My top listens in October 🎶

The 9 albums I listened to most in the last month, according to play stats.

In October I spent plenty of time with Signer’s recent music, listening to EPs from his Isolated Dreams series, but because they’re all only 2-3 tracks long they don’t show up in the above chart.

Taylor Swift – evermore (Republic Records)

I can’t remember why I decided to check this out. I’ve never particularly liked previous Swift singles, but I knew she’d more recently been writing and recording with the members of Big Red Machine (Aaron Dressner of The National + Bon Iver) and I thought that sounded interesting. She shows up on multiple tracks on Big Red Machine’s new album actually – probably the only legit release on Bandcamp that involves her?

To be honest, I’ve never really liked either The National or Bon Iver, but they’re still of interest to me. I try on stuff they release from time to time, wondering if it’ll click this time. So far, nah, though I liked their contributions to a Mouse On Mars album a few years back now.

Anyway, I liked evermore enough that I listened to the whole 15-track album more than once and then thrashed a few tracks. I don’t enjoy the album from start to finish, but, to my wife’s great disappointment, really like some of it.

Having said I never got The National, this song where their singer showed up was one of my faves. They sound great together imo.

BON – Pantheon (Shimmering Moods)

So I only listened to this twice, but because it has 18 tracks, it’s near the top of the chart. As a test to myself, I tried to remember what it sounded like without giving it another listen. I remember ambient synth instrumentals that sounded like someone was playing them. No drums, so samples or other textures that I remember.

This is 1 of 4 albums in the chart from the label that released my Recording last Jan.

Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever (Darkroom / Interscope)

What I knew before listening to Billie Eilis for the first time was: she’s a pop star people say can really sing, something about some jazz influences, and lots of nerds get excited about her brother Finneas’s bass-heavy production.

I heard these two songs first via a react video, and immediately really liked both of them. The incredibly spare, darkly-mixed sound of “Lost Cause” felt like a throwback to weird 90s productions like Moloko before they got famous for a house remix, or when DJ Vadim remixed Icelandic band Gus Gus on 4AD way back, or early singles by Arlo Park. But the whole thing is bigger and more banging.

While I really like “Your Power” from the start, it’s the sub bass stuff that comes in later that’s the real hook for me.

I wasn’t that into the rest of the album in the end, but from the play stats I gave it a decent hoon. Eilish is obviously a really competent singer, but I do find the thing where she’s singing really softly, almost talking sometimes, then it’s turned up really loud quite … intense? I love that about “Lost Cause”, mind you. And Finneas’s beats and arrangements are often great, but at the risk of sounding more-alt-than-thou, I’ve been listening to so much more out-there shit for decades now, so the most I can say about his reputed innovations is that I am glad sounds like this are meeting with massive commercial success.

Tawdry Otter – Dark Mansion Of Forbidden Beats (self-released)

Jinkies! Adrien aka Adrien75 dropped a great Hallowe’en release here, laced with samples from oooold horror movies and related material. It has a classic melodic IDM kind of thing going on, but if that phrase gives you chills then don’t let me put you off! Expect chunky drum machines, bouncy breakbeats, and bright synth and guitar melodies.

Nueen – Circular Sequence (Quiet Time Tapes)

This comes only a couple of months after his last release, but it’s at least as good imo. Soft and new agey synth stuff and the title seems apt. Lots of repeating sequences of notes, but with things slowly evolving. In my favourite moments, like on “Moving II”, the different sequences feel like they’re going at different speeds and it’s a pleasure to not even try to keep track of what’s going on.

Kraus – Chocolate, Candy, Love and Dreams (self-released)

Super crisp, unadorned FM synth numbers here from Kraus, quite a sideways step from his more psych material. The lack of fx makes it feel quite intimate and purposeful, even in a 100% digital domain. “Horse Pyramid” wins track name of the year, I think.

Fa.R – Machine.Learning (Shimmering Moods)

This album is only 7 tracks but clocks in at just under 80 minutes long. Most of the tracks are like little suites or megamixes. Or they’re just long. 😄

The fantastic sound palette makes me think of the noisy end of dub techno, with plenty of hiss and crackle and submerged synth chords, but the beats never come. It’s one of those albums where any given moment just sounds so good to me. You could do the virtual equivalent of a record needle drop at any point and not be like “oh you have to really hear this from the start to get it”.

W.E._aa – (Shimmering Moods)

What I just wrote above about the sound palette of Fa.R’s record could equally apply to this, although I’d say the noise is even more to the fore on this.

Compositionally they’re pretty different, with this album often involving faster rhythmic sequences, electric-piano like chord sequences, and more sudden changes. And cats. Not just on the cover, there’s a lot of meowing on one track.

Champignonsdesbois – Missed Calls (Shimmering Moods)

A collection of 18 short field recordings. I found myself wanting to listen to something where the field recordings are worked into music, like the Longbrows release I was listening to a lot last month.

My top listens in September🎶

Joy Orbison – Still Slipping (XL Recordings)

So Joy O seems pretty eager to say this isn’t an album, but it is 14 tracks of original music that are a great listen. The whole thing is scattered with vocal recordings from people in his life, and someone early on says “The second you just change the language to mixtape, nobody cares.” Whatever it takes to get the thing out!

There’s a lot I love about Joy Orbison. One thing is that he’s definitely making dance music and he’s using interesting textures and sounds that you don’t often hear in dance music, and which totally take me back to mid-90s electronica. It might not be the first time around for me hearing these nerdy sounds, but in the context of this kind of low-key bass music they just work better, hit harder, whatever.

Music for Dogs – Spoor (Cached Media)

It’s a jazz duo, I guess, but I’d be pushed to call this a jazz record. Blippy electronic drums, most tracks are kind of sketch-like, and then every now and then … a clarinet solo. I really like it. One of many things I stumbled upon via Adrien’s recent BNDCMPR playlists (Ambient and Beats). The funny thing is I probably got him on to Cached Media, but I missed this release when it came out in February.

Longbrows – Manywhere (self-released)

The latest Longbrows release is, like his last, field recordings tweaked and worked into musical compilations. This one’s a travelogue, with each track a kind of relatively abstract vignette of a different place and time. Often the recordings themselves capture some musical moment, or else the tones of the field recordings are drawn out in a harmonic or melodic fashion, so it’s perhaps not as abstract as I make it out to be.

While most of it is definitely beatless, just to mix things up, High times in the low countries is almost like an 80s hip-hop instrumental, with rhythms of horses on cobblestones, bell melodies, and a dog worthy of a song by The Baha Men.

Place: Georgia and Place: Columbia (Place:)

So I’ve been getting very into a producer called KMRU over the last year or so, and I saw he was selecting tracks for a compilation called Place: Nairobi. At the time it hadn’t come out yet, but it got me checking out the Place: website and Bandcamp page. The folks behind this series describe “Place:” as follows:

A location specific electronic music compilation series where all proceeds are donated to local groups working on environmental causes in that area.

The series seems pretty switched on, from what I can tell, but also not very well supported, if the little fan icons on Bandcamp are anything to go by. 🤔

Anyway, yeah, compilations of electronic music from specific places. Largely what I’d call either techno or ambient, with a scattering of electro. I got to wondering about how neither compilation sounds particularly of its location, to my foreign ears. But I imagine if you had, say, metal compilations from around the world it would be similar: you wouldn’t necessarily spot the country of origin from just listening. Arguably this will be more exaggerated with instrumental music.

Christoph El’ Truento – Foraging (Cosmic Compositions)

When I started I unsurprisingly revisited a whole lot of local ambient music, and this Truento release from 2019 floated to the surface. I think of Chris’s stuff normally in the context of hip-hop – maker of many beat tapes and producer for Home Brew, @Peace, etc. – even though I know his El’ Truento output ranges all over the place.

This is a warm and bright collection of interesting instrumentals. Among the soft and wandering synths psychedelic touches abound, from reversed stuff, roaming guitar lines, to flutes and inscrutable recordings. It is not washed out drones, earnest acoustic felted piano, or anything you might call noise, so it steers clear of a lot of the most common tropes of contemporary ambient.

Jörgen Kjellgren – Hollawood (The Slow Music Movement)

4-track EP that’s basically nice guitar instrumentals in Americana territory, with some interesting electronic texture.

I don’t have that much more to say! But I listened to it a lot. Genuinely calming.

Perila and Ulla – Silence Box 1 (Silence Box)

This is a nice mix of delicate instrumental bits with field recordings, often sliced abruptly or otherwise almost dumped on the track in slabs of sound. Perila comes from a background in doing ASMR stuff, which I never picked from her solo releases, but it makes some sense here.

I was writing about Ulla in July. Her and Perila also have a collaboration called LOG that I’ve listened to a bunch. Not sure what’s going on with these Silence Box releases – they’re all by the two of them, who are as far as I know from Russia and USA respective, and the Bandcamp page says the label is from Portugal. But anyway, this is the one that caught my attention and I listened to it repeatedly.

Szymon Kaliski – Out of Forgetting (Audiobulb)

I can’t remember why this 2013 release (recorded in 2009) went on my Bandcamp wishlist in the last couple of months, but it’s been a very enjoyable listen over the last month. It’s relatively short – 7 tracks – so I probably listened to it more than some of the albums that came in higher up the chart (Longbrows and Joy Orbison’s have twice as many tracks).

Anyway, it kicks off with glitched up piano stuff, which I’m pretty partial to. I feel a bit like I’m often saying this about music I like, but in the end each track is its own thing, like the person making it was just focused on making that one piece of music the most that track it could be.