Monday, February 2, 2009

[Music-Recommendation] Favorite Fifteen Albums of 2008

1. Atlas Sound - Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

2. Fennesz - Black Sea

3. Flying Lotus - Los Angeles

4. Deerhunter - Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.

5. Evan Marc + Steve Hillage - Dreamtime Submersible

6. The Fun Years - Baby, Its Cold Inside

"Sleeper record of the year right here. Without question. The Fun Years have crafted an incredible fusion of noise, ambience, and rock that is the defining moment of 2008 for me. A continuous record or morphing sounds, decayed guitar strokes and field recordings evolve into repetitive guitar riffs and electronic noise, eventually morphing together as one giant wave of sound, piano notes and tape loops degrade into indecipherable noise - this is the sound of entropy on record. Each track segues into the next before the closer explodes into a post-rock fiasco of escalated guitar and then dilutes back to the sound of the beginning of the record, creating a continuous loop if you're inclined to relive the experience. And you will." - the music lobby

7. Lukid - Foma

Perhaps one of the most well crafted electronic albums of the year, Lukid in his second LP release, manages to take the structure of instrumental hip hop and craft an epic ambient psychedelic adventure, that can be enjoyed by all listeners. The melodies and transitions remind me much of an obscured version of Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works 85-92 and although the two musical styles are very different, the pacing of both albums seem oddly similar. Lukid finds ways to grab your attention like no other artist this year. He'll build up every sample ever so slightly until he finally unleashes a slow motion collision of sounds that play with your brain and take you on abstract adventures in other worlds. This release is highly recommended to any listener.

8. Squarepusher - Just A Souvenir

At first I pretty much hated half of this album. The really cheesy parts of "Coathanger" and "A Real Women" or the sharp slightly annoying drums found on the more rock sounding tracks, really made it hard to listen to at times. But I finally got around to buying it on vinyl, and I think that is what did it for me. Being forced to sit through the tracks I didn't much like, I finally grew to appreciate all the tracks together as an album. As long as you don't take it too seriously and have fun with it... it will provide so much enjoyment, I can't describe. From the crazy electro synth pop space songs, to the bangin heavy rock anthems, and finally back to the beginning, acoustic, no electronics.... just tom doing what he does best. Playing the bass.

9. The Sight Below - Glider

This release takes the typical lush soundscapes found in most ambient music and adds a deep pulsating bass beat, sending not only your mind but your body into a trance. Probably correctly referred to as ambient techno or minimal, "Glider," is a marvelous relaxing trip, that is perfect for the late hours before bed or for a nice sunny day outside on a bike. The most impressive aspect of the album is the atmosphere it creates. Somewhere between the fuzzy harmonies and pounding beats is a place deep within the earth. Where textures and surfaces have new feelings and reality has all new meanings. The Sight Below impresses immensely with this release. Check out his newly released EP as well, "No Place For Us."

10. No Age - Nouns

Lo-Fi music has always appealed to me for some reason. Something about it just evokes passion and raw energy. Such a simple concept and executed perfectly, "Nouns," is really probably one of the best rock albums of the year. If not the best. Dean Spunt and Randy Randall have taken what most would call noise and distortion, and created something beautiful and memorable. No where will you find an album that is as consistent or coherent as this one. Songs don't feel like separate entities recorded and written on different days and times of the year. This album feels like it was recorded one night in one of their house's basements. It's a perfect example of determined individuals using what they have to create art. Its inspiring and I look forward to their next release.

11. Grouper - Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill

Liz Harris has created something truly special with this dark but beautiful release. The album begins with a haunting piano melody played beneath the sounds of distorted guitars and Harris's voice. By adding tremendous reverb and echoing effects, her voice and lyrics become single long notes meshing somewhere within each guitar chord. Though this style made for hearing and understanding the lyrics sung very difficult, it doesn't impact the ability for her to deliver a powerful emotional message. In fact, I have found myself discovering new meanings of the songs with repeated listens.

Overall, whether its the beautiful calming ambient songs or the mysterious dark songs, every song adds to the ambience of the album, and each song sounds unique and different from the previous, something most artist similar to Grouper fail to achieve.

12. Autechre, Quaristice

"Sean Booth and Rob Brown continue to reinvent themselves and their pioneering experimental sound. Quaristice is once again ahead of the curve. This time, it's a bit more melodic, warmer, and accessible to less trained ears than their previous, noisier and darker Untilted LP. No one sculpts the landscape of glitchy abstract IDM as much as Autechre, and their prominent stance within the evolution of electronic sound is re-established once again here. This is a wild ride into the realms of digital processing and audio engineering. " -Headphone Commute

13. Koushik - Out My Window

I really think this album was made to lift my spirits. Everytime I give it a spin I instantly get in a better mood. There's nothing terribly original about each of the components of "Out My Window," but the overall sound definitely rubs off as some wonderful crazy day you had in the summer as a kid. It may be something you have never heard before, but it seems familiar. If I had to describe his sound its something akin to Daniel Snaith's vocals (Caribou) to the beats of Jay Dee and Madlib. I think the moment I found myself most impressed with Out My Window, was when he let everything break down. Something about the deconstruction of his music sparked my imagination.

14. Anders Ilar - Sworn

"It's been two years since Anders Ilar recorded his excellent Organza EP for Level Rec, and with Sworn he returns for a full-length outing. For this latest album, Ilar goes far beyond the ordinary parameters of music formatted around techno beats and delves into a far more involved electronica sound. Although tracks like opener 'Hillside' and the electroacoustically slanted 'Colours Of Rain' are keen to slap a kick sound on every crotchet, it could almost be an arbitrary gesture to signpost this music towards a comfortable genre classification. As with much of Vladislav Delay's more beat-driven work, there's a lot more to this than whatever's suggested by the drum programming, and some of Ilar's music shifts between adventurous abstraction and the kind of melodic elaboration most techno producers would consider to be surplus to requirements. 'September Nights' could be an old Arovane production but for its stringent 4/4 backbone. Otherwise the ornate, experimental approach to melodic development is straight out of the post-Autechre mindset. Importantly though, none of this sounds dated or out of place, instead carving out a rather unique corner of the electronic music universe that's all its own." -boomkat

15. Clark - Turning Dragon

"So while Dragon may be billed as a visceral antidote to Clark's impossibly complex Erector Set productions, it still has all the markings of a confessed perfectionist. Yet, as Clark himself said last year, "To make complex music with machines is actually pretty easy-- it's the mastering of technology rather than the mastering of music." While Dragon lacks some of the pathos of Clark's richest work, he's still much more than a mere button-pusher chasing the next plug-in. The struggle between his superhuman technical acumen and his desire to access nothing less than the secrets of the human condition continues to play out here, albeit on a more brazen plane. He's the ideal type of musical perfectionist-- one who realizes flawlessness is unattainable, but strives for it headlong all the same." -Mark Richardson

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