Yes, it’s that time of the year… the end. And yes, I am one of those who likes to look back and see which were my highlights of the year, not only at a personal and professional level, but also regarding music, as music is one of my main sources of inspiration. As you probably know already my work is deeply connected with music, so I believe that in order to keep my work fresh it’s also important to keep close attention to what’s going on in other fields.
Making a Top 10 of the year is not easy. On one side there is that music you have been listening more often, which doesn’t need to be those you consider the best in terms of quality or originality. There is also those you have seen live and somehow certain music projects change totally from an album to live version. And last but not least is hard to put on the same list artists from such different genres, if it happens that you listen different styles, it’s never fair to compare. But after all I tried to balance all those facts and this is what I got:
Obviously my list of those that I listen more often is dominated by artists that are mostly ambient, mainly because it’s the best kind of music to listen while I’m working / thinking. Those are the type of albums I can click on play and leave them on loop the whole day. Some of them I list them as well as my favorites of 2017 (such as Alessandro Cortini, Andrea Belfi and Rafael Anton Irisarri), all the others are great albums, even though maybe they didn’t surprised me as much as some others that I include in my Top 10. There is cases like the soundtrack from Blade Runner 2049, I guess having enjoyed the movie made me listen the album much more than usual. And special mention to the only Spanish artist in the list, Los Planetas, which after such a long career they released an album that is mature, 100% their own but still sounding fresh. I would say, there is many great Spanish musicians, and new ones, but I recognize I don’t put as much attention over it as an Spanish person like myself should.
1. Roll The Dice – Born To Ruin
Probably one of the best live shows I saw this year, their performance at Atonal, made an important fact to take in consideration to put them first. But also their last album is the perfect combination of everything I’m look for in music: electronic music being epic, melodic but also noisy, with great influences from jazz and thoughtful name and titles.
2. Rafael Anton Irisarri – The Shameless Years
This was one of those albums I was waiting for and it didn’t disappointed me at all. Irisarri is in my opinion one of the very best contemporary musicians making ambient / drone music (along Abul Mogard and Paul Jebanasam). So in my personal opinion this is the best album in that genre that came out this year and I’m looking forward to have the chance to see him live (I hope so) in 2018.
3. Sote – Sacred Horror In Design
I must say that maybe I would have never discovered this album if it would not be because of Tarik Barri being the artist doing their live visuals. Once said that I should also state that the album stands perfectly by itself alone, as it’s a wonderful and interesting combination of electronic idm perfectly matched with traditional music from Iran, a collaboration with pretty gifted musicians playing the santour (Persian hammered dulcimer) and a long-necked, four-string setar. The mixture is certainly unique.
4. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Book Of Sound
This album fulfill my lately addiction for brass sounds (trumpets, saxophones, horns, trombones, etc.). I generally define electronic music as the main genre I listen to and I love when electronics are combined with classic instruments, but… there are exceptions to this in my taste, rare cases and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is one of those. And album I also listened in loop quite often, relaxing but mindful, classy but still fresh.
[You can stream it here]
5. Andrea Belfi – Ore
Continuing with more classic instruments and jazz infused music, this year I discovered the work of electro-acoustic musician Andrea Belfi thanks to his latest release, Ore, also a perfect balance between organic sounds, this time drums, and electronic backgrounds. His broken and reconstructed rhythms are like delicious sound puzzles for the mind. I’m not surprised this is the second album I listened more often in 2017.
6. Damien Dubrovnik – Great Many Arrows
Unless the previous one this is an album I barely listened, or not as many time as I would liked or as it deserves. Why? I guess its rawness made it not as suitable to listen it at home as its powerful effect seeing them live (also part of last Atonal). I would place this album in the same spectrum as the one from Roll The Dice, in this case on that perfect combination between classic music and industrial sounds. Musically and visually (design and live videos) of an exquisite taste.
7. Alessandro Cortini – Avanti
Listed before as the album I listened more time in 2017, but I confess it was just for a short period of time, so I was just listening it on repeat over and over again. I liked its very melodic and soft touch, so pleasant as his live set version. This is an album that I connect with a lot of deep emotions, purely touching. But on the other hand (in my personal opinion) is far from Cortini’s great peaks of creativity, like Sonno and Risveglio albums, which are less emotional but more creative.
8. Exquirla – Para Quienes Aún Viven
If before I mentioned that I’m a bad listener for Spanish music, I am happy to include in my Top 10 at least one Spanish artist, because there is certainly great ones, more than one, but my ears are generally connected to an international spectrum of music. Exquirla is the join effort of two well-respected projects, the post-rock band Toundra and the flamenco singer Niño De Elche. The sum of both creates a powerful and emotional hybrid of styles, it’s strong personality will make it difficult to digest for post-rock fans and nearly impossible for flamenco listeners, but I did enjoy it, pretty much. Just a pity I discovered it a bit late (in December), certainly I will pay it several listenings.
9. Colin Stetson – All This I Do For Glory
If Colin Stetson releases a new album is hard not to include it among a Top 10, as his music keeps on digging into his very personal path. So his new album is also a great one, but I must confess I listened it not as often as I used to do with his series New History Warfare or his collaboration with Sarah Neufeld. His live continues being one of a kind. He is just unique in all senses.
10. Ancestral Voices – Divination
This is also one exceptional work of ambient music from 2017, this time in the edges of dark and ritual. Divination is a great step forward in the career of Liam Blackburn (also Indigo and Akkord). I sadly missed him playing live, but I hope to have the chance in 2018. Being this his second album as Ancestral Voices, I’m quite curious to see the evolution it takes in the next album.