An hour and a quarter of the best ambient/drone/electronica produced in 2016.
Usually there’s a track-a-day write up on the 20 for… playlist but you’ll forgive me if I wish to put 2016 behind me and pretend it never happened. It’s a shame that so much good music will be indelibly marked with the events of 2016, both the political cataclysms and personal nadirs. But if you can stomach it there’s plenty of gems to be found among the wreckage of the year we’d all rather forget. Stuff that’s worth clinging to when trying to tell ourselves it’s all going to be ok.
I don’t think I’m going out on too weak a limb to suggest there haven’t been many bona fide classic records released in 2016. There’ll probably be a few that will grown in stature and be considered classic in time, and possibly for all my flailing around trying to hear everything (reader: I have a problem) that I’ve missed entirely. But right here and now nothing obviously stands up as Timeless.
And yet it feels like it’s been a great year for music already – the sheer breadth of wonderful sounds created boggles my tiny mind on a near daily basis. Much of it may be forgotten fairly quickly – but it was beautiful while it lasted. It’s nice not to think of posterity all the time and let stuff drift through your life like a cool breeze and enjoy it while it’s there. Right?
Indie Rock, they say, is pretty much a dead art – yet there go the likes of Dinosaur Jr, the Julie Ruin, Parquet Courts indie rockin’ away like the 90s never ended. Which for a guitar junkie like myself is always welcome. In contrast the realm of ambient/drone/modern composition continues to go through a veritible golden age with the likes of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Jherek Bicshoff, Juliana Barwick et al weaving voice, electronics, organic instrumentation, field recordings and untamed static into wistful, melancholic, nostalgic slices of beautiful noise.
I keep thinking it’s been a poor year for heavy music but there are a few reliable stalwarts keeping the flame lit. Wrekmeister Harmonies continue to surprise with the scope of their dark epics, Neurosis continue to defy time and the laws of diminishing returns, Russian Circles just about keep an old formula fresh, Big Business continue to expand their sonic palette despite contracting in numbers and Ulver continue to keep everyone guessing. Newcomers MAKE bring a much needed sense of righteous indignation to post-metal and Helen Money showcases the under-explored heavy potential of the cello.
Yeah. It’s been a pretty good year. And it’s still not done, with a few big names left on the release calender and still more as yet unknown suprises afoot. It might have been a pretty shit year in most other respects for us as a species but there’s plenty of joy to be had hidden between a pair of headphones. We can always be thankful for that.