Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

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Re: 2 0 1 7
Jan 07, 2018, 11:04
A fantastic year of new music for me – here are some highlights divided into some vague genres (apologies for the long post!):

Modern composition albums:

Russian pianist Dmitry Evgrafov’s Comprehension of Light start’s dark before emerging into the light – I don’t have his earlier solo piano works but here the piano doesn’t appear till later on side 1, it’s more often the strings and electronics that play a leading role.

Valgeir Siggurdson’s Dissonance is stunning, in particular the side long title track which is an interpretation of Mozart’s string quartet no.19 – here performed through multi-tracked viola. There are two multi-movement pieces on Side B performed by the Reykjavik Sinfonia.

Ben Lukas and Sebastian Plano’s Everything is a 3 hour 40+ track game soundtrack – 10 tracks on the physical release the rest as a download. A beautiful sounding game where you can experience the world from different perspectives (animal/inanimate object) at multiple scales from the micro to the cosmos. The music is suitably beautiful.

Alder and Ash – Clutched in the Maw of the World: One of my top records of the year, a solo cello album that covers drone/ambient and even some metal-influenced territory.

Electronic albums:

Catarina Barbieri – Patterns of Consciousness: Beautiful and psychedelic double vinyl of minimalist bleeps using a sequencer and oscillator.

James Murray – Heavenly Waters. Inspired by celestial bodies where water has been found. Some of the electronic sounds are like the recorded sounds of stars.

Byron Westbrook – Body Consonance. More bleeps, lots of them, and fast but counteracted by underlying drone.

JASSS – Weightless. Debut album by Spanish producer Silvia Jimenez Alvarez. An inventive almost industrial electronic album, though also features jazzier elements too.

Ambient/drone albums:

Elodie – Vieux Silence. Released by Stephen O’Malley on Idealogic Organ, a gorgeously perfect album of quiet sounds performed by an ensemble including piano, flute, clarinet.

Johannes Malfatti – Surge. An hour long ambient drone piece with long passages of quiet, layered drones punctuated by louder volume interludes representing the surging of glaciers. A meditation on time.

The Transcendence Orchestra – Modern Methods for Ancient Rituals. Beautiful electronic/harmonium drones recorded in the English countryside. Great album launch gig at Café Oto where they played one improvised piece that must have lasted 90 minutes (featuring Paddy Gnod on ritual gong!)

Slomo – Transits. Their finest yet, released early in the year and still getting regular plays.

Teleplasmiste – Frequency is the new ecstasy. Inventive electronics/reeds album from Mark Pilkington and Michael York (who play with Urthona).

Lingua Lustra – Truth rings like a bell. Brilliant album exploring the sounds of bells, both ‘true’ bell sounds but also processed sounds, including field recordings. Broadly ambient drone but the track Hymn of the Rose is based around beautiful tunes/melodies played on bells – one of my favourite tracks of the year.

Music-Art Editions:

Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer – Lowlands, vinyl LP and art book featuring photos of the Arctic Svalbard landscape. Icy, slow piano/guitar ambient soundscapes. Great photos.

Darren Almond – All Things Pass. Almond is an artist who explores themes of time in particular through landscape photography. Here he produced a video installation based around the Chand Baori, an ancient step well in India. The vinyl is Almond’s recording of 4 Indian musicians responding to his film. You can get the vinyl with the Timescape exhibition catalogue, which features his portraits of individual Callanish stones amongst other things.

Richard Skelton – Towards a Frontier. An hour long drone piece composed and recorded in Iceland as part of an artistic residency. There was a limited edition art edition that features his photography to accompany the album, which I missed, but some of the work features on a blog. Beautiful strings and drones, cyclical themes and space before becoming more ominous at the end.

Rock/Post-rock albums:

Zu – Jhator. A veteran Italian band apparently but I hadn’t come across them before. Found this as it was released on the same label at the same time as Teleplasmiste, and there were promising album notes written by Jimmy (TOTS) Martin. Two side long tracks inspired by Tibetan funeral practice – cinematic and spirtural.

Some interesting experimental/post rock releases on Canada’s Constellations Records: Esmerine – Mechanics of Dominion, and Avec Le Soleil Sortant de La Bouches – Pas Pire Pop, I love you so much.

Gnod – Just say no…/Temple of BBV – s/t. Two excellent albums from Gnod. Just say no…has made it in to lots of lists but it’s Temple of BBV that has grown on me during the year. Also worth checking out is Vanishing, which features Paddy Gnod on beats providing the soundscape for Gareth Smith’s spoken word vocals (see the track Fountain).

Hey Colossus – The Guillotine. Another excellent Colossus album on Rocket Recordings, who have released more excellent records this year (Gnod/Temple of BBV for example). I also really like Gnoome’s Tschak.
The Bug vs Earth – Concrete Desert. These two work really well together to produce a dark urban soundscape.


The Necks – Unfold. Excellent double vinyl with lovely gatefold design (Stephen O’Malley). Blue Mountain reminds me very much of the live performances I have seen and is one of my favourite tracks of the year.

Zimpel/Zilek – s/t. A folk guitarist and jazz clarinettist from the Polish underground joined forces to create this original album. Original except that it sounds like a lost 70s krautrock classic! (Also took a punt on a Polish heavy jazz/metal album released on the same label – Merkabah’s Million Miles. Great fun, if perhaps slightly long)

Yair Elazar Glotman – Compound. Sounds somewhat Neck’s like which I wasn’t expecting – presumably due to the instrumentation – contra bass, piano and percussion.

Field recording albums:

I got these as downloads as didn’t think I’d play much but the split album by Soundwalk Collective/Francisco Lopez has been on heavy rotation. It features commissioned pieces inspired by Nepalese monasteries (they feature a lot of wind recordings from Nepal!). Both are beautiful ambient drone pieces. As is Yann Novak’s Surroundings which explores the architecture of a San Francisco museum and the ambient sounds of its park settings.


Enjoyed visiting some new venues – Islington Mill (Salford), IKLEKTIK and Ambika P3 (London), Sowieso (Berlin). Less so the O2 – but well done to Nick Cave and the audience for making it seem an intimate gig!
Supernormal as usual was the year’s highlight – it will be missed next year!
Saw two excellent Cope gigs (Roundhouse and Riverside, Newcastle); The Necks were excellent as always; Faust and Gnod were a dream pairing at Café Oto. Six Organs of Admittance album launch.

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