Somehow Erased Tapes continues to go from strength to strength. April's release of Worlds End Girlfriend's 'Seven Idiots', a frenetic clusterfu*k of oblique musical experimentations that combined the headrush prog of early Mars Volta with the beats and left-turns of Aphex Twin at his most schizophrenic, was an early highpoint, but one which was matched if not beaten by A Winged Victory For The Sullen's recent majestic self-titled debÃºt.
Following on from this, 'Felt' is another triumph. Composed almost entirely of Nils' masterful working of a single piano, it is an album that seems to celebrate the dawn of an autumn that has woken from a slumber much later than usual. Much of what makes the album so beautiful and indeed human is Nils' method of recording and production, with speakers placed next to the piano's hammers to pick up the instruments natural ambience and the whole thing recorded using a tape machine. It gives the album a rustic, hazy, and above all intimate feel, similar to the early offerings of retreating Icelanders MÃºm, as it slowly ebbs and flows above wisps of static and sound; the dull clicks of piano keys pressed with too much vigour, pedals being pressed and coughs being suppressed.
'Felt's' main drawing point however is Nils' ear for an affecting hook. Although it meanders and leaves plenty of room for expression the album is built throughout on irresistible melodies that build and build, alluding to Nils' youthful age of 29. There is no room here for self-satisfied 'journeys' that one may associate with most of the modern-classical spectrum, and certainly none of the studious nature of its heavyweights, something else which it holds in common with the label's output and modus operandi as a whole.
What 'Felt' offers may not be unique, alongside such releases as Peter Broderick's 'A Flake' and Kashiwa Daisuke's 'KD88' for example, but it does pack an emotional weight which is endearing whilst not being over-emotive and resplendent without ever being knowingly so. Nils' meticulous structuring and layering gives the feeling you are stood next to the grand piano which drives the album, and at times somehow sat inside it, but this is never a detraction nor a distraction.
It is difficult to see how Nils and Erased Tapes could top this release, but for now 'Felt' just about takes the crown of its predecessors and stakes a claim as being the most touching, affecting, and downright unmissable instrumental album of 2011.