An article by The Silent Ballet Staff


40) The Autumn Project | This We Take With Us
United States

Zurecords

To quote the comedic travel writer and lexicologist Bill Bryson: “I come from Des Moines. Somebody had to.” Well, perhaps Bryson wouldn’t have adopted such a defeatist attitude if The Autumn Project had made its presence known sooner. The band has existed in some form for a decade, lurking in the shadows of the post-rock world, but This We Take With Us has really thrust them into the limelight. There is a strong sense of cohesion to the album, with various powerful, insistent themes emerging throughout the eight tracks in the form of guitar-driven, metal-tinged, post-apocalyptic soundscapes. Judging by the dark music on offer here, The Autumn Project may very well be the harbinger of doom, but I’m sure Bill Bryson would be no less proud. (Richard White)

[Read Our Review]

39) flica | Telepathy Dreams
Malaysia

Self-Released

Quick on the heels of 2008’s Nocturnal, flica, Malaysia’s prodigal electro-acoustic son, delivers a much darker sentiment in Telepathy Dreams. The attention to detail in the drum programming tugs on the coattails of Helios and shoegaze all at once. To call this album ‘dreamy’ would be an understatement, as the listener could easily fall into meditative arrest throughout forty-six minutes of rustic electronics and street-hardened acoustics. Euseng Seto does an excellent job further building the bridge between the opposing banks of post-rock and electronica. Think of Bitcrush hitting the studio after an all-night DJ party tour and landing somewhere near Flying Saucer Attack’s beat-centric next-door neighbors, and this is where flica will be found. (Gabriel Bogart)

[Read Our Review]

38) Bell Orchestre | As Seen Through Windows
Canada

Arts & Crafts

At first, Bell Orchestre was viewed as an offshoot of Arcade Fire. The two bands share members and both use classical instrumentation, but the similarities stop there. With its second album, Bell Orchestre steps out from the shadow of its lyric-led cousin to offer a masterpiece of ebullience. Alternating between patient restraint and bouts of joy, As Seen Through Windows is the sonic equivalent of sunlight through stained glass. Perhaps this is post-rock, but if so, it rests on the border of modern composition, with the role of guitars sublimated to those of violins, brass, and bells. Even an Aphex Twin cover, stuck in the album’s center, stays surefooted. A remix EP followed in mid-fall, offering alternative interpretations, but the originals could not be topped. The live show, with twin trumpeters dueling in the aisles, was an additional treat, evidence that the band’s members were as happy as they sounded on disc. (Richard Allen)

[Read Our Review]

37) A Broken Consort | Crow Autumn Part Two
England

Sustain-Release

Our review of Crow Autumn Part Two suggested that, in comparison to other so-called ‘neo-classical’ musicians such as Max Richter, Richard Skelton is more in line with the progressive nature of late 20th century composers like Arvo Pärt. Skelton’s focused, almost formulaic approach to overlapping and lengthening the resonance of his instruments certainly draws general comparison to the ‘sacred’ minimalism of Pärt. The improvisational organicism of Skelton’s aesthetic, particularly on releases such as this, is perhaps more akin to the ambient tape experiments of John Luther Adams. Crow Autumn Part Two, while not quite reaching the gut-crimping bliss of his Preservation debut, Marking Time, displays some of the most cohesive and effective refinements of Skelton’s specific sound and is more compositionally tight than its Crow Autumn predecessor. A Broken Consort, with its larger scale and multi-movement compositions, has always been the most successful of Skelton’s many monikers. Crow Autumn Part Two confirms this. (Marcus Whale)

[Read Our Review]

36) Last Days | Safety of the North
England

n5md

On paper, Last Days' The Safety of the North is a post-rock opera, a post-apocalyptic narrative about a city that "failed" and one family's mad dash for freedom. But knowledge about young Alice, the story's protagonist, and her family's heartbreaking journey to escape whatever catastrophe destroyed their hometown is not a prerequisite to getting wrapped up in the slow-burning crescendo that smacks "Fracture" out of the ballpark, the gently picked guitar balladry of "May Your Days Be Gold," or the fuzzed out, elegiac "Nothing Stays the Same, Nothing Ever Ends." However, those that do decide to take the album in as a whole, narrative and all, will find that the story's theme of hope in the face of adversity fits the music to a tee. The struggle between the organic elements and the electronic ones in Last Days' cinematic sound, the way acoustic guitars and pianos get sampled, fed into a blender, and underscored by stately drones, mirrors Alice's fight to retain some semblance of childhood and humanity in spite of all of the death and destruction around her. Very few concept albums wear their concepts so well. (Craig Jenkins)

[Read Our Review]

35) Nadja | Under the Jaguar Sun
Canada

Beta-Lactam Ring

With a discography the size of many indie label's entire catalog, it is only natural that many Nadja releases would go unnoticed. However, with the release of this three-disc monster, the band finally gets the recognition it deserves. Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker have finally released what would be referred to as the ‘definitive’ Nadja album. In similar fashion to Dante’s Divine Comedy, the album is divided into three parts. ‘Darkness’ is the duo's signature drone doom at its strongest and best produced, with each layer perfectly laid upon the next, and the end result is massive. Hell’s darkness has never sounded so inviting. The second part, ‘Wind,’ explores the other end of the drone spectrum and shows the influence Tim Hecker has had on Aidan Baker. Hums and whispers combine with all kinds of distorted sounds to form the background noise for Dante’s ‘Purgatory’. And finally, to top it all off, the last part is both discs playing over each other, and boy do they sync! A wholesome three-hour long three-course meal that ought to please the pickiest drone fan appropriately ends with what might be the best drone track of the year, if not the decade, “Sun5Earthquake/Nahui-Ollin.” (Mohammed Ashraf)

[Read Our Review]

34) Aaron Martin | Chautauqua
United States

Preservation

Aaron Martin lives in Topeka, Kansas. Topeka means “to dig good potatoes.” And Martin has certainly dug some good potatoes here. In a city dominated by country and Christian music, Martin is a certified eclectic. But dig a little deeper, and Martin’s music seems less off the mark. The city is also known for its Pentecostalism, and if instruments could speak in tongues, Martin would be playing them. His compositions begin simply, but gradually edge their way into the spiritual realm, with harmonies that tug at the heartstrings. An ineffable sadness inhabits these pieces, an embedded sorrow that yearns for empathy. If only we could translate these sounds, we might gain a glimpse of the larger picture, a fragment of understanding. And yet, they remain just outside our field of comprehension. Martin’s experiments with processed strings and home movies have led to something utterly beguiling: an album that exists somewhere between the past and future, yet floats above the present realm like an escaped balloon. (Richard Allen)

[Read Our Review]

33) Tu M' | Monochromes Vol. 1
Italy

12k/Line

Jean Cocteau once wrote that "a musician [always has] too many notes on his keyboard." Tu M’ will likely never be accused of having such a problem. Ambient music must always allow for introspection, but few albums have carried this goal further than Monochromes Vol. 1, which almost legitimately sounds like music from the womb. The duo has been plying its trade for almost a decade now, but with its first release for Richard Chartier's Line label, it appears to be seeing the fruition of its hard work and is well on the way to hitting a comfortable mid-career stride. As an audio/visual project, the album is somewhat incomplete without its film accompaniment, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t still incredibly satisfying on its own. This is one of the slowest and most majestic albums of the year. (Tom Butcher)

[Read Our Review]

32) Fabio Orsi & Valerio Cosi | Thoughts Melt in the Air
Italy/Italy

Preservation

Fabio Orsi and Valerio Cosi are among Europe’s most prolific experimental collaborators – most visibly and effectively with each other. Thoughts Melt In The Air is easily one of the best of the two’s releases, solo or otherwise, and it comes down to the sculpture of the release as a whole. Orsi and Cosi dissolve into each other on this album. The dynamic between the two is permanently in flux, never surrendering to the static, fractured moods often reached in less congruous drone collaborations. Drone can easily be pretty, but Thoughts Melt In The Air seems to work on different, less trivial terms. Orsi and Cosi are a somewhat unusual choice for Preservation, given the more folksy bent of its core artists, but on this album slotting into the label’s more general aesthetic has meant a consolidation of the best elements of each player: Orsi’s love of processed and manipulated melody with Cosi’s improvisational freedom. (Marcus Whale)

[Read Our Review]

31) Saxon Shore | It Doesn't Matter

United States

Self-Released

Four years of darkness had passed since its exquisite death, but 2009 saw Saxon Shore rise from the ashes to rejoin forces with legendary producer Dave Fridmann to release It Doesn’t Matter. Album opener “Nothing Changes” reaches a thunderous and truly un-Saxon Shore-esque climax, making me initially wonder whether it shouldn’t in fact be called “Everything Changes.” While the band's distinctive and uplifting guitar-based melodies are prominently featured, there’s a more liberal use of keyboards than the Saxon Shore of old, and haunting female vocals even make a shock appearance on one track (more like Gregor Samsa than Gwen Stefani, mercifully). It Doesn’t Matter has a somewhat euphoric feel to it and proves that the band has lost none of its shine – consider it a bright blue panacea for those depressingly dark winter nights. (Richard White)

[Read Our Review]