– Plinth ~ Collected Machine Music (Jan 10th)
Michael Tanner’s work drifts beautifully between genres, blending elements of ambient, folk, drone, and field recordings into wondrous conceptual pieces.
‘Collected Machine Music’ is lovingly crafted using “Victorian parlour music machines, wax cylinder recordings, a French carillon and a seafront calliope.”
You can listen to it, and many other works by Mr. Tanner, here.
– Concretism ~ EP01: Rabies Warning (Jan 18th)
The music of Concretism is a blend of beautifully sculpted vintage synth soundscapes, and hauntological samples. Three great EP’s were released in 2012, and you can listen to and buy them all here. Look out for a physical release of new material in 2013.
– Grimes ~ Visions (Jan 31st)
The kooky Canadian space nymph released her third album early in 2012, and it’s full of vibrant poppy pleasure. She even played here in Quebec City on my birthday, so gets extra points for that. Experience her magnificent live performance of “Genesis” from ‘Later with Jools Holland‘ here.
– Belbury Poly ~ The Belbury Tales (Feb 15th)
The Belbury Tales is a folk-haunt-electro-psyche masterpiece. If you’ve yet to experience Belbury Polly or the Ghost Box label, go listen to the sublime track ‘The Geography‘ that someone uploaded to YouTube here, and prepare to be transported into a world of wonder.
– Demdike Stare ~ Elemental (March 13th)
Demdike Stare excite me. Their dark ambient electronica exists in an occult dimension that resonates with something primal at the core of my being. You can listen to the entire almost 2hrs of Elemental at the band’s record label Modern Love SoundCloud page here.
– Mr. Gnome ~ Softly Mad (March 20th)
I can’t remember how I came across Mr. Gnome, but the blissful guitars and ethereal female vocals from this couple from Cleveland in the U.S of A is mighty hypnotic. Witness two great tracks that didn’t make it onto their 2011 album ‘Madness in Miniature‘ here, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love too.
– Gazelle Twin ~ The Entire City Remixed (June 4th)
Elizabeth Walling a.k.a ‘Gazelle Twin’ released one of my favourite albums of 2011. Her dazzling vocals weaved within masterful avant-garde electro blew my mind. The remix album is magnificent, and to illustrate the fact: the ‘John Foxx and The Maths‘ remix of the track ‘Changelings‘ is here.
– Hiva Oa ~ The Awkward Hello, Handshake, Kiss (July 9th)
If, like me, you find beauty in melancholy, then you’ll appreciate this brilliant collection of songs by Edinburgh band Hiva Oa. You can listen to the album here.
– Howlround ~ The Ghosts of Bush (July 12th)
Robin the Fog‘s aural love letter to the BBC’s now closed down broadcasting mecca, Bush House, is crafted entirely using ambient sounds recorded within the structure of the building. The sounds have been tape manipulated – often slowed down greatly to reveal hidden nuances within – but not electronically treated. The result is an essential hauntological landmark. You can listen to and buy it here.
– Blur ~ 21: The Box (July 30th)
I felt it worth mentioning the epic 22 disc retrospective box set from Blur released in 2012. I don’t own it, but I wish I did. Obviously the album ‘Parklife‘ was a Brit-pop landmark, but the band continued to evolve and experiment, and in particular the last three albums ‘Blur‘, ‘13‘, and ‘Think Tank’ were brilliant. Damon Albarn continues to make remarkable music of a wide variety of genres, and I personally think he is a musical genius. One of my favourite Blur songs ‘Out of Time‘ can be heard here.
– The Haxan Cloak ~ The Men Parted The Sea To Devour The Water (July 31st)
The Haxan Cloak excite me in that same primal way as Demdike Stare. Both bands are literally bewitching. (Google the words Haxan and Demdike if you don’t get the reference) This band takes the concept of drone into epic baroque heights. Someone shunted “The Men Parted The Sea...” onto YouTube, so if you haven’t heard it, you can here.
– The Eccentronic Research Council ~ 1612 Underture (Sep 3rd)
Continuing the witchy theme, here is the first of two picks that mark the anniversary of the 1612 Pendle Witch Trials. The ERC, gave us a splendid concept album featuring narration by actress Maxine Peake, about a psychogeographical journey by a nun and a priest to find out about the Pendle witch trials and their impact on and reflection of society, which still resonates to this day. The brilliant mini documentary to made by KLUNCKLICK doesn’t seem to be available anywhere anymore, but you can listen to the stand out track “Another Witch is Dead” here.
– Grizzly Bear ~ Shields (Sep 18th)
I hadn’t heard of Grizzly Bear until NPR streamed the album ‘Shields’ a week or so before release. I like to try out new things, so I gave it a whirl. It really is an amazingly crafted album, beautifully layered and masterfully accomplished. It made me sit up and take note that there are indeed still fresh, new, and exciting depths that guitar bands can reach. Go and buy the album now. If you need convincing, listen to the track ‘What’s Wrong‘ here.
– Folklore Tapes ~ Lancashire Folklore Tapes Volume I Pendle, 1612 (Oct 5th)
The Folklore Tapes is a “research and musical heritage project covering and soundtracking the folklore of the UK in volumes of tapes housed in bespoke books, boxes and hand stamped envelopes.” Each release is very limited in number, the content varied and hard to encapsulate. Featuring elements of folk, ambient, and sound collage, each side of each tape is curated by a different researcher. The results are astounding. This edition was a tribute to the Pendle Witch Trials. It’s very difficult to track down the music once it’s been released and sold out, but you can listen to the wondrous song ‘The Mandrake‘ by Rob St. John and the Coven Choir, at the very end of a mix of mine here.
– Wizards Tell Lies ~ The Failed Silence (Oct 8th)
A whole world of mysterious radiophonic dreamscapes and hallucinogenic fables awaits you with Wizards Tell Lies. Join FOX, OWL, and HART in the Forest of Dark, and be forever changed. This excellent music is generously available to hear before you buy at the Wizards’ SoundCloud page here.
– Max Richter ~ Recomposed: Vivaldi The Four Seasons (Oct 16th)
Bold, brave, and magnificent, Max Richter’s reconstruction of The Four Seasons is a modern classic not to be missed. Listen to ‘Spring‘ here.
– Peter Broderick ~ These Walls of Mine (Oct 22nd)
The greatness of Peter Broderick’s song craft cannot be fully appreciated by listening to a single track. An intimate odyssey into the furthest reaches of his soul, the album is playful, touching, and immensely satisfying. You can listen to 5 tracks from the album here, but even they don’t convey the full scope of the complete experience.
– The Wyrding Module ~ Mellifluous Ichor From Sunless Regions (Nov 10th)
An astounding psych-synth odyssey, this sci-fi concept masterpiece is split into four chapters, and is completely out of this universe! If I were numbering my favourite releases of the year, this would be a very strong contender for No.1. What’s more, the album is completely FREE, and can be downloaded legitimately here.
The fact that 4 of my picks were released in December is a strong argument for why, in my opinion, end of year lists should appear AT THE END OF THE YEAR, not at the beginning of December…
– Moon Wiring Club ~ Today Bread, Tomorrow Secrets (Dec 10th)
The delectable Moon Wiring Club bewilders us twice again with this latest release, altered versions appearing on CD and Vinyl. Describing the experience should not be attempted unless one welcomes dalliance with madness, so instead I leave you with the option, at your own discretion, to click here.
– Ricky Eat Acid ~ You get sick; you regret things (remastered) (Dec 17th)
Ricky Eat Acid is one of the monikers of the incredibly talented musician and photographer Sam Ray from Baltimore in the U.S. His output is unashamedly low-fi, yet incredibly rich and compelling. Delve into his world here.
– oh/ex/oh ~ Extant (Dec 21st)
Ambient drone is rarely as exciting and accomplished as this. When I first heard snippets of the album, I knew it was going to be great. If you’re very lucky, you might even be able to catch one of the limited (to 500) first run vinyl editions before they’re all gone. Listen and buy here.
I leave you with this brilliant John Carpenter-esque spooky synth-fest – one of the last releases of the year:
– Adderall Canyonly ~ Excelsius Minor (Dec 31st)
Listen and buy here.