Best new music of 2013-2014

As I didn’t write a 2013 list this time last year—I had just moved to New York and the year had been a bit too tumultuous for music to get adequate attention—here’s an aggregated list of my favorite music purchases over the past two years. My list for 2012 is available here.

Minilogue / Son Kite / Sebastian Mullaert: overall output 2013-2014

From the very beginning of their career, Marcus Henriksson and Sebastian Mullaert have had a rare knack for the very fundamentals of trance music (that is, music that induces trance rather than the often horrible genre); The meticulously fine-tuned beat, precisely the right kind of repetition, the masterfully restrained arrangement of patterns on top and a profound understanding for the interplay of texture and modulation. Although their aesthetic has shifted away from the Massimo Vivona-copycat roots, their understanding of what makes music hypnotic has always been on display. As Minilogue they’ve taken this from trance into house and techno territory over the past 10 years, and on 2013’s ‘Blomma‘ I feel as though they’ve reached full circle, channeling the essence of all these genres at once and throwing in ambient for good measure. As beautiful, summery and blissed out as this album is, the “Live at Länghult” live set they released on Soundcloud along with this album is almost better still.

For those who can’t get enough of Minilogue’s long-form hypno trips—like myself—you should get your hands on their Voices From The Lake remix, as well as the magnificient The Island Of If EP.

As if that wasn’t enough, they have at long last gone back to their trancier roots as Son Kite with the release of Prisma, a supposedly all analog affair that is perhaps closer to the restrained Minilogue sound than fans of their early sound would like, but that I find absolutely wonderful. This too came with a downloadable live set, but this one is only available to those that buy the album. Trance music for adults.

One last recommendation on this topic is Sebastian Mullaert’s collaboration album with Eitan Reiter. No proper dance music here but the same repetition/texture bliss and quite the journey.

 

Teitanblood ‎– DeathTeitanblood - Death

From blissfull light into the deepest darkness. In looking for new music I’ve gone through over 40 metal-centric year-end lists, and Teitanblood has been mentioned on zero of them. Either this means that I look for something else in metal than most other people do, or that this has gone unnoticed by almost everyone despite being released on Norma Evangelium Diaboli, the label of Deathspell Omega. Either way, this is some of the fiercest, most terrifying, menacing, overwhelming and unrelenting metal ever recorded. Considering that extreme metal has been trying to max out these parameters for something like 30 years, Teitanblood’s achievement is even more remarkable. To add to that, if you are able to handle enough repeat listens you will begin to see the genius of the underlying compositions and riffcraft—this isn’t merely chaos for chaos sake. If you think all metal is wimpy nonsense or you’re just curious to see where the outmost frontier of evil metal lies, look no further. Holy shit.

 

steve roach - live transmissionSteve Roach ‎– Live Transmission – From The Drone Zone At Soma FM

Steve Roach is an ambient legend of the highest order, and I feel he deserves way more attention and praise than he is getting. For many years I’ve been meaning to write an article explaining his greatness by picking key releases showcasing his various styles, but it’s a daunting task and his list of releases is still expanding. Now he has almost solved that problem for me with this 2CD album, appropriately recorded at Soma FM’s Drone Zone, the same internet radio channel where I first heard his music when it started in 2000. None of his prior compilations or live albums have captured the best aspects of his sound the way this does. Even though the 20 minute intro track isn’t my favorite I recommend listening start to finish since that’s the only way to sink into his soundworlds properly. Unlike a lot of ambient, good speakers will give this more impact than headphones I think. To me, ambient doesn’t get any better than this. Listen on Bandcamp.

 

Carpe Noctem – In Terra ProfugusCarpe Noctem - In Terra Profugus

While this record may never have been recorded if it wasn’t for Deathspell Omega—the influence seems quite obvious in parts—finally there’s a DsO inspired album that can stand entirely on its own and that gets exactly everything right. Im sure there’s a hundred other influences here too and the introvert darkness that Icelandic music is so often able to summon is surely a huge factor. This is some seriously dense, pummeling, violent, howling, ominous, unrelenting black metal with amazing vocals and epic 8-14 minute songs that just grow and grow. Absolutely fantastic album that will be a staple in my metal diet for a very long time to come.

Irkallian Oracle – Grave Ekstasisirkallian oracle - grave ekstasis

This third death/black metal entry on the list, and another one that the metal community inexplicably seems to have slept on, was originally released on tape in 2013 but I found out about them about a week too late to score a copy. Thankfully proper reissue came in 2014. This is ritualitic chaos/death/void worship of the highest and most dead-serious order, complete with all the pseudophilosophical posturing and pretentions you could ever need. Impossibly heavy, trance-inducing and otherworldly. An absolute milestone of the genre, standing head and shoulders above almost everything else.

 

Nils Frahm ‎– Spacesnils frahm - spaces

Multiinstumentalist performer savant Nils Frahm has an incredibly tough job outdoing his prior releases at this point, but somehow still does it. Amazingly, this is a live album too! Absolutely essential.

 

 

Evigt Mörkerevigt mörker - 1

Swedish techno is doing amazingly well at the moment. Together with Abdulla Rashim, Acronym, NTOGN and Korridor, Evigt Mörker is doing trance inducing music the way the genre Trance never really managed to. I could have argued for any of these guys to be on the list, but Evigt Mörker, which means eternal darkness in Swedish, has some sublime quality that speaks to me on a very profound level. It’s mostly not very dark at all but rather incredibly lush and hypnotic with atmospheres that have the most amazing ancient, dusty, low-winter-sun type of quality to them. I can listen to this for days on repeat. Two EP’s out so far (1, 2), both getting very hard to find already.

Also don’t miss his stunning podcast for Smoke Machine’s Undercover series here.

 

Autechre – Exaiautechre - exai

I don’t listen to anything really similar to autechre because noone gets it right the way they do. They make incredibly abstracted music where every single ingredient—rhythms, melodies, harmonies, textures, arrangements and even song titles—are almost entirely alien to music as we know it. Yet in each area they include microscopic hints at things we know: a fragment of a hiphop beat, a few notes out of a familiar scale or a chord, something that for a second sounds like a distant accordion or footsteps on cold snow or the remnants of a human voice. They do all this with such superhuman precision, restraint and craft that part of the fascination with their music is the question of how it’s even possible that it exists, whether they are even human. Exai is the latest album and as with every single thing they’ve released for the past 20+ years it’s another big step forward in the direction only autechre knows. This is not background music so if you give it a go, sit down and listen properly, ideally from start to finish. There is nothing else like this.

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Some releases, while great, may not entirely qualify for a place among the cream of the crop but be good enough to warrant a wholehearted recommendation. This is where I list them.

 

Acronym – Overall output 2013-2014

With the EP’s Dimensional Exploration 002, Dimensional Exploration 003, River Red Gum and Nautilus, Acronym is now well established as a major force in the Swedish underground techno movement. Melancholy, floating, fat, drony, beautiful techno. If you’re digging Evigt Mörker above, this is utterly essential.

 

Korridor ‎– Path 0102.591

Techno has had another two fantastic years and I’ve bought more in this genre than any other by a huge margin. But as the genre is both contextual and disposable by nature, its hard to pick something that can stand on its own in a list like this. It’s when techno seeps out beyond the confines of the genre the real magic happens, and this is the case here. The B side’s “Shift #91″ is 13 minutes of subaquatic electro tripnosis of the very finest variety. I expect many great things from this guy. Also listen to his stellar live sets from Subland Berlin and Bang Bar in Stockholm.

 

Donato Dozzy – Donato Dozzy Plays Bee Mask

A whole remix album where Italian techno golden goose Donato Dozzy gives Bee Mask a droney, hypnotic treatment. Amazing textures and a delight to get lost in.

 

Clay Wilson ‎– The Bunker New York 002

The A side offers super trippy hypnotechno. Not as big a fan of the flip side but “E4″ alone is worth runner-up status on this list.

 

Pharmakon – “Abandon” and “Bestial Burden

Female power electronics that are exceptionally heartfelt. A very welcome voice, both figuratively and literally, in this genre. This stull will haunt you.

 

Expo ’70 ‎– Virtually From The Unknown

While this starts out sounding like classic Expo ’70 drone when it’s at its very best, things soon get even better as this is in 3-piece band mode with drums and bass. Fire up those lava lamps and get ready for a majestically hypnotic kraut-fueled super trip. By the way, the vinyl sounds glorious.

 

Daniel Menche ‎– Vilké

Daniel Menche makes some of the most cerebral noise I know of, and when he gets it right it’s also some of the most emotionally impactfull output in the genre. So when the liner notes read “Vilké was created with drums, guitars, piano, noise, wolves”—and I probably don’t need to point out that the last ingredient here is the one deserving attention—you know you’re in for a trip. Haunting, dense, swirling, grinding, morphing, rattling long-form noise from one of the greatest sound artists out there. Serious headmusic.
Bandcamp link here but this needs a lossless format.

 

Bestia Arcana ‎– To Anabainon Ek Tes Abyssu

Originally released on CD in 2011 but since I have the 2013 vinyl, I’ll let it count towards this list. While Teitanblood brought some of the most horrifying metal ever created, they are thoroughly bested in the horror department by the pure nightmare that is this album. Sharing two members with Nightbringer (lots of similar guitar techniques), Bestia Arcana is a thousand times more terrifying than that band, at least before the LP transitions into pitch black ambience. The only band that sounds similar to this is Ævangelist, but this is darker still. Perhaps a bit of a one-trick-pony, but what at trick!

 

NOTABLE OMISSIONS

I haven’t listed a single goa/psy-trance release—and no I don’t think Minilogue / Son Kite should be lumped into that cesspool of inbred mediocricy and musical ineptitude—even among the runner-ups, which is remarkable as that genre has been a staple of my musical diet for 20 years. I’ve had my ups and downs with it but always come back; perhaps for the last time now. Not a single new release in the past two years worth an entry on this list? I think it’s both a sad state of affairs for the genre as a whole but also shows that I am simply less enamoured with this style of music than I have ever been. I have also officially stepped down from my role as a label DJ for Suntrip Records.

Blut Aus Nord, the big winner on my last list, released another album but it was stylistically a regression that didn’t quite reach the glorious heights of some his other output.

I’ve also bought some free jazz(!) and other unusual genres for me, but have not listened enough to them to justify inclusion here.

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