A certain grouchy state of mind this morning almost compelled me to break my own if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice-don’t-say-anything-at-all rule for the blog and post a list of disappointing albums of 2011. Instead, though, I figured it’d be much more constructive to round up a few things worth investing in.

A certain grouchy state of mind this morning almost compelled me to break my own if-you-can’t-say-anything-nice-don’t-say-anything-at-all rule for the blog and post a list of disappointing albums of 2011. Instead, though, I figured it’d be much more constructive to round up a few things worth investing in.



First up, as I may have said before, I’ve probably played Terry Riley’s music more than that of any other artist over the past few years, so the appearance of a legal bootleg from him on www.wolfgangsvault.com is a big deal. “Great American Music Hall (San Francisco, CA) Apr 23, 1983” is a group performance that hooks up Riley with frequent collaborator George Brooks on sax, plus a bassist and sitar player, with Riley on synths and singing in his best approximation of Pandit Pran Nath’s just intonation.

The closest reference point in Riley’s discography that I can think of is maybe the “Lifespan” soundtrack, with its explicit Indo-fusion vibes, but the long unravelling contemplation is also happily close to “Persian Surgery Dervishes” and “Descending Moonshine Dervishes”. Not the worst place to start, either, if you’re just embarking on an exploration of Riley’s music.

I’ve alluded to Tim Hecker’s “Ravedeath 1972” a bunch of times over the past few weeks, so God knows why I haven’t written something proper about this excellent record. Perhaps because Hecker’s particularly billowing take on ambience is hard to write about and pin down, not least since his music seems relatively unanchored: there’s no easy list of kosmische antecedents to deploy here, for instance.

Last time I blogged on Hecker, around “An Imagined Country”, I wrote some about Fennesz and claimed, “Hecker achieves a tremulous, devotional atmosphere, using some reverberant organ tones.” On “Ravedeath 1972”, that idea is even more pronounced, since many of the tones in these atmospheric pieces originated from him playing an old church pipe organ. The resulting music, as a consequence, has the signifiers of ritual and requiem, while at the same time being pretty abstract. Still struggling a bit here, as you may have deduced, but I really can’t recommend this one enough – possibilities, even, that it may end up as one of the albums of the year.

Moving unsteadily on to more music that’s tough to write about, I received a fantastically austere-looking boxset last week of Autechre’s “EPs 1991-2002”. I must admit my interest in Autechre has waned a little over the past few years, but listening back to these consistently amazing tracks makes me want to dig out the whole album catalogue from home and revisit it all.

The biggest revelation, I guess, has been rediscovering just how ravey and direct their early singles sound; these self-consciously ‘futuristic’ workouts that still – in the wake of IDM, braindance and apparently infinite meaningless sub-genres of electronic music – sound progressive the best part of 20 years down the line. Here, on the likes of “Cavity Job” and “Basscadet”, is the hip-hop influence they’ve always talked about writ large, or at least much larger than in the days of granular synthesis (a quick check on the ATP website has just reminded me that their massively stimulating All Tomorrow’s Parties lineup included Public Enemy as well as Bernard Parmegiani and most of the early 21st Century Mego roster).

Great stuff, anyhow, and I’m currently stuck on the immense “Second Peng”. There we go: always better to accentuate the positive.