Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 in review

From Twitter, a twelve-tweet "tone poem" from earlier this evening about my relationship to music over the course of 2011:

My iTunes library indicates that I've bought relatively little new music in 2011, and of that there's only a couple albums I've rinsed a lot

And yet I've listened to *samples* of SO MANY releases, mostly on junodownload and Boomkat, that it seems like that can't be right

However I also continued to catch up on my knowledge of the hardcore continuum, purchasing albums from the early daze (~1990) & recent years

But the main thing is that most of my 2011 iTunes listening time has been listening back to my own newly created music for editing purposes

of which I've put up 13 tracks on SoundCloud soundcloud.com/marktplatz and have bunches more in varying stages of progress

Anyway, my most-rinsed albums in 2011 (not OF 2011 most of them) are LV & Josh Idehen - Routes (my album of the year for sure); continued -

Peverelist - Jarvik Mindstate; John Roberts - Glass Eights; Pangaea - s/t EP; Shackleton - fabric 55; Kode9 & Spaceape - Memories o/t Future

& then just add in Sully - Carrier (the other one from 2011 in this list; both it and Routes being on Keysound, notably) and T++ - Wireless

Those were all the albums I listened to five times or more this year. I bet I've done the same with online store samples of other releases.

Such a weird state of affairs because I feel more tuned into the current state of EDM than I ever have before but it's mostly via samples

That and, of course, obsessively reading about music (RA, P4k, The Quietus, FACT, XLR8R, Dummy, Sonic Router, LWE, Blackdown, Reynolds, &c)

If I'd somehow monetized my consumption of electronic-music journalism, I'd have become wildly rich this year. OK MUSIC TWITTER FUGUE OVER

So I wrote that little exegesis as a year-end roundup of my listening activity. Later, I remembered that I had started this blog, and did so partly in order to be able to avoid such tweetfugues. So I'm going to discuss further here some of the topics covered above, mostly to try to start getting in the habit of posting to this blog spot, and also so that the content is a little easier to find than scrolling through reams of subsequent tweets.

At the start, I sort of wanted to make a personal top-albums-of-2011 list. I was inspired by the necessary incompleteness of Kristan Caryl's list at teshno because it was just his personal favorites out of what he'd actually listened to, as opposed to lists from music sites that aggregate multiple people's opinions. Before I even looked into my iTunes library to remind myself of what I'd listened to this year, though, I realized such a list might be quixotic in my case, as I didn't really remember listening to a lot of new albums that I'd actually obtained. Most of my listening to new music was via Juno and Boomkat samples (indeed I'm listening on Juno while writing this). Pretty much ever since I finished up with school twelve months ago, I've been making an effort to listen to samples of nearly every release reviewed on Resident Advisor, mostly via Juno, since that's what RA links to when it includes purchase links in the review. And I've been pretty successful in that endeavor and have thus opened my ears up tremendously to the possibilities inherent in the forms of house, techno, dubstep, d&b, garage, ambient, etc, and I think that's enriched my own music quite a bit. No regrets over this quasi-obsession. But I've only purchased a handful of the hundreds of new releases that I've listened to the samples of. By my count I've actually bought (or legally downloaded for free) just 16 albums released in 2011 and have listened to only a couple of them more than a couple times so far. How is that possible, when listening to music has been bigger in my life this year, so it feels, than ever before?

Besides the precedence of streaming samples over purchased music, the other primary answer is that a lot of the time I was listening just to my own music. 2011 is the first time that I've completed tunes and made them publicly available to listen to. The process of making tunes tends to be highly iterative for me: I start by creating a short or mid-length musical sequence in Reason, export the audio and listen back to it while doing other stuff. From that I make notes for revisions, which includes thinking about ways to lengthen the musical kernel into a full-length arrangement. Sometimes I'll end up with dozens of WAVs of a tune in different stages of its evolution. Anyway, the playback of works in progress has made up a really big chunk of my total listening time this year, which I don't really see changing as long as I continue to produce music at a similar pace (I sure hope it keeps up, because production is my greatest joy these days). I also really like listening to newly completed tunes over and over again — call it narcissistic, but I'm making (with varying degrees of success) the music I want to hear, that's why I make it, and so I love listening to it when it's done!

Overall I feel really on top of electronic dance music's directions at present, despite so much inward-directed listening, again thanks to listening to samples, but also thanks to, as mentioned in the tweets, voracious reading about EDM (2018 update: NO!) electronic dance music from a slew of online magazines and blogs that I've come to know and love: RA, Pitchfork, The Quietus, FACT, XLR8R, Dummy, Sonic Router, Little White Earbuds, Blackdown, Simon Reynolds, etc. Would that (as also aforesaid in the last tweet) I could have been making money by doing all that reading! But like listening to music and making music, reading about recent music is one of my great pleasures even with no remuneration in the picture. Interviews with the artists and syntheses of current directions in music are probably my favorite formats within music journalism; the former can provide wondrous insights into the motivations behind music I love, and the latter is just fun for the categorization/pigeonholing section of my brain.

Anyway, why not end with a short, easily digestible list of my favorite albums this year, to bring this long post back around to its original impetus? Most but not all of these were mentioned in the tweets, and several of them are from before 2011, but these are the works that were new to me this year and had the greatest influence on my musical being.

First, my top three, all of them real desert-island albums, all of them the kind that just physically feel good in my ears, you know? And they were all almost 2011 releases at least, none released earlier than Oct. 2010. They are:

  • LV & Joshua Idehen – Routes (2011, Keysound) — perfectly formed dub garage, humanistic, deep, bumpin', nicely varied yet consistent in feel. Also funny, especially "Northern Line."
  • John Roberts – Glass Eights (2010, Dial) — perfectly formed acoustic-feeling house, humanistic, deep, bumpin', nicely varied yet consistent in feel. Hmmmmmm.
  • Shackleton – fabric 55 (2010, Fabric) — a continuous mix CD/freight train of Shackleton's Middle Eastern dub, which absolutely feels like one single long piece. It inspired me to start work on an album-length continuous piece back in the summer, which has stalled, but which I hope to resume working on in not too long. Anyway, back to Shack: mind-bending percussion timbres reverberating into vast dread spaces that, along with the sub-bass, tie it back to dubstep, which rhythmically it is very different from.

Finally, some Honorable Mentions; these have all been big for me this year too but in some cases I just haven't listened to them enough yet for them to sink in like the previous three, or it's just that as of mid-December they figure into my mindspace a bit less than they did sometime earlier in the year:

  • Demdike Stare – Tryptych
  • Pinch & Shackleton s/t
  • Kode9 & the Spaceape – Memories of the Future
  • Peverelist – Jarvik Mindstate
  • Jack Sparrow – Circadian
  • 2562 – Fever and Unbalance
  • Co La – Daydream Repeater
  • T++ – Wireless
  • Sully – Carrier
  • Zomby – Where Were U in '92?

All right, I think that's enough for this post, before it begins to stray toward book length. Thanks for the music, 2011.

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