Notable Netlabel Releases of 2016 (part two)

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Hi, again, I’m C. Reider. I release most of my own music for free on the internet, and I listen to a lot of music by people who do the same. This is a list of free-to-download releases from 2016 that I liked a lot.
I’ve done lists like this for several years, here are previous years’ lists:
2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.

These lists have been getting really long, because I listen to a lot of music over the course of a year, so for my sanity and yours, I’m going to break up this end of year list into several smaller lists. This strategy will also allow me to consider albums released late in the year, while still being able to raise the profile of cool stuff from earlier in the year. This is part TWO of the big list, I will post links just below this line of other parts as I publish them.

LINK TO PART ONE
LINK TO PART THREE
LINK TO PART FOUR
LINK TO PART FIVE, THE FINAL POST

The ordering of these releases is completely arbitrary, no ranking is intended, and none should be inferred. I like everything I’m listing here to varying degrees, but ranking is a silly activity that helps exactly no one form their own opinion about music.

I should clarify that by saying these are netlabel releases, I don’t necessarily mean they were released on proper netlabels, many of these albums were self released. To me, netlabeling is a community activity, involving releasing music online for free (or pay what you want)…
preferably (though not necessarily) with a CC license…
and EVEN MORE preferably (though not necessarily) with a CC license that allows for remixability and sampling. So I use the word “netlabel” even though the word is admittedly problematic. You could just see this as links to a bunch of free music if you wanted to keep things simple.

You can be notified when the next part of this year-end list gets published by either following me on twitter @vuzhmusic or by subscribing to the RSS feed for this blog’s “Recommended Listening” category:
http://www.vuzhmusic.com/blog/category/recommended-listening/feed/
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Eeem [eim] – Shades
https://eeem.bandcamp.com/album/shades
Eeem [eim] – Shores
https://eeem.bandcamp.com/album/shores
Eeem [eim] – Skylines
https://eeem.bandcamp.com/album/skylines-2
CC BY NC SA (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Self-released

A triptych of pretty synth compositions that comes probably as close to what I’d call “traditional ambient” as I’m likely to enjoy. There are also plenty of kosmische inflections to be heard in the drift, especially little hints of Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream and Ashra. I could see these having really wide appeal, they’re done very well.




Ela and PomPom – My New Music
https://thepompom.bandcamp.com/album/my-new-music
Jennifer and PomPom – Circles
https://thepompom.bandcamp.com/album/circles
Copyright (No derivs! No sampling / remixing 🙁)
Self-released

These two releases feature compositions and performances by people who live with cerebral palsy. Ela’s compositions have lo-fi-guitar + percussion + piano backings to her soaring, pretty vocals with mysterious lyrics. Sometimes her voice is draped in spacious reverb or spooky delay.
Jennifer’s works are a litte more spare, and feature her performances on (mostly) keyboard with the percussive pluckings of the PomPom group murkily cycling in accompaniment. This is utterly unique, lo-fi psycedelia that is moving and beautiful. Some of the absolute top music I’ve heard this year. I could see these recordings becoming very influential. Listening to this music makes me happy to be alive.




Eucci – In Marianne District
http://euc.cx/rive/073/index.html
Eucci – On Verdant Shores
https://sunhill.bandcamp.com/album/on-verdant-shores
Eucci – Land’s End
https://sunhill.bandcamp.com/album/lands-end
Eucci – Mimeotin
http://www.controlvalve.net/blog/index.blog/2359640/ctrlvlv061__eucci__mimeotin/
CC BY SA / CC BY NC SA (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Self-released except ‘Mimeotin’ which is out on Control Valve

Eucci had a very productive year, here’s a survey of what I heard. ‘In Marianne District’ is a beautiful collage work of drones and field recordings and interesting sounds cut with sudden transitions and captivating juxtapositions. The style reminds me of some of my favorite work by the Hafler Trio, such as ‘Kill the King’ or ‘the Sea Org’.
‘On Verdant Shores’ is a spasmodic take on pretty IDM music, rough and unsettled, wriggling its ways through not entirely predictable tone lines.
‘Land’s End’ continues the trajectory laid on on the previous release, and refines it a bit. Drums are slightly more upfront here, maybe making it a bit more obvious that this is electronic dance music, perhaps? I mean, I’d love to see someone dance to it. Autechre is the obvious touchstone here, though I feel like a lazy reviewer by pointing that out, (but hell, not like I’m getting paid to do this!)
‘Mimeotin’ is where things get significantly thornier. This is noise music, but labelling it that way is probably misleading, and definitely feels nearly wrong when comparing to some of this artist’s blistering work under the artist name AODL. No, ‘Mimeotin’ takes a really dynamic approach, exploring the softly twitching rhythms and weird, labyrinthine tone lines heard on the two previous releases, but augmented with more abrasive sounds and squirts of complex noise events… nothing that outright pummels, but enough to certainly not pass by unnoticed.




Gregg Skloff – All Way Relay
https://greggskloff.bandcamp.com/track/all-way-relay
Gregg Skloff – Go Dead Aces
https://greggskloff.bandcamp.com/album/go-dead-aces
CC BY NC SA (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Self-released

Skloff, whose main axe is bass (electric, double bass and cello) employs sitar for the two tracks of ‘All Way Relay’. The droning qualities of the instrument pairs well with his sensibilities as a composer, but he does use the melodic side as well. He neatly sidesteps any tacky attempts at ethnic pastiche, thankfully. The first track is couched in mammoth reverb, and the second runs the sound through a fuzz amp to get some feedback-harmonics.
It sounds like ‘Go Dead Aces’ is primarily a synth-based work, with long bassy drones that slowly ebb and wane, throbbing away while the upper harmonics swirl around. Very pretty stuff.




Gurdonark – Reflections on Self
https://gurdonark.bandcamp.com/album/reflections-on-self
CC BY SA (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Self-released

There’s not a whole lot I could say about this album that I haven’t already said about Gurdonark albums that have come before. There is a certain inevitability that comes anytime he releases new work, you know it’s going to sound just like new work by Gurdonark. The happy thing is, I really like that sound, and so the stability of his style is something I find comforting in an odd way. His music is not quite like music by anyone else. His loping compositions for keyboard synth (using sounds that he’s sampled in himself) are simultaneously bouncy and ponderous. His albums are simple, musical, calming and ever-so-slightly oddball. Some of the pieces on this album, especially those toward the end, have a slightly darker mood, and some hints of avant-garde ideas. These are paired with such titles as “Regret” and “Conceit.” It seems this course of musical introspection does not overlook the parts of himself that may be harder to look at.




He Can Jog – Characteristics Associated With Unpredictability
http://music.hecanjog.com/album/characteristics-associated-with-unpredictability
He Can Jog – Nightsound
http://music.hecanjog.com/album/nightsound
CC BY (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Self-released

A couple of very different releases from this artist, presumably making works using his own programming language Pippi. ‘Characteristics Associated With Unpredictability’ starts off with a kind of galactic random-number funk which swiftly slips into continually evolving scenarios of what sounds like a bunch of smiling DMT baubles yammering and chittering vigorously, while hopefully not overcooking your inner ear with radiation too much. Yeah, yeah, ok. I suck at describing music, especially when it sounds like a fusion reactor come to life.
‘Nightsounds’ is ambient music after the Eno model; tone plates shifting over and under one another, cloud-like with some tinkly nooding happening too. These two releases are pretty radically different in mood, but are pretty interesting to listen to back-to-back.




Janne Nummela – Level Crossing
https://archive.org/details/eg0_159
CC BY NC SA (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Eg0cide Netlabel

A number of compositions, realized on computer, in various Modernist, avant-garde styles. A little more constricted and formal than what I tend to like these days, but it’s really very enjoyable.




Jonáš Gruska – Site Specific Resonances V
https://jonasgruska.bandcamp.com/album/site-specific-resonances-v
CC BY NC SA (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Self-released

A sixteen minute long piece that begins with the sound of air ducts (I presume it’s the same system pictured on the cover.) A very loud set of ductwork that rattles and clacks together percussively fades out as some ambiguously sourced droning which sounds vaguely organ-like fades in. This builds, and later is joined by some really nice vibrating material sounds that resemble a low-pitched brass instrument like a tuba or trombone. I believe that materials from the space are activated by some vibrating mechanism by the performer(s?) to produce these sounds. The room’s reverb gives the buzzing and moaning drones a beautiful situatedness. The drone section culminates with a percussive climax.




Chinese Hackers – (wiretrap)
https://bedlamtapes.bandcamp.com/album/–2
Copyright (No derivs! No sampling / remixing 🙁)
Bedlam Tapes

Another solid release from Bedlam Tapes. This music really does come off in some ways as a very appreciative hommage to 1980s Industrial Music, with a very lo-fi approach using drum machines, over-saturated synths, people banging on 55 gallon drums in a warehouse, and weird, charged vocal samples clicking in and out of the mix. It could sit alongside early stuff from Controlled Bleeding or SPK nicely. Thing is, this album also integrates some vaporwave influences too, filtered through the same overleaded-four-track aesthetic. This leaves me drawing some (perhaps dubious) comparisons between industrial & vaporwave, both of which seemed to start off as an anti-establishment, protest music, and both of which rapidly ended up embracing the establishment and polishing themselves up to gain wider audiences. In the process each became something else entirely.




Linden Pomeroy – Ikiryo
https://pilot11.bandcamp.com/album/linden-pomeroy-ikiryo
CC BY SA (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Pilot Eleven Netlabel

It’s that classic combination of guitar through a system of delays and reverbs. I guess I’m just a sucker for this kind of shit. It was one of the first ways I started doing ambient / experimental / whatever music, and it still never gets old.




Lingua Lustra – Slow Time
https://archive.org/details/Lingua_Lustra_-_Slow_Time
CC BY (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Breathe Compilations

Slowly looping, filtered and strained musical phrases swaddled in disorienting effects. A very romantic melancholy pervades this album. Very beautiful stuff. “Phantasmagoric” seems like a good word I should use somewhere in this review, but I don’t know what kind of sentence to use it in, so you can make one up yourself if you like.




Linus Lemont – Marginalia
https://linuslemont.bandcamp.com/album/marginalia
CC BY NC (Derivs allowed! Remix / sample away! 🙂)
Self-released

Linus’ first album released with his new name (earlier releases came out under the name Jess Lemont, you may have seen a few recommendations from me for his earlier stuff). Linus is an immensely talented composer with deep jazz chops and some incredible moves on the drumkit, as well as seemingly every single instrument ever made. They have a gift for inventing new ways to splatter those sounds in weird new shapes. This is avant-garde as fuck… If you’re in the market for some extremely well done “difficult” music that never gets boring or predictable, do not miss this one.


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