~An article by Jordan Volz

50) Natsumen | Never Wear Out Your Summer XXX!!!

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Natsumen

For almost thirteen minutes Natsumen have one of the best albums in recent history. "Newsummerboy" and "Atami Free Zone" explode out of the gates with unprecedented vigor and a mix of free jazz and psychedelic rock. Think The Samuel Jackson Five meets The Mars Volta. Natsumen's frenzied euphoria of sound is orgasmic -- a carefree spirit blesses the band and propels the album to staggering heights. But then things begin to fall apart -- "Pills to Kill Ma August" gets sloppy. The track is considerably longer than the rest on the album, and a large part of the song is spent unwinding the supernatural energy gained during the first two tracks. By the time Natsumen emerges from this process, the band is playing out of synch, but not convincingly. henrytennis has executed this trick with much success, but Natsumen's lack of focus, which was previously an assest, turns against them. Afterwards the band never regains that stunning beginning, and Summer slowly grinds to a stop. Still, the first two tracks make this album unforgettable.

Second Opinion: Natsumen is one of the most eclectic, energetic bands to come out of the Land of the Rising Sun. Relying on big-band dynamics and rooted in rock and jazz aesthetics, Natsumen deliver a driving force that can best be described as contained chaos.
-Jerome Holeyman

Key Tracks: Newsummerboy; Atami Free Zone; Whole Lotta Summer

49) [nara] | EP #2

The Silent Ballet Wiki: [nara]

Whenever I see a two track EP, my mind replaces the word "EP" with "Demonstration." Two songs is hardly enough time to accomplish anything, but [nara] is out to prove me wrong. The twenty-seven minute EP showcases two tracks, both of which clock in at over twelve minutes in length, and to further throw a wrench in the machine, neither is "epic" as we'd expect from a guitar-oriented band. While listening to this CD, I'm intrigued by the visualizations on my computer's media player. I have one of the standard visualizations where the bars move up and down along with the "intensity" of the song. You know, if you listen to Mono the meter is broken for half the song and then it's up to full capacity for the other half, and if you listen to a band like Caspian it's on full capacity the entire time, etc... [nara] barely scratches the surface on this thing. It takes a good twelve minutes before my compter realizes that Escalade of Unconscious Fear is playing, and by that time [nara] have had me in a tight coma for over five minutes. "The Pills Arrive on Friday" is no less hypnotic with the shimmering guitars, cascading symbols, and deep, echoing piano. The visualization's inability to capture the performance is no less upsetting than the listener's inablity to keep track of time while EP #2 is on. [nara] must be Canadian for "time-stealer." This one is tough to fight, just give in to [nara].

Second Opinion: One potential criticism of [nara] might be that their songs seem to lack direction, ostensibly never really going anywhere. However, that would do the band a great disservice, as understatement is clearly one of their key intentions. They're perhaps not the band to turn to if you like your songs loud, heavy or lively. If, however, atmospheric, minimalist music is your scene, then you could do far worse than EP#2.
-Richard White (Review)

Key Tracks: Escalade of Unconscious Fear; The Pills Arrive on Friday

48) Sparrows Swarm and Sing | O'Shenandoah, Mighty Death Will Find Me
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Sparrows Swarm and Sing

Here we have it, the long-awaited long player from Sparrows Swarm and Sing, pretentious band extraordinare. Previously the band had been bullied in school and called names such as "Sparrows, Swarm and Sing!" but the abused are always stubborn aren't they? Sparrows show no signs of ever relinquishing its strong GY!BE influence and offer up seventy minutes of (almost embarrassing) GY!BE worship. On one hand this is good: Godspeed no longer makes albums, so it was inevitable that someone would step in to "carry the torch," so to speak. On the other hand, as artists, is Sparrows satisfied with living in the shadow of another? Surpassing the greatness of the Canadian collective is physically impossible--not even Godspeed can surpass Godspeed--so any attempt is futile. The logical thing to do would be to put a spin on it (see The Ascent of Everest) and win over fans for a "creative interpretation." In the end, Sparrows are a hit or miss. Some will love the mimicry of the band, and others will despise the near plagiarism. From a critical standpoint, the band is far away from acclaim, but that never stopped anyone from establishing a large fanbase.

Second Opinion: Best known to critics for its epic orchestrated instrumentation eerily akin to GY!BE, Sparrows Swarm and Sing and its Magic Bullet debut O'Shenandoah, Mighty Death Will Find Me exhibits a clear evolution in musical expression while not completely losing its benchmark sound. Like new tentacles on the same old body, the album maintains clear origins, but is now reaching out into new depths as it utilizes a broad array of elements including folky acoustic passages and vocal melodies, sparse clink/clatter, and some paralyzing walls of sound that stray from the traditional post-rock format, but still challenge the listener with perplexing intensity.
-Jonathan Brooks (Review)

Key Tracks:Across Canyons/Cannons; Warm Blood Within (Part II)

47) The Album Leaf | Into the Blue Again
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: The Album Leaf

Jimmy Lavalle's recent album was almost unanimously described as "disappointing" from writers here at The Silent Ballet. This is no small feat: In a Safe Place is praised by many staff members, and there are several individuals who will take opposing sides just for the sake of argument (you know who you are...). But in all honesty, it's not that bad, just it's no In a Safe Place. The electronic influence in the album is beyond cheesy -- many of the samples sound low budget and amateurish. The album does shine when actual instruments are played ("Wishful Thinking"), but there is far too much synthesis for the album's own good. "Red Eye" is a confused track, unsure of its place in the album and what exactly its seeks to accomplish. The track progresses splendidly for several minutes and then passes on the opportunity to go for the kill (in a variety of ways) only to simply fade out with looped instruments and samples. These types of songs are far from captivating, and this is not an isolated occurrence. The vocal tracks are a nice change of pace, and add some substance to the album, but inevitably just further isolate the awkwardness of the remaining tracks. Into the Blue Again...I'd sure say so.

Second Opinion: It’s a shame that on past form The Album Leaf have conjured imagery and beauty that almost transcends description ,“TwentyTwoFourteen” in particular, and although it would be remiss to suggest that Lavalle et al are merely one-trick ponies, the description seems all too apt far too often. And, ultimately, Into The Blue Again unfortunately perpetuates this critique - because “disappointing” pretty much does it justice.
-Alex Bradshaw (Review)

Key Tracks:The Light; Shine; Red Eye

46) The Hylozoists | La Fin du Monde

The Silent Ballet Wiki: The Hylozoists

La Fin du Monde is on the brink of being a wonderful album. The problem being that perfectly good instrumental music is ruined with wretched vocals ("La Fin Du Monde," "Hearts and Harps"). I can't really blame them, because there's currently a plethora of Canadian indie rock bands running around with horrible singers that receive a plethora of praise from trendy music critics. But to put these tracks side by side with songs like "Warning Against Judging a Christian Brother" and "If Only Your Heart Was a Major Sixth" should be a crime. These songs go straight for the heart and do not let go. The ten-piece collective uses strength in numbers to achieve a unique sound, one filled with jangling keys, soaring strings, and more vibraphones than your ears can handle. All things considered, "La Fin Du Monde," or "The End of the World," doesn't sound like it's such a bad time, especailly for those with selective memory.

Second Opinion: Whenever you hear of a 10-peice band, you can't help but ask "do they really need all those people?". In the case of The Hylozoists, the answer is heard clearly in the music of their latest album La Fin Du Monde. Leveraging as much talent as they can possibly find, they've captured an orchestrated sound that beckons your attention. While many instrumental bands have a clearly defined dominant instrument, The Holyzoists shine in their ability to spread the table with a smorgishborg of musical variety. If you're in the market for some good ole fashion feel good music, then look no further than this album, it should put a smile on your face no matter what mood you're in.
-Jonathan Carter

Key Tracks: Strait is the Gate; Warning Against Judging a Christian Brother; If Only Your Heart Was a Major Sixth

45) Moly | Hello Shut Up

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Moly

Moly's new sound is shocking. This is not to say the music itself is unbelievable, but rather that Moly was once a band that could rock out with the best of them and then, with no warning whatsoever, it's drifted off into the electronica department. I still haven't gotten over just how different Hello Shut Up is to its predecessors; Moly is now a combination electronica/shoegaze band, adding in scarce vocals and keyboards and greatly reducing the time spent with guitar and drums. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find passages where actual drums are being played. While Hello Shut Up does contain many great tracks ("The Last Night," "This is All A Dream") the release has difficulties pulling itself together as a whole. No track sounds like it needs to be cut, but there is glue missing from the album's framework and as such it's not as rich a listen as other releases in this genre. The album closer "One Million Tears" is the odd track on the album, but also one of the more intriguing, as it combines old and new Moly sounds into a rather nice whole. This opens the door for future experimentation - will Moly be joining the ranks of Saxon Shore and God is an Astronaut on their next album? Only time will tell...

Second Opinion: I see no reason why Hello Shut Up shouldn’t appeal to Moly fans both old and new; there is just enough of the old-style Moly to keep existing fans happy, but their new style demonstrates a hitherto unseen depth to their work and they deserve to reach a far wider audience. Once upon a time, Moly might well have wished they were Mogwai, and they certainly wouldn’t have been the only ones. If subsequent Moly releases are as impressive as this one, however, the roles may very well be reversed.
-Richard White (Review)

Key Tracks: Violine; This is All a Dream; The Last Light

44) Del Rey | A Pyramid For the Living
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Del Rey

Del Rey's third album sees birth in their eighth year together as a band. This Chicago quartet was playing aggressive instrumental stoner-rock before Pelican had ever taken flight, but the maturity of the band has led them to explore more exotic techniques, including world styles and electronica. A Pyramid For the Living sheds off much of the band's western influence, as is evidenced by tracks such as "Euphrates," but the band doesn't forget its roots and often delivers crushing finales with chugging riffs and dense, atmospheric cloudiness. "Olympic Mons" surges with a strong rhythm section balanced by electronic noises and eerie vocals. The track is anchored by terrific drumming that slices into the heart of the song and watches the guitars swarm in for the kill. Without a doubt, the most interesting aspect of A Pyramid for the Living is the unorthodox song structures. The world influence relieves the band of this stagnation and they're able to soar high into the clouds.

Second Opinion: Del Rey’s greatest strength throughout A Pyramid For The Living is their balance of technical prowess and song structure. At no point during the album does a certain part become too long or repetitive, nor do they ever veer into the world of free form wankfests...the creativity and song-writing talent cannot be denied in these Midwest rockers.
-Nick Brandt (Review)

Key Tracks: Olympus Mons; A Breif Struggle; Euphrates

43) We Vs Death | We Too Are Concerned; We Are Too Concerned

The Silent Ballet Wiki: We Vs Death

We Vs Death could be a flashier band, and after listening to We Too Are Concerned... the listener gets the impression that it definitely wouldn't hurt. The album is well-crafted and executed with relative ease, but this suggests that the band wasn't challenging themselves as much as they should be, almost as if they are settling for second best. "And How to Translate It" sets the album in the right direction, with a strong bass lead, clever interaction between the brass and guitars, and stellar drumming. An album with this mathy/dub hybrid would be heaven to the ears. After that the music becomes lethargic, losing much of the momentum and finding comfort in restraining itself to familiar sounds, while on occasion breaking back into inspired musical greatness ("(Yes!) We Went to Novgorod"). On the other hand, the smoothness and easy-listening quality of the album set it apart from the more frustrating instrumental works of their peers. That is an accomplishment in itself, and yet an uneasy feeling remains. It's likely that subsequent releases by We Vs Death will blow this out of the water, but this is more than a suitable starting point.

Second Opinion: The music avoids the traditional quiet-quiet-loud build-up and opts instead for an unflustered, steady exploration of layered rhythm that broods bit by bit, but never reaches that one, massive climactic point that our ears know as bands like Mono or Mogwai. Rather, the tracks here indulge in mini-bursts led by a cascading trombone, an antidote to the anesthetizing of most instrumental pieces...These distinctive tracks are something to experience, and while they may not shake the Earth below your feet with a beckoning tremolo, they thrive as the perfect cohort to prototypical days and moods
-Jonathan Brooks (Review)

Key Tracks: And How to Translate it; (Yes!) We Went to Norvogod; Fieldfire

42) These Monsters | These Monsters

The Silent Ballet Wiki: These Monsters

Now this is a what we like to call an up-and-coming band. Leeds based These Monsters made a lasting impression this year with its Self-Titled EP, a collection of endearing, passionate songs that are made unique by Bill Clinton's favorite oral instrument. These Monsters are likely to be remembered as "that saxophone band," as the instrument adds a fluidity to the band's foundations which decentralizes the more traditional elements of the band. Those with a penchant for the sax cannot go wrong here; "Nice Day to Star a War" will be your new love. The rest of the band sits on even terms with the saxophonist, neither dominating its presence nor allowing it to be overcome by its jazzy meanderings. The drumming often goes the jazz route as well, except for the climactic moments when it falls into line with the rising guitars and settles for a completion of the quiet/loud dynamic. These Monsters is a taste of ingenuity from a country who has already produced so much superb music in the last few years. These guys are on the rise; I suggest jumping on the bandwagon before it's too late.

Second Opinion: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this is one of the most promising bands in the instrumental arena.
-Ryan Harig (Review)

Key Tracks: Nice Day to Start a War; Night of the Storm; Dust and Ivy

41) God is An Astronaut | A Moment of Stillness

The Silent Ballet Wiki: God is an Astronaut

2006 was a pretty quiet year for God is an Astronaut, for the most part. This Moment of Stillness was one of the first releases of the year, and is a continuation of All is Violent, All is Bright, instead of a new presentation of the band all together (I suspect, many tracks were left over from the recording sessions). While All is Violent, All is Bright was predominantly an energetic, triumphant piece of art, A Moment of Stillness is much more somber and depressive. If it was the case that these tracks were part of the All is Violent, All is Bright recording sessions, it makes sense that the band had removed them from the album, as they would have disturbed the ebb and flow which so such a pivotal part of the music. In their own right these songs are interesting. "Frozen Twilight" transitions into the slower mode, and the rest of the album is dense, ambient material. "Forever Lost (Reprise)" takes on this new facade and fits well into the fold. A Moment of Stillness is not the star of the God is an Astronaut discography, but it does tide fans over until the new album, where we can expect the band to return to its Irish throne.

Second Opinion:While no subsequent track is able to touch the grandiosity found in the opener "Frozen Twilight", the rest of the EP thrives by creating a strong sense of cohesiveness hitherto only reserved for film scores. With it's soaring melody and restrained cathartic releases, any young film maker would be lucky to have A Moment of Stillness grace the background of their celluloid creations.
-Dan Wotherspoon

Key Tracks: Frozen Twilight; A Moment of Stillness; Elysian Fields

40) Belegost/The Sea Like Lead | Split
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Belegost | The Silent Ballet Wiki: The Sea Like Lead

This disbandment of both of these artists is a huge loss for the US. As Split shows, both artists were on the cusp of a great release. The Sea Like Lead with its classical rock interpretation of instrumental music, and Belegost for its brooding, chaotic noisefest. "Nightwalker/Deergod" is the highlight of the album, spending the better part of fifteen minutes to introduce the stunning finale of "Deergod." The saddest part of the band's breakup is that I was fortunate enough to see them in live action this past year and the new material they were playing put this track to shame. The first half of the split is a more contemplative affair. The Sea Like Lead deal with minutia and subtlety; even though the music has a tendency to get loud, the quiet parts are those that are more intricately sculpted and polished. As is, Split will always stand as a testament to two bands who never received the respect they deserved.

Second Opinion: The Sea, Like Lead may erupt out of the gates with two tracks engineered to make you forget you know bands like Mono or GYBE, but it is Belegost that steals the show in this split by taking the sounds of the two aforementioned bands and making it undeniably theirs. Whether you prefer your music to hit you short and sweet with the instrumental stylings of a short distance sprinter, or lull you into a calm before pummeling you through the final stretch like a marathon runner, this split has something for you.
-Dan Wotherspoon (Review)

Key Tracks: Anticline/Syncline; Nightwalker/Deergod

39) Te' | If That is What is Being Thought...

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Te'

The Japanese love Te'. I've read some (roughtly translated) articles on Te', and they made it sound like this band is the second coming of Christ. If That is What is Being Thought... is the band's debut album, released this year in the U.S. to support an ambitious tour of the same country. Unlike nearly every other Japanese band on the list, Te' could easily be confused for an American band going by sound alone, as it incoporates a heavy math-rock foundation into the standard guitar-rock setup of pedal pushing and exploding walls of sound. There's not a huge amount of originality to be found on this cd, but Te' play with such spirit and conviction that for a moment we almost believe that they've invented a new form of music. "Existance of Eloquence..." is the band at its best, rocking away like the The Clash had wanted us to. From what I hear Zankyo Records has all sorts of plans to import japanese instrumental music into the US to make our bands look amateurish. Te' might just be the start of that invasion.

Second Opinion: Japan’s Te’ are just another example of how those Asians just to love to take influence from the West and make us feel bad by doing it better...I really cannot stress how much this band rocks. I don’t mean to say that this is the best album of the year, or that they are truly breaking new ground, but it is certainly an upbeat, powerful, dynamic breath of fresh air into the instrumental scene.
-Joseph Sannicandro (Review)

Key Tracks: Avarice Would Speak with Every Word...; A Real Immitation...; Existance of Eloquence...

38) If These Trees Could Talk | If These Trees Could Talk
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: If These Trees Could Talk

Ohio has long been known as a source of wonderful instrumental music: Six Parts Seven, Silencio, and Mortimur, just to name a few, but people often overlook the fact that these bands develop independently of the rest of the country's instrumental bands. Six Parts Seven is one of the landmark instrumental bands in the US and Silencio was/is so unique that it's scary. If These Trees Could Talk happily joins the ranks amongst their buckeye bretheren. Although their debut EP follows the HydraHead and Neurot school of thought, it's fair to say it's not a direct result as much as they share common influences: Pink Floyd, King Crimson, and other progressively minded rock bands. If These Trees Could Talk is certainly a rock album, although the use of reverb and delay make the music very amicable to fans of "post-rock" music. The band's potential is just as large as its appeal -- with a solid foundation to build upon, If These Trees Could Talk was a variety of viable options for its next record.

Second Opinion: If These Trees Could Talk have an astonishing handle on how to go about presenting instrumental music correctly, with a sense of a voice in instrumental lines, tasteful use of distortion and technically proficient playing. Repetition and delay on this release is used far more effectively than the vast majority of instrumental bands. It would be conceivable to call them a math rock band with soul and or a post-rock band with an ability to play musical instruments properly.
-Marcus Whale (Review)

Key Tracks: Malabar Front; The Friscalating Dusklight; Signal Tree

37) Grails | The Black Tar Prophecies: Volume I, II, & III
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Grails

Looking back, the most entertaining part of The Black Tar Prophecies is that the press release goes through the increasingly cliche procedure of proclaiming that "Grails does not like to be called a post-rock band," as if such a labeling is a death sentence. If that's true, signing to Temporary Residence and securing a spot alongside Mono's 2007 tour is not the best way to go about proclaiming that you're not a post-rock band. The Black Tar Prophecies was recorded after the loss of the band's violinist, and as such is noticeably different than the previous two albums. Grails focuses in on psychedelia and minimalist nodes of thought, as well as honing in on the "live sound" during recording. At times Grails sounds like a folky US band, at at other times they're trying really hard not to have any western sound at all, but rather something middle-eastern or perhaps Indian. These ideas aren't tied together particularly well and leaves the album inconsistent--it sometimes sounds fantastic and sometimes sounds forgettable. This was no doubt an ambitious project, for a band who has rarely played a US show during its existence, it's not surprising to witness Grails branching off in this direction, but the initial steps are clumsy. If nothing else, The Black Tar Prophecies gives us an indication of what to expect for the Temporary Residence debut.

Second Opinion: The Prophecies take the listener to new depths far below the soil of traditional instrumental rock. Fuck the cloud-walking, gates-of-heaven post-rock 2006 has put forward, the Grails toss your flesh aside like the empty wrapper it is and rattle your bones with its mournful, carnal ambience... Smitten with emotional seduction and instrumental eccentricity, the completed Black Tar Prophecies give good reason to the bringers of folk-gloom and their fans to poke their heads into the light and rejoice, even if just for a moment, before burying themselves again among the muddled beauty the Grails never cease to create.
-Jonathan Brooks (Review)

Key Tracks: Belgian Wake-Up Drill; Smokey Room; More Erosion

36) Mt. | Lethologica

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Mt.

Fortunately for Mt., they're much better at making music than keeping a drummer. After a string of EPs, Lethologica is the debut album from the young English band. As a three piece, Mt.'s sound is not one that attempts to blow the listener away by sheer force. Instead, close attention is put on melodies and transitions, as well as time-signatures and overall cohesion. In all these areas Lethologica excels. The album does fall short in the drumming department (which, we suspect, is due to the revovling door of drummers attached to the band). Lethologica's drumming leaves something to be desired. If the act picked up an additional guitarist the drumming would be less of an issue--the added sound would do well to cover up the sloppy drumming, but as a three piece the drummer must be able to hold his own. As a debut album Lethologica is a solid album and the future is promising for Mt., and with a bit of adjustment this band will flourish.

Second Opinion: Mt. has created a solid album in Lethologica, but you can’t help but feel that is has more to offer. Over the seven tracks and forty seven minutes there’s a distinct impression that Mt. is holding something back; it could produce so much more given the clear talent that is on display throughout this album... Lethologica is packed full of these moments of beauty, but still manages to embrace complexity and, most importantly, keeps a friendly face on the music and remains listenable.
-James Ould (Review)

Key Tracks: Decline Into Shadows; Worms and Coffee; Sense of Wonder Still Intact

35) Johann Johannsson | IBM 1401, A User's Manual

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Johann Johannsson

Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson's newest offering is a playful interaction of computer sounds and a string orchestra. The album comes complete with a story of the IBM 1401, the first computer to enter Iceland in the 1960's under the care of Johannsson's father, who doubled as an engineer and musician. His father had used the computer to make simple melodies and recorded them onto a tape before it was put out of comission. And thus we have the basis of the album. It's a nice idea, but in the 21st century, well after the creation of a little thing some call "electronica," an IBM 1401 is not going hold anyone's attention, except maybe the geekiest of us. Luckily the large string orchestra carries the album, and although the interaction between the computer and humans is novel, after repeated listens it becomes rather trivial and is dwarfted by the expansive orchestra. This is not bad, and probably is the album's saving grace, but is clearly not Johannsson's intention. Regardless, this is beautiful music, and that's all that really counts.

Second Opinion: This album is a son's tribute to his fathers' pioneering work in electronic music - so it seems odd that the choice was made to layer a full 60 piece orchestra over the simple hums of the punchcard fed IBM 1401 instead of utilising the modern day electronic techniques his family had a hand in creating. The decision was a wise one though because the two styles blend seemlessly into a work of almost unparalleled beauty. Johannsson has not only surpassed any expectations held from his previous releases but may well have raised the bar for modern/experimental classical music as a whole.
-Ian Nicholls

Key Tracks: Part I; Part III; Part V

34) Tim Hecker | Harmony in Ultraviolet

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Tim Hecker

Hecker's forth album continues his journey through the abstract realm of noise and digital manipulations (where else would he go?), this time at the hands of the wonderful Kranky label. The appeal of Hecker is that he takes things which are normally very uncomfortable on the auditory system -- static, feedback, dissonance -- and turns this into a comfortable presence. At the same time, with each release Hecker has been deconstructing this approach and boiling it down to essentials, generating the same effect with less resources. Thus, the layers continue to thin themselves out with just a few lines being fed and slowly the oceanic feel of Hecker's work reveals itself. Harmony in Ultraviolet takes the next step along the journey and begins to associate these disturbing sounds to nature itself, closing the gap between the digital and the organic.

Second Opinion: In a blissful, hypnotic vision of ambience, Harmony In Ultraviolet is like sailing into a white light; not knowing anything the destination or the journey, but understanding that at the end of this passage is perhaps the most important goal imaginable. At times harrowing in its simplicity, yet never less than compelling in its beauty; this is sound that heaven makes while it's waiting for you. Show me another downtempo release from 2006 that is Hecker's equal, and I will show you its comparative mediocrity.
-James Ould

Key Tracks: Dungeoneering; Spring Heeled Jack Flies Tonight; Whitecaps of White Noise Part I

33) The Antarcticans | Teach Children: Fear all Teachings of Eternity, The Doom of Self and Nature
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: The Antarcticans

The last time we saw The Antarcticans they were building up towering walls of noise and delivering devastating blows to anyone who stood in their way. It's odd to me that this band hasn't picked up more popularity in the last few years, as the interest in metal and instrumental music has greatly increased nationwide, but The Antarcticans' chilling rendition of it must be too caustic for most to behold. Teach Children changes the band's focus slightly and they tackle some weighty compositions. The song-writing quality of the band has drastically increased since their first release, and a track like "Escape Your Forever Thought" demonstrates how well they've spent their last two years. An experimental leaning has also surfaced in the band's work, such as in tracks "Invention of Faith for the Exploitation of Earth" and "The Ghost Trees and the Erase of Man." Teach Children is a phenomenal album; those who like their instrumental music metallic-flavored but are tired of the sea of Pelican and ISIS clones should delve into The Antarcticans.

Second Opinion: Thanks to groups like The Antarcticans, the post-rock scene is alive and well with some incredibly creative artists joining the scene. There’s something to be said for having good influences, but it is way more difficult to be an influence to others. Looks like these guys are on the right path. -Nick Brandt (Review)

Key Tracks: Escape Your Forever Thought; 2000 Year Clearing of Peace; The Ghost of Trees and the Erase of Man

32) Clint Mansell ft. Kronos Quartet & Mogwai | The Fountain OST
England/United States/Scotland

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Clint Mansell

Clint Mansell and The Kronos Quartet go together like peanut butter and jelly, but I suppose Mogwai heard that Mono might have their name on more releases this year so they jumped onboard The Fountain. It's difficult to tell which is better, the movie or the soundtrack, but we're not a movie review site so I'll just say that The Fountain is the best soundtrack of the year, and anyone telling you otherwise is lying. While Mogwai's presence on the soundtrack is very thin, they do make themselves fully heard when it counts, adding the exclamation mark to the description "epic!" Case in point: "Death is the Road to Awe." No one masters the distortion effects quite like Mogwai (a legacy they will leave behind for generations to come), and the rough exterior complements Kronos' soft interior quite nicely. After two outstanding soundtracks (Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain), Mansell will likely be a hot commodity in Hollywood for years to come. This is good for us, especially if he continues to tap these wonderful artists to play his music.

Second Opinion: Although Clint Mansell garnered critical acclaim for his prior collaborations with director Darren Aronofsky, it is with The Fountain that he has achieved his greatest work. Performed by the Kronos Quartet, continuing a relationship begun with Requiem for a Dream, and with some help from Mogwai, this soundtrack augments the film brilliantly. Make no mistake, however, these haunting melodies and powerful arrangements are no less so on their own.
-Joseph Sannicandro

Key Tracks: Tree of Life; Death is the Road to Awe; Together We Will Live Forever

31) Helios | Eingya
United States

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Helios

Eingya is a well balanced album, and this is precisely why it succeeds. Keith Kenniff's vision is pretty simple: loops, guitar, and some back beats -- that's mainly what we're given. However, the versatility with which these are used is stunning. Tracks like "Dragonfly Across an Ancient Sky" and "Coast Off" are playful and provoking, whereas other tracks are almost purely ambient ("Halving the Compass," "First Dream Called Queen"). Generally what Kenniff does best is incorporating organic elements into electronic ones, using the loops as his guide to rewrite what's already played and twisting melodies into new creations. This process generally results in the aforementioned "playful" tracks where the layers are more robust and restrict the listener's mind from wandering as much as on the ambient tracks. Track order was given particularly close attention, as the songs often anticipate the next. Kenniff is onto some great ideas in Eingya, let's get him a few Hammock cds and see what he can do.

Second Opinion: With the aid of just a guitar, some electronics and a whole lotta talent, Keith Kenniff perhaps produced the most ambitious record of 2006; encompassing genres and trespassing soundscapes with a verve that many of his peers have still to master. The eclectic beauty of his third album, Eingya, is testament to this versatility; ambient in it’s approach, though yawning and profound in its purpose, the record’s heart is set to overkill - not in spite of its simplicity, but, ultimately, because of it. The opener, “Bless This Morning Year”, is worth the price of admission alone.
-Alex Bradshaw

Key Tracks: Bless This Morning Year; Dragonfly Across an Ancient Sky; Coast Off

30) ef | Give Me Beauty...or Give Me Death!

The Silent Ballet Wiki: ef

ef's Give Me Beauty...or Give Me Death! was my most anticipated debut album at the beginning of the year. The band's demos over the last several years had been nothing but positive, and it was looking like this Swedish band would be climbing to the top of the post-rock world in no time. As it turned out, the album was a bit of a mixed bag, with the newer songs dwarfing the old ones it had selected to re-record for the album. The two reasons the new songs shine through are because ef adds a violin to its arrangements and also a male/female singing pair. Both of these do well to add variation to the band's sound, which can get quite complementary of Explosions in the Sky at times. The "ett"/"Hello Scotland" combo is a wonderful pair of tracks where the band stakes out its own territory and presents a very distinct vision of where they'll be going in the future. Let's hope that they continue developing these good vibes and shed off the influences of old.

Second Opinion: Ef may be at their best when they make use of the addition of duel male/female vox, which are unfortunately used sparingly, and seem rather out of place when on considers them in context of the whole composition...I think that this band has a lot of potential, and hopefully will further explore the use of vocals, perhaps going in a direction akin to Jeniferever, using vocals less sparingly and allowing for them to become more integral parts of their compositions...Without the cinematic intuition of acts like EITS or GY!BE to grant their instrumental tunes direction, vocals can possibly transform this outfit into something spectacular.
-Joseph Sannicandro (Review)

Key Tracks: Ett; Hello Scotland; Final Touch/Hidden Agenda

29) Adrian Klumpes | Be Still

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Adrian Klumpes

What could possibly be better than piano music? Answer: unconventional piano music. Adrian Klumpes, of Triosk and Pivot fame, cuts loose in Be Still, his debut album, but by no means juvenile. In fact, it might just be that something new that you've been waiting for. Klumpes recorded the album in one five-hour sitting using one piano and thirteen microphones. The focus of the album is almost solely on emotions -- every key Klumpes pushes corresponds to a neuron firing in the brain and triggering an emotional response. The minimalist component of the album aids in this journey, successfully anticipating the rising and falling emotions of the listener and using this system of correspondence to determine the next note. As such a short experiment, this is not nearly a perfect rendition of Klumpes' talent at the piano, but the open presentation of the album instills it with a humanistic quality that is all too real. On Be Still, Klumpes shows that his mind is and endless well of creative ideas, there's no telling where he'll go next.

Second Opinion: Be Still is undoubtedly something new and something special, hardly comparable to much that has gone before it. Bassless, drumless, and timeless, the medium of solo piano is yet to be explored so far in this direction, using electronics and minimalist principles to create a collection of pieces that challenge the listener to think, while encouraging them to gauge with the highly emotional musical content... Be Still is the start of something revolutionary at the cusp of new music, popular music and jazz. As the world of music progresses into the future, this is a vein that must be and will be explored.
-Marcus Whale (Review)

Key Tracks:Be Still; Exhale; Passing Rain

28) Your Ten Mofo | Things Change While Helium Listen to Everyone

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Your Ten Mofo

Besides receiving the prize for worst band name of 2006 (but not worst album title, we bestow that title upon Te'), Your Ten Mofo also wins the award for the "band most similar to Sigur Ros." The first track does them in: undecipherable vocals, glockenspiels, and meandering ambient guitars. Strings are later added to the recipe and Your Ten Mofo gets cooking in "I Think We're Alone Now," which holds our attention until the end of the album, complete with the reverse button we love to hear in this setting. There are some distinct differences between Your Ten Mofo and Sigur Ros, however. The latter is quiet found of triumphant compositions -- ones that have a clearing effect and close the book on a track. While it does employ quiet/loud techniques, Your Ten Mofo is not as commanding as Sigur Ros and the songs linger long after they've finished. This leads to the second point: the songs on Things Change... don't really finish, and they aren't really songs. The album is one large work, broken up for consumption purposes, but the idea Your Ten Mofo tries to convey is that the "tracks" are bleeding together to form one body of art. They've sold me, but the lovely sound that Your Ten Mofo is capable of making makes it an easy decision.

Second Opinion: There are only two tracks worthy of significant discussion; the epic "I Think We’re Alone Now” and the equally brooding “Glamorous Thoughts Thought In A White Arctic Body Behind Someone Alone”. Both of which exhibit a benevolent verve and an astute understanding of the creation of such ambitious tracks. Their empirical grace, however, does irretrievable damage to the mood of the record; the rest merely feels ‘attached’ to these two songs.
-Alex Bradshaw (Review)

Key Tracks: I Think We May Be Alone Now; Glamorous Thoughts in a White Arctic Body Behind Someone Alone; Rewind and Begin to Leave Used Thoughts Behind

27) Mandelbrot Set | All Our Actions Are Constantly Repeating

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Mandelbrot Set

Over the summer Mandelbrot Set came out of nowhere, released and album with almost no press, shortly thereafter announced they were breaking up, and then retracted the statement a few weeks later. This roller coaster ride can be directly compared to the band's music, which follows the mindset of like minded UK artists like (old) Mogwai, (old) Moly, and (old) Upc Downc. Mandelbrot Set is a trio who has full intentions to get loud and messy. This is quite a surprise, considering that most of the band members are classically trained musicians, but it just goes to show that when you've got the post-rock bug there's nothing that will cure it like a little reverb. All Our Actions Are Constantly Repeating bursts out of the gates with the electrifying "And the Rockets Red Glare," leaving a symphony of distortion in its wake and then transitions between pleasant, ambient tracks ("Constellation of Rings," "His Hands Were Too Small...") and epic, jaw-droppers ("Seismic Waves Travelling Through," "Benoit B. Mandelbrot"). "Benoit B. Mandelbrot" is the star of the album, marking one of the better "guitar-rock" songs of the year. If Mandelbrot Set holds true to the album title, they'll been producing great music for several years to come.

Second Opinion: The talent that these guys possess shines through blindingly throughout....The songs on All Our Actions Are Constantly Repeating are full, upbeat and technically well-executed, yet listening to the album becomes tiring long before the final note is played...A bit more work pushing musical boundaries, and this talented band could've had a monster on their hands.
-Dan Wotherspoon (Review)

Key Tracks: And the Rockets Red Glare; Benoit B. Mandelbrot; His Hands Were Too Smal...

26) Miaou | Painted EP

The Silent Ballet Wiki: Miaou

In between albums, Miaou takes the time to release a collection of five new songs and three remixes, calling it the Painted EP. With these things, I always get the impression that the band is attempting to lure foreign labels into distributing their goods, and it must have worked because Miaou is a recent edition to the Darla lineup (ft. Hammock). Anyone who's familiar with Miaou will know what to expect from Painted - a collection of laid-back songs with repetitious compositions and electronic undercurrents. The new tracks by Miaou are more polished than Miaou tracks of old, which were often too ambient for their own good. Painted is able to sustain an organic component to the music which is offset by the electronic sounds revolving around the soundscape. "Anything Goes" and "Airship" are particularly strong while demonstrating that Miaou packs enough variation to keep a nine minute song sounding fresh. Instrumental remixes are always risky, but again Painted excels, with the standout track being the lovely contribution from Australia's Qua. What's up next? Hopefully a U.S. tour.

Second Opinion:While rooted firmly in the post-rock genre, there are elements of ambience and electronica prevalent on Painted, and it mixes together rather nicely...Miaou are not going to break any boundaries with this release, but you get the feeling they never wanted to.
-James Ould (Review)

Key Tracks: Anything Goes; Airship; On A Sunday (Qua Remix)

Navigation: Intro | 50-26 | 25-1 | Honorable Mentions | Extras | Top 25 Instrumental Tracks | Discuss