Best of 2017: Electronic Music Part 3

Top 5 Progressive Electronic 2017

I tried to learn what people mean when they say Progressive Electronic in 2017. I think it’s all about synthesizer worship, but also often concerns the self: physical body, consciousness, and the response to these frequencies. These are really all pretty general things with music, but this genre seems wholly concerned with exploring them through modular synth. 

5. XYR - Labyrinth - Not Not Fun, also known as 100% Silk’s parent label (to only me), didn’t have a huge year, but they put out this new-age hippie fried slab of wax. There are eastern music inflections and grooves for days one this one. 

4. Jon Brooks - Autres Directions - Brooks uses field recordings collected from rural France as inspiration for his latest output. The synthesizers here are more from the school of late Emeralds than Eliane Radigue, which are strangely my two best reference points.

3. Byron Westbrook - Body Consonance - This is a celebration of the kinetic aspects and raw power of synth as it relates to the physicality of the listener. I’d like to put this on in a dark space at full volume to really experience it. 

2. Caterina Barbieri - Patterns of Consciousness - This analog epic has some of the most off-putting synth sound design I’ve heard in this genre. 

1. Teleplasmiste - Frequency is the New Ecstasy - Thick, muscly modular synth drones (with a bit of bagpipe) make this a deeply satisfying listen. This is basically pure synthgaze except that’s not a thing and I’m not coining it.

Top 10 Abstract / Ambient 2017

A lot of these albums fit the genre electroacoustic, meaning that acoustic instruments are processed and manipulated electronically (usually with more than just live effects). A few of them are harder to place, because they involve largely, but not all, synth sound that’s similarly processed: looped, layered, delayed, etc. Anyways, they’re all a bit tough to parse but highly rewarding.

10. Mary Lattimore - Collected Pieces - Harp is an amazing instrument that seems to have too high a barrier to entry in most cases. Lattimore creates the best abstract harp music I’ve ever found.

9. Marcus Fischer - Loss - A fragile and beautiful work that relies on carefully plucked strings and pressed keys that are manipulated to create a singular sort of mood. Perfect for sunrises. 

8. Anjou - Epithmia - A looked-over Kranky release that’s the closest thing to a Tim Hecker album this year. The long-form composition and particular sounds that are gleaned from acoustic instruments make this a fun ride. 

7. Ryiuchi Sakamoto - Async - I’m not too committed to the life and death narrative that surrounds this release, but I’m committed to understanding it, as I get more with each listen. This is truly a master at work, and one who is still full of ideas.

6. The Transcendence Orchestra - Modern Methods For Ancient Rituals - Anthony Child (Surgeon) and Daniel Bean get spiritual in the woods and make a singular sounding drone album. It’s simple, unexpected, light, and engaging.

5. Samuel Rohrer - Range of Regularity - This sits somewhere between electroacoustic, jazz, and techno without adhering very much to any of those styles. It’s built off of processed and layered acoustic sounds but builds and subsides in a dance music fashion. I keep on coming back to try to figure it out.

4. 36 - Tomorrow’s Explorers - This is really pretty space ambient with lush strings and synth melodies. It’s really pleasant and so much more pleasant than most things I listen to.

3. James Murray - Killing Ghosts - I can’t think of another album that’s so carefully composed without sounding overwrought. The silence of the remote mountain cabin environment drew Murray’s attention to beautifully banal sounds that are celebrated here and given their space between synth washes and sub-bass rumbles.

2. Kassel Jaeger - Aster - Brilliant electroacoustic movements from an expert in the field. Jaeger creates an immersive listening world that isn’t easy to break into but whose internal logic is impeccable once you’re there.

1. Aris Kindt - Swann & Odette - You can’t beat Francis Harris ambient productions with shoegaze guitar from Gabe Hedrick underneath.