20 Best Avant Albums of 2016

The year's best in ambient, noise, out-jazz, synth music, contemporary composition and more

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Ian William Craig, 'Centres'
20
13/20

13. Ian William Craig, 'Centres'

The sound of slowly decaying cassette tape, made relatively famous on William Basinski's 2002 album The Disintegration Loops, is becoming strangely iconic, embraced in 2016 (by accident or design) by both Bon Iver and Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla. On his highest profile release to date, Vancouver's Ian William Craig turns the practice into something almost auteuristic, conducting orchestras of broken and delaying and distorting cassette players through a 10-minute drone suite ("Contain (Astoria Version)") or a sepia-toned nostalgia-mush that approaches romantic indie rock ("A Single Hope"). At once muted and blown-out, past-gazing but post-modern, noisy but elegant, Craig uses his operatic voice and reams of garbled tape to create the sound of gauzy dream sequences.

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