An article by The Silent Ballet Staff


30) Brock Van Wey | White Clouds Drift On And On
United States

Echospace

Better known as bvdub, Brock Van Wey is no stranger to the electronic world. He has released a large quantity of music over the past three years, but White Clouds Drift On And On is the first album under his own name. Ambient albums from producers in the electronica realm are becoming increasingly common, and White Clouds shares several characteristics with 2007's Land Patterns from The World on Higher Downs (arranged and mixed by Eric Bray of Arctic Hospital): the album is marked by wide, open sonic spaces where repetition is put to great use; Van Wey's compositions slowly evolve and morph while soothing the audience with serene washes of sonic bliss; and the mix is so intricately constructed that each listen reveals a completely new and startling detail to obsess over. As the album steadily ticks away the seconds, the audience drifts away on white cotton clouds of ambient magic. (Jordan Volz)

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29) Sunn O))) | Monoliths & Dimensions
United States

Southern Lord

Over the past few records, everyone's favorite cloaked duo has been expanding its sound in interesting ways. The near permanent addition of Attila Csihar's sin-soaked, sub-lingual vocals moved Sunn O))) one step closer to black metal, but with Monoliths and Dimensions (a possible homage to Earth's Thrones and Dominions?) there are moments of what could almost be called positivity. Case in point, "Big Church (Megszentségteleníthetetlenségeskedéseitekért)" features a soprano choral element and a use of piano that is suspiciously uplifting. Add in the use of a score of new electronics, both for vocals and guitars, and we have a Sunn O))) that is no longer just the reigning king of drone, but also a force in experimental heavy music. (Lee Stablein)

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28) Giuseppe Ielasi | Aix
Italy

12k

Although Giuseppe Ielasi abandoned the poignant drone passages of his earlier releases, the percussive elements of Aix enthrall and marvel with their unpredictability and cohesion. At times, the captivating rhythms stand alone, acting as the sole musical force in a typical song. Nevertheless, Ielasi varies his compositions with unconventional forms of rhythm, ranging from hand drum to what appears to be simple table tapping. Sometimes he appeals to fans of minimal industrial, others times to the true avant-garde, but one thing’s for certain - Ielasi has the rare ability of redirecting the focus of his music, as heard on Aix, while preserving the aesthetic impact of previous albums. (Thomas Meagher)

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27) Panoptique Electrical | Yes to Fear; Yes to Desire
Australia

Sensory Projects

If it weren’t for its set-in-stone colloquial usage in music, “heavy” would describe this album perfectly. Not “metal” heavy, but weighty-heavy. Every slow-burning chord takes its time to resolve, plodding through the gorgeous dreamscape that Jason Sweeney has stirred up. Every transition feels like tectonic movement, and the music here is so engaging the listener can’t help but be swept up in its subtle extravagance. There are no climaxes, no vocals, nothing bombastic or attention-grabbing, but with the right headphones and the right frame of mind, Yes To Fear is an album that will truly captivate its audience. There is a paradoxical gentleness and dwarf-star density in the music: it's content to be background music, but to let oneself go and explore the layers is a beautiful experience. Every note is heart-wrenching, and its astounding how an album so low-key and, at face value, simplistic can be such a rewarding listen. (Calvin Young)

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26) Fjordne | The Setting Sun
Japan

Kitchen

With calculated piano notes and organic sound textures, Fjordne manages to fuse dissimilar sounds into an emotive work of spartan beauty. He assembles a captivating assortment of subtle sounds and motifs, extricating their sonic beauty from dissonant cackles, acoustic guitar, and classical piano. At times melodious and dissonant, it promises to reward and challenge fans of classical and electronica music by translating Dazai’s poetic story of the same name into poignant chapters of musical eloquence. (Thomas Meagher)

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25) Mono | Hymn to the Immortal Wind
Japan

Temporary Residence

Leave it to an album called Hymn to the Immortal Wind to contain some of the most epic, stirring instrumental music of the year, if not the decade. Mono's most recent offering demonstrates a control and maturity rarely found in musicians from any style; the combined songwriting and execution absolutely tear down the Heavens to access Their glory. The practice of tremolo-picked guitars is elevated to true craftsmanship with this record, and the less rock-oriented instruments - violin, piano, chimes - shimmer. With classical poise and a orchestral presence, this is easily Mono's best, and it's a breathtaking reminder of what power music can hold. (Lee Stablein)

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24) Jean-Michel | Tons of Fun
Germany

Onpa

Back in April, the release of Tons of Fun by Jean-Michel stirred the melting pot of electronica in the new century just a little bit more. With an extensive list of both analog and digital influences, Thomas Bücker, mastermind of the cinematic ambient project Bersarin Quartett, combines electric guitar, among other instruments, and an affinity for techno and dubstep to drive one of the few records put out this year that elevate the passions for the electronic era of ambient and IDM. As an extraordinary experiment of downtempo beats, electrifying rhythms, and mind-shattering composition, Tons of Fun provides a plethora of hooks and loops, easily installing this Jean-Michel record as one of the more significant electronic releases of the year, making for a fresh palette of smart, addictive music. (Brett Hayes)

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23) Elegi | Varde
Norway

Miasmah

Starting in 2006, the output of Miasmah Recordings has since been known for its gloomy soundscapes, collected from several talented European electronic sound artists. This year we heard the latest installment from Norway’s Tommy Jansen under his dark ambient moniker, Elegi. Throughout Varde, Jansen takes us on a journey from beginning to end, filled with dark strings, classical piano, and eerie field recordings; however, the most notable quality of the album is that it contains a constant theme on the hardships and tragedies associated with early naval exploration. While creating an interesting accompaniment for historical fascinations, the music throughout Varde provides a wide variety of individual, unique visual representations of the evolving moods of Elegi’s masterful electronic storytelling abilities. Varde makes for a stellar improvement from the highly-acclaimed Sisteresis that Jansen previously crafted and proves this artist will be one to watch in the coming years for his boundary-pushing passions in visual sound art. (Brett Hayes)

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22) Gifts from Enola | From Fathoms
United States

Mylene Sheath

Some albums just sound bigger than the speakers. So many things are happening in the room that Gifts From Enola recorded this album in: off-microphone vocals and screaming hide under the mix; hand-claps appear on "Weightless Thought"; studio doors open and close; a tiny audience glimmers like light on the water's surface. All these little secrets further inject life into this, the band's second full-length album. The five-piece from Virginia delivers so much vivacity within each song, from the gentle harmonica-laced breakdown of "Weightless Frame" to the mind-blowing magnum opus "Trieste" and the triumphant sing-along closure of "Aves," that From Fathoms pushes far out into new realms beyond progressive rock. This is dynamic rock and roll with unstoppable momentum, refreshing in every facet, and sure to impress upon any listener the rich creativity and genuine love for life and music that only Gifts From Enola can deliver. (Nathan Keane)

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21) William Basinski | 92982
United States

2062

William Basinski has been trawling through his seemingly vast collection of old tape recordings again. For 92982 Basinski used loops originally recorded and produced in 1982 at his Brooklyn apartment, and the results are predictably mesmerizing. Once more we are treated to some of the most evocative and truly beautiful ambient music around. Opener 92982.1 is so simple and yet so powerful that we begin to question whether or not there is in fact an element of magic involved, and the heartbreaking 92982.4, with its haunting, decomposed piano melody, illustrates perfectly just how much power Basinski can wield. After a period of seventeen years collecting dust, these recordings still pack a phenomenal emotional punch and serve as just another example of a true master at work. Let’s hope there are further treasures to be uncovered yet. (Matt Fernell)

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