I've decided to try something new here on DC, but I'm not yet sure if it'll become a monthly thing, or just be a spring experiment. We'll see how it goes, I guess!
So my new plan is to try writing periodic REview pieces. At the end of each month, I'll round up a few albums that I loved listening to, write short blurbs about each of them, and embed some choice tracks. Nothing too long or formal - just a few words and links. Hopefully by sharing releases this way, I'll be providing a more comprehensive, accurate picture of my favorite new sounds. And hopefully y'all dig it too.
So here are my eight favorite January 2023 releases, presented in order of release date:
Cicada - Seeking the Sources of Streams (Flau) - Did we get best album of 2023 just six days into the new year? Flau is on an absolute tear right now, and this one's a gem. The music on Seeking the Sources of Streams was inspired by exactly that - trekking through forests and fields, deep into mountains, searching for headwaters. And it sounds like Cicada's adventure was well worth it, because the group's lush mixtures of woodwinds, piano, strings, and percussion are absolutely breathtaking.
Ryuichi Sakamoto - 12 (Milan) - The legendary Japanese composer, living with a persistent cancer diagnosis, offers up a dozen starkly solo works on this deeply emotional album. Featuring piano, spare electronics, and Sakamoto's labored breathing, 12 is an hourlong meditation on our mortality. I couldn't find the album on Bandcamp, so here's a Spotify embed of my favorite track:
weareforests - Where There Is No Ending (Seil Records) - This cassette from the ever-excellent Seil Records is a dreamy interweaving of field recordings, electronics, and organic instrumentation. It feels like a stroll outside, simply observing the sounds of our world. Listen closely, and you'll catch all sorts of curious noises underneath beautiful, bubbling melodies.
Derek Hunter Wilson - 2022 Piano Improvisations - This next one isn't an album at all, but is definitely worth a listen. A couple weeks ago, DHW (a dear friend to the site), dropped a three-and-a-half-hour YouTube video of his piano improvisations over top footage he captured on a train ride home to Portland from California. I imagine this music video can be enjoyed in a number of ways, but I really liked putting it on in the background while I went about doing housework, pausing every once in a while to take in the scenery.
Simon Scott - Long Drove (Room40) - I wrote a bit about this release already in the preview piece I published earlier this month, so I won't add a bunch of additional words here. I simply appreciate Simon Scott's commitment to studying the sounds of a specific location so thoroughly, and then his willingness to share interpretations of that space. It's such a powerful recording.
Purple Decades - Journey Test (Beacon Sound) - And here's another album I previewed last month. It is perhaps the most calming January release, featuring warm, soft-around-the-edges tones. The entire album is wonderful, but side A is my favorite. The fourth track, Kagami, is perfection.
Ruhail Qaisar - Fatima (Danse Noire) - And now for something much more sinister. Described as "requiem for a dead future," the self-taught musician's epic sound collage captures feelings of dread rooted in loss of homeland. As developers close in on areas of the Himalayan foothills, these capitalists bring with them the stuff of nightmares. Using spoken word, drones, field recordings, power electronics, and recorded screams, Ruhail Qaisar expertly conveys dark, heavy emotion. It's awesome and terrifying and scared the shit out of my dog.
moshimoss - Stones of Paradise (night cruising) - This album slipped in at the last second, arriving only yesterday. I've heard it through just once, but can already tell that it's a special piece of music. On Stones of Paradise, Kosuke Anamizu presents gorgeous classical compositions, some of which are delicate, while others are defined by tension and restraint. When heard together, these dynamic offerings guide the listener on an incredible sonic journey. As of 1/31, the above Bandcamp link included no live tracks, so you can check out a Spotify snippet below.
And that's a wrap on January! Come back in a month to read about (and listen to) some of my favorite February releases. And actually, come back before that because I've got a playlist and an interview coming up!
Thanks for reading, and happy listening.