Improv & Avant-Garde 2011: 10 Favourites

Improv & Avant-Garde 2011: 10 Favourites
Listen to our Best of 2011: Improv & Avant-Garde playlist on Rdio by clicking here.

Given the diversity and depth of the improv and avant-garde scene, instead of ranking and rating releases, we've asked regular contributors to discuss their favourite 2011 albums from the far corners of the scene.

Motion Sickness of Time Travel
Joel Rubin / Uri Caine
Lukas Ligeti
Nicholas Urie
Nils Frahm
Tim Hecker
Jóhann Jóhannsson
Colin Stetson
Dead Cat Bounce

Motion Sickness of Time Travel Luminaries & Synastry (Digitalis)
Despite cutbacks in outer space research and programming, human beings are more fascinated with the concepts and physics of space than ever before. The invention of the electronic organ in the '50s bred a whole new fascination with the association of music and space ― see producer Joe Meek. Rachel Evans, who's solo work as Motion Sickness of Time Travel, is pushing this fascination to the most modern corners of sonic spatial exploration. In combination with Evans' droning vocal swoons, metallic synthesizers and reverb-drenched arpeggios define Luminaries & Synastry as a psychedelic record suitable for escaping a slow-motion apocalypse via space shuttle. Despite the record's relatively similar track-to-track formulas, the combination of vocal harmonies and textured electronic melodies evoke different emotions with every song ― pushing the listener's brain into patterns of thought previously reserved exclusively for the unconscious. "Day Glow," for example, opens with a rather unpleasant glitchy arpeggio, but the pastiche of slowly attacking synthesizers and space-laden vocals calm the listener to the point of appreciating the arpeggio in a new light ― shedding new perspective to sounds that are strictly bound to context by more close-minded musicians. A minute into the track, the arpeggio sounds as if it were at home ― the track would sound incomplete without it despite its original brash introduction. Tracks like "Moving Backward Through The Constellations" and "The Walls Were Dripping With Stars" pay direct homage to Evans' spatial-fascinations. Both tracks evoke imagery and emotion that would be perfectly suitable to the actions of their titles. Patience is arguably one of the most enlightening virtues for those who have mastered it, and in music, records like Luminaries & Synastry find listeners teaching themselves about things lyrical and narrow-minded verse-chorus-bridge music conditions them to neglect.

Philip de Vries