What is it with the North East and motorik soundscaping? With Warm Digits, (Neil from) Eat Light, Become Lights and now Parastatic finding their origins therein, it seems the region is a real milieu for the driven and driving. Suggestions as to why this might be should be scrawled on a 1960s Mercedes-Benz and driven up the A1.
Parastatic trade in a layered intensity of guitars and synths, and are practised in the vast and the panoramic. ‘Arches’ opens with a thumping abandon and builds the tension before the release of the groove kicks in. When vocals enter the fray, on ‘Saint Mary’ for example, there’s a real hint of Parts and Labour, which augments this sense of distance and travel.
It’s not all driving though: mid-album track ‘Sorby Sunrise’ is stretched out somnambulism and ‘I am the One’ is building synth-Pop. ‘Old Street’ heralds the return of the propelling rhythms and we’re safely back on the road again.
Recall Fade Return is great of example of sonic motility and mobility. The nu-Kraut revival continues. Get it here.
Yes, that’s right dear reader: such was the overwhelming amount of top music this year we’ve given our end-of-year list a dose of max enlargement pills and extended it to a mighty top twenty.
Those that didn’t make this engorged run-down and hence reside in our honourable bubbling under category include: Swans – The Seer; Toy – Toy; Monolake – Ghosts; White Manna – White Manna; Easter – Innocence Man; Bass Clef – Reeling Skullways; Umberto – Night Has A Thousand Screams; The Eccentronic Research Council – 1612 Underture; and Mouse on Mars – Parastrophics.
A special mention goes to British Sea Power’s EPs 1-6. Well it wouldn’t be one of our lists without them, would it? If we could have counted these as one album it would have made the top five. Obviously.
So here it is, Merry Listmas. Everybody’s having fun (somewhere else).
20. Eat Light Become Lights – Heavy Electrics
19. Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth
18. White Hills – Frying On This Rock
17. Fanfarlo – Rooms Filled With Light
16. Wishmountain – Tesco
15. Drokk – Music Inspired by Mega-City One
14. Mugstar – Axis
13. Fighting Kites – Fighting Kites
12. Belbury Poly – The Belbury Tales
11. Euros Childs – Summer Special
10. Egyptology – The Skies
This analogue symphony had us frothing on about ancient astronauts and the geomancy of Giza back in July. It’s still taking us somewhere weird and wonderful. The best of the seemingly never-ending fascination with old synths and arpeggiators that pervades the world of electronica. Long may this fascination continue.
9. Deerhoof – Breakup Song
All over the shop, but in a good way, Deerhoof’s Breakup Song threw all kinds of idea together to make another off-kilter pop hit. Needs to be played loud.
8. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
It came from nowhere, and nowhere on BBO will you find the review this album richly deserves. Yet it does exactly what you want a Godspeed! album to do, and then some. Colossal drones, magisterial builds and releases, and immense noise, all suffused with a politics for those that know.
7. Bill Fay – Life is People
Two astonishing albums at the start of the 1970s and then another one in 2012. The voice is warmer, but even more haunted, and Fay’s conviction still burns through as clearly as it ever has: “I personally need to believe that this world just can’t go on and on and on in the way that it goes.”
‘Be At Peace With Yourself’:
6. Beak > – >>
A marvellous pulsing head throb of analog musings and music from this threesome. Retro-futurism might not be a thing, but this sounds so extra-temporal we can’t help looking at the future through the past (and often vice-versa). If we had a record label of the year award it would probably go to Invada Records as well.
‘Mono’ (Ok, not technically on the album, but it’s a cracker):
5. Fang Island – Major
Like a cheeky-monkey off its bits on riffs. With shit-eating gurns and post-ironic chest bumps all round, Major is always there for the dark days and the light days. Simply…YES!
4. Plank! – Animalism
Owls and pigs. Owls, pigs and fighting ferrets. Animalism is nothing short of an extraordinary debut of Neu-proggish grooves and looped noodling and funk. Looked into the Owl’s eyes and agree. You now agree.
‘Dying for Pigs’:
‘King Rat I, II, III’:
3. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Crown and Treaty
Prog, pop, country – Sweet Billy Pilgrim will do you an album containing all of those elements, and live they’ll throw in an a cappella version of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ just to keep you guessing. Crown and Treaty is the sound of a great, genuinely original, band still discovering what they’re capable of.
2. Bob Mould – Silver Age
Ignore those people who tell you this is a ‘return to form’ – the amazing thing about Bob Mould is not that he’s produced an album reminiscent of the best of the Sugar records, but that he’s been writing songs this good since the early 1980s.
1. Goat – World Music
The hype realised for once. An album that possesses you. We called it a transnational psyche agenda for the weird underground and we stand by these words. Syncretic brilliance. Stunning.
Det Som Aldrig Förändras/Diarabi:
A massive thanks to everyone who has supported us, read these ramblings and listened to anything we’ve recommended this year. You probably will never know how much we appreciate it.
jkneale and angrybonbon
[All of these lovely records are available from shops – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their tax), ones where there isn’t really a shop but you have to email some bloke. We like buying records – actually, we really do. And we think you should too, so if you like any of this and haven’t already bought them, go on! They’ll be cheap by now]
Such is the culturally encoded association of technology with the city that it seems impossible to listen to Heavy Electrics whilst thinking about the countryside; smocks, discussions of crop rotation, unfettered organic ears of wheat, five-bar gates, maids cycling to evensong, warm cider…all of these are but a distant echo to the landscapes imagined here. If you insist on thinking the rural here it can only be one scythed and gashed by machinery: opener ‘Bound for Magic Mountain’ is the sound of a high speed train link trashing the bucolic dreams of the rural gentrifiers and their sickening desires for stasis.
Delve deeper and something of the natural is revealed – the sunrise and sunset glints and hazes of ‘Syd-Mead Cityscape’ and ‘Terminus IV’ chart the transition of natural to artificial light and back again. Yet this disclosure is still mediated by an imposing sense of the concrete, steel and tarmac, underscored by the hectic, stressful and crowded, all of which are transformed here from a bind to a buzzing and shimmering pleasure.
If ‘nu-Kraut’ (we’re trying that out for a second time, but it’ll never catch on) or their self-penned label ‘Krautronica’ is something (anything) of a genre then Eat Lights, Become Lights are the motor of its expansion, progress and envisioning. Great stuff. Buy here.
If you want Heavy Electrics on tri-coloured vinyl – which would make a pretty spectacle on the turntable and much more exciting than not seeing a CD whirring like my version – then there are only 30 copies left, so act sharp! Available from the band themselves: £10.00 + £5 postage UK/EU £7.50 rest of the world. Paypal – firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Bound for Magic Mountain’:
One of the slight drawbacks of Kontakte’s last album was the lack of motorik rhythms that made something really special of their former release. On discovering that one member, Neil Rudd, has left the band and formed Eat Lights; Become Lights, and after consuming the delights of Autopia, the reasons for this have become apparent (I think. The Great God of Google won’t tell me if this is the exact sequence of events, but it seems to make sense). So this is a contemporary motorik release that is unashamedly obvious in its influences (the band have been described at London based Klub Motorik’s ‘house band’).
If you’re going to do something with such an evident lineage then you’d better get it right – and Eat Lights; Become Lights get it spot on. With its sparkling and propulsive guitars and synths, ever forward pulsing rhythms and effortless melodies, Autopia evokes a velocity and movement that befits those modernist dreams of untrammelled mobility and freedom to which the motorik sound pays homage. As so composed, Eat Lights provide a soundtrack to those almost forgotten utopic visions of efficient travel, wherein concrete shone bright, tarmac glistened with hope and motorway services had the aura and mystique of orbiting space stations.
Jetpacks might not be included, but if you want a semi-nostalgic trip to the past-future Autopia is worth tracking down. Buy it here. And read The Quietus’ excellent article on all things motorik here when you’ve done purchasing.