AMN Best of 2009

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society (Photo credit: ClockworkGrue)

I don’t take “best of” lists too seriously, nor should you. However, the virtually infinite number of such lists floating around this month can serve to sum up the year’s major releases, and to give you an idea of releases you might have missed.

The AMN “best of” is set out in two lists below. The first is my subjective top five, followed by an equally subjective set of honorable mentions (in no particular order). The second is a somewhat less subjective list of what I actually listened to the most, according to Last.fm.

Aside from all of the nonsense associated with these lists, I would like to point out that my two clear favorites this year were the new releases from Magma and Darcy James Argue. Both are truly excellent, very different from one another, and highly recommended.

AMN Top 5 of 2009 and honorable mentions

1) Magma Ëmëhntëhtt-Ré
2) Argue, Darcy James / Secret Society Infernal Machines
3) Anker, Lotte / Craig Taborn / Gerald Cleaver Floating Islands
4) Hollenbeck, John Eternal Interlude
5) Maguire, Carl Sided Silver Solid

Honorable mentions:
Adams, John Luther The Place We Began
Balmorhea All Is Wild, All Is Silent
Bates, Michael / Outside Sources Live in New York
Blackshaw, James The Glass Bead Game
Blast 4tet Sift
Car de Thon, Le Nos Meilleurs Stockhausen
Cline, Nels Coward
Contemporary Noise Sextet Unaffected Thought Flow
Diablo Swing Orchestra Sing Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious
Flatlands Collective, The Maatjes
Frith, Fred Still Urban
Fully Celebrated Orchestra, The Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones
Hardedge / Graham Haynes Burned to the Water’s Edge
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey Winterwood
Land of Kush Against the Day
Lucky 7’s Pluto Junkyard
Moreau, Benoit Audiogrammes II
Musillami, Michael From Seeds
Neo Water Resistance
Nobuyasu, Furuya Bendowa
Quartet Offensive Carnivore
Sunn0))) Monoliths and Dimensions
Trespass …Was There to Illuminate the Night Sky
Trinity Breaking the Mold Var
Zu Carboniferous

AMN Top Ten 2009 Releases according to Last.fm:

1) Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines
2) Magma – Ëmëhntëtt-Ré
3) Balmorhea – All Is Wild, All Is Silent
4) Nels Cline – Coward
5) Blast4Tet – Sift
6) Fred Frith – Still Urban
7) Sunn O))) – Monoliths and dimensions
8) James Carney Group – Ways & Means
9) John Hébert – Byzantine Monkey
10) Neo – Water Resistance

A new music festival brings what Boston isn’t hearing

The Boston new music scene is profiled.

But there is a lot more new music under the sun – including an entire world of viscerally charged contemporary concert works that draw inspiration from improvised traditions, minimalism, popular or folk music. This other music doesn’t have a single name, but it’s clear that it’s not thriving here. Performances of works by Steve Reich, John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Magnes Lindberg – hugely prominent composers with international reputations – still take on the whiff of forbidden fruit. Osvaldo Golijov, a Boston-based composer whose music taps into world-music genres from tango to klezmer, has a far bigger profile nationally than he does in his own hometown. A minimalist landmark like Terry Riley‘s “In C” draws a crowd barely larger than the group of performers on stage. I have heard exactly one work by John Zorn performed here in almost three years. And if you want to hear anything by the legions of younger composers and performers inspired by the various downtown traditions, the pickings are extremely slim.

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Bay Area alive with new music

New music in the San Fran area is reviewed.

In the ’60s and ’70s, the Bay Area was a new music mecca. Minimalism was forged there. East mingled with West. Electronic music came of age. Such European avant-garde composers as Luciano Berio, György Ligeti and Karlheinz Stockhausen joined the scene. After graduating from Harvard, John Adams hopped in a Volkswagen bus and headed for Northern California.

Our current century rejects headquarters. San Francisco is now but one of many centers in a multi-centered universe. But pick a good weekend and the Bay Area still hops. Last weekend was a good weekend — as well as something of a preview of upcoming concerts in Southern California — and here is a diary of a writer trying to get a handle on it all.

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