Best of 2012 - EXPERIMENTAL/DRONE/AMBIENT
I’m sure there’s some program out there that could generate a graph to indicate the activity of the tags I’ve applied to every post this year and if I could get someone to run this program for me I’m sure it would show a rapid growth in the use of the tag “experimental”. In many ways I feel this tag is a bit silly, a bit broad, and aren’t they all, however it is useful in identifying music that challenges ”traditional” structures, that pushes the listeners expectations and often subverts them, that takes you to more interesting places. Cerebral music. Maybe I’ll start using cerebral as a tag. In the past year I feel as if this blog has moved towards featuring more electronic, drone and ambient music and this reflects my own listening habits. A few friends exposed me to a range of ambient and kraut rock music from the 70s and 80s and I thank them kindly for this. It has led to my musical taste shifting in 2012 and hence the blog has taken a different and I believe more interesting form. Layered cosmic synths. Formless shimmering soundscapes. Fractal free form wigouts. Minimal broken down radio drone. This is the sort of thing that I’ve come to relish losing myself within. The wonderful artists below were just some of my favourites that toil in such dazzling fields, incredible musicians that took me on trips to strange and mesmerising places. All aboard.
“We have made this album available for free because we want to share our efforts with as many people as possible, after all, it is for people.”
This is an an attitude that I have come across many times from artists on Bandcamp, often from artists in the experimental sphere. It’s a wonderful community built on positivity and creativity, and I feel as if this is what 2PPM wholly represent. A beautiful warmth emanates from their sound, a driving fusion of jazz and kraut rock that defies categorisation. Tortoise are a touchstone perhaps, but 2PPM are a very different beast. It is not just two people playing music, it is two people constructing totally compelling music. These are musical conversations built on improvisation, on the addition of layers and the removal of sound, on the exploring of musical textures, on two supremely talented musicians creating something that is completely their own. That’s a beautiful thing and 2PPM want to share it with you. That’s beautiful too.
Favourite tracks : Movies Without Sound, The Iron Dreyfuss, Beehive.
Samuel H Wijhtman is Caterpillar Hood, a one man expedition into a pulsing electronic substrata. It’s a disconcerting journey at times - where did that voice come from? What was that? And just when you think you are getting comfortable, the ground will drop way and another psyhedelic dimension is accessed. These are dense sample driven soundscapes, filled with many dark hallucinatory moments. Sparse drone builds to white noise, patterns are applied then deconstructed, then rebuilt again. There is an organic sense to this music yet is distinctly artificial; it is electronic music behaving in a somewhat biological way perhaps. I feel this music visits similar realms that Lee Noble transports the listener to, a place where music casts a many coloured veil over perception. An album that conjures the other worlds within our own.
Favourite tracks : Ocean Floor, Solar Bounce, Submarine.
I could have chosen any of the six albums released by Seattle synth alchemist Norm Chambers this year but I’ve gone with the wonderfully titled Baroque Atrium, the latest of his releases and the one I’ve listened to the most. Released through Sydney label Preservation (with their awesome distinct cover art), these fascinating sci-fi creations offer a transportive musical experience to the devoted listener. Chambers is a true innovator, blending synthesisers with samples, electronic effects and acoustic instruments to produce labyrinthine songs that float through a kind of pixelated haze, at times evoking John Carpenter. While there is a science fiction flavour to these sounds, it is apparent that Chambers also draws on ideas from nature and biology. This year I’ve been studying biological science and Panabrite albums have soundtracked many hours of study. I’ve listened to this music while reading about the endocrine system or DNA transcription or photosynthesis or gated ion channels, and have felt a correlation with these concepts and the sonic inventions of Chambers, that a large part of his inspiration is the natural world. Samples of birds calling and water flowing add to this idea. At times the songs simply sound aqueous, sound like insects swarming, sound like what you imagine cells dividing would sound like. It’s quite a feat from Chambers, in what has been a startlingly productive year. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Favourite tracks : Interfrequencies, Suite (For Winnie and Roxy), Infinite Passage.
Released on the terrific Fallopian Tunes, this wildly imaginative album from Melbourne’s Trjeau is a gorgeous collection of spaced out experimental rock songs. Like stable mates Yolke, Document Swell and the excellent Mild Life, Trjeau are part of a blossoming experimental scene here in Melbourne and in my opinion this album shifts them to the very upper echelon. These songs have been crafted with great care though at the same time there is a loose improvisational feel to Heights Peak, the sound of a super talented band exploring shimmering psychedelic worlds. It’s an album devoid of filler however the lovely “Endings” is a stand out for me with it’s bright beats and subtle tropical flavour. There are danceable moments yes, but mostly it’s an album of serene sonic space being created and then filled with entrancing electronic textures. It isn’t an album of extended jams-the pulsating Third Eight is the longest song at 6:45-though I get the impression live Trjeau would play and play and play, expanding these songs into works of sprawling pop hypnosis. I get the feeling I need to see them. Soon.
Favourite tracks : Endings, Eastern Singing, Fishpond.
Another absurdly prolific artist (there’s fifteen releases awaiting your compulsory investigation at his Bandcamp), Paul Skomsvol has been releasing music for some time as Former Selves, with this album being quite a departure for the Oakland resident. Most other Former Selves releases are slowly unfolding synthesiser compostions, lush soundscapes that gently billow and drift by like so many clouds. I love those pristine works but I found the stirring tribal sounds of Build to be something of a revelation. Drawing from a deep kaleidoscopic kraut rock well, Skomsvol performs these songs with a tangible exuberance. It sounds like an artist creating sounds that are less abstract and restrained than his other work, and enjoying the experience. Distorted guitar and vocals feature heavily, with the brilliant “Mine Also Races” being a jubilant high point. “Evening Rituals” reminds me a bit of Black Hoods in it’s evocation of an approaching midnight storm, powered by a thumping rainmaker of a beat. It’s no mistake that I’m using clouds as a metaphor again. Skomsvol’s music is of the sky. It’s from a higher place.
Favourite tracks : Mine Also Races, Build, Trace Vision
You should also check out :
2PPM — “Beehive”
2PPM describes their latest work as, “This video and song represent the feeling of triumph and courage as one searches for freedom from a mediated life in a society where we’ve willingly captivated ourselves and abandoned a natural and sustainable human existence.”
from our performance at Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival in Asheville, NC.
photo: Micah Mackenzie
DIT in Asheville: Check out Rad Fest
The DIT, or “Do It Together”, attitude underlies everything we do here at PORTALS, and it’s always inspiring to see that spirit manifested in different communities throughout the world. I’ve had transformative experiences at DIT events like Total Bummer and at various FMLY fests around the country, and Asheville’s Rad Fest looks to be yet another incredible community empowering affair.
A festival we organized in Asheville designed to help residents and artists embrace, and develop the community that we all share.
So I’ve really been taking some time off from my blog. Here is why. This and my garden (pictures soon). If you’re in Asheville NC please join us in celebrating our community.
The 1st annual RAD Fest will take place Saturday, August 25th…
Rad Fest is an extension of other great events in the Arts District like the Studio Strolls, and Second Saturdays. It is primarily a means to showcase great local art-music and…