Features

Published on December 11th, 2016 | by The Beige Baron

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Best Albums of 2016

The title of this piece is, of course, hyperbolic: no writer or website can claim to have listened to all of the music released this year everywhere in the world, and I’ve always felt dubious about calling one album “better” than another.

A lot of outlets get around this problem by getting their staff to vote, but sadly BNU doesn’t have the resources to take that logical option. (And let’s never forget the album 100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong).

This is only the second year BNU has done a “year-end” list; the first spiralled into a tangential 3,000-word rant against tenths-of-a-star album-reviewing systems. You know, in case the music makes too much of a splash when it hits the pool or something.

You can be confident most of the stuff that made it on this list is stuff we both agree is awesome…

This time around it’s been a team effort, with Scotland-based John Nicol adding his favorites to the pile of gold that’s passed through our contributors’ headphones and stereo speakers over the last 12 months, and he’s kept the project on track and more diverse than ever.

Obviously what we’ve covered here is but a fraction of the incredible albums released this year. We simply ran out of time to cover albums from FRANCE, Goat, Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paradiso UFO, Botany, Shintaro Sakamoto, Skyjelly, Kikagaku Moyo, and more, all of which come with the most enthusiastic recommendations.

But for now, we hope you enjoy reading and listening to the following outstanding albums (listed in no particular order) from 2016.


CARL STONE
Electronic Music from the Seventies and Eighties


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Carl Stone. Photo: Gina Koppel.

Unseen Worlds

The work of Carl Stone was new to us until Unseen Worlds thankfully released this collection in September. Almost two-and-a-half hours of the composer’s work over only eight tracks. Many of Stone’s compositions are live electronics with elements, compatible or otherwise, knitted together in an incremental and textural way.

Despite the album being of general interest to lovers of experimental electronics, it’s only infrequently that you discover a track that has such a profound effect on a listener. And for us, that track was the almost impossibly beautiful Shing Kee.

I always believe the test of thoroughly great music is music that you listen to, and can’t think what to listen to next, and hit repeat. A sample of music mathematically divided up and looped, but what the listener hears is one of the most powerful, emotive, and perfect sonic experiences ever.

The loop is built from short sample of the Japanese pop singer Akiko Yano singing Schubert’s The Linden Tree in English. Reduced to its sonic DNA, it’s almost not important were the sound came from. Fifteen minutes of music from 1986, released in 2016, is now one of my favourite pieces of music ever, not even from this year.

The whole album is excellent, but I was totally blown away by the staggering quality of that one track. And this album — if only as a frame to this piece, an invitation to slowly discover more in time – is beyond recommended. — JN


BIG NATURALS & ANTHROPROPHH
Big Naturals & Anthroprophh


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Cardinal Fuzz / Captcha

God-Shaped Hole, a 21-minute colossus heralding the successful teaming of Big Naturals — Jesse Webb [drums] and Gareth Turner [bass] — and The Heads’ guitarist Paul Allen, operating under his solo moniker Anthroprophh, is one of the most devastatingly awesome pieces of music released this year.

The three tracks comprising Side B of the LP, which sold out instantly, are sonic adventures in and of themselves when taken in isolation, but can’t seem to escape from the shadow cast by the monster on the other side. Webb punches round his kit in a sick Bruce Lee ballet, sending henchmen flying with busted noses as Turner wrings roaring notes from his bass, the whole thing swaying with the sure-footed grace of a drunk.

None of which would have half the impact without Allen’s spooky synth effects and perfectly counterpointed low-end riffing. Dripping with menace, the beast submerges in a pool of tamboura, subsiding into a tight jazz groove as a killer bass lead snakes up the neck.

The song moves so smoothly through its four movements that 20 minutes seems like two, time folds on itself, and the only thing to do is play it again, Jack. — BB


JULIUS EASTMAN
Femenine


Composer Julius Eastman at work. Donald Burkhart Bowerbird

Frozen Reeds

A previously unreleased recording from 1974 lovingly gifted to the world this year by the Frozen Reeds label based in Helsinki. This recording oddly bridged the decades to Oren Ambarchi’s recent work with a simple rhythmic spline.

In Femenine’s case, this simple pulse was generated by mechanised sleigh bells that form the backbone throughout this exhilarating 72-minute wonder. Over this, simple interlocking patterns of piano, percussion, strings, and synth all beautifully mesh together.

Femenine is every bit as jubilant as Terry Riley’s In C as it tumbles joyfully onwards. A heady framework of both composed and improvised parts…

Femenine goes a long way to introducing Eastman’s small but amazing body of work to a new audience. A composition that will only become more significant. — JN


TIM PRESLEY
The Wink


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Tim Presley. Photo: Marc Ellagries

Drag City

You’d be hard-pressed to find a musician who’s able to move so seamlessly from one style of music to another than Tim Presley, whether it be the grandeur of his ’70s-prog-influenced My Brother The Wind to the weirdly infectious hooks of White Fence. Yet Presley’s songwriting genius burns brightest in his collaborative projects (most recently with Cate Le Bon in Drinks, which this record seems to grow out of).

The Wink is the first of these under his own name, and it’s like a snapshot of where Presley’s at musically at the moment. Bombastic fuzz has been replaced with skeletal rhythms kicked down the rabbit hole in way that never feels contrived.

When reviewing The Wink for BNU, John Nicol observed: “This is a creatively stunning album. Rubbed out, cleaned up, meticulously paced, and thoughtfully woven together. It’s an album without a trace of anything excessive or bloated. How far can you pare things back before it dislocates and crumbles? The Wink showcases 12 examples that know exactly where that line exists.”

John also noted that some reviewers heard Television in the angular guitar strumming; I concur and add The Modern Lovers with a twist of Talking Heads. There’s a directness to these off-kilter tunes, a laconic sense of humor that kept me thinking of Jonathan Richman. But this album couldn’t exist anywhere except now, and if any of the bands mentioned can be found in your collection, you should get with it and add The Wink alongside them pronto. — BB


M. GEDDAS GENGRAS
Interior Architecture


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Intercoastal Artists

This prolific Los Angeles-based modular synth master has delighted our ears for the quite a few years. The crystallized forms of the glorious Ishi from 2014 and many others didn’t quite prepare us for July’s Interior Architecture, a vast labyrinthine monster spreading out to almost 80 minutes.

As the title suggests, it seems to map out a structure, a dream or journey through a complex space. Narrow passages, vast auditoriums, glass spiral staircases all transposed directly into your brain.

By the time the odd sounds roll around the speakers in the second half of Staircase_Pressure Reverie_Structure_Worm Suite Pt 2, you know this album just isn’t going to resolve itself into anything simple. And the piano flurries that follow seem to welcome you into this new world.

Wonderful hallucinatory oddness of the highest order. — JN


DEAKIN
Sleep Cycle


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Bandcamp

I’ve come to prefer instrumental music, or words sung in another language, because I listen while working and find clear lyrics distracting.

But I haven’t been so disarmed, nor felt someone else’s lyrics resonate so strongly, than with Animal Collective co-founder Joshua Dibb’s project DEAKIN, in a long time. His almost ruthless self-dissection is hair-raising, he speaks words I wish I could have found to say to myself a long time ago.

This collection of dreamlike hymns are soaked in Malian sun and washes of bulbous electronics, sonic snapshots of rural life, and snatches of mundane conversations bubbling up and submersing again through a mesmerizing 60 minutes.

Dibb’s cracked cadences are fragile, reminding me of Paul Simon on songs such as Just Am, but the message here is one of hope and affirmation, particularly for fellow sufferers of depression and low self-confidence. It feels like the stronger part of you writing a letter to the weaker part; it’s a plea for forgiveness of yourself, a prayer for inner strength, a celebration of being. A psychic smack to the back of head, wake up to yourself, breathe, and be in the moment.

I love the exotic atmosphere, and the “excavated shellac” vibe of the field recordings. I like its intimacy. It’s like a warm hug. — BB


DEAD
Untitle


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Photograph: Zo Damage

Weemptyrooms

They say that three’s a crowd, but adding the keyboards and assorted sonic appendages of experimentalist BJ Morriszonkle to the bass and drums of DEAD was a stroke of genius, taking Untitle to a whole new level.

As suggested in our review, Mr Morriszonkle’s manipulations add another textural dimension to the music, changing mood and atmosphere and highlighting the strengths of the band. DEAD has always had a knack for getting maximum effect from minimal instrumentation, playing at crushing volume and locking into relentlessly heavy grooves, but in the spirit of Morricone, whose iconic soundtracks inspired these songs, the music unfolds over a wider, flatter landscape.

The songs are longer and work within a wider dynamic range, they feel more deliberately composed to emphasize the frenzied attacks the pair frequently build toward. Jazzy, soundscapey, but still unmistakably DEAD, Untitle suggests the band still has plenty of gas in the tank for the conclusion to this trilogy of albums in four parts.

Highly recommended for fans of Melvins, godheadsilo, Black Cobra, Big Black, Moe, Gay Witch Abortion, etc. — BB


MARTIN CREED
Thoughts Lined Up


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Telephone Records

As an art student in the late nineties in Scotland, I’d absolutely loved the Owada (Nothing) album which featured Creed’s conceptual art/pop music. I’d also always been impressed with Creed’s work as a visual artist, so I was delighted to hear another album of his music.

Although Creed was born in England, he’s lived in Glasgow most of his life, and this broad accent fits the angular blocks of his music. Songs that refer to their own forms, explore their own structure and the fabric of language may well sound like a dry academic exercise.

However, Thoughts Lined Up couldn’t be any more warm and welcoming. Released in July, it’s an album that packed full of humour, positivity, hooks and grooves… This collection of 24 short and sparsely instrumented songs perfectly showcase how lyrics, storytelling, rhyme and rhythm can all be used to create perfect little structures. Creed uses all these musical elements to make wonderful forms that we’ve come back to again and again. — JN


JUNZO SUZUKI
La Course du lievre a travers les champs


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Photo: Yoshika Makabe

Plunks Plan

Quite often when you put on some new music, you might like it well enough, but it just lacks that secret sauce, that indefinable element that gets you obsessed, that makes it feel like it speaks for you alone.

Not the case with Junzo Suzuki’s La Course du lievre a travers les champs. Taking its name from the 1972 René Clément film And Hope to Die (which was itself adapted from one of Suzuki’s favorite noir novels, Black Friday), this album is a kind of lysergic folk heaven for fans of Japanoise.

Three long tracks float over a 45-minute reverie, and you wish it could go on forever. Channeling the spirit of his heroes (such as the late great Jutok Kaneko, who was a close friend, Hiroshi Nar, and others like Bill Fay and Gary Farr), Suzuki croons his pack-a-day lyrics through gorgeous waves of reverb in a way that just kills me. L’eau et les cicatrices builds in density toward a sustained, fed-back solo under ex-Fushitsusha/LSD Match/Kosoukuya drummer Ikuro Takahashi’s fluid yet restrained jazz beats.

The title track that follows sends sheets of delay and rolling phaser rippling across watery drone, recalling the meditative vibes of Ash Ra Tempel and bubbling weirdness AR & Machines. But it’s the closing number, Pluie froide et neige, that stops me in my tracks every time.

Using “a white ‘70s phaser box loved by krautrockers” of Italian origin — Suzuki’s friend and former Les Rallizes Denudes bassist Doronco told him the unit was Mizutani’s particular favorite — the minor-key lament sends fuzzy chords somersaulting through your mind, collecting density as the song progresses.

 A descending lead and Suzuki’s love-torn imprecations generate such vividness of atmosphere it’s impossible not to be drawn into his mood of despair. None of this is to mention the drums, which are constantly pushing and pulling time, the fills hitting in a way that electrifies the music with pure energy, as does bassist Lonesome Death Dick. Recorded in Sapporo, this is also a record totally free of loudness compression. Which means it sounds better the louder you play it — rare for a low-budget recording.

The song ends in five minutes of shrieking guitar noise, and when silence hits, it’s like a blow to the head, you’re wrung out.

I’m out of superlatives. This is just a brilliant, brilliant album. So listenable and satisfying yet eccentric enough to keep you interested as well. Buy it immediately. — BB


HOTEL WRECKING CITY TRADERS
Phantomonium


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Evil Hoodoo

Melbourne drums-and-guitar outfit Hotel Wrecking City Traders has released album after album of consistently great free-form psychedelic rock for over a decade, often in collaboration with other unconventionally minded musos.

Released early in 2016, Phantomonium finds the duo at their most conceptually lucid. Songs such as Dusted Pines see spaces sketched out in drummer Ben’s fluid and ever-shifting beats, outlined and inked in by brother Toby’s guitar, eventually submerging in bucketloads of effects-driven color.

Masters of the slow build and powerful release, the Wreckers are storytellers: use their soundscapes as places for your mood and imagination to inhabit, create your own narratives, let these restless heavy grooves soak into your bones. A beautifully packaged vinyl release, too, that’s collectable and right at home alongside your Earthless, Carlton Melton, and Yawning Man albums.

A fitting crown to a discography worthy of deeper exploration, and a real highlight this year. — BB


TRÄD, GRÄS OCH STENAR
Träd, Gräs Och Stenar


Bandcamp

A 3CD collection of two live and expanded albums Djungelns Lag (1971), Mors Mor (1972), and a third Kom Tillsammans (1972) of previously unreleased material dropped through my letter box in April 2016. Almost four hours of live Träd, Gräs Och Stenar in one tasteful and unassuming package.

Much has been made of the band’s relationship with Terry Riley (the earlier version of the band Pärson Sound supported him a few years previously in the band’s native Sweden). It’s also fair to assume that Don Cherry moving to Sweden, Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes in the park, the general artistic upheaval and political agitation across Europe all helped inform Träd, Gräs Och Stenar’s broad direction of travel.

Live, they seemed have become a band specialising in open-air hippy events, mastering slowly unfurling rock jams. However, this does them a massive disservice, inaccurately painted as some sort of noodling stoners.

I think it’s fairly safe to assume Träd, Gräs Och Stenar’s realised early on that simple rock music changes when you slow down the speed of how the track develops. Unlike looping, or via a large group of players, they achieve this through very minimal means and setup. Small changes over simple repeating figures means tracks like the small moon that is this the 34-minute-long Amithaba / In kommer Gösta doesn’t in anyway overstay its welcome. If anything, the muted melody that bursts through after almost 16 minutes is a sublime example of timing.

Working with such fundamental building blocks means it’s impossible to not make connections to other musicians. The previously unreleased Solen går upp, solen går ner seems to have cosmically mutated into Ty Segall’s Feel from 2014. Clearly the dates don’t match, but serves to highlight the really inspired grooves that make up Träd, Gräs Och Stenar are of the highest quality.

Somehow, what we have here is a monumental collection of impossibly, groovy rocking music that’s not in any way neutered by the vast conceptual logic that underpins it.

Minimal, concentrated, disciplined music that comes across as effortless. — JN


HILLS
Uncollected Sound


Photo: Beatrice Gräppi

Cardinal Fuzz / Sky Lantern Records

Originally conceived as a bonus LP to complement a limited-run reissue of Hills’ debut record, Uncollected Sound is now available as a digital download, and it’s so worth the seven quid.

These songs, which comprise demos of previously unreleased material; the 12-minute Schlaraffenland (formerly a CD-only bonus on the original self-titled album); and a live performance of Death Will Find a Way from the album Frid (2015), give insight into a band that approaches psych-rock perfection.

In an interview with BNU a few years back, the band told us that their method of composition involves jamming for hours, taking fragments from different sessions, and using structures as a bed over which they can improvise.

The band would record take after take until getting something they felt comfortable enough to release it on an album. As a result, a lot of almost-completed songs, or ideas that didn’t fit and would later form the basis of other tracks, were filed away for a rainy day.

Dave Cambridge, who reissued the debut LP on his label Cardinal Fuzz, leapt at the band’s suggestion to include some of this never-before-heard material on a bonus LP.

Uncollected Sound lets you feel the energy radiating from this collective when they’re at home, deep in the ritual of a jam session, rather than experiencing a finished piece they’ve spent a long time polishing up.

Sometimes you find yourself wishing they’d kept a certain tempo or effect that wasn’t used on the album version of a song — for me, that was Flojttjola, which lifts the lead guitar melody from Och Solen Sänkte Sig Röd, and kept it going for another 30 minutes. At others, you marvel at the band’s ability to distill elements of an earlier idea into something to serves as a foil to another even better idea on a completely different song.

Combined with the explosion of endorphins their music bring out in a live setting, and you can’t help but feel awe at these five talented Swedes, and at how truly mercurial their jam-based music is. While this is pitched as a “bootleg”, this record is not just for completists, it’s essential listening for psych fans. — BB


downy
Untitled 6


downyrecording-1

Why downy is not up there with Mogwai, Sigur Ros, or Radiohead in terms of profile can be explained by bad timing and their decision in the early 2000s to buck the system and play in dance clubs instead of rock venues and not tour much overseas.

More interested in making music in their own way than making music their business, the band kept a low profile–they were even something of an enigma to their many fans in Japan. By the time foreign audiences had discovered their amazing early catalog, downy was over, or so it seemed.

Despite this, the first four Mudai (Untitled) albums spread across the internet and won thousands of shoegaze and EDM fans in equal measure, particularly in the UK. With their comeback album universally acclaimed, their latest record Untitled 6 sees the band refocusing their trademark sound, described as “computer-based music performed on live instruments”.

Vocalist Robin Aoki has found confidence to rise above the ethereal and haunting whispers that recall Jonsey or Thom Yorke. With the new album, effort has been made to connect with fans overseas, but as the band’s live performance hinges on visual projections, touring outside of Asia is difficult. Projections are created by full-time member/videographer while the songs are being composed, and the logistics of touring Europe or the USA with projection equipment remains a problem.

In any case, Untitled 6 will be manna from heaven for those already familiar with the band, and wider distribution should see this music reach more ears than ever before. Tense, tightly wrought pieces with mind-bendingly complex drumming; stabbing bass, washes of shoegazey guitar. Aoki’s word-images blend in dreamgaze lullabies.

It’s invigorating, stimulating stuff that raises gooseflesh when it hits its stride. — BB


DATACH’I
System


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Planet Mu

The word “synth” is perhaps likely to conjure images of a Rick Wakeman-type figure flipping the devil horns from behind triple-stacked KORGs, or the bloopy theme to an ’80s news broadcast.

Happily, Datach’i’s Eurorack modular synth project System strays nowhere near this territory, nor is it the next step in an arms race to source ever-more-obscure pieces of equipment to up the “cool factor” of otherwise mediocre music. This is what a professional sound effects and film-score composer and engineer does in his free time: indulging a passion for modular synthesizers and attempting to make the patterns of sound they produce into a kind of intelligent consciousness without external processors calling the shots.

It’s a fascinating idea, but more importantly, it sounds brilliant. Obviously there’s references to 1950s pioneers of electronic music, but the music feels closer to Aphex Twin’s Ambient series, or Eno’s Another Green World passed through minimal techno rhythms. The faster BPM moments recall Feed Me Weird Things by Squarepusher. But it’s rich, organic, and not at all mechanical sounding. It’s satisfying to listen to.

So before you scoff at synth as some sort of post-ironic hipster bullshit, take a listen to this modern master of old-school synth on System. No capes, waistcoats, or ponytails, we promise. — BB


SITHTER
Chaotic Fiend


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Walk past flyer-pasted walls and into the bowels of Time Bomb in Osaka. Pick your way through racks of hand-wrapped and obi-decorated CDs with handwritten descriptions to tempt curious listeners to an impulse buy.

Head to the darkened back room where a sign marked “rare hardcore/thrash LPs” swings from the roof. There are boxes and boxes of records, four decades worth of rage lovingly preserved on wax and waiting for a new generation to discover them.

This month, SITHTER’s Chaotic Fiend finds a home in the new release section at the front of the shop, but I think it’s got the legs to make it to the hallowed racks up the back. Maybe one day my kids will be flicking through those same stacks and experience the same joy in finding it as I did, long after I’m dead and gone.

I’m no expert on Japanese hardcore, nor can I claim to have listened to a fraction of what Time Bomb has on offer. But I can say that the sound, attitude, and delivery of Chaotic Fiend hit me square between the eyes. From the very first playthrough, I loved this abrasive concoction of doom, crust, and thrash, and I played it over and over again. Still do, months later.

If that’s not reason enough to be added to a year-end best-of list, then I don’t know what is. If you like metal, give these guys a spin. Maybe they’ll hit you where it hurts as well. — BB


THE MYRRORS
Entranced Earth


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Beyond Beyond is Beyond

Of the many bands rediscovering the delights of slow-cooked musical composition that distills magic moments from countless hours of free-form jamming, The Myrrors are one of only a few who truly add something new to the legacy of the experimental pioneers who came before them.

Like monks chanting mantras to disconnect from reality and discover it’s true nature, The Myrrors play and smoke and play and talk and smoke and play and listen, cassette wheels churning, until for a golden time, all else disappears. The members are one.

Tapes are rewound, these transcendent moments located, patched with other ideas, expanded on, chopped up, spliced together, re-recorded (where necessary), decorated (with restraint) and finally arranged on this album Entranced Earth.

The guiding principle of deep grooves in perfect harmony with thoughtful composition and improvised energy has resulted in dynamic music that moves to its final destination with plenty of time for you to soak up the view. You’re likely to see references from diverse times and genres, from Alice Coltrane to Ash Ra Tempel to Pharaoh Sanders to International Harvester, but Entranced Earth is distinctive, it has its own life.

Organic, lush, and thrumming in the sun, it’s easily among the best psych releases this year.

Recommended without reservation. — BB


OREN AMBARCHI
Hubris


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Photo: Barry C. Douglas

Editions Mego

I’ve only taken my first steps down the path of “learning how to listen”. Guided by a friend, the world of experimental and avant garde music (particularly electronica made in the ’60s and ’70s) has started to make sense and provided context for the work of Australian composer Oren Ambarchi.

Diving at random into his 80-record catalog prepared me in some ways for Hubris: I could appreciate his fascination with unravelling fractals of detail in elemental sounds; his affection for patterns and puzzles; I loved the sense that an entire track could grow from a single tone. I was also lucky enough to see Ambarchi’s “other side” live in the late 1990s in his unhinged art-punk band Phlegm; later listened to related project Menstruation Sisters; then moving on to the chemistry that’s so obvious in his improvised drumming in the Haino/O’Rourke/Ambarchi trio.

There are moments in Ambarchi’s solo catalog that approach a harmonization of these aspects of his musical personality: his passion for jazz drumming; pursuit of ever-stranger guitar sounds; and love of minimal rhythms developed by the likes of Panasonic and GAS. Like Eno, Ambarchi short-circuits the predictable, setting a conceptual cat among the pigeons with left-field ideas that shouldn’t work, but somehow do.

On Hubris, his collaborators bring these different aspects together in work that’s enthralling. In conception and execution, it’s breathtaking. Hubris transcends genre: it’s neither electronic nor free jazz nor noise, yet it’s all those things. From the murmured doppler-shifting zither loop that opens track one to the album’s cataclysmic drum finale, these songs have become a part of my life. It’s my album of the year, but more importantly it’s a record that has changed the way I think about music.

I’m really grateful it was made. — BB


KANDODO/McBAIN
Lost Chants/Last Chance


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Rooster Records

Any project claiming the involvement of legendary guitarist, songwriter, and audio wizard John McBain will automatically generate keen interest. His involvement in early Monster Magnet was genre-defining; he played midwife to some of the greatest desert-rock songs ever written by Josh Homme and his nefarious collective of low-desert punks; he conjured some of the sickest, most brain-bendingly great riffs this side of The Meat Puppets in the criminally underrated Hater with Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd.

Shunning the limelight and sporadically producing work of the utmost quality is McBain’s modus operandi, be it his recent work with Carlton Melton or the stunningly spacey future-retro throwback solo album The In-Flight Feature, which he released with little to no fanfare. He’s the kind of guy who is light years ahead of the curve, but doesn’t give much of a fuck about anything except hanging out with his wife and messing around with music.

Now put McBain together with longtime fans The Heads — well, two-thirds of them, using Simon Price’s solo moniker Kandodo for this project — and those expectations are going to rise to a rolling boil.

Incredibly, Kandodo/McBain doesn’t disappoint: fans were served not one but two LPs, two versions of the same record, one extra-crunchy 45 rpm mix and one molasses-thick 33 rpm master for late-night enjoyment, perhaps with a small brick of Turkish hash (fez optional).

As I commented in an interview with Price and McBain, “Musically, Lost Chants collides exuberant sticky-fingered ’90s dope-rock, for which The Heads and Monster Magnet are rightly celebrated, with a more mature and reflective approach — a subversion of convention that makes each song more of sonic adventure than the straight-up visceral energy of stoner.”

After a month or two with these records, the 33 rpm mix remains my favorite, but as with anything these masters put out, there’s so much going on in every song, there’s always new things that pop out to change preference. A memorable, and I would say essential, release. — BB.


MATTHEWDAVID’S MINDFLIGHT
Trust the Guide and Glide


Leaving Records

A significant personal musical event in 2016 was to start contributing to Brown Noise Unit. Having been a passionate and committed listener for years, it’s been really interesting to challenge myself beyond internal mumbling, why I like certain albums and trying to formulate concise thoughts on them.

Trust the Guide and Glide by MatthewDavids Mindflight is one such album and possibly the hardest disc I’ve yet attempted to make comment on. I suppose, in a way, it’s possibly the purest and most flawed recording I’ve spent time with this year.

That ambiguity points towards a complete internal debate about what this 88-minute journey is trying to achieve. The album is directly inspired by what I believe to be the best-ever album in the genre – Planentary Unfolding by Michael Streans. Somehow that album’s 1981 vintage makes some of its ambitious aims easy to pass off as “from the time”. But how does this trajectory sit in our world today? Is this music past its sell-by date?

Taking influence from a host of obvious New Age stylings, Trust the Guide and Glide could be overlooked as merely spoofing anyone of thousands of variable quality “healing music” albums littered over thousands of tapes.

Track titles like Unfolding Atlantis and Venusian Sunset do nothing to stem the fantastical cosmic flow of this album. The sleeve itself conveys an alternative reality, another world of lush vegetation, waterfalls, distant islands, and fantastical translucent beings.

And then the music itself is a series of rippling, pulsing electronic washes. The initial part of the album unfurls without many overly dynamic elements being introduced. This device making Elven Invitation‘s chugging fogginess rolling in all the more engaging.

Musically, this is a great electronic album.

Perhaps, I’ve just had a bit difficulty with the overly New Age styling of this album, but despite what in part may seem like criticism, the truth is that I’ve grown to really admire everything about this album. Trust the Guide and Glide isn’t going to save the world, but it’s a tiny bubble of tranquillity and positivity. And it’s a bubble I’m thankful that exists, and I’ve returned to it again and again.

There is no concession here, no wind-tunnel testing or focus groups. A complete artist statement and vision. Take it? Leave it? Trusts it and glide with it…  –JN


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Groping for trouts in a peculiar river.



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