Monday, December 31, 2012

Jonny's Top 10 Releases of 2012

If there was ever a year to get into electronic music, 2012 was probably that year. As well as Burial and Clubroot showing the world how dubstep should be done, we've had an explosion of talent from Russia in the likes of Night Shift and Clonki  as well as local scenes blossoming in both the east (Borealis, Liar) and west (Kettel, Secede, Chymera) of mainland Europe. In the meantime, Indie music seems to be suffering from an identity crisis in this Hipster-conscious age if Metronomy singles are to be believed, Metal continues to go the way of pop-punk by continuing to stagnate and Pop itself is even embracing the deeper sides of electronic. Folk's done alright, actually, but for the purpose of getting you to listen to electronic we'll ignore that. Ambient, as ever, has enjoyed a fantastic year.

So here it is, my personal top 10 releases of the year.

10. Amon Tobin - Amon Tobin
Despite just clawing its way into my top 10, it’s hard to find fault with one of the world’s most prominent electronic artists releasing more material than most artists make in their lifetime in just a single boxset. Sure, there are small grey areas as cover artists are a bit ditzy with the tone, or where it’s apparent why certain tracks were never released in an album, but that alone can be made up for by the stellar live performance of Lost & Found. This boxset should find a home in any electronic fan’s bedroom, not alone because it supplies enough material to last a month or more.

9. Kettel & Secede - When Can
Two of my favourite electronic artists finally got together to create a joint LP for the relaunch of the Sending Orbs record label, and both performed outstandingly. When Can is cinematic, conservative and wildly inventive at the same time, offering up a style that shouldn’t work, but does. Like their past work, this one can take some time to get your head around as you really have to work to get into their unique state of mind, but it’s more than worth it.

8. Evo Luthi with Monolyth & Cobalt - Le Parfum
This album was born in the wake of the untimely deaths and suicides of many of Evo’s closest friends, so it should be no surprise that this short collection of ambient drone can’t help but portray this morbid and harrowed tone. It takes its time, and is often very quiet, but it’s so introverted and personal that I can’t help but fall in love.

7. Listening Mirror - Resting in Aspic
From our review: “Approaching Resting in Aspic and expecting it to change your life will leave you disappointed. The album doesn’t offer up much that can be heard elsewhere, but these days such a wonderfully crafted piece of pure ambiance is a rare thing to behold. It’s something to interpret and explore, though at the same time remaining short enough for you to do quickly. And from an artist so modest and understated, it’s very hard to pass over."

6. Bersarin Quartett - II
From our review: Regrettably, albums such as this don’t come around too often; the world is far too full of cynics to fall for every emotional tirade that comes our way (at a rate of about three a day, by my count). However, none of these contain the intelligence, expertise or charm that II does. In every sense of the word it’s an album that is beautiful, but at the same time it is not a happy one.”

5. 17f - The Boy Who Cried Wolf
From our review: It’s rare that an album in this segment of the musical spectrum goes so far out of its way to be sad, but the marriage of obvious depression and subtle reinforcement ends up being far more powerful than we could have hoped. The Boy Who Cried Wolf doesn’t overdo it, however, as it mixes in plenty of apathy, beauty and self-awareness too, so it’s always a bit of a surprise how bleak the album can really be. This isn’t an album for everyone, but then again when could it ever be? It’s an album’s worth of time-out for anyone who wants to break out of their routine and relax into a detached, sad and empty room; with a chair in the centre and only small shards of light reaching in from outside.”

4. Evening Hymns - Spectral Dusk
Think Hospice by The Antlers, then make it a little folkier and a lot more real: Spectral Dusk is a very public display of grief from a man missing his father. The album spends a lot of time developing a rustic and bleak atmosphere, but still hits hard with very clever (yet often blunt) lyrics.

3. Burial - Kindred
As Burial’s first venture into the realm of 10+ minute tracks, no one was sure what to expect from Kindred. What they got was a blatant disregard for conventional structure and styles, but was brilliant enough to carry this. Kindred offers up some of the warmest tracks he’s ever released with an atmosphere impossible to find elsewhere.

2. Pepe Deluxe - Queen of the Wave
From our review: “In the end Queen of the Wave is unlike anything that’s come in a long enough time for it to be significant. Where most artists seek to acquire an intimate subtlety with their work, Pepe Deluxe charge in the opposite direction with an unashamedly bonkers romp through retro beats surreal landscapes. Completely impossible to relate to, but better for it, Queen of the Wave still manages to drip with charm. Rarely has an album been so lovingly produced, and so exciting to listen to. The duo have set out to impress and have only exceeded expectations in creating something truly unforgettable. “
1. Night Shift - Trespassers Guide to Nowhere
From our review: "Trespassers Guide to Nowhere is mad, but in that very particular strain that runs parallel to genius. It’s an incredibly experimental and imaginative journey, and one so deep that you risk losing yourself completely after only a single listen. Night Shift have collated influences from the very furthest reaches of today’s musical scope and added a little magic of their own to create something the likes of which you’ve never heard before, and it’s better than anyone could have hoped."

And for those interested, here's a list of 11-50.

11. Burial - Truant/ Rough Sleeper
12. Shrines - Somnia
13. Kira Kira - Feathermagnetik

14. Alio Die & Lingue Fungi - Otter Songs
15. Desolate - Celestial Light Beings
16. Clams Casino - Instrumental Mixtapes 2
17. Glissando - The World Without Us
18. Black Elk - Sparks
19. Nhato - Etude

20. Alio Die - Deconstructed and Pure
21. David Newlyn - The Misspelled Numbers
22. Fingers in the Noise - Sounds from the Moon
23. The Post Riot Era - Schism
24. Little Gang - Half of Everything
25. Bambino - Overseas
26. Clubroot - III
27. Ghostek - Vacuum
28. Port St Willow - Holiday
29. Sloum - A Prelude to Monsters
30. Strat Ghost - Those Who Know Darkness See The Light
31. Tape Loop Orchestra - In a Lonely Place
32. Waxahatchee - American Weekend
33. John Talabot - Fin
34. Hidden Orchestra - Archipelago
35. Clonki - Seize the Smoke
36. Flying Lotus - Until the Quiet Comes
37. Geskia - Muon
38. Hermitude - Hyperparidise
39. Mala - Mala in Cuba
40. Olan Mill - Paths
41. Sharon Von Etten - Tramp
42. The Cinematic Orchestra - In Motion
43. Therese Aune - Billowing Shadow, Flickering Light
44. Anklebiter - Raintree
45. Johan Johansson - Copenhagen Dreams
46. ASC - No Secrets/ Zenith
47. Chymera - Death by Misadventure
48. Of Monsters and Men - My Head is an Animal
49. St Augustine - Soldiers
50. Borealis - Voidness

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