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Old 01-12-2013, 12:35 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default joy_circumcision's Tops of 2012


10. Charles Gayle | Streets

Charles Gayle has always been a unique if understated voice in the world of free jazz - his impeccable saxophone abilities and individual voice have provided some of the most powerful pieces of music of their kind since he started recording in his late forties. On Streets, at an even more advanced age than when he began, Gayle once again proves he can do it better than the young guys, staying at the cutting edge of jazz music and insisting that it continue to move forward in a time of popular regression. His persona of Streets the Clown adorns the cover and acts as the Fools of old: circumventing the Tim Burton approach to clownship and instead opting for the social critic role. He succeeds beautifully.


9. Various Artists | Fukushima!

Intended as a tribute album for those displaced and otherwise afflicted by the disaster with which it shares its name, Fukushima! succeeds on its own terms as well. Two discs of some of the most formative performers and composers in current EAI make for some of the best listening of the year. Always recalling their subject material but not getting into blind self-important activism or excessive sentimentalism, the album shines.


8. Andy Stott | Luxury Problems

2012 was the year of vaporwave - inspired by Baudrillard, Deleuze, Guattari, and the rest in their fight to undo capitalism by using its own provided apparatuses (capital and its various simulacra) against it by magnifying them, artists marched to Soundcloud and others to provide the latest hazy 21st Century only-on-the-Internet trend. That context expands the importance of Luxury Problems, Andy Stott's debut LP. The album stood on its own this year as one of the few electronic albums to buck the passing fad and go for a more Future sound - in the process, Stott's focus on luxury and intensely moody beats emphasized the portions of consumer culture that are sexy and played along with the joke while also making an aesthetically powerful piece of music. Think vaporwave for adults, and you have this - one of the best albums of the year.


7. Vikki Jackman | A Paper Doll's Whisper of Spring

Vikki Jackman and her cohorts on the Faraway Press label have been making quality ambient and softer drone pieces for the past half a decade, filling the world with some of the most vibrant timbre-driven mood fixtures in music. Too bad for Faraway, then, that one of their first departures (as the trio of Jackman and fellows Andrew Chalk and Jean-Noel Rebilly) from the label to the world of handmade LPs should be the best thing that any of the three of them has ever released. This album just works in ways it shouldn't and really has to be heard to be understood fairly, but it represents the epitome (so far!) of particularly Jackman's focus on loose nostalgia and frost.


6. lo wie and Ryu Hankil | Beckett's Typist

Recalling earlier works by Hankil, particularly the obvious reference point of Becoming Typewriter, Beckett's Typist epitomizes a lot of the ideals of John Cage that are sometimes misunderstood. Though no great theoretical bound, the work still warrants serious intellectual discussion as a work exploring multiple media at once: in this case, both short works of literature and (non-)music. The concept is this: several microphones are attached to various portions of a typewriter, as well as several signals being attached to different keys so that they produce other unique noises. Then, a short typed piece (provided with physical copies of the album) is created with the prepared typewriter. The unique synthesis of what is a genuinely interesting sound and literature in the form of a living piece that can be heard in quite possibly one of the most paradoxically (given the mechanical nature of the typewriter) organic ways possible is quite satisfying.


5. Jakob Ullmann | Fremde Zeit Addendum

Quickly positioning himself as one of the 21st Century's most important composers, Ullmann released this collection of works this year to great acclaim in The Wire. The three discs here present very wide variations on his central Lowercase themes, commanding as they always have intense focus by the listener, both on the physical level (the works are intentionally mixed at a very low volume to demand active engagement to make out their sounds) and the rational. A major talent, a major release, something worth a major amount of your time.


4. Keith Rowe | September

This album's absence from the Top 3 is a testament to how good of a year 2012 was. As far as the music concerned, it is in classic Rowe fashion dense but light: never seeking to undermine the ability of a listener to pay attention for extended intervals to his incredibly unique music, Rowe let this live set clock in at about 30 minutes. Played on the anniversary of 9/11, Rowe's latest is both a sonic escapade and the inevitable political statement. It functions on two levels: one is as a sonic critique of the rock era's musical approaches and tendency to fad and transience: there are pop works interspersed within characteristic drones and prepared guitar sections that seem to completely devour them, letting everyone know just how Rowe feels about the future of pop music, that is, an endless nihilistic streak that perpetually fades into an entropic background. The other level is just as controversial: Rowe's specific choice of pop songs is never more on point than when he plays an uncomfortably long section of "Unbelievable." Unbelievable, the official report of the events of the day in 2001. Unbelievable, the intense righteousness and indignation of the world's most powerful nation. Unbelievable, the completely irrational response to the attacks. Unbelievable, how good this piece of music truly is.


3. Jüppala Kääpiö | Animalia Corolla

An early favorite of the year, this album is the latest from one of the most enchanting acts to come out in recent years. Jüppala Kääpiö combine field recordings and sparse electronics to create works that emphasize not only the beauty of nature but envelope the listener in a singularity of nature and technology, with the former always winning out in influence. The earthy tones and satisfying insistence on conservation through drone-infused melancholy but inspiring sessions vis-a-vis with monolithic trees and sprawling grass is an aesthetic that might have actually been perfected on this. Don't miss their third LP, which was released late in 2012 and is just a slight, slight step down from this great height.


2. Burial | Truant / Rough Sleeper

This is Future. All year, Kindred had a spot on lock on my year-end list, showing as it did Burial's intense talent in creating truly cinematic music. Well, with Truant/Rough Sleeper, Burial has not only outdone himself but almost every other artist to release this year. His slew of EPs in recent years has solidified him a spot as one of the masters of Future and a new kind of musique concrete, focused as it is on the production of nostalgia in a grimier, less affected way. Like The Caretaker for urban ennui instead of bourgeois holiday, Burial is quickly establishing himself as not only someone whose third LP could never come out and his legacy left pretty substantial, but potentially the most transformative, consistent, important artist now working in music.


1. Cool Quartet with Lina Nyberg featuring Eric La Casa | Dancing in Tomelilla

For all the dialog between past and present and future this year, from all the electronic innovations and sonic experimentation, the album to rise to the top this year was not some new avant-garde "it" production or some venerable old performer making a latest-and-greatest statement. No, the album of the year was a humble vocal jazz record, transformed as it was by Eric La Casa's individual recording techniques. Essentially, the sounds of a vocal jazz concert given in an urban apartment, this album is taken to a new level by its strange recording: La Casa walks around the building, inside and out, capturing the sounds of the concert: it is a staged meta-cognition on the state and importance of the live music experience, as well as a unique statement on spacial contexts in music. And it sounds damn good.

So, that's my list. How do you like it? What are yours? Any you especially liked/disliked from my list? Questions of any kind? Comments? Looking forward to an even better 2013!
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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10. Charles Gayle | Streets

Charles Gayle has always been a unique if understated voice in the world of free jazz - his impeccable saxophone abilities and individual voice have provided some of the most powerful pieces of music of their kind since he started recording in his late forties. On Streets, at an even more advanced age than when he began, Gayle once again proves he can do it better than the young guys, staying at the cutting edge of jazz music and insisting that it continue to move forward in a time of popular regression. His persona of Streets the Clown adorns the cover and acts as the Fools of old: circumventing the Tim Burton approach to clownship and instead opting for the social critic role. He succeeds beautifully.


6. lo wie and Ryu Hankil | Beckett's Typist

Recalling earlier works by Hankil, particularly the obvious reference point of Becoming Typewriter, Beckett's Typist epitomizes a lot of the ideals of John Cage that are sometimes misunderstood. Though no great theoretical bound, the work still warrants serious intellectual discussion as a work exploring multiple media at once: in this case, both short works of literature and (non-)music. The concept is this: several microphones are attached to various portions of a typewriter, as well as several signals being attached to different keys so that they produce other unique noises. Then, a short typed piece (provided with physical copies of the album) is created with the prepared typewriter. The unique synthesis of what is a genuinely interesting sound and literature in the form of a living piece that can be heard in quite possibly one of the most paradoxically (given the mechanical nature of the typewriter) organic ways possible is quite satisfying.


4. Keith Rowe | September

This album's absence from the Top 3 is a testament to how good of a year 2012 was. As far as the music concerned, it is in classic Rowe fashion dense but light: never seeking to undermine the ability of a listener to pay attention for extended intervals to his incredibly unique music, Rowe let this live set clock in at about 30 minutes. Played on the anniversary of 9/11, Rowe's latest is both a sonic escapade and the inevitable political statement. It functions on two levels: one is as a sonic critique of the rock era's musical approaches and tendency to fad and transience: there are pop works interspersed within characteristic drones and prepared guitar sections that seem to completely devour them, letting everyone know just how Rowe feels about the future of pop music, that is, an endless nihilistic streak that perpetually fades into an entropic background. The other level is just as controversial: Rowe's specific choice of pop songs is never more on point than when he plays an uncomfortably long section of "Unbelievable." Unbelievable, the official report of the events of the day in 2001. Unbelievable, the intense righteousness and indignation of the world's most powerful nation. Unbelievable, the completely irrational response to the attacks. Unbelievable, how good this piece of music truly is.
I love that Charles Gayle album, it's in my top ten as well. I remember being really intrigued by the idea of Beckett's Typist but I couldn't find it anywhere, do you have a link? And I didn't know that Rowe had a new album out! That's awesome, I'll have to check that out as well.

Haven't heard the rest of the artists in there either, but I'll visit them and let you know what I think. Judging from your other posts here, I don't think that I'll be too disappointed.
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
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First of all, I have to say, it is a testament to your musical knowledge that I have seen almost none of these records on any other year-end list I've read. I have only heard of a handful of these at all, in fact.

Secondly, as a jazz fanatic, I will definitely be tracking down both #10 and #1, but I will also be interested in hearing your top five. I really enjoy field recordings and musique concrete, so the Burial and Jüppala Kääpiö records will probably be great.

You seem to have impeccable musical taste, so I'm sure all of these are wonderful.
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Old 01-12-2013, 05:07 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Great list! I definitely approve of the Burial, I've loved him for years.
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:39 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Nice man. Shall check out the ones I don't know about.
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