Friday, January 14, 2011

Albums of 2010, part seven

Noveller, Desert Fires
More of that fantastic ambient music that's been coming out. What with Noveller's guitars-and-pedals virtuosity, and the things she does with it, it would be easy to compare her music to the great Robert Fripp and Brian Eno collaborations, and I'm going to go ahead and do it. But the comparison, as with most such, conceals more than it reveals, particularly because Eno and Fripp were inventing ambient music and so fit into it perfectly, where Noveller is only partly contained by the genre: influenced by it, working with it, but neither defining it nor defined by it. The best guitarist in this mode this side of Michael Rother, a hugely exciting musician, and I'm excited to think that she's got more in her.

omoo omoo, Strands of Hands
omoo omoo, Mt.
omoo omoo, new fields

These are by a friend of mine, so it would be indecent to go on too long about them. But: they are amazing, amazing, amazing albums. I mean it. It can be hard to judge the quality of the work of your friends, but I have proof that these are fantastic. Once I had one of them on when the Baronette (who knows omoo omoo way better than I do) got home from work, and she said "Whoa! This is great, what is it?" And once she had another of the albums on when I got home, and I said "Is this Cluster? No, it doesn't quite sound like Cluster. It's so good! What is it?" If I was going to be utterly reductive about omoo omoo's sound, I would say something like John Fahey channeled through Krautrock, but that would be stupid. Instead, just listen to them. It's free!

Oneohtrix Point Never, Returnal
Returnal's opening track, "Nil Admirari," sounds like Lightning Bolt started playing and then, embarrassedly realizing they weren't supposed to be there, froze, hoping no one would notice. They're not very good at freezing, though, and it falls apart progressively until the end of the track, when they realize it's not working and slink away in shame. After that, the album moves seamlessly into what is its predominant mode, which is, like Emeralds, a development of the electronic ambient music of the late 70s and early 80s as if the intervening time had never happened. Which is not to say that this music is "like" Emeralds, any more than this is like this; nor is it to say that this music is unrelated to the present (for example, the title track, here unsullied by Antony's overacting, sounds much like the Knife). Fantastically varied music, especially considering how slow and patient most of it is.

Oni Ayhun, OAR004
When I said before that the Knife were never just dance music, I didn't mean to imply that it would be bad if they were. Dreamy Olof Dreijer, half of the Knife, has been releasing some EPs in recent years under the name Oni Ayhun, and they are pure techno. Traces of the Knife are easily identifiable, especially their fondness for slippery notes that slide around restlessly even if they only last a tiny fraction of a second. It's perhaps a bit too techno-techno for me to really love, but if it's your thing it's fantastic.

Oval, Oh
Oval, O

Oval didn't make the installation that is photographed on the cover of Oh, but it is appropriate for the music. In that installation, Celeste Boursier-Mougenot created an aviary, filled it with birds and electric guitars and let what happened, happen. It makes sense that on adding live instrumentation to his glitch sound, Markus Popp would use them in a way that sounds like they're being played unintentionally, or at least not as they were intended to. The electric guitars he uses on these two albums (Oh is technically considered an EP at 25 minutes long, while O is almost two hours; they have the same basic sound; guess which I listen to more?) are gorgeous, and they sound like they're being played by birds going about their business, or, at the very most conventional, by Derek Bailey. The drums (and there is something more startling to me about Oval using live drums than live guitars) are hardly more ordinary.

Where before Oval's music was often immersive and flowing, now it all seems to be about standing back and investigating tiny details. I don't think I will ever love an Oval album the way I love 94diskont (though there are few albums by anyone that I love the way I love 94diskont), but this is fascinating and, considering that together there is well over two hours of it, infinitely explorable.

Max Richter, Infra
Melancholic chamber music (string quartet and piano, I think) that goes in and out of being electronically processed. Not always present, but always nearby, is that mysterious sound of a radio trying to tune in to a distant signal, perhaps sometimes even finding it. Great music, terribly sad.

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