The Best of Echoes 2016. . . So Far.
Making lists is often difficult, and picking number ones is especially so. At this halfway point of the year, I could have scrambled numbers 2-25 on this list in a dozen different ways. But there was never a moment when I had any doubt about the number one pick: Echoes of the Dreamtime, by Miranda Lee Richards. This album has been played on Echoes non-stop since it was released. It was the CD of the Month in March and it is the most-played album in my personal library this year. From the dark, western noir of “The First Light of Winter” to the exuberant, summer-of-love optimism of “Colours So Fine”, Richards has crafted an album that suggests an altered state of consciousness and visions from beyond and delivers.
After number one, things get hazy. All India Radio’s The Slow Light, at number 2, and Hammock’s Everything and Nothing, at three, could easily be swapped. They were sequential CD of the Month picks, and both were masterful albums from musicians who have been making those for a long time. Both are guitar-based bands: Martin Kennedy’s All India Radio has a more melodic touch with hints of Americana in his atmospheric twang; Hammock are evangelists of echoes and lovers of loops. Hammock’s Everything and Nothing is densely-packed in texture, but unlike their other recent albums, it’s also rhythmically anchored.
Along with Miranda Lee Richards’ Echoes of the Dreamtime, our number 4 pick by Aukai was one of the out-of-nowhere surprises of 2016…so far. Markus Sieber created an album of deep melodic atmosphere with mostly acoustic instruments including the South American ronroco. It was our CD of the Month in June.
Rounding out the top 5 is Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, which turned out to be a mellower, less angular, and more melodic album than anything they’ve done in a while. It sounds more like drummer Philip Selway’s Weatherhouse than any album Radiohead made this century. Thom Yorke has never been more soulful or approachable, and Johnny Greenwood’s orchestrations envelop his songs in a beautiful haze.
There are many new artists (sort of) this year. This year marked the debut album for Aukai, but Markus Sieber has been around for years, performing in a duo with his wife as Mirabai Ceiba. Our number six pick, OnDeadWaves, is their debut recording, but the two artists behind it, Polly Scattergood and James Chapman, have long-running solo careers. Cavern of Anti-Matter is new, but founder Tim Gane is also the founder of long-lived alt-rock band, Stereolab. Even Tom Eaton, who released his debut album Abendromen this year, has been around for a long time, producing and engineering countless albums at Will Ackerman’s Imaginary Road studios.
When you’re talking about the future of music, it’s notable that 19 of these 25 artists began recording in the 21st century. But it’s still nice to have the likes of Tangerine Dream, Robert Rich, Erik Wøllo and Mark Dwane still making vital, creative and mind-bending music.
Here’s the complete Top 25 list of The Best of Echoes 2016…So Far.
–John Diliberto 6/28/2016
THE BEST OF ECHOES 2016 . . SO FAR
1 Miranda Lee Richards/Echoes of the Dreamtime (Invisible Hands)
2 All India Radio/The Slow Light (Minty Fresh)
3 Hammock/Everything and Nothing (Hammock Music)
4 Aukai/Aukai (Aukai Music)
5 Radiohead/A Moon Shaped Pool (XL Recordings)
6 On Dead Waves/On Dead Waves (Mute)
7 Ane Brun/When I’m Free (Balloon Ranger Recordings)
8 SHEL/Just Crazy Enough (Moraine Records)
9 Marissa Nadler/Strangers (Sacred Bones Records)
10 Great American Canyon Band/Only You Remain (Six Degrees)
11 The American Dollar/Across the Oceans (Yesh Music)
12 Bluetech/The 4 Horsemen of the Electrocalypse – The White Horse (Native State Records)
13 Fresh Handmade Sound/The Planets (Lush)
14 Cavern of Anti-Matter/Void Beats-Invocation Trex (Duophonic)
15 Haroula Rose/Here the Blue River (Little Bliss)
16 Sverre Knut Johansen/Earth from Above (Spotted Peccary)
17 Emmy the Great/Second Love (Bella Union)
18 Mark Dwane/UFOlogy (Mark Dwane Music)
19 Tom Eaton/Abendromen (Riverwide Records)
20 Daughter/Not to Disappear (Glassnote)
21 Robert Rich/What We Left Behind (Soundscape Productions)
22 Tangerine Dream/Quantum Key (+180 RECORDS)
23 Baby Alpaca/Under Water (Atlas Chair Records)
24 Dave Preston/In These Storms (Dave Preston)
25 Erik Wøllo & Byron Metcalf/Earth Luminous (Projekt Records)