An article by The Silent Ballet Staff


20) From Monument to Masses | On Little Known Frequencies
United States

Dim Mak

After six years of absence, FMTM returns with an ambitious album featuring a charged political agenda, but it is behind the band's overt aims that the essence of On Little Known Frequencies lies. With an intricate immix of genres, FMTM's melodic, intense, and catchy compositions coalesce into a complexly themed piece of music. Unpredictable and yet clearly studied, the songs take the form of an atypical trip; the elegant winding roads seem enticing on a first spin, but they definitely aren't for everyone. Dare to delve further, though, and the serious eclecticism will stand out and make this album worth keeping on one's list of prodigious records. (Diana Sitaru)

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19) Sgt. | Capital of Gravity
Japan

Penguin Market

Despite the plethora of talented Japanese artists around, it would be fair to say that Sgt. is easily one of the most varied and one of the best. Since the band's debut album, Stylus Fantasticus, Sgt. has evolved and developed at an alarming rate, with a searing ambition equaled by its songwriting talents. Capital of Gravity scatters through a myriad of genres, sounding fresh, engaging, and, most importantly, focused. This mini-album is some sort of jazz-classical-prog-math-post-rock hybrid, but, amazingly, it works. “Apollo Program” rises from the intro like a math-rock behemoth, “Tears of Na-Ga” begins like Battles but quickly turns into a funk jam, and “Epsilon” is a pure jazz odyssey. The rate that Sgt. has progressed since its debut is quite frankly frightening, but if the result is more releases with the quality of Capital of Gravity, then long may it continue. (James Ould)

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18) The Dead Sea | The Dead Sea
Australia

Self-Released

Crossing genres is all the rage in our times. If ‘shoegaze-guitars with post-rock build-ups meets down-to-basics ambient and not-as-edgy indie rock’ sounds like Frankenstein’s monster, then The Dead Sea may come as a surprise. The highly skillful degree of craftsmanship with which the band has constructed this man-machine and the very self-conscious, fully rational approach to the dissolution of supposed stylistic boundaries is commendable on this album. In music like this, perhaps it’s better not to ask and just let oneself be drawn into the sweet melodies, the melancholic ambience, and the shattering but controlled feedback, allowing every part of every genre work its strength upon our ears. (David Murrieta)

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17) Klimek | Movies is Magic
Germany

Anticipate

A good movie soundtrack is one that augments the visuals, adds depth to what is happening on screen, and inserts words when silence prevails. A great movie soundtrack, however, cancels the need for a movie all together and puts the audience in the director’s chair, allowing the listeners to create a movie of their own. In Movies is Magic, Sebastian Meissner accomplishes that and a bit more. Most soundtrack composers would tell us that they need to see a finished or semi-finished version of the movie they are scoring in order to get a feel for the music, but not Meissner. Sculpting an entire soundtrack merely out of the images in his head, Meissner translates a myriad of emotions, and in the end we get thousands of movies reflecting the different states of minds of the members of audience. Anxiety, suspense, and bits of a secret romance here and there make for a beautiful soundtrack to an extremely haunting movie. (Mohammed Ashraf)

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16) Zu | Carboniferous
Italy

Ipecac

Is it noise rock? Mathcore? Psycho jazz? When the results are this thunderous, who really cares? On their tenth album, the Italian avant-weirdos pull off the feat of making their frantic and discordant explosions feel catchy and, more importantly, fun. Skronky, King Crimson-esque horns, absurdist keyboard lines, guitars that veer from spidery to monstrous, and a savage, percussion-based drive collide with crafty snatches of hooks and melody. It’s no coincidence that Carboniferous is one of the few sonic spaces where Mike Patton’s yammering actually sounds as though it’s necessary, and the album lands Zu alongside other elite practitioners of punishing-yet-accessible noise. In the rave-up at the apocalypse, Zu will be the house band. (Lucas Kane)

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15) The Mercury Program | Chez Viking
United States

Lovitt

Don't call it a comeback. The Mercury Program's Chez Viking may have arrived on the heels of the better part of a decade of relative silence and seclusion, but the quartet hasn't gathered so much as an ounce of rust in the intervening seven years between this and A Data Learn the Language. Chez Viking is easily the band's most focused and accomplished release to date. Slight of stature and breezy to boot, Chez Viking skates by on a bed of intricately woven, syncopated guitar, Rhodes piano, and vibraphone licks so neatly arranged as to appear effortless. But dig deeper and we find a well-oiled unit possessing a nearly telepathic chemistry, one that attacks the title track's busy joie de vivre and the spacious, reflective quietude of "Katos" with equal aplomb. These guys are at the top of their game; here's hoping they're back to stay. (Craig Jenkins)

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14) Fuck Buttons | Tarot Sport
England

ATP

The second album can be a real bitch. This sophomore release problem is especially troublesome when the debut was a much deserved critical success. This was the predicament Fuck Buttons found itself in after last year's awesome Street Horrrsing was met with universal praise. However, what the band did next was a slap in the face to the ‘second album syndrome’ by creating an album that took all that was great about the debut and refining it into something truly brilliant. Gone are the abrasive and confrontational tendencies of Street Horrrsing, and in its place are more structure, stronger melodies, and better songwriting. Tarot Sport has managed a near impossible feat: greater accessibility while improving on an already impressive sound. If the duo continues on this trajectory, expect the third album to blow heads off. (Matt Fernell)

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13) Pimmon | Smudge Another Yesterday
Australia

Preservation

One of the year’s densest recordings, Pimmon’s Smudge Another Yesterday represents a gloriously sculpted soundscape. The album is composed in such a way that it’s occasionally difficult to tell the difference between the beautifully arranged electronica and the clusterfuck of noise, but rest assured that there is always a guiding hand at work here. Meticulously yet irreverently organized, Smudge Another Yesterday represents one of the year's high-points for experimental ambient electronica. For Australian listeners familiar with the sort of intellectual soundscapes that Pimmon’s been putting out for a decade, this may come as no surprise. For the rest of us, this is an artist to watch, to have watched, and to be watched in the future. (Tom Butcher)

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12) Clint Mansell | Moon OST
England

Black Record

The leading figure in independent film scoring, Clint Mansell delivers again with his score for Moon. In a cohesive fashion, Mansell covers an array of genres, whether it is the doleful piano notes of “Memories (Some We’ll Never Know)” or the ominous build-ups of “Sacrifice.” His score maintains a sinister atmosphere that belies the nature of the film in songs like “Welcome to Lunar Industries (Three year Stretch)” and “I’m Sam Bell, Too.” Fortunately, he reuses the most beautiful themes in tracks as in “The Nursery” and the aforementioned “Memories (Some We’ll Never Know).” Nevertheless, the songs vary from one to another with an impressive musical cohesion. Although the music was scored for the film, the album works independent of the film, which reinforces the already high quality of the music - one of the year's best, in fact. (Tom Meagher)

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11) Sunwrae | Autumn Never Fall
Australia

Self-Released

It’s pretty impressive when a nine-piece ensemble can create a sound so seamless that we forget the presence of the musicians themselves. Toss in the fact that improvisation is a major inspiration for Sunwrae's music and that impressiveness swells into something else entirely. Versatile and bubbly, a blend of piano, strings, flute, double bass, and much more comes together to form a nearly hour long jaunt into the colorful and spirited world crafted by this diverse and engrossing Australian troupe. The word “rootless” may not often be considered a compliment, but from the smattering of classical and jazz elements laced through the seven tracks present, it is wonderfully clear that Sunwrae has carefully and joyfully cut the cord tying it to the earth, allowing its creativity and exuberance to lift the its musicianship into new realms altogether. (Jonathan Brooks)

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