Last updated on February 12, 2021
1. “A Journey in Ecstasy” – Tom Furse. This is beautiful, expansive, wide-screen, major-key electronic work that calls to mind Tycho or Ulrich Schnauss. Every second of this piece is the payoff–from start to finish, a triumph. Highly recommended.
2. “Conversion” – Nashville Ambient Ensemble. Leaning heavily into ’80s new age sonics, this ambient piece adds luminous pedal steel and cooing female vocals to the round, sonorous bass and bell tones. It’s a gorgeously lush wander through some esoteric garden. Highly recommended.
3. “Ambient Architect” – Nick Schofield. Hits the lovely space between dreamy vibes and outer space vibes, creating a warm, evocative blanket of sound.
4. “Mirror Image” – Nick Schofield. I don’t usually go back-to-back on singles, but this one is a big shift from “Ambient Architect.” Instead of dreamy warmth, this one is a bouncy, quirky, enthusiastic collection of noises. This feels like running more than ambient, but in the language of ambient sounds. It’s really impressive.
5. “Reflections and Refractions” – Wavewulf. A confident, melodically adept slice of electro that falls in between ambient, clubby techno, and art-rock; it’s not quite danceable, but it’s not only an art piece either. I love pieces like this that chart their own path.
6. “Super Solid” – The Paradox. Jean Phi-Dary and techno lifer Jeff Mills are the Paradox, a jazz/techno mashup that serves low-key techno beats with noodly keys for a thoughtful, easygoing take on the style.
7. “Dearest Alfred” – Khruangbin. Khruangbin’s chilled-out thai-funk seems to be aspiring to the platonic ideal of chill, which is good news for fans. This one seems to run in slow motion, casually saying “I am happy when you are here” in the most relaxed way possible. Sign me up.
8. “Just Be Honest” – WaxFeet. This feels like a breezy, low-key electro jam getting stuck in a copy machine and then slowing down to half-speed: a stuttering, glitchy vibe competes with a breezy undertone for a unique, interesting piece.
9. “Looking Back Is a Lie” – Physick. There are nigh-on-infinite breakup albums. There are almost no staying-together albums. Physick is looking to change that, as the duo has penned a whole album about the complexities, joys, and sadnesses of committed married life. The walking-pace, strummy folk backdrop for this rumination on memory contains interesting callbacks to Laurel Canyon country and even _Rumours_-era Fleetwood Mac (even though this album is the anti-_Rumours_). A compelling opening salvo for a record that promises to be unique in many ways.
11. “Sounding Point” – Mark Feldman. Solo improvisational jazz violin is not a thing that usually comes across my desk, but Feldman makes it sound great. The title track to his collection is more peaceful than the rest of the mostly-avant recordings, as he builds a mood out of little fragments of melodies, technical tricks, and long tones. Deeply evocative.
12. “Endler Hall Overture” – Liam Pitcher. Pitcher’s improvisational piano work here is highly ornamented and yet focused: cascading runs and arpeggios string through this nearly-five-minute work, punctuating the Romantic-style melodic base. A compelling work. (Full Disclosure: Lisa Whealy is Pitcher’s press agent. Stephen Carradini wrote this review.)
13. “Pleasante Pleasant” – Doug MacDonald Duo. This guitar-and-bass duo offers a charmingly goodnatured piece of lightly swingin’ jazz. Bassist Harvey Newmark keeps things movin’ and MacDonald shows off some tight melodic chops. Fun and friendly.