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Top Five (+5) 

click to enlarge 'Treny' by Michal Jacaszek
  • 'Treny' by Michal Jacaszek

Treny. Michal Jacaszek (Miasmah). First real masterwork from Polish post-classical composer Michal Jacaszek. Jacaszek's work is clearly nestled in the digital-conscious world of 21st century modern composition (think Max Richter, Ryan Teague, Jóhann Jóhannsson, etc.) but is strange enough to avoid the overtly cinematic/soundtrack feel of much of his peers' work (Teague, for instance, is now stuck doing car commercials). Through the digital re-organization of wordless female vocals, barren string sections, harp, and other unidentifiable electronic sounds, Treny evokes a dark, simplistic beauty in the air around it, existing in a similar haunted space as Luciano Cilio's Dell'Universo Assente or the best work of Arvo Part.

Dawn. Mt. Eerie (P.W. Elverum & Sun). A personal exorcism, a collection of songs penned back in 2002 during Mt. Eerie/Microphones mastermind Phil Elverum's winter stay in a cabin in a remote part of Norway. Those who saw Elverum live shortly after that time period will remember the soul-searching desperation of this song cycle, presented here in a raw state of just multi-tracked vocals and guitar.

Levels & Crossings. Twinsistermoon (Digitalis). French psychedelic folk/drone. Mehdi Ameziane is half of husband/wife duo Natural Snow Buildings, known for their sprawling, long-form CDR releases and elaborate hand-bound packaging. Originally self-released in an impossible run of 32 copies last year, Levels & Crossing is Mehdi Ameziane's first solo outing as Twinsistermoon, a potent mixture of brief, low fidelity folks songs and huge, shimmering acoustic drone pieces. Oddly, the extended instrumental passages carry the most emotional weight here, though Amaziane's vocals are the most deeply surreal aspect of the album, sounding eerily similar to ’60s UK folk goddess Vashti Bunyan despite the fact that Amaziane is Natural Snow Building's male half.

The Mandé Variations. Toumani Diabaté (Nonesuch). Solo kora. Toumani is the Mali's premier kora (an African instrument akin to a harp, for those unfamiliar) player, with an unfathomably deep family history in the instrument (70 generations!) that garners a kind of deep-seeded virtuosity that is more akin to a lifestyle or even a calling. The intersection of developed musicianship, experimentation and self-expression is off the charts here, and should be a fairly humbling experience for anyone who's ever even approached a musical instrument. Equally enjoyable as both casual and deep listening.

Our Sleepless Forest. Our Sleepless Forest (Resonant). Spacious guitar and string shoegaze. Apparently constructed by a "band" proper, this debut album from these UK instrumentalists blends reverb-washed string instruments and distant field recordings into a dense ambience of aching beauty. Though occasionally guilty of ambient cliché (backwards pianos have had their day, people), overall this disc is still a deeply satisfying and cohesive listen.

Nukkuu. Lau Nau (Locust).

High Places. High Places (Thrill Jockey).

Light Ships. Bulbs (Freedom to Spend).

Un Dia. Juana Molina (Domino).

The Malady of Elegance. Goldmund (Type).

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