An article by The Silent Ballet Staff


20) Stubborn Tiny Lights vs Clustering Darkness Forever, OK? | The Infinite Regress
United States

Future Recordings

It has been a good year for post-rock bands trying to transcend the tired old comparisons to turn-of-the-century bands. Stubborn Tiny Lights is one of these. The Infinite Regress has an organic feel, both in the prominence of acoustic instruments and in creation. It is as if it was birthed entirely naturally and entirely deliberately. No movement or instrument outstays its welcome and each feels like it needs and - even more importantly - desires to be there. Climaxes are not overused, and calm sections are not purposeless. The music’s rise and fall is more like breathing, not forced but rather unconscious and necessary. Oh, and did I mention that this is the band's full-length debut? (Matt Gilley)

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19) Envy | Recitation
Japan

Temporary Residence

“Screamo” is probably a four-letter word in many vocabularies, but Envy’s blend of post-hardcore aggression and post-rock grandeur has stopped the band from becoming a dirty word. Recitation continues the group’s effort to reconcile intricate dynamics and violence, but thankfully it hides all the seams between the genre fusing: instead of being an ugly half-and-half, the entire record feels remarkably natural. There’s no explicit “this is our heart-wrenching instrumental climax” posturing, and no self-consciously “hostile” sections. Instead, it is a beautifully conceived homogenous whole, with every shout and tremolo-shredding build-up feeling naturally and purposefully paired. Recitation is arguably the pinnacle of Envy’s genre-bending career, where the band have truly married its divergent songwriting goals. (Calvin Young)

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18) Greg Haines | Until the Point of Hushed Support
England

Sonic Pieces

After debuting a piece of this work on the Slaapwel label, Greg Haines invited a few friends over to flesh out his compositions. They gathered in Berlin's Grunewald Church, which is known for its acoustic properties. Nils Frahm played the piano, the church organ reverberated, and a string quintet lent its effervescent tones. The four pieces work as one, and the slow-moving brilliance of what amounts to a mini-symphony marks it as a modern Gorecki's Third. Haines has expanded on his electronic drone sensibilities, plundering new depths of emotion and reaching new heights of brilliance. Those who have experienced sorrow will find consolation in these notes; those whose souls have been darkened will find illumination. Fans of the ever-reliable Sonic Pieces label will simply say, "It's the tan one!" (Nayt Keane)

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17) Valgeir Sigurðsson | Draumalandið
Iceland

Bedroom Community

The film is a mixture of natural elegance and political commentary. Sigurðsson's score provides the perfect backdrop: sensitive in some spots, soaring in others. Thanks to such tender soundtracking, the unpalatable subject of environmental rape is made palatable. With connections to virtually every successful Icelandic performer of the young century, Sigurðsson is proving himself to be a national treasure of a musical kind. As the twenty-piece chamber orchestra brings his symphony to a rousing crescendo, one can imagine his career doing the same. (Richard Allen)

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16) My Education | Sunrise
United States

Strange Attractors

My Education has matured since its previous release, Bad Vibrations. Sunrise brings more mature songwriting and a cleanliness of sound that makes this album stand out amongst other post-rock albums. Maintaining its love of dark and Middle East-inspired melodies, My Education also introduces clean and more upbeat themes, as heard on “Peasant Dance”, and the group allows tension to build over time. Unlike many post-rock bands, not all songs result in a huge cathartic blast of sound. Intensity of instruments, thickening melodies, and instrumentation changes allow for satisfying songs that do not give it all away in one blow. However, in true post-rock fashion, the group is still a master of the old "wall of sound", as heard on “Heave Oars”. This is a post-rock album that dares to do things a little differently while not forsaking those ideals that make post-rock such a powerful and enjoyable body of music. (Greg Norte)

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15) Pantha du Prince | Black Noise
Germany

Rough Trade

Minimal techno is almost something of an oxymoron. Since why would anyone in the ravey, entrancing, maximalist pill-popping world of techno music ever want any of that indulgence minimized? I pose that question rhetorically, but if one were to force an answer, then the closest thing lies with Hendrik Weber, a.k.a. Pantha du Prince. Album three on his CV, Black Noise is the culmination of Weber’s adherence to a simple artistic ethic that single-handedly restores relevance to the "minimal techno" label: to treat all excess in dance music as precisely that—excess, superfluity, luxuriance, waste. Instead, the German native opts for economy, trading in thumping beats for a rhythmic sea of pulsation, abrasive thumping variety for loop utilization to its fullest effect, and big catchy hooks for the subtlety of a woven palette of melodic coloring. Black Noise is as intoxicating as it is intellectual, and most remarkably, as pure dance music, the euphoric yield remains utterly undiminished. (Mac Nguyen)

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14) Wires Under Tension | Light Science
United States

& records / Western Vinyl

Yet another stunning release from Christopher Tignor, Light Science pairs the composer with his Slow Six band mate, drummer Theo Metz, and they explore more kinetic and beat-driven compositions than on previous works. Wires Under Tension was originally the name of Tignor’s software development work, and this is an appropriate name for this musical act as well, since he uses this project as a vehicle to explore the potential for his custom software. This results in very organic electronic manipulation of live elements, something few others have experimented with. Metz’s propulsive beats and almost danceable rhythms give the record a very visceral quality that is hard to overstate. And of course, Tignor’s violin features prominently, and any excuse to hear more of that is a welcome one. (Joseph Sannicandro)

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13) Hammock | Chasing After Shadows ... Living With the Ghosts
United States

Self-Released

Quite where Hammock fits into the instrumental spectrum is a matter for debate, and even Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson are not quite sure, going on the basis of their interview with TSB earlier this year. I tend to think of Chasing After Shadows...Living With Ghosts not as a collection of twelve songs but as a work of art, a hypnotic soundscape, with dreamlike tones which envelope the listener. This may be the merging of the band's two previous musical streams; the more accessible post-rock sound meets the thick ambient live stylings in a body of work that can't really be broken apart, yet each piece is remarkably addicting. Think of Hammock’s music as a drug for the clean-living, or as a panacea for all of life’s little problems. (Richard White)

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12) Flying Lotus | Cosmogramma
United States

Warp

It is the second album that is the tricky one, according to legend. Obviously this particularly nugget passed Steven Ellison by, as Cosmogramma is a more adventurous, more experimental - although arguably less cohesive - album than his debut. It is vaguely hip-hop, but there are any number of 60's jazz and 70's soul influences ladled on to the beats. Cracking open the contacts book helped - cousin Ravi (son of John) Coltrane guests, most notably on the Sun Ra referencing "Arkestry", Thom Yorke contributes to "…And The World Laughs With You", and the string arrangements of Miguel Atwood-Ferguson add an extra layer of emotive depth. But it is the fluid bass of Thundercat that defines the album. It provides the groove, the funk, and, more often than not, the hook amidst some dense and complex arrangements. FlyLo shows not only his adeptness at putting disparate influences together for an album of creative and soulful electronica, but also his ear for a collaborator - a partnership that benefits everyone, the listener especially. (Jeremy Bye)

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11) Bas van Huizen | Plooibaars
Netherlands

Self-Released

Beneath Tim Hecker’s umber waves of grain, there is a subterranean, industrial fantasy land full of field recordings, static, disembodied organ, manipulated guitars, bird calls, and swirling ambience. Microscopic landscapes give way to tumultuous leviathans, the textures changing as soon as they appear, making for a very active ambient album. Bas van Huizen hails from the Netherlands, and Plooibars finds him in top form, snuffling the blatant dissonance and violence of past releases into a psychedelic calm, as if the storm he fashions is outside and we are humbly curled up inside sipping tea. This release can still be downloaded as of this list, and it’d be highly difficult to locate a stronger 2010 ambient release for free. (Nayt Keane)

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Top Albums: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11| 10-1

Top Tracks: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-01