Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Favorite Music of 2016

When I look back at 2016's new (to me) music, I see a lot of ambient soundscapes. I can't say whether that correlates to anything going on in real life (did I really need that much relaxation?). But I can say that a few of those albums resonated with me more than the others. Keeping in mind that this is not a "best of" list, my favorite music of 2016 in no particular order is:

The Beauty of Disaster by J. Peter Schwalm

The year started out on a musical high point for me with J. Peter Schwalm's The Beauty of Disaster.  At the time, I wrote about the music's balance of tension and hope. Musically subtle, emotionally rich, Disaster continues to reveal new depth with each listen. More of my thoughts on then album can be read here.

The Beauty of Disaster is available from Rare Noise Records. Schwalm can be found on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Twitter, and Facebook.

In Praise of Shadows by Eraldo Bernocchi and Shinkiro

Bernocchi wrote online "I have found so much beauty in the dark, as I have found a lot of horrors in the light." Rather than shining a musical light on a sense of place, Bernocchi and collaborator Shinkiro turn down the lights with In Praise of Shadows. The resulting dark ambiance is exquisitely beautiful. More of my thoughts on Shadows are here.

Bernocchi can be found online on Twitter, and at his website where the album can be ordered.

ZWAR (Live in Europe 2005) by TUNER

Pat Mastelotto and Markus Reuter record together under the name TUNER and their album ZWAR (Live in Europe 2005) is worth it just to hear their version of King Crimson's Industry. This duo packs progressive rock into performances that are part intricacy, part amazement, and part joy.

You can stream some ZWAR tracks and learn more about TUNER on Bandcamp.

Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind by King Crimson

When the latest incarnation of King Crimson started touring, I prayed a live album would result. 2015's Live at the Orpheum didn't fully answer my prayers. This year's 3-CD, protractedly-titled Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of the Monkey Mind hit the sweet spot. This is everything I want from a King Crimson live album: impeccable performances, rarely heard tunes, and broad coverage of studio albums.

You can order Radical Action from Burning Shed and read more about King Crimson at DGM Live.

Emergent by Burnt Belief

Burnt Belief is the duo of Colin Edwin (bass) and Jon Durant (guitar) and Emergent is their second album together. To my ear, everything here is just below the surface where Edwin's and Durant's performances percolate just below Latin-tinged progressive jazz melody.

You can learn more about Emergent at Alchemy Records. Edwin may be found at his blog and Twitter. Durant is online at his website.

Special Mention: Gaudi's EP

If the EP is a worthy barometer, Gaudi's forthcoming album, Magnetic, will be tremendous. He's plundering bits from Rare Noise's entire multi-genre catalog and blending them into something new.

The EP is and the album will be available from Rare Noise Records. Gaudi is on Twitter.

And on to 2017

I listened to a lot of ambient in 2016 and 2017 will start the same way. I've already pre-ordered and am awaiting delivery of Brian Eno's latest ambient work, Reflection.

"I don't know much about music, but I sure like the way it sounds."

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