ASIP – Reflection on 2022
As with all past ‘Reflection’ year-end mixes, I start with a collection of music I have enjoyed over the past year. Through the process of compiling a mix, songs are whittled down and selected from this collection. This means many of my favorite tracks and albums are often omitted in this process, due to the need for them to fit in a mix that comes together as organically as possible. As I say every year, this isn’t a definitive ‘best-of’ list, but a selection of just *some* of my favorite music from the year in one easily listenable format. It’s the most enjoyable way for me to boil down the music I’ve loved from the year using these self-imposed restrictions, for you to then enjoy and hopefully discover more. I encourage you to use the mix to jump off and explore each artist, listen to the album in full and see what else is on the label (and check the Buy Music Club list at the bottom). Of course, releases or aliases that are a part of our own label/s are not considered for this mix (head over here for our label-specific 2022 showcase!), and if you want to see the majority of what I’ve been supporting, head over to my Bandcamp collection.
Mixes paint a memory, and in many ways better than a photo. That’s half the reason I do these year-end mixes. Listening back to some of the past ten ‘Reflection on’ editions, each one still does the job of invoking specific memories for me. From the time I made the mix or tracks that trigger a time and place, maybe a gig I went to, an album that soundtracked a special moment, or just a record that didn’t leave my turntable. All of these things influence what tracks go into my year-end mix. It makes it challenging to try and capture, but also rewarding when I come out of the other side with something to listen back to that really shaped my year in listening. Despite this feature taking many, many hours, it’s much easier than doing a list, because not only do I dislike ranking music, but I really enjoy putting together mixes (so any excuse really!).
I haven’t written in-depth track notes for the past few Reflection mixes, mostly due to the sheer high number of track inclusions, but I want to go into depth on the inclusions this time around. I miss writing about music here, and it’s been a few years now since I’ve even posted a review. So hit play below, keep scrolling for the track notes, and link to a BuyMusicClub list to support all the featured music.
astrangelyisolatedplace · ASIP – Reflection on 2022
Listen on Soundcloud, or the ASIP Podcast.
Download MP3 (coming soon- server issues!)
Firstly, let’s sweep it under the rug; I’ve broken the biggest rule of the mix and included a track that wasn’t from 2022 (in fact, a couple aren’t strictly, but more on that later). The first track (and album), by maarja nut and ruum was such a lovely discovery for me this year that I missed in 2018, it accidentally slipped into my 2022 playlist due to being on high rotation. Of course, it was the very first track in the mix that set the tone- a hard one to undo when you’ve completed the set. So, because I have no one to answer to but myself, it stays! And I doubt you will regret this decision either if this album is new to you.
Malibu made an appearance in 2020’s mix, and she’s perhap a good reason for igniting a trend in female vocal led-ambient music (‘Enyambient’ – or does that sound like a type of potato…). But few attempts are as ethereal as Malibu’s latest, going full-on Salt Tank (as a fellow Trance lover nicely put it once).
Ecovillage have made some gorgeous music over the years, and their latest album was a work of collaborations with some impressive producers such as Fennesz and harpist Nailah Hunter. My favorite track of the bunch was Memories of Spring featuring Japanese vibraphone player Masayoshi Fujita (the Erased Tapes stalwart).
Raum, a collaborative project by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Liz Harris (Grouper) released a long-awaited follow-up to their 2013 album, and it didn’t disappoint. Whilst used more as a texture/segue in this mix, I encourage you to explore the full album. And, in a nod to Liz Harris’ involvement in the artwork for one of our releases this year, it felt fitting to include her project in this mix (thanks Liz!).
I’ve admired GiGi FM’s DJ’ing abilities for a few years now (check out her isolatedmix) but only last year did she debut her production chops with Kiwi Synthesis Diary 21k. I didn’t get around to listening to the album until this year (along with her latest, Magnetite EP) and so it didn’t make last year’s mix which was already out in the world. So here’s another little cheat, albeit a very short inclusion.
You can’t say “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” without reading it like the Roxy Music intro, and Romance and Dean Hurley’s album is just as memorable for me in many ways. Whilst this track is not my favorite from the album, it reminds me of the church bells and distant music playing from across the farm fields in my hometown back in England.
Fallen, aka Lorenzo Bracaloni seems to have released quite a few albums this year, but I was introduced to this specific album by Noah M (who does many of our own artworks and did this one too). It’s like a new-new-age album, full of life and color, and a really pleasant listen from front to back.
One thing I find hard with this annual mix is whether to include tracks that have appeared in some other mixes of mine this year. Ultimately, I want to try and present new listening experiences with each mix, but then again, I am sure it’s very few of you who actually listen to all of them!… . Steve Roach’s What Remains appeared in a previous mix of mine this year, but this track is him at his very best. Refined, patient, bellowing, and glistening – a master of the style.
Pretty sure nthng has appeared in the last two Reflection mixes, but what can I say… whether he is releasing pounding atmospheric techno or soaring trance-inducing textures like this one, he somehow manages to draw me in with each of his releases. (I think, secretly, he’s a trance head and there’s a subconscious/ telepathic attraction going on between us).
At this point I got lost in the bellows of the last few tracks, so decided to find a way out of this musical chapter, and IKSRE provided a nice euphoric bridge with her vocals. Released on the ‘Healing Together’ compilation curated by Cynthia Bernard / Marine Eyes, plenty of tracks from this comp could’ve made it onto this mix, so you know what to do after…
There was no doubt I was going to try and include a Norm Chambers track in here somewhere, both due to his unfortunate passing this year and his undeniable contribution to the ambient and experimental community. I seeked out a jolt in the mix at this point, so his music didn’t go unnoticed. As someone I follow recently said, you could make five mixes from his library of music and each one would sound different. Thank you for the music Norm – RIP.
Chicago artists Purelink seems to be at the front of this new ‘jungle/beat infused choppy ambience™, that I’ve seen becoming quite popular lately (how old do I sound). And one member of this trio features a bit later under a different alias. There is lots to explore in this world – whether it be following each of the member artists, their labels, or some of their own self-released music on Bandcamp. This track fits my dreamy chill-out world perfectly and was a much-needed segue into a more beat-driven chapter of the mix.
Spoiler alert, Mikkel Rev will be making an appearance in the ASIP fam in 2023, so until he does, he’s OK to be included in this mix (!) As part of the Ute Collective hailing from Norway, it’s another rabbit hole of amazing young talent should you be into the more trance-infused sound of ambient music (or indeed, full-on trance music – plenty of that there). He makes some superb atmospheric chugging downtempo that ranges from the delicate to the beat-driven.
Whenever a new Biosphere album drops, it’s met with slight trepidation on my end. Not least because his albums take forever to reach the US on vinyl, but, how do you live up to the classics you created that helped define a genre? But that feeling is always short-lived and none so short as 2022’s effort. In what is a direct throwback to some of his earlier electronic styles, Shortwave Memories is one of his best in the past 10 years – at least. The N-Plants vibe in this particular track is the show-stopper.
ReKaB was a new discovery for me this year, and the Móatún 7 label that homes this release, is a goldmine for electro-leaning music (even featuring a Yagya 10” recently). I think I played this ReKaB album front to back more than five times in the car one day. It’s such an enjoyable listen – not too pretentious, just enough old-school vibe, and energy to keep things present as opposed to wallpaper.
OK, a couple more records were not strictly new in 2022 but I’ve always debated including reissues in this mix, and finally come around to the idea given the proliferation recently. After all, there was never a Reflection on 1993 was there?! Spacetime Continuum and the always-on-point Musique Por La Danse label provide the 90’s throwback. (The similar-era Detroit Escalator reissue would have also made it in here, but I had to stop somewhere).
Daniel Avery’s album is a monolith. Throwbacks to Aphex on a SAW tip, mixed in with wall-shuddering bass and cave-mentality breakdowns. Any electronic fan that spent time in a dimly lit rave is going to enjoy his latest, just as much as the IDM/Electronica fan in all of us. I’m not sure if the track in the mix is my fave of the album yet, but the bigger tracks on the album would have sent this mix into a whole new dimension.
Seeing James Devane pop up this year was weird. Back in my blog days (they still exist today but this specific instance was 13 years ago), I uploaded a cover of Aphex Twin’s Rhubarb by James Devane to Soundcloud to host on the blog (remember those days) – it has 26k plays and the majority of us I’m sure really had no idea who he was until this year. With just one prior release on Discogs, I thought he dropped off radar. I guess he kind of did. This album was therefore a surprise to see, and its Gas-like fringed-techno a pleasant reintroduction.
Prior to Covid, I was due to DJ at an Astral Industries gig in London, and Transcendence Orchestra was on the bill for the second night I was there (when I’d get to relax and enjoy the full night!) It didn’t happen, unfortunately, but I always keep an ear out for their output and regret not being able to see them live. Back to the mix though, I didn’t go too hard on the modular synth-heavy tracks this year, but as with all Reflection mixes, I try and cover the variety of music I’ve been listening to. Whilst the full Transcendence Orchestra album ‘Dreams, Waking Thoughts and Incidents’ is a dark trance-inducing affair that might have felt like a rabbit hole at this point in the mix, this track formed a nice segue into the next with a similar sound…
This was the year Abul Mogard no longer hid behind his “old man steel factory worker” story and came out of the shadows on Houndstooth alongside COH (Gone is my idea for an “I AM THEREFORE I AM (ABUL MOGARD)” t-shirt). I’ve always wondered what Abul Mogard’s (real name Guido Zen) music would sound like if you added some fizz and more obvious structure, and this track can still be found bouncing around in my head somewhere.
Another track not ‘new’ in 2022, but once again, there are no rules when you’re documenting someone so profound. And to lose Low’s Mimi Parker was a shock to everyone this year. I was late to the Low party given how long they have been around, but Mimi’s vocals on this track from one of their most recent albums (Double Negative) are purely angelic. I took liberties with the layering in the mix here, respectfully, so I hope it pays off in the listen as a moment of true reflection.
It’s not often you get treated to some of this early 90’s music for the very first time, but stumbling across Bowery Electric is like finding a long-lost favorite. Originally released in 1996, this is an example of why Kranky is so legendary all those years later, playing host to gems like this.
Nosaj Thing isn’t normally the type of music that stays in my periphery – it’s more a, “I’ve seen that on the shelves of Amoeba and will check it out one day” kind of album. But my colleagues were sharing the news of this new album, existing on the fringes of hip-hop and electronica, and when Julianna Barwick is involved, I tend to put it at the top of the pile. Whilst the beat closely reminded me of Massive Attack’s Teardrop, there’s no hiding the track’s beauty in totality. Add to this, I took a friend to see Nosaj Thing at The Greek Theater in LA, and we drank way too many Caipirinha’s before stumbling up the hill to the venue and missed Nosaj playing altogether… We did catch Toro Y Moi after though, so it’s a perfect memory captured for 2022.
I’m glad Synkro returned with music this year, and it’s an amazing little EP on R&S to boot. Maybe even more atmospheric than his previous work, the beats are a little more smudged across this EP, but everything he touches has a considered, unique touch that can be heard strongly throughout his work and within collaborations (such as Kiyoko).
There’s a substantial amount of music to discover from Neglect on Bandcamp, someone I’ve admired from afar for a while now. This track, taken from his latest album is amongst a beautiful bunch of nostalgic electronica that cries quality.
It’s always hard to single out an Astral Industries release. The consistency of releases are faultless, so my shortlist this year with AI releases to include, was, well… not very short. Mystic AM, however, is the first release by Astral label boss Ario, alongside none other than Rod Modell, so it quickly became top of the pile by reason of a special moment in 2022, not least because of the beauty found in its original Iranian field recordings.
Perhaps one of the most extensive releases of the year comes from the always intriguing Stroom label, and Voice Actor. 109 pieces of music and a surprising quality found throughout. It’s more collage than music when listened to as one, but you’ll find some lovely moments hidden amongst the 8(?) hours. “Will it be available on vinyl” I hear you jest? I’ve seen this popping up in lots of EOY lists already too.
There’s talk within my small circles that Music For Animals is Nils Frahm’s best album yet. I’m not sticking by that just yet, as Spaces is probably in my top 10 of all time so far, but it certainly represents a stunning (d)evolution? Not a piano in sight you say? I immediately disbelieved it. But alas. It’s like Nils kept getting put into Ambient playlists on Spotify and was like “OK, I’ll give you what you really want…”.
I’m not quite sure how I stumbled across Ben Bondy. I think a friend might’ve recommended an album of his (Hadi, was that you?!) but It was enough for me to stalk his many Bandcamp releases and find some lovey instances. This track reminds me of a classic chill-out room track in its swirling laid-back mystery and vocal.
I wouldn’t have come across the All India Radio track if it wasn’t for the great compilation it was presented on this year by Mystic and Quantum (a label responsible for some lovely releases over the years). New to me, it looks like they have quite the discography I’m yet to dig into, but this was a lovely moment that flowed nicely after the previous. Time to do some digging.
Concave Reflection (see Purelink reference above) is another artist in the fringes of my frequent listens but one I’m fully dipping my toes in right now. The full-length album ’The Best People Are Like Water’ is a really interesting listen – kind of metallic, chopped-up ambiance that the Spheric label are becoming known for (and seems to be all the hype right now).
Whilst the next track was originally from an album released a few years back, you’ve probably learned by now I’m bending the rules a little. However, this version of Hania Rani’s track Leaving, is a live recording released in 2022. After watching her live performance on KEXP, (shout to Alex Ruder!) I was truly mind-blown at her talent. It’s easy to make comparisons to Nils of course, but Hania has that vocal element which adds a whole new dimension.
If I had to be pushed, my favorite non-ambient album this year might have come from Mike Paradinas / µ-Ziq. Magic Pony Ride is just pure fun. And you need that in your listening repertoire nowadays, right? The bank of melodies and creativity this guy has amassed over the years must be unbelievable. To think, only some of it makes itself out into the world as a record. He followed this album up with another similar stunner too – spoiled!
I’ve already given Wardown his superlatives for the year in his isolatedmix feature, but in summary, Wardown II followed up his nostalgic DnB/Jungle debut under this alias in style. Will there be a third that can keep the standard this high??
I could’ve launched into a complete Jungle/DnB hour at this point, but being 2hrs in, I really had to start winding this beast down and get all the end-of-the-night feels going. Bot1500’s latest EP stepped in nicely here – a lovely collection of melodic IDM and the track Chartreuse 8 felt rather emotional.
Royksopp really don’t do things by halves, and whether the entirety of their music is enjoyed or not when it crosses into the Pop realm, they still manage to conjure up some magic moments. I wanted to try and include a track out of the 3(!) albums they released this year but really couldn’t find one that fit outside of this weird sample here. It worked on a few levels for me here though, “Press R to continue” …
Rose Riebl…With three compilations curated by Headphone Commute, the quality found amongst the ‘For Ukraine’ comps should go down as monumental and unmissable. I knew I had to get a track in this mix from the many on display, and this one felt like a perfect near-conclusion to the mix. Don’t miss out on supporting a great cause and listening to some of the best artists creating modern classical music right now.
The final track of the mix comes from EXM. While I normally try and end these mixes with a closer that is potentially surprising or off-genre (maybe a glance at other weird music I listen to) this one just somehow felt right. Uplifting and melodic, you can’t help but mirror its gradual progression with your volume-up button.
The art for this mix might feel a little unflattering at first, but I wanted to capture the mass AI hysteria as part of this year’s memory and mix. So, fittingly, this is what I got back with the creative input of ‘A Strangely Isolated Place’. Why so literal, bot?
Tracklist + Buy Music Club:
01. maarja nuut & ruum – Mahe (Fat Cat Records)
02. Malibu – Iliad (UNO NYC)
03. Ecovillage – Memories of Spring feat. Masayoshi Fujita (LAAPS)
04. Raum – Daughter (Self)
05. GiGi FM – Rosé (Louise) (Self)
06. Romance & Dean Hurley – The Flesh Is Weak (Ecstatic)
07. Fallen – Under A Glass Moon Of Wonder (Aural Canyon)
08. Steve Roach – What Remains (Self)
09. nthng – Some Clouds Are Destined To Break (Transatlantic)
10. IKSRE – You Will Find (PITP)
11. Norm Chambers – Resonant Foam (Self)
12. Purelink – Butterfly Jam (uWu Dust Bath)
13. Mikkel Rev – Ende (Translusid)
14. Biosphere – Night Shift (Biophon Records)
15. ReKaB – The Lightest Touch (Móatún 7)
16. Spacetime Continuum – Drift (Musique Pour La Danse)
17. Daniel Avery – Lone Swordsman (Mute)
18. James Devane – Orange and Tan (Umeboshi)
19. Transcendence Orchestra – The Hills Are Alive (Old Technology)
20. COH meets Abul Mogard – Traverse Within (Houndstooth)
21. Low – Fly (Subpop)
22. Bowery Electric – Postscript (Kranky)
23. Nosaj Thing feat. Julianna Barwick – Blue Hour (Lucky Me)
24. Synkro – Last Breath (R&S Records)
25. Neglect – In The Bondage of Your Identity (Unsilent Desert Press)
26. Mystic AM – This Spoke Zarathustra (Astral Industries)
27. Voice Actor – Hurt With Me (STROOM)
28. Nils Frahm – Right Right Right (Leiter)
29. Ben Bondy – Spring (Self)
30. All India Radio – Ancient Invocations (Mystic & Quantum)
31. Concave Reflection -Daylight Portrait (Theory Therapy)
32. Hania Rani – Leaving (Live from Studio S2) (Gondwana)
33. µ-Ziq – Turquoise Hyperfizz (Planet Mu)
34. Wardown – Stimulus Progression Pattern (Blu Mar Ten)
35. Bot1500 – Chartreuse 8 (Lith Dolina)
36. Royksopp – Press <<R>> (Self)
37. Rose Riebl – Near Dark (Headphone Commute)
38. EXM – Autumn is Coming (Dyadik)
Buy Music Club list >>