altAddicted: The most impressive alternative albums of 2011
(10) Okkyung Lee - Noisy Love Songs
Just very few people can express more emotions through a single instrument than Okkyung Lee does with her cello. Equipped with few field recordings and loops of her playing, Noisy Love Songs finds her tempting the limits of the cello and testing the openness of her listener. These uneasy provocative, but at the same time elegant compositions are a must for a free-form lover.
If there was a record sounding like a great meadow of blue calm this year, it would be Dunn’s Ways Of Meaning. Dynamic in its inner constancy, sorrowful in the secret harmony of the organ, this album finds the glory in an unlimited time and space.
(8) Sandwell District - Feed Forward
Shadows are the nearest quasi-object expressing the unapproachable character of Feed Forward, a genius collection of four minimal techno LPs. No light, no stroboscope, no diodes of technics are seen in this dark place under the club. Just the subdued beats and conjuring basses sinking even deeper into a dazed mind.
The first collaboration between Dustin O’Halloran and Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie sounds as if they wanted to pair never-ending silence with the most beautiful single tone of some of their chosen instruments. This record is unashamedly spacious, offering a calm escape from the world.
The inner darkness and fear has two faces: it eats the human from the inside, but also stimulates his most hidden talents and imaginations. This release finds the author in post-darkness phase, reconciling shadowy essence of his own’s soul gloominess.
Almost an hour of improvisation performed by a moving sound of cello and a craziness of prepared piano which often sounds more like a percussion belongs to one of the most daring releases this year. Its qualities lay in the carefree nature of its creators and their simultaneous challenge to come with new sounds with preserving the consistency. Like its name, Pan Tone is an oceanic morphing beauty.
Reykjavík-based duo has made an ambitious, almost unreachable goal: to illustrate the psychotic difficulties of one’s mind in a extreme conditions of an astronaut being squeezed of his secret emotions by an undecipherable alien force. Frost & Bjarnason reached the odd scariness of such situation through spacey passages of silence and dense fragments of dissonance. Not only those contrasts made an icy impression but the uneasy nature and thoughtful structure materialized the fears of Lem & Tarkovsky at their best.
There has hardly been a harder and more difficult album this year than Juv – debut which has been waiting for its release for 13 years. Document of the sufferings and pains of growing up and changing from a creative youth into a self-realized adult is just part of Juv’s success. It’s the desolate murkiness and imaginative hopelessness that wins a broken heart of the listener.
One of the most emphatic works of last few years comes from the hands and mind of Leyland Kirby who imagines a fragmented and half-broken memory of patients suffering from Alzheimer. From frostiness to a touching absolution, this music is a full bliss beyond the grayness of the life.
Destruction of the art through the destruction of the sound as the underlying tool of music itself is a smart concept in an even smarter realization. As long as the synthesizers shiver and the church organ hums, one can’t get rid of those goosebumps that don’t want to go away. An impressive journey with a massive ideological basis.
Out of Sasu Ripatti’s many projects, Vladislav Delay bears the heaviest burden of minimalist darkness. One could argue that Luomo is that micro-house with poppy tendencies, celebrated by dance music-savvy listeners. Uusitalo is then an escape from colourful lights into an industrial murk of minimal techno. Then there is his occasional work as Sistol, his weird-glitch experimenting, and sporadic collaborating with Moritz von Oswald Trio. But what about works under Vladislav Delay, his most prolific and complex moniker?
This Oulu-born artist leaves his sparsest textures and the most daring rhythmic structures for strangely named Vladislav Delay. Whether you take his break-through glitchy Multila or subsequent Anima, consisting of just one single hour-long track, Delay has always been a playground for Ripatti’s most diverse creative thinking. The astonishing imaginativeness and openness to many other genres – from field-recordings-based ambient to IDM to industrial – was most prominently documented on his previous record Tummaa which incredibly emphasized the eclectic nature of his Vladislav Delay direction.
However, Ripatti is totally on a different place on his latest full-length Vantaa (Raster-Noton) named by a town which makes up the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and is on the verge of being autonomous from the capital city, but also being an integral part of it. Delay’s sonic Vantaa similarly oscillates somewhere in-between. Two worlds are forming around Vantaa, but inside of it even more. The moist, humid fogginess suggests a cold, but human touch: something you can really approach, touch and feel with parts of your body. Those sounds, as in watery Lipite, drizzle to the ground and soak into an already damp mass. Delay evolves these perceptions with patience and delicate detail. There’s neither sound which is unnecessary, nor is there a beat which would be meaningless – every note has a mission of intermediating this calm, wet wet world.
On the other side of the spectrum is a cold synthesis of computers, amplifiers, transformers and unnamable electronic toolkits which guarantee that everything sticks together. In Delay’s world these are not just the tools; electronic equipment is an equal member of his minimalist work. A perfect example of such technicality and industrial chill is the title-track Vantaa based on a simple slow-mo beat which thickens and gets more complicated and simultaneously artificial.
The abstract cold of Finnish minimal techno is best documented in subsequent Lauma (the excerpt streams above) built on stones of a challenging, but impressive beats which get denser and even more difficult to swallow. Lauma represents the most oppressive track on Vantaa and Delay gets extra points for the brave and terrific accomplishment of this uneasy task. The attempt of digesting those long eight minutes becomes more terrific with every new motive and becomes a terror as Lauma nears to its end.
Luckily, Vantaa is not about contrasts as simple as white versus black. Take tranquil, repetitive Narri which sounds everything from your uncle repairing his boat to a paddle stirring the surface of cold lake. Many moments on Vantaa are so beautifully smooth thanks to their ambiguity and numerous explanations of not only the source, but more importantly, the result. Vantaa is more a synthesis of various Delay’s musical spectrums than a patchwork of beat-driven ambient. The key element which holds his newest album together is an emotional and sonic integrity and the different tendencies suggest diversity. Strong and demanding piece of dynamic, imaginative minimalism.