2013 REVIEW: THE BIG, ROUND-UP POSTPosted: December 31, 2013
Whoa, check out this shitty stock graphic I’ve looked up for “2013” on Google image search! It even has a watermark and all!
Whew, what a year! There were some good things in 2013 (like me getting engaged to my girlfriend of 3 years), and there were some bad things – like the death of possibly the ultimate rock rebel, one of my mentors and the leaders of the most against-the-grain, shock-rock proto-noise-rock fuckers The Velvet Underground, namely Lou Reed (may you have lots of heroin and even more S/M orgies in heaven/hell, Lou!), the death of electronic pioneer Bernard Parmegiani and the passing of the Polish-born noise and power electronics one-man powerhouse Zbigniew Karkowski.
There were some great albums and some harsh disappointments, too – like Oneohtrix Point Never’s conceptual mess R Plus Seven – the more I listened to it, the more I enjoyed Rifts (and seeing Jon Rafman’s video for “Still Life (Betamale)” didn’t help at all) and the collection of his early EP’s; or James Ferraro’s NYC, Hell 3:00AM, which I simply couldn’t force to enjoy. At least Far Side Virtual was so artificial and over the top it was actually funny and comedically refreshing, and Cold had a few moments of real beauty, like a poor man’s version of Frank Ocean. However, I’m not here to talk about the disappointment. I’m going to write instead about some of my favorite stuff from the year 2013, which didn’t find its way to the blog during the course of the year. Let’s go!
Some great stuff I’ve heard in 2013 (in no particular order):
Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth
The British electronic duo Mount Kimbie have steered away from their dubstep beginnings on their newest album, going for a more intimate, “live” instrument based sound that still has a lot to owe for the tradition of hip-hop and techno music. It’s often dusty and warm, but there are still glimpses into the urban, futuristic sound they became famous for. However, the real highlights of the album are the two tracks recorded with the latest UK ginger wonder, King Krule, which would call for recording an entire collaboration album between Mount Kimbie and King Krule, whose honest lyrics are surprisingly mature for his young age.
Mount Kimbie – You Took Your Time (feat. King Krule)
Mount Kimbie – Meter, Pale, Tone (feat. King Krule)
Jonas Reinhardt – Mask of the Maker
Since the last two or so years saw many former drone wizards move toward the more beat-based forms of electronic music, especially noise infused, nervous techno, the San Francisco based Berlin scholars Jonas Reinhardt have also gone to the dancefloor, but they did with more disco flair and a way more glamorous approach. Instead of cold, mutated beats we get warm, soaring synth tapestry that gets the listener pumping and wanting to brush the dust off the disco ball. While most went for Throbbing Gristle, these guys went full Giorgio Moroder.
Jonas Reinhardt – Jungle Jah
Jonas Reinhardt – Private Life of a Diamond
Magik Markers – Surrender to the Fantasy
On Surrender to the Fantasy, Hartford based noise rock trio Magik Markers continue the more melodic, song-friendly path started on 2007’s BOSS and 2009’s Balf Quarry. The trio still walks the fine line between melody and noise here – there are even a few calm ballads, even a nostalgic folky tune “Young”, with certain hints of Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror”! But they don’t forget about their amplified, anarchic, psychedelic legacy and still provide a swift kick in the nuts here and there, like the guitar distortion gradually eating up all the melody on opening piece “Crebs” or the absolute highlight of the album: the hypnotic, bass driven behemoth “American Sphinx Face”, in which band’s leader Elisa Ambrogio spews forth the ominous lyrics: “In America, every man’s a king. Not a good king, but a dead king”. Please come to Poland in 2014, Markers!
Magik Markers – Bonfire
Magik Markers – American Sphinx Face
Magik Markers – Mirrorless
Cave – Threace
Chicago based Cave are becoming quite the masters in the realm of hypnotic, looping krautrock, and with Threace they’ve taken things up a notch with a sweaty, bouncy feel to boot. Just like Pharaoh Overlord are basing their endless looped riffs on classic rock and heavy metal elements, Cave are more or less doing the same, but with a funky, fun edge, perfectly keeping the balance between the tension and release of sonic ecstasy. The best example might be the last few minutes of “Sweaty Fingers”, which sound like a Laddio Bolocko jam stuck in formaldehyde.
Cave – Sweaty Fingers
Cave – Arrow’s Myth
Autechre – Exai
The duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown have a special place in my heart. It’s a duo that formed in the same year I was born (1987), but I haven’t heard any Autechre tracks until rather recently, which was in 2008. But ever since then they continually changed my perception of electronic music and what electronic music can be – pushing boundaries with each successive album, starting with beautiful ambient-infused IDM Incunabula from 1993 and continually crafting more abstract, shattered and “difficult” sound with each album (the abstract, “difficult” stage really began with 2001’s Confield). While the duo’s previous album, Oversteps took a little bit of rest from the constant glitchy IDM assault that sounded like as if was recorded around the year 2200, on Exai they jump straight back to the fragmented maze of sounds sprinkled with fractured hip-hop beats and ominous shards of melodies. It’s a difficult, demanding album and one hell of a grower. It will most likely need many repeated listens to finally click, and for some, that click never comes. But once the border is crossed and that CLICK comes – it’s so loud it practically deafens the listener. And then one remembers why Autechre are still at the top of their game.
Autechre – T ess xi
Autechre – Flep
Autechre – nodezsh
Iasos – Celestial Soul Portrait
Not a 2013 studio album, but a compilation (from the ever-solid Numero Group) of studio recordings from Greek born American New Age pioneer Iasos recorded between 1975 and 1985, Celestial Sound Portrait captures a healing, shimmering synthesizer universe created by the truly talented soul explorer that incorporates many instruments into a blissful, soothing orb of energy. Even if one thinks the whole New Age ideology is bogus, they should listen to this album to marvel at some of the sunniest, most positive and forward-looking electronic music of its time.
Iasos – Rainbow Canyon
Iasos – Celestial Soul Portrait
Stellar OM Source – Joy One Mile
The thoroughly educated Christelle Gualdi (a degree in both architecture and music theory, I’m jealous!) began her journey into the electronic music world with her shimmering, psychedelic New New New Age solo vehicle Stellar OM Source. Ever since hearing her pieces on MySpace in early 2009 I’ve been totally hooked on her pan-dimensional sound. With Joy One Mile she expands her sonic palette into the early 90’s Detroit house/techno worship sound, while still retaining her trademark attention to minute details and consciousness-expanding psychedelic touch. This album is equal parts dancefloor bangers and a soundtrack to a futuristic PS1 racing game, a joyous curveball with acidic hooks and great samples.
Stellar OM Source – Par Amour
Stellar OM Source – Natives / Most Answers Never Unveiled
Good Stuff House – Untitled
Good Stuff House is a collaboration between the three Chicago experimental music heavyweights: the ambient-folk guitar explorer Scott Tuma and Zelienople’s Matt Christensen and Mike Weis. The members of Zelienople have many side projects, including Kwaidan and Ill Professor (both were reviewed this year on Weed Temple), but Good Stuff House might just be the most psychedelic and mind-expanding of them all. Acoustic guitar improvisations rise and fall from the ocean of ghastly echoes and reverbed drones and the ritualistic atmosphere is further expanded by the use of traditional instruments like harmonica, the sound of which is extended and amplified to an almost church-organ like power. This is the sound of the ancestors’ bones, buried deep beneath the earth, a rite of summoning the ghosts of the Indians, just as scary as it is captivating.
Date Palms – The Dusted Sessions
Date Palms are known for their droning ragas that take equally from the traditions of Indian classical music, psychedelic rock and minimalism. On The Dusted Sessions, the core duo of Gregg Kowalsky and Marielle Jakobsons is expanded with Ben Bracken on electric bass, Michael Elrod on tanpura, and Noah Philips on electric guitar to expand their sound into a sun-scorched, western-tinged territory of the Great American Deserts with their love for the orient intact, which results in a mesmerizing geographical/musical mash-up which clashes musical heritage of India and the USA with a bit of ambient bliss thrown in for a good measure. It sounds like Barn Owl who have taken a chill pill, and that’s a very good thing.
Date Palms – Yuba Source Part 1
Date Palms – Yuba Source Part 2
Date Palms – Yuba Reprise
Salvia Plath – The Bardo Story
Baltimore’s Michael Collins first made some stir in the psychedelic underground with his hazy electronic project RUN DMT. As Salvia Plath he put down the synthesizer and took up the guitar, going for an almost classic rock sound. The Bardo Story is like a time machine; a gallery of styles and sounds of 60’s rock, from intimate folky tunes through straight-up radio-friendly sunshine pop killers and finally to the dark, droning Velvety psychedelia. And he does it so effortlessly it might be actually mistaken for an actual compilation of 60’s rock nuggets restored in HD quality!
Salvia Plath – House of Leaves
Salvia Plath – Bardo States
True Widow – Circumambulation
The Texan melancholic rock trio True Widow created a unique voice in the rock world with their special blend of slowcore, shoegaze and stoner rock they themselves label as “stonegaze”. The sound is bass-heavy, slowly rolling and dark tinged, with otherworldly reverbed vocals, doomy riffs and hard-hitting, thunderours drums. And it’s glorious in its cinematic power and almost depressing, but it’s not emotionally draining – instead, it’s packed with power and energy (although not immediately apparent). Listening to True Widow is like recovering from the mourning about the loss with and being stronger than ever before.
True Widow – S:H:S
True Widow – Numb Hand
Octo Octa – Between Two Selves
Just as the management of Not Not Fun label gradually shfited from psychedelic rock and folk toward house and dance music with their new 100% SILK imprint, they caught the perfect act – Octo Octa, the solo alias of Brooklyn smear-house producer Michael Bouldry-Morrison. The title Between Two Selves describes the two sides of the album perfectly – on one side there are minimalistic, skeletal structures steeped in reverbed ambience (“Please Don’t Leave”), on the other there are club friendly hard-hitters (“His Kiss”). It’s a sound of a rave party with softened edges and smart use of samples and fragmented lyrics which further propel the anthemic quality of some of the pieces. And the paranoid, rainy dark techno of closing “Fear” will probably make one shiver – it’s like coming back from the club at the break of dawn through dark streets with some night-stalkers lurking in the deepest shadows.
Octo Octa – Please Don’t Leave
Octo Octa – His Kiss
Octo Octa – Fear
The Dead C – Armed Courage
The sound of New Zealand noise rock legends The Dead C has always been like a huge, black cloud that consumes everything in its path without pity or remorse. It’s as if rock music was left in the sun and left to rot and rust. After a few more structured, almost song-like albums in previous years – Secret Earth and Patience (which were still more improv than 95% of rock ever recorded) they come back to their hazy beginnings with two side-long monsters on Armed Courage. It’s filled with long, droning notes, blackened noisy ambience and random, percolating drums. And it’s a triumph!
The Dead C – Armed
The Dead C – Courage
Tim Hecker – Virgins
Canadian ambient visionary Tim Hecker enriches his distortion-heavy, cinematic, emotional electronic sound with a more modern classical approach, giving more space to instruments such as piano (which becomes practically just as important as the synthesizers here) while still retaining the sprawling and hazy (almost druggy) tonal vistas and an eye for beautiful melodies hidden under a coat of digital dust.
Tim Hecker – Virgins (full album)
Zomby – With Love
The British-born NYC resident producer Zomby is known for his mysteriousness, his high-fade cut, his collection of masks (previously the Guy Fawkes mask, now the 3-D printed gold mask), his fanatical love for the Givenchy brand and his bold, or even supercilious statements about his music (he states in one interview, “What will music sound like in 100 years? My shit, but with no drums”). His newest album, With Love contains staggering 33 tracks, all operating more or less within the bass/trap/rave territories and all sounding thoroughly urban – it’s the sound of slowly driving through a metropolis in a brand new car with waves of bass flowing from the subwoofers while high-class swag fills the air like a cloud. Zomby has many ideas and there are some truly beautiful pieces, but they often end too quickly; it’s more like an attempt to touch as many styles and explore as many ideas as possible and throwing them away to work on the next piece instead of properly expanding them. In spite of this, With Love is a thoroughly enjoyable album with a lot of potential.
Zomby – As Darkness Falls
Zomby – If I Will
Zomby – Orion
Zomby – White Smoke
To all Weed Temple readers: Have a great year of 2014, which hopefully will be even better than this year, with many musical (and spiritual) discoveries, great travels, lovely people and mind-blowing events and may it not ever be destroyed by bad vibes! I love you all! Have a great New Year!!!
(God I love shitty stock graphics)