Sunday, December 24, 2017

my favorite releases of 2017

This has to be the most stressful event for the entire year! Hahaha! Picking what seems like a handful of favorite releases out of a mountain of amazing music is not an easy task. That said, saying that this is all that I really, really love, or that these are my only favorite releases is a fallacy. I guess that it came down to narrowing ones that would fit safely within a picture. Ha! Some of the releases have music that is not only ambient on them, but I love the music regardless. Anything that I've used this year (which I'm quite certain is a whole lot) is something from a release that is above and beyond in both beauty and inspiration. This list is no means definitive, or exclusive.

Below are the links to the releases, as well as links to the artist websites (for compilations, only links to the releases). I favor each of these for specific reasons which I'll explain. On we go......

Just one artist, and a keyboard with very minimal other things to embellish or hide what is being transferred from soul to instrument. While many piano-only releases leave me a bit cold, this one absolutely does not. The melodies are simple and pleasant, but not at all mindless. Every song has a flow that carries you to the next. If there is one release that says everything something within each song without it being too much or too little, this is that release. I also highly recommend FIRST CONTACT (Colliding Galaxies' first release). 

I seem to find a lot to love about The Echelon Effect in general. This is one artist that inspires me to create music and do things a lot better every time with every release. Yep, I try to measure what I'm doing by going to this artist and seeing if I'm even close to the same songwriting expertise, instrumentation, and production. So far, I'm still not even close! One of my favorite artists that seems to effortlessly find the right things to say with the best way to say it. Pure expression with the best means possible. This release digs deep into the mind, and paints the perfect backdrop that can't be ignored or discounted. I would love to get inside The Echelon Effect's head to get a glimpse into the colorful galaxy that is capable of creating such masterpieces. 

As I stated in a review on his Bandcamp page, there is nothing aurally substandard about this release at all. I've been following his YOUTUBE channel for a while now, taking in such flawlessly executed soundscapes. I have a good bit of his stuff, and this release captures the beauty and intensity that only he can deliver with such simple and effective means. Also, check out LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, as well as SOUNDSCAPES for more great music from this artist.

Man, do I love An Imaginal Space's music! Very, very deep. This artist has a very good amount of music available, and strangely with such a small following. I discovered Spook's music first via CLOUDSCAPE TIMELAPSES: VOLUME TWO on SOUNDCLOUD and asked if I could use this song for a mix pre-release. He was super generous in doing so, and I've been a fan ever since. The music in Loop 1702 (Beyond) fills in all of the places within you mind that ease you into a whole new realm of floating within the ether. An Imaginal Space is definitely an artists that puts his art in a special place, and that labor of love is very well reflected to the listener. Inclusively, I'd like to recommend LAMENTATIONS and DREAMINGS.

If there's one drone-ish type work that I actually do love, it's this one. There is something that feels quite right about the way this one streams along and develops. There is some sort of waking-up-in-a-field-with-the-sun-on-you type of feeling that goes along with the music. The development of such humble and simple beginnings to each tune fold into sonic envelopes which allow the listener to transcend to a deeper pocket. Very well conceived and executed release, and the artwork release, Bandcamp banner, and song titles are very captivating. I really hope that Special Effects Department gets a bigger following and can continue to create such beautiful streams of consciousness. 

I absolutely love and have a soft spot in my heart for Disposable Planet's music! This release really resonates with me. Even the quirky comical intermissions within this release raise a smile. The earthy and drone-ish pieces create a sense of wonder and amazement as if a new path was being illuminated with every step. To me, there is nothing boring about this release. I've managed to use quite a bit of Disposable Planet's music in my mixes and a good bit from this album. I love, love this album. It's soothing, playful, contemplative, and full of quirky happiness dipped in warmth and good vibes. Also check out Disposable Planet's DREAM A DEATH OF PAPERCLIPS (my favorite) and LOST MOONS.

One person that is really bringing ambient/post-rock guitar to the forefront is musicformessier. This is one extremely creatively productive musician, and a hell of a nice guy! With each release, musicformessier creates better and better tapestries with an uncanny ability to develop appropriately theme oriented vessels. Every one of his Constellation releases (it is a trilogy) are pretty unbelievable and definitely worth gathering. Most of musicformessier's releases are purely a guy with a guitar creating scenes and emoting with the simplest yet most effective means possible. In this release, he shows that being receptive to his ability to draw perfect lines with his mind while using a guitar as an easel yield the perfect story. I have to mention his CONSTELLATIONS III (not just because I'm a part of it) due to the fact that he was able to muster a stellar cast of musicians on this release, creating easily the most ambitious compilation release of the year.

There is a beautifully scripted story that lies within this release. Very deep, very textural, and there is a sense of nostalgia that seems to be hidden in some tracks. While mostly piano driven, there are some additional subliminal secretes that peek from behind each curtain. These backdrops within the compositions make you turn your head as if you feel that something is there at the corner of your mind's eye. Very well written melodies, very well executed production, and this release is a cloud that surrounds and lifts you into the ether. I have to say that what I like best are the 6/8 feel songs that are like waltzes from dizzy nightmares that you never want to leave.

Ben Woods is one of those musicians that refuses to release something that is not perfect in every way. Easily one of the best curators of melody and intensity, and the fact that Ben's music is consistently free really raises the bar on the rest of us that choose to give music away for free. I've paid for so much music that is not even close to Ben's standard. I'll also say it here that because of Ben I chose to start including piano within my compositions (although I'm not even within the same solar system as him by far). He has a small but dedicated following for a very good reason. These listeners vibe with Ben's vision, and he delivers every timeMOMENTS and THIS DIGITAL HORIZON are by far my favorites, and this one is closer to those two than any of his other works, and it feels as though Ben is returning home.


One consistent element that you can depend on within each and every Hammock release is a huge production and unparalleled production. With every release, Hammock just keeps getting stronger and stronger, to the point where I think that they are no longer human. This particular piece of art completely busts the doors open from the beginning, and the first track (Now And Not Yet) is like the gates to heaven opening up with its majestically heroic poem of grandiose ether. For any other release or artist, opening a release with such a powerful track would mean an eventual slide downward into the rest of the journey. That couldn't be further from the truth. It is evident that Hammock is moving beyond creating simple flowing tracks and instead venturing into weaving very complex compositions and using every bit of means to get there. Other favorite recordings of mine are RAISING YOUR VOICE..., CHASING AFTER SHADOWS, OBLIVION HYMNS, know what, all of it! It's ridiculous to have a favorite at all with this band, it's all unbelievable.

From such humble beginnings as a free download netlabel comes a success story of a powerhouse label that is beginning to lead the charge in producing the very best post-rock and post-classical ambient in the market today. Every time I get a message from Serein in my inbox it's like Christmas morning. I've managed to really have my mind blown open by the roster of musicians that are creating the most cutting edge music today. I did a REVIEW a while back on the release ORBITAL PLANES AND PASSENGER TRAINS VOL. 1, and to have the opportunity to express my love for this release was a pure honor. Let's Go Outside is a collection constructed from past releases (which contain some of the aforementioned release's music) and gives the listener a very broad and diverse peek into the genius of Serein. Quality control at Serein is extremely high, and this passionate release is testament to that. But rather than just throw a bunch of songs together in a lazy manner, there are 6 unreleased songs within this release and it's free! It would be criminal for the connoisseur of ambient/post-rock/post-classical not to add this absolute treasure chest to their collection.

Hawk Moon Records hosts an unparalleled roster of unbelievable musicians (Umber, Good Weather For An Airstrike, Alaskan Tapes) and this release allows them to draw upon the wealth of great music that they are able to distribute. With this release, were challenged to utilize afield recording within their compositions. Blending art with nature is, to me, the best way to draw in the listener, and this release does that unbelievable well. This is really one release that could go on forever, as the well goes deeper and deeper with each composition. Such a good representation of a great label that should not go unrecognized. It is a great event o be blessed with such a diverse cast of musicians, capable of delivering such a collectively well conceived piece of art that is worthy of an aficionado's music collection. 

The opening of this release sounds like a hazy dream on an ocean, your destination being a surreal world of expansive sound and light. The compositions make the most of very simple melodies that stick to your mind and effectively become a part of your DNA. If it were only Steve and a piano, it would be an amazing release. His ability to envision his songs on a higher plane and deliver his intentions to his audience with such conviction push Adrift to a much higher realm of listening pleasure. With each simple seedling that Steve plants, he yields a blossoming idea of beauty which is evident of  the careful nurturing that transpires along the way. His passion and love for his art is reflected flawlessly in this release, and his talent for carrying the listener along for the ride is the real magic.

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