2016 in review: Journeys in Post Rock, Electronica, & Folktronica

yir_montage_post_rock_elecThis year saw the return of some a number of beloved and well-known bands from quiet periods ranging from several years to as long as a decade along with bright splashes from some new & dynamic voices. This is a particularly vibrant and diverse selection where genres never define of confine, but only serves as reference points for those of us with inadequate words to describe the music. 

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2016 in review: Journeys in Acoustic, Primitive, & Experimental Folk

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This list is short, but particularly sweet. A dozen memorable albums released this year of particularly delicate construction and pastoral feel featuring acoustic guitar, primitive, and experimental folk music. 

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2016 in review: Journeys in Modern Classical

yir_montage_modernclassicalFrom the delicate minimalism of a single piano to the aching beauty of a string ensemble to the mysterious studio alchemy of the analog fused with the electronic, this is a selection of some particularly memorable journeys in modern classical music I enjoyed throughout the year.  Continue reading

2016 in review: Journeys in Ambient, Drone, & Electroacoustic

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It seems this list can never be big enough to include all the beautiful work done in these genres over the past year, but here are 25 albums that left a lasting impression.  

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2016 in review: A Sense of Place

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The year in review begins with a new type of list for 2016, but one I very much hope to maintain going forward. Each of these albums is conceptually, thematically or musically connected to a particular place – personal narratives, journeys remembered, or depictions of landscape real or imagined. Each one takes the listener on a journey and immerses them in a unique place or moment in time. One might say they represent the very essence of stationary traveling, which makes them quite to special to this listener in particular… 

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Stefano Guzzetti – Escape (music for a ballet) / Leaf / Waiting for Spring

Ensconced in the azure blue waters of the Mediterranean and surrounded by fabulous cities such as Rome, Naples, Barcelona, Valencia, and Marseille, one is tempted to imagine a blissfully idyllic existence on the island of Sardinia, but it is home to one of the most industrious and prolific modern classical on the scene today in  Stefano Guzzetti. In addition to scores & sound design for short films, applications, and video games, he has put out 3 full-length releases in 2016, the most recent being Escape (music for a ballet), which features music he composed for the ‘Escape’ aerial dance performance by LCP Dance Theatre performed in London and at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  As a result of positive feedback from those shows, he edited and distilled the music into shorter pieces suitable for an album-like listening experience and offered them in an eye-catching CD package.

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Lee Yi – Redemption Comes With Dawn / Falling Into Crevasse

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As soon as December nears, those of us who write about music begin to feel the urge to reflect on the year and start making our favorite album lists. But if we can resist that siren call for a bit, we’ll often find some real gems in the flurry of releases that typically appear in the weeks leading up to the winter solstice and perhaps make one last new discovery. For me, such is the case with the work of Lee Yi, a jazz guitarist from southern Spain with extensive studio experience which he now employs to create some truly beguiling ambient & electronic music.

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Sound Impression: Unblurred Variants by Velleitie

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Velleitie is a music project started in 2013 by Indiana native Sean Kase while living in Chicago. I confess to no knowledge of his music before stumbling upon Unblurred Variants, but since discovering it, have not been able to escape the undertow of these five melancholic, billowing drones which suspend time while being arced across by undulations of cello and bowed guitar.

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Travelogue 2016.12.14: Seas of Tranquility

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Calmly transportive. Blissfully adrift. Hazy and translucent. A listening journey with four exceptional albums from around the globe that delve into the idyllic side of ambient and electronic music created by The Green Kingdom (USA), Chihei Hatakeyama (Japan), Warmth (Spain), and James Murray (UK).

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Sustainer – Medicina [Eilean Rec.]

Under the alias of Sustainer, Barcelona-based sound artist Alex Alarcón has a penchant for transforming the seemingly mundane into imaginative and exotic musical works. On Radiolas, released last fall on Room 40, it was shortwave radio recordings from the Mediterranean and North Africa. And on Taps, which closed out 2015 on Tessellate Recordings, it was the resonance of household objects struck with rubber mallets. For Medicina, recently released on Eilean Rec., Alarcón was drawn toward the background music of his youth, sounds that many others might find all too easy to dismiss or deride.

It’s the first time that I use samples on my sound works, but I found interesting to bring to life these sounds from old artists from the 60’s and 70’s, mainly orchestral composers from muzak, light music, easy listening, elevator music, or whatever they like to call it. These are music styles sometimes discriminated by media and actually forgotten. I can remember the amount of hours I spent as a child listening to these tunes on my parents car stereo, turntable or tape player. So this is an homage to my parents too, because it was one of my first encounters with recorded music. – Alex Alarcón

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Various Artists – Hawk Moon Records Volume V

On the western edge of England’s South Downs National Park, the city of Winchester is home to the famous Winchester Cathedral and a historic & cultural heritage spanning from the Iron Age to the Victorian era. It is also home to a net label that should be well-known to fans of experimental instrumental music called Hawk Moon Records which has just released its fifth compilation, a generous collection of stellar ambient, electronic, modern classical, and post rock tracks by 26 different artists.  As with volume IV, the proceeds from the sale of the album will go to a very worthy cause, in this case Naomi House & Jacksplace which provides hospice care to hundreds of life-limited and life-threatened children, young people and their extended families across central southern England.

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