Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 11-20 Albums of 2011

... and Happy New Year!!

Here beginneth the 2nd half of the year-end Albums list(s). This was a weird year for me & music (& blogging), and I had a hard time deciding the last few ranks for this post. I might put together a thematic Honorable Mentions post, time permitting. And the actual Top 10 will come soon, hopefully in a day or two...

But for now, let's get to it!

#11 Too Down to Die - Robedoor

Too Down to Die
"(In the) Cybershade/Universal Migration" from Too Down to Die
"Dungeon Crossroads" from Too Down to Die (2011)

Genre - Psychedelic Noise-Drone
Official/Myspace -
Location - Los Angeles, CA

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

Robedoor's Rancor Keeper (2007) is probably my favorite noise/drone album of all time. Love it! I started picking up their more recent 7"s, including last year's Pacific Drift (#18, 2010), but had missed out on a coupla records. I got this new one super-recently, but have been listening to it A LOT. Side-long opener "Parallel Wanderer" is massive, dense, shifting and well worth a 22-minute investment. This recent post includes a link to an in-studio live version, plus some more... Not sure how "Afterburners" might be related to the album Burners (2010). Lots going on with this one.

#12 Celestial Lineage - Wolves in the Throne Room

Celestial Lineage
"Astral Blood" from Celestial Lineage (2011)
"Subterranean Initiation" from Celestial Lineage (2011)

Genre - Cascadian Eco-Black Metal
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Olympia, WA

Review - Encyclopaedia Metallum user reviews
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Southern Lord Records

Like many American dabblers in Black Metal, I've somewhat latched onto WITTR. Because the sounds incorporate haunting atmospherics and some mellower sounds, it can be a more inviting style of listen. Lots of attention was paid to the opening tune, "Thuja Magus Imperium," probably for this exact reason. Their last two releases a couple years ago (#14, 2009) weren't quite up to Two Hunters (#7, 2007). Now I'm not saying Celestial Lineage is either, but it's a step in the right direction. Outside of some minor interlude tracks, everything here sounds seriously serious. One more for ya: "Woodland Cathedral."

#13 En Form for Blå - Æthenor

En Form for Bla (live)
"Jocasta" from En Form for Blå (2011)
"One Number of Destiny in Ninety Nine" from En Form for Blå (2011)

Genre - Experimental Dark Jazz
Official/Myspace -
Location - Out there!

Review - The Quietus
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - VHF Records

All the way back to first hearing their debut album (#7, 2006), Æthenor has seemed kinda special to me. A collection of talented artists, a super-group even, who get together to do what weirdo musicians should always do: make fantastic freak-outs that sound awesome! As detailed on the release date, these recordings come from a 3-night live stand in Oslo, Norway. Certainly do wish I'd been there! More songs from this one are hidden here behind MySpace. Other tunes I especially dig are: "Laudanum Tusk", "Vivarium", and "Dream Tassels."

#14 World of Funk - Shawn Lee

World of Funk
"Cairo Cairo" (with Natacha Atlas) from World of Funk (2011)
"Iceberg" (with Elliot Bergman) from World of Funk (2011)

Genre - Funk and/or World
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, England

Review - Fly Global Music
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Ubiquity Records

A fomer year-end #1 (of 2009), Shawn Lee keeps 'em comin'. He's done soul, he's done covers, he's done videogame soundtracks! This one does a funky take on various World Music styles. I actually posted on this album very recently, so I won't go on and on (again). I will point out that the Nanny G who appears on "Nanny Jee" is supposedly Shawn Lee's mother-in-law, and that's pretty badass!

#15 EP3 - Cult of Dom Keller
"We Are Temples of Light and Dark" - Cult of Dom Keller

"This is How It Feels to Live Your Life Dead" from EP3 (2011)
"We Are Temples of Light and Dark," internet demo d/l (2011)

Genre - Dronish Psych-Rock
Official/Myspace -
Location - Nottingham, U.K.

Download - Bandcamp
Purchase - The Committee to Keep Music Evil

We caught these guys at this year's Austin Psych Fest, and got to meet them and everything. They were good blokes, from Britain and all... Their music is retro for everything droney and druggy all at once - from the Velvet Underground through '80s stuff like Echo and Julian Cope, to My Bloody shoegaze, up to around the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Picked up EP1 and EP2 at the fest, and the new EP will have to do until they release Swamp Heron Blues (????). You can also stream it at Bandcamp. And they're always posting up their videos on YouTube. Be forewarned: it is druggy & droney.

#16 Easy Action - The Alps

Easy Action
"For Isabel" from Easy Action (2011)
"Reflections for Peter Green" from Easy Action (2011)

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

Review - The Agit Reader
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Sold Out at source...

These guys had been climbing the Astral Headspace Top 10 mountain (such as it is), with III at #9 on the inaugural 2008 list, then up to #4 on last year's. Unfortunately, this new one doesn't click with me as regularly. I still enjoy the half with more song-like stuff (as above links), but there's a few too many noisescapes which are each a bit too long for me. So I think that "Spray" (not a Can cover) and the title track (where'd the video go at?!) are both really great. And even then, some of the experiments do pay off - the three movements of "Loves of a Blonde" all yield their own rewards. I mean, we're still talking #16 here...

Easy Action pop-up
Also, the pop-up album cover design is really excellent!

#17 Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory - Expo '70
Blackout: Live Ithaca & Manhattan 2009 - Expo '70

Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory
"Hypnotic Brain Cloud Float" [edit] from Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory (2011)
"Ithaca, NY 10/19/09" [edit] from Blackout: Live... (2011)

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

Review - Dumpster Diving blog
Download - Boomkat, Amazon
Purchase - Aguirre Records

This is weird. You know when I like to listen to Expo '70 (#7 Drone/Ambient 2009, and #29, 2010)? When I'm buying groceries. Not the only time, mind. But I find myself selecting them often as I push a cart up and down the aisles, zoned out a million miles away. I have no idea why, but there it is... These two LP's each consist of 2 side-long live explorations from the recent past. I prefer Inaudible Bicoastal Trajectory for both the space-outs and the titles ("Hypnotic Brain Cloud Float?" Check. "Mystical Bamboo Garden Cultivation?" O yes.) The NY jams on Blackout seem a bit more muscular, but still meandering into the firmament.

#18 A Young Person's Guide to Mark McGuire - Mark McGuire

A Young Person's Guide to Mark McGuire
"Stranger than Paradise" from A Young Person's Guide... (2011)
"The Invisible World" from A Young Person's Guide... (2011)

Genre - Delay-Action Guitar
Official/Blogspot -
Location - Cleveland, OH

Review - Dusted Magazine
Download - iTunes, Bleep
Purchase - Forced Exposure, Amazon

One of those prolific Emeralds guys (co-#2, 2010), Mark McGuire is the guitarist. His solo stuff sounds good, and it's interesting to listen to. Picking out pretty much any of these tunes at random would give you something to chew on. (There's a few others in this recent post...) But here's the deal: a 2xCD retrospective chock full o' guitar repetition & delay just ends up a bit too much of a good thing. I often struggled to keep up with what's going on, or to keep going through enough of it. And I dig the music! I'm still going to pick up this year's album of all new material, Get Lost (2011), and I fully expect to get into it deep.

#19 - Ghost Box Study Series 05-07
The Open Songbook - Hintermass
Animation and Interpretation - Jonny Trunk
Autumnal Activities - Pye Corner Audio with The Advisory Circle

Study Series 07: Autumnal Activities
"Are You Watching" by Hintermass, from Study Series 05: The Open Songbook (2011)
"Cloud Control" by Pye Corner Audio and The Advisory Circle, plus
"November Sequence" by Pye Corner Audio, both from Study Series 07: Autumnal Activities (2011)

Genre - British Heritage Electronics
Official -
Myspace -
Location - England, U.K.

Review - O(h)rtlos blog
Download - Ghost Box, Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Ghost Box

Overall, not quite as engaging as previous installations (#9, 2010), but maybe heading into more varied territories. The Ghost Box Study Series of 7" releases continued with 3 more out this year. Hintermass (#05) is new, but made up of Tim Felton (from Broadcast) and Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle (and label majordomo). Jonny Trunk (#06) runs his own label too, Trunk Records, which specializes in obscure film & library music and always seems to me really interesting and exotic - in a British manner. Here's 1-minute of A-side. The Advisory Circle work with Pye Corner Audio (#07) with best results. I've not been familiar with P.C.A., but will endeavor to investigate further. Et cetera and whatnot...

#20 Benefit for the Recovery in Japan - V/A comp

Benefit for the Recovery in Japan
"Cassiopeia" by Grouper, from Benefit for the Recovery in Japan (2011)
"Anzac #3" by Keith Fullerton Whitman, from Benefit for... (2011)
"Fearless" by Fennesz, from ... the Recovery... (2011)
"Hatred of Music" by Tim Hecker, different version from ... in Japan (2011)
"Uncut Diamond" by Warm Ghost, from BFTRIJ (2011)
"In the Hollows" by Nat Baldwin, from Benefit for... Japan (2011)

Genre - mostly Drones of some sort
Official - Antiopic Records
Location - from All Over The World, to Japan

Review - Pitchfork
Download/Purchase/Stream - Fina

Here's my original post on this internet-download benefit-compilation from some of the leading lights of various dronologies. Really a who's who of a certain segment of out-music. I have gone back to it again and again, much more than I initially expected when I first bought it. Pitchfork says you can play the tracks at the Stream link above, but I couldn't make it work. Still, worth a try - or just buy it. Good stuff, good cause (even still)!!

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