2010: Matthew Wuethrich
Electro-acoustic noise is thriving in small, underground scenes. This split is evidence of the medium’s depth and diversity in the northeast United States. Murrary expands his sublime drone language to include a side-long voice study (the creepiest piece of music you’ll hear all hear), while the duo of Ricardo Donoso and Luke Moldof show their mastery of intensity, dynamics and composition, shaping harsh and harrowing textures into a thrilling arc.
Tabletop guitar whiz and electronic music maestro/underground legend meet and submit god-knows-what as source material to their inscrutable, uncompromising transformations, and produce a set of sweeping scope that grips and tests you like fine cinema.
Off-the-cuff synthesizer and sampler pieces stuffed with detail and head-scratching moments, caught live in a Chicago radio studio. No drone, no New Age, no Kosmiche. This is something new, something strange, something exciting.
Sound artist and improviser Alessandro Bosetti highlights the nuances, strangeness and beauty of 12 different languages in subtle and playful ways, making for a release that can be heard on many levels: wide-ranging cultural compendium of the world’s linguistic diversity, deft collage of electro-acoustic gestures and musique concrète methods, or just a delightful, surprising play with sound and voice.
At just over 20 minutes, this is the most modest release on the list, but Ielasi’s miniatures, culled from improvisations on reel-to-reel tape machines, are so finely sculpted and so palpable in their textures and off-kilter rhythms that it’s impossible not to return to it again and again.
Wolf Eyes and Hair Police member Mike Connelly goes solo and one ups both his more well known groups in the stripped-down gear department (guitar and voice, with some organ and tape-altered bells) and the ability to craft sweeping, intuitive-sounding noise pieces that don’t disappoint in dirty, scuzzy sounds nor in creeping, threatening atmosphere.
Do I have really have to explain the pleasures of this collection? A reintroduction to Western listeners of an Egyptian guitarist and composer who, in the 1970s, imbued rock and psychedelia with fresh urgency. He conquered the hearts of millions of in the Middle East; no reason he shouldn’t do the same to us. Now when is the CD reissue of this going to land?
The final statement we’re going to get from the long-running Portland, Ore., duo. It’s got the same heaviness and impact of their earlier releases, but with a mature sense of pacing and clarity of vision. If you’re going to go out, do it in style.
Type reintroduces a generation of listeners to Köner’s classic mid-’90s triptych of dark, palpable ambiance. These set the bar so high for detailed studies of sub-frequency drift and singing overtones that a generation of drone artists is still trying to catch up.
Sentimental choice? Maybe, but not really. Jack Rose was an original and a true eclectic: modern yet traditional, experimental yet purist, comfortable in many styles but always himself. This was maybe his most expansive effort, looking back to look forward.
Percussionist Mueller pares his sound down to essentials and proves that simple, minimal and intimate ingredients can mean more than just music that is spare, repetitious and quiet. With just his snare, voice and an autoharp, he makes a satisfying arc of music that is dense, bold and dramatic.
If music is about sculpting time, this collection of works for piano is a masterclass in the form. John Tilbury stops time on the Terry Jennings pieces and then, with the help of Sebasitan Lexer’s electronics on the John Cage composition, twists it inside out, plasticizing and bending sound into undefinable shapes and unmeasuable durations.
With multiple reissues of his past catalogue and a handful of newly released material, 2010 has been a prolific year for Kevin Drumm. This five-disc set, however, was the mother lode: two discs of unreleased material that would’ve been stand-out releases on their own, and three more discs of obscurities that needed to be heard. Necro Acoustic reminds us of why Drumm is so vital. He circumvents all intellectualizing and conceptualizing to show us what the word “experimental” really means: risk, invention, failure and discovery — sometimes all at once.
For a number of years now, Keith Fullerton Whitman has been on the cusp of the latest generation exploring and mining analog synthesis. This LP is his apex. Nearly four years in the making, it coalesces many of his wide-ranging interests (automatic/machine music, tape manipulation, post-editing, sound art, musique concrète and more) into two side-long tours de force of how to make confounding, spellbinding electronic music.
The most engrossing and demanding listening experience of the year: three LPs of extreme electronics, locked grooves and cryptic, evocative visuals. Colley has tapped into a vein of sounds that are mesmerizing in their detail, minute rhythms, alien textures, abrupt halts and rapid transformations. These pieces aren’t so much music as they are field recordings from someone else’s psyche. Music’s greatest power is in revealing psychological states, both your own and those of others. This collection is the proof.
By Matthew Wuethrich