My Favorite Free Netlabel Music of 2011
Here’s my favorite netlabel releases of 2011. What qualifies me to make a list like this? Nothing at all! You don’t need credentials in the netlabel underground. I listen to a lot of music published on netlabels, I like making lists, and I like sharing what I’ve found with other potential listeners. There’s my qualifications! I wish more people would get vocal about the stuff they like in netlabel music. A few people did, including David Nemeth, Thomas Park and Alex Stretton. I’d love to read more lists of netlabel music people have enjoyed, I love discovering new music, and checking out the tastes of people who are different from me. So why don’t you consider sharing some of the things you listened to and liked this year? If you don’t want to write a blog post, feel free to add a comment to this post, you’ll share your recommendation with me & everyone who reads this.
Before I proceed with the rest of this post, I’d like to point my readers to a blog post I wrote re-capping some of the stuff I personally released in 2011, both my own music and stuff on my label. That blog post can be found right HERE.
I should probably give a special shout-out to one artist who gets the most-listened-to netlabel artist of the year award. It’s pretty clear from this screenshot of my last.FM stats who I’m talking about:
Saffron Slumber kicks ass, and the release by his other project Earthbreather made a pretty good dent too! Well done!
A few final notes:
- I’m dividing my list into 8 releases that are especially excellent, and then 23 more that I really like.
- I limited my list to releases that were available for free. Some are “Pay what you want”, including zero.
- Not all of this stuff is released with Creative Commons licenses, though most of it is.
- For some reason most of this year’s list is ambient music, even though, to be frank, most ambient bores me to tears. This stuff defies the expectations.
- The two lists are presented in alphabetical order.
Without further ado, here’s…
Earthbreather – Forget the Sky – Skrow!media
Ambient that shakes the floorboards. Ambient that feels like heavy metal. Distortion as an element of beauty. Sometimes I download something and forget everything about it before listening to it. That happened with this album. When I finally listened for the first time, I put it on, and I was like, “Dude, who IS this, this is fucking awesome!” – and so I googled Earthbreather and realized that it’s the a collaborative project including Kevin Stephens, a.k.a. Saffron Slumber (along with Jason George of Ellipse) and I said to myself “Ah, no wonder it fucking rules.”
This was actually released in December 2010, but I didn’t discover it until after I’d written last year’s best-of post. It surely would have made it to the list, seeing as how it’s incredibly good and all. Perfect drone music.
This is probably Gurdonark’s best work, in my humble opinion. Some of the songs remind me of something that might appear on a Boards of Canada album. Subdued melodies with round tones.
This guy rules. Will he make it on every year’s best-of list? Only if he does something every year. Heavy clumps of lo-fi sounds.
Mystified always releases a ton of good stuff. This was the one from this year that I really liked the best. Motorik mechanical industrial-ambient.
Just take another look at that statistical graphic above. Yes. This is ambient music done right.
A great compilation of edgey abstract music derived from ‘electronic voice phenomenon’, and very, very sadly the last release on Just Not Normal for “some time to come”.
A really interesting hybrid of harsh noise and ambient, from two of my old contacts from the hometaping days. One or both of these guys ought to participate in the Dystimbria continuum.
AODL – Wanted Valley – Rive
Composed electronic sounds.
Synth music with lingering tones a la Eno.
Sadly this is not a deconstruction of the amazing song by Rebecca Black. Instead it’s rather good guitar-drone-loop-glitch music.
A well thought out blend of chilled melodies, site recordings, rhythms and electroacoustic experiments, not all at the same time.
Full disclosure: this contains a remix of my sounds on one track. Metallic drones, loops and vague rhythmic chirps.
In a recent review I said: “it’s minimal techno that threatens to erupt into a big beat and never does. It hovers there, all potential, unresolved – unresolvable. There’s no real beginning or ending, it occupies a limbo… The longer it goes along, the greater the tension, the greater the intensity, not because the piece builds to a crescendo – it never does – but because the enduring potential persists. The music does not repeat, and continually invents itself in interesting ways, but it refuses to progress… instead it hovers, intensely.”
Our favorite appropriation artist is at it again. I’m thrilled that Anthony’s been so productive this year. His stuff is always worth the time for a listen.
Very weirdly, some of this sounds like it could break into black metal screeee at any moment.
Drones. Vaguely textural.
In a recent review, I said: “The normally screamin’ noise monster Marax takes an ultra minimal approach with this release, exploring the self-noise of a wah pedal. A droning, low-frequency oscillation with a mild static wash. This reminds me, of course, of Nurse With Wound’s “Soliloquy for Lilith”, in which Steven Stapleton found that waving his hands around a certain effects set-up caused a seemingly magic sound response, creating an accidental, playable instrument. The second track is the same source material as the first, taken in a more post-production / effected direction.”
Electronic drones with frequency beating. Very trancey. The release page recommends headphones, but I prefer this kind of thing out-loud so I can move my head around and hear phase effects.
Many people are referring to the ‘trilogy’ of trombone releases by Mystified, but in reality Thomas produced quite a lot of material with trombones, both solo and in collaboration, so I think maybe calling it a trilogy and leaving it at that is selling it short. I heard several of Mystified’s trombone works this year, but this one was my favorite of what I heard.
Post-glitch, post-IDM, frantic electronic music. Rhythmic, but so unlikely to stay on one rhythm for long, it’s almost a misrepresentation to say so. A comparison would be the work of Ryoji Ikeda or Alva Noto.
Really cool blippy-bloopy modular synth workouts with a Buchla 200e.
Supposedly this is “generative ambient music”. It’s quite minimal, sounds a bit like a guy and a sampler doing spooky loops.
Best looped singing artist since Eyelight released all those amazing tapes back in the hometaping days. Jeff’s fellow Coloradan too! A fellow avant-prog fan too! Racking up the “cool” points!
Very interesting sonics, sounds like it might be heavily processed site recordings.
Vast minimal ambient-techno.
Goes from Coil-esque melodic play to total drone.
Electronic music, possibly you could call it musique concrete. Occasional blasts of invigorating harshness.