Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 50-ish Records of 2010 (#1-#10)

I'm going to do this a little differently from the usual Top 10's, and a little closer with the lists leading here (11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50). Any link from the album title goes to a previous blog post, as I add new Top 10 posts for each rank I'll add new links in. Because I ran out of time, the write-ups are just a intro taste of what's to come in January.

#1. Pyramid of the Sun - Maserati
"Pyramid of the Moon" 12" - Maserati

[Full Top 10 post here]

Pyramid of the Sun
"Oaxaca" from Pyramid of the Sun (2010)
"Pyramid of the Moon [edit]" from "Pyramid of the Moon" 12" (2010)

Genre - Motorik Delay-Action Post-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Athens, GA

Review - Tiny Mix Tapes
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Temporary Residence Limited

Whoa. Dude. At the beginning of all this (#50), I said that "I welcome the renaissance of John Carpenter appreciation." Well here we are, and Pyramid of the Sun begins with a very Carpenterian synth-drone. Unexpected! I thought this would be a pretty decent record. After losing a crucial player (drummer Jerry Fuchs) and then committing to use his already-recorded drum parts, Maserati seemed to be fencing themselves in. But not at all. If there was one real flaw to Inventions for the New Season (#2, 2007), it was that most songs followed the same sonic template. Even hemmed in with drum constraints, they broke out more diversity than they've ever shown - only somewhat due to the synth assist from Steve Moore of Zombi. I was already a fan, but I'm pretty confident this is the first record I've ever called a triumph here so far. Truly. [Read more...]

#2. Does It Look Like I'm Here? - Emeralds
Living with Yourself - Mark McGuire
Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks - John Elliot
Glowing Net E.P. - Mist
Emeralds CD re-issue - Emeralds
Imaginary Softwoods re-issue - Imaginary Softwoods

[Full Top 10 post here]

Does It Look Like I'm Here?

"Double Helix" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)
"Now You See Me" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)
"Clouds Rolling In" from Living with Yourself (2010)
"Geode" from Emeralds (2009/2010)

Genre - Kraut-Drone Synth Improv
Official/Blog - Cleveland Wagon
Location - Cleveland, OH

Review - Treble Zine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, Amazon

Believe it or not, that isn't even close to all the Emeralds-related releases from this year. I never could find the Outer Space record, I missed all of the 7" singles, and there's no way I could keep up with the CDr and cassette releases. Still, Does It Look Like I'm Here? was easily the single most listened-to record for my ears. I was finally able to get the sold-out-on-vinyl 2009 self-titled album when it was re-released on CD. Otherwise, I might have given up after not especially digging What Happened (2009). Mark McGuire successfully transplanted my favorite part of Emeralds (the guitars, of course) onto a great post-rockish solo-album. Mist teamed up John Elliot (of Emeralds) with Sam Goldberg (of Radio People) for an E.P. of neo-New Age jams. Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks was Elliot collaborating with people on more synthesizer-based workouts (with beats). And Imaginary Softwoods has Elliot experimenting solo, for 2 LP's of suspiciously similar-lengthed drones (all right around 6:30). So much to hear... [Read more...]

#3. Escobarb [post 2] - Pong

[Full Top 10 post here]

Escobarb Unleashed!
"Superwrong" from Escobarb (2010)
"Escobarb" from Escobarb (2010)

Genre - Party-Down Space Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Austin, TX

Review - 29-95
Download - n/a
Purchase - Amazon

What can I say? I'm a huge fan of Pong. I mean, I made videos for all the songs on this album, even "Applesauce." Which is kinda frightening! More reading's at the two video posts linked above. But this ended up being much stronger even than I'd originally thought. The older live favorites were excellent of course, but some of the unheard stuff was just as good... Especially the ever-more-mindblowing title track. I still think of Pong as primarily a live in-person event, so this their 3rd album continued a progression - taking them beyond just awesomely documenting their current accumulated live set. [Read more...]

#4. Le voyage - The Alps

[Full Top 10 post here]

Le voyage
"Drop In" from Le voyage (2010)
"Crossing the Sands" from Le voyage (2010)

Genre - Easy Noise
Official/Myspace -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - Pop Matters
SoundCloud (stream) - Le voyage
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure (US), Amazon (US), Boomkat (UK)

The way I see it is... If time ran backwards, then 40 years from now, the perfect band to provide music for Zabriskie Point would be located, and they would be heavily influenced by The Alps. Instead we've got this universe, and they had to make do with Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead (and Jerry Garcia), John Fahey, and Kaleidoscope. Which was definitely alright too... The Alps also put together their ranked free online mix "Summer Trips" Typecast.

#5. Gnod Drop Out with White Hills II - White Hills with Gnod
White Hills - White Hills
Stolen Stars Left for No One EP - White Hills

[Full Top 10 post here]

Gnod Drop Out II
"Run-A-Round" from Gnod Drop Out with White Hills II (2010)
"We Will Rise" from White Hills (2010)
"Drift Away" from Stolen Stars Left for No One EP (2010)

Genre - Space-Rock Jams
Official -
Myspace -
Location - New York, NY

Review - Roadburn
Download - others on Amazon & on iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, All That Is Heavy

White Hills can be pretty inconsistent. I wouldn't go so far as to call them "all over the map" stylistically, because they do tend towards the psychedelic-space quadrant. But they are, in some ways, an experimental rock band - in the sense that they aren't afraid to play with forms and expectations. So you get standard blast-off space-rock jams, slow-burning drones with ambient noise, collaborations with a British electronics squad, etc... Something in their core style might fall a bit flat, or might play to their strengths. Sometimes when they go farther afield it yields unexpected treats, or something that doesn't work so well. But it's always some kind of thrilling adventure.

#6. At Echo Lake - Woods

[Full Top 10 post here]

At Echo Lake
"Time Fading Lines" from At Echo Lake (2010)
"Death Rattles from At Echo Lake (2010)

Genre - Folky Psych-Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Brooklyn, NY

Review - Prefix Mag
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Great album from Woods! Good tunes, nice playing, just enough noisiness to give it an edge, and a high level of quality through the whole thing. Faint praise? Maybe, but if I had to guess I probably listened to this album the whole way through, the 2nd most in 2010 - third most maybe. It just seemed to catch me at the right time, and continued to hold up really well. Amidst the drones, the electro-Kraut, the space-rock, the ambient mash-up experiments, the psych and the post-rock, this was an album of laid-back, somewhat catchy, tuneful songs, done really well. And sometimes, that's more than enough.

7. Voice of the Seven Thunders - Voice of the Seven Thunders

[Full Top 10 post here]

Voice of the Seven Thunders
"The Burning Mountain" from Voice of the Seven Thunders (2010)
"Out of the Smoke" from Voice of the Seven Thunders (2010)

Genre - Jamming Guitar Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Bolton, UK

Review - Drowned In Sound
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon (US), Tchantinler (UK)

I'm not entirely sure why I ordered this. I know very little about the previous incarnation as Voice of the Seven Woods, although I had an impression of it as Six Organs-type drone-folk (which might even be accurate). I want to say I was ordering Set Phazer to Stun (#15) to get the Rough Trade bonus disc, and just added this one on a whim. But it's awesome! Veering between hard-charging lead guitar rock-out and quiet finger-picked acoustic folk interludes, with very slight vocals, each song just keeps topping the one before - or at least throwing a loop or two.

#8. Samhain Slant Azimuth - Demdike Stare and Antworth Kirk
Osmosis - Demdike Stare
Industrial Desert - Demdike Stare
Forest of Evil - Demdike Stare
Liberation through Hearing - Demdike Stare
Voices of Dust - Demdike Stare

[Full Top 10 post here]

Forest of Evil
"Dawn" [NSFW!!] from Forest of Evil (2010)
"Bardo Thodol" from Liberation through Hearing (2010)
"Rain and Shame" from Voices of Dust (2010)

Genre - Dark Ambient
Official/Myspace -
Location - Lancashire, UK

Review - Resident Advisor
SoundCloud (stream) - on Modern Love
Download - Boomkat
Purchase - Forced Exposure (US), Boomkat (UK)

In some significant ways, this was The Year of Demdike Stare for me. Very early on, I was hooked by a Hot Offer on a limited-edition CD called Osmosis (still £6 at Boomkat!) It turned out even better than the typically-glowing Boomkat description, and through the year, they just kept coming. Terrific free online mixes, another excellent full-CD mix release (Industrial Desert), a year-long trilogy of vinyl records... and the pièce de résistance at the end - the best of the full-length 1-tracks: a collaboration with Antworth Kirk, Samhain Slant Azimuth! Each release and mix has its own character, although they're all made from a mix of similar elements - ambient electronics, Eastern musics, noir jazz, minimal rhythm music techniques, some drone-some noise-some psych, a haunting mood and a soundtrack approach, obscure source audio blended seamlessly with original material.

#9. Ghost Box Study Series 01-04
Youth and Recreation - Belbury Poly and Moon Wiring Club
Cycles and Seasons - The Advisory Circle and Hong Kong in the '60s
Welcome to Godalming - Belbury Poly and Mordant Music
Familiar Shapes and Noises - Broadcast and The Focus Group

[Full Top 10 post here]

Ghost Box SS03
Both songs from 01 (2010)
Both songs from 02 (2010)
Both songs from 03 (2010)
Three songs from 04 (2010)

Genre - Electronic Hauntology
Official -
Myspace -
Location - England, UK

Review - Other Music
Download - Ghost Box, Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Ghost Box

This series of extra-hefty vinyl 7"s with really classy artwork reaches a new peak for Ghost Box. For most of its existence, the label was strictly CD's and downloads but just recently took the step into vinyl. In addition to some re-issues, these four singles mash-up two separate acts (British, electronic, hauntological) to either split sides or collaborate.

Some free news!! Belbury Poly recently put out the downloadable Radio Belbury: Programme No. 1. Moon Wiring Circle released a free EP and 3+ mixes summarized here. The Advisory Circle made the #6 Free Podcasts of 2010.

10. Your Mercury - Teeth of the Sea
Hypnoticon EP - Teeth of the Sea

[Full Top 10 post here]

Your Mercury

"A.C.R.O.N.Y.M." from Your Mercury (2010)
"In the Space Capsule (Love Theme)" from Hypnoticon EP (2010)

Genre - Soundtrack Jazz and Noise Ambience
Official/Myspace -
Location - North London, England

Review - The BBC
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - All That Is Heavy

This is why you don't publish a Year-End list at the beginning of December! (Among other late releases...) On its own, Hypnoticon would have probably been in the 20's or 30's. But then I caught word of an all-new full-length album, and it had already been released! In the newest issue of Mojo (Freddie Mercury cover), they have an article on Teeth of the Sea (not the 4-star review of Your Mercury). Influences referred to are: Hawkwind's Space Ritual (#4, 1973), Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992), and Monster Magnet's Spine of God (also 1992)... "Krautrock, Kosmische music, spaghetti western soundtracks, pompous Euro-prog" (per Julian Cope), The Cramps, Steve Reich, Queen's soundtrack to Flash Gordon, "Iain Sinclair/Alan Moore psychogeography," Sunn O))), Heldon, and Bongwater (#4, 1988). But then makes the important point that "their singular wisdom is never to copy their heroes." Right.

Pyramid of the Moon
I just recently noticed a pattern here towards the top: artist-run labels and self-releases. Pong, Woodsist, Tchantinler, Demdike Stare (mix CD's), Ghost Box (The Focus Group / Belbury Poly), Neurot Recordings, Linus Pauling Quartet... That's ½ of the top 14!! More if you consider Emeralds, whose Wagon/Gneiss Things label(s) self-released Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks, the original Mist cassette, and the original Imaginary Softwoods and Emeralds self-titled LP's. Nice to see!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top 50-ish Records of 2010 (#11-#20)

We're getting soooo close... Not long to wait, at all. But here are the "Next 10" for 2010. Previous posts in the Top 50 series are:
#'s 21-30, #'s 31-40, and #'s 41-50.

#11. Ancestral Star - Barn Owl

Ancestral Star
"Visions in Dust" from Ancestral Star (2010)
"Light from the Mesa" from Ancestral Star (2010)

Genre - Peyote-Vision Morricone-Drone
Official/Myspace -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Thrill Jockey Records, Forced Exposure

I can understand how some people might not get the guitar drone thing, might find it boring. For example, having moved from Robedoor (#18 below) to Barn Owl, I'm ready to try again with Earth (drone icons who I've previous failed to get into). Regardless, this is a complete well-formed album - an artistic statement! There's a theme, with consistency of tone, but quite a lot of variation. It works just as well sliding into the background as it does for close listening.

The theme appears to be an overnight sojourn in a desert (of the mind?), starting at "Sundown" and ending with "Light from the Mesa." The consistent tone comes from spare, reverbed guitar figures with varying levels of intensity and accompaniment. Sometimes there's feedback, sometimes ghostly wordless vocals, sometimes drums or maybe some cello... It seems the tones get deeper and darker, maybe quieter, towards the middle - then rise up again towards the end. The title track is the epic centerpiece, but for the most part each song comes in a digestible size (especially for drone). Maybe I'm just reading too much into it. Sweet gatefold cover though!

12. Trinity - Harvestman
Hawkwind Triad - Harvestman/US Christmas/Minsk

Hawkwind Triad
"Don't Play with Water / Dead Flowers" from Trinity (2010)
"Master of the Universe" by US Christmas, from Hawkwind Triad (2010)
"Children of the Sun" by Minsk, from Hawkwind Triad (2010)

Genre - Stoner Psych-Drone Soundtrack / Space Rock Covers
Label -
Myspace -
Location(s) - ID / NC / IL

Review - Metal Review
Download - Trinity, Hawkwind Triad
Purchase - Blue Collar Distro

The Trinity CD is a limited-edition release of a Harvestman soundtrack for an Italian horror film. Some of the music had been on the Harvestman debut album Lashing the Rye (#2, Drone/Ambient 2005), but most is newly released. Exactly what you expect - atmospheric psych treatments with post-metallic folk and some synth ambience. Which is something I'm way into…

Hawkwind (#4, 1973) demand tribute from their minions. And happily, they have been getting some these last few years. This one's done in a fairly unique manner: 1 full-length, 3 artists, with a few songs each (rather than the usual 1 track per). So... US Christmas - very nice! They're the most true to the original, but moreso. Harvestman - good, but I would have gone instrumental... Not completely sold on the vocal style. Minsk - not as great as I would expect a self-styled "psychedelic metal" band. They seem especially good at intro's and coda's, but the least of the three for me.

13. Turn On, Tune In, Fuck Off!! LP - Dragontears

Turn on Tune in Fuck Off!!
"Two Tongue Talk" from Turn On, Tune In, Fuck Off!! (2010)
"No Salvation" from Turn On, Tune In, Fuck Off!! (2010)
"Astral Flash/Space Fuck" from Turn On, Tune In, Fuck Off!! bonus 7"(2010)

Genre - the Psychedelic Old-School
Official/Myspace -
Location - Copenhagen, Denmark

Review - Pop Matters
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - All That Is Heavy [LP / CD]

Quite a change here on the final album from Dragontears (#2, 2008). Side A edges closer back to Baby Woodrose territory, rocking more garage-psych than the previous records. You got your grooves, your choruses, backing vocals, straight-up guitar solos, the whole deal! Fortunately that's their day job - so it's good tunes, good fun. "My Friend" is a very nice and mellow acoustic number… also a surprise. Side B goes back to the well of Dragontears - drawn-out, multi-layered psychedelic guitar sprawl, with different facets submerging and bubbling up. "William" is the epic, in Danish, and apparently about Danish artist Wiliam Skotte Olsen. Haven't found the lyrics to translate yet, but It's A Trap (Scando music journal) called them "strong and well-written." [Found them! Let's see if this translation works...] The final LP track "Mennesketvilling" is also in Danish. The internet translates the title as "Human Twins." Also droning, it has ghostly background vocals and a dark vibe.

Bonus 7" is bonus! "Astral Flash" almost qualifies as the title track of the album, even though it's not on the album and doesn't share the same name. Still, the album title is the only lyrics, and the only place it's used throughout (at least in English). Both sides are different than most anything on the actual record – more like charging deep-psychedelic Hawkwind space-rock. Maybe the middle ground between the garage and the drone that splits the LP??

14. Horns of Ammon - Linus Pauling Quartet
split-7" with ST 37 - Linus Pauling Quartet

Horns of Ammon
"Lost It All" from Horns of Ammon (2010)
"Monster / Lactating Purple" from ST 37 split-7" (2010)

Genre - Heavy-Duty Space-Psych
Official -
Myspace -
Blog -
Even Wikipedia - New!! LP4 entry
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Nonalignment Pact
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - CD Baby (also for Download)

A Linus album will generally find its way into my highest ranks. Horns of Ammon seems kind of a palate-cleanser though, before the expected-in-2011 Bag of Hammers. These are mostly older tunes, a couple were already released as demo's on the Songs from the Cretaceous career-retrospective CDr (#2, Repertoire Release 2005). There's also the recent "Monster" side from this year's split 7" with ST-37, plus the super-ltd. epic jam "HAWG!!" (co-#7, 2007). Plus a couple that I only know from live shows, but only one that I don't remember ever hearing at all: "Lost It All." It's nice to have these on a full CD release, but not a game-changer. Hopefully, they're saving that for next year (2xLP?). The split 7" is terrific, though! LP4's "Monster" is more garage-y and 'punk' than anything I can remember them playing, and ST-37's cover of Helios Creed's "Lactating Purple" is brain-melting.

#15. Set Phazer to Stun - The Time & Space Machine
plus the bonus CD
"Set Phazer to Stun" 12" - The Time & Space Machine

Set Phazer to Stun
"Mushroom Family" from Set Phazer to Stun (2010)
"Children of the Sun / Zeitghost" from Set Phazer to Stun (2010)

Genre - Electronic Psych-Rock Mix-Up
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Line of Best Fit
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Turntable Lab [LP / CD]

Like #14 above, this one could have gone higher if not for some recycling. This full-length includes both the "Children of the Sun/Zeitghost" single and all 3 from the You Are The One EP (co-#6's, 2009). Most of my thoughts are linked via the title above – but YouTube now has the gnarly cover of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" - featuring "For What It's Worth," and female vox... and saxophone! The Rough Trade Set Phazer bonus disc and #1 set of Free Internet Mixes were awesome, as detailed in the "bonus CD" link above... Uh, I also got the 12" single of the title track! A-side is an extended mix by Richard Norris himself, and there's 2 others - one an "electro-disco" remix from Bottin. Also, Volume Three mini-LP was released 12/20 and is in transit. I'm very confident!

16. What Once Was... Liber I - Blut Aus Nord

What Once Was... Liber I
"Chapter 5" from What Once Was... Liber I (2010)
First 8½ minutes from What Once Was... Liber I (2010)

Genre - Epic Industrial Black Metal
Official/Myspace -
Location - Mondeville, Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France

Review - Metal Review
Download - Ltd. Ed. vinyl-only, so probably not...
Purchase - Eitrin Editions

Blut Aus Nord put out the Best Non-Top 10 Metal Album of 2009. Though What Once Was... Liber I isn't the all-destroying monolith of modern Black Metal that Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue with the Stars was, I don't think that's the intent here. Last year's double-album loomed over every horizon with atmospheric heaviness. This EP pummels and punches, relenting only for a quick breath here and there, better to gather strength and pummel harder. If the jackhammer drumming stops, it's either because the song is ending or for a short guitar break before kicking back in again. Heavy-duty, man, but I don't find it getting repetitive in the least. "Liber I" would be Latin/Roman for "Book One," and some have called the untitled tracks "Chapters 1-8." Maybe, so I fully expect a Liber II...

17. Wilderness Heart - Black Mountain

Wilderness Heart
"Old Fangs" from Wilderness Heart (2010)
"The Hair Song" from Wilderness Heart (2010)

Genre - Rock Music
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Vancouver, BC

Review - Pitchfork
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Jagjaguwar (also for Download)

A Black Mountain song was due to kick of the inaugural Astral Headspace podcast - which never got launched - because they were my #10 Discovery of 2008. In The Future (2008) is still a Top 10 record for me, although there are a couple of songs that drag, or drag on too long. Wilderness Heart doesn't have the peaks and valleys of awesomeness, I find it more consistent overall. I think there are a few more low-key, acoustic type songs, but it still has a few all-out rockers like "Old Fangs" and "Let Spirits Ride." And mid-tempo numbers like "The Hair Song" and the title track. Solid rock album!

18. Pacific Drift 7" - Robedoor

Pacific Drift
"Exploited" from Pacific Drift 7" (2010)
"Radiant Command" from Burners (2010)

Genre - Ecstatic Drone
Official/Myspace -
Location - Los Angeles, CA

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, Insound

Whew! A few singles and EP's – even less writing needed from me... For some subconscious reason, I have only bought 7" releases since Robedoor's shift away from full-on drone. I have been filling in some older releases - the two downloads mentioned in that link, plus Unsummoning (2006) and Endlessly Blazing (2008) - good stuff! But so far, no Raiders (2009) or Burners (2010) for me. The Pagan Drugs 7" single was good and gave me hope for those albums, but the 3-song Pacific Drift 7" is even better. The title track meanders in a haze, noisy but subdued underneath a progression of clear tones, building but never gathering too much momentum. "Exploited" almost has a riff, but is more spare and jittery than the usual thick layers of sound. And "Blanked Out" is more of an actual song - what of I imagine the last two records contain. Pretty cool, with a veering, keening guitar lope... All three songs could have gone longer, but the bite-sized approach is okay for the almost-extinct 7" EP format.

19. Black Tar Prophecies, Vol. 4 EP - Grails
Black Tar Prophecies, Vol's 1, 2, & 3 re-issue - Grails

BTP v.4
"Self-Hypnosis" from Black Tar Prophecies, Vol. 4 (2010)
"Black Tar Frequencies" from Black Tar Prophecies, Vol's 1, 2, & 3 (2006, 2010)

Genre - Tibetan Crime Jazz
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Portland, OR

Review - Roadburn
Download - n/a
Purchase - Pamlico Sound, Forced Exposure

Ahhh, Grails (#6 Discovery of 2008, and shoulda been higher). The new BTP EP was a little disappointing, I must admit. "I Want A New Drug" is 2½ minutes of introductory tape-manipulation blur and screwed "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen" - fine. "Self-Hypnosis" is quality Grails. Then around 2½ minutes of polite piano mood... I'm not sure I'd want it expanded, but it does seem slight. "New Drug II" is about 2½ minutes of more low-grade tape-noise and found-sound chopped-up Chapter-and-Verse spoken-word. Okay... The piano returns for "Up All Night," which has more heft than the other mood piece, but is not really where I'm hoping Grails is heading. So, yeah, I much prefer the re-issue of Vol's 1, 2, & 3 (2006) which I was just about to buy when a new LP edition was announced. The BTP series might not be the place to start with Grails, but the first three are packed with goodness. The new one works as a "Self-Hypnosis" maxi-single, like with bonus tracks.

20. Sky Burial 12" - Nadja

Sky Burial
"SUN1jaguar" from Under the Jaguar Sun (2009)

Genre - Ambient Shoegaze Drone Metal
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Berlin / Toronto

Review - ThetaPlane blog
Download - n/a
Purchase - Boomkat

I still haven't explored much more from Nadja (#16, Next 10 Metal 2009), so everything's new and good to me. Two looong tunes - metal/drone, o'course. The first one "Jaguar" (18:59 per vinyl rip) builds slowly, layering on chiming bell-tones, multiple guitars and noise, while the bass keeps chugging below. Eventually, all the trademarked Nadja elements are in effect. The second, title track (19:05) starts off with more going on. Feedbacks and drum-machine have started by the 2-minute mark - and by the end, guitars are shredding and the rhythm is being looped and delayed. Quality zone-outs!

LP4 HoA gatefold

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 50-ish Records of 2010 (#21-#30)

Wherein we continue our journey to the top, after previously wandering through #'s 41-50 and #'s 31-40.

21. Dagger Paths 2xCD edition - Forest Swords

Dagger Paths EP
"Glory Gongs" from Dagger Paths EP (2010)
"If Your Girl" from Dagger Paths EP (2010)

Genre - Witch-House Drone-Psych Dub
Official/Myspace -
Location - Liverpool, UK

Review - Pitchfork [expanded / original]
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - No Pain In Pop, Forced Exposure

Oh, how we joked about Witch House... "It's the new Hauntology," we laughed! Well, it is. I know, I know - this probably isn't technically Witch House (or maybe even Drag), maybe it's actually Dronestep. But "sub-genre" isn't even useful anymore, we're now into micro-genre's. We have to create new categories almost as fast as styles proliferate. Anyway, this stuff is super-duper. Just click the title link for more details. Loops, drones, guitars, disembodied voices, immaculately built-up moods - I was caught off-guard!

22. Commune Cassetten - Sylvester Anfang II
On the Beach - Edgar Wappenhalter

Commune Cassetten
"Damia(a)n" from Commune Cassetten (2010)
"Missing Heights" from On the Beach (2010)

Genre - Funeral-Folk Kraut-Drone
Official/Label -
Myspace -
Location - Belgium

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - n/a
Purchase - Forced Exposure

I definitely liked the previous self-titled one (#9, Drone/Ambient 2009). They're from Belgium - kinda Satanic, but also hippies. Don't let 'em into the Hollywood Hills! All kinds of psych, grooves, experimental vibes, and so forth. Not too heavy, more moody than anything. But each tune creates a little world to inhabit and deal with. The less said about On the Beach, the better... I'm warming to parts of it, but not so much the whole.

23. Primitive Neural Pathways - Steve Moore
Speicher 67 split-12" with Maxime Dangles - Steve Moore
Timespan Remixes - Majeure + remixers
Also various free sounds, such as "Sunstar" by Miracle, and others found here.

Primitive Neural Pathways
"Bayern Kurve" from Speicher 67 split-12" (2010)
"Teleforce" [unremixed] not from Timespan Remixes (2010)

Genre - Neo-Italo disco / Electro-Prog remix
Official - SteveMoore2600
Myspace - Majeure
Location - Chicago? Pittsburgh? Brooklyn?

Review - Inverted Audio
Stream: Primitive Neural Pathways [side A/side B]
Stream: "Bayern Kurve"
Download - Speicher 67, Timespan + remixes
Purchase - Temporary Residence Limited, Forced Exposure

I hope by now everyone is aware that I'm kind of a fan of Zombi: co-#2 of 2009, #1 of 2006, and #1 from 2004. No new Zombi this year, but a few separate things from the duo... Believe me, it's not the same thing. Steve Moore (synth/bass) is doing less proggy and horror soundtrack type stuff, leaning more towards late-'70s/early-'80s Italo disco. "Bayern Kurve" was released as part of a techno 12" series on Kompakt, and it's probably outside the usual spectrum for that. But also at the edges of Steve Moore's oeuvre. Primitive Neural Pathways is currently shipping, but I've listened to it plenty! Different kind of soundtrack vibe, but pretty damn fine. Timespan was a decent chunk of last year's co-#2 with Maserati. A.E. Paterra (drums) did it all himself, and here we get some okay remixes from Justin Broadrick (a.k.a. Jesu), Blackstrobe (???), and Steve Moore (of course). Not strictly essential, but somewhat interesting.

24. Sing A Song - Shawn Lee

Sing A Song
"It Takes Two" from Sing A Song (2010)
"Fade Up" from Sing A Song (2010)

Genre - Now Soul
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - A.V. Club
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Much like last year's #1 record (Shawn Lee Presents Soul in the Hole), this follows Lee's neo-soul leanings away from his spy-jazz and other studio electronic projects. But a bit less so... Slightly less spectacular guest singers, and fewer absolute stand-out songs, drop this one quite a few slots in a stronger year. But anyone who dug Soul in the Hole basically has to grab this - it still has lots going for it.

25. Debaixo das Pedras (Under the Stones) - Os Haxixins

Under the Stones
"Meu Bem" from Debaixo das Pedras (2010)
"Que nem Diamante" from Debaixo das Pedras (2010)

Genre - Brazilian '60s Fuzz Garage
Official/Myspace -
Location - São Paulo, Brazil

Review - Rated Muzik [translated]
Download - n/a
Purchase - Record Heaven (Sweden)

Such excitement from the garages of Brazil!! The self-titled debut (#5, 2007) was more from the '60s fuzz-punk mold and blew me away. The new one might actually be better, but I can't be as shocked by South American stylistic fidelity to US regional '60s rock. On Debaixo das Pedras (Under the Stones), Os Haxixins has developed through their decade of inspiration - going from mid-'60s party-rock closer to late-mid-'60s Elektra roster hippy-rock. Yep, we're almost in Arthur Lee & Love territory here!! So just barely out of the garage, a little catchier, a little more complex, a little darker but less raucous. I'm so glad to have discovered this band.

#26. True Love Cast Out All Evil - Roky Erickson with Okkervil River

True Love Cast Out All Evil
"Goodbye Sweet Dreams" from True Love Cast Out All Evil (2010)
"True Love Cast Out All Evil" from True Love Cast Out All Evil (2010)

Genre - Texas Legend
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Austin, TX

Review - Houston Chronicle
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Kind of a letdown, relative to a new Roky Erickson album. I mean, I'm a huge long-time super-fan, and it had been too long since his last one. Like All That May Do My Rhyme (1994), this is mostly older material - which is fine. An old(?) lo-fi recording of "Devotional Number One" starts off on the right track (now), but then strings and noise rise and drown it out. It's fairly cool, except... why? Because of Okkervil River. On the flip side, the arrangement and backing for "Goodbye Sweet Dreams" would not have been Roky's idea - but it works well. Unfortunately, there's too much "Okkervil noise effects" thumbprints, compared to complementary back-up-band support. It's great that Roky's out there playing (saw him twice in about a year!) and making records, and there's still some great Roky material here. But I wanted a Top 10 record...

27. Holy Ground: NYC Live (with The Wordless Music Orchestra) (w/ DVD) - Mono

Holy Ground: NYC Live
"Ashes in the Snow" from Holy Ground: NYC Live DVD (2010)
"Pure as Snow (Trails of the Winter Storm)" from Holy Ground: NYC Live (2010)

Genre - Cinematic Heartstring Post-Rock Live with Orchestra
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Tokyo, Japan

Review - Paste Magazine
Download - iTunes
Purchase - Temporary Residence Limited, Forced Exposure

Ranked almost entirely for the DVD. For some reason, I really never play the audio-only thing, although I listen to quite a lot of Mono records. But the DVD is seriously great, being about their standard live set from last year (#7 Live Show, 2009) - with an orchestra!! Plus I'll admit to being heavily into live performance video releases. It sounds like it should work, and it does so better than I'd expected. The orchestra adds something, but generally steps back enough for Mono to be the main show. Great for the fan, and I'd think a good introduction for those unsure about this whole Japanese emotive instrumental post-rock schtick.

29. Death Voyage - Expo '70
Where Does Your Mind Go? - Expo '70
Center of the Earth re-issue - Expo '70

Death Voyage
"Building Celestial Tapestries" from Death Voyage (2010)
"Close Your Eyes And Effortlessly Drift Away" from Where Does Your Mind Go? (2010)

Genre - Guitar Space Drone
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Kansas City, MO

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - other Expo '70 on Amazon, on iTunes
Purchase - Norman Records

I can't explain why I dig Expo '70 so much, but I totally do. It's really, really abstract - and really, really droning. Something about it just nails a spacy out-there-ness. Guitars, bass, guitars that sound like synths, some actual synths, effects-effects-effects just going over patterns and repeating and layering. For really long periods of time, but new stuff just keeps happening - within songs and then again when the next one starts. Very occasionally, there will be a significantly new wrinkle: a glitchy rhythm track, Ligeti-style noise-tones, the piano on "Transgressing Outward Which Is Inward" from Where Does Your Mind Go? But for the most part, the same components are re-worked over and over expanding the frontiers of the possible. I'm just along for the ride.

29. Live at 013 - Roadburn 2009 - Farflung

Live at 013 - Roadburn 2009
"Unborn Planet" (live) from Live at 013 Roadburn 2009 (2010)
"Silver Shrooms (live)" from Live at 013 Roadburn 2009 (2010)

Genre - Post-Punk Space-Rock
Official/Myspace -
Location - L.A., CA

Review - nothing...
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - All That Is Heavy [LP / CD]

Farflung's 2009 live set was terrific as a stream from the Roadburn site, but the stream wasn't very stable and it came through computer speakers. This release seems like the exact same audio source, pressed for your Hi-Fi stereo system. Awesome enough!! I only had their debut (#5, 1995) and the last one. But I'm a fan of the whole style (high-octane space-rock), and this just makes me want to seek out more releases.

30. Fin Eaves - Cloudland Canyon

Fin Eaves
"No One Else Around" from Fin Eaves (2010)
"Mothlight Part 2" from Fin Eaves (2010)

Genre - Glitch Shoegaze
Official/Myspace -
Location - Brooklyn / Germany

Review - Pop Matters
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Holy Moutain Records, Amazon

I picked this disc up at the same time as Dungen's Skit I Allt (#31, 2010), and the two have parallelled each other for me ever since. I very much liked their previous one Lie in Light (2008), and something got lost since then. With Cloudland, it was literally one of the main duo. And so gone is the Kraut-y drivin' drone, and it's replaced with a dense shoegazin' thrum. Whereas Dungen got cleaner and clearer, they've gotten more distorted and submerged. Either close listening or distracted detachment benefits Fin Eaves. It's a good album, but ultimately suffers from my expectations.

Fjree Feather EP

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top 50-ish Records of 2010 (#31-#40)

Gotta keep moving if I'm gonna make my train! Here's the next ten entries on the 2010 Top 50 (or so). If you're not familiar with how it works, or just overlooked it, check out Records #41-50 here - or immediately below this post.

Finally posting the "bottom" 10, I realized how fond I actually am for most of them... And these are even better. Not quite to unqualified recommendation levels yet, but fortunately I didn't buy a lot of crappy albums this year. Check it out!

31. Skit I Allt - Dungen

Skit i Allt
"Skit I Allt" from Skit I Allt (2010)
"Marken Låg Stilla" from Skit I Allt (2010)

Genre - Indie Prog Folk
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Sweden

Review - Prefix Mag
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Mexican Summer, Amazon

I wish he'd just start singing in American! (joking...) A really good album, if maybe a little too laid-back overall. I discovered Dungen late with 4 (#5, 2008), which saw similar complaints vs. earlier freakierness. So maybe I don't have room to complain, and there's no denying the songwriting and especially clear production. But still, fewer of the high-energy rockers like the groovy psych-jam of
"Högdalstoppen" or "Brallor." Still, a quality softer folk-rock record, with a little prog and psych in the mix.

32. Phosphene Dream - The Black Angels

Phosphene Dream
"Sunday Afternoon" from Phosphene Dream (2010)
"Yellow Elevator #2" from Phosphene Dream (2010)

Genre - Drone-Rock Psych
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Austin, TX

Review - Drowned in Sound
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Might have overrated Passover (#3, 2006) a bit, but I still dig their neuvo-retro take on various '60s Garage-Drone-Psyches. Lots of tunes, a little bit more variety than earlier stuff. Not as serious, less war and death and pestilence, but the upbeat stuff is still more ominous than fun - hauntings, elevators, "Bad Vibrations," etc... And then you still have a "River of Blood" and the return of at least one sniper.

33. Porcelain Opera - Rene Hell
Also the bonus CD, Rogue Camera

Porcelain Opera
"Razor. P+" from Porcelain Opera (2010)
"Gas" from Porcelain Opera (2010)

Genre - Deep-Kosmische Synth
Official/Blog - Salon Turnkey
Location - Portland, OR

Review - Fact Mag
Stream - Porcelain Opera
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, Amazon

Future-music, just like in the good ol' days... Everything seems built atop synthesizer rhythms that dip sidewards. Tension's made to build and build, only to eventually be forced to disperse. Release is so 20th century. This could have been terrible, and at times I wondered. But in the end, I found the whole thing attention-grabbing, stark and arresting in a really good way. The bonus disc isn't quite as developed or varied, but it's like some really good demo's for the future. I've grown to like it more and more (which gives me hope for #44).

34. Prophecy of the Black Widow - Umberto

Prophecy of the Black Widow
"Temple Room" from Prophecy of the Black Widow (2010)
"Red Dawn" from Prophecy of the Black Widow (2010)

Genre - Electro-Soundtrack Horrorscapes
Official/Myspace -
Location - Kansas City, MO

Review - सølγ שаябlɛş
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure

The guy who is Umberto has/does played keyboards with Expo '70 (#7, Drone/Ambient 2009), but it's different. This one's better even than From the Grave... (2009), which I liked pretty well. The album is laid out like a horror movie soundtrack or score (maybe of the '50s or '60s), with track names evoking horror movie locales, clichés, and storylines. And the music fits that bill overall, being ominous and spooky keyboard creepy-crawlers. With Steve Moore busy remixing and exploring other genres and collaborating outside of Zombi, Umberto seems poised to pick up the mantle of horror-synth jams. Also has a little of the jazzoid New Age Outlaws vibe sometimes, specifically in "Someone Chasing Someone Through A House." Goodness.

35. A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind - The Amorphous Androgynous

A Monstrous Psychedlic Bubble
"Flow Motion" by Can, from A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble... (2010)
"Opus of the Black Sun" from A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble... (2010)

Genre - Psychedelic Mix-Up
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Manchester, UK

Review - Prog Archives
Download - different volume(s) on Amazon,
Purchase - others at Norman Records

This mix CD came free with Mojo magazine (Feb 2010). And I don't think I can discuss The Amorphous Androgynous without mentioning BTWS - so there. Includes previous Astral award-winners The Yellow Moon Band (#8, 2009), Dungen (#5, 2008), and Can (#1, 1973 and #4, 1972). Other artist I like a lot, such as White Noise, Donovan, Comus, and Jean-Claude Vannier... The Am/And themselves, plus others that fit the bill: adventurous psych/prog/pop. I'm very appreciative of all the free Mojo mix cd's that come with each issue - but frankly these guys are the professional mixologists. Probably the single best Mojo edition, one I'd easily buy with real cash money!

36. "Antler Wings" split-7" - Ancestors/Graveyard

"Antler Wings" by Ancestors, from split-7" (2010)
"As the Years Pass By, The Hours Bend" [studio] by Graveyard, not from split-7" (2010)

Genre - Epic Heavy Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - L.A. / Sweden

Review - Ritual Room blog
Download/Purchase - other Ancestors on Amazon, on iTunes
Purchase - All That Is Heavy

Rocks!! Cool updates of some older rock sounds. Really need to get Ancestors' Of Sound Mind (2009), which Vinal Edge put in their Best-Of list/CD. Everything I've heard of their psychedelic progressive doom has sounded excellent. Graveyard's music was absolutely not what I was expecting at all, given their band name. Will also try to check them out at some point. FYI: you can hear the title track from Ancestors' Neptune with Fire (2008) on blog comp #2. Bonus FYI: NWF's cover artist!

37. Totem Two - Master Musicians of Bukkake

"Patmos" from Totem Two (2010)
"The Heresy of Origen / Coincidentia Oppositorum / The Crystal Reformation" from Totem Two (2010)

Genre - Ceremonial Mysticism
Official/Myspace -
Location - Seattle, WA

Review - Roadburn
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure

The sequel! Discovered them with Totem One (#11 non-Metal, 2009), and the Masters are still plying their Eastern Mystic instrumentals - descended from the pseudo-serious (non-silly) aspect of Sun City Girls. I think I've warmed to the new installment since first getting it. The opening track seems like one of those abstract album-launching intro's, which would be fine at intro-length rather than 12 minutes! The second track ("Perde Kaldirma") is also slow, repetitive and long – only less so. But it gets better from there… and by the end, "Patmos," it’s actually really fine.

38. Fresh Millions - freshmillions

"Forever (live)" from Fresh Millions (2010)
"The Helicopter" from Fresh Millions (2010)

Genre - Synth-Heavy Rock Motion
Official/Myspace -
Location - Austin, TX

Review - Austin 360
Stream/Download - BandCamp, iTunes d/l
Purchase - Insect Records

Nice little surprise! After Ween at Stubb's, we dropped in on some big revue happening at The Mohawk across Red River. Fun show, catchy grooves, good mix of electonics and "real" instruments, live playing and sampled backdrops. Duly impressed, I picked up this CD. Only 1 or 2 duff sequences on the whole album, which is phenomenal for a college-town synth/samples/live instrument electro-funk outfit.

39. Returnal - Oneohtrix Point Never
"Returnal" 7" single - Antony / Fennesz (OPN)

"Returnal" from Returnal (2010)
"Returnal" from the 7" single (2010)

Genre - Decadent Synth Squiggles
Official -
Myspace -
Location - NYC, NY

Review - Tiny Mix Tapes
Download - Amazon, both on iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure

I did a whole series of posts on OPN's Rifts (2009) – and Leyland Kirby's trilogy-pack. Like that collection, Returnal boasts some really nice material... and quite a bit of "filler" - stuff other people might like the most. "Nil Almirari" - I don't listen to NWW for a reason. A lot of pleasantly drifty mush, and a few strong numbers. The title track is by far the best of those few, and the 7" clarifies the song and provides an interesting, different perspective. I’m glad to see this getting quite a bit of attention around this time of year. Oneohtrix was far from the only artist mining this stylistic territory, and hyperactive industriousness seems more the rule than the exception for those. But worthwhile all the same.

40. Mexican Easter EP - Giant Princess
Zip Zop Wow vinyl re-issue - Giant Princess

Mexican Easter cassette
"Wishing Well" from Mexican Easter EP (2010)

Genre - alt.pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - 29-95
Stream/Purchase - both records at BandCamp

Sorta '90s indie songcraft – echoes of Pavement, Sebadoh, Flaming Lips, that era of bands who mixed rock, pop, post-punk, and some kind of personal "alternative" style. It's got pretty good songwriting, a retro-sound but a young energy, plus some organ/synth – which isn't typical for this kind of group. Mexican Easter is much better - more developed, more focused, fewer and better songs. I'd downloaded the debut when it was digital & free, but now it's been re-released on vinyl. There's also Mexican Easter: The Movie (Pt. 1: "Gunplay"), which I haven't yet watched.

Rogue Camera bonus disc