A retrospective curation of some of the amazing music that came out in 2020…including LPs, Cassettes, EPs, Live albums and Archival Releases. Dig In!
Style: Experimental, Electro-Acoustic, Noise, Drone
Vibe: Eerie, Noisy, Suspenseful
Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Electro-acoustic, Improvisation (Solo), Dynamic, Atonal, Loops
Instrumentation: Electric Cello with Effects
Style: Nomadic Future Folk, Organic Beat Music, South African Folk, Progressive Folk Vibe: Heartfelt, Imaginative, Futuristic, Ritualistic, Spiritual, Earthy, Psychedelic Musical Attributes: Electro-acoustic, Percussive, Polyrhythmic, Studio-as-an-Instrument, Progressive
Style: Psychedelic Rock, Free Rock, Jam Band, Tishoumaren-Influenced
Vibe: Groovy, Hypnotic, Colorful, Ritualistic, Communal, Psychedelic
Musical Attributes: Microtonal (Just Intonation), Improvisation (Collective), Instrumental, Progressive, Repetitive, Rhythmic, Thematic
Style: Post-Rock, Post-Minimalism, Progressive Folk
Influences: Kosmische Musik, American Primitive Guitar, Minimalism
Vibe: Airy, Nocturnal, Pastoral, Peaceful, Focused, Imaginative, Impressionistic, Contemplative, Warm
Musical Attributes: Atmospheric, Instrumental, Progressive, Pulse, Odd Time Signatures, Pulse, Dynamic, Headphone Album, Minimalistic
Style: Ambient, Progressive Electronic
Vibe: Cosmic, Psychedelic, Exploratory, Atmospheric, Meandering
Released in 2020 on Anti- Records Artist: Deradoorian Format: LPx2 Style: Psych Rock, Kosmische-Influenced Vibe: Introspective, Mystical, Spiritual, Confident, Conscious, … More
Psychedelic electro-acoustics and earthy minimalism from long-running avant-folk group Spires that in the Sunset Rise. The multi-instrumentalist duo of Ka Baird and Taralie Peterson ritualistically loop and layer a hypnotic tapestry of pre-verbal vocalizations, upright bass, flute, saxophone, synth, and autoharp, running each instrument through trippy stereo delays, visually represented by the two minute-apart clocks next to each other on the album cover. While not as witchy or jarring as the their early releases, Psychic Oscillations finds the band as entrancing as ever.
This lost slab of mythical prog doesn’t shy away from indulging in the retro pleasures of instrumental psych-jammage and triumphant jazz-rock. The atmospheric guitar, spacey Moog, and Hammond organ playing are both epic and economical, nary a note wasted. Philip Grondahl’s violin playing on the opening track is especially heroic, recalling the flights of Jean-Luc Ponty or Mahavishnu’s Jerry Goodman. Despite their collective starward gaze, Klyfta remains firmly grounded by the tightness of the rhythm section. Aside from the explosive entropy of the first track (beginning with Anders Strand’s expansive upright bass solo), the grooves focus on repetitive momentum with unwavering determination.
A brooding, droney cover of Neil Young’s Revolution Blues.
Artist: Nicolas Jaar
Blending elements of math rock, shoegaze, and early indie rock, Shuttering’s latest is an intimate expression of fluctuating emotional landscapes, with lyrical themes revolving around co-dependent relationships, anxiety, and healing from past trauma. How to Drown’s primary charm lies in its delicate balance between raw pathos and instrumental complexity.
[Follow link for full review]
Composer and upright bassist Spencer Zahn crafts a peaceful album of impressionistic and pastoral jazz that recalls Talk Talk, ECM Records, In a Silent Way, and Bill Frisell. The atmospheres are open and washy thanks to sweeping piano gestures and Dave Harrington’s guitar loopery, while the slow, rolling rhythms of drummer Kenny Wollesen and percussionist Mauro Refosco keep the results grounded.
Style: Jazz Fusion, Future Jazz, Post-Rock
Vibe: Forest, Knotty, Intricate, Nature, Impressionistic, Mysterious
Musical Attributes: Improvisation, Modal
[Click for album overview, listening links, and more information]
Bass clarinet, pedal steel guitar, and synthesizer swirling together into a highly immersive and emotive combination of voices. Truly beautiful soundscapes that melt the worry away, with moments of quiet catharsis that I don’t experience very often in ambient music.
Welcome Home Pup is a a swirling haze of dreamy bedroom-pop and homespun psychedelia that wears its heart on its sleeve.
Recommended if you dig Alex G, Animal Collective (pre-Feels), or American Football
While the luminescent drones and angelic simulacra of Deepak Verbera expanded out into the cosmos, Botany’s newest LP feels more rooted in the soil of our material reality. The bass heavy beats and impassioned vocal samples inspire movement and action rather than contemplation alone, not to say the results aren’t heady. Rich tapestries of resonant acoustic instruments (harps, flutes, percussion, strings), woozy synths, and warm tape hiss are as intricate as ever and easy to lose (or find?) yourself in. Recommended to fans of Flying Lotus’ Until the Quiet Comes, Boards of Canada, and Alice Coltrane.
Style: Creative Music, Electro-Jazz, Fusion
Vibe: Warm, Colorful, Eclectic, Uplifting
Musical Attributes: Improvisation (Thematic), Melodic, Instrumental, Technical, Percussive
While escapism is an understandable instinct in times of turmoil, The Spirits Will Shimmer encourages reflection on our current realities rather than turning a blind eye. New Balance’s Jeremy Leasure thoughtfully constructs a sonic cocoon of backwoods ambience from warped banjo improvisations and Casio synth atmospheres, foregoing the vivid lyrical imagery and lush arrangments of past releases. By offering a temporary respite from overstimulation, these meditative mood pieces carve out the space necessary to process the endless stream of information weighing on our hearts and minds.
The Common Task is an incessant barrage of jolting polyrhythms that simultaneously hypnotize and disorient.
Style: Experimental Rock, Math Rock, Post-Rock, Totalism
Vibe: Hypnotic, Surreal, Triumphant, Complex, Political
Musical Attributes: Microtonal, Polyrhythmic, Repetitive, Odd Time Signatures, Saharan Africa-Influenced, Technical, Instrumental
This impressionistic and contemplative collaboration channels deep American folk roots through free flowing improvisations. The panoramic and sensitive drumming of Jim White (Dirty Three, Cat Power, etc) is a perfect match for Marisa Anderson’s primitivist guitar sensibilities, which feel both immediate and abstract.
Irreversible Entanglements follows up the scathing fire music of their debut with regenerative and ritualistic earth music. “Who Sent You?”, is a record that looks not only to the violent “rhythms of oppression”, past and present, that need to be burnt to the ground, but to a future built from the ashes of these unjust systems. Irreversible Entanglements are simply one of the most powerful bands in existence, building their symbiotic improvisations with fervent passion, hypnotic rhythm, and urgent truths.
Released in 2020 on International Anthem and Nonesuch Records Format: LP