It’s been a fascinating year for music. And so, partly because i love making lists(!), here are the 5:4 Best EPs of 2008 (my top 40 albums will appear tomorrow):
10 | Belong – Colorloss Record
Creators of some of the most poignantly decayed music ever, Belong have excavated four more relics in this lovely EP. Whiffs of the source material hover just too far to be resolved, while chord progressions wistfully undulate somewhere far, far beneath. Quite how long they can continue in this direction is hard to say, but for now their originality in this kind of music is absolutely first-rate.
9 | Operator Please – Just A Song About Ping Pong
The best-known (but not the best) song by Operator Please, this EP (mentioned in my review a few months back) contains a superbly danced-up version of the title track: the Kissy Sell Out White Stallion Extended Remix. It, together with the original version, perfectly capture the wonderfully breathless quality of this band’s music.
8 | Operations – Cold Months
Beautifully packaged inside a piece of felt (photos of my copy can be seen here), sealed with a safety pin, Chris Anderson’s latest release is an introverted masterpiece. As suggested by the title, this comes across as ‘wintry’ music, conjuring up potent images of wistfulness and nostalgic yearning. The most outstanding example is the short central track, bearing the enigmatic title “( )”, where a fin de siecle gramophone record utters its last gasp of music, a rapturously beautiful fragment of clarinet and strings. It’s astoundingly lovely, and my favourite track from 2008.
7 | Ian D. Hawgood – Tents And Hills
The latest release from the interesting Luv Sound netlabel (free download available here), described by them as “a thick miasma of overtones and shifting colors”, which is a pretty fair assessment. Hawgood has a real gift for ambient, although for the most part the textures he creates are far too interesting to ignore—but that’s hardly a bad thing. All too brief, but very satisfying; opening track “October” is particularly good, its dreamy shimmering finally coalescing into rich octaves.
6 | irr. app. (ext.) – Enterruption Hermetic Archival Cassette Series 3
Just two tracks lasting barely a quarter of an hour, but this is Matt Waldron at his obtuse and recondite best. Not quite as glaringly surreal as his Aspiring to an Empty Gesture, also released this year, this is nonetheless a rich salmagundi, taking in a range of aural shapes that belies their brevity. A number of releases are supposedly forthcoming, so hopefully 2009 will be an exciting year for irr. app. (ext.).
5 | Fennesz – Jeck – Matthews – Amoroso
Another 2-track release, this miniature sees organ music by Charles Matthews subjected to the machinations of Christian Fennesz and Philip Jeck. Jeck is all rough edges and sharp juxtapositions, arresting and magnificent, but Fennesz has created a sound object that is utterly transcendent, gently pulsating while fixed in an attitude of ecstasy.
4 | Implex Grace – The Black Tapes
To date, this is Implex Grace’s best release, better even than the twin Through Luminescent Passages albums that have also been released this year. It perhaps highlights that Michael Goodman is at his best in releases of shorter duration; the 25 minutes of this EP are entirely filled with the most fabulous noise filigree, granite-like and yet ever betraying the delicacy that is at the heart of a lot of Goodman’s work. It’s a tough work, and a difficult listen, but—in part because of that—it’s one of the most honest (and, despite itself, beautiful) things i’ve heard in a long time. Free download available here.
3 | Aidan Baker – Live In London 05/14/2007
Another noise specialist, Aidan Baker, turns in a shockingly restrained trio of tracks on this EP, available free through the Distance Recordings netlabel (go here). The ability to create music of such soft subtlety live is astounding, and a worthy testament to Baker’s brilliance. Probably the best ambient release of 2008.
2 | Steve Peters – The Webster Cycles
There’s an overpowering magnetism in Steve Peters’ compositions, never more so than in this delicious piece. Peters has simply taken all the words in the English language that use just the letters A to G, put them in alphabetical order, and then allowed a trombonist to play each one on a single breath. These are then multi-tracked and placed within a reverb that sounds like the world’s most cavernous space, resulting in music that, for all its prosaic origins, is staggeringly moving. It’s an absolute must-have.
1 | Tu M’ – Is That You?
Tu M’ is an impressive duo, showing rare sensitivity in their creations, and never more so than in this gorgeous EP, available free here, from the brilliant Crónica netlabel. i reviewed this a while back, so little more needs to be said here, except to re-iterate this is a deftly imaginative creation, weaving instrumental forces into autumnal soundscapes, etched with humanity and hopefulness.