This is also some of my Facebook thoughts from today...
Part of me keeps hoping that the Bowie news is just part of some elaborate performance piece. His new album is about death afterall. He's even got a song on it called "Lazarus." Maybe, like Lazarus, he'll come back from the dead and we will see this as the latest in a long line of Bowie incarnations. Maybe this is just a new character for him to play. Unfortunately it appears his final performance is as himself, leaving us behind to ponder his influence on our lives.
His influence on my life was substantial. In 1974, for my 14th, birthday, my older brother gave me four albums by artists that I was unfamiliar with. One of them was David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars. I firmly believe that album changed my life. I know that sounds ridiculous but after that album I started listening to better music - Bowie, Eno, Fripp, Talking Heads, Tull, Roxy Music, Genesis, Dylan, Tangerine Dream, etc. Music became hugely important to me. I worked at the student radio station in college and through that experience changed my major to Radio, TV & Film. After one thing leads to another over the years I end up editing video for a living. I'm in a creative field because of that album I got at age 14.
thirdsystem - I've bee going in the opposite direction. Over the past 6 years or so I've been buying less & less ambient and more & more "normal" music, which for me is indie, indie/folk and jazz. Maybe it's because I already have enough ambient music to last several lifetimes or more likely my tastes have just changed a bit.
Here are my favorite album purchases of 2015:
1) Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell 2) The Decemberists - What a Terrible World, What a Beuatiful World 3) Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit & Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit 4) Public Service Broadcasting - The Race for Space 5) Tame Impala - Currents 6) Aero Flynn - Aero Flynn 7) Maria Schneider - The Thompson Fields 8] Waxahatchee - Ivy Tripp 9) Seth Avett & Jessica Lea Mayfield - Sing Elliott Smith 10) Ibeyi - Ibeyi 11) Beruit - No No No 12) Dengue Fever - The Deepest Lake 13) Other Lives - Rituals 14) The Lone Bellow - Then Came The Morning 15) Leon Bridges - Coming Home 16) Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear 17) Beach House - Depression Cherry 18) The Chemical Brothers - Born in the Echoes 19) Nosaj Thing - Fated 20) New Order - Music Complete
The number of high quality releases every year makes keeping current very difficult, which is why I love year-end lists. They are such a great way of discovering things I may have missed and finding good music from someone with slightly different tastes.
These year end lists are always fun but difficult. But at least the top 3 spots this year were easy selections - Alva Noto - Xerrox, Vol. 3 Max Richter - Sleep Chris Walla - Tape Loops
It doesn't really matter which one grabbed the top spot, I listened to these three over and over in 2015. Noto is known for his electronic minimalism but Vol. 3 is beautiful and lush. Max Richter's Sleep is a recording of epic proportion - 8 hours long, it amazes me each time I listen. Tape Loops by Chris Walla(drummer for Death Cab for Cutie) has an old school ambient feel. It reminds me of Eno's Music for Airports and Music for Films. As large as the first two albums on the list can sound, Tape Loops is just the opposite - simple and intimate.
A few albums worth mentioning - Brian Eno: Discreet Music by Contact is an orchestral arrangement of Eno's 1970s Discreet Music. Like Bang On A Can's cover of Music for Airports this one is familiar yet fresh and different. Worth checking out. I've used Sine Dust tracks in several mixes and I will probably use them for years because I love the classic, spacey edge to this EP from 36.
Here are my favs from 2015:
1. Alva Noto - Xerrox, Vol. 3 2. Max Richter - Sleep 3. Chris Walla - Tape Loops 4. Benoit Pioulard - Sonnet 5. 36 - Sine Dust 6. Olan Mill - Cavade Morlem 7. Mikael Delta & Hior Chronik - The First Ray 8. Bersarin Quartett - III 9. Contact - Brian Eno: Discreet Music 10. Marconi Union - Departures 11. Spheruleus - Chronota 12. Goldmund - Sometimes 13. Nils Frahm - Solo 14. Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie - Travels in Constants Vol. 24 15. Horizon Fire - Earthlight
A few other instrumental album that I liked this year but are more jazz or alt instrumental than ambient:
Maria Schneider - The Thompson Fields Jaga Jazzist - Starfire Kamasi Washington - The Epic Kendrick Scott Oracle - We Are The Drum David Cross & Robert Fripp - Starless Starlight food - this is not a miracle
My most recent mix is "Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still." I really like how this one turned out so I want call attention to it here.
The mix combines Edison cylinders recorded around 1906 to 1908 with modern cuts that may sound old or just fit in with the scratchy feel. Most of the old tracks are effected in some way. Sometimes I slowed the original way down, other times echo and reverb were added. For many of them the original is combined with the effected version to create some bizarre other-worldly sound.
The site has several different categories of "noises" to choose from such as Tonal Drones(Indian, Northern Lights, Singing Bowls, Tibetan Choir, etc.), Natural Noises(Rain, Wind, Distant Thunder,Waves, etc.), Industrial Noises(Railroad, Laundromat, Traffic, Fireworks, Aircraft Cabin, etc.), Atmospheres(Subaquatic Dreams, Church, Sailboat, Spring Walk, Fairy Pond, Tibetan Spirit, etc.). And many, many more.
The best part is the player has faders which allow you to control the mix or you can animate the faders and have the mix change over time. I've tried having more than one tab open with different sounds playing simultaneously, such as Tibetan Choir playing with Singing Bowls. Pretty cool.
Finally getting around to The Fold by Peter Clines. Very good so far.
Just finished The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson. I really like everything RCW has done before but this one didn't do much for me. A few interesting ideas but nothing that really connected with me.
Also finished The End Of All Things by John Scalzi. It was okay, just too much dialogue. In fact it was almost all dialogue. I listened to the audio book version so I suppose it's possible it was slightly different than the printed version but not that different. There is some action but just not enough to make up for the tons of exposition. I know Scalzi's books are easy reads and most do have a lot of dialogue but this took that to an extreme.
Other recent books... The Annihilation Score by Charles Stross - good new twist in his Laundry series. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson - enjoyed this one pretty well, just too long.
In the queue... Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey Beacon 23 by Hugh Howley Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
Dengue Fever | Deepest Lake - Cambodian surf music - enough said.
Tame Impala | Currents - Excellent pop tunes.
Phil Manzanera | The Sound of Blue - Worth it for the song "No Church in the Wild" which is a cover of a Kanye West tune. The Kanye song samples a Manzanera guitar riff from the album K-scope released in 1978. Both versions are very good. I don't believe Manzanera was ever paid for the sample even though the song was on a platinum album, tv ads and movies.
Chris - You are exactly right with regards to the recent Dirk Serries albums. I like his return to vidnaObmana style ambience. I love ambient guitar so these two releases are right in my wheelhouse. I actually didn't know about "Disorientation Flow" until I saw your post, so thanks for the heads up.
Other recent spins:
Alva Noto | Xerrox vol.3 - Chris, you are right on this one too. Some spectacular cuts on it & overall one of my favorite ambient albums of the year.
Marconi Union | Departures - Good spacey ambient from Marconi Union who never disappoint.
Steve Roach | Skeleton Keys - I haven't really liked Roach's berlin school stuff in a long time but this one worked for me, I like it a lot.
David Cross & Robert Fripp | Starless Starlight - A collection of tracks that play off the song "Starless" from the King Crimson album Red. The tunes are essentially ambient violin, loops & electronics with the occasional guitar noodling from Fripp. I love the original track so much that it is great to hear this new take on that theme.