2015 in review: Memorable Journeys on EP

2015_EP_collageThe EP is often overlooked when it comes year-end retrospectives, but this format can provide us with some very special musical moments. Here are 15 of the most memorable of such I enjoyed this year across a variety of genres – Click on album titles in the list below for more information

Editors note: An EP or not an EP?  For the purposes of this list I considered anything the artist or label specifically presented as an EP or anything less than 30 minutes in length. Then I stretched that to include digital-only releases up to 35 minutes long (up to 40 minutes for single long form pieces). Once again, I encourage the reader not to be overly concerned with such definitions. They are merely tools to help organize and present the main focus – the music. 

Emmanuel Toledo & Lauri Hallikainen – Leaves Stories (Usnea)

The listener can almost feel the gusts tussle the hair and buffet the face and smell the scent of the woods carried in the brisk air.  Any temptation to impatience is muted by the celestial tones of the music as it emerges and recedes into the subconscious. 

Featured track: ‘Leaves Stories (Usnea)’ 

Olli Aarni – Puu tuulessa [Cotton Goods]

Originally released as very limited edition cassette on Cotton Goods, this sumptuously textured album consisting of two fifteen minute compositions exudes solitude and stillness as reflected in the title which translates as “tree in the wind”.

Featured track: ‘Pohjoistulli’

Tegh and Kamyar Tavakoli – Through the Winter Woods [Hibernate]

This duo has recorded together before under the name Artirial, but this album is a departure from the shimmering, glitchy ambient guitar driven IDM of that project into much denser sonic landscapes.  The transition is not a tentative one. Through the Winter Woods is ambitiously expansive, strikingly bold and comfortably assured.

Featured track: ‘Disappeared Stratum’ 

Tambour – Chapitre I [Moderna Records]

Four sublime tracks of small ensemble pieces in an especially introspective and oneiric mood. One of the many fine releases in the inaugural year of Montreal based Moderna Records. 

Featured track: ‘The nude and the quiet’ 

Kevin Verwijmeren  – The Wolf and the Wayfarer

Verwijmeren’s deeply emotive drones written to score a short film also stand on their own very capably as a beautiful and moving listening experience with no other context.  The song titles no doubt shadow the story of the film, but likewise resonate with broader themes

Featured track: ‘Beyond the Trees’

Kate Carr – I had myself a nuclear spring [Flaming Pines]

On this USB only release, sound artist Kate Carr travels to the small French town of Marnay-sur-Seine to explore bucolic surroundings of the nearby wetlands rendered apocalyptic by the presence of a nearby nuclear facility. 

Featured track: ‘Rising waters (alone in the dark)’

Drombeg – Notes From the Ocean Floor [Futuresequence]

Having already demonstrated himself a capable singer and songwriter who can come up with a great hook, county Kerry based musician Thom Brookes shows he is equally at home in this more languorous, intuitive, and improvisational style of creation for which he coined the Drombeg moniker. 

Featured track: ‘Horses’ 

Max Cooper and Tom Hodge – Artefact [Fields]

The ongoing partnership of electronic music artist Max Cooper and pianist/composer Tom Hodge continues with this captivating fusion of electronic, ambient, and modern classical elements. A compact, but very enjoyable journey. 

Featured track: ‘Teotihuacan (Part 2)’ 

Olan Mill – Half Seas Over [Home Normal]

If Cavade Morlem (also released this year) hearkens back to the simple pleasures of Pine (2010), Half Seas Over has more in common with the more symphonic Hiraeth (2013). The EP format suits this slightly eclectic collection of tracks – a rich and very pleasant listening experience that ends all to quickly yet feels just right.

Featured track: ‘Acids on Stereo (live)’ 

36 – Pulse Dive [3six recordings]

With 2 EPs and a full length release, Dennis Huddleston spoiled us for choice this year. I was quite fond of this offering which gave us a dynamic title track which waited 5 years in the archives for the right moment to be finished along with two other hauntingly beautiful pieces that typify the more cosmic sound he has been exploring of late. 

Featured track: ‘Stasis Eject’ 

Yann Novak – Prelude [ÉTER]

There is a wonderful hushed stillness to this 20 minute piece which is a composite of performances for a project commissioned by homeLA in which music created from field recordings captured in the backyard of a private residence is brought into the home as part of a sonic interrogation of how space is shared. 

Featured track: ‘San Marino’ 

pasture – interior

Twenty-three minutes of textured minimalistic melancholic bliss from this solo project of Joseph Edward Yonker which whets the appetite for the new Willamette album due out very soon on Scissor Tail Records. Note that a handful of cassette editions of this gem are still available.  Also recommended is his collaboration with Danny Clay on Patient Sounds entitled John Wayne Death Scene

Featured track: ‘interior’ 

Francesco Berta – Waves ft. Anne Van Den Hoogen

A truly lovely musical partnership between the Italian-born, London-based composer and vocalist Anne Van Den Hoogen (Rosemary & Garlic). The title song is moving and beautifully rendered and the EP is rounded out by a surprisingly robust variety of reworks that take the song in many different directions while keeping true to the emotional core. 

Featured track: ‘Waves ft. Anne Van Den Hoogen’

Cétieu –Into the Light [Twice Remembered]

The shortest entry in this list, but this little gem from Tekla Mrozowicka who records as Cétieu is one of the most lovely. Pure, crystalline tones shot through with light like the shards of a fractured mirror shining in the sun. Also notable for its release on unique lathe cut 7″  vinyl.  Also be sure to check out Movements, her full-length out this year on Unknown Tone Records. 

Featured track: ‘Into the Light’

Wolf Maps – Sun Ghosts [Futuresequence]

A highly atmospheric drone journey of cavernous depth and emotional gravitas juxtaposed with delicate introspective treatments. A surprisingly absorbing and expansive journey packed into three tracks at no more than six minutes each. Also be sure to check out the more subdued, but equally lovely follow-up release, Purity

Featured track: ‘Sun Ghosts