edro

Not the Releases of the Year 2016

 

‘Album of the year’ lists are fine for representing a specific time period in music, and interesting because of how personal and subjective they are  – an element which becomes eroded by time, as is easily seen from the consensus found in the majority of ‘great albums of the 60s/70s/80s’/etc lists and the fact that ‘new’ classics from those eras can be discovered decades later.

Claire Waldoff

Claire Waldoff

Anyway; all of this is to ask what importance a ‘releases of the year 2016’ list can really have for someone (i.e. me) who was listening to Claire Waldoff on his way home from work. One way to find out is to look back over the last few years to see how many of my own previous releases of the year have stood the test of (a relatively short amount of) time to become actual favourites. So let’s do that.

My records (pun shockingly not intended) of such things only go back a few years and I am sticking to things that actually made it onto my lists and not the many things I have subsequently discovered from those years (2012-2015 I think), but blah blah blah; disclaimers aside, here’s what the stalwarts of the last few years (and 60 or so albums) look like, plus notes related thereto:

STILL CURRENT LISTENING

Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen (Candlelight Records)

seelen

 

 

What I said then:

Metal acts are all too often praised for bringing any kind of non-metal musical influence into their work (tentative, seriously out of date bits of techno or hip-hop are probably the least daring way to ‘innovate’); but with Das Seelenbrechen, Ihsahn made an album that wasn’t just ‘extreme metal with (whatever) elements’. The electronic, gentle and improvised parts of the album are no less natural than the heavy riffs, raw vocals and Nietzschean philosophy. Clever, extreme (in lots of different ways) but accessible, because at its heart are great songs which don’t necessarily belong to any particular genre.

What I say now: I think Das Seelenbrechen has gone on to become Ihsahn’s least popular solo album, but I stand by what I said and, for me this, together with the 2007 Hardingrock album, is the artist at his creative peak (so far). This year’s Arktis. is a great record, and arguably much more fun than Das Seelenbrechen, but also far more conventional. Not a bad thing, but Das Seelenbrechen sounded at times like Scott Walker and a group of jazz musicians playing metal/metal musicians playing jazz, Arktis. sounds like someone who loves 80s metal and rock interpreting it in their own style.

Collectress – Mondegreen (Peeler Records)

mondegreen

 

What I said then:

Experimental string quartet Collectress make music that has many moods but is always interesting. On Mondegreen, the sound ranges from the bustling, Steve Reich-ish ‘Spell‘ to the haunting, tense ‘Harmonium‘ to the wistful, minimalistic and strangely nostalgic-sounding ‘Owl‘. It’s a beautiful album, each song creating its own pervasive mood but somehow becoming an entirely coherent whole; and it sounds absolutely nothing like anything else I heard this year.

What I say now: I still feel the same about the album, but what strikes me most now is the way each piece of music conjures up its own visual world; it has a strange, benign doll’s house feel to it, theatrical and haunted without being spooky.

David Bowie – The Next Day (ISO/Columbia)

next

 

What I said then:

A great album (if not a ‘return to form’ exactly, since his form has been pretty dubious for a long, long time), with a few lesser moments (the 90’s-ish indie-ish attempts at being modern grate a bit) which don’t however spoil the whole.

What I say now – This is an odd one, in that the album disappeared from regular rotation for a good year or so, only to be rediscovered with so many other Bowie albums, after his death. Still, I don’t think it’s one of his best overall (certainly less good than Blackstar), but the best songs are ‘classic Bowie’

Sangre de Muerdago – Deixademe Morrer No Bosque (self-release)

sangre

 

 

What I said then:

Moody, windswept and mysterious Galician folk music; beautiful, desolate and organic.

What I say now – One of the ‘lesser’ albums of the year at the time, but it has outlasted many records that I preferred back then. The slightly hushed quality and campfire sound effects etc give it a unique charm; I keep meaning to check out more of their work (and have listened to bits and pieces) but I kind of like having this one perfect album.

John Baizley, Nate Hall & Mike Scheidt – Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol II (My Proud Mountain)

townes

 

What I said then:

Powerful versions of Townes Van Zandt’s earthy folk/blues songs, all the better for the starkness of the recordings.

What I say now – another one that was a bit of a sleeper; I liked it, listened to it a lot, and moved on. But at some point it suddenly felt very relevant and I feel like I know/feel the songs much better now.

Nebelung – Palingenesis (Temple of Torturous records)

nebelung

 

What I said then:

This instrumental ‘dark folk’ album is probably one of my most listened-to albums of the year; beautifully atmospheric music that seems imbued with the essence of autumn.

What I say now – not much to add to that, really. This year the band released a re-recording of their  checked out the recent re-recording of their 2005 debut, Mistelteinn  and it’s really good, but I prefer the purely instrumental album.

Sonny Simmons & Moksha Samnyasin – Nomadic (Svart Records)

sonny

 

What I said then:

There’s a very Miles Davis-y feel to this album, despite the psychedelic and drone elements. The blend of Simmons’ sax with Moksha Samnyasin (Michel Kristoff’; sitar, Thomas Bellier; bass, Sébastien Bismuth (drums, electronics) is what great free jazz is about; not aimless noodling, but intuitive, almost telepathic interplay and the exotic atmospheres and intense moods that result.

What I say now – Nomadic ended up being one of those albums where what were initially my least favourite tracks have ended up being my favourite ones. Its richness keeps it alive.

Secrets of the Moon – SUN (Lupus Lounge)

8-sotm

 

What I said then:

There’s not a lot of emotionally complex black metal music out there; a shame, because the expressive possibilities of the form are arguably greater and more powerful than any other metal genre. Also a shame, because, as with any genre of music, the best black metal transcends its idiom and is simply great music; and such is SUN, the sixth album by the always-dependable Secrets of the Moon. ‘Dependable’ is rarely used as a huge compliment for a band, but although the last few Secrets.. albums have been powerful and mature, none of them really suggested an album as immense as SUN. Inspired to a large extent by the suicide of ex-bass player LSK, it’s a work full of strange, desolate yet apparently hopeful imagery. Mysterious, elusive, it’s an album whose emotional punch is as unexpected as it is tangible.

What I say now – SUN was consistently an album whose songs popped up on shuffle and amazed me with their greatness. Although a black metal album of sorts, it doesn’t really follow any of the genre’s conventions; what I said above, in fact.

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

ALSO-RANS & ODDITIES

Ancient VVisdom – Deathlike

I loved this at the time, but even then I preferred their debut A Godlike Inferno – and now I find I still listen to that, but rarely Deathlike

Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest

The downside to BoC’s more ambient approach with this album is that it is great while it’s on, but I rarely think about it between times

Manierisme – フローリア

I have failed to convince people of Manierisme’s genius more than almost any other band. And I still think Jekyll is a genius, but the balance of horribleness to sepia-toned nostalgia isn’t as successful here as on his earlier work.

Eleni & Souzana Vougioukli – To Be Safe

vougioukli

I’d absolutely still recommend this brilliant and beautiful album to anyone, but it ended up having less longevity for me than I expected

Beastmilk – Climax

See above; a very good album, but retro gothy rock felt surprisingly fresh when Beastmilk (now Grave Pleasures) released their debut; now it doesn’t

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away

Possibly I am just spoiled for choice with Nick Cave, but at the time I thought this would take its place with Tender PreyThe Good SonHenry’s Dream etc, but I listen to those regularly, this only every now & then

Absentia Lunae – Vorwarts (ATMF)

It’s not that I don’t like this fine black metal album, it’s just that I want all of their work to grip me in the same way that their mighty In Vmbrarvm Imperii Gloria does. And it doesn’t, quite.

Mirel Wagner – When the Cellar Children See the Light of Day (Sub Pop)

I remember this being great, and I think it is – but I haven’t really gone back to it since the initial excitement wore off.

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused (4AD)

My initial (but positive) impression that this is somehow just slightly less good than either Scott Walker or Sunn O)))’s usual records has grown – it’s not as good.

YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend (Neurot Recordings)

Don’t get me wrong; this is one hundred percent a fantastic album, it’s just that its main legacy for me has been to send me back to Mike Scheidt’s criminally underrated 2012 solo album Stay Awake

mike-scheidt-stay-awake

Jarboe and Helen Money – Jarboe and Helen Money (Aurora Borealis Recordings)

Pretty simple – great record, but I wore it out by listening to it too much. It may come back though.

Odessey & Oracle – Odessey and Oracle and the Casiotone Orchestra (Folkwit Records)

Same – brilliant album, but extremely strongly flavoured in a way that makes it not for all moods…

Valet – Nature (Kranky Records)

A good album that I barely remember; will have to check it out again at some point, though.

Right; time to get on with the albums of the year….

 

0 comments