2023:  albums of the year

A perhaps especially endless year for music, which is saying kind of a lot:

James Holden – Imagine This Is A High Dimensional Space Of All Possibilities

What have I not said about James Holden at this point, sheesh. Let’s just say that as he continues to reach towards his final form, he insists to change, to make new things, and to dig up new sounds and new processes.

Silvia Tarozzi & Deborah Walker – Canti di guerra, di lavoro e d’amore

As per my comentary on the “single”, La Lega, it seems a bit unfair to have such affecting source material to work with … but Tarozzi and Walker are also good enough composers to not ruin the material. It’s perhaps a too-trenchent commentary on how the whole “very quiet and sparse contemporary classical music” things just wants to be sad folk songs, but what an amazing record.

Louth Contemporary Music Society – In C Irish

Whoaaaaaa, yes yes yes! Not as good as the glowing revelation of In C Mali, but millimeters away from that high standard. I am probably more than a bit biased about In C, as this one now means I have five recordings of the damn thing — this one is a strong entry into my collection.

Yu Su – I Want An Earth

Downtempo that sounds like a mid-90s video game sound track, in all the best ways: simple without being bleepy, replayable without being boring, and familiar without being saccharine.

Hiroki Kikuta – Secret of Mana (Original Soundtrack)

And the above Yu Su leads to this, literally, a mid-90s video game soundtrack! I had a very strange moment this summer, when a friend hit a mixing bowl and it made the exact sound of one of the weird “pitched percussion” synths used in this soundtrack … which inspired to me track it down, and being very pleased that I did. It’s not as magisterial as the Final Fantasy soundtracks, but it’s really good and has some very nicely out-there jams.

Laurel Halo – Atlas

Hard to find a better “and breath out” record this year; the quasi-Mahlerian moment when the strings come in is an awfully good one.

Wata Igarashi – Agartha

I did not love this album at first listen, and then came back to it more and more and more; it’s like a techno version of a phasing-era Steve Reich piece, or a lost Krautrock band, or some alternate history of 1970s electronic music in Japan.

Honorable Mentions out to to a lot of great albums this year:

  • John Luther Adams – Darkness & Scattered Light.
  • Natural Wonder Beauty Concept – Natural Wonder Beauty Concept.
  • Oren Ambarchi, Johan Berthling, Andreas Werlin – Ghosted.
  • Avalon Emerson – & The Charm; which has perhaps my saddest lyric of the year on ‘Karaoke Song’.
  • Lalo Schifrin – Enter The Dragon; hey, the 1970s!
  • Conlon Nancarrow – Complete Studies For Player Piano Volume Two.
  • Various – Love Saves The Day (A History Of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-1979) (Part 1).
  • Mbilia Bel – Beyanga, Congolese dance-pop from the late 80s.
  • Various Artists – Afghan Music In Exile; new recordings of traditional music.
  • Deepchord – Functional Designs; wooooosh, depth, dub, wooooosh.