The following made my world go round in 2011
Favorite recordings of 2011 that I didn't put out:
a reiteration of the fact that I mainly only listen to my friends' musick (and indie rock)
Bill Callahan - Apocalypse, drag city
I wish the great songwriters were alive to see this. It'd be really nice to watch Jacques Brel or Townes Van Zandt or the be-wigged ghost of Bob D standing and wincing in the wings of one of Callahan's recent concerts. The best record the man has yet made and a culmination point as it feels like Callahan's work over the last two decades all led up to these seven enormous songs. This list of releases is not in order, but this record is at the top for a reason.
Angels in America - Narrow Road to the Interior, ehse records
I never expected less than a concise declaration of occluded intentions from A.I.A's first LP. Their music is morphing away from forms. I've heard a lot of talk about post-genre music lately, but this is truly on it's own. This record touches on the several magicks of power pop, power electronics, black eyeliner punk, the affected laziness of 90s indie rock and plies floorboards in the modern synthesizer composition conversation. It spews it's own environment into whatever room you play it in. Fuck yea, guys. PS: where is the Angels' flexi I heard about last year?
Container - s/t, spectrum spools
Watching Ren Schofield transform from a guitar-abusing, oscillator-twisting noise nomad champ into a confident viable minimal techno composer was as fun and disorienting as him making the best far-out dance record of the year. PS. where's the new Form a Log record?
Night Burger - What Happens Next?, deception island
Watching Noah Anthony of Social Junk transform his guitar-bashing, four-track abusing noise nomad chops into the best industrial pop record since The Downward Spiral was as strange as seemingly no one (not even Noah's next door neighbors) hearing it. I heard a friend say "it's hard to believe something this good is actually called Night Burger." The truth. Plus, Noah's cassette label Ranky Tanky has been issueing some amazing things this year: rankytanky.blogspot.com
Grouper - Alien Observer/Dream Loss, yellow electric
I like the songs hidden under the murk on this one. This lady writes good songs and plays piano a little bit like Chico Marx, I dig that.
Positive Shadow - s/t, self-released
Someody press a record for this guy already, every single release he makes is killer. Each recording he makes has a different feel and reach. This one, his second self-released album of the year after the epic slowerburner 'Fiume,' moves onto the weirdest exploratory synthesizer shiny-bog-w/occasional-crushing-drum-machine zone Henry Glover has been feeling out since relocating to the West coast. Completely doing his own thing, all the time.
Sean Mccann - The Capital, aguirre records
This is my favorite Sean Mccann album of 2011. There are 18 or so for you to choose from, all high quality, all thematically linked but individually purposed by America's kindest workaholic "compositional innovator." This one just happens to move me most. Second choice: 'Sincere World' on Amethyst Sunset.
Skull Defekts - Peer Amid/2013, thrill jockey
Skull Defekts turn into weird Kraut-punk band to back astral navigator Daniel Higgs as their new frontman. The results are stronger than my high expectations. Can fans take note. I don't make time for much contemporary rock music, but this had my full attention and their set in Baltimore last summer took my breath away. Watching people have that much fun playing experimental rock music was revelatory.
Twig Harper - s/t, hanson records
Twig Harper can always be depended on for his distinct sound. It's a thing that is dynamic in volume and texture, and non-denominational with regards to means. I've noticed Twig will seemingly utilize anything as an instrument or perhaps more accurately as a source. And the sound moves a lot, sometimes on it's own, as Harper's handmade synths are designed for a degree of random fluctuation. The sound moves erratically between hellish stormwind blare and meditative spirals of sound-as-color, listener-as-canvas with the vibe clearly set to prankster craftsman. Twig breathes his own greasy air and by now his musical works speak in their own language. Sometimes this language is mumbled, feels tossed off or diary-style, which fits perfectly into the oeuvre of a guy who's kept tape rolling on so much of his life to revisit and reconfigure at a later date. But when that voice has spoken more infrequently, as with the considerably lower rate of output from Twig and Nautical Almanac in the last few years, and when it chooses to issue forth loud, full, clear and bright eyed as this album is, his skill and mastery is apparent. Also of note, it's the first noise record that I might call morning music, I put it on with my coffee and eggs alot.
Relay for Death - They are heating up the ovens get the fuck out now, no rent records
This short album by Rachel and Roxann Spikula opens with more than one full minute of silence before spinning, humming bursts of amplified sound drop into the stereo range... but you can hear them. In the vaccuum of that minute, you hear the sisters waiting, preparing the delivery of the dark, vast record that follows. It's a genuinely creepy feeling. This CD is a follow up to, and in my opinion improvement on, their 2010 LP on Hansen. All of RFD's work occupies a space in the modern noise frame without diving into the realm of Harsh noise's repetitious grate. Hideous, maybe, and piercing sometimes, but never desensitising slabs of maxed abrasive sound. The pieces creep up on and bristle against the listener that lets them in. The utilization and sheer amount of silence in this record is enough to show a deft hand(or to appease my taste for empty/negative space as a compositional tool). But I find myself asking, at what? And towards what goal? RFD seem to understand that mystery is important; they don't show their hand or explain anything and the live set I saw this year was confusing as hell. The twins have won again: best feel bad, be nervous, truly haunted house record of the year.
Russian Tsarlag - Eternal Flame, ranky tanky
Just before Carlos Gonzales played his set at the Burning Fleshtival this summer, a friend leaned into my ear and whispered "here he is, the only musician that matters." I know it's a lofty statement about a guy who lives in obscurity in the suburbs of Tampa, but as each increasingly refined, thoroughly damaged and otherworldy Tsarlag album drops, I believe more and more. Using humble tools and carefully measured words, he's painting a beautiful picture of life in the ruins of our civilisation. As I said before of Positive Shadow's Henry Glover: completely doing his own thing, all the time. And that's really what I love and want out of any musick at this point. No fakery, no aligning to dialed in excercises or trends. Shaping a world for a listener to get lost in or contextualise their lives. Not dragging a lake for a cache of assumable poses. The hour is getting late and we don't have time for the bullshit, but in most things besides listening we don't have a whole lot of choice. Carlos knows.
Dinner Music - Clam Bake, human conduct
Cuticle - Voyeur Martyr Motherfucker, human conduct
Weyes Blood & her Dark Juices - The Outside Room, not not fun
Max Eilbacher - Al-hashr demo, self released
Five Mask - 23Hall & Mirror, self released digital: www.mediafire.com/?bj24ou0y1bbj51f
Five Mask - Zero Go/Network Glass, self released digital: www.mediafire.com/?gwob479dkwb5b81
Skeleton Warrior/Meager Sunlite split, hot releases and 50 other labels
Hands Rendered Useless - Mists of Lace, city mortuary
Driphouse, Root 91/Spectrum008, root strata/spectrum spools (excellent style, available in both forms on itunes, wtf)
Mandelbrot & Skyy - OD-Axis, digitalis ltd
Drake - Take Care, young money corporate juggernaut
Motion Sickness of Time Travel - A Forest Aching Cold reissue, reverb worship
Taterbug - Theme for Gasoline Weirdo, night people
Three Legged Race - As Ed Sunspot, night people
Three Legged Race - Raining Order, nna
Golden Retriever - Arda Viraf, agents of chaos
Sister Midnight - Reflection of Legs, (edition of 12, oh man)
2 records I know I'd like but didn't hear in 2011:
Rale - Some Kissed Charms That Would Not Protect Them, isounderscore
Whitman - Dog Rose Gall, folktale
2 records I heard for the first time that changed my life in 2011:
Ghedalia Tazartes - Diasporas
Robert Turman - Way Down
Favorite live performer of the year:
Viszk - This human is doing something that is so personal and powerful to me that I get completely taken over and hynotised whenever I've seen them perform. It might be upsetting for people viewing it but we don't get stronger thru avoidance. We get stronger by being confronted with what and how Viszk will show us, among other things. Also, there are no recordings or video approved by the artist or forthcoming, so see it in person if you have the chance.
Top 5 Work/Death sets of the year:
5. June 29 at Outpost 186, Boston
4. July 5 in a basement, Asheville NC
3. July 15 at Bitchpork 3, Chicago
2. July 25 at Port D'or, Brooklyn
1. November 19 at In Limbo fest, Providence
Best non-Work/Death sets I witnessed this year in chronological order:
Sean Mccann, Joseph Hammer at the Smell, Los Angeles, January 13
Narwhals of Sound, Whiff(Mountain/Nelson/Eilbacher), C. Spencer Yeh at the Bank, Baltimore January 22
USA Baby, Time Ghost at USSDF America, Baltimore, February ?
Sharon Kraus, Fursaxa at Tribalhaus, Baltimore, June 16
Phil Niblock, Kyle Clyde, Yellow Tears, Cowards, Jason Soliday, Pharmakon at Ende Tymes Festival, Queens, June 24-26
Larry Marshall at Carpenter Street, Providence, June 28
Jeff Zagers at some storage unit, Tampa, July 8
Wasteland Jazz Unit at Mockabee, Cinncinati, July 18
Tracey Trance, Metalux, Black Chicken & the Mad Cattle, Angels in America, Turtle Powder at Bitchpork 3, Mortville, Chicago, July 15-17
Diaphragm (from drunken journal entry: "Nick Pace reinvigorates trip hop as an afterthought to the most threatening/dreamy post-everything set I saw in five weeks on tour, kick off, hands shaking, touchdown"), Viszk (Eli playing Eli), Lazy Magnet, Russian Tsarlag, Yellow Tears (more drunk journal: "black magic baseball bat at the end of obstacle course piss rainbow"), USA Baby, Secret Boyfriend at Burning Fleshtival 3, Red Light District, Far Rockaway, July 29 & 30
Bee Mask, Monopoly Child Star Searchers, Telecult Powers, Container, Radio People(Goldberg/Ho/Host[shrooming]), Twig Harper, Weyes Blood, DJ Dogdick, Unicorn Hard-On at Voice of the Valley 3, Pentress WV, August 26-28
Stare Case collaborating with fire alarm at Str8 Cavin, Baltimore, September 8
Five Mask at Tribalhaus, Baltimore, September 16
Lea Bertucci, Max Eilbacher at the Dense Mesh concert series, Brooklyn, October 22
Container, Unicorn Hard-On, Moemlien, Lazer Poodle at the Hampshire college dining hall, W. Mass, October 2?
Night Burger, Motiv-A, Viszk, Lack, Mincemeat or Tenspeed, Noise Nomads, Stillbirth, Humanbeast, John Mannion at In Limbo fest, Providence, November 18 & 19
Hands Rendered Useless, Time Ghost, John Mannion at the Red Light District, Far Rockaway, December 12
Thanks to all these people for their work and sweat and blood and energy. Thanks to Scott Reber and Brian Blomerth for taking my silly ass along on the two best tours of my life. My blog is now one year old and I am no wiser. Finally, I want to say that if you're excited about new music please buy more of it. I can imagine that I hear sighs of exasperation, but I'm serious. Supporting this stuff is crucial. This was THE year when all my friends who run labels, distros and record stores discussed closing up shop due to lack of sales. Which is funny to me because I feel like more people than ever before are hearing the sort of tunes they're hocking, right? It remains to be seen if this is a passing by-product of the terminal/permanent economic recession or standing backlash against a growing glut of cultural-garbage. Either way, if you like any F.U.B.U. poor people musick and you want to see it proliferate you might have to be a patron to it in some way other than mediafire. Alright, I ain't preaching, though, enjoy yourselves. 2012 XD