Gerhard Richter: Verkündigung nach Tizian (Annunciation after Titian), 1973

2008 ARTISTS' PICKS

As a complement to the 2008 Top 10s and 20s feature, textura asked artists whose works appear in the article to select a favourite 2008 recording (or pre-2008) and write a sentence or two explaining what made it special. Here's what they said:

2tall Rudi Ararpahoe Autistici Beneva Vs Clark Nova Celer CYNE Rae Davis Dday One Dreamsploitation Yair Etziony Gregor Samsa Ezekiel Honig KILN Library Tapes Stephan Mathieu Michna Mico Nonet Nicolay Duncan Ó Ceallaigh orchestramaxfieldparrish The Retail Sectors Sans Serif Sawako School Of Seven Bells Sleepingdog Slow Dancing SocietyStray Ghost Twine Rick Wade Christopher Willits Windy & Carl

2tall (The Softer Diagram, #25 album)

My top album of 2008 has to be Flying Lotus's Los Angeles. Flying Lotus is a name now known worldwide, and soon to be a household name in my opinion. I for one have been following the progress of him and other beat makers of his kind since the earlier days. It may suprize you to know that he and his contemporaries such as ras G, Take, etc. were doing beat nights as far back as 2001. I picked up the trail around the time Cut Chemist put out the first sounds of LA EP, and the earlier poo bah records releases, not to mention the online sharing of Fly Lo's beat CDs which had everyone very very open!

What makes this so important to me is that I really have no idea how he makes his music, and it is the first project of its kind that has done that to me. I couldn't even guess where the sounds come from, and you know what? I don't even want to know. It is beat making taken to the fullest; in a sense he has fully and clearly expressed an idea.

Now a lot of people will say he's a trendy one to follow, and yes this may be an obvious choice, but when it comes to instrumental hip-hop based music, it basically doesn't get more authentic and at the same time so well executed as this.

Rudi Arapahoe (Echoes From One To Another, #1 album)

On reflection of this strange time where I have been so focused on my world and blinkered to the outside, I realize that the only music that I have listened to in any real depth throughout the past two years is Stockhausen's Stimmung. I listened to this album once again in great detail on the passing of the composer. It is probably my favourite record of all time.

Autistici (Volume Objects, #31 album)

RF's “A Place For Saving” (featuring Midori Hirano) (1 | Favourite Places, Audiobulb): The Favourite Places compilation is a set of field recordings and musical pieces depicting locations of personal significance for artists. RF's track, accompanied by the vocals of Midori Hirano, begins with a walk down a gravel path as the two approach the Shimogamo Shrine, a forested place near the centre of Kyoto . The music grows and captures an essence of gentle contemplation via beautiful guitar melody and Hirano's delicate voice. For me the field recording and the composition is a perfect audio visualization of a location that I can now see in my mind's eye.

Beneva Vs Clark Nova (Sombunall, #17 album)

We had a hard time deciding the best record for 2008. Several times we were tempted to pick elder ones, but forced ourselves to find one record that affected us, let's say emotionally, since that is the way we try to process music in all it forms. So instead of saying that this is the best record this year, let's put it in another way and say that this is a record we really cherish in 2008: Greg Haines and Wouter van Heldhoven: Three days of fever (eat this media). Why? Beneva vs. Clark Nova played in the same venue as Greg Haines in Oslo 2007. We were struck by his intense and personal performance, and have followed his musical career or path since. Three days of fever is a truly beautiful record. The combination of cello, piano, and harmonium (among other instruments) combined with the textured and subtle background recordings, at times almost developing into fragmented orchestral pieces, fills the listener with attention and makes him/her wanti to see what is lurking behind the next musical corner or step. It leaves the listener in a state of loneliness, wondering about what is to come; in the meantime, your toes and nails are on backwards, but if you stay, you notice that the music is changing and so are you. Be there, you're not alone.

Celer (Mesoscaphe (with Mathieu Ruhlmann),/ The Everything And The Nothing & Discourse Of The Withered, #4 and #21 albums)

Tomoyoshi Date: Human Being (Flyrec): We first heard of Tomoyoshi Date from the Spekk release of Opitope, his project with Chihei Hatakeyama. We enjoyed that release so much, that when we heard about his first solo release, we were instantly excited to hear it. Human Being is a release that instantly held our attention, and replaced the sound of everyday with something more thoughtful, meaningful, and tender. Ukulele, piano, acoustic guitar, vibraphone, harmonica, accordion; processed and unprocessed. Field recordings that present a new kind of tenderness (not just a pretty bird singing in a forest), but actual human activity. These field recordings represent those moments in films when a scene of people hugging or children playing on a baseball field touches you, and you remember it as something peaceful and completely beautiful. Rarely do field recordings with an instrumental score become this meaningful. A masterpiece.

CYNE (Starship Utopia / Pretty Dark Things, #2 album)

(Michael Gersten aka Speck) D. Lissvik's 7 Trx + Intermission and Dungen's 4 are my favourite records of 2008. Although they exist in entirely different worlds, these records happen to share qualities. They are beautifully produced and showcase an admirable level of craftsmanship. For me, both albums are great lessons in restraint, subtly, and thoughtful selection: the tones / sounds are warm and dense, the melodies are soulful and confident, and each nods towards its influences with ingenuity. I'm drawn to these LPs because they feel rich with detail, texture, movement, sincerity, and space.

(David Newell aka Enoch) Torche's Meanderthal record was the highlight of 2008 for me. Torche always manage to create songs that somehow simultaneously satisfy both the metal and pop fan in me, which is not an easy feat. And they are Floridians, which gives them extra points in my book. The title track is about as pummeling and brutal as it gets when it comes to doomy type metal, and songs like "Grenades" and "Piranha" will be stuck in your head for days. Everything Torche has ever released is highly recommended, and if you like them, be sure to check out the band that came before them, Floor.

Rae Davis (Positive Thinking, #39 album)

No doubt about it that this year was definitely a fine year for music. Lots of talented folks and individuals have surfaced to the foreground and released what was to me some really beautiful pieces of work. Although there were dozens of releases I really enjoyed, two in particular really seem to stand out for me because of their creativity, style, and overall production.

Jose James: The Dreamer: Being that I'm somewhat of a jazz fanatic, it really excited me to see a young talented individual really keep this particular genre alive and at the same time refreshing. What separates him from the rest of the jazz singers is his voice. To me it's almost like border-line baritone and his words and pronunciations are said with a certain smoothness and accent that I can hear the influence hip-hop has had on 'em. Definitely a talented individual.

Samiyam: Rap Beats Vol.1: All I can say is that Sam is definitely on some next level shit. I really love his really off-beat production style. Sam doesn't seem to care for polished material; instead it's almost as if this guy embraces vinyl hiss and pops, like the dirtier the sample the better. He's definitely brought back the art of beat crafting in a very original way. I've definitely learned to enjoy and embrace this off-beat imperfection production style.

Dday One (Heavy Migration, #20 album)

Mr. Cooper's What Else There Is (Project Mooncircle) is my selection for ‘08. In the yearly cycle of releases some artists emerge while other return. A lot of those returning succumb to pressure to repeat past successes, contribute to current fashions and consequently don't grow. No longer Amongst Strangers, Cooper returned with a notable attempt by molding ten tracks which utilized sounds electronic/ambient and tempos he previously avoided. For that it is a true example of self-reliance and definitely not the same album twice.

Dreamsploitation (Soft Focus Sound Of Today, #29 album)

The most amazing discovery of 2008 was hearing the Unseen Worlds reissue of KMH, the 1978 debut record by pianist/composer Lubomyr Melnyk. Melnyk's “continuous piano” mode is a sublime exploration of complex harmonic textures, blurring the lines between dissonance and consonance, while creating an accessible idiomatic piano style that is comprised of rapidly overlapping arpeggios. The overall aesthetic is somewhat comparable to ensemble works by more prominent minimalist figures; however, Melnyk's arpeggiated textures come from a singular, uninterrupted piano performance! My life has officially changed forever...super-gorgeous music like no other!

Reissues aside, my favourite 2008 release is Luminarium by tape (Hapna Records) who are fearless in their “less is more” approach. I tend to be the type of composer who gravitates towards heavy counterpoint and dense textures; however, this record shows me otherwise. Their confident focus on bare harmonic structures, with strict attention to timbre and mix, creates a gorgeous listening record with a latent pop sensibility (rooted in their use of diatonic 7ths and linear melodic ideas).

Yair Etziony (Flawed, #33 album)

2008 was a bit weird for me, since unlike most years where I listened to mainly new music, I found myself hearing a lot of older music; I guess it was a chance for me catch up with stuff I had no time to hear before. My favorite CD for 2008 was a boxed set from legendary band Kluster; the music they made is still fresh and ground-breaking. I also enjoyed the re-issue of the M series from Maurizio, which is always excellent, and still sounds so up to date. I really enjoyed Om's Pilgrimage (Southern Lord),which had amazing raw power, kind of an abstraction of what heavy metal can be, like an angry raw Medieval chant. Another great album is Mathieu Ruhlmann + Celer's Mesoscaphe on Spekk. Mike Huckaby released some excellent tracks and remixes in 2008, fusing dub techno and deep house in a fresh way; I love his sound design and ideas, and for me he is one of the people to watch in 2009. Ulrich Schnauss' EP Stars was also great to hear with sublime singing from Judith Beck. Another good album was The Essence from Sten (aka Lawrence) on Dial, a very accurate post-Detroit album. With his latest EP Soundboy's Suicide Note , Shackelton is creating his own unique sound, and it's very dark and dubby. Another artist with some great output this year is T++ from the Hard Wax camp. Last but not least is Thomas Brinkmann's When Horses Die , a melancholic album with Brinkmann composing to lyrics from great Russian poets.

Gregor Samsa (Rest, #7 album)

(Champ Bennett) 2008 was a year of live sound for me. In retrospect, I listened to very few new records this year, but I did make it a point to leave my apartment to see live music as much as I could.

Visually speaking, my favorite performance was Fennesz and Sakamoto at the World Financial Center Winter Gardens. There was something both thrilling and unsettling about this performance—I suppose partly due to the fact that the remains of the World Trade Center were, in essence, a visual counterpoint to the soundtrack created by the musicians on stage. Unfortunately the sound was pretty terrible, to the point where we wanted to leave early because we could barely hear anything!

Aurally speaking, it's a tie between Stars of the Lid at Le Poisson Rouge, a performance of Messiaen's String Quartet for the End of Time also at Le Poisson Rouge, and Kayo Dot during our tour together in early 2008.

Ezekiel Honig (Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band, #44album)

My favorite two albums I heard this year happen to be ones which I have been listening to only in the past few weeks: Grouper's Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill (Type) and Tape's Luminarium (Hapna).  There is something connecting these two works, but they diverge from each other nicely, as they continually play over in my head.

Tape's album is warmly melodic with just enough notes of jazz and hummable tunes, but in such a smart and desirable way, pulling the band idea into the world of super-modern music land—with all the tastes and connotations inherent in that.  A class act which feels good.

Grouper's album is, simply put, gorgeous. The production feels like a coat which happens to use a lot of reverb. Her voice sounds like another source in the mix (rather than dominating), lending it qualities than can so often be lacking in vocal "songs."  Along with the guitar and piano it's basically an ambient indie album, a well-developed set of variations on a theme. It's cohesive in that way where you want to fall asleep to it and have it still be playing when you wake up eight hours later. Extremely affecting.

KILN (Thermals, #28 album)

The Green Kingdom: Laminae (the land of): This record was the runaway favourite this year. Combining beautiful, elastic waves of tone with knocks, clicks, and field noise. All these elements are rooted by the most interesting and tasteful use of filtered, cut-up guitar. Perfect. Michael Cottone's previous full-lengths, Meadowview and The Green Kingdom hint at the niceness still to arrive which then congealed on Laminae. Manufactured by the land of imprint, this limited-edition disc even comes in a raw, cardstock sleeve letter-pressed with silver ink which gives the first impression that each unit is hand drawn.

Library Tapes (A Summer Beneath The Trees, #35 album)

Home by Peter Broderick: Home is such a brave piece of work. After releasing Docile, a collection of solo piano and the full-length Float, which is mostly instrumental modern classical music, Peter stepped away from his main instruments, the violin and the piano, completely and made an amazing album consisting of mostly guitars and vocals.
 
To name a few other highlights during 2008, I also really enjoyed the new albums with Sleepingdog, Xiu Xiu, Goldmund, Nils Frahm, Rudi Arapahoe, and Parenthetical Girls.

Stephan Mathieu (Radioland, #34 album)

Réné Clemencic: Late Gothic and Renaissance Masterworks for Clavichord Vol. 1: Antonio de Cabezón and Josquin Desprez (Arte Nova): I played this marvelous music over and over again during this year, at home, in the studio, in my car. I love the calm sound of the clavichord, the perfect proportions of the compositions which are derived from astronomical aspects. Clemencic's gorgeous interpretations are two hours sent from the heavens.

Michna (Magic Monday, #13 album)

If the internet did not exist and I was able to listen to music with just me, a turntable, a CD player, a McIntosh amp, and dope speakers, I would say very good records for 2008 were:
TVOTR: Dear Science
Santogold x Diplo Mixtape
NIN: The Slip
Mgmt: Oraclular Spectacular
School Of Seven Bells: Alpinisms
Oberman Knocks: 13th Smallest

Mico Nonet (The Marmalade Balloon, #32 album)

Rachels: “All Is Calm” (The Sea And The Bells)
Library Tapes: “The Rivers Turned To Cobblestone” (Summer Beneath The Trees)
Stars Of The Lid's “Articulate Silences Pt1” (And Their Refinement Of The Decline)
Arvo Part: “Summa (For String Orchestra)” (Estonian National Symphony Orchestra)
Amiina: “Glamur” (Kurr)
Olafur Arnalds: “Fok” (Variations Of Static)
Hammock: “Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow” (Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow)
Peter Broderick: “A Snowflake” (Float)
Mono: “Are You There” (You Are There)
Colleen: “Past The Long Black Land” (Les Ondes Silencieuses)
Flight Of The Conchords: “The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room” (Flight Of The Conchords)

Nicolay (The Foreign Exchange: Leave It All Behind, #3 album; Nicolay & Kay: Time:Line, #14 album)

My pick of 2008 is Jazzanova's new album Of All The Things. I have been a fan and student of the German DJ/producer collective Jazzanova since hearing their early remixes and their first album In Between (2002) introduced me to who I now consider to be one of my favourite female vocalists, Clara Hill. Their new album has been highly anticipated, and I was privileged enough to be able to more or less track their progress since my brother-from-another-mother and Foreign Exchange co-conspirator Phonte Coleman (of Little Brother) was actually invited to contribute vocals to two songs at their Berlin studios. I first heard the mixes of those two tracks in October, and hearing "Look What You're Doin' To Me," the opening track, solidified what I already knew: that Jazzanova would once again give everyone a run for their money. While the technical prowess and jaw-dropping production remains, the album is more than ever firmly rooted in jazz and soul. Highly, highly recommended.

Duncan Ó Ceallaigh (Distant Voices, Still Lives, #11 EP)

I have to admit I don't have a lot of time or money for listening to tons of new releases, and tend instead to go more in-depth with a few recordings that for some reason stood out for me (or happened to cross my path and get stuck there). Like Noah's Ark , here's everything rounded up in pairs!

Albums:
Amplifier Machine: Her Mouth Is An Oulaw (12k) / The Boats: Faulty Toned Radio (Flau)
I'm a big Labradford fan, and for me Amplifier Machine was the first band in a long while that on the one hand seemed to capture the early sound of the Richmond , VA trio, but on the other without turning into a carbon copy of Prazision. Mostly consisting of cavernous clean guitar and analog synth with just a hint of song structure, this was an interesting turn away the mainly microsound direction 12k has taken thus far. Apropos microsound, Andrew and Craig, The Boat's sailors, have been consistently bringing us beautifully warmly recorded releases that effortlessly meld elements from all sorts of acoustic and electronic genres into a gentle, soft but richly textured whole... and all with a subtle sense of humor. This release is no different.

EPs:
Thendof: Thendof (Mobeer) / Steinbrüchel: Sustain (koyuki)
Two small labels producing EPs on 3" CD (something close to my heart as anyone who knows Parvoart can testify!), both worth exploring if you're not already aware of them. Thendof have something of the aforementioned Boats, mixed in with a bit of early Pole-like click'n'dub about them. And for my money Ralph Steinbrüchel is currently producing some of his best work yet. Last year's Basis was amazing, and Sustain carries on from there, a subtly shifting tonal dronescape that immerses the listener in another time frame—definitely the accessible end of experimental / microsound ambient. Both come in seriously beautiful, hand-assembled packaging.

Reissues:
Gas: Nah und Fern (Kompakt) / New Order: Movement (Rhino)
What is there left to say about GAS? I was particularly excited by this release of the four main GAS albums, because I'd never heard the eponymous debut. It was certainly worth the wait. Stone-cold classics. The downside was the original covers weren't reproduced on the slipcases and the cheap photoshopped “prints” included were pretty superfluous. At least they were better than the much-touted book, which I have to say was a triumph of form over content, and not worth the many pennies Raster-Noton were looking for it. New Order were my favorite band as a teenager. Looking back now, the 1980-83 period was their most interesting, as they integrated and adapted the Joy Division sound with dub, NY electro and Kraftwerk/Moroder sequencers. Afterwards they became more formulaic, although granted, what a formula! I also suspect the human story at that time—the loss of Ian Curtis and the search for musical direction amid the chaos at Factory Records—is just as powerful as the much-documented Joy division story. No Peel Sessions onboard and the expanded packaging could have been better done, but nonetheless an under-rated gem.

orchestramaxfieldparrish (The Silent Breath Of Emptiness, #8 album)

Hector Zazou & Swara: / In The House Of Mirrors/ (Crammed Disc) : The latest and, very sadly, last recording from Hector Zazou. The world has lost its alchemist of sound. Mr. Zazou never repeated himself in what he produced, each recording a unique gift straight from his heart. /In The House Of Mirrors/ is a magnificent and timeless work of art.

The Retail Sectors (Starlight Silent Night, #36 album)

My favourite recordings of 2008 is Smeg by Maps and Diagrams. His sound is always on a different level and unique in categories such as electronica or IDM. There is no doubt that the album is a culmination of what electronica or IDM listeners are looking for. I also listened many times to Japanese bands like Bump of ChiCken, 9mm Parabellum Pullet, or The Back Horn.

Sans Serif (Tones For Lamonte, #48 album)

I have two favourite albums this year: Peter Wright's Pretty Mushroom Clouds and Juana Molina's Un Dia. Wright's guitar-sourced drone clouds and field recordings create a great wall of psychoacoustic sound. Molina's uniquely layered voices, acoustic guitar, hand percussion, and oblique electronics are hard to describe and are aurally addictive—sort of a 21st-century take on Philip Glass' North Star via Argentina.

Sawako (Bitter Sweet, #37 album)

My 2008 favourite release is Open Silence by Hosomi (Maju, Neina, Mille Plateaux) released on the Tokyo-based Commune Disk. The album fits for a snow falling, cold winter day as well as an afternoon nap on the hammock in midsummer. Favourite performances were Fennesz+Sakamoto @WFC, Glitch Mob @ LOVE, and many others. The hidden gem of 2008 is Misaki Kawai's (painter, artist) low-fi handmade music: unreleased, really private, and includes lots of shining moments like a child playing.

School Of Seven Bells (Alpinisms, #15 album)

(in no particular order:)
Earth: The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull
Fennesz: Black Sea
Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)
Portishead: Third
Madlib: Beat Konducta Vol. 5+6
Beach House: Devotion
M83: Saturdays = Youth
VA: Ghostly Swim
Tim and Eric: The “Brownie Mountain” song (we know this isn't an album, but we wish it was)
Gas: Nah und Fern
Robert Wyatt: Shleep (reissue)

Sleepingdog (Polar Life, #45 album)

Peter Broderick: Docile (Kning Disk): This artist touched my heart from the first second I heard his music. Very original but above all very pure and intense.

Slow Dancing Society (Priest Lake Circa ‘88, #42 album)

My top pick for 2008 would have to be City of Satellites' The Spook EP by my fellow label-mates over at the lovely Hidden Shoal Recordings. I came across their music by happenstance one day and it just floored me and I told Cam at Hidden Shoal about them and that they needed to be heard. Really great melodies that embodied all of the great stuff about the '80s with a warm feeling that gives it a contemporary feel. Creepy sounding vocals that have a soothing quality to them. Simply beautiful music.

Stray Ghost (Losthilde, #47 album)

The first: Dolores by Bohren & Der Club Of Gore. After the ultra-frail minimalism of Geisterfaust I was interested to see if they would struggle with Dolores, but the band pulled another fantastic album out of their dark, German bags. The album, for me, strikes a perfect balance between the older more Angelo Badalamenti / jazz-tinged material, and their newer almost insanely patient approach. If you're a fan of Bohren, they (again) leave you wanting the saxophone to ease its way in, but then when it finally makes its entrance in “Unkerich,” you'll be stunned by the sudden shift in dynamics it brings....possibly the most beautiful track I've heard all year. I waited in tense anticipation for this album, and was not disappointed.
 
The second is an album which is thirty-eight years old this year, but which I have only recently discovered: Yeti by Amon Duul II. This album features for me the greatest improvised / semi-improvised music put to tape, full of mind-bending guitar and bass work which above all really shows the heart of the people playing. It's got everything you could want from a good “krautrock” album: the locked-grooves, the fuzzy / jangly / angular guitars, the shifting dynamics, the trippy and beautiful soundscapes, all this plus something which is unmistakably “theirs” makes Yeti so unique. It is at once wholly rooted in the psychedelic era, and at the same time manages to be transcendent of any time-frame. When I first heard this, I realized that the album I had always wanted to make with Bardo Thodol had already been done, and really fucking well!

Twine (Violets, #10 album)

(Chad Mossholder) There were so many great albums that came out in 2008 but the one that has found the most play on my mp3 player of late is the Synecdoche, New York soundtrack by Jon Brion. The soundtrack is a beautiful exploration of the themes presented in the film.  Its subtle structures and understated melodies leave one in a state of quiet contemplation. The album is full of sadness and hope but you are never really sure which mode you are in while listening. The sounds consist of strings, woodwinds, guitar, piano, some vocals, and tiny bits of electronics that peak through the mix occasionally. The few tracks towards the end that contain the lyrics are perfectly crafted and poignant. Much like the film, the more I listen to the soundtrack the more I get out of it. The images of the movie resonate with every note. Time loses all meaning and one day you find you've been listening to the album for years,  yet you've only owned the album for a few months. Jon Brion is a master.

Rick Wade (The Good, The Bad, And The Deep, #6 album)

Theo Parrish's “Synthetic Flemm.” Man, I love that track. That's a back-to-basics, no-nonsense groove. That's the kind of track that makes you want to DJ just so you can play it to a crowd. It's grim and nasty; two girls and a cup nasty. Real Right!

Christopher Willits (Willits + Sakamoto: Ocean Fire, #11 album)

Yoruba Andabo: amazing and wonderful sounds; some of my favorite music of all time. Everyone needs to get down to this music.

Windy & Carl (Songs For The Broken Hearted, #41 album)

(Windy) I'd have to say it is Benoit Pioulard's Temper LP, and I do like the vinyl better than the CD—it sounds warmer. But it's my favourite because it covers a lot of ground: it has pop songs and ambient bits, and reminds me of many other things I have enjoyed listening to through the years, and still sounds fresh and new. It is the music I listened to the most this past year, with it getting multiple spins per day for the first few months I had the demo. It was officially released in October 2008, but I had my copy by December 2007 and played the shit out of it for months. It makes me happy and introspective and nostalgic all at once.

(Carl) Dennis Wilson: Pacific Ocean Blue / Bambu re-issue: I like the bonus material presented here; it is all dark and moody.....

January 2009