2013 review and 57 Notable Netlabel releases

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I’ve gotten a bit wordy in previous year-end review blog posts, so this time I’m going to keep it a little simpler. The deal is this: I’m going to post five lists of 2013 releases: one each detailing all of the releases of the year on my three netlabels Vuzh Music, Dystimbria and Derivative and then one listing all of my own stuff that was put out on various netlabels this year. I’d be very pleased if you took the time to listen to some of them.

After that is the list of my favorite things I found from listening to netlabel music this year. I’ve got 57 titles to recommend this time. I’ll try to write a few descriptive words for each of the things in that list.

If you want to look at my previous year-end lists, here’s 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Everything listed below is free to download (with the exception of my cassette release “Hold Music”… it is obtainable by trading or paying)

2013 Releases on Vuzh Music

Le Berger – “Trivial Cataclysms”

Mysterybear – “the Quiet Sun”

Leo Bettinelli / Jaume Muntsant – “Wingu”

Daniel Barbiero – “Four Transformations”

Miquel Parera – “MUME Selections”

Schemawound – “Occupy Dreamland”

Caroline Park – “RIM”

2013 Releases on Derivative Netlabel

C. Reider – “the Conjuncts”

Kid Feardive – “Toyland”

A Small Glass Ghost – “Fake Beats”

Various Artists – “and…and…and… (Disquiet Junto derivations of The Conjuncts by C. Reider)”

2013 Releases on Dystimbria

Schemawound – “Beasts (Homonculus-Basilisk)”

Scott Lawlor – “The Ebb and Flow of the Cycle of Time”

Katie Gately – “Across the River”

the Icarus Descent – “Forsaken Ghosts”

2013 Releases by C. Reider on various netlabels

C. Reider – “Edge and Artifact” (Ilse Netlabel)

C. Reider – “the Conjuncts” (Derivative Netlabel)

C. Reider – “Failing CD Player” (Ideal State No Number Series)

C. Reider – “Hold Music” (Vuzh Music)

C. Reider – “Oído con plomo” (Impulsive Habitat)

Fifty-Seven Notable Netlabel Releases of 2013

(presented alphabetically)
Since this list is kind of daunting, I’ve denoted “can’t miss” items with a little pulsing GOLD STAR GIF … but seriously, if you just picked a few of these albums at random and downloaded them, you’d have one hell of an interesting playlist.

Meanwhile, here’s a mix “cloudcast” I made with a bunch of cool tracks from many of these records. Listen while you read?

Notable Netlabel Music 2013 by Vuzh on Mixcloud

@c – Half-Life, Still Life
Crónica – CC BY SA Derivs allowed!

Art music composed for various installations and commissions. Computer collisions of percussion and field recordings.

Aerosol Constellations – Things Will Never Be the Same
Panospria – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

Dronestuff with various skitterings and scatterings.

Alozeau and Miquel Parera – Five Structures and a Cold Void
Treetrunk – CC BY SA Derivs allowed!

A departure for perennial favorite Miquel Parera. Rhythmic loops and textures and gestures join with the long dronings.

Avelino Saavedra – MUD
Audiotalaia – Conflicted licensing! Listed as CC BY NC ND at label’s site & CC BY NC SA at archive. Forced to presume: No derivs!

A beautiful collection of explorations using a massive Udu drum run through processing, used in feedback experiments, and simply played with light delay. I like the focus of using a single sound source and finding as many unique sounds & approaches as you can. Really great stuff here.

Daniel Barbiero – Allusions to Fogs and Liquids (Complex Silence 37)
Treetrunk – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

Slow, overtone-rich improvisation on double-bass.

Lali Barrière – Unknotted
Audiotalaia – Conflicted licensing! Listed as CC BY NC ND at label’s site & CC BY NC SA at archive. Forced to presume: No derivs!

A pair of improvisatory explorations with everyday objects. Quiet, intimate… a perfect opportunity for attentive listening.

Tommy Birchett + Ben Owen – Untitled Improvisation
Homophoni – License not listed No derivs!

A hushed improvisation using glass, motors & maxMSP.

Adrià Bofarull & Joan Saura – Cràter
TecnoNucleo – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

Musique Concrète. Embarrassingly, I had presumed for most of the year that this was a collaboration between two women, due to my American associations with those names, but Bofarull and Saura are men. I guess that has nothing to do with the sound, just a thing.

CDRX – Greetings from Heidiland
Eg0cide – CC BY SA Derivs allowed!

A confounding collage of processed site recordings and electronic additions. The sounds for this thematic tribute to Switzerland were chosen because the composer felt they were “typically Swiss”.

Marti Guillem Ciscar – VIBRASÒ // RotorNoRoto
Audiotalaia – Conflicted licensing! Listed as CC BY NC ND at label’s site & CC BY NC SA at archive. Forced to presume: No derivs!

Pretty cool sounds here, the first track made with objects vibrating due to synth-driven speaker cones, some un-effected sounds and some computer manipulation. The second is made from a turntable motor interacting with other sounding objects.

Cloud City Cars – & The Cult of Fine Cabinetry
self released – CC BY NC Derivs allowed!

Opiated loops of what sounds like an extremely distorted guitar with all the high end rolled off. Works for me.

Viv Corringham – Gum + Butts
Linear Obsessional – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

The document of a somewhat incredible project wherein Corringham does site recordings in various places while improvising a vocal performance (mostly extended techniques, and some freeform sung tones) in response to the space and to what she hears. This kind of interaction with environmental sound is thoroughly intriguing to me, especially when done with something so intimate as human voice. I often find myself responding to this album with my own vocalizations, allowing my own surrounding environmental sounds to intermingle while listening, all barriers falling away. This is a captivating recording, I can’t recommend it enough.

Alan Morse Davies & Mysterybear – Sing Men and Women!
At Sea / self released – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

Deep electronic drone music. The oscillations and interferences in these long drones kind of turn my brain into half-melted margarine.

Joshua Davison – I Been Thinking Of The Universe
Jackknife Barlow – CC BY NC Derivs allowed!

Sparse modular synth patterns recalling ’70s works by TanDream, Mother Mallard, Ashra, or perhaps more appropriately, recalling the synth revivalism of bands like Forma. One track title name-checks Vangelis. I’m suspicious of myself for liking this, wondering if it stems from a nostalgic bent, but I do like it, so I guess that’s that.

D’Incise – De viribus electricitatis in motu musculari
Reductive – no license listed No derivs!

Minimal rumbles & high pitched pings for 15 minutes. Toward the end of it, there’s some kind of squishy sounds

Eucci – Dirty Modern Tapes 2013
self released – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

Noisy modular synth music. Sounds like at any minute it might go blasto.

Evematic – Bisonogram
Earthrid – Copyright No derivs!

This album is by an artist named Eve Thacker, who died in January of this year. Earthrid re-released this 2004 album as a free download in memory of her. Synthy percussives & not-quite melodies. The album kinda goes back & forth between dark-ish, moody constructions and then beepy, boopy tone-loops that tumble around in a lopsided groove. Circa-1985 this might have been called “industrial music” (Trent Reznor hadn’t yet hit puberty, so lunk-headed rock music wasn’t de rigeur in that most debased of genres). The album could’ve done with some editing, most tracks have a charming “unfinished” quality about them, but some tracks ~really~ sound unfinished. Even so, I’ve enjoyed listening to it.

Cosmo Gardner + Jack Harris + Samuel Rodgers – we’ve had enough of this powdered wig algebra
Homophoni – no license listed No derivs!

Three improvisors in a state of near suspended animation; this is exceptionally restrained. At times all you hear is the sound of the performers listening.

Mario Guida – FlussoSottile
Batenim – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

Ringing resonances and jittery granulations.

Half Evidence – Le Cachot Lumineux
Eg0cide – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

A half-an-hour-long piece of gently droned & plucked & scraped stringed instruments.

Kev Hopper – Tonka Beano
Linear Obsessional – License varies by track, some deriv, some ND

Love that album title. This is big collection of fun, weird, little proto-techno rhythm studies. Could’ve done with a bit of editorial trimming, but yeah.

The Implicit Order – Drifters
self released – CC BY ND No derivs!

Anthony’s work in recent years seems to have made a turn into explicitly melancholy territory, this one is just about as sad as you can get. He takes inspiration from having known a young transient girl who was murdered by a drifting psychopath, apparently. All the normal elements are here for a work by IO, liberal sampling from musical & TV sources make up just about everything you hear.

ISZ -Miquel Isaza- – 200X
Impulsive Habitat – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

From a very quiet start, it builds into a sprawling swampscape of insects & amphibian buzzes & burbles.

Jatun – The Mass of Portland
self released – Copyright No derivs!

A lo-fi loop of some faux-primitive drumming backed with some vinyl crackle develops as droning synth & guitar enter the mix. Effectively the synth/guitar drone feels like a coda, but it lasts for most of the duration of the 45 minute long piece.

John Kannenberg – Audio Tour: The 4’33” Museum – Collection 2
Stasisfield – Copyright No derivs!

Kannenberg’s project of doing site recording at museums around the world is further documented here, with a series of four minute, thirty-three second long excerpts, his “secret performances” of John Cage’s well known composition.

‘kirchenkampf’ – Europa
self released – Copyright No derivs!

Synth-based space music from this old comrade.

Kirill Platonkin – Clouds for Breakfast
Xylem – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

A great goulash of sound, everything is thrown into the pot… toy instrument noodling, spacey organs, field recordings, snippets of Russian folk-pop, just sorta whatever. This kind of thing could end up being an overcooked mush, but all the flavors blend together pretty well. I’m hungry now, stupid metaphor.

Jeff Kolar – Ice Cream Truck Songs
self released – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

I guess that ice cream trucks’ music is generated by little electronic devices, and I guess this guy got a bunch of them and circuit bent them. Very brief, sweet little blast of spasming circuitry.

Le Berger – Variations on Not Too Much Really
self released – CC BY SA Derivs allowed!

A collection of brief, pretty, modally interrelated guitar loops with all the rough edges sanded off. I could see these used to good effect as soundtrack music for some moody independent film.

Norah Lorway – i’ve had dreams like this
Earthrid – Copyright No derivs!

Ambient compositions with enough variety of mood & tone to keep my interest.

Marsh and May – Falling, More Slowly
Linear Obsessional – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

This one really knocked my head around. It fakes you out by setting up an expectation of one thing with it’s almost trad-jazz sounding intro, but then the sound of the piano, drums & standup bass dissolve away, leaving twitching effected remnants. The instrumentation doesn’t actually change much throughout, but due to effects and extended techniques they aren’t so recognizable. A touchstone for what is up here might be a band like Supersilent, but that band’s approach (from what I’ve heard of it) is kind of a saturated, claustrophobic, heavy hallucinatory trip, whereas Marsh & May have a softer touch, exploring an airy, wide-open-spaces surrealism. This is a total pleasure to listen to.

Makoto Masui – Silence+
ElementPerspective – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

Birds and languid keyboard playing. Simple & clean. Short enough that it leaves you wanting more.

James McDougall / Philip Sulidae – Ecological anti realism
Impulsive Habitat – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

As per the normal with the Impulsive Habitat netlabel, this is based on field recordings. There may be some electronic post-processing, it’s really hard to say for sure. There’s very little to give context to the sounds, they just exist as something to listen to. Good album title, nice work.

Christopher McFall – Quivering into your Night Blood Radio
Impulsive Habitat – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

Look, it says “Christopher McFall” on the cover, so you need to get it. High quality, as usual.

Hal McGee & Jukka Pekka Kervinen – Nonsense About Espresso
Tharoop – CCBY NC SA Derivs allowed!

A brief little chaotic abstracted sound blast. Both of these artists have worked with speaking voice quite a bit, so definitely expect some of that. Wait, nevermind, expect nothing… that’ll serve you better.

Abdul Moimême – Mekhaanu – La forêt des mécanismes sauvages
Insubordinations – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

Clangor! A bunch of improvisations with two prepared guitars. I love it.

Monoiz – Multiplied Phoneme
Crazy Language – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

I try out a fair bit of minimal techno from netlabels, but it’s rarely very satisfying. A bit too much corn syrup & artificial coloring. This one is not a barn-burner or anything but I did enjoy it, as it seems to take its cues from Ryoji Ikeda rather than Tipper.

Morphine Bandit – Shamanic Anesthesia
Eg0cide – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

Boy, I really hate that album title. Doesn’t matter though, these are very satisfying, pulsing drones.

Mystified – Music for Journeys
Treetrunk – CC BY Derivs allowed!

Thomas Park’s scaled back his normally gargantuan efforts for the last year or so, but he still put out a good few records this year. This one evokes the relentless plodding forward of tires on pavement and the descending, doppler-shifting moan of semi-tractor-trailor trucks passing heavily with a resigned momentum.

Juan Antonio Nieto – Out of the Blue
FugaDiscos – no license listed No derivs!

Very miminal ambient stuff.

N.O.F.P. – Live @ Sonoscopia
Editora do Porto – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

Meant to mark the centenary of Luigi Russolo’s “Art of Noises” manifesto, this sounds like several performers with rattling, scraping, ratcheting metallic constructions (turns out they have a couple of intonarumori!) and some laptop manipulation (always hard to say with certainty what’s pre-recorded & what’s performed with this kind of thing). Portugal, Spain & Catalonia seem to be the places to be for contemporary musique concrete music, if I could, I’d consider a sound-tourism vacation.

Lee Noyes & Massimo Magee – Lent
Nowaki – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

I was really on an improvised music kick this year wasn’t I? This one has a lot of feedback, homebrew synthesis and piezo roughness. Nowaki doesn’t really allow a direct link to the album, so you’ll need to scroll down to find this album in their catalog.

Ongaku2 – Short Stories
La Bél Netlabel – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

A bit of a snarky group name, right? Do they intend to be the sequel to Group Ongaku? First song sounds like a guitar & sax doing contemporary improvisation, that’s followed by a more tuneful piece with metal bowls and cello. It’s a bit of a back and forth between abstract approaches and tastefully restrained tunefulness. Instrumentation seems to change from track to track, always in pairs, so I’m presume there are two performers doing all this. Dunno, I really like it.

Otra Carpeta – Tranparente
Audiotalaia – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

A couple of piano based compositions and a couple of voice pieces. Really lovely. That first song seals the deal.

Owl Brain Atlas – Snow Eater
suRRism-Phonoethics – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

Frantic sound collages. I love this kind of stuff and it doesn’t seem like many people are doing it anymore. I know OBA is or was based in Boulder, and I think I read somewhere that she/he(?) is a poet primarily.

Caroline Park – Field
Absence of Wax – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

It’s a piano with one hell of a sustain pedal.

Phirnis – Feeding Lions
Fwonk – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

Gobsmacking noise-ambient composition. I’ve only just started to listen to this one very recently, but it’s damned good.

The Phreezound Orchestra
Happy Puppy Records – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

A collage of sounds derived from liberally licensed CC files taken from freesound.org. It coheres stupendously well.

David Prescott-Steed – Soap
Impulsive Habitat – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

A field recording of some mysterious machinery taken by mic’ing under a big iron door. Later on he found out that the place was a soap factory. From the liner notes: “Only later did a friend explain that what I’d found so aesthetically pleasing had likely been the sounds of grinding animal bones and bits. At this point, the alluring became the abject and I started to think about the ethics of listening.” For some reason these sounds are really alluring and hypnotizing, as ugly and grinding as they are. Now that I’m thinking about it, it kind of reminds me of that incredible noise piece “Das Schaben” on Einstürzende Neubauten’s “Halber Mensch” album that fucking re-aligned my head when I was sixteen.

Red Fog – Zone of Avoidance
DNA Production – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

This guy just makes the most lush, vaporous drones.

Oriol Rosell – [live]bcn260311
Republica Iberia Ruidista – no license listed No derivs!

A couple of things I’ve been into lately is tones that are on the edge of perception… very high frequencies and very low ones. I am quite interested in how we listen to these tones, and the strange effect they have on the physical structures of the ear. I worked with these frequencies in my own “Edge and Artifact” from this year. This live performance (I’m guessing laptop) uses the same kinds of tones. Very little information that’s not at the edges of our hearing range.

Richard Sanderson – Air Buttons
Linear Obsessional – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

This album only released this month, but I have no problem recommending it as one of the best of the year. The sound source is melodeon, and Sanderson takes us through many different techniques of either electronically mangling the sounds or leaving them raw.

Schemawound – Haiku
Subterranean Tide – CC BY NC Derivs allowed!

Schemawound – Terraform Mars
Xylem – CC BY Derivs allowed!

Since I found out about him last year, Schemawound has put out a string of consistently good work. Subterranean Tide’s admirable Haiku project (wherein artists choose a haiku and make three tracks, one for each of the verses) has him contribute a calm, creepy set paired with a haiku about a gnawing larva. Terraform Mars is a set of rhythmic tracks with an industrial tinge. Schemawound has a painterly approach, taking the “soundscape” term literally by evoking landscapes with sound. Makes me curious if I’d think differently about these two pieces if they had different song titles.

Sonologist – Ipotesi del Continuo
Petroglyph – CC BY NC ND No derivs!

Studies in gesture and resonance.

Piotr Tkacz & Alice Hui-Sheng Chang – micro
IdealState No Number Series – CC BY NC SA Derivs allowed!

A very tiny collection of improvisations with Tkacz using scraping, squeeking materials and Chang vocalizing primarily with extended techniques and using a looper to double her voice with a slight delay. I really liked this… and it’s so brief that I kind of wish there were more.

Andrew Weathers, Erik Schoster & Jason Nanna – Translation
Basic Sounds – no license listed No derivs!

From a very, very quiet, long fade in (it’s over five minutes before I can hear anything at all at a low-medium volume) these three improvisors build a thematically centered ambient moodscape. Instrumentation is guitar, laptop(s), microtonal modular synth and there may be sundry other soundmakers. Events seem to drift around each other while still hanging suspended, like a gently oscillating mobile. “In a Silent Way” is a possible touchstone, but what this more explicitly reminds me of is the ambient work of David Sylvian such as “Approaching Silence” and his collaboration with Holger Czukay “Plight and Premonition”. Like Sylvian’s work, this one veers dangerously close to feeling just slightly too precious, (sans the high-polish, there’s enough roughness in the mix here for me, (and after all, I do like those Sylvian things)).

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