My Musical Safari of 2017

by Richard Southard, The River Editor

Over the summer, I worked a job where I patrolled dams throughout several Maine towns. Over the course of twelve hour shifts, I would drive to seven individual dam/river sites, check for any signs of incidents (vandalism, littering, fires, etc.), and do it all over again. Being in a car for most of those days (four a week, on average), I decided to make use of the time by discovering new music, most of which was suggested to me by both friends and strangers across different internet discussion pages.

For my first personal blog post, I’ve decided to share some of my personal highlights from the mountain of albums I listened to. To share even most of what I listened to would be a gauntlet to read through (and an even greater one to write). So, I’ll just restrict it to five.

Daigo Hanada – Ichiru (Solo piano, modern classical)

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Ichiru is a collection of minimalistic, short piano compositions. I personally enjoy the rawness of some of the tracks, where the quiet movements of the piano’s keys and hammers can be heard. While most of the tracks are about two minutes long, every one manages to feel complete, as if the album creates images of sounds, rather than scenes.

 

Miles Davis – Bitches’ Brew (Jazz, Jazz fusion)

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I know I’m late to the party when it comes to raving about this one, but damn, it blew me away. From the start of the first track ,”Pharaoh’s Dance”, one can get a sense of the incredible improvisational style that Davis creates. Utilizing both a classical jazz lineup and various electric instruments, putting this one into many words is impossible.

 

Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me (Indie Folk)

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I should stress: this is the saddest album I’ve heard in my lifetime. It is a sheerly bleak and unfiltered portrait of grief, focused around the composer’s (Phil Elverum) wife dying of cancer in 2016. While the instrumentals are very raw and somewhat unvaried, the lyrical content is outstanding. While it is an emotional endurance test, there are many lines that I still find simultaneously chilling and beautiful.

 

Sun Kil Moon – Benji (Folk Rock, Indie Rock)

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Another album I remember for being notably sad, Benji is a collection of tracks about family, old friends, and the memories of a man growing old. The guitar rhythms lead the storytelling along wonderfully, and I find it hard to pick a favorite out of so many intimate, graceful, and sometimes humorous tracks.

 

Venetian Snares – Rossz Csillag Alatt Született (Electronic, breakcore)

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One of the earliest albums I heard over the summer is now one of my favorites. Rossz is an electronic album like no other I’ve heard before, using strings and horns next to fast-paced beats and electronic synths. Many of the tracks are progressive and chaotic, which begin to break down and lose their own structure as they move. These intense moments, coupled with the slower interludes of the string instruments, creates a wild, memorable ride for the ears.

So, while the twelve hour drives got a bit tedious after a few months, I can’t say I spent much of my summer bored. I do hope that at least one of these suggestions finds a place in someone’s favorites, and I also intend to try and share other new finds in the future. Until then, thanks for the read.