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  • Nathan Yoder

While We Were Away

This is a reintroduction post of sorts. We've been away for a bit.

November is always the busiest month here at DC, what with our annual end-of-the-year roundup pieces constructed while we simultaneously cram final releases of the fall season. Because of this sometimes stressful flurry of activity, we typically enjoy taking December off to relax and regroup before launching into another year of new music discovery. Plus, holiday music is a guilty pleasure, and we most certainly have to carve out time for that.

Though the release calendar tends to thin out a bit between Thanksgiving and the new year, excellent albums do drop, and are sometimes overlooked. So to get back into the swing of things, we would like to highlight six of our favorite albums released in the past six-ish weeks, each with a "mini" review. Check out the words and samples below, and come back for new content across the coming months.

Oh, and we're trying to embed Bandcamp rather than Spotify links now. If you are able, purchase any music that resonates with you through that site. Cheers.

Luis Pestana - Rosa Pano

Released November 27th through Orange Milk Records

If we had heard Luis Pestana's incredible debut in time for our 2020 AOTY post, it most certainly would have been placed in our top ten favorites. Maybe even the top five. And it wasn't until well into December when we realized that an advance copy of Rosa Pano had actually been emailed to DC, and it was simply lost in our over-saturated inbox. What a shame. Let's make it eligible for 2021, shall we?

The album is absolutely magnificent. The eight tracks connect to each other fluidly, making Rosa Pano best heard in one sit. Actually, not to be too prescriptive, but we would recommend you blast it through a speaker as loud as your ears can stand, while laying flat on your back and staring directly into a bright light. The Portuguese musician utilizes sonic tension so well here. Maximalist compositions wind upward, carried by aggressive synth blasts while babies cry and church bells peal over the chaos. But then it all drops away into Ao Romper da Bela Aurora, the album's operatic centerpiece. This all sounds quite wild, and it is, but so unlike anything else out there you just have to listen.

eves - looking for glass

Released November 27th through Music Company

Music Company is a new label out of Melbourne whose first release was one of the year's finest. Besides a couple of great compilations, the label's other 2020 drop was Edwina Stevens' (aka "eves") looking for glass - a collection of vivid soundscapes weaving together natural and synthesized noises. Some tracks buzz with what feels like claustrophobic dread rooted in the many sides effects of crushing capitalistic forces. But other sonic constructions float above the ether, disconnecting from worldly stressors in a sort of dream state. Check it out, and make sure to follow Music Company for (hopefully) more excellent releases in 2021.

Toàn - Volta No Vento

Released November 29th through IIKKI

This conceptual project is a collaboration between two Frenchman: Anthony Elfort (who records as Toàn), and photographer Gilles Roudière. The album is meant to be heard while viewing a book of photography, but IIKKI (who facilitated this artistic dialogue), gives permission to sit with either element in isolation. Toàn's music feels very textural here, perhaps to match visual themes presented in the book. Light chimes and bells sparkle atop melodies guided by flute or strings, and ambient nature sounds provide a backdrop. It's got a very slow-walk-in-the-garden vibe, and we're thankful for the peaceful respite.

Andrew Lang: Momentary Senses

Released December 11th through Rusted Tone Recordings

And now a jump back to Australia for an album that is very on-brand DC through-and-through. In an email correspondence, composer Andrew Lang explains that while piano is at the center of his new album, layers of guitar, manipulated field recordings, and so many other inputs influenced its sound as well. Each of the six tracks unfold delicately and evolve at a perfectly unhurried pace, and because of these structures, the music seems to wash over the listener. It truly is a meditative listen. Part post-classical, part warm ambient, it's right up our alley.

Jason Calhoun + Foresteppe - Pieces of Death

Released December 21st through Lily Tapes and Discs

We absolutely loved Jason Calhoun's Jedediah released last winter, and have been following Foresteppe ever since Lilien Rosarian casually dropped the Siberian post-folk artist's name as an inspiration. On Pieces of Death, Calhoun and Foresteppe collaborate to create something truly wonderful, where both of their distinct sounds blend together beautifully. Calhoun's music feels, above all else, patient. His longform constructions are never headed anywhere in a hurry. And Foresteppe brings a sort of playfulness to his sound. School bells, toy instruments, bird chirps are heard on Pieces of Death - quite a title for moments of levity. This album clocks in over 90 minutes, but is well worth the time, as it transports you to another world completely.

And if you're interested in more Foresteppe, the artist had a pretty prolific winter, releasing another full album on December 29th, linked here. It's also excellent and very much worth listening to + purchasing.

Hotel Neon - All is Memory

Released January 1st through Fluid Audio

Hotel Neon's most recent release could soundtrack a Wendell Berry Port William book. You know, like when the main character relocates to a river in their old age, or sinks into a chair to remember a lifetime of love and loss, or meanders through the woods to ruminate on nature's constant presence? Songs including the title track as well as Toward a Distant Shore, A Possible Past, and Untold Stories are spot-on, right?

In any case, the Philadelphia-based trio has created another beautiful ambient album here, characterized by warm hues and sepia tone nostalgia. Tidal is a standout track, as natural elements wade into the mix, but really, it is excellent from beginning to end. Ambient music definitely had a moment in 2020, and we admittedly got a little burnt out for a second there, but Hotel Neon reminds us of how wonderful it can sound when done well.

We are so excited to share more with you in the coming year, so here's to new music and better days ahead.



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