2020 in Review: The Art of the EP

The EP is often overlooked when it comes annual round-ups, but this format continually provides us with memorable outsize moments and the year in music would not have been the same without them as these 16 releases demonstrate.

36 / Isaac Helsen / Anon 1

[Past Inside the Present]

Link: https://pitp.bandcamp.com/album/anon-1

These slow-blooming crepuscular drones were initially released by Past Inside the Present with the artists identities kept anonymous to allow for listening purely to the music “without ego or expectation”. Once the vinyl editions were sold out, they were revealed to be none other than UK-based 36 (Dennis Huddleston) and American multi-disciplinary artist Issac Helsen who co-runs the Indianapolis-based label.

Released digitally and on limited edition vinyl cut at 45rpm


amble – Spring Creek Road

[self-released]

Link: https://amble-ambling.bandcamp.com/album/spring-creek-road

Under the moniker of amble, Australian pianist, composer, & sound designer Aaron Gleeson released this beautiful EP he simply describes as “an attempt to piece things together”. Warm textures, tender melodies and searching improvisations played on close mic’d piano create an ideal space for personal reflection.

Released digitally and on limited edition CD


Black Brunswicker, Lucy Gooch, & zaké – THESIS 18

[THESIS]

Link: https://thesisproject.bandcamp.com/album/thesis-18-black-brunswicker-lucy-gooch-zak

Mesmerizing sonic alchemy here in the blending of ambient, choral, an pop motifs by Lucy Gooch, zaké, and Black Brunswicker who furnishes a pastoral mediation on guitar & tape that comprises the B-side. As with all THESIS releases, the music is accompanied by unique artwork and packaging specially designed by Gregory Euclide.

Released on limited edition black vinyl along with artist prints and ‘turntable ballet


Carmen Villain – Affection In a Time of Crisis

[Longform Editions]

Link: https://carmenvillain.bandcamp.com/track/affection-in-a-time-of-crisis

This contribution to the Longform Editions series by Norwegian-Mexican artist & producer Carmen Villain creates a spellbinding tapestry from harmonies built upon granular synthesis, field recordings, breath, synth and voice & flute contributed by Johanna Scheie Orellana. A filigree of sound slowly coalesces and evolve into something quite affecting as the overarching melody emerges before yielding to the comforting sounds of a seaside vista. A wonderful 20-minute journey.

Digital release only


Ciro Berenguer – Bruma

[Slaapwel Records]

Link: https://slaapwel.bandcamp.com/album/bruma

New releases are rare and precious commodities the sleep themed Slaapwel label. The first since the summer of 2018 is this long-form electroacoustic reverie by guitarist & composer Ciro Berenguer, a garden of audio delights called “Los entresijos de la noche” (literally: ‘The ins and outs of the night’).

Released digitally and on limited edition CD


David Nørlund- Vakuum: The Piano Pieces

[Wide Mountains]

Link: https://davidnorlund.bandcamp.com/album/vakuum-the-piano-pieces-original-soundtrack

A beautiful and moving collection of tracks by award-winning composer David Nørlund for a Danish production about three young people going through “turbulent hardships, during a time of life, normally known as a time without worry”.  While Nørlund created some additional electronic ambient music for the series which remain unreleased for now, this collection of poignant piano pieces radiates empathy and compassion beneath the surface of its melancholia.

Digital release only


El Conejo – A Lullaby For Elisa

[mailbox]

Link: https://mailbox-label.bandcamp.com/album/a-lullaby-for-elisa

As El Conejo, Brazilian musician Bruno Nunes Coelho creates music inspired by the first chords he played on his grandfather’s old guitar and the memories of places he has lived. Here he offers a beautiful acoustic lullaby and an ambient reprise accompanied by an adaptation of a poem by Mary Oliver that hints loss and healing with devastating poignancy. Recorded at the artist’s home, the music admits the listener into a quiet space of plaintive reflection where fluttering sweeps and splayed arpeggios of guitar radiate a warm light giving comfort and soothing repose.

Digital release only


Juha Mäki-Patola – Breath

[Hush Hush Records]

Link: https://hushhushrecords.bandcamp.com/album/breath

While it may be his first solo release, Juha Mäki-Patola has been involved in the Finnish music community for over a decade playing bands and working behind-the-scenes as a producer, musician, and recording engineer for local and international artists. Taking inspiration from such composers as Max Richter, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Philip Glass, and Arvo Pärt, this EP is Juha’s first foray into neoclassical minimalist compositions of his own and quite a refined and beautiful one at that.

Released digitally and on limited edition CD & cassette


Julianna Barwick – Healing Is A Miracle (Extended Versions)

[Ninja Tune]

Link: https://juliannabarwick.bandcamp.com/album/healing-is-a-miracle-extended-versions

Composer, vocalist, and producer Julianna Barwick reprises three tracks from her summer release ‘Healing Is A Miracle‘ in magnificently elongated versions that paradoxically seem to melt time away and deepen the sense of immersion and serenity.

Digital release only


Library Tapes – The Quiet City

[1631 Recordings]

Link: https://librarytapes.bandcamp.com/album/the-quiet-city

One of the standout releases among the many singles, EPs, and compilations issued over the course of the year on 1631 Recordings imprint, which is now well established as a treasure trove for modern classical listeners. Here Swedish minimalist composer David Wenngren, aka Library Tapes, unfurls ten short and very sweet neoclassical sketches in collaboration with a fine supporting cast including Akira Kosemura, Hoshiko Yamane, Julia Kent, Michael A. Muller, and Olivia Belli.

Released digitally and on limited editionCD


Olga Wojciechowska – Unseen Traces

[A Strangely Isolated Place]

Link: https://astrangelyisolatedplace.bandcamp.com/album/unseen-traces

Released on Piano Day, this 3-track EP includes an elegant new solo piano piece by Polish composer & multi-instrumentalist. Olga Wojciechowska along with two tracks previously written for dance to offer a comforting atmospheric diversion that showcases the softer acoustic side of her work.

Digital release only


Philip G Anderson & Laura Masotto- A Quiet Evening

[Lady Blunt Records]

Links: Philip G Anderson Bandcamp | Laura Masotto Bandcamp

A transatlantic collaboration between American pianist & composer Philip G Anderson who lives in the state of Georgia, and Italian violinist & composer Laura Masotto who lives in countryside of Bologna. Seeking a creative outlet during their respective Covid-19 lockdowns and having collaborated previously on single tracks, they began a musical conversation across the water that resulted in these five charming vignettes.

Digital release only


Sarah Neutkens – September

[Neutra Records]

Link: https://www.sarahneutkens.com/discography

The multi-talented Sarah Neutkens who is visual artist, writer, and model as well as a pianist & composer, captures the melancholy essence of the arrival of autumn in this suite of music for saxophone beautifully performed by members of the Nederlands Saxofoon Octet.

Digital release available on most major platforms; CD can be ordered direct from the artist


Slow Meadow- By the Ash Tree

[Hammock Music]

Link: https://slowmeadow.bandcamp.com/album/by-the-ash-tree

A trio of lovely heartfelt solo piano pieces from Matt Kidd, aka Slow Meadow, book-ended by soothing ambient textures. Complementing the title track are solo piano versions of “Boy In A Water Globe” and “Quintana” from the excellent 2017 album Costero, an impressionistic reflection on the coastal Texas towns where Kidd grew up and the transformations they have undergone over the years.

Digital release only


twincities – in homes, in homes, in homes

[self-released]

Link: https://twincitiesny.bandcamp.com/album/in-homes-in-homes-in-homes

From 2014 to 2016, musician & sound engineer Fletcher McDermott put out an exceptional series of albums & EPs as twincities, so it was wonderful to hear from him again in 2020. This spring release features some of his most optimistic and melodic work across four miniature soundscapes that live on the edgeland between composition and decomposition.

Digital release only


woodworkings – two windows

[self-released]

Link: https://woodworkings.bandcamp.com/album/two-windows

An EP with only seven minutes of music may seem like quite a modest offering, but like a perfectly drawn ristretto shot, it can provide a sublime jolt to the senses in its own diminutive way that lifts the spirits and reset the mind. So it is with this fine pair of lowercase sketches from Kyle Woodwort, a musician from Baltimore, Maryland who records under the name woodworkings.

Digital release only