Albums of 2018

Here’s a brief round-up of some of my favourite albums from this past year across contemporary classical music and experimental pop!

Hatis Noit: Illogical Dance
March 2018, Erased Tapes

An intriguing four-track EP from this enigmatic Japanese (and now London based) artist. The opening work, ‘Angelus Novus’, spans several soundworlds, a beguiling mix of Gregorian chant, traditional Japanese and Bulgarian vocal music and visceral electronics. Hatis Noit’s vocals seethe and soar, truly a force to be reckoned with. ‘Anagram C.I.Y’ is altogether different, taking up the vocal styles from the first track but putting the electronic production in focus to create a dizzying, choppy mix with sounds pinging all over the place (listen with headphones!). ‘Illogical Lullaby’ strips things back again, moving gently through intertwining vocal phrases. The EP also includes the Matmos remix of ‘Illogical Lullaby’, an inventive reimagination of the original.

Miolina: Miolina
February 2018, Composers Concordance

This is the debut album from violin duo, Miolina, formed by Lynn Bechtold and Mioi Takeda in 2012.  It showcases a colourful mix of compositions, ranging from the frantically virtuosic ‘Shibuya Tokyo’ by Karen Tanaka, to the drone-based musings of Jeff Myers’ ‘TAG’ and onwards to the stuttering groove of Judd Greenstein’s ‘ILL’. Particular highlights are the two works by Bechtold herself. ‘Away/Home 1.2’ muses on missing home and missing being away, fusing Japanese nature sounds with the bustle of New York and snippets of childhood music. The closing work is Bechtold’s fleeting arrangement of a lament by turn-of-the-century English composer, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Coleridge-Taylor’s melody floats in a hazy bubble of electronics, distant and haunting. All in all, a multifaceted, thoughtful debut.

Sudan Archives: Sink
May 2018, Stones Throw

This EP is the second release from Sudan Archives, the stage name of L.A. based singer and violinist, Brittney Parks. A little glossier than the Sudan Archives record from last year, it’s still full of her trademark violin riffs, Sudanese folk influences and sharp lyrics. ‘Pay Attention’ skids along, matching a skipping, crunchy beat to choir samples. ‘Mind Control’ is a contrast, glassy and breathy, ‘Escape’ a triumphant closer. But little matches the irresistible lilt of lead single ‘Nont for Sale’. It’s fresh, confident and full of summery swagger: ‘This is my light, don’t block the sun/This is my seat, can’t you tell?’

Tirzah: Devotion
August 2018, Domino

I’d been hoping vocalist Tirzah and producer Mica Levi (a.k.a. Micachu) would bring out a full-length album soon, after their three EPs for the Greco-Roman imprint, I’m Not Dancing (2013), No Romance (2014) and Make it Up (2015).  Devotion is another original collaboration from these two school friends. The whole album has a rusty, lo-fi sheen that complements Tirzah’s freestyled meditations on love and commitment. The opening track, ’Fine Again’, drifts around expansively, setting a dreamy pace that seeps through most of the record, such as on ‘Say When’, the hypnotic ‘Do You Know’ and ’Affection’, with its stark piano loop. The pair mix their own cloudy blend of scuffed pop, dance and soul, with glimpses of Levi’s contemporary classical background appearing every now and then, like in the angular piano riff that grounds the title track.

Third Coast Percussion: Paddle to the Sea
February 2018, Çedille

A sprawling collection of works on the theme of water, Paddle to the Sea is the latest release from the Grammy Award-winning percussion quartet. It’s centred around the group’s own composition of that name, a score for the 1966 film adaptation of the children’s book, ’Paddle-To-The-Sea’, by Holling C. Holling. While the score traces the narrative of the film, it definitely makes for a captivating listen on its own. Its nine movements are rich in timbral exploration and wind creatively through a number of recurring ideas, at times building momentum gradually (as in ‘Flow’), at times invigorating and urgent (as in the climactic ‘Niagara’). Around the other works on the disc, the beautiful arrangement of the Shona traditional ‘Chigwaya’ by Musekiwa Chingodza and Jacob Druckman’s shimmering ‘Reflections on the Nature of Water’, the ensemble have interspersed four newly arranged movements from Philip Glass’ ‘Aguas da Amazonia’. This set of pieces has had many lives – but Third Coast Percussion’s version sounds crisp and original. ‘Madeira River’ and ‘Amazon River’ in particular are breathtaking bookends to the album, the former leaning deliciously in to the curve of Glass’ yearning chord sequence each time it comes round, the latter closing out the record with an enveloping glow.

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