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Thread: It's new to me - the 20 best albums I heard in 2014

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    What is best in life? D_Davis's Avatar
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    It's new to me - the 20 best albums I heard in 2014

    This isn't a best of 2014 list. I didn't hear 20 amazing new albums this year. This is a top 20 of the best albums I heard for the first time in 2014. Lot's of new-to-me discoveries. Lot's of jazz.


    20. Mind Over Midi - Components (2011)



    New Berlin School meets minimal dub-electronica. Klaus Schulze meets Doyeq. Beatless, drifting, dense and textured, Components is the perfect album for cold, stormy day in doors.

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    19. Porya Hatami - Land (2012)



    Porya Hatami is an Iranian performer specializing in environmental-based ambient compositions. Think Brian Eno's On Land, with which this album shares a similar title. Environmental Ambient music strives to create a place, sometimes mundane and natural, other times surreal and otherworldly. Hatami's album is all about a very real nature, and he perfectly captures the ebb and flow of the tide with tracks like "Sea," and brittle chill of the air in tracks like "Winter." I'm so glad I discovered this artist this year. I've been listening to his stuff since last February, and it never fails to impress me.

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    18. Nik Bartsch's Ronin - Llyria (2010)



    Nik Bartsch is a Swedish jazz pianist. The Ronin are his band. Together, they perform minimalist groove jazz with complex time signatures in compositions that are simultaneously head-bopping and hypnotic.

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    Cinematographer Idioteque Stalker's Avatar
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    Really nice track from Porya Hatami. Checking out his bandcamp now. And there's a definite Reich influence on that Nik Bartsch piece. Wonky time signatures just make me anxious, but I'll definitely be passing it on to my brother-in-law.

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    Quote Quoting Idioteque Stalker (view post)
    Really nice track from Porya Hatami. Checking out his bandcamp now. And there's a definite Reich influence on that Nik Bartsch piece. Wonky time signatures just make me anxious, but I'll definitely be passing it on to my brother-in-law.
    Reich's influence will be heard in many of my discoveries this year, and lots of stuff coming that is similar to the Nik Bartsch album.

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    17. Jan Bang - Narrative from the Subtropics (2013)



    Given it's Ballardian title and cover image, you could make a very educated guess as to what this music sounds like without ever hearing a single snippet. It's ultra modern, metropolitan, claustrophobic, somewhat cold and off putting, and mechanical, and yet it it still contains a very human heart. Bang is an electronic composer who works with a lot of the nu-jazz crew coming out of Germany and Norway, and his name will be associated with at least a few more albums on my list this year.


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    16. The Swans - To Be Kind (2014)



    A big, bloated, epic mess of a rock album, and as dark and foreboding as it is, it is also strangely uplifting and sincere. Out of all the albums on the list, To Be Kind is THE MOST. It's also the album I've listened to the least number of times, simply because it's almost TOO MUCH. There aren't many times in my life when this kind of music makes a lot of sense, but I can't hold that against it. I love this latest era of The Swans, and this is a masterpiece.


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    15. Bugge Wesseltoft and Sidsel Endresen - Out Here. In There. (2002)



    Bugge Wesseltroft is a Norwegian jazz pianist and electronic composer. Sidsel Endresen is a Norwegian jazz/experimental vocal performer. Out Here. In There. is their sonically fascinating, challenging, and absolutely insane collaboration. Endresen's voice can also be heard in the Jan Bang track I posted above. I love how she sings and manipulates her voice using samplers, loopers, and other weird effects. The accompanying music performed by Wesseltroft isn't quite as interesting, but it creates a perfect bed and foundation onto which Endresen can do her thing.


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    14. David Borden - The Continuing Story of Counter Point (Parts 1 - 12) (1976 - 1987)



    David Borden is a super importing and often forgotten figure in the realms of synthesizer music. His band, Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company, was the among the first real synthesizer bands. Borden was friends with Bob Moog, and Moog let the band use early versions of the Moog synthesizers. Borden is the main creative force in the band, and a composer who is often compared to Reich, Glass, Riley, and Robert Ashley.

    The Continuing Story of Counterpoint is a multi-year, multi-album song cycle that encompasses all of Borden's major themes and techniques. It's utterly hypnotic, and I find it supremely fascinating. The cycle contains pieces performed by synthesizer, voice, and small classical ensembles. It's challenging and emotionally charged, forcing the listener to engage with its pulsing and repetitive nature, while also lulling the listener into a state of sonic bliss.


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    13. Robert Wyatt - Shleep (1997)



    Robert Wyatt was one of the best drummers to ever pick up the sticks - his work with Soft Machine is testament to this fact. Then he got into an accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. He abandoned the traditional drum set and set out to focus on song writing and singing, thus turning a tragedy into a blessing. While I've listened to Wyatt for many, many years, it wasn't until 2014 that I heard this album. And it is tremendous.

    Wyatt has one of the most beautiful singing voices you will ever hear. He reminds me a lot of Moondog, in that his voice is characterized by a child-like innocence, and his music perfectly accentuates his soft vocal timbre.

    On the album Wyatt is joined by Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, and Paul Weller among others. It takes a superstar list of performers to do Wyatts vision justince, and everyone totally nails it.


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    The Nik Bartsch's Ronin sample you provided was quite interesting, so I grabbed up that one. I like that slippage between jazz and ambient, and the compositional quality, focused more on mood than on soloing, is one that I respect, especially since I assume that's the kind of thing that'll be perfect writing music. Looking forward to exploring the other songs on that album.

    The Swans album is the epitome of having three singles that lead to me exploring the tracks surrounding them. "Oxygen" is likely the standout since I remember how phenomenal it was to see them perform it at 2013's Pitchfork, but "Screen Shot" is equally solid. The extended takes are where I struggle just a little with the album--and some of the songs feel a little bit like alternate takes on the same style of sound, whereas The Seer was more diverse in sound structure with each song. That said, the strength of the singles here are so good.
    Ant-Man and the Wasp - 5
    Hereditary - 7
    Won't You Be My Neighbor? - 7.5
    The Tale - 8

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    Quote Quoting dreamdead (view post)
    The Nik Bartsch's Ronin sample you provided was quite interesting, so I grabbed up that one. I like that slippage between jazz and ambient, and the compositional quality, focused more on mood than on soloing, is one that I respect, especially since I assume that's the kind of thing that'll be perfect writing music. Looking forward to exploring the other songs on that album.
    It's a great album, and if you end up liking the whole thing then there should be a lot of stuff on this list that you'll like.

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    12. Steve Hillage - Rainbow Dome Music (1979)



    Two tracks, 40+ minutes in length. This is psychedelic guitar and synth music at some of its finest.
    Miquette Giraudy's synth work on this album is incredible. Once again proving that at one time women were a dominant force in the world of experimental electronic music.

    Full album


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    11. Food - Mercurial Balm (2012)



    Food is a nu-jazz duo consisting of Iain Bellamy (sax and electronics) and Thomas Stronan (percussion and electronics), who are joined by other nu-jazz brethren such as Nils Petter Molvaer, Eivind Aarset and experimental sound artist Christian Fennesz. Food is one of those groups where each performer plays a variety of instruments while everyone is sampling one another and manipulating the sound of everyone else to create performances that are intricately textured.

    Unfortunately, ECM (the band's label) doesn't allow a lot of their music on Youtube, so I can't find a recording from this album. There are however a number of incredible live performances.


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    10. Jenny Scheinman - The Littlest Prisoner (2014)



    Every year I need to discover a new singer songwriter album to remind myself of the pure power of a good and simple song. No sound design, non-atmospheric, not haunting, or inventive. This is mostly guitar, drums, violin and voice. Of course the drums come from Brian Blade (the best drummer drumming today), and the guitar comes from Bill Frisell, and the violin and voice come from Jenny Scheinman, a classically trained jazz violinist. It's unusual to find this kind of jazz pedigree producing these kinds of little pop, singer songwriter gems, and yet that's exactly what this trio has done.

    It's a brilliant album, one that I've returned to many times during the last year.


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    9. Devin Townsend - Casualties of Cool (2014)



    Almost every single year, Mr. Townsend releases at least one album that blows my mind. The Casualties of Cool is a new project of his. While still utilizing his wall of sound production techniques, Townsend switches focus from pop-metal to psychedelic space-age western music. It's Pink Floyd meets Coyboy BeBop at some old style cafe coffee shop on the outskirts of a distant galaxy.


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    8. The Marcin Wasilewski trio with Joakim Milder - Spark of Life (2014)



    Marcin Wasilewski is a Polish pianist and jazz composer. Spark of Life is one of the most beautifully produced albums of the year. While it's on the more traditional side of the Jazz spectrum, it's power is undeniable. It's impeccably crafted.


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    7. Nils Peter Molvaer - Solid Ether (2000)



    In 2000, this album must have caused quite a ruckus on the ECM label. It can be loud and abrasive, mixing elements of DJ culture, jungle, drum n bass, and nu-jazz. It set the stage for a big scene to come, creating a template of sorts that other Norwegian and European jazz performers would use: lot's of world class musicians playing traditional instruments along with a multitude of electronics for sampling, processing and mangling.

    This live performance of the title track, featuring Eivind Aarest on guitar, is incredible.


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    6. Kevin Ayers - Joy of a Toy (1969)



    How I went nearly 40 years of life without ever hearing a single track from this whimsical gem is something I'll never figure out. I love the Canterbury scene, Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt and Syd Barret, and yet I had never heard a single second of music from this album. Simply put, it's one of the most joyous things I've ever heard. It's a celebration of humanity at its most quirky and sincere.




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    5. Sturgil Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014)


    This was the soundtrack to a fantastic summer. Old fashioned country western with a modern twist for the better, not the worst.


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    4. Elodie Lauten - Transform



    I don't know a lot about Elodie Lauten yet. She was an American composer of minimalist/microtonal music, and her family had an extensive background in jazz and classical music. I plan on learning more about her this year.

    Transform is an album of electronic music compositions, and it is a masterpiece. She wrote the album using a software synth she created within the Reactor Digital Audio Workstation.

    Unfortunately, she died this year.


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    3. Mathias Eick - Skala (2011)



    Methias Eick is a member of Jagga Jazzist, one of the groups that at the vanguard of the nu-jazz movement. Skala is not nu-jazz. This is Eick's take on more traditional pop-jazz, and it is beautiful.


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    2. Eivind Aarset - Dream Logic (2012)



    Eivind Aarset is a Norwegian guitarist who has appeared on probably 6 or so albums on this list. On Dream Logic, Aarset plays guitar, bass, and a variety of electronic things, and is joined by Jan Bang, also on electronics, and Audun Klieve on drums. This is ambient nu-jazz at its most ambient. It's an album of textures and atmosphere, of subtlety and nuance.


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    1. Arve Henriksen - Place of Worship (2013)



    Arguably the best trumpet player in the world, or at least the most unique, Arve Henrikesen's (yes, another Norwegian) Places of Worship isn't just the most beautiful album I heard last year, it's also one of the most beautiful albums I've ever heard. And Henriksen is more than just a trumpet player. He's a composer of unparalleled skill, and on this album he takes the listener on a deeply emotional and spiritual journey into the very heart and soul of humanity. This is a grand artistic statement of which there are very few equals.


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    Super Moderator dreamdead's Avatar
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    Ooooooh. That Henricksen piece is a quiet wonder. Interesting how little there is to it on some level. Very spare, very gentle. I'd looked into his stuff a couple weeks back. Will have to do more...

    The Mathias Eick song likewise is intriguing.

    Did your searching these out come about because of the Eberhard Weber stuff from a few years ago?
    Last edited by dreamdead; 02-04-2015 at 07:56 PM.
    Ant-Man and the Wasp - 5
    Hereditary - 7
    Won't You Be My Neighbor? - 7.5
    The Tale - 8

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