[YEAR END] Nostalgic Noise: The top experimental and ambient of 2015
Was something in the air? The year was lovely, heartbreaking, grating, crumbling of frosty moss below boots while rime travels your respiratory system as glacial floes, almost-too-sunny because – well, who knows, maybe El Niño overcame dire global climate change for another record-breaking year, and maybe it’s really time I finished things up here with you because that’s a normal octatonic progression, a sort of Messiaenian structure on life in which means I leave you here now even though it, really, is the only time in life I’ve really been myself, and geographic separation sometimes feels like maturing because I can draw a strict line between where I was and now I am, I was and now I am, I am but not without being who I was, like head-down waiting for the subway while looking for the rewind button behind eyelids but the smell of tar and apathy keep you from alighting too freely.
10. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Agate Beach
Shoegazy, sugary-syrupy-drippy-lollipopy, darkly-glassy-mysterious.
9. Mikael Delta – Walking around Spree
The most “normal” of the tracks on this list, Walking around Spree picks up on a number of innovations in 2015’s electronic scene: noise, melody, discomfort, and nostalgia.
8. Fourth World Magazine, Vol II – Thee Fanfare of Thee Ascension of The Facehugger
Combining contemporary electronic with sounds of early 20th-century classical (looking at you, Aaron Copland), FWMVII fully lull us into mesmerization here.
7. Oneohtrix Point Never – I Bite through It / John Weise – Superstitious
Both Oneohtrix Point Never and John Weise deliver audio collages that blur the notion that noise shouldn’t be melodic.
6. Lotic – Phlegm
In 2015’s Heterocetera, Lotic show that creepy, grating music can actually sound startlingly like envelope-pushing, yet standard, electronica.
5. Leafcutter John – Resurrection
Leafcutter John throws us into a boxing ring with his latest release. Who is our opponent? Is it normative trends in electronic music? Is it our expectations of what an album should sound like? Is it the other artists with which he is in conversation in this album? Is it the four-second attention spans that dominate the 21st-century’s young adults? Yes. It is.
4. Bjork – Stone Milker / Ian William Craig – Habit Worn and Wandering
Tied for fourth place are two vocal compositions. One invokes loss, pain, sadness, hope, recovery, springtime, whiskey, circumnavigating cumuluses in a 747, can-you-believe-that-love-was-real?, and pre-holiday blues; the other acively questions your assumptions about vocals in electronics and invokes restive rumination, curious intellectualism, poetry in the eyes of Clarice Lispector, a leather fireside Eames chair below a Calder mobile and the smell of bergamot wafting through the open single-pane.
3. Rafael Anton Irisarri – Empire Systems
With the new definitions in place, I can safely and without exaggeration say that Seattle-based Rafael Anton Irisarri *literally* summons supernatural nebulae, constructing nostaglic landscapes of poetry. The Pacific northwest effuses the perspiration of worldly gods, with a wistful haze masking the crowns of evergreens that are ever poised in adherence to a perceived “natural order”, one in which terrifying alpine peaks beseech simultaneously alooft and intrigue and wonder and melancholy, one in which they fulfill that supremely human desire to feel something “beyond ourselves”.
2. Steve Hauschildt – Arpeggiare
Former Emeralds frontman Steve Hauschildt blessed 2015 with another spectacular release that captured the essence of the year’s electronic music, while further refining his beautiful idiosyncratic approach toward melodic ambrosia. Two videos provided here: one fan-made that combines the tune with some awesome visuals, and the other in case you don’t like snorkeling soundtracks playing within your soundtracks.
1. Arca – Vanity
The homemade aesthetic of Arca’s video belies a level of production virtuosity that is nearly unmatched in contemporary experimental electronic music. Arca gives us a conflagration of dissonant melodies – what I would call unmusical music. Music, not noise, as it keeps its pop and dance wits about it. Pure electric screeching serves for Arca what feedback gave Hendrix and the in-between gave jazz and ambient – but this isn’t discernable in a casual listen, as the signals that reach your ears are pure syrupy electronic goodness.