What were your top 5 albums of 2016?

I’ve figured out my top 5 albums of 2016, after much deliberation, probably too much, what were yours? There’s a poll thingy down below.

The Listening List

22/12/2016 – 30/12/2016
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P.I.L – Live In Tokyo
Craig Armstrong – It’s Nearly Tomorrow
Adelbert Von Deyen – Atmosphere
Glitterbug – Dust
Max Richter – Sleep Remixes
Can – 
Ege Bamyasi
Deacon Blue – Fellow Hoodlums
Funkstörung – Funkstörung
To Rococo Rot – The Amateur View
Milan W. – Intact
The Cult – Sonic Temple
Björk ‎– The Music From Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9
Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Volume 1
Four Tet – Pause
Gala Drop – II

All the way back in 2006

I was just looking at an album on Bandcamp and remembered I had a login for the site, so I did just that and up popped an album I put there in 2006, I’d completely forgotten it was on there. The album was recorded with a single Fender Telecaster and consists of very short instrumental pieces, which is why it’s called ‘Miniatures’. It was quite well received at the time by the few who listened to it.

Here are the release notes written by Robert Nunnally:

“Miniatures is both a concept and a recording format for this album. The album is the attempt to capture those moments of childhood existing o300x300nly in memory which, when recalled, cause a slight tightening of the chest at the realisation of things lost, and to capture the beauty of those moments in sound. These small moments, pristine in their imperfection, give rise to a reverie this album seeks, in a small way, to capture.

These tracks were recorded very quickly, with dead notes and interference left in for the most part. Each piece is by design a miniature in the way of childhood–with the good and the imperfect all part of the memory.

Each first successful take was kept and used, regardless of whether the central heating boiler or the washing machine decided to take the exact wrong moment to start up and cause clicks to the audio recording. This working process involved the use of only one instrument, in this case an old Fender Telecaster that has been damaged over the years. Some parts have been replaced, others repaired so that the way it plays appeals. The joy of creation lies in part, in the idea of the restriction. No other instrument was used.

Miniatures seeks to open again the doorway into the pristine imperfection of childish things. We hope you enjoy this reverie”.

I also have an album called ‘Massive’ somewhere, I’ll have to dig it out.

I’ve been thinking recently about doing some more recording, just for my own enjoyment, but taking into account the many different musical influences that I’ve absorbed in the last 10 years, less guitar, more keyboard, in the Electronic/Ambient field I suppose. If I get around to it I’ll put it up here for free listening, probably.

Edit: I just found this from Massive:

 

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

I received a joint present from my Wife and Son this year, which they bought on Christmas Eve. This is a bonus for me as when they leave it stupidly late I tend to get something better than if they had time to think about it and to buy in advance. So I was asked to stay at home on Christmas Eve as they had to go out and get something, which I dutifully did, counteracting my disappointment and not having to trek amongst the thousands descending upon the shops by playing records and drinking coffee, it was tough but I managed it.

On Christmas morning I was delighted to receive a load of Record Vouchers, always good as I can then buy the records I want and not the records people think I want, which would usually be wrong. I also received a pair of headphones, which I had wanted as the ones I had been using were struggling, the slightest movement and one ear would cut out. These were not just any headphones though, they were exactly the Headphones I would have chosen has I had the opportunity. The Bose Quiet Comfort 35, what a set of headphones these are.

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These headphones are outstanding, well, compared to any I’ve owned before they are magical. They are bluetooth and automatically connect with my phone when I switch them on, a nice lady also tells me how much battery life I have left at this point as well. The battery lasts for up to 20 hours and so far, with a lot of listening, I’ve only charged them once, when it was down to 30%. They are super comfortable to wear as they cover the entire ear and are pretty light weight. The noise cancelling aspect is surprising, to me at least, as you can switch them on and immediately hear the difference as the outside world becomes distant, which is rather disconcerting at first but I quickly acclimatised to it. The noise cancellation works by continuously measuring, comparing and reacting to outside noise, then cancels it with the opposite signal.When you press play you are engulfed in the music with little or no outside noise distractions, depending on where you are, they can’t remove everything but it does make a huge difference to the listening experience.

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One thing I was glad to see was that they will still work even if the battery has no charge, a lead is provided for this, and the noise cancellation won’t work, but at least you can still use them.

The sound quality is wonderful and I’m hearing things in the music that I’m listening to that I didn’t know was there until now. A top Chef has a palette that can taste things that I can’t and there are producers and suchlike that can hear things that I can’t, but with these headphones I feel I’m getting close. What has also been a surprise is the range, I left my phone in the kitchen and went upstairs at the other side of the house and there was no noticeable difference in the reception. The other massive bonus is that I am no longer catching the lead, like that of my old headphones, on just about everything, door handles chairs, anything and everything seemed to be trying to yank them out of my ears.

There are volume controls on the right ear piece which also double as pause and skip and, though I haven’t tried it yet, you can take calls while wearing these as they have a built in microphone.

I am well aware that I’m gushing praise somewhat but theses things have really enhanced my listening experience and I love them! Yes, they are expensive, that’s for sure, but as I was lucky enough to not have to pay for them (not directly anyway) I can’t worry about that. I don’t know exactly how much this pair were but I would expect them to be somewhere around £290.

Here is a review, I haven’t listened to it but I will, and these are the grey pair (I prefer the black):

Matthew Bourne – Moogmemory

A couple of weeks ago I was rooting around in the smallest vinyl section in my local store, ‘Classical’, when I saw this front cover:

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This was intriguing as it seemed rather out of place. I was feeling quite adventurous and so, without researching it or listening to any of it, I bought it. The first thing to say about it is that it doesn’t belong in the Classical section at all, at least I don’t think so, it’s more Ambient Electronic I would think but I suppose I can see why they put it there, there isn’t an ambient section of any kind and the Electronic section is Dance/Electronic, so it doesn’t go there. No matter, it’s not there anymore, it’s on my turntable.

Here it is, from Bandcamp where it appears the vinyl is sold out but CD’s are still available:

Having never heard of Matthew Bourne I did a bit of digging around and ended up back at the Bandcamp page as Graham Massey of 808 State says pretty much everything I could have said but better:

“Moog is a regal breed of synthesisers that are slightly untamable, which is why we (musicians) love them. Always on the edge of boiling over; taming one’s Minimoog was like riding a wild mustang, and bringing it to heel. When the polyphonic Moog Memorymoog first appeared in 1982, it was like having a team of six mustangs pulling a stage coach, its power was thrilling, and everybody had better get off the road to let it through…

“Its name was derived from the Apollo-era, onboard computer memory needed to save patches – once one had laboured with its 18 oscillators, modulation possibilities, and the gorgeous ‘Mooginess’ that lives within its filter circuits. The sheer amount of electronics under the hood of a Memorymoog made it literally pump out hot air; making her prone to pit stops and custom updates as the years went by.

“I first met Matthew Bourne, a prodigious improvising pianist, who was fascinating to watch as he took that conventional instrument ‘off road’ in an emotional sweat. Post-gig, and still wild-eyed, he made a beeline for me, having heard that I also owned a Memorymoog. Matt was keen to compare notes, and to discuss the fact that he was having the Lintronics Advanced Memorymoog (LAMM) conversion done to his (this is the Memorymoog equivalent of open heart surgery, which replaces 1,300 components over eight weeks of bench time, costing as much as a new machine). I immediately thought that Matt was insane. Some years later, moogmemory is Matt’s paean to this living, breathing machine. No other instruments are used on the album, and its capabilities are drawn out by this extremely empathetic musician: beautiful, brooding landscapes of thick impasto to translucent sunbursts; Dr. Bob would be proud!”

I’ve listened to the album several times now and the more I listen the more I like it and will probably have to take a look at another piece of his that I read about which is a celebration of Radio-Activity by Kraftwerk, which is all I read about it but it sounds worth investigating.

Vinyl Tracklist (There are a couple more tracks on the CD)

A1 Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (For Coral Evans)
A2 Nils
A3 Horn & Vellum
B1 Alex
B2 Sam
B3 Andrew
B4 Danizie

The Listening List

11/12/2016 – 21/12/2016

Milan W. – Intact
Antonio Carlos Jobim – Wave
William Basinski – 92982
Gala Drop – II
Naytronix – Mister Divine
Matthew Bourne – Moogmemory
Anstam – Names
Swans – The Glowing Man
Baumann / Koek – Baumann / Koek
Nick Drake – Five Leaves Left
Harmonia & Eno 76 – Tracks and Traces
The Beatles – Rubber Soul
The Cult – Dreamtime
The Cult – Love
The Cult – Electric
Svjatoslav Richter – Rachmaninoff, Klavierkonzert Nr. 2 In C-moll · Piano-Concerto No. 2 In C Minor – 6 Preludes
Roots Manuva – Slime & Reason
The Police – Outlandos D’amour
Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise

 

William Basinski – 92982

wbasinskThe first time I ever heard anything by William Basinski was back somewhere around the turn of the century when my  then new friend Andy told me about ‘The Disintegration Loops’.

Even further back, in the 1980s, Basinski constructed a series of tape loops consisting of processed snatches of music captured from an easy listening station. Jumping back to 2001 he was going through his archives and decided to digitise the old tape loops to preserve them. As he did this he realised that the tape was slowly decaying as it played. The magnetised metal coating was disappearing, and the music was decaying slightly with each pass.

The September 11th attacks occurred not long after he had digitised the loops and from the roof of his space in Brooklyn, he put a video camera on a tripod and captured the final hour of daylight on that day, pointing the camera at a smouldering lower Manhattan. The next day he played one of his newly digitised loops and listened to it while watching the footage and so ‘The Disintegration Loops’ were born. I would love a vinyl copy but it is prohibitively expensive for the 9 LP box set at around £260, if you can find one. You never know though, one of these days I may manage to get one.

‘92982’ was recorded in 1982 and eventually released in 2009 on CD via Basinski’s own 2062 label and in August of this year became available on vinyl for the first time. The album has been remastered from the original master tapes, pressed onto audiophile-quality 100% virgin black vinyl, and packaged in a die-cut sleeve. Everywhere I’ve seen this album, and on a sticker on the album itself, it says ‘featuring previously unpublished artwork and photographs from 1982’, well, no. There are no photographs in my sleeve anywhere, there’s artwork, which has been photographs for the purposes of turning it into an inner sleeve, but that doesn’t mean there is Artwork and Photographs. Perhaps img_4234something was missing from my copy.

I’ve been listening to this album through headphones via Apple Music on my phone for the last couple of days and I really liked it, however, tonight was the first opportunity since it arrived yesterday that I’ve had to put the vinyl on the turntable and listen properly. What a difference! MP3 compression does not serve this album well at all. Listening to it this evening was such a richer experience, every pop, wrinkle and crackle was audible, and it was a much fuller sound.

‘92982’ is constructed in a similar way to the aforementioned ‘The Disintegration Loops’, with only two instruments noted on the sleeve, Tape Loops and Piano. The album is named for the date it was created, in US format, which is wrong (no, really, it is), and I’m tempted to call it 29982 for the sake of correctness. If you were looking for a good entry point into the work of Basinski’s back catalogue, and who knows, you might be, then this is a good one. Where many of his releases have tracks that are an hour long these are each one side of a vinyl LP which makes them a little more accessible. It sits very much in the ‘Ambient’ category and, whilst repetitive in the extreme, when something new happens it is so much more noticeable and it is, in some ways, the replacement for what a listener would expect to hear in a normally structured song (whatever that is), such as in the second track, 92982.2 where we hear sirens and helicopters, it adds a point of interest to this 23 minute track, an urban sensibility amongst the melancholy.

What is, for me, most interesting about this album from tonight’s listening is twofold, the first is that as I drift of somewhere I find myself disappointed when the needle hits the run out and I have to turn the record over, even though I’ve been sat here for ages doing absolutely nothing but stare into space. The second is that at that point, I realise that for the majority of that time my mind has calmed and that wherever it has journeyed to, it was happy there.

This album would have been in my best of 2016 if I’d heard it before I wrote the list, I may well go back and slip it in there when nobody is looking.The whole thing is available to listen to below but it really is better on vinyl:

Tracklist

A 92982.1 12:54
B 92982.2 22:45
C 92982.4 20:00
D 92982.3 7:07