Theo Bleckmann

Mixtape #57 : Best Albums of 2019

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Happy New Year!

i want to start this year by expressing my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have followed and supported 5:4 in the last year, particularly my delectable band of Patrons. Hot on the heels of my Best Albums of 2019 list, i’m beginning 2020 with the usual mixtape comprising selections from each of those 40 albums. It rather nicely encapsulates another year of breathtaking musical imagination and ingenuity, exploring a typically eclectic range of styles, attitudes and aesthetics.

Here’s the tracklisting in full, together with the start time for each track in the mix; links to obtain the music can be found in the previous two days’ articles. As usual, the mixtape can be downloaded or streamed. Read more

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Best Albums of 2019 (Part 1)

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With only a couple of days left until 2019 comes to an end, it’s that time once again to take stock and celebrate the great and the good albums that have been tickling my eardrums in the most beguiling way this year. Just before that, though, it’s perhaps worth stating the rules that determine whether or not something is eligible to appear in this list:

  1. No reissues, re-recordings (including live concert recordings) or releases that are not widely available can be featured on the list – though limited editions are generally allowed.
  2. A composer, artist, performer, ensemble or group may only appear once on the list in the same capacity (i.e. a soloist can appear more than once if also performing as part of a group or ensemble; a composer can appear more than once if featured on, for example, a portrait disc and a compilation).
  3. The definition of an ‘album’ is determined not primarily by its duration but the nature of its content. However, in general, to qualify for the list a release should be of at least 20 minutes’ duration.
  4. No recordings or arrangements of music composed prior to the 20th Century can be featured on the list – unless there’s a very good reason for doing so.

Right, now that that’s out of the way, here’s the first part of my round-up of the 40 Best Albums of 2019; each and every one of them in their own unique way will make your life a bit better – and give your ears one hell of a thrill.
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Joseph Branciforte & Theo Bleckmann – LP1

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It was perhaps inadvertently helpful that i first listened to LP1, a new release from Joseph Branciforte and Theo Bleckmann, in bed late at night. Not because it’s nocturnal, as such, but more to do with the fact that it sounded in sympathy with the pitch blackness all around me. For while it wouldn’t be accurate to say that LP1 is an album without colours, still less that it’s a ‘black’ music, there’s nonetheless an inscrutability to its palette that i find fascinating every time i listen to it. Its soundworld is something of an amalgam of the cycling, mechanical, glitchy plinky-clunk of Michael Cutting and the overlapping, quasi-isorhythmic patterns of Brian Eno’s earliest ambient music. If that suggests a paradox, the one tightly-controlled and hands-on, the other loosely-arranged and hands-off, then that’s exactly what permeates all four tracks of LP1, a sensibility in which improvisational freedom and compositional planning are evidently both being brought to bear on the music at the same time.

There’s a dronal aspect to this, which fuels the sense of music always moving while never moving far from its starting point. In opening track ‘6.15’ it’s founded upon enormous deep bass pulses that form the bedrock for a network of soft glitches, breathy vocalise and an assortment of pitches that emerge and recede at random. The bass is so profoundly low that it practically transcends the notion of drone, instead becoming a kind of architectonic rumble, like the low resonance given off by a far-distant energy source. Its omnipresence is curiously elusive; trying to focus on it somehow renders it less perceptible. Nonetheless, its consistency enables a dual state that on one level feels meditative – its higher-level sounds gently impinging against each other, occasionally accompanied by wordless singing – while being simultaneously insistent, demanding attention. As such, it’s not remotely background or atmospheric music, but an altogether more active form of immersion. Third track ‘4.19’ acts in a similar way, delicate Fender Rhodes notes calmly rotating and coalescing around a fixed central point, like a sonic mobile. There are hints of Eno’s Music For Airports here, but its texture is much more complex, and again, doesn’t in any way encourage disinterest in the listener. Read more

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