Damian Valles is head of Komino Records, operating out of Toronto. He is also an artist that has released a number of well-received albums, including this year’s Non-Parallel (In Four Movements). Below are some records that he enjoyed from the past year.
Eli Keszler, Catching Net (Pan)
Even though I had an exceptionally difficult time compiling my list this year, my number one choice was very easy to decide. Eli Keszler’s double CD is, simply put, a ferocious monster of an album and a genuine masterpiece in my books. It includes the 2011 release, Cold Pin, which is, in itself, amazing and would have made it onto my 2011 list, but I didn’t get an ear on it until this year. However, it’s the additional pieces – the ensemble renditions and installations – that really put this release above and beyond. Experimental, arty, precise, unpredictable, refreshingly unique. It’s pretty much a perfect score.
Duane Pitre, Feel Free (Important)
The first thing that struck me about this recording was the production. A lot of times music of an experimental nature tends to be this wash of layered sounds (not that that is a bad thing most of the time) that blend and build to create what people refer to as drone or ambient or whatever you want to call it. On Feel Free, it is clear that Pitre really takes time placing each sound so they inhabit their own space, but still work to create a meditative blend of sound. It works very well and lets the listener almost pick and choose what they want to focus their attention on. Also, the whole album is basically one long piece broken into sections.
Culture Of Un, Moonish (Bocian)
Pianist Chris Abrahams has the “touch.” His other gig, The Necks, is consistently great. Here, he is paired with guitar player, David Brown. Together they have created an album full of unpredictable twists and turns and they both seem to play off of each other very well. Abstract and free, this is a solid as it gets.
Emptyset, Medium (Subtext) / Collapsed (Raster-Noton)
Ok, so these are two separate releases, but I decided to compile them into one entity since they are relatively shorter than most albums and both came out this year. I’ve always been a fan of “beat” oriented music, but for some reason, most of the time I am not very blown away by a particular album as a whole. With these two releases, Emptyset really seemed to nail it. Heavy and direct beats, pummeling bass tones, the right amount of distortion, cavernous space enveloped in total darkness. Great stuff.
Chicago Underground Duo, Age Of Energy (Northern Spy)
The best configuration of the Chicago Underground by a mile, Chad Taylor and Rob Mazurek consistently release amazing records as the Duo. Age of Energy is no exception, it actually may be my favourite release by the two of them so far. Both of them are masters of their crafts creating, more often than not, jaw dropping movements fusing insane rhythms, messy skronks and fat synth lines. Just listen to the digital only track, “Moon Debris.” Enough said.
Converge, All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph)
Ok, now for something completely different. First off, I am sucker for great heavy music and have been a long-time Converge fan. This album is an absolute barn burner. From start to finish, it is just fucking crazy. All the best parts of metal, hardcore, d-beat, sludge and punk all rolled into one. No holds barred. It’s definitely not for everyone, but they are, in my opinion, the best in their field. Not the mention, the drummer is a machine.
Mika Vainio, Fe₃O₄ – Magnetite (Touch)
Mike Vaino is on fire these days. Last year he released a great album on Editions Mego. He also was part of an amazing collaboration put out by Pan earlier this year. His newest for Touch records doesn’t show any signs that he’s running out of steam. This album builds on the darkness that possessed his last record, but is clearly more focused on presenting a certain theme. There are no drum machines to propel the blistering bass distortions, just calculated peaks and valleys that bring out tension.
Swans, The Seer (Young God)
How much more can be said about the Swans really? Michael Gira has created something reaching epic proportions here. This really feels like the ultimate culmination of all the previous Swans material fused with the best moments of his Angels of Light project. I think this music is in a category all on it’s own and nobody comes close to doing it with the same intensity.
KTL, V (Editions Mego)
This is my favourite KTL lp so far. It also has one of my favourite album covers of the year. The Editions Mego site claims it’s O’Mally and Rehberg’s “most sophisticated release to date,” and I can only agree. It definitely sounds like they took their time creating these pieces and paid close attention to detail. A rewarding listen indeed.
EL-P, Cancer 4 Cure (Fat Possum)
I listen to quite a bit of hip hop and am really taken with the production side of things more than great MC’ing. EL-P is a really solid producer, his work on this year’s Killer Mike album is phenomenal but the production on his own Cancer 4 Cure is exceptional. Tracks like, “The Full Retard” and “Drones Over Brklyn” really stand out among the sea of the generic production that is often found in the genre.