Hope you’re all ready to discover the 10 most essential records this year. Because they’re here on this page, you just need to keep scrolling down. This was the most difficult part of compiling this list, since numbers and ranks seem to be so irrelevant at this point. Let’s just say that all of these records (so do the previous ones) deserve your utmost attention which should be carried on for many more years to come.
If you missed the first parts, make sure you check them out here:
- Best of 2014: Part #1 (50-41)
- Best of 2014: Part #2 (40-31)
- Best of 2014: Part #3 (30-21)
- Best of 2014: Part #4 (20-11)
Although it was released on April 1st, The Body’s fourth full-length album is everything but a joke. Occasionally having a weak spot for doom metal, this record basically swept us off our feet, pushed us into a dark hole and let us die there. It’s highly relevant that the album was produced and arranged by The Haxan Cloak, which should be a good reason already to get curious about it. After last year’s ‘Excavation’ most probably all of us want to hear more from Bobby Krlic. He is apparently the best thing that ever happened to The Body. So far.
As the lyrics of ‘Alone All The Way’ say (taken from John Zaritsky’s ‘The Suicide Tourist’ documentary): “I’ve got two choices. I either actually go through with it, or I say, “You know what? I’m too scared right now. I don’t want to do it.” If I go through with it, I die, as I must at some point. If I don’t go through with it, my choice is essentially to suffer and to inflict suffering on my family, and then die, possibly in a way that is considerably more stressful and painful than this way. I’ve got death.”
You only have one choice: to check out this brilliant album even if you would not do it otherwise.
London’s Darren Cunningham has been threatening us for years now, declaring he is going to quit making music. I don’t think anyone agrees with his decision, but if by any miracle it would happen, this would be a glorious ending without any doubt. Hopefully though this is all just part of the act. Quite confusing at first listen with its lengthy, abstract pieces, ‘Ghettoville’ grows on you like a hungry octopus, squeezing with thousands of tentacles, refusing to let you go.
“Ghettoville is the bleached out and black tinted conclusion of the Actress image. Where the demands of writing caught the artist slumped and reclined, devoid of any soul, acutely aware of the simulated prism that required breakout. Four albums in and the notes and compositions no longer contain decipherable language. The scripts now carry tears, the world has returned to a flattened state, and out through that window, the birds look back into the cage they once inhabited. Spitting flames behind a white wall of silence. The machines have turned to stone, data reads like an obituary to its user. A fix is no longer a release, it’s a brittle curse. Zero satisfaction, no teeth, pseudo artists running rampant, but the path continues. R.I.P Music 2014. Actress”
Quite a dramatic tone if we consider that he already released an EP a few months after the ‘last’ album came out. Let’s wait and see.
Imprints are an ambient-noise band from London, UK. Alex Delfront, Darren Clark and Shaun Crook have released their first album on Huw Robert’s exceptional (small but independent and efficient) record label based in Wales. ‘Data Trails’ is a surprisingly refreshing shower of sounds from the very first seconds… and now that we’ve used the word ‘surprising’, it’s unbelievable that this masterpiece never really made it ‘out there’. There’s tremendous work and immense talent behind it, so it’s rather crushing to watch it disappear into thin air when it should be celebrated. One of the most satisfying aspects of compiling a list like this is to emphasize the important of these records.
Imprints is a technical nightmare of tape machines, synthesizers, homemade pedals, mixing desks and Max/MSP patches; a band perpetually on the brink of collapse. Their music examines the uneasy relationship between dissonance and melody, the contrast between dense masses and harmonious space. Contorted textures and tape-saturated atmospheres merge with pedal-steel-guitar, generative feedback and live sampling to produce a sound that is both organic and electric.
‘Bécs’ is undisputedly a brilliant album, although we have to admit that Fennesz got extremely lucky with the succession of the tracks. After a start like ‘Static Kings’, you kind of know that nothing can go wrong… And it does not. Personally, we haven’t met anyone who had negative feelings about the Austrian legend’s new ‘abstract pop’ work. Have you? Why is that?
Bécs (pronounced ‘baeetch’) is Hungarian for Vienna and is the first full length Fennesz solo release since 2008’s ‘Black Sea’. You can clearly see how influential it quickly became – if you want to look for the actual Vienna in Hungarian in Google, all you get is information about Fennesz.
Eschewing his previously more drone orientated works, Fennesz returns to the more florid pop mechanisms. ‘Static Kings’ features the extra leverage of Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayer who deploy a range of atmospheric abstract effects to shape a bewitching sound world. The 10 minute centrepiece ‘Liminality’ is classic Fennesz: epic, evocative, beautiful, impossible. ‘Pallas Athene’ creates a sanctuary of hovering beauty which leads into the title track. Emotional and assured, the track ‘Bécs’ is an astonishing contribution to contemporary pop. ‘Sav’ (which means ‘acid’ in Hungarian) inhabits a less structural terrain as one enters a forest of small sounds and oblique atmospheres, where the closing ‘Paroles’, a gentle melody unravels amongst swirls of electronics and fried disruption. Bécs is not just an album or a series of songs, it’s a world to inhabit, a landscape ripe with sounds, songs and that esteemed Fennesz signature. (Editions Mego)
“‘Ruins’ was made in Aljezur, Portugal in 2011 on a residency set up by Galeria Zé dos Bois. I recorded everything there except the last song, which I did at mother’s house in 2004. I’m still surprised by what I wound up with. It was the first time I’d sat still for a few years; processed a lot of political anger and emotional garbage. Recorded pretty simply, with a portable 4-track, Sony stereo mic and an upright piano. When I wasn’t recording songs I was hiking several miles to the beach. The path wound through the ruins of several old estates and a small village.The album is a document. A nod to that daily walk. Failed structures. Living in the remains of love. I left the songs the way they came (microwave beep from when power went out after a storm); I hope that the album bears some resemblance to the place that I was in.” (Liz Harris, Grouper)
We cannot possibly imagine the state she was in while recording this extremely personal homage to life as it is, but it definitely bears some resemblance to our own melancholic moments and deepest despondency in the lonely hours. Stepping out of her comfort zone and entering the untamed world of her profound feelings doted with an abundant amount of vocals, Grouper makes an impression that this release is one of a kind, an odd-one-out… and perhaps for the next album we should prepare for even more noise than ever before.
“These with a thousand small deliberations
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
With pungent sauces, multiply variety
In a wilderness of mirrors.”
The phrase, wilderness of mirrors, draws its root from T.S Eliot’s elegant poem ‘Gerontion’. During the cold war, the phrase became associated with campaigns of miscommunication carried out by opposing state intelligence agencies. Within the context of the record, the phrase acted as a metaphor for a process of iteration that sat at the compositional core of the LP. Buried in each final piece, like an unheard whisper, is a singularity that was slowly reflected back upon itself in a flood of compositional feedback. Erasure through auditory burial. ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’ is reflection upon reflection, a pure white out of absolute aurality. “We face constant and unsettled change. It’s not merely an issue of the changes taking place around us, but the speed at which these changes are occurring. We bare witness to the retraction of a great many social conditions and contracts that have previously assisted us in being more humane than the generations that precede us. We are seeing this ideal of betterment eroded here in Australia and abroad too. This record is me yelling into what seems to be an ever-growing black abyss. I wonder if my voice will reflect off something?” (Lawrence English)
It certainly does, and thank you for making us slow down to reflect on what is going on around us before we blindly rush off to our self-destructive activities once again.
May 24, 2007. Bologna, Italy. Adam Wiltzie on tour, playing with Sparklehorse on their final European tour. Wiltzie had invited his friend and colleague Francesco Donadello to see the concert, and Francesco’s guest that evening was Dustin O’Halloran. They didn’t know it back then, but this night turned out to be probably one of the most important ones in the history of modern classical-ambient music.
At this time of the year, ‘ATOMOS’ certainly does not need any kind of special introduction. It happens once in a blue moon that something that we’ve been waiting for quite a long time truly lives up to its expectations. It happens even more seldom that we know that respective record is going to be one of our favourites that year – even without having heard it. However, this was the case with A Winged Victory For The Sullen’s second full-length album, ‘ATOMOS’. If you’ve managed to see them somewhere performing live as well, you know what we’re talking about… If not, go and see them as soon as possible.
Eric Holm: Andøya
In the far North of Norway, at the northern end of the Lofoten and Vesterålen island chain you will find the spectacular island of Andøya. It was the only place in Europe not covered by ice during the last ice age. Andøya is special for many reasons: the giant whales living just off the coast, thousands of nesting puffins, and spectacular geology and from now on, London-based Eric Holm’s splendid debut on Subtext named after this exceptional place. Now that you have a slight idea how Andøya might look like, imagine someone going out in the wilderness with a proper winter jacket and attaching a single contact microphone to a remote telegraph pole that connects the island’s array of military listening stations and recording whatever comes through.
Holm crafts a detailed expansion of this solitary sonic moment, shaping the sound into an immersive meditation on man, nature and isolation. The telegraph pole connected to a seemingly endless network of traversing lines harnesses the dense ambiance of the landscape, both absorbing and distilling the essence of Andøya’s harsh beatific character, and considers the position of microphone as witness within a vast cycle of physical transition and terrestrial flux (Subtext). On a side note, it reminded us of the glorious days of Goem, the somewhat exciting, mechanic purring of the machines is a comforting substance to be surrounded with.
When in doubt, just consult Dave Huismans’ discography.
The Dutch producer is a brilliant example of how someone can transform and improve his own style year by year, album by album, at the same time keeping a highly distinct and recognizable voice. Going through different phases of dubstep and techno, 2562’s fourth full-length album, ‘A New Today’ is yet another crisp conceptual revelation fiddling with the idea of wonky ambient. After a hyper-energetic ‘Fever’ Huismans has substantially slowed down, kind of suggesting he could speed up anytime, but in the end he doesn’t really (especially compared to his previous records) – and that’s the beauty of it. It reaches the extremity without actually getting to it, the climax inheres in unfulfillment. Highly recommended both for vertical and horizontal positions.
We have no idea who’s the person behind the Black Swan project, but that’s maybe for the best. We think no end of him. Since the beginning of this decade we get our yearly fair share of haunting drones from New York and we should not question their origins. Each record has been thoroughly examined. Secretly looking for a fatal fault. Something that could stop this madness of being so consumedly drawn to these dreamlike horror scenes. As a listener you play the main part in this epic imaginary soundtrack, which could be your first and last role ever as it could easily eat you alive.
‘Tone Poetry’ came out in January, which means that it was our faithful companion throughout the whole year. We’re still in the process of digesting it, however we’re very much looking forward to the next trip into the abysmal dismay of Black Swan.