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  • Nathan Yoder

While We Were Away (2021 Edition)

For the past couple of years, DC has taken a month-long break in December. Those EOTY posts we whip up in November require a ton of time and effort, so it's nice to pause our publishing output after sharing those annual roundups. We get a chance to slow down a bit and reset heading into the new year.


But during these breaks, excellent new music keeps coming out! And because of this, we present to you DC's second annual "While We Were Away" post - and this one includes a bonus twist. You'll actually find two lists below: the first is a set of eight albums released last fall that we simply did not have enough time to cover (these were not highlighted in Recommended Listening posts, our Fall Music Preview, or our EOTY lists), and the second is a group of six favorite December albums which all came out during our break. We've written a blurb about each piece, but tried to keep our words brief by self-imposing one-sentence limits (with a few exceptions). We encourage you to check out the sample tracks, too, and then click on the provided Bandcamp links if you dig em. We loved all of these releases, and hope that you do as well.


Enjoy, and see you much more often in the new year! Oh, and if you're curious, the cover photo was shot last week on the Goshen College campus in northern Indiana.


Manu Delago - Environ Me - released September 24, 2021


One of the more creative electronic albums released in 2021, the handpan virtuoso's nature-themed opus bounces between eardrum-busting maximalism and subdued ambient textures making for quite the engaging listen. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





Nobuhide Tsutsuma - Excavated Blues From a Dream Explorer - released October 1, 2021


The experimental Japanese guitarist gifts us a lo-fi steel string blues album made to sound like a dug-up and dusted-off archival recording from long ago. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





Matt LaJoie - Cosmic Commission - released October 15, 2021

Will Csorba - Neandertalis - released October 15, 2021


We're choosing to group these two together, because they're on the same label (Garden Portal - with whom we are now in love), and came out in a single bundle drop. Cosmic Commission is an album of crisp 10-string solo works, and Neandertalis is a patchwork collage of field recordings and bluegrass jams. Bandcamp link here (to the label), and find a couple of sound samples below.







Rosie Lowe & Duval Timothy - Son - released November 12, 2021


This London-Freetown connection over a shared love of choral harmonizing resulted in a feel-good concept album telling the story of a mother bestowing lessons of confidence and pride onto her young son. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





Old Saw - Country Tropics - released November 19, 2021


On Country Tropics, a collective of New England instrumentalists smears pedal steel, banjo, fiddle, organ, guitar, and bells into cosmic washes of buzzing drone and twinkling ambiance. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





Machinone - Wind Letter - released November 24, 2021


We are absolutely in love with FLAU right now, and Machinone's latest collection of delicate nylon guitar and small piano vignettes emanate a warm glow perfect for cozy winter evenings. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





Francisco Sonur - Sleep Researchers - released November 29, 2021


It's sort of amazing that DC hasn't slapped a "Recommended Listening" tag on a Giraffe Tapes release (as far as we can remember), because the label's output of quality ambient albums is regular and consistent. Francisco Sonur's contribution is their best yet. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





And now for some December releases:


Motohiro Nakashima - Gathering the Light - released December 1, 2021


Another gorgeous FLAU release, this one featuring clean guitar stylings overtop ambient textures - twelve tracks amounting to a peaceful, meditative listen. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.




ironomi - Four Nocturnes - released December 1, 2021


Two years after their stunning kotonoha, ironomi returns with a new album of their signature minimalist electroacoustic improvisations. The music on Four Nocturnes is as beautiful as anything we've heard from the lauded duo. Here's a link to their website, and find a Spotify embed below since the album is not on Bandcamp.






Ian Wellman - On The Darkest Day, You Took My Hand and Swore It Will Be Okay - released December 3, 2021


Some pandemic albums were made to distract us from our slowly dying world, but Ian Wellman's offering of treated field recordings seems to linger in desolation and dread. Perhaps there's a little hope peeking through in the end? Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





Tomonari Nozaki - waves - released December 13th, 2021


If you're a fan of degraded, grainy, Basinksi-style tape loops, you're gonna love these five glacial compositions by Tokyo-based producer Tomonari Nozaki on the ever-excellent secret press label. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.




V/A - Mary's House - released December 14th, 2021


In the early days of the pandemic, Mary Lattimore chronicled her homebound activities on IG, but eventually, the LA harpist began to branch out and host a few small, socially-distanced porch concerts for friends. Here's a sampling of those sets. Bandcamp link here, and find a favorite track below.





Saloli - The Island: Music for Piano vol. I - released December 21st, 2021


Sitting at a vintage 1900 Chickering Piano, Saloli imagined a faraway island where all one can do is play piano for the plants and wildlife who call that place home - these are the compositions that the Portland, Oregon musician dreamed up. Bandcamp link here and find a favorite track below.





It's good to be back, folks. In a few days we'll publish a new playlist, and then it's on to our weekly album recommendations after that.


Thanks for following along into this new year!