Basinski – A Shadow in Time (Temporary Residence)
Lee Yi – An Instant for a Momentary Desolation (Rottenman Editions)
Gas – Narkopop (Kompakt)
Bing & Ruth – No Home of the Mind (4AD)
Sarah Davachi – All My Circles Run (Students of Decay)
Ellen Arkbro – For Organ and Brass (Subtext)
Byron Westbrook – Body Consonance (Hands in the Dark)
Tarab – An Incomplete Yet Fixed Idea (Aposiopèse)
Various Artists – Mono No Aware (PAN)
The Necks – Unfold (Ideologic Organ)

Honorable Mention:

Secret Pyramid – A Pulse in your Shadow (Proposition)
Keith Berry – Elixir (Invisible Birds)
Patrick Farmer & David Lacey – Pell-Mell the Prolix (caduc.)
Evan Caminiti – Toxic City Music (Dust Editions)
Aquarelle – Leave Corners (Debacle Records)
Rafael Anton Irisarri – The Shameless Years (Umor Rex)
Aris Kindt – Swann & Odette (Kingdoms)
Stelzer/Murray – Connector (Helen Scarsdale Agency)
Porter Ricks – Anguilla Electronica (Tresor)
Jefre-Cantu Ledesma – On the Echoing Green (Mexican Summer)
Ryuichi Sakamoto – async (Milan/Commmons)
Pepo Galán – Human Values Disappear (El Muelle Records)
Orphic Signals – Sounds of the Neutron (…txt)
Colin Andrew Sheffield & James Eck Rippie – Essential Anatomies (Elevator Bath)

Favourite Reissues:

Time Machines – Time Machines (Dais)
Swans – The Great Annihilator (Young God/Mute)
Eluvium – Talk Amongst the Trees (Temporary Residence)
Steve Roach – Structures From Silence (Telephone Explosion)
Brian Eno Reissues

Favourite Folk / Rock / Indie Albums:

Slowdive – Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
Jens Lekman – Life Will See You know (Secretly Canadian)
Tinariwen – Elwan (Wedge/Anti-)
The New Year – Snow (Undertow)
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Luciferian Towers (Constellation)
Rainer Maria – S/T (Polyvinyl)
The National – Sleep Well Beast (4AD)
Fleet Foxes – Crack-up (Nonesuch)
The Mountain Goats – Goths (Merge)
The War on Drugs – A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic)
Spoon – Hot Thoughts (Matador)
Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me (P.W. Elverum and Sun)
Destroyer – Ken (Merge)
Julie Byrne – Not Even Happiness (Ba Da Bing!)
(Sandy) Alex G – Rocket (Domino)

Other Memorable Things from 2017:

Twin Peaks, The Return Ep. 8
Blade Runner 2049
Concerts: Pinegrove, Spoon, Slowdive, Low, Cloud Nothings
Seeing Bob Dylan Perform on my birthday
Moving into a new apartment and beginning work on a small music studio

 

 

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