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Top Ten from AMNION for 2013

AMNION Top Ten 2013

Ben Lukas Boysen – Gravity
I greatly admire the work of Ben Lukas Boysen. I have followed his sound design output closely both under his own name and as his moniker Hecq. Gravity is truly a beautiful release that presents Boysen at the top of his game. This album reveals a deeply personal and mature direction into Boysen’s modern classical mastery.

Antonymes – There can be no true beauty without decay
I greatly anticipate every new release from Antonymes. With his latest release Ian M Hazeldine paints majestic landscapes with his textures, field recordings and orchestrated pianos and strings. The atmosphere Hazeldine conjures up is all immersive and all consuming. Hauntingly beautiful and extremely uplifting, ‘There can be no true beauty without decay’ is pure sonic nourishment from start to finish.

Tzolk’in – The sixth sun
I’m a big fan of Gwenn Tremorin’s work as Flint Glass so naturally I was always going to enjoy the joint between himself and Empusae on their tribal, industrial outfit Tzolk’in. The sixth sun is an epic release for Tzolk’in, keeping true to form with plenty of heart pounding percussion by Nicholas culminating with the ethereal atmospheres and slicing electronics from Tremorin. As with their previous releases the Mayan themes in ‘the sixth sun’ are strong as you ride into the end of days, but what a ride it is!

Julia Kent – Character
I cannot say enough great things about this release, Character is such a satisfying and rich body of work. For me the title of the album supports Kent’s foreboding cello work acting as the main protagonist in the loose and imaginative narrative. Each track weaves a story like a vignette from a movie scene that develops and builds with cinematic lifts and arcs. At the moment I find myself listening to a lot of modern classical music with heavy focus on cello and I get excited to hear new articulations on the sounds this instrument can produce, Character was my stand out album choice for this reason.

36 – Shadow Play
Dennis Huddleston produces some of the finest quality minimal drone scapes under his ambient project ‘36’ [three-six]. I’ve followed his work for some time and have been amazed at how much his work has developed and progressed. Back in March 2012 Huddleston released his cinematic ambient epic ‘Lithea’, up until mid 2013 this album was still on my regular rotation, I didn’t think he’d top this release. After a year off production and with some soul searching Huddleston released ‘Shadow Play’ an album that takes the sound of 36 into new territory, the lo-fi ambience is soothing, the instrumentation is crisp. Overall ‘Shadow Play’ is beautifully produced release that is conceptually strong and offers a deeply satisfying listening experience.

Diaphane – Lifeforms
I find it hard to categorize the work of Diaphane into any one genre. The music here is so varied and multidimensional that to simply call it IDM or Electronic seems to downplay the detail and delicacy of its sound design. Lifeforms is in itself a lifeform, one that builds and grows through micro frequencies and rhythmic syncopated beats. I particularly enjoy the balance found between the warm piano melodies, strings and synth washes against the colder noise blasts, glitched beats and whiplash bass lines. I really liked Diaphanes debut album Samdhya but I think I like Lifeforms even more, probably because I find myself nodding my head to this release when playing loud in the car. I’m keen to hear where he goes next.

Rafael Anton Irisarri – The unintentional sea
This album was such a delight when I first listened to it and it still continues to impress and inspire me. The unintentional sea, like many of Irisarri’s work, reflects a fascination with landscape, space and atmosphere. Drawing inspiration form the true story about the Salton Sea redirection, Irisarri combines field recordings with cinematic drones and minimal type classical instrumentation. Piano strikes bounce around the sound sphere while subtle frequencies build and distort over time. Distant field recordings are highlighted in the background flickering, crackling and bubbling away while deep bass thuds and rumbles hover below the surface. There is a feeling of heart filling warmth that comes from the orchestration of these elements. This complements beautifully the overwhelming sense of melancholy permeating this release. I truly adore this release.

Steven Price – Gravity OST
Regardless of whether you like the film or not there is no denying that Steven Price’s soundtrack is a sensational album, one that compliments the full dynamic range of the ambient landscape and fear full tension presented in the movie.
I did enjoy hearing the soundtrack against the film and experiencing it in surround sound is the only way in my opinion. There are some beautiful cinematic moments and orchestral arrangements in this release, some almost minimal pieces. I gotta say I’m a sucker for the rhythmic synthesized string motifs that Price uses to build tension, this gets the heart pounding. I’m also impressed with how this release stands apart from other blockbuster soundtracks, notably the use of sound design in the soundtrack itself but also the absence of big hit percussion and not relying heavily on standard Hollywood clichés to deliver an engaging and emotional result.

Felix Gebhard – Gone for walks
Field recording is something I love to do whenever I can spare the time. With his release on Tessellate Recordings Felix Gebhard has produced a collection of tracks that read more as sonic postcards. I myself like to explore concepts that surround ‘sonic identity’ and the art of reflecting time and place through field recordings. The field recordings captured are taken on walks in and around Langendorf, Germany during 2011. Gebhard weaves a variety of instruments into these recordings producing an extraordinary rich and evocative sonic tapestry. To enrich the experience further Gebhard includes four postcards (one for each track) with a map of the walk on which recordings were made, with a specific location marked with a red ‘X’. All items are beautifully packaged in a handmade envelope.

Boards of Canada – Tomorrows Harvest
I have a soft spot in my heart for the music of Boards of Canada. When I was just starting out toying with samplers, synths and software BoC were on constant rotation in my headphones. Tomorrows Harvest definitely keeps with their original sound but they have still managed to produce a fresh sounding album overall. Coming up with new and innovative album seems like a hard task for BoC being that they’ve kind of backed themselves into a corner with a sound that relies heavily on nostalgic references. All the same, I’ve greatly enjoyed this addition to the BoC catalogue.

Roderick Price
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Roderick Price
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