Wednesday, 25 January 2012

DOWNLOAD: Vortex Rikers - Oceanic EP



New ep of expansive teutonic ambience from Dortmund's Vortex Rikers.  The Oceanic EP channels the same shivery occult spirit as their previous work, deep in rich seam of creativity that is steadily casting up releases all of which hum with a misty atmosphere, stalked by ghostly apparitions and eeiry sihouettes.

Oceanic opens with an elegantly paced intro, the title track, that is like a camera slowly panning out on to a wide open vista of foggy shores or early morning forested mountains, whatever the scene it is thick and wet and obfuscated by something that makes you crane into it and wills you closer.  The steady deliberate pace continues throught the EP, illustrating one of the band's strengths in writing and programming; that they can hold such a slow tempo yet keep the suspense, momentum and atmosphere rolling forward with a cool control of tension.  In the huge lansdcapes of the music there comes a sense of searching, a character lost in the fog, picking their way blindly and slowly, in constant motion but never able to reach its goal.  That's the sadness of the music, that what is being sought can never be attained, that with the hope of discovery comes the threat of loss, that that constant slow motion rolling forward will be infinite, like the tides of the sea, ceaseless, doomed strands of synth stretching forward to an unseeable destination.
 
DOWNLOAD


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

DOWNLOAD: The Ash Eaters - The Cruel Side EP





Umesh Amtey's latest Ash Eaters release- The Cruel Side EP - is a pair of older tracks shown the light of day.  In being pretty trebly due to the more basic production it's less dark, claustrophobic and heavy than previous releases, but then it predates them. What really makes anything Amtey touches stand out is the shifting polyrhythmic guitar layering and the way parts just keep on sliding and crashing into each other, cycling over riffs, incrementally building up the density of the pieces before unloading another couple of passages of that reframe everythign prior.  These two tracks are just as good in that respect even if they're lacking in the thick brooding atmospheres that ooze out of his Brown Jenkins albums.  If you actually love the hot feeling of rawness burning into your ears you'll love this, and if you have a passing interest in the places black metal and doom can be taken then you'll, again, love this.

DOWNLOAD

Bandcamp

 


Monday, 23 January 2012

Top 50 Albums of 2011

Hello 2012.  I'm not sure whether this will be my first post of the year or the last. You might have noticed things dipped off to flatline by December.  Several factors contributed to it enjoyable and otherwise, and I'm not sure they've all been satisfied or assuaged to the point where'll I'll be doing this as intensely as before. Maybe I'll start up a food blog this year, who can say at this stage.  I've got a huge pile of drafts that I really want to post though, so I'm not done.

First thing's first with a new year. Recap the last one and impress some kind of permanency on to it with the year end list.

There's always talk of these things needing new paradigms, how year-end lists are anti-artistic, consumerist, innately meaningless, pointless even.  Nah.  You could create all the artistically worthy paradigms you like, integrity intact to the finest grain, but the question would still arise - yeah all good, but what did you like out of them the best?  It's a totally valid question even if it is nigh on impossible to answer. Every year I take that question on and every year I find it a wonderfully satisfying, exciting, concluding experience. In revising the albums throughout the year I get to relive everything that has happened to me and this year has been off the scale amazing.  So here's its soundtrack, in the correct order, complete with omissions and oversights.




50. Civil Civic – Rules
Self-Released
Fan-funded debut release from London based duo that dropped a slew of incessantly addictive rock instrumentals from the abrasive to the euphoric with a playfulness that belied the serious talents behind the song-writing and musicianship. The tracks tended to cavort rather than progress across their brief lengths, with no piece out-playing its own enthusiasm, conveying infectious attitude in the spirit of people like the Pixies, Sonic Youth, Andrew WK and even a dash of The Smiths.

49.Tree of Sores - Tree of Sores
Witchhunter
Trio from Leeds make epic ep of crushing shapeshifting doom. The production might need a bit of beefing to add some more weight, but it's not so necessary. The gnarly grunting basslines and sheer walls of guitar screed morph between solemn chugging and cyclones of kinetic fury with an intrinsically momentous sense of composition. No aimless drift between segments, just pure atmospheric build and howling release.

48. The Rosebuds - Louds Planes Fly Low
Merge
After a decade of writing albums reflecting their developing relationship, The Rosebuds latest comes to some kind of conclusion in documenting their divorce. It's a beautiful, painful listen with the ex-couple swapping vocals over soulful guitar music and occasional flight into disco fancy as they unpack their relationship out of their hearts and minds and onto a soberly platonic plane.

47. Barghest – Barghest
Gilead Media
From one of the most consistently excellent labels of the year comes the debut from Baton Rogue four-piece Barghest. An unswervingly bleak and fast storm of metal that whips Death and Thrash into a domineering eye of Blackness choking the air from the speakers as its torrid mass of aggressively writhing riffs pours forth across six relentless tracks.

46. Gkfoes Vjgoaf - The Joy of Awakening / Healing / Nature Eternal Striving (Inner Islands) / Spirit Dance (Full of Nothing) / Glacial Ways (Self-Released)
Rustic, naturalistic and for the most part, humid, except the album devoted to icy water, this Californian born globe-wanderer has found himself addicted to the myriad faunal landscapes of New Zealand and has stopped there for over a year now. Four of these five albums were his own solo work, one with his partner but all follow the same languid path of collaged tapestries of nature recordings, ambient sounds, ethnic instruments and guitar playing into states of organic trance.  There's no greatest among them, they all have distinct characters indebted to the changing landscapes around him and the landmarks he picks out of them.


45. Dark Castle - Surrender To All Life Beyond Form
Profound Lore
Two-piece boy-girl doom band bring in a whole load of friends including members of Nachtmystium, YOB and US Christmas, to expand their already huge sound into a progressively constructed record with a scope the same size as their riffs.  The core guitar/drum interplay is the intuitive lead to follow through a course of blackened sludge, caustic noise and flights of melody, but the almost telepathic communion between the beats and riffs expanding and contracting , clashing and complementing makes for a truly great doom record.

44. Dirtbombs – Party Store
In The Red
A garage rock band – one of THE garage rock bands you should be paying attention to - covers Detroit Techno classics, including Sharevari, purportedly the first ever Detroit Techno track produced.  Having previously released an album of Soul covers, they're no strangers to either conceptualisation or recontextualisation and the result is no gimmick, coming from Detroit themselves the Dirtbombs already own the honours to both sounds and restructure the icy electronics through amps and drum skins like they own them.

43. Village of Spaces – Alchemy and Trust
Turned World/Corleone
Incredible psychedelic devotional acid-folk album from Maine based collective that laced its psychotropic spirituality with a haunting revenant atmosphere that recalls Fairport Convention and Incredible String Band. Sounds like both sides of the pond, both sides of the 60's and beyond.

42. Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion
Slumberland
I get the sense that In Love With Oblivion is the album The Horrors tried to make with Skying. They tried too hard and overbaked it, but Crystal Stilts drive their psychedelic rock through a narrower stretch of darkness and come out with a set of songs that, as edgy and uncomfortable as they are, sit fluently together.  The vocals are pitched perfectly with a melancholic distance that suits the reverbed bass jangle of the guitars, the retro stylings of the music flow out of the songs themselves, and it's got a grinding Velvets rip-off that must utterly destroy on stage. Nothing forced or cynically reproduced here.

41. Matthewdavid – Outmind
Brainfeeder
Matthew McQueen runs the psyclobin-soaked Leaving Records but for his own album his friend FlyLo put it out on Brainfeeder, which tells you a lot about the musical territory of this album. A propulsive post-club world, drawn up from the ground with a bass-heavy bed of warped and foggy  drones punctuated by shafts and shards of lighter electronic glitch and melodic throbbing.


40. Run DMT – Dreams
Culture Dealer
Released on his own Culture Dealer cassette imprint after floating about between prospective labels, Michael Collins' Dreams is a very aptly titled tape as it contains his most lucid stream-of-conscious psychedelia to date. Doped out into another dimension it unravels longer episodes of faded-bliss garagey-pop with almost glitch like vignettes of loops that cut in and out of the deeper tracts like the jumps in your hypnogogic states. 

39. The Men – Leave Home
Sacred Bones
In taking their loosely locked down starting points from both Spacemen 3 and MC5 The Men kicked out some pensively drawn out noise-rock, swapping between roaring kinetic riffs and taut threads of tense repetition with a deadly penchant for unleashing killer climaxes out of them both.

38. Wild Beasts – Smother
Domino
The UK's most sensitive mountain men makes their third progressive foray into their own unique underworld of literate, erotically charged ambient indie. With barely any hooks throughout its reflective textures it was almost the antithesis to the practically danceable debauched revelry of Two Dancers, but that was the key to its greatness.  It was that close, slow, intimately swooning shuffle at the end of the night. 

37. The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World / Leyland Kirby – Eager to Tear the Stars Apart 
History Always Favours The Winners
The master butcher eclipses all his previous work to date by developing his soft and sensitive sides with two albums; The Caretaker's unsettling waltz of warped tea-dance with its poignant reflection on the amnesiac loop, and Leyland Kirby's less (or ambiguously) conceptual suite of degraded neo-classical ambience. Both utterly mesmerising.

36. Holy Other – With U
Triangle
The preturnaturally sensual slo-motion cosmic vapours of With U cemented Triangle's reputation as a label and the mysterious Manchester/Berlin born/based artist transcended Witch House to produce a record that effected everyone it touched beyond the internet meme-machine.
 

 35. Craft Spells - Idle Labor
Captured Tracks
Beauty Above All says it all. Another wonderful album from a label that can do no wrong, this one as clear and sharp as cut diamond. No haze, no fog, no dirt, just beautifully clean pop songs loaded with gorgeous melodies and heart-fluttering hooks.

34. Everyone to the Anderson - The Man Born From Inside Of A Horse
Unlabel
Brighton rock band destroys the scene with their long-anticipated full length that bridges post rock and hardcore with a twitchy sense of danger and subtlety that sounds as unlike anything else as much as it does Shellac or Fugazi.  Spiky shards of guitar break low-slung bass rhythms, the beats keep their own wild signatures locked down and over it all Ben Gregory unravels dysphoria and wry observation in graceful and invigorating union.

33. Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
Southern Lord
The final album from this incarnation of WITTR, the closing chapter to a trilogy of albums is also their finest, and a fitting way to go out, disappearing back into the ground that bore them, waiting to be reincarnated in another form when the moment arises. Majestically invoking the feral, harsh, beautiful and feminine spirit of nature, Celestial Lineage Many Black Metal albums strive for this ecological, environmental connectivity but fall way short of what this band can convey.

32. Pure X – Pleasure
Acephale
Summer Sun soaked harmonic pop smothered with tape noise and dredged towards the unlistenable is my kind of Pop Music. Evoking a sense of claustrophobia in wide open spaces through the combination of it's propulsively dank rhythm section and umbral take of surf riffing, the sunshine is clouded over, the joy occluded as it was with the Paisly Underground psych bands who tinged their technicolour acid trips with a dark paranoia. Recorded with no overdubs and a raw vocal performance, this is a brutally naked feeling album.

31. Vatican Shadow - Kneel Before Religious Icons
Hospital Productions
Dominik Fernow has had a good year as Prurient, in Cold Cave and as Vatican Shadow (and probably a whole load more). It's in the latter incarnation that he produced his most awesome work, right at the start of 2011, and it came impressively presented too – 8 tracks across 4 tapes in a reel to reel box, in no order, just there for random assignation to your tape player. Playing games like that has me eating out of your hand, but then when you start flipping the switches down on them and a grimy minimal pulse starts oozing out the speakers, caked in the dust of collapsed industry, burning with the dystopian glow of mechanical failure, things really start to get fetishistic.
30. The Antlers - Burst Apart
French Kiss
Brooklyn's Antlers second album could never hope to continue or better the crushing heartbreak of their debut Hospice, so instead they have greated an almost-equal parallel, an inverted version of that swaps the hopelessness of Mortality for that of Relationship.  It's a highly sexualised record, that chokes the throat of any optimistic romanticism with bitter folly and cold-light of day realities in similar fashion to Wild Beasts' Smother, with whom it also shares a similar sense of the ambient though it eschews electronics in favour of the standard indie-rock kit.

29. Turbowolf – Turbowolf
Hassle
For nearly five years I have been waiting for this band to be one of the biggest in the country, now all those demos and singles that have been keeping me alive for so long finally get underlined with a full album proper from Bristol's Turbowolf. The punk/rock/metal hybrid jams this band kick out are all impossibly infectious stadium-sized cock-rock anthems in waiting, as deadly serious as they are faintly ridiculous.  14 tracks whip past with barely a dip in the adrenaline pumping quality across them, lifted with some great song-writing twists and winding trails there is more to this album than just satisfyingly sharp riffs.

28. Total Control – Henge Beat
Iron Lung
Featuring members of Eddy Current Suppression Ring and The UV Race this Melbourne based super-group of sorts has ample pedigree to be able to deliver a good record, but this is goes beyond the sum of its parts. Surfing a wave of distorted electronics and feral guitar lines as its base, the tracks blend in elements of cold-wave, post-punk and garage rock across their course resulting in a stone-cold classic in waiting.

27. Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand + Aluk Todolo – A Collaboration
WKN
Leave it to a cave dwelling black metal band and an industrial folk outfit to produce the best industrial cave dwelling black drone album of the year. Unclear which band takes the lead in these four grimly tense torch-lit forays into cavernous netherworld of sound, as the eerily foreboding clanging, chanting and dissolving rhythmic patterns could belong to either act's main works, contorting and igniting ideas planted by each other in a hypnotic procession of dark trance.

26. Hateful Abandon – Move
Todestrieb
Ex-Basilisk man Vin's post black metal band went through another significant shift in sonic direction leaving little trace of black metal at all, even any Metal of any kind except in the vengeful and aggressive vocals.  Mixing post-punk and cold-wave together into a bleak treatise against the    mentally corrosive materialist and corporate ownership of modern existence, the relentless procession of ideas that unfold out of each track result in one of the year's most overwhelming experiences.  


25. The Advisory Circle - As The Crow Flies
Ghost Box
Radiophonic experimentalism from the renowned Ghost Box label didn't get better than Jon Brook's second album for the imprint. A record of two halves, with the more propulsive explorations taking up a first half combining wyrd folk electronics, Delia Derbyshire hauntology and abstracted kosmiche, with a divergent set of shadowy, very English sounding ambient sci-fi soundtracking on the second, there was a lot to absorb from this – not least the fact that, public information services being core to a lot of Ghost Boxes artists, a Tawny Owl's legendary 'Twit Too-Woo' sound is in fact a Shakespearian concatenation of both its alarm and territorial calls and thus, a falsehood.

24. A$AP Rocky – LIVELOVEA$AP
Self-Released
Blog-loved instant hit crew A$AP deserve all the attention their leader A$AP Rocky is clamouring for.  His changeable rap-styles bear the imprints of his influences pretty heavily but that doesn't stop this album from having a character all of its own, be it from the Clams Casino instrumentals or his in-house producer Ty Beats's own seething drones and beats over which he lays down his high-living braggadocio. The other vocalists in the outfit – the awesomely named SpaceGhostPurrrp serve as foils for him to bounce off, and even though he maintains A$AP is foremost a group, the attitude all pretty much revolves around him as the main guy.  The opening track is one of the biggest tunes of the year in my ears, with Brand New Guy coming up close behind it.

23. Aosoth – III
Agonia
Subterranean Satanic Black Metal from France.  A nation so well versed in the most ferocious forms of devotional ritual it should require little further explanation to beset the horrors upon you. Whilst including passages of misty industrial ambience and space, both those elements only serve to enhance the extremely violent and unrelentingly claustrophobic atmosphere, which is again reinforced through a murky production – progressing from the drier sounding first and cleaner sounding second albums. By taking their third full length down an even darker more airless avenue they have found a voice and style that demands attention.

22. Petrels – Haeligewielle
Tartaruga
Processed strings and disfigured electronics were the raw materials used to build this retelling and homage to the story of William Walker – a man who, from 1905, spent the best part of five years swimming through the black waters surrounding Winchester Cathedral, single-handedly replacing peat with cement in order to buttress the foundations to prevent it sinking into the Earth. The near-mythological heroism of the undertaking, coupled with its futility (the sinking cannot ever be stopped) all infuse the epic tone waves ebbing and flowing throughout this album, directing their course through murky passages, shafts of lightness and cruel eddies of distortion with an ever present sense of optimism.

21. The Field - Looping State Of Mind
Kompakt
Axel Willner's third album beautifully eclipses the previous two by gently widening the palette of sounds that make up his already mesmeric meditative minimal techno trance, resulting in an even deeper and more rewarding experience. Expanding the lush throbbing base of loops with the sunset atmospheres of Balearic house and gospel-tinged soul harmonies Willner's organic melding of elements has resulted in an album interwoven with a textural subtlety and density that allows the initial eye-widening impact of the tracks to slowly dilate into an even greater all consuming masterpiece.


20. Ssalvia - Thought Has Wings
Leaving
A treacly nostalgic psychedelic blur of woozy, smoked-up, 70's h-pop hallucinogens blowing your third eye right out, glitter-bomb style into the cosmos, taped to VHS, converted to 8-bit rpg soundtrack. Released on the label run by Matthewdavid producer Matthew McQueen, solo Belgian artist Fran├žois Boulanger's  Thought Has Wings has kept me totally zoned out all year, sounding like Ferraro or Matrix Metals on a tight leash, this dropped an essential high of a loop, shimmered you briefly in the haze until you were cooked then passed you on to the next trip, nothing ever staying too long to lose its sheen. Absolutely perfect Summer album, pretty much essential at all other times.

19. Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler/The Dream
In The Red
Possibly John Dwyer's greatest ever Oh Sees album, this just drips Cool out of every sweat soaked pore. Everything that sounds wild-eyed and flailing is also the sound of a composed and measured creator – the looseness and spontaneity of it all belies the studied hand from which every note is dealt. Whether Dwyer conceived this set of songs during the same epiphany or held on to them over time to load into a succinctly killer album is almost not worth contemplating. Almost. Here's a guy who's totally in control even when he seems to be about to lose his shit entirely.


18. Colin Stetson - New History Warfare Vol. 2. Judges
Constellation
Distended, warped surrealist poly-timbral/rhythmic/textural/tonal jazz, Colin Stetson's second solo saxophone record blurs musical boundaries, limitations and expectations as much as the physical senses, and apparently the physical realm in which it is performed.  Featuring Godspeed's Efrim Menuck on engineering duties and Ben Frost at the mixing desk, as well a Stetson's own inspired set up – microphones across multiple amps, on the body of the saxophone for percussion and on the keys to produce beats, on the mouthpiece to produce vocals multiplied by his circular breathing technique – the result is a constant stream of sound that totally confounds the one-man one-take live set up of this album.

17. Wreck and Reference - Black Cassette
Self-Release
Old NFR indie-rock favourites Bison disbanded with one member forming this remarkable doomy black metal duo creating one of the most bleakly euphoric albums of the year, eschewing guitars to produce   these jaw-dropping results with just synths and electronics. You might have to be told that the wall of roaring static pouring from the speakers comes from key-tones rather than steel string abuse so stylistically textural is the sound, yet in a similar way to how Servile Sect suck up Metal and Atmosphere and produce something alien sounding out of the familiar, Wreck and Reference also produce a parallel take on metal and subvert the pre-requisite set-up creating a thick, tense and tangible threatening presence all of their own.


16. High Wolf – Atlas Nation (Holy Mountain) / Annapurna Illusion – Life Is An Illusion (Rocket)
Mono-monikered Max releases his two greatest moments of the year across two projects, the former deepening his exotic explorations into equatorial trance, the latter transcending the realms of hypnagogic pop, both of which were firsts for each guise: Atlas Nation is his first relatively major release after a long string of obscuro label and self-releases, while Life Is An Illusion is his first major Annapurna album. Both records resonate with a sense of mysticism, both very heavy in their own styles. The synths from LIAI have a tangible physical presence, driven by a kosmische momentum, that make most other nu-age projects sound like pathetic hokum, and the tribal ritualism of the beat patterns circling the High Wolf guitar loops are as oppressive as jungle humidity.  The true beginnings of a magical mystical tour start here.

15. Cold Cave - Cherish The Light Years
Matador
There's barely one black-clad band that has not exerted some kind of influence on this album. Its heavy with the scent of kohl-stained eyes, dry ice and hairspray but it's even heavier when throwing imposing silhouettes against the walls of beautifully wrought synth tones and enormous beats. This is a huge sounding album, compressed to the max, even the subtleties forced into your face. They want you to be intimidated by even the smallest details, confronting you right in the face with their angst and disillusionment, emphasising every excess of Wes Eisold’s anthemically bleak new wave romanticism.


14. Altar of Plagues – Mammal
Profound Lore
The Irish black doom combo's second album developed their sound way beyond all expectations and the output of most other bands.  A heaving mass of shadowy atmospherics that includes a passage of haunting Celtic folksong that grounds the record in a human and naturalistic setting of craggy fog and bleak inhospitable landscapes.  Perfectly produced with each instrument sounding unlike any in either the Black or Doom metal genres, this straddled both and went further beyond as magisterial passages peaked into raging torrents of ferocious noise. A bass tone that was warm and earthy whilst retaining a dirty grittiness for the drums to pound off – which they did with exceptional speed and ferocity, double kicking themselves into a textural blur for the guitars to tear out shades of caustic drone over the top of.

13. The Psychic Paramount – II
No Quarter
The New York trio hone their instrumental mayhem into an unbridled beast of blown out psychedelic rock that starts of hard and harsh then spirals outwards and upwards in a kaleidoscope of pedal abusive riffing and pell-metal drumming. As frenetic as it is, the build of the tracks follow intuitive paths, loaded with pay-offs like landmarks amongst the dense textures that you can cling on to and hold out for when the noise is threatening to swallow you; each release hovering on the edge of climax for the time-suspended eternity of a moment and then you're in it, swallowed up and consumed in thrall to it and at the mercy of it.


12. The Skull Defects – Peer Amid
FatCat
The four-piece Gothenburg noise-rock combo's latest release adds Lungfish vocalist Daniel Higgs to their line-up and his presence hangs a heavy air of Current 93 over this – providing a sense of umbral religiosity, Higg's parables come intoned from a cosmic pulpit, a preacher-man citing from the Rock vernacular. From there the music bursts into whichever direction the volcanic eruptions take it as free flowing buzzsaw riffs underscore unsettling passages of tribal voodoo, hand drums beat circles round tar-thick guitar tones, showers of fiery noise rain down from sky and amongst it all the growling, snarling roaring voice of exultant euphoria channels it and glories amongst the carnage. 

11. Deathgrips – Exmilitary
Self-Released
“I am the beast I worship” So starts Exmilitary, with a presence that stamps its authority like Eugene Oxbow with just as much boiling violence.  This is the essence of Metal burned through the back catalogue of righteous hip hop and out into the blasted wastelands of a dystopian future.  Fists into the face of modernity, fighting against the slow erosion of values and integrities.  But again; Fuck where you're from! Fuck where you're going!! It's all about where you're at!!!, and where Deathgrips are at is constantly up in yours, sonically the juggernaut beats and textures tear hot air from the speakers as they exit, stuttering for space among the airless glitches and steel-crushing gravitas of inhaled silences, sucking vacuums of power into the voids between the noise.


10. Low – C'Mon
Subpop
There's an enormity to the sound in C'Mon, a vastness of space surrounding the sounds and harmonics between instruments and voice that makes the fact this was recorded in a church seem entirely natural. The haunting reverence of Especially Me, the Old Testament style vengeance of Witches, the consoling opener Try To Sleep, the choral coda to Nothing But Heart; all have a sense of hushed veneration about them despite the size to which the acoustics grow. Though they have an ecclesiatical background, the strength of this record lies not in the Heavenly, but the Earthly. It's an intimate paean to the travails of human relationships, of dark and beautiful moments and serves as Alan Sparhawk's grandest gesture not only to the listener, but to his wife.   


09. The Weeknd – House of Balloons / Thursday
Self-Released
When compared to House of Ballons and Thursday, The Weeknd may have overplayed his hand with his relatively featureless third album at the end of the year, but that doesn't take any of the street-grimed glamorous shine off either of these two.  I see House of Balloons in a lot of charts with no mention of Thursday, but for me they are pretty much parallel in atmosphere, lyrics and hooks: That stuttering haunted euphoria of Lonely Star, the hollow-eyed metallic grind of Life of the Party, both parts of The Birds and the incredible Cocteau Twins cover.  All that needs to be said about House of Balloons is that drop into Glass Table Girls. Musical moment of 2011. Ugh. Like the bass went down on itself.


 08. A Winged Victory For The Sullen - A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Erased Tapes
Pianist Dustin O'Halloran and Stars of the Lid's Adam Wiltzie meld their individual production skills together into a hauntingly elegant album of string tones synthesis. A blurred, slow-motion elegy to the Greek goddess of victory, it is characterised by a triumphant sadness, leading the melancholic toward a state of euphoric, enchanted drone.

07. Tim Hecker - Ravedeath 1972
Kranky
Another church recorded album in my top twenty. The sonic results of Hecker's musings on decay, detritus, waste and decomposition – physically rather than musically – found their form through his recordings of church pipe organ, taken back to the studio for a secular styled celestial wash of synth tone and ambient flicker with collaborator Ben Frost. Ravedeath is anything but decomposed though it carries the fertile cloudy murk of silt heavy waters through its tantalisingly paced deliberate progression, it moves beyond beauteous drone and texture, weaving rhythm and melody into the mass of sound which, due to the core elements - the church organ being an instrument of God to instil a sense of holy awe amongst the pews – produces a genuinely awe inspiring record in the truest sense of the word.


06. Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
Sub Pop
Still relevant after all these years of slow refinement, Mogwai's latest is their greatest since Come On Die Young and is the sound of a band heeding nothing but their own instincts.  It feels so good to have a Mogwai album back in my top ten and this record has smashed them back into the front of my listening experiences with a hunger and power that has been somewhat lacking from their albums (yet which their live show consistently presents). Slow burning emotional tremors and seismic tectonic rock laced with vocals that are finally beginning to hold a presence all of their own, Hardcore Will Never Die is the sound of a band hitting a glorious new plane of existence.
 

05. Pete Swanson – Man With Potential
Type
Minimal techno infused noise from one half of the disbanded Yellow Swans, Pete Swanson continues to make challenging and engrossing music that ensnares your entire being within its hallucinatory presence.  Mixing ethereal, unnerving electronic elements with cables of earthy noise there's a paradoxically dreamlike and harsh reality to this record that inspires images of long deserted subterranean Eastern block clubs – faint traces of digitised euphoria pulsing inside mildewed analogue shackles. A space haunted the ghastly remnants of beautiful creatures that once writhed hot-blooded reanimated in discoloured organic hues, howling from their dislocated corporeal plane.



04. Liturgy – Aesthethica
Thrill Jockey
As loose and free as it is rigid and constrained by its own dogma, Aesthetica is an album that lived up to its own hyperbole – a concept and mindset which underwent an amazingly high-profile degree of scrutiny and bore extreme negativity for their leader's positivity-laced polemic. He doesn;t need to be sat down to explain himself, he has this album as definitive proof that his musings, however incoherent in the flesh, are peerlessly visionary when pressed to wax.  Challenging and non-conformist, two of the highest held values in a scene which has slowly forgotten itself, Liturgy are the brightest white light to ever blaze out of Black Metal.

03. Austra – Feel it Break
Domino
This album is too long by two songs, although I am never sure which two should have got the cut – all I know is it has two endings, so the final or penultimate pair of tracks could have gone and it would have been absolutely perfect.  That's my negative preamble, the rest of the record deserves nothing but exultant high-praise.  A fantasia of darkly intoned psycho-analytical, psycho-sensual erotica, an 80's evoking synth-fest that sounds as futuristic as it does retro, as psychologically exploratory as it is physically inspiring, eliciting shivers of tension or elation, often simultaneously; I have to bite down hard when The Beat and The Pulse kicks in. The unsettlingly gorgeous voice of Katie Stelmanis just finishes it off.   


02. Ash Borer - Ash Borer
Psychic Violence
Black metal has been on another level this year, and I seem to find myself saying that every single year. It's the most rewarding addiction I've ever initiated.  Epic in scale and grandeur, cinematic in scope and narrative, misanthropically violent and naturalistically meditative, this is a record that achieves and conveys so much without once concerning itself with the composed achievement of any such things.  Ash Borer are a band that play outside of themselves, that creates a sound that seems just that much further from the limits of human potential than any group limited by the boundaries of physical existence could create. That's always the critical essence inherent in a truly great album, when you can drop the needle onto a record and immediately struggle to understand where any of it could have come from and how those energies could have coalesced into the form in front of you. Ash Borer is that kind of album.


01. Peaking Lights – 936
Not Not Fun
It doesn't always happen, but this year my top album is also the one I have listened to the most, far more than anything else released this year.  It's impossible to put this record on and get nothing out of it, it is always compelling and always affecting.  No album this year could compete with the warm intimacy and exotic otherworldliness the duo produce. Snatches of circuit bent sound burst apart and melt back into a mix of beautiful analogue psychedelic successions, interwoven through each track's euphorically soporific spacial dub, with fading ripples of delay, echo heavy guitar vibrations nuancing an intimate tapestry of muted arpeggios and descending melody lines that cross each other like intertwined lovers.  In 2011, this album was the divinity of sensual sonic experimentation.