An article by Jordan Volz


30. Philip Jeck | Stoke
England


Website | Touch

Infamously known as an "avant-garde turntablist," Philip Jeck has been churning out the hits for Touch for some time now. His command of sound and space is nearly unprecedented, often drawing out listeners' emotions through haunting samples and dark, bleak sounds with great attention paid to textures and rhythms in the sonic palette. Stoke is a collection of live tracks, which is arguably the place where his work sounds the best. As one who has traditionally resisted the move towards the electronic medium, Jeck's music is once again full of the nuances of analog sound, which heightens the experience and adds to the warmth of the music. Stoke is no break in his ideology, but is nonetheless a remarkable work that is among his best.

Key Tracks: Above; Vienna Faults; Open.


29. Stafrćnn Hákon | ....Skvettir Edik á Ref

Iceland


Website | Vogor

Stafrćnn Hákon, a.k.a. Olafur Josephsson, sets a high precedent for himself in ....Skvettir Edik á Ref. The album cherry picks from an array of genres to construct a sound that is diametrically weathered. On one hand Josephsson draws inspiration from his frigid homeland, channelling Iceland to bring some harsh, cold ambient sounds into his music. On the other, the music simultaneously retains a warm, comforting feeling that resonates deeply. Skvettir is a penetrating and enveloping record that leaves a lasting impression with its subtle interplay of the natural elements, intelligent use of post-rock aesthetics, and fringe electronic work. For a region which has done so well to pigeonhole the sound of its artists, Josephsson has bravely separated himself from the pack.

Key Tracks: Kofi; Skref; Talkn.


28. Silver Ray | New Love

Australia


Website
| Pharmacy Records

With just three bodies at its disposal, Silver Ray conjures up a bold sound on No Love, properly easing the listener into its cinematic mindset. We've come to expect colorful compositions when Cam Butler is involved in their creation, as he has since made quite a name for himself as a composer, and New Love is no exception. The album unfolds like the best of film scores, painting a vivid portrait with its backbone of drums, guitar, keyboard, and the occasional brass contribution that completely spellbind the listener (See "New Love") . Brevity is not the band's strong point here, as the musicians run wild with the open canvas and drench the listener in wild, playful instrumentals. The seventeen minute opus that is "New Love" almost deserves its own CD. Cut from a different fabric, Silver Ray is always an enjoyable experience.

Key Tracks: Come on Baby; New Love.


27. Manual | Ascend
Denmark

Website | Morr

Jonas Munk's shoegaze infested electronica is captivating for a simple fact: Munk loves his melodies. Ascend is a delicately crafted album that charms the listener with the utmost ease and can appropriately be described as "supernatural." Countless layers are superimposed upon one another, culminating in a rich, vibrant sound that oozes of nostalgia. Listening to Ascend is like traveling back to the 90's and watching all your favorite musicians play at the same time, be it My Bloody Valentine, Boards of Canada, or Labradford, but by some magical feat everything lines up and it all makes sense. His last album on the Moor imprint, Ascend is still the shining beacon in Munk's resume. Few have captured the "nu-gaze" sound as precisely as he does here, and the clarity on this album is astounding.

Key Tracks: Midnight is Where the Day Begins; The Distance; As the Moon Spins Around.


26. Mono | One More Step and You Die
Japan

Website | Music Mine

Mono's second release is a more refined version of its predecessor. The band functions mainly out of the post-rock and noise rock communities, building epic, brooding tracks that tower above those of its peers and devastate the listener with crushing walls of sound. The highlighted tracks all make use of the quartet's penchant for the loud, the distorted, and the grandiose, rarely displaying any consideration for the audience's noise tolerance. "Halo" might be the best suited for modern times; its dynamics rise above the rest of the album, and it is more straight-forward than the quartet's usual wandering style. Contrast has always been the name of the game for Mono, and although One More Step and You Die has been outdone by subsequent releases, this album marks a significant commitment to its inevitable niche. In the end, One More Step and You Die is a case study in patience and excellence, and delivers on both fronts.

Key Tracks: Com (?); A Speeding Car; Halo.


25. Keith Fullerton Whitman | Playthroughs
United States


Website | Kranky

Now considered somewhat of a renaissance man in the electronic world, Keith Fullerton Whitman joins the Kranky label with Playthroughs. The album consists of five minimal pieces, largely composed on guitar and with heavy emphasis on drone techniques and digital processing. Whitman's world revolves tightly around the digital process, and even though his primary interest is among the circuits and wires, the music does begin to take on a jubilant life of its own. Hence, Playthroughs is an unpredictable experience, filled with searing notes, shimmering ambience, harsh noise, and pretty much the full spectrum of experimental ambience presented in the last decade. What Whitman lacks in originality he makes up for in execution; few appear to have as solid an understanding of the composition of electronic works as he does.

Key Tracks: Feedback Swei; Modena.


24. Oxes | Oxxxes
United States

Website | Monitor Records

Known for its wild live shows and off the wall antics, Baltimore's Oxes is one of math rock's last gasps of fresh air. With enough angular rhythms for a few armies and spastic drumming to hold down the fort, Oxes isn't shy about its musical roots, and are even less shy about trampling all over its elders. Oxes do what few bands can -- make a tired genre sound fresh and invigorating, like we're just hearing it again for the very first time. Oxxxes, the band's second album, is a straight dose of instrumental rock -- intense and chaotic from start to finish. The tracks fly by with unrestrained fervor, which is no surprise given the band's long history of controversial pranks (such as releasing a fake split with Arab on Radar). Few acts have been as entertaining on and off the stage as Oxes, who are true showmen, and pretty damn talented musicians as well.

Key Tracks: Boss Kitty; Half Half and Half; Take and Free Miami.


23. Do Make Say Think | & Yet & Yet
Canada

Website | Constellation

& Yet & Yet is arguably Do Make Say Think's most consistent record. The wild extremities that characterize the band's earlier and later works are toned down on this effort, and DMST's acrobatic song-writing has been transformed into a sublime experience that operates as a singular musical node rather than a clusterfuck of ideas. The album explores musical space with a cautious mind, much like a band in the earliest stages of improvisation. Hence, & Yet & Yet boasts a side of the ensemble that is generally hidden behind off-kilter compositions, electronic whirlwinds, instrumental maelstroms, and other pesky distractions. For the most part, we're given a stripped down version of the band and an honest album's worth of music, yet &Yet &Yet is still recognizably a DMST album.

Key Tracks: White Light Of; Soul and Onward; Anything for Now.


22. Larsen | Rever

Italy

Website | Young God

Produced by Michael Gira under the most unusual of circumstances, Rever is the essential album in Larsen's body of work. Throughout the band's existence, many have labeled the project "experimental rock," but the experimental descriptor doesn't even scratch the surface. Rever sits at the unique point of being both a staunch advocate of older forms of progressive rock, and ahead of its time in terms of modern implementation. Larsen's early work fits in comfortably with that of contemporaries exploring the area between visceral ambience and a poignant mix of lo-fi psychedelic, progressive, and folk rock, only made all the more appropriate with whispered vocals. Deadly drones haunt the sonic landscape, exploiting the strength of the band's twisted compositions, and satiating the audience's need for an exhilarating performance.

Key Tracks:Radial; Finger Number Six; Maya.


21. Maserati | The Language of Cities
United States

Website | Kindercore

Maserati inhabits a particularly odd niche in the instrumental world. The band's music could perhaps best be described as a mix between space rock and post-rock, which certainly does put it in comfortable proximity to Mogwai. Yet The Language of Cities doesn't sound like a typical post-rock album. There aren't a lot of aimless buildups and noisy climaxes, much like its imposed influences. Instead, Maserati gets things moving with a healthy dose of progressive rock, at least in theory. With guitars being the main course of the album, the band is not shy on producing intricate lines that are as spacious as they are exciting. These guys can float the listener up to the moon or level an entire city block, depending on their mood, all the while keeping their sound crisp and unmuddled. While some may lament the seemingly constant state of identity crisis that strikes Maserati throughout the album, this Athens quartet is merely speaking the language of cities.

Key Tracks: Moving with Heavy Hearts; Being a President is Like Riding a Tiger; Cities.