As the world continues to crumble around us, 2023 nevertheless saw the release of a ton of fascinating sounds. Not sure if this is a case of putting on headphones while Rome is burning or a sign of hope for humanity. Either way, the releases from last year that tickled my fancy and/or gave me a kick up the arse include early synth experiments, electronic forests, brutal excess and redemption, kosmiche, Catalan freakout, wild-abandon jazz, and a good dose of Brazilian sounds. And no, there’s no particular order…

Han-earl Park, Lara Jones and Pat Thomas
(Ramble Records)

HeP’s ‘non-guitar’ sounds combine with saxophone and electronics from Lara Jones and Pat Thomas for the sound of entropy at work (although in which direction, I’m still not sure). Sounds from the in-between spaces…

Patrick Shiroishi, Àlex Reviriego and Vasco Trilla
“The Devil, Probably”
(Urpa i musell)

Simply one of the most exquisite and quietly gripping trio improvisation albums I’ve heard. Transcendental and dangerously close to perfect (not only the sounds but also the production and packaging) – this is really quite special.

Koshiro Hino
Geist II

Interplanetary travel in audio form – KAKUHAN and goat’s Koshiro Hino’s electronic imaginings. “An unnerving wonderland based on field recordings from another planet.” (Full review here.)

Among the Rocks and Roots
(Cacophonous Revival)

Droning, doom-noise metal with a (tortured) soul. Come for the excess, stay for the subtleties. (Full review here.)

Eduardo Manso

Ritualistic synth-based hypnosis, kosmiche-flavoured with a heavy nod towards Richard Pinhas’s Heldon. An absolutely magnetic album that is still drawing me back again and again.

A. Maiah

“Soundtrack music for an unavailable film, a suite of noise-blues for a festival that never took place… F(r)icciones is music for imaginary/imagined contexts.” (Full review here.)

Jörg A. Schneider and N
“Schneider | N”
(Schneider Collaborations)

Pointillistic, abstract-sounding, constant movement, and chaotic surging bliss. From the latest batch of Schneider collaborations, this is a quintessential guitar’n’drums recording.

jaimie branch
“Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die (​(​world war​)​)”
(International Anthem)

Guessing this will feature on plenty of end-of-year lists, and rightly so. Sheer joyous freedom and celebration in every moment and every note. Truly exciting music.

The NID Tapes: Electronic Music from India 1969​-​1972
(The state51 Conspiracy)

A fascinating time machine powered by Moog modular synthesizer – experimental and exploratory as (then-)new technology gives space to new ideas.

Ricardo Dias Gomes
“Muito Sol”
(Hive Mind Records)

Utterly bewitching – a disarming and subversive brew of Musica Popular Brasileira with fuzz-drone-noise touches undermining the sweetness. Quietly and resolutely subversive.

Carla Boregas
“Pena ao Mar”
(iDEAL Recordings)

Intricate, layered synthesizer pieces that recall water in various forms – from subaquatic explorations to choppy surface sailings. Resonating across the decades as if from some future source…

Institute for Certified Nomadic Illicit Sonic Practices
(Seminal Records)

Amplified piccolo and flute combine with restless electric guitar to limn new landscapes – field recordings of imagined vistas. Twitchy, fragmented magic.

Emily Rach Beisel
“Particle of Organs”

Buzzing, scraping, rumbling, howling… Beisel’s bass clarinet sounds like, “a guitar feeding back, an overamped cello, a set of bagpipes, even a clarinet…” (Full review here.)

Colin Marston, Àlex Reviriego and Vasco Trilla
“Tholos Gateway II”
(Gusstaff Records)

Like some dark, sonic archaeology – modern rituals for ancient types. The gateway opens a little further…

“ZA! & la TransMegaCobla”
(gandula )

From mutant Sardana to Mediterranean electro-folklore to dense noise overload… this is an exuberant, no-rules, rush.

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