2012 and all that.January 2, 2013
So I kind of knew that the minute I relaxed my ‘write every day’ rule then it wouldn’t be difficult for me to lapse into long periods of inactivity here, but trust me, if I had continued to post daily here over the last few weeks the content would have been either all unbearably unreadable apology or completely indecipherable rubbish, so although its been quite a while since I wrote anything for these pages, believe me I have done the right thing by taking the time off. Not that ‘time off’ is really the best way to describe my life over the past few weeks. I have been working ridiculously hard in my day job as various pressures and turns of events conspired to see me putting in more than sixty hours a week for the past few weeks, with the stress only just beginning to thin out now. This situation should start to resolve itself soon, and a new role I have worked hard to attain at work should also see me attending more concerts in 2013 than I have managed to get to the last couple of years, so while my batteries are running pretty low for now, the future looks a little rosier.
So the past few years, on New year’s Day, I have taken to writing lengthy appraisals of the preceding twelve months, trying to avoid ranking CDs into any kind of ‘best of’ list, but then also ending up doing pretty much that anyway, much to my own disgust. I see little to be gained from such lists really. They do little harm, and give you the chance to pat someone on the back that has brought you pleasure through their work, but then they also engender a sense of competition and one-upmanship amongst various interested parties that puts a bad taste in my mouth. Music, art, whatever we want to call this, should never be a competition. Its not about winning anything.
Still though, when I was asked back at the end of October for my top ten of 2012 by The Wire I of course dutifully obliged, primarily because they employ me and I do what they tell me, but also because their chart is always diverse enough that my votes can actually put things into the top fifty, and so into the view of their substantial readership, that it could actually make a small difference. Now, this year, the magazine said they would publish each writer’s individual top ten on their website after the end of year issue had been published. So far, this hasn’t happened, but I guess its OK for me to put my list here now as the end of the year has arrived. Two months ago then, for what its worth, my favourite ten releases looked like this:
1. Various Artists – Wandelweiser und so weiter (Another Timbre)
2. Jakob Ullmann – Fremde zeit – addendum (Edition RZ)
3. Radu Malfatti – Darenootodesuka (B-boim)
4. Morton Feldman performed by The Feldman Soloists – Crippled Symmetry (Frozen Reeds)
5. Angharad Davies, Tisha Mukarji, Dimitra Lazaridou-Chatzigoga – Outwash (Another Timbre)
6. John Tilbury – For Tomasz Sikorski (Bocian)
7. i treni inerti – Luz azul (Flexion)
8. AMM – Two London Concerts (Matchless)
9. Keith Rowe – September (Erstwhile)
10. Skogen – Ist gefallen in den Schnee (Another Timbre)
Back then I found it really difficult to whittle things down to ten, and had to wrestle with various demons that screamed out on behalf of Vanessa Rossetto’s Exotic Exit or Manfred Werder and Jason Kahn’s 2005(1). Part of me wants to extend the ten above to a twenty to fit everything in, but then I know I would then struggle in the same manner to keep myself under that number. You can’t win.
Also, since the start of November that has been a further stream of really great releases, the majority of which I haven’t even written about here yet (watch this space) that could well have ousted some of the above list and made a final ten for the year. The two recent Consumer Waste discs, one or two of the new IMJ releases, Eva Maria-Houben’s beautiful Orgelbuch on Wandelweiser, Eubanks/Lamb on Sacred Realism, Michael Pisaro’s gorgeous Tombstones, Chipshop Music with Nakamura on Mathka, certainly the Cremaster/Davies disc on Potlatch and a few others aside all in with a shout. Compiling such lists are an annual nightmare, and really I do just want to urge any lunatic people that genuinely want to know my opinion on music to read my blog as I post things throughout the year. Spending time with each release one at a time and enjoying things for what they are, rather than in comparison to other unrelated releases has got to be a better way to approach listenership.
So that is all I am going to offer this year, an incomplete, begrudgingly compiled list of ten and a grumpy dismissal of the whole process. I did also get asked to provide a list of my favourite field recordings related music for the Field Reporter online magazine, which I also did, coupled with an even more curmudgeonly few paragraphs outlining my probably far too personalised concerns about field recording releases. They haven’t published that little gem yet (I don’t blame them!) but suffice to say Ms Rossetto made it to the top of that particular list.
So, the pile of unreviewed material here has made it into triple figures (partly thanks to recent parcels from the good and brilliantly energetic people at Monotype and Creative Sources) and so I have decided that for a while at least I am going to post reviews here at a minimum of one every alternate day, until I have covered at least everything that has really caught my ear. This should cover January, and I imagine most of the way into February as well. I’ll try and avoid telling you I am tired at the start of each review. Here’s to a productive new year, on many fronts, and thank you to everyone that has read these pages through the last year, for both your interest and your patience.
The photo above was taken a few moments after the new year arrived this morning. It is of moonlit, frost covered grass in the garden, a distraction as I tried (and failed) to get some photos of the new year fireworks overhead.