Best Albums of 2020: 12k Records

Water Mirror (2004, reissued on 12k)
Slow Machines (12k)

Water Mirror is a welcome reissue by Taylor Deupree’s New York-based 12k Records of an obscure 2000’s gem by Japanese composer Keiichi Sugimoto aka Fourcolor. I never heard this when it came out; what I hear now is a microsound masterpiece from the early years of laptop electronica that’s not dominated by the fussy coldness of digital glitch, as Sugimoto seems to understand that a little glitch goes a long way. His elegant tone painting style takes a more sonorous path with dreamy pieces crafted from looping fragments of tone. The best comes last: the long closing track “Steam” brings it all together with lovely bells, muted guitar figures and layers of organ-like textures.

Of the new material released in 2020 by 12k, my firm favorite is the ever-shifting electronics and electric guitar tapestries of Slow Machines by Americans Michael Grigoni & Stephen Vitiello. If you love impressionist art, here it is in sonic form, a remarkable collection of meandering landscapes where lovely pedal and lap steel guitars mesh with subtle synths, filters, field recordings and noise. It’s blurry yet vivid, soothing yet always in motion, its textures rippling and repeating through three-dimensions. A complete success as a piece of experimental ambient and especially recommended for guitar fans.

Best Albums of 2020 Reviews Index

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