The EP is often overlooked when it comes year-end retrospectives, but this format can provide us with some very special musical moments and here are some from 2018 that I would not have wanted to miss.
Arash Akbari – Perpetual [Taâlem]
After releasing five albums since 2013 including such outstanding records as Cracked Echoes (2014, Soft), Vanishing Point (2015, Flaming Pines), and The Rest is Silence (2017, Unknown Tone), Tehran-based musician & multi-media artist Arash Akbari returns with this long-form single, a sumptuously atmospheric piece released as part of Belgian label Taâlem’s summer CD-R bundle. Akbari’s work has always managed to balance tremendous sonic depth and complexity with a palpable sense of melancholy that affords an intimate connection for the listener and that is just what Perpetual delivers.
Released on 3″ CD-R (limited edition sold out, standard edition still available) & digital
Alaskan Tapes – The Ocean No Longer Wants Us
Brady Kendall follows up the excellent full-length You Were Always An Island (Fluid Audio) with another lovely Alaskan Tapes release, this time an EP that feels like a seamless continuation and resonates just as powerfully albeit in a more concise format. Three finespun, slow-turning electroacoustic ambient pieces followed by a lovely closing track that evolves toward a melodic vocal section that gives the work a whole new dimension.
Released on limited edition cassette (currently sold out) & digital
Galya Bisengalieva – EP ONE [Nomad]
Commissioned, curated, and performed by Kazakh/British violinist & member of London Contemporary Orchestra Galya Bisengalieva, EP ONE features three stunning new works for solo violin and electronics – the expansive landscape-inspired “tùs” composed by Claire Singer, “TULPAR” in which Bisengalieva herself invokes a mythical creature of the steppes, and the primordial “Oparin” composed by Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. Quite an evocative journey and quite the imposing collection of talent on display in this compact, but exhilarating recording.
Released on limited edition vinyl & digital
M Crook & Oxherding – Soft Moon [Distant Bloom]
Distant Bloom is a new net label based in St. Louis, Missouri that has gotten off to a fine start with its first pair of releases, a sparkling modular synth journey by Ann Annie and this beautiful collaborative EP by Matthew Crook and Oxherding (Fitz Hartwig). Gossamer webs of guitar and translucent drones evoke feelings of tranquility and wonder beneath unfurling Midwestern skies.
Ekin Fil – Windblow [Longform Editions]
The last of sixteen releases from the newly launched Longform Editons label is this enigmatic gem from Ekin Fil, the musical nom de plume of Turkish musician & composer Ekin Üzeltüzenci. Vaporous textures and diaphanous drones drift fog-like through the edgelands between the illusory and the real. Windblow‘s haunting beauty, shifting perspectives, and extraordinarily restrained minimalism make it a truly unique and ear-catching sonic journey.
From the Mouth of the Sun – Sleep Stations [Lost Tribe Sound]
Originally meant to be included on the 2017 full-length Hymn Binding, “Sleep Stations” instead became a conceptual starting point for the music that Aaron Martin & Dag Rosenqvist scored for the independent film ‘Menashe’ and eventually the title track of this EP that defines its own unique space in the FTMOTS canon. Its modesty and restraint becomes part of its charm as it lulls the listener into a sweet, languid melancholy and beguiles with perfectly weighted textures, aching melodies, and emotive surges. Sleep Stations is what any good story should be. It is over too soon and yet there is nothing you could imagine adding or taking away without subtracting from its perfection.
Released on limited edition CD & digital
Glåsbird – Drift Stations [Whitelabrecs]
The last release of the year on Whitelabrecs brings an intriguing bit of mystery along with it. Glåsbird is described as “anonymous project by an established artist within the Ambient/Modern Classical scene” with an intent to focus each release on very specific themes. Even with only ten minutes of music to go on so far, it is already quite evident that this will be a project worth following closely. The two tracks on Drift Stations are incredibly evocative and exquisitely filigreed as they evoke an imaginary journey from the Arctic Circle to Greenland in all its austere, glacial beauty.
Sophie Hutchings and Julia Kent – Thesis 06 [Thesis]
THESIS is an amazing project curated by artist Gregory Euclide with a focus on cultivating unique collaborations and one-of-a-kind handmade releases while exhibiting a fierce determination to preserve music as “unique and precious” rather than a product to be ubiquitously and voraciously consumed. It has already accumulated a stellar roster of artists and produced some stunning recordings. A highlight among highlights this year includes a first-ever collaboration between two modern classical luminaries – pianist Sophie Hutchings and cellist Julia Kent. Over the course of three ravishingly beautiful pieces, their music intertwines seamlessly while letting their distinctive musical voices shine equally. But, really, every THESIS release is special, so taking time to explore their catalog beyond this release is highly recommended.
Released on handmade limited 10″ vinyl edition with digital download option available.
Klangriket – Tjärn [Piano & Coffee Records]
Klangriket is a pseudonym chosen by Fabian Rosenberg for his explorations in solo piano and experimental ambient music which he began in an effort to find his own voice as a composer & producer and to create an identity apart from the one developed during while playing trumpet and jazz. His first solo release under the moniker is this 4-track EP, a haunting mini-epic in a Scandinavian noirish mood bathed in the neon glow of incandescent electronics.
Released on limited edition vinyl-effect CD & digital
Danny Mulhern – Safe House [1631 Recordings]
A companion to last year’s ‘Metanoia’ that was recorded at the same time with the London Contemporary Orchestra, but featuring rhythmic and electronic elements that give it its own distinct cinematic character while buzzing with the energy of collaboration and improvisation. I also recommend reading Mulhern’s fascinating interview from our summer Duologue to deepen appreciation of the record and his unique creative partnership with LCO.
øjeRum – Stilhedens Strømmen I Fuglenes Blod [KrysaliSound]
The first label release of this long-form composition by Danish artist Paw Grabowski aka øjeRum, a 30-minute suite of haunting acoustic guitar motifs, gossamer textures, and percussive chimes as delicate as the hollow bones of a tiny bird. One of Grabowski’s most sparse, delicate, & beautiful works as he allows generous space around the clean guitar lines, bathing them in light filtered through the sheerest of veils.
Released on limited edition CD (currently sold out) & digital
Daniela Orvin – Home [Seasides on Postcards]
This entry marks the debut of yet another new net label in the list, Seasides on Postcards launched by electronic ambient musician and sound designer Sven Laux. It is off to a lovely start with a pair of releases including this intimate debut EP by Berlin/Tel Aviv based musician & composer Daniela Orvin. Gentle piano melodies float amidst the warm, incandescent glow of electronics in various forms as she quietly celebrates the concept of music as “home”.
Released on limited edition CD & digital
Rime Trails – Eulogy
An immersive, elegaic ambient drone in three movements one mournful, one reflective, and one steeped in wistful nostalgia. Euolgy forms a single beautiful arc over the course of 30-plus minutes. A quiet digital release off the beaten path that will richly reward listeners who seek it out.
Saariselka – Ceres [Longform Editions]
Saariselka is a sonic collaboration between Oakland, California-based composers Marielle Jakobsons and Chuck Johnson. Listeners familiar with the tremulous elongated arcs Johnson drew with pedal steel guitar for his 2017 album Balsams (VDSQ) will be delighted to hear a continuation of that sound here intertwined with Jakobsons’ thoughtfully layered keyboard treatments which evolve organically throughout the piece until it is subsumed by them precipitating a pleasantly surprising melodic outro. Inventive, graceful and free-flowing.
Slow Meadow – Those Who Rush Across the Sea
“Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt. (They change their sky, not their soul, who rush across the sea.)” -Horace.
Matt Kidd’s Slow Meadow project released almost a full album’s worth of material over the course of four EPs this year to nicely fill the space since 2017’s Costero. I especially enjoyed this one which features his overtly orchestral composition to date on the title track and a wistfully consoling b-side in “You Felt Like Home”. A beautiful interlude not to be missed as we eagerly anticipate the next full-length record.
yndi halda – A Sun-Coloured Shaker [Sound in Silence]
In this age of instant gratification and consumer binging, there is a great deal to be said for the kind of patience shown by yndi halda in nurturing and developing their song material. Such was the case with last year’s stellar Under Summer (nine years after their debut album) and again with the eleven-plus minute Sun-Coloured Shaker which shares the same mellifluous, meandering flow and languid harmony vocals of its older sibling and seems to have soaked up a great deal of the pastoral beauty of Cornish countryside where it was recorded. Pure, arcadian beauty with muted echoes of sprawling post rock grandeur cultivated, ripened, and distilled to perfection.
“We see A Sun-Coloured Shaker as the passing of night that follows Under Summer’s day. The dawn after the album’s dusk has faded. We wanted to express the realization that something as simple and everyday as sunrise can be so truly life-giving. That the natural rhythm of nightfall and daybreak is a foundation of reality and being.” – yndi halda
Released on limited edition CD & digital