Dec 5, 2016

Buchla Ears (2016)

Digital rainforests, not just as a well composed static image (which would be compelling enough), but with flux & movement: birdcalls, lapping water, rain, and bursts of sunshine. At once a 21st c. terrarium and a fantasy world more expansive than ours

Only the Youngest Grave (2016)

Seems driven by the desire to uncover a human past in the landscape but rather than rekindling a relationship with the elemental (as in the Scandinavian tradition), finds a kind of abandoned occult sadness (as in the British tradition), which is to say that it's all bones and no spirit. A few things strike me every time (one good, one subjectively not good_)- I have no idea what makes good music much less good mixing but the sparseness of Only the Youngest Grave allows me to hear around the noise in a way that I'm not accustomed to (good!), and also I am all attention whenever the music wanders, but it every now and then builds instead (repeated motif, click distortion pedal) which is a thing I am most allergic to thanks to post-rock but which is quite moving if you are into that, and which I consciously overlook as the noise actually overrides the loud-quiet dynamic and maybe inadvertently distracts from it. So there's something for everyone there

The Waves (2016)

And Also The Trees do landscape music through songs (rather than strictly abstract evocations), so sonically it's all damp English countyside and lyrically it's characters trying to find meaning in said landscape. It's prose then. Born Into the Waves moves beyond this physical locale and its instrumentation constantly travels, but the landscape is psychological, and this revelation doesn't so much return us to England or even suggest that it's framing these journeys, but sits cold at the heart of everything instead

Dec 3, 2016

You're Welcome (2016)

A song-cycle which doesn't dictate a narrative, but which takes form around what the listener brings to it. You're Welcome Here has been the most devastatingly sad thing heard all year as well as the most life-affirming, the best background noise as well as the most 'present'. The fact that it comes full circle (as in a dream) jolts us in its absence when it is over, asking to be heard again and giving structure to the life of the listener whether she is achieving things or not (I never am!)

Fever (2016)

Michael Morley doing disco tapes didn't surprise me, but it did worry me- with Fear of Music he aped rock riffs so as to belittle and destroy their 'power' and I hoped to god he was not going to try and give disco the same treatment. As it transpires I should stop being defensive and second-guessing people because there is nothing but affection for disco here and any way Morley at this stage in his career samples rather than mimics- it's soaring strings and repetitive grooves (the latter will not surprise, the former might) processed into 4 x ~10 minute songs where as is customary with Gate the sounds become a single oppressive texture, the songs deteriorate, the voice and guitars are exhausted from the start and either dissolve into the fabric of the song, or collapse along with it. What the uplifting/catchy structures do is reconfigure the guitars as an assault when that is necessary, which is exciting on its own, but I am more driven to the moments where the samples win out- the final stretch of Licker for example sends the heart soaring as the body disintegrates. as weary as it is hopeful

mie / -o-juno

Dec 2, 2016

マホロボシヤ (2016)

Live at Issue Project Room (2016)

Clonic Earth (2016)

boomkat / -o-spotify / pan

Hearing Music (2016)

Although new age music found an audience willing to overlook or even embrace its dorkiness via obscure tape rips in the music blog era, it was only recently that it became properly accepted and even declared fashionable. Far from cashing in on this via unearthed archival material Hearing Music offers nothing in the way of antique synths and dolphin noises for new age fetishists- rather it sits on the threshold of 'tasteful' minimalism and forays into the kind of sounds one would expect with that recently de-stigmatised genre tag, which is to say soulful repetition and rainy elegance

Dec 1, 2016

Dreamboat (2016)

mie / -o-

あいしゃ (2016)

Akio Suzuki moves a radio through public spaces, its hums and static drones echoing and reverberating in these 'found' environments, and making for a surprisingly musical instrument. The additional indeterminacy of people interacting in these spaces makes composers of them if that's what you get from it, but to me it grounds the music in 'the world' and brings it to life.

Nov 30, 2016

Buchla Concerts 1975 (2016)

Eden (2016)

It may be the outcome of a potentially one-off Danish noise 'supergroup' (Erik Enocksson, Frederikke Hoffmeier (Puce Mary), Vit Fana, Loke Rahbek, Varg), but A Body Turns to Eden is no less pressing a release than any from its players' prolific output. Personalities become at once identifiable and for the sake of the songs, seamless- Frederikke Hoffmeier sails above a sea of static clouds and rains wisened angst, while abstracted military percussion tracks the ground beneath it. It might be the most delicate thing that any of the group have released, though there is something fundamentally 'off' about this, and it brings pastoral sounds to the listener freakishly devoid of pastoral texture

Nov 28, 2016

Flutes (2016)

As pure sound (which is unfortunately all I can account for) without ritual context the sacred flute playing on display here is complex and very emotional, with the human voice made to pass through the flute rather than attempting to stay invisible through blowing just air, and the player adding percussions which draw attention to the physicality of the flute again. The voice brings the instrument into being, the instrument processes the voice, and the hands alter both.

You.Know.I.Got.It (2016)

The drums bang and rattle and the samples weave around all lush, while Koran Streets' voice is real high in the mix surrounded by compressed call-backs of his last line. His delivery is relentless high energy, high-register monotone regardless of the line, always precisely on the beat for maximum impact. Musical (Bay area) stylings similar to those in You.Know.I.Got.It have been used in the past for more melodic and nonchalant rappers, so hearing someone who sits between Big Krit and Waka on the mic allows the listener less time and space to navigate the music- it's familiar but with a destabilising sense of urgency

Allir vegir til glötunar (2016)

Nov 27, 2016

Patterns to Details (2016)

On From Patterns to Details the pieces left from Fis' process of making and then destroying dance music are put under such close observation that some listeners have complained that the album is clinical, but there is something emotional about sounds that have been separated trying to create new structures (evinced by 2015's The Blue Quicksand Is Going Now), and something haunting about those which remember and contain traces of the old ones. To me at least works about memory and decay are sort of the antithesis of 'clinical', and From Patterns to Details is one of the year's best because it's full of ghosts.

A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty (2016)

The Body announced that this would be their pop album and they absolutely were not kidding! Like a productive rapper, each of the band's output is to a large extent determined by whoever they've collaborated with in bringing it about, and whereas their (very good) collaboration with Full of Hell this year had The Body playing 'weird' as a foil, No One Deserves Happiness shifts the focus of their electronics from doomy atmospherics (e.g. handled by The Haxan Cloak) to dorky weird preset keys and sound effects, handled by I'm not sure who, maybe the band themselves. It's full of beats and jarring keyboards, and even reminds of The Ark Work in places for its glaring lack of interest in subsuming bedroom midi bits into a serious metal sound-world, but goes the extra step (forward or backward? I still can't tell) of still containing those serious metal sounds, and in The Body's case, arty excursions and weird collages to go with their very very (very) real fear of being human.

Thinking about Tim Hecker, Andy Stott, and Klara Lewis' 2016 albums there seems to be a trend in electronic music towards untreated sounds and textures (following from 2013's R Plus Seven and Yeezus), even within 'dark' electronics (where the sources have traditionally gone invisible). The Body noticed and consequently No One Deserves Happiness is as bizarre, 'contemporary', and bring the noise spontaneous as one could ever desire.

Nov 26, 2016

Those Winged Ones (2016)

Yoiking is an ancient Sami form of chanting which collapses human/'nature' dichotomies through mimesis- of animals, of fairies, of the landscape. The throat-shedding beauty of Somby's yoiking might catch the unfamiliar ear off-guard espec. in the underworld of Neahkkameahttun, and the epic Wolf where Somby repeats himself into the form of the animal, each cycle taking its toll on his vocal chords (which emerge stronger for it). Chris Watson records Somby's performance on-site and mixes it with field recordings made minus-Somby, such that the necessary echos and reverberations are there in the voice, but the sounds of birds and lakes are never drowned out by it.

ash / -o- / stream

Nov 24, 2016

Transportin (2016)

From a region/mindset where The Jack Artist was and is still the blueprint, Transportin is a tapestry of melodramatic lush pitch-shifted r&b songs and themes compressed and ripped from daytime television, with weary vocals reverbed into the fabric of the song. An early 3-song run displays the scope of TransportinCross Yo Mind pulls a familiar regional trick (see also Jacka & Ampichino's No Tears) of recontextualising a soul song which speaks of romantic love gone awry, within gangsta storytelling (Mike and his friends asking why they've been forgotten- the inference goes from loved ones or past acquaintances who sit separate from his lifestyle to a system which blames and ignores, both met with a humbling do I ever cross your mind?), Tomorrow Ain't Promised is broken up with its southern spiritual chorus of mournful voices, and the muddy abstracted sub sounds sitting separate from the drum track of I Kno Its Still Some Real Niggas speak to an experimentation which is commonsense here, and unique everywhere else.

Nettles (2016)

Don't be scared that it's an ode to person and place (even Neil Young made "I'm sorry. You don't know these people. This means nothing to you." a voyeuristic nightmare that the listener couldn't help but share in)- A Pot of Powdered Nettles is an open-invitation welcome to the farewell ritual which is, in spite of its players' links to unsettling and abrasive musical projects, peaceful and affectionate.

Have You Been Good to Yourself (2016)

Have You Been Good to Yourself threatens treatment as a curio artefact or gospel-in-crisis record (Wendy Rene's brother regretful and traumatised, his soul music career ended when he was drafted to Vietnam, his son is dead, so he lays down Have You Been Good to Yourself at home), but Frierson's simple faith transcends this (he hates drugs and loves god, but it's also more than that), and so does the record's surface- e.g. his slightly overdriven guitar (!) and voice, both simple and immediate

Nov 23, 2016

Moenai Hai (2016)

Juntaro Yamanouchi returns after disappearing for fifteen years and out comes Moenai Hai. It all begins with laughter which heard in light of the imagined Juntaro-the-person could either be life-affirming (a welcome back to the world of the living) or alienating (when we begin to think who or what caused the laughter). Surrounded by its sparse and tense ambient pieces is the fifteen minute The Gerogerigegege, an unexpected statement of intent from the officially living Juntaro which also happens to be the year's most beautiful guitar piece. The others might be private despair pulled from recordings of public spaces, but this one is performed to feel and to stir feelings in the listener as well- it is impossibly destructive but also pleading, desperate, and alive

Nov 22, 2016

Pèkisyon Funebri (2016)

Segondè Saleco saw Mohammad's landscape trilogy to a close with abstracted elemental power- sounds were processed so that they did not have a human cause- they emerged vibrating with the inevitability of seismic activity rather than some musical composition. Pèkisyon Funebri is free from this conceit but of course the discoveries made through it have become Mohammad's sound, meaning that we are still hearing tones and textures and processing them through space and duration (which is what gives them this imagined physical quality), while Mohammad also allow themselves parts and passages where we can hear the instrument being played (!). The piano in Az álmok itt érnek véget (rész 3) feels earned, while the opening of Qoxra and voices of Ankourajman remind us that rather than being used simply to pigeonhole, Mohammad's music has been described as both metal and folk to better understand their sounds and concepts ('the elemental')- these moments are heavy metal both quieter and louder than expected, and the cello screech in the latter humanises the group which again tends to (obsessively) sound anything but. On that last one the music was neither dark nor light but indifferent as the landscape it was evoking, but Pèkisyon Funebri veers into both doom and sentiment- its grandiose abstractions become metaphysical (rather than superphysical) and its human moments jolt us into the present- this is our funerary passage

Dec 11, 2014


Hello. How are you? It's almost Christmas! Catching up on a year's worth of new releases until your eyes and ears are bleeding and then working a shit job for shit pay to blow your (shit) cash on the (good?) releases you've found is like the Christmas-y-est thing ever in my opinion. I'm starting work at the city art gallery next week ($19 an hour and the work doesn't even look shit!) and I'll hopefully get enough money ($19!) in the next few weeks to buy some of these for my loved ones and then bore the fuck out of them on Christmas describing all sweaty palmed and eye-bleedy what's happening to genre on Faith in Strangers and how speaking of genre Black Metal is neither deception nor appropriation. 'Cept I won't 'cause that was a joke and it wasn't a funny one and I'll probably buy everyone books and rings and drink bottles instead, not records at all.

As always I'm sure there's an overriding theme or idea that can be used to summarise the majority of the year's important releases (important insofar as they support the theme or idea lol), and as always I feel like the thing will only become apparent to anyone still interested in like 5 year's time. I'm sort of feeling that it might be 'the body' again even though it's been the body for the past ~3 years (I WANT A NEW ONE! (and not 'power ambient' either))!

If there's a common thread between 'power ambient' and 'the body,' it's that releases awkwardly inserted into these categories have attempted in various ways to make the abstract (sound) physical, or to investigate being physical through sound. It could be the lasting effects of last year's torn and frayed Yeezus*, but more than ever before I've been drawn to sound textures over words (semantics), what's being played and how (cause), and a perceived sense of coherence within 'the album'. Andy Stott's Faith in Strangers alternated between open yet monolithic spaces and grotesque assemblages, both honest and proud of their materials. He and Miles Whittaker carefully mixed Drop the Vowels to sound unfinished (to stay ugly), its constituent parts left visible for all to see. Actress complimented this ambivalence with druggy tedium to disorienting results. Rather than stealing from or imitating the machinery of our world, Ben Frost noticed the heaviness of its atmosphere- A U R O R A is smog, a million televisions playing all at once, and acid rain digesting the city. Grouper decided to make us notice the presence of silence rather than anxiously filling it with effects. Last year I got all excited about what can be achieved through a good scream, and while The Body kept doing what The Body do best (scaring the shit out of us), Pharmakon raised the stakes considerably- trapped under meat Margaret Chardiet started her album hyperventilating and ended it laughing. It's the big dumb punchline we're all sitting around waiting for, and at least she finds it funny. Gazelle Twin still found tragedy there, but then again she managed to sing about it rather than screaming herself into a frenzy, so who knows. The guy so obsessed with it that he's become a sort of benchmark for body horror music started his collaborative record asking why Marlon Brando enjoyed being beaten up so much. If the strange reality for all physical beings is dealing with both pleasure and pain on a daily basis, then Vessel preparing these contrasting sound textures for the dancefloor made complete sense.

Of course it's not that simple. While Vanessa Rossetto recorded sounds from our world, she sculpted them into a new, purely abstract one. Earth, who stopped painting desert landscapes to investigate Carlson's mortality by way of the relationship between bones and spirit, wrote a doomsday epic. Aphex Twin came back with an album of complex but enjoyable musical journeys to get lost in rather than establishing something danceable and then playfully fucking with it. Anne Guthrie released an album which might best be suited to reduced listening, but one which quickly transported its listener into its careful, quiet world. The War on DrugsAmen Dunes, and Lana Del Rey all released albums consciously sounding as though they were pulled from our collective memory of eras gone by. The memories aren't real and the songs threatened to disappear with the dreams they came attached to. The way critically-minded critics analysed music that asked questions about subversion, sincerity, high-brow, low-brow, pop, 'underground', etc, suggested that the spirit of 2010s musical pop art hadn't taken a holiday with vaporwave. Of course its creators insisted on their genuine love of the superficial and the cosmetic. The first rebuttal you can think of is also the thing that makes it less tiresome than its mid-century ancestor- at least it's free.

So here's the list. As usual the top 5 matters most, followed by the top 10, and then everything else is all over the place. I even have these arbitrary partitions (get it) separating what's 'essential' from what's 'noteworthy but not necessarily essential' like that means anything at all and by now I'm wondering why I didn't just list everything alphabetically. Here it is though, I'm standing by it! There's even a spotify playlist at the bottom! Of course the problem there is that if you go by the playlist alone you'll miss out on some really good stuff, my #1 in particular (if you need anything on here and can't find it leave a comment and I'll give you a link. I can't afford spotify so have been procuring this stuff in the style of mid-late 000s... procurement). And as much as I'm standing by it, check back regularly (if you want) as it'll change and double in size over the next 20something days (I have a self-imposed cut-off date of 1 Jan 2015 so I don't obsess over it and constantly remake it and get upset and delete it). I'm about 1/20th through my constantly expanding 2014 music library so things will change quite a bit before 1 Jan. If you end up finding even one record on here that you like and mightn't have found otherwise then that's really beautiful and wonderful and totally in the spirit of (Christmas and) music sharing. Which is what this has always been about.


*Its appeal became all the more obvious when I heard Sigma's Nobody to Love remix at the gym, a feel-good drum and bass song which attempted to smoothly sample a song that proudly had all of its seams showing.

UPDATE: holy hell there are a lot of black and white album covers on here!


Actress - Ghettoville

We put up with and even celebrate works of narrative fiction which examine frustration as a major theme, and yet the overall middling response to Actress' Ghettoville suggests that we're not completely there with music just yet. This could be because music affects us directly and so thematic frustration cannot be as easily experienced through something else (dialogue, characters, plot, etc). Ghettoville is honest about what it's about from the moment you see the album cover- it's all marks made by different and contradictory methods- ruled grade F lines establish a diamond-shaped focal point and a square frame behind it. These clash with the wonky 8B lines seemingly drawn at random. Near the centre is a grade F rectangle drawn in 2 point perspective. The perspective's off and the structure has consequently been abandoned. There are circles drawn with a compass and there are messier ones drawn by hand. Some of these marks have been erased and some have been left unaltered. It's arbitrary which are left and which are erased but it doesn't matter because we can see all of them. Ghettoville sounds like this. Some have commented on the oppressive darkness of the album, a response no doubt coloured by Actress' calling it quits early this year. It's dark, but it's frustrated. It's sketched, erased, fucked with. It's geometrically precise, but it's flawed. Because we can hear it all, we can hear its construction. He wants us to know that he could pull off depth (perspective) or technical refinement (carefully ruled lines), but that's not where he is right now. It's sun-bleached, ugly, and half-erased- the rectangle that knows the journey on the way to perfection can be more interesting than the refined product. Or if the thing's been abandoned, it might be worth seeing any way.

ninjatune / spotify

Amen Dunes - Love

Love is about the loss of self one experiences when falling in or out of love and contains fairly immediate sounding love songs dressed up and drugged out in an indie rock studio haze. Whether this atmosphere communicates the meaning of the album more effectively to the listener (obscuring the details by way of an impressionistic 'loss'), or signals a missed opportunity for Amen Dunes (the bare songs hold up as best-of-year type material. Why would you want to hide them?) is up to whoever's listening and whether he/she comes away from the album feeling heavier or not.

sacred bones / stream

Answer Code Request - Code


Arca - Xen

An admittedly fancy business card- hardly what us plebs are looking for


Bill Orcutt - VDSQ 010 Solo Acoustic Volume Ten

midheaven / forced exposure / boomkat / itunes

Birdcatcher - Prey

bandcamp / pseudoarcana

The Bug - Angels & Devils


Call Super - Suzi Ecto


Campbell Kneale, Antony Milton, Kiyoharu Kuwayama - CKAMKK

bandcamp / pseudoarcana

C L E A N E R S - Real Raga Shit Vol. 1


Container - Adhesive EP

Whatever your initial thoughts, hang in there 'til Adhesive.

bleep / stream

Cut Hands - Festival of the Dead

Never enough drums

bandcamp / blackest ever black / boomkat

Dana Ruh - Naturally


FKA Twigs - LP1

Less a sporadically interesting reminder of worth than previous-exclusive-collaborator Arca's Xen, the problem with LP1 could lie entirely in the fact that this time around she's not exclusive. When you've put in work creating a consistent futuristic vision, shooting for breadth in said world might add up to less when those onboard weren't actually there from the start, and might've been doomed from the start any way when the for the past year the public were saying "where to next?" rather than "give me more of that!"

young turks / spotify

Future - Honest

Pluto was a masterpiece of yearning and absurdist boasts- fluctuating between trap beats and discarded anime OSTs, it made little sense at face-value but Future's vocals and unexpected lyrical turns (Permanent Scar) either broke through or enhanced their musical frameworks. On songs like Magic it was hard to know whether Future was rapping, talking, or singing, which made the record unpredictable and straight-up romantic ballads like Turn on the Lights all the more affecting. With Honest, Future climbs back up the rabbit hole of his own alien r&b and takes a huge step (a leap!) towards rap. The record actually just goes hard. Future raps his arse off on the first track. His ballads make sense. His beats make sense. And that's it. For better or for worse, Honest makes sense.

undergroundhiphop / spotify

German Army - Jivaro Witnesses

bandcamp / norman

Hookworms - The Hum

If there was a formula for Hookworms albums and it went 'mix one explosive start, some moodswings, and a melancholy latter half for 10 songs and let sit'... then I'd still be in, obviously. The Hum is like Pearl Mystic but, as a rock album, better. It's sharp instead of gluggy, the singer screams his bits in panic rather than rock n roll excitability, the guitars are a little bit sleazier (important), the songs are more dynamic within themselves, the driving rhythms underpinning the freakouts never cease, Hookworms control their noise rather than seeing where it goes on its own, and it even ends on a surprise-attack energetic song. You can still see the warts, they've just stopped being picked at.

weird world

Human Teenager - Animal Husbandry

The lengths they obviously went to to sound old and demented would be a turnoff (hey indie bands, why not aim higher and supersede your idols?) but the songs are too good and the thing feels creepy enough to justify the aesthetic as a starting point for sound exploration rather than preservation or rediscovery

editions mego / spotify

Klaus Lang - SAIS.

world edition

Lee Gamble - KOCH

pan / boomkat / spotify

Leon Vynehall - Music For The Uninvited / spotify

Lil Herb - Welcome to Fazoland

datpiff / spotify

Low Jack - Garifuna Variations

soundcloud / delsin

M. Geddes Gengras - Ishi

stones throw

M. Sage - A Singular Continent

bandcamp / patient sounds

Moonface - City Wrecker

An EP about people, places, and times, Spencer Krug takes on the role of 'city wrecker' though details of the subjects he wrecks are only intermittently clear ("it was 2009 or so"). Once again it's the 'sad Liberace', only approaching anything anthemic with the repeated "Going in and going out again" on the opener as if to warn 'this is going to be as big and grand as anything but it is a big grand ode to loss and nothingness.' It is 2000 and whatever. There is no time and it's all the same. It's all gone.

jagjaguwar / spotify

Mr. Mitch - Parallel Memories

Broken and murky grime that not once deviates from its own dreamlike pace

planetmu / spotify / itunes

Music Blues - Things Haven't Gone Well

Music Blues is Harvey Milk bassist Stephen Tanner watching 90210, and Things Haven't Gone Well is the album he wanted Harvey Milk to perform. If you know me (you probably don't!) then you'll know that Harvey Milk are my favourite band, and if you've ever listened to Harvey Milk you might've noticed that they're not particularly healthy to listen to if/when you're feeling depressed: rather than presenting depression as a simple blue-tinted sadness as so many artists do, Harvey Milk go the extra mile by including the surrounding highs, the denial, the self-loathing, and the self-mockery familiar to anyone who has ever lived with it. Things Haven't Gone Well is Harvey Milk at rock bottom and fuck me is it devastating. Only thing worth noting is you might miss Creston's vocals (it's all Tanner instrumentals). Otherwise excellent.

thrill jockey / spotify

Nmesh - Dream Sequins®

Approaches vaporwave's criticism of popular and commodity culture with a mission- art rather than mimicry- not an apocalyptic copy+paste hologram collection of these vacuous artefacts, but (it sounds and even feels like) a way forward, sideways, or even out.

bandcamp / spotify

OOIOO - Gamel

norman / thrill jockey / stream

Pallbearer - Foundations of Burden

bandcamp / insound / spotify

Perc - The Power and the Glory


Rich Gang - The Tour, Part 1

Nobody expected The Tour, Part 1 to be good, much less free. And it is good (and it is free). As expected from a rap mixtape the beats change and contradict each other as often as the rappers' words and sentiments do, though thanks to Quan's inability to sound like he's doing anything other than yearning (usually in spite of what's being said), The Tour, Part 1 sounds as though it's all built from the same basic range of feelings: pain/sadness/loneliness. RICH GANG!


Samin Son - Orira

bandcamp / pseudoarcana

Sleaford Mods - Divide and Exit

It could be the movement (blue collar, no-trend, late Fall-vibe, but its own thing obviously) or the fact that the first line I heard from them was "The smell of piss is so strong / It smells like decent bacon," but I sort of can't get enough of this.

bandcamp / norman / spotify

Solid Gang - The F.U.N. Album: Fuck u Niggas


Sunn O))) - La Reh 012

Bizarrely overlooked, La Reh 012 might be the band's finest metal record. Invisible / Sleeper is so terrifying I didn't even notice how silly it was.


Thou - Heathen


Tink - Winter's Diary 2

I saw Aaliyah's Age Ain't Nothing but a Number with an $80 sticker on it at my record store the other day. Think about that and be sick. Here's Tink's Winter's Diary 2.


V/A - We Invented the Bop 1 & 2

The most obvious insight into the state of chiraq for outsiders was always drill, as stonefaced and nihilistic as the situation was grim. I kind of don't want to describe bop to you, but let's just say if drill's holding a mirror up... bop's the escapist fantasy.

datpiff / datpiff

Vessel - Punish, Honey

boomkat / juno / bleep / itunes


48. Ariel Pink - Pom pom

4ad / norman / insound

47. Frank & Tony - You Go Girl

halcyon / itunes / spotify

46. Beppu - Coercion

boomkat / norman

45. Ben Frost - A U R O R A

Light and noise pollution to Andy Stott's industrial zone.

bandcamp / norman / stream

44. Apartment House/Laurence Crane - Chamber Works

another timbre / squidco

43. drcarlsonalbion - Gold

Since Earth's formation Dylan Carlson has progressed his band's sound from two-chord minimalism through cellos and apocalyptic epics. to a degree each release has remained grounded in this minimalism, growing organically from each preceding release. Since their 'comeback' in 2005, however, there has been little room for the kind of chance fuckups found on something like Phase 3. Since 2005 Earth's art has been repetition and deliberation. Gold contains neither and this is why it's such a refreshing listen. Credited to drcarlsonalbion though containing the two key players, it exists outside of Earth's grand narrative of musical rebuilding and as such is kind of like an alternate view of it- a certain angle from which to view it that exposes fuckups, imperfections, ideas not worth running with, ideas weirdly not run with, etc. The rarely seen spontaneous, human side of Earth

soundcloud / insoundjuno

42. Ambarchi • O'Malley • Dunn - Shade Themes From Kairos

drag city

41. Laura Cannell - Quick Sparrows Over the Black Earth


40. D.Å.R.F.D.H.S. - Det stora oväsendet


39. Vladislav Delay - Visa

A true master of bleeps and whiirrrs and schs can turn these things into musical pieces wherein the bleeps and whiirrrs and schs are coupled and de-coupled and repeated until their relationships and differences become important and their coupling, de-coupling, and repetitions become emotional, somehow even majestic experiences. Vlad's a master of the bleeps, whiirrrs, and schs, and Visa is an emotional, somehow majestic listening experience.

bandcamp / stream

38. Dean Blunt - Black Metal

I called last year's The Redeemer the best album of 2013 as it wrapped up the narcissist character's story and left us with a straightforward heartbreak record made exhaustingly complex by listeners anxiously trying-to-be-in-on-the-joke lest they feel something when listening only to have Blunt turn around and say it was all a joke. We're sort of pathetic like that. And so when we look at Blunt and determine that he is a concept artist constantly one step ahead of his audience we become guinea pigs in a never-ending game of reverse-obfuscation and sincere-insincerity bs, and when we think it's all just straightforward we go 'hey get some singing lessons!' or 'your vocals really work for me!' or 'this is your prettiest one to date!' and then read this where it's obvious he wants it both ways (a mystic indifferent to analysis that gets upset if your analysis is incorrect). So we go both ways. Blunt's prettiest record. Never look back. Black metal. There we go. Free jazz. Future. Future. Future.

ruff trade / norman / stream

37. Weyes Blood - The Innocents

Critics inadvertently paint her as a sort of stoner mystic (urhg), but The Innocents must be the most wise and at-peace record of the year

mexican summer / stream

36. Burial Hex - The Hierophant

'Horror electronics'- horror being stylised, theatrical suffering for the masses, power electronics being style-less human aggression for a niche market- The Hierophant as stylish, melodramatic, aggression (but mostly suffering) somewhere between the metaphysical 'evil' of giallo OSTs or heavy metal, and an immediate pain/danger. See for example the transitions at play in Final Love: the piano, the death metal growls, and the broken voice howling.

thrill jockey / handmade birds

35. Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2

Through positivity and ability, rtj saved my life early this year at a depressingly shite music festival. RTJ2 is like RTJ1 but El-P does better on it and there's Gangsta Boo.

rtj / rtj / spotify

34. Jozef van Wissem / SQÜRL - Only Lovers Left Alive

atp / stream

33. Matt Krefting - Lymph Est

Forced Exposure / little big chief records

32. Bing & Ruth - Tomorrow Was The Golden Age

bingandruth / bandcamp

31. The Jacka - What Happened to the World

As world-weary, defeated, conflicted, and melodic as the last good thing Z-Ro did

itunes / hiphopstan / spotify

30. Chihei Hatakeyama & Hakobune - It is, it isn’t

bandcamp / norman / spotify

29. Parents - Low Life 7"

I didn't know they were gonna go so grimy but the toothless guy who said "let's get fucked up" and then knocked himself out during Low Life's release somehow did! Rather than shifting between beauty and ugliness as Parents did on last year's full length, Low Life demands that its audience find beauty in ugliness.


28. 1/3 Octave Band - Ultramarine

"The tyranny of distance" pt 2, NZ ambient is usually broken (Dead C), agitated under its distinct "harsh light" (Birchville Cat Motel), or melting in a nuclear holocaust (Our Love Will Destroy the World), but this one recalls the nation's pre-modern tradition of silence, loss, and loneliness

bandcamp / pseudoarcana

27. F.A. - Real Nigga The Street Album

kansas city rap

26. Lawrence English - Wilderness of Mirrors

room40 / stream

25. Claypipe - A Daylight Blessing

Importantly continues the tradition of broken and isolated nz music- "the tyranny of distance"

mie / norman / pseudoarcana

24. Untold - Black Light Spiral

2014's least welcoming record after the Pharmakon one. Untold knows you better than you know yourself: Black Light Spiral appeals once you're used to it. That is, there's little to be discovered beyond your own penchant for being brutalised by big slabs of noise

boomkat / norman / spotify

23. Ian William Craig - A Turn of Breath

Of all the musicians blending the human search for purity (choral, opera, 'classical') with the imperfections of the machine (tape decay, glitches, drones, loops, feedback), Ian William Craig actually managed to release something of a masterpiece with A Turn of Breath for reasons that cannot be explained but rather felt through the spine on listening

recital program / spotify

22. Fennesz - Bécs

Endless Summer hurt because it was like watching a family photo album get thrown into the fireplace and then seeing the photographs warp and melt and flicker and disappear. Bécs is kind of a bitch because it's like walking outside and seeing your present disintegrate just the same

editions mego / spotify

21. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Piñata

Long-awaited answer to those who've struggled with Gibbs for half a decade 'cause of his beat selection- his style's always been 'timeless', but now he's got production to get lost in too

dj booth / stones throw / spotify

20. Golden Retriever - Seer

Things come together.

thrill jockey / stream

19. The Body - I Shall Die Here

I don't think The Body will ever be able to grab hold of me and shake me and make me sick like they did the first time I heard Master, We Perish, but in the absence of that original shock they might as well continue to make better and better records.

rvng intl / bandcamp

18. Jenny Hval & Susanna - Meshes of Voice

norman / stream

17. Dirty Beaches - Stateless

Dirty Beaches' last album is so good that it makes me feel a great sense of loss for a band that I never cared much about.


All seasons are cyclical, like real life shit. We adapt and venture through each phase with intentions of engagement, embracing mistakes and chances that eventually become the foundation of identities and roles we take on in life. All pain is temporary, as in joy, anger, doubt and all human emotions. Nothing is forever. Just a constant cyclical randomization processed in patterns and algorithms. We can’t predict life, but we can try to brace ourselves for the ever changing tides of time.

Some dreams, are worth breaking your limbs for.
Dedicated to ALL the young gods out there.

Alex Zhang Hungtai
June 13th, 2014. LIsbon, Portugal"

bandcamp / norman / stream

16. Gazelle Twin - Unflesh

When I saw Unflesh compared to Scott Walker I thought oh shit he's become a clean reductive adjective, to music what David Lynch is to film- anything a bit weird gets a connection drawn and anything that really upsets the listener gets stripped down and rationalised according to some other familiar/institutionalised benchmark. Turns out Unflesh is fuckall like anything else I've ever heard, though Gazelle Twin's dedication to describing the body in all its flaws and limits and its inevitable rotting punchline is somewhat reminiscent of s.w., though that's purely in the sense of being completely dedicated to the subject matter rather than any specifics and poetics. Those are all Gazelle Twin's and only hers, though over the course of Unflesh they'll likely become yours too. Rather than bludgeoning the listener with screams and nasty industrial textures, there's melody and fun to be had here too- a bit like pop sweetener on the pill of dysmorphia and disease that will at some point get in there and choke you.

bandcamp / g twin / norman / stream

15. Richard Dawson - Nothing Important


14. Warpaint - Warpaint

Every band with prog-ish aspirations that feels like releasing a second album should really think first about where to go to next (i.e. ensure that whatever comes next has a purpose) and also what their strengths and weaknesses are (i.e. cut some shit out to avoid the so-common-it's-nearly-inevitable condition known as 'prog-bloat'). With their self-titled follow-up to 2010's The Fool, Warpaint pulled off 'doing less' (going 'minimal') and letting the machines (production) take care of the effects because they knew all along that their rhythms were what differentiated them from prog wank and indie guitar wank alike. Prog-bloat avoided.

norman / stream

13. Laura Luna - Isolarios


12. Klara Lewis - Ett

Actually works for all its moody abstraction because 'darkness' isn't the endpoint but rather the first thing you notice before trying to find your way in there

editions mego / boomkat / stream

11. Lil Juu / Stu Hustlah - Lillie Street is the Street

spotify / kcu / stream

10. Scott Walker + Sunn O))) - Soused

My initial thought on hearing that Soused not only existed but would actually be released (i.e. not just a creepy expensive bootleg on discogs) was that a very specific kind of music fan will be completely overjoyed by Soused and his/her head will explode on hearing it and just about everyone else in the world will crowd around the headless body and say "this is silly." Then on hearing it I realised that Soused actually makes a weird amount of sense, as if both Scott's and Sunn O)))'s sillinesses work to negate each other, unveiling the music beneath, or actually merge to create a world of silliness in which silliness is no longer an issue or distraction and the thing can just exist plainly for all to see. Of course it might have something to do with the fact that Sunn O))) approached Scott to appear on Monoliths & Dimensions in 2009 and rather than singing on their album for a track or two he bought up their discography and promptly got to work on writing Soused so that the collaboration would be considered rather than some spontaneous music nerd freak of nature. Whatever the reason, it's more accessible than both La Reh 012 and Bish Bosch, and thankfully much better than Terrestrials.

4ad / stream

9. Kassem Mosse - Workshop 19

juno / stream

8. Earth - Primitive and Deadly

I knew something weird was gonna happen when Dylan Carlson played a dirty Gibson SG at their Auckland show this year! If Earth's project starting with Earth 2 has been one of Suprematism- to strip down and rebuild rock music at their own pace and in their own style, then Primitive and Deadly is like a rush to the finish line. Personal anguish inhabited and defined the Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light releases, and in Primitive and Deadly it's been dressed up as the apocalypse. A surprise for sure, but if any band has earned the right to release an epic, it's Earth.

southern lord / stream

7. Pharmakon - Bestial Burden

2013's Abandon alternated to excellent effect between human hysteria and the slow grind of industrial noises. Bestial Burden sees the two come together rather than being played off against each other as opposites- it is the musical expression of the realisation that your body is a rapidly degenerating piece of meat that you were born into and you will be buried in. It begins with hyperventilation and ends in laughter. To be kind, my arse.

sacred bones / spotify

6. Vanessa Rossetto - Whole Stories

I generally approach musique concrète with a bit of naive trepidation as I like things that sound good or make me feel something and don't need external clarification, but Whole Stories is just incredibly good and compassionate and beautiful: the first song's a trip through a festival bookended by a fourth-wall-breaking explanation, and the second jumps between arcade and casino noises and a woman discussing her life and regrets- it's an examination of fate, luck, and chance, and while the ending's ambiguous I can't help but believe that it's intended to be freeing and life-affirming: "the thing is, people need to hear full stories." Each piece has had its sources sculpted together into believable, coherent worlds, and our rollercoaster tour through these worlds is well paced. Given that it's all so welcoming, I can't wait to go back and see what other sounds I can find in there.

forced exposure / kye

5. Millie & Andrea - Drop the Vowels

Miles Whittaker (Demdike Stare) and Andy Stott. Knowingly ridiculous, the way the 'world' sample that opens the record just drops off without becoming the central focus of an ultra-serious exotic 'dark techno' track, unabashedly familiar (the breakbeats), the rough edges, the laboriously executed laziness, and the attention it commands despite seeming funny and even piss-taking of serious ambient techno (we see you, Andy!), familiar, imperfect, lazy, and just really weird. I even like when it loses its momentum and tries something else!


4. Grouper - Ruins

The man who died in his boat and the old man who kept the photograph of his wife under some clothes on the dresser. Abandoned buildings on the way to a beach. Ruins. The first thing you'll notice is that you aren't drowning. The last thing you'll notice is that you are.

krankynorman / stream

3. Andy Stott - Faith in Strangers

I won't embarrass myself trying to list (much less explain) the styles of electronic music interpreted, mimicked, and dismantled by Stott on Faith in Strangers, but it's to his credit that someone like me can have a sort of intuitive understanding of what's happening and be completely floored by it. It's his obvious appreciation of both silence and the physical potential of a presence that makes his records so immediately attractive. His drones are doom-laden for good reason- when the sounds arrive they've been cut rough in a way that seems like they're from our world rather than loaded with effects in some editing suite. Stott puts these industrially cut pieces to use in Faith in Strangers in varied, sometimes unusual ways- Damage would be dancefloor suited if it wasn't the most abrasive track on here, and this time around he resists manipulating all of Alison Skidmore's vocals and re-presenting them as flickering ghost sightings- when it's not noise Faith in Strangers could sound like a fucking dinner party trip hop record.

insound / boomkat / norman

2. Aphex Twin - Syro

The issue of yeah it's good, but it didn't change the world like their first/second/third release seemed like a big one when My Bloody Valentine released their 'comeback' last year, and it was sure to happen to Aphex Twin too (though 'comeback' is a bit Romantic for someone as prolific as he's been). The obvious explanation for these blasé responses is that the context in which these 'comebacks' have been received is one where a 'world changer' would be unlikely if not impossible:

"Everyone knows about everything. The holy grail for a music fan, I think, is to hear music from another planet, which has not been influenced by us whatsoever. Or, even better, from lots of different planets. And the closest we got to that was before the Internet, when people didn't know of each other's existence. Now, that doesn't really happen."

And so it's interesting to wonder what it would be like if Loveless had been released on some obscure bandcamp and if Selected Ambient Works 85-92 was a soundcloud playlist, and whether it's exciting or not to imagine their release to the public being more free and immediate etc, but also prosaic and our responses more know-it-all. It's funny that we worry about the weight of the thing's future-historical importance when we've been given the freedom to just kind of just assess and react to the music itself. That was a lot for nothing, but what I'm trying to say I think is that I tried my hardest to listen to Syro without expectation or anti-expectation and what I found was just Syro and Syro is fantastic. Where my favourite Aphex Twin songs quickly establish something musically tangible and then over the course of the song, twist, collapse, and rebuild themselves, Syro is full of complex musical-journeys with unexpected destinations and stopovers. I'd still be playing it every day if I hadn't received threats from family members so sick of hearing it.

warp / stream

1. Anne Guthrie - Codiaeum variegatum

Words escape me.

students of decay

And now that's out of the way let's get excited for Christmas!

It would be pointless to make selections from this and then re-tag them, so check out the excellent Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree: A Vintage Holiday Mixtape from Aquarium Drunkard!

Track list:

Jack Scott – There’s Trouble Brewing [A-Side Version]
The Sonics – I Don’t Believe In Christmas
Mae West – Put The Loot In The Boot, Santa
Roosevelt Sykes – Let Me Hang Your Stockings In Your Christmas Tree
Patsy Raye – Beatnik’s Wish
Big John Greer – Santa Do The Mambo
Kay Martin And Her Body Guards – Santa’s Doing The Horizontal Twist
The Marquees – Christmas in the Congo
Tony Rodelle Larson and The Saints – Cool Yule
Babs Gonzales – Be-Bop Santa Claus
Champion Jack Dupree – Santa Claus Blues
Clyde Lasley & The Cadillac Baby Specials – Santa Came Home Drunk
Andre Williams – Poor Mr. Santa
Hasil Adkins – Santa Claus Boogie
Thee Headcoatees – Santa Clause
The Wailers – Christmas Spirit
Nathaniel Mayer – Mr. Santa Claus
Tom Waits – Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis
Brenda Lee – I’m Going To Lasso Santa Claus
Hank Thompson – I’d Like To Have An Elephant For Christmas
Eddie and De Havelon – Christmas Party
Jimmy Butler – Trim Your Tree
Hank Snow – Reindeer Boogie
Red Simpson – Truckin’ Trees For Christmas
Loretta Lynn – To Heck With Ole Santa Claus
Roger Miller – Old Toy Trains
Ernest Tubb & His Texas Troubadours – I’ll Be Walkin’ the Floor This Christmas
Pee Wee King – Rootin’ Tootin’ Santa Claus
Rev. J.M. Gates – Did You Spend Christmas Day In Jail?
The Youngsters – Christmas In Jail
Buck Owens – Santa Looked A lot Like Daddy (Daddy Looked A Lot Like Him)
The Everly Brothers – Christmas Eve Can Kill You
Red Sovine – Here It Is Christmas

And I'm gonna raise it:

King Khan & BBQ - Plump Righteous
The Ventures - Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Connie Francis - I'm Gonna Be Warm This Winter
Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody
The Kinks - Father Christmas
Ramones - Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)
Kate Bush - December Will Be Magic Again
The Ronettes - Frosty the Snowman
Sleigh Ride 3:45 TLC
Run-D.M.C. - Christmas In Hollis
The Pretenders - 2000 Miles
Whitney Houston - Do You Hear What I Hear
The Drifters - White Christmas
Johnny Cash - Lead Me Gently Home, Father (tagged as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot sorry!)
The Golden Gate Quartet - Silent Night
The Ronettes - Sleigh Ride
black lips - christmas in baghdad
De La Soul - Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa
John Fahey - Lo How A Rose E'er Blooming
Brenda Lee - Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree
Destiny's Child - 8 Days Of Christmas
Mariah Carey - All I Want for Christmas Is You
Darlene Love - Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Ike & Tina Turner - Merry Christmas
The Pogues - Fairytale Of New York


'Cause yeah your favourite artist sold the fuck out (John Fahey did not one but two Christmas albums!)! And yeah I'm gonna get drunk and cry like a baby to Fairytale of New York on repeat! New Zealand Decembers are the sunniest of all Decembers so we have to make-pretend it's snowy while listening to our Christmas music and watching our snowy Christmas films.