“Magical Writing”, originally released on cassette on Gengras’ own label Peccant Tapes sees MGG take a more intimate and meditative direction. Instead of harsh, abstract synthesis and live-aktion knob twiddling madness, this album offers a deeply personal journey into the ambient territory, soothing the listener with deeeep drones and beautiful, mournful melodies hidden beneath them. Music for intense explorations of the inner self. Recommended.
So, the End of the World didn’t happen after all, which is a very good thing, because I didn’t have my “best of 2012” list prepared at that time. Thankfully, such a list has been prepared for today. It contains the albums I’ve liked the most in 2012 – it is a completely customized, personal, selfish, original list that doesn’t stick to any particular genre (well, many of them fall under psychedelia, DUH). Many of them probably ain’t cream of the crop (I don’t care), and some of them I’ve reviewed here during this year. The albums are in no particular order, I don’t care about the 10-1 type ratings, let’s go:
Jam City – Classical Curves (Night Slugs)
Someone on Rate Your Music described “Classical Curves”, the debut full album from the London producer Jack Latham, as the “hard-hitting version of Far Side Virtual”. When listening to the glistened, sample-treated HD house pieces from the album, one cannot shake the feeling that this is what James Ferraro had in mind when composing “Sushi” – Jam City retains the vaporwave-y edge with its satirical take and sometimes jarringly artificial beats, but goes specifically for the club-based experience, quoting legends of house and UK bass music on the way – “How We Relate to the Body” sounds like the updated, HD and wi-fi age version of Daft Punk’s “Revolution 909”. Filed under: dystopian nightlife.
Actress – R.I.P (Honest Jon’s)
London based no-fi beat producer Darren Cunningham found a very special niche in the whole minimal techno scene with his one of a kind Actress project, deconstructing house and techno tropes and sprinkling them with a generous amount of lo-fi haze and glitchy ooze. With his third album, “R.I.P”, Actress goes further into the microhouse territory, juxtaposing almost New Age ambient interludes with straight-up killer bangers that are just waiting to blow your head up. Despite the minimal, raw aspect of his music, he manages to keep it deeply atmospheric, switching from heavily pulsing near-dark ambient structures (“Shadow from Tartarus”) to blurry and nostalgic psychedelic soundscapes (“Caves of Paradise”).
Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music (Chapter Music)
The Australian duo Fabulous Diamonds specialize in murky, knee-deep in fog psychedelic pop that can be described as a more narcotic version of Peaking Lights. Steeped in dub and a slow, tribal drumming a bit reminiscent of Pocahaunted at their haziest. Shoegazey, endlessly echoing vocals work perfectly with the slowed down, monotonous drumming and raw, simple synth patterns that propel the sounds forward without any effort, throwing the listener into the timeless maze.
Goat – World Music (Rocket Recordings)
From the village of Korpilombolo deep in the forests of Northern Sweden, hails a bunch of afrobeat shamans that light up the taiga like the African sun. Shocking the fuck out of everyone with their all killer no filler debut album that literally came out of nowhere, Goat prove again that Sweden remains one of the prime movers of the psychedelic rock world. Dirty, funky bass meets scorched, stoned and fuzzed out furious guitar and some of the most ferocious female vocals this side of Ginnungagap. They may be white on the outside, but their souls sure are blackest of the black.
Can – The Lost Tapes (The Grey Area)
While “The Lost Tapes” by the German krautrock legends Can is not technically a 2012 release (no shit!), the release of staggering 540 meters of tape containing some unknown gems from the catalog of Can makes his compilation one of the most imporant (and the best) releases of 2012. 3 CDs contain about three hours of Can’s best jams recorded between 1968 and 1972 as outtakes and live versions of tracks appearing on studio albums. Especially attention-worthy is the hypnotic, otherworldly drum work of the one and only Jaki Liebezeit. From the early raw & maniacal jams with the American madman Malcolm Mooney on vocals to the more jazzy and experimental jams with the Japanese madman Damo Suzuki, “The Lost Tapes” is one of the most intense & exciting psychedelic releases of 2012.
Moon Pool & Dead Band – Human Fly (Not Not Fun)
Moon Pool & Dead Band might be the most “fun” side-project of Nate Young, who is most known for him being a member of the Detroit nihil-noise unit Wolf Eyes. The Moon Pool & Dead Band duo still channel the lo-fi, dystopian Detroit vibes, but this time the approach is much more rhythmical, almost club-like, considering we’re talking about a guerilla house party in some scummy, seedy neighborhood. Taking the electronic musical traditions of Detroit and looking at them throught the nostalgia sunglasses – except not the pink ones, but the sunglasses from “They Live”.
Daniel Bachman – Oh Be Joyful (Debacle Records)
Fingerpicking guitar prodigy Daniel Bachman goes completely un-digital and anti-Internet on his album “Oh Be Joyful”, focusing on the local instead of the global. Heartfelt, emotional primitivist folk ballads travel back to the roots of the American spirit and the importance of the community and tradition. But even more importantly, Bachman reflects through his songs the life itself: sometimes happy, sometimes sad, always different, and always changing. His painfully simple (yet skillful) songs carry a heavier emotional load than any carefully arranged post-rock album released this year (yes, including the new GY!BE).
Planets Around the Sun – Ram of Heart and the Earthen Chariot (Sloow Tapes)
Enthusiastically received by me (but not only me), Planets Around the Sun collective represent the best in communal psychedelic spirit of free, unlimited creation and the travelling, freewheeling approach. This lenghty tape collects jams recorded over the course of a few months in the weirdest of places and contains some of the best free folk/free rock recorded this year, which has an air of improvisation, yet doesn’t feel like it’s going nowhere. Despite the improvisational attitutde, the tracks are competent, well put together and most importantly, fun and trippy.
White Manna – White Manna (Holy Mountain)
I have developed a trust for Holy Mountain Records, because I don’t think I have ever heard an album released by them I would consider “not good”. The self-titled vinyl by the Californian psychedelic bunch White Manna is another hit-the-spot. Even though White Manna don’t break any new ground here in terms of music, their debut album is a healthy slab of reverbing, fuzzed out freak out in the best sense fo the word.
Feel free to comment on my list and feel free to write about YOUR favorite albums! I realize this list is far from complete and I that I’ll probably add more albums to this list or just published some sort of “2012: Overlooked” list later on. Have fun listening! 🙂
Another fine release from the self-proclaimed “post-music” Slovakian label LOM. This time synthesist Jonáš Gruska enters the world of electronic music in its earliest, rawest and the most abstract form, full of cold, angular proto-beats and laboratory oscillations. Sounds like lost gem recorded in Cologne in the early 50’s that just got unearthed from some vast archive. Analog electronics is great electronics.
When looking at the cover of Nicholas Szczepanik’s newest (free!) album, some will be reminded with the promotional photos of Sunn O))), most will be reminded about the end of the world that was supposed to happen a few days ago. Both group are right: “La Luna del Este” is one looooong (almost 44 minutes) bassy drone trip. 44 minutes of sustained bliss. I have to warn you, however: those who like variety in their music will probably hate this album. It’s a jewel for those who like their music massive, lengthy and minimalistic, though. Check out for yourself.
Fat fuckin’ stoned beats from Outer Space with a seriously atmospheric, slowed down and ambiental atmosphere somewhat akin to the Brainfeeder catalog and the work of FlyLo himself. Perfect for the bike or walking trips during the clear, pure and crisp cold winter day, like today (at my place anyway). Also, great use of vintage samples and some glitchy weirdness. Highly (wink wink) recommended!
Maan is a duo of Simon Apers and Tim Depraetere from Ghent, Belgium who definitelly dwell in the darker corners of psychedelic rock. Their “Khomeini 99” tape, released by Ghent microlabel Smeltkop, is a plodding, alienating trip through the industrial daymare, focusing on and exploiting the more negative aspects of human psyche. It’s quite easy to call Maan the urban version of funeral folk collective Silvester Anfang, as in: the negative, psychedelic vibe is still very much there, although the pagan, folklore influences are gone, replaced this time with suffocating concrete and dark urban legends.
The two unlabeled, glow in the dark sides of the white cassette are seeping with industrial waste and rusting cadavers of cars, going straight to the scrapyard with their resigned, vicious outsider psych. Strange collages of recorded sounds and harsh guitar feedback die out to reveal slow burning jams strangely reminiscent of Fushitsusha, down to the cavernous and freely soloing electric guitar, overdriven and heavily distorted and scarce, aggressive vocals that are more barked than sung or spoken, reducing the only human factor in music to a vile, virulent animal trapped in the urban wasteland. A variety of instruments will ocasionally wander into the rusting soundcapes, sounding strangely out of place, like the trumpet or the primitive, tribal flute instruments fighting the cold synthesizer pulses.
There are more ways to the psychedelic experience, some of them lead through bliss and relaxing of body and mind and others can be experienced through difficult, carnal experiences. Maan uncover that ugly, seedy underbelly of psychedelia with all the bad trips it brings and create their own soundtrack to an industrial bad trip with “Khomeini 99”.
Damn that Debacle Records, do these guys ever stop? Every now and then I keep coming back to this Seattle label, who keep to blow my mind every few months with a release completely different in style than one another (few labels have the guts to release a minimal techno album next to a primitive folk one, and that’s just a small selection of head-spinning list of genres and styles Debacle have dabbled in). Either Debacle Records is some sort of “trend radar” that picks up musicians that push the envelope in order to analyze the next coming sensation or the guys (or gals) there have some sort of a sixth sense that allows them to choose the winning formula – the selection of finest out-of-the-box new sounds that land on the psychedelic scene.
Seattle’s resident Nelson Bean makes yet another addition to the noise-infused “mutant techno” movement with his interesting debut “Spectral Disorder” EP. Introduced by the cold and minimalistic over-oscillating glacial beats by the opening track, “#00000”, Black Hat welcomes us into the world of haunted ambient reverb, very economical, technoid beats and melodies reduced to a bare minimum, meant to keep some absolutely basic level of structure. Allusions to Andy Stott and the catalog of Modern Love label keep getting thrown around, and for a good reason: the music of Black Hat is similarly deep and spiritual in nature, with deep, spacious atmosphere of “Northwest Passage” augumented with sounds small bells moved by arctic wind and eched synth noise reflecting the sounds reverberating in caverns and between the barren rocks.
“Spectral Disorder” may be pigeonholed as ambient techno, but it’s definitely more ambient than techno: cold, heavily textural drones and an almost suffocating atmosphere worthy of dark ambient and industrial champions is in front, with the beatless parts often taking majority of the tracks, the beats, when they finally come are austere and unwelcoming, not for prompting any sort of a dance, but to divide the endless noisescapes into fragments, to put the amorphous mass of sound into time frames in an attempt to civlize the beast of abrasive patches and fried oscillations. There is a sense of familar melody once in a while, but radically processed and deconstructed to the point where it sounds like a radical remix of something you know, but the source of what has been lost in translation – this is especially evident in the brutal digital ping-pong of the title track. The debut EP by Black Hat is torn between the formless noise territory and the experimental techno proving grounds. Nelson Bean stands at the crossroads, and his future releases will show which direction he takes.