An article by The Silent Ballet staff


60) Jannick Schou | Night
Denmark

Under the Spire

Danish sound designer Jannick Schou created Night EP to accompany the frequently cold and lifeless environment that transpires during winter months in Scandinavia. Also known for his ambient work under the moniker Cylon, Schou patiently dispenses a subtle yet profound energy with this twenty three-minute long release. These four tracks are fragile, sonic parchments that Schou crafts masterfully. The multi-layered processed sounds of familiar instruments materialize at a delicate tempo and collectively generate a chilling atmosphere, fully capable of heightening senses and relieving nerves. Schou’s sense of composition is humble yet refined, and his work effectively invokes a transitory escape that almost therapeutically affects the listener’s experience. (Brent Dare)

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59) Emeralds | Does it Look Like I'm Here?
United States

Editions Mego

Emerald's umpteenth release and first album for Editions Mego, Does it Look Like I'm Here? starts by channeling the ghosts of the 1970's Fripp & Eno collaborations, before moving into a more Tangerine Dream/Goblin synthscape territory for "Double Helix". Floating voters may assume this means Does It Look Like I'm Here? is an album bathed in yesterday's sounds with nothing fresh to offer today's listeners - and that is one accusation that has been thrown at Emeralds in the past, not least on this site. But that belief overlooks the beauty of these works, which are simultaneously as light as candy floss and as multi-layered as a fifteen-story car park. The tendency of Emeralds on this album is towards shorter works - aside from the twelve minute "Genetic" the more expansive, improvised, earlier work is only hinted at. But the concise nature of the tracks here make for a direct, accessible album with the rough edges smoothed away, full of music to soundtrack both the lazy days of August, and frosty, winter morns. (Jeremy Bye)

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58) Evan Caminiti | West Winds
United States

Three Lobed

It was a busy year for Evan Caminiti, who released a massive full length with Barn Owl as well as this LP of solo work, which showcased a somewhat quieter side of his ambient guitar style. Caminiti's work on West Winds defies verbal description, seeming to be almost half of a conversation with the listener, begging for an answer in the language of guitar. This is one of those intense yet oddly unspecific records, making it difficult to analyze but impossible not to praise. Those who venture down Caminiti's wild solo works with an open mind will be greatly rewarded with infinitely expressive music. (Lee Stablein)

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57) Bill Elm & Woody Jackson | Red Dead Redemption
United States

Rockstar Games

The whistles, wagon wheels, and horses' hooves are only the beginning. Elm and Jackson combine period instruments with Morricone brass and strings to create a sonic map of the Old West. Saloons, gunfights, and chases down dust-strewn streets are vividly portrayed in what may be the year's most picturesque soundtrack. The compositions feel authentic, the playing is driven, and the dramatic tension is high. One need not have played the award-winning game to follow the narrative; a flask of bourbon and a wooden floor will do. After months of clamoring from fans, a CD version was finally made available in the fall, along with a sequel involving (what else?) zombies. (Richard Allen)

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56) Maserati | Pyramid of the Sun
United States

Temporary Residence

Pyramid of the Sun. The imagery conjured by that phrase speaks volumes about the direction Maserati has chosen to steer its vessel. After a decade, three studio albums, and a litter of splits and EPs, the Athens, Georgia outfit departs from its flirtation with the traditional stylings of melodic post-rock to unleash a work that truly justifies why it chose to christen itself the way it did. As it launches with “Who Can Find the Beast?”, the album almost sounds like one of Trans Am’s lost recordings, but the truth is it is still the same tempo-driven, technically-proficient, psychedelic-tinged Maserati, simply with a new frenetically upbeat complexion. Dominated by its retro prog tonality, kinetic pace, and futuristic vibe, exemplified by hits like “We Got the System to Fight the System”, “They’ll No More Suffer From Thirst/Hunger”, and “Oaxaca”, even the added poignancy of drummer Jerry Fuchs’ tragic, untimely death cannot contain this dynamic feast of dark, energetic, Krautrock-inspired ferocity. (Mac Nguyen)

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55) Salem | King Night
United States

IAMSOUND

The most ‘artistic’ form of rebellion is possibly that of subversion, of turning something (a convention, a value) upside down by pure force of will to reveal its artificiality and absurdity. That is what punk did with rock, and that is what Salem does with the oft-empathic, friendly haziness of the last couple years of certain indie electronic music. With the sharp, ironic gravity of hip hop, it pushes those bright Polaroid teenage dreams into the realm of juvenile drugged madness; with aural black magic, it turns innocence to perversion, a simple telephone post into a symbol of power, a “holy night” into a grin of cold despair. In its theatrics, the vanity of that other electronic music is unveiled; King Night is a play of self-consciousness that holds a complexity not easily suitable for praise or dismissal, but which nevertheless has produced one of the most remarkable albums of the year, one that will very possibly keep cracking our heads for years to come. (David Murrieta)

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54) Victoire | Cathedral City
United States

New Amsterdam

There are so many reasons to love Cathedral City. Victoire makes classical music fun and sexy, two words that are not normally associated with the genre. And the sexiness is not just because Victoire is an all-female quintet, although it must be said that this author finds women who play classical instruments to be undeniably sexy. No, the sexiness comes from the sheer joy of playing that pours out of every note on Cathedral City, from the fact that the album manages to be both light-hearted and serious at the same time, from the intelligence required to score such beauty, from the swagger and self-confidence that the musicians obviously feel permitted to themselves after having written such a stunning album. This is classical, alright, but this is our classical. (Tom Butcher)

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53) Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble | In C Remixed
United States

Innova

The forty five-year old aleatoric masterpiece In C is, without a doubt, an enriching work that exemplifies the experimental ingenuity and sonic prowess of its creator, Terry Riley. Furthermore, its cultural significance inspired an ambitious revision that was brilliantly actualized by the Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble. In C Remixed offers a more than respectable nod to one of minimalism’s most widely-treasured compositions. Despite its truncated duration and ensemble of performers, the master track of In C is equally imaginative and truthfully displays the talent and motivating force behind the GVSU New Music Ensemble. And with contributing artists that include Zoë Keating, DJ Spooky, and Nico Muhly, the result is just as seminal as it is hypnotic. (Brent Dare)

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52) Ef | Mourning Golden Morning
Sweden

And the Sound

The true success of Mourning Golden Morning is the diverse ranges of sounds and emotions. The trademark Scandinavian post-rock is present, and there are numerous glorious moments, such as the powerful opening on “K-141 KYPCK” and the stunning “Sons of Ghosts”. Elsewhere the spectacular vocals and swirling instrumentation provides moments of laid back utopia in lush offerings. There is no lack of ideas and nothing is reproduced, which gives the album a true freshness. The only problem for Ef is how it can go on to top this effort. (Gary Davidson)

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51) Chicagojazzen | Misantropi för Nybörjare
Sweden

Irrlicht

What makes an outsider work such as Chicagojazzen’s Misantropi one of the best records of the year? To put it simply, its audacity and its subtly destructive shots at almost every kind of music covered by The Silent Ballet, from post-rock to metal and even the more experimental kind of sounds. It is an album that revels in its deconstructive amateurism while maintaining a high level of quality at all times, gracing us with danceable tunes, the melancholy of post-rock, the edge of musique concrète, and the deeply rich deviation of all that is art brut. Everything fits with utmost grace, and there is no denying this album is a piece of stone mistaken for a diamond, a fake gem of incredible value with no parallel elsewhere, a beautiful thing that turns ugly when one tries to explain why it is so magical and significant. Hunt it down, and then don’t let go. (David Murrieta)

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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