Time for my albums of the year. It’s just about possible that this list will give a hint about what I needed to get from music in 2019: mostly calm, with a little bit of escapism.
As always, there are several records I’m gutted to have to exclude. This year, that includes releases by Croatian Amor, Merzbow & Vanity Productions, Nkisi, Rian Treanor, and Richard Skelton. Random observation: several of these would have been even harder to omit if the whole album had been as strong as its stronger moments, and several of the records that did make the cut had the advantage of simply being shorter. Maybe this was a year when less was more? Anyway, here are the lucky winners…
- Fabio Orsi’s Sterminato Piano, two kosmische-adjacent sides which are just astonishingly good, “maximalist music made with a minimalist’s attention to detail”.
- Maria W Horn’s Epistasis, four minimalist classical tracks with influences ranging from the tintinnabuli technique of Arvo Pärt to doom and black metal music from the early nineties, and “a thing of subtlety and beauty that combines seemingly simple elements to quietly spell-binding effect”.
- Octo Octa’s Resonant Body, which is acidy housey breaksy rave, and a giddy head-rush of a record that provided the most delirious thrills of the year.
- Shida Shahabi’s Shifts, intimate and evocative piano accompanied and a subtle touch of synth and electronics, “tender, with a quiet touch of sadness, but ultimately gently uplifting”.
- William Basinski’s On Time Out Of Time, in which the master makes a forty-minute piece based around the LIGO gravitational waves signal — an appropriate subject given his remarkable ability to seemingly distil the essence of a moment in time and stretch it out to epic durations, and arguably his most serenely wonderful work to date.