This Heat - This Heat
So if you haven't heard their avant post-punk masterpiece Deceit, you should really rectify that. If you have and wondered "oh I wonder what they sounded like before that" then wonder no more!
Miles - Facets
Miles is half of Demdike Stare, who have put out a bunch of great material collected in their '11 release Tryptich. His first release under his own name (he has been putting out different stuff under other names for years) takes that darkness from Demdike Stare, and gets closer to a sound the fantastic Andy Stott might produce. Great EP.
Andy Stott - We Stay Together
What, you slept on this guy too? Well you're in for a treat. The two EP's he has released this year have been awesome, this later one particularly so. This has dark, very minimal beats, though not as quite primal as Passed Me By. Excellent "dub techno" as the kids call it (sorry dev).
Claude Debussy - Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli Plays Debussy
Ah, French Impressionism. What's impressionism you ask? Well, no doubt you have heard the name Claude Monet, and perhaps seen this painting by him; now imagine that same image represented by music; soft around the edges, slightly blurred tonality, more liberal use of dissonance though not at all in the same way as the Expressionists, etc. You should at least know "Clair de lune" aka one of the best pieces of music ever... well that's this guy, and here is some of the best music written for the piano.
Arnold Schoenberg - Verklarte Nacht, String Trio
Expressionism? You got it. Whilst the French were (typically) being all airy-fairy and passive, the Austro-German composers, led by one Mr. Arnold Schoenberg, took all of the emotion the could muster, and dramatised it as much as possible. Dissonance features strongly, as Schoenberg led the charge in atonal music, and later serialism, though the main piece we have here, "Verklarte Nacht", is one of his earliest, therefore sounding a little more like Wagner/Mahler, but all twisted and distorted. Not that intimidating, I promise. "Verklarte Nacht" (Transfigured Night) is for string sextet by the way.
Morton Feldman - Triadic Memories
Fast forward another 50 or 60 years, and all tonal barriers have been broken down, Cage has drawn up a blank score, and the Americans are beginning to be recognised in the post-WWII "contemporary classical" era. One of the most important, and peculiar, is Morton Feldman, a good friend of John Cage. Along with other artists from different fields, they were apart of the New York School, known mainly for painter Jackson Pollock. Well, I'm going to post another painting just because I can, this time by Philip Guston, who was part of that crew, and who Feldman dedicated a piece to (he did that quite a bit). Again think of this painting and the odd use of colour, the hazy quality though in a different way to impressionism, the ambiguity of it all, the strange brush stroke patterns. These things can be applied to Feldman's music also. Quiet, slow, recurring asymmetrical patterns which bring about a hazy sense of timelessness (Wittgenstein's idea of infinity is very apt here). It is all quite ambiguous, and like many other twentieth-century composers, he explores dissonances in his music, though in a more intriguing fashion. Timbre and texture are of the utmost importance, each note, each chord, all ringing out together and repeated and repeated and repeated...
I have written more than I intended but that is because I love his work so much. This is a solo piano piece, around a hour and a bit, masterfully played by Aki Takahashi.
Eric Dolphy - Iron Man
If you have not heard this man's avant opus Out To Lunch then you had better go do that. Either way, here is some more fine playing from Charles Mingus' favourite horn player. This album is one of his later works, and oh boy is it one fiery occasion. It's loose, crazy and of course a little bit out there, but still hanging on to the post-bop idiom by his fingernails.
Dead Language - Dead Language
Everybody loves some powerviolence, especially when it features members of Iron Lung, No Comment, Walls and Solutions. Debut LP released this year.
El-P - Fantastic Damage
I have really come around to El-P this year, after somewhat stupidly neglecting him after a hasty listen to his later album. Company Flow certainly straightened me out though, and then I checked out this gem. Sometimes odd, dense beats, combined with dense lyricism. Dude is incredibly talented just needs to work on his quality control a little bit, but it doesn't hamper this album too much anyway.
Hope this helps to make up for the lack of activity on here of late.