Welcome to our eighth best-of-the-year list, and our second as a crack team of four. It’s patently obvious that 2016 has been thoroughly rubbish*, but at least we’ve had plenty of good music to set against the headlines, bowings-out and splittings-up. The compilation of our Top Thirty Records of 2016 was less painful than usual too, the smooth working of one well-oiled machine (we call him Pete). Still, those of you who come back every year will see that despite the neatness of the electoral process the list shows the usual surfeit of eclecticism.
So we invite you to view our shiny baubles, our fresh and seasonal produce. Not a turkey to be seen, apart from the four above. See you in 2017 – at the very least it won’t be 2016. Cheers!
(*although angrybonbon got married to the love of his life, so 2016 wasn’t all bad for everyone. Cheers!)
In the bubbling under category: Apostille: Virile Strain Transmission; The Belbury Poly: New Ways Out; Bob Mould: Patch the Sky; Weaves: Weaves; Radar Men From The Moon: Subversive II: Splendor of the Wicked; Ben Chatwin: Heat & Entropy; Steve Hauschildt: Strands; Hen Party: Glitter Sweats.
Reissues: Sweet Billy Pilgrim: We Just Did What Happened and No One Came
The Top Thirty:
30. Galcid: Hertz
29. Ogre & Dallas Campbell: Night of the Living Dead (Original Motion Picture Rescore)
28. Peter Baumann: Machines of Desire
27. Mugstar: Magnetic Seasons
26. Factory Floor: 25 25
25. Vanishing Twin: Choose Your Own Adventure
24. Barberos: Barberos
23. Goat: Requiem
22. Opeth: Sorceress
21. John Carpenter:Lost Themes II
20. Go March: Go March
Add Go March to your list of famous Belgians as this Antwerp band lay out a striking debut of spiky motorik and krautrock.
19. Juan Atkins & Moritz Van Oswald: Transport
Two of the heavyweights of techno come together as Borderland to produce the deepest beats and phasing loveliness.
18. Yak: Alas Salvation
Fearsome guitar noises, shouting, tunes. Victorious!
17. Grumbling Fur: FurFour
Mind-expanding pop music, featuring biblical patriarchs from outer space.
16. The Heartwood Institute: Calder Hall: Atomic Power Station
Sizzling with radioactivity, the polymath that is The Heartwood Institute delivers a beautiful slice of electro-hauntology.
15. The Pineapple Thief: Your Wilderness
Somerset’s greatest prog band return to form with King Crimson/Porcupine Tree drummer Gavin Harrison along for the ride.
14. Teleman: Brilliant Sanity
The second collection of slightly wonky but brilliant pop songs from a band who seem to be able to produce them without breaking a sweat.
13. Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits
San Francisco psych rockers manage what looks like a crossover smash on their first of their two records for 2016.
12. The Mortlake Bookclub: Exquisite Corpse
The only soundtrack you need for the Folk Horror Revival. Four movements of palimpsest drone that both spooks and moves.
11. Martha: Blisters in the Pit of my Heart
Reminds you it’s still possible to do quite a lot with the raw materials associated with ‘punk’ & ‘pop’ if you’re as smart and lively as this lot are.
10. worriedaboutsatan: Blank Tape
Brooding, ambient electronica and hypnotic atmospheric rhythms. Antoher top class album from this duo to follow last years’s Even Temper.
9. Posthuman: Back to Acid
12 tracks of caustic pleasure, from the robotic march of ‘Six Hundred’ to the delicious twang of ‘Beat Down’, via the excellent atmospheric throbber ‘Mezzotint’. I’ve said it before, Acid House is the new Dad Music.
8. Warning Light: Life Death Suite EP
Entrancing clatter and looping tones as a taster for the full album.
7. Teenage Fanclub: Here
It’s been six years since the last one, but the Fannies shine just as brightly as they ever did.
6. A Year in the Country: The Quietened Bunker
Nothing quite says 2016 like a compilation album on the theme of abandoned cold war structures and bunkers, because underground is where we’ll all be living soon after the nuclear button gets pressed. Unsettling drone, snatched samples, glitched beats and claustrophobic synths; it’s all here.
5. Meilyr Jones: 2013
So rich, extravagant, and strange that it sounds like a ‘best of’ album covering several years in an artist’s life; no single track can do it justice but this will do fine here:
4. Voyag3r: Are You Synthetic?
The perfect SF adventure album. From laser duels on frozen planets to war rockets being dispatched to Ajax, this album oozes class and sophistication whilst not taking itself too seriously. It’s the sound of a band having stupid amounts of fun and tracking ‘Flash Gordon On Ice: the Musical’ whilst they’re doing it. Utterly brilliant.
3. Gnod: Mirror
Our Salfordian troubadours picked up the guitars (or banjos as they like to call them) once again and proved why they lead the pack when it comes to enveloping sludge, resistant noise and all-consuming terror.
2. Matmos: Ultimate Care II
Two men, one washing machine and one track. Every sound made from said cleaning device. From intimate glitch to all-out pounding techno. Too see this live, replete with the machine, was to marvel at the wonder and genius that is Matmos. Amazing.
1. Oscillotron: Cataclysm
The purest and deepest space music. Cosmic kosmische of the highest order. An album that let us take flight and escape the hideousness of this worldly reality, especially as it unfolded this year. Transcendental.
So you can do yourself a big end-of-the-year favour and go buy some or all of the above albums. They are available from shops and sites – independent ones, big shiny ones, online ones (who pay their taxes), 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.
Merry Xmas and a happy Newest Year one and all.
angrybonbon, JKneale, matthewpetty & Pete Collins
Swedish metal is not something we cover here at BBO terraces. However, when one of said fraternity – in this case David Johansson, front-man of KONGH – delivers a beautifully menacing six tracks of synthscapes, you take note.
The wonder of this album, as with most horror-synth workouts, lies in its affective simplicity: many tracks are constructed through uncomplicated leads dancing with grace across foreboding swirls of sound. The stunning ‘Pioneers’ illustrates this perfectly with eddying and airy melodies giving way to eldritchian peril with real bravura. Three note leads evolve with ominous resonance, as siren-call chords warn of some hideous transformation of matter on ‘Mutation’. And the delightful choral eeriness and zombie pacings of ‘Terminal’ and ‘Cataclysm’ can only spell creeping fear.
Four years on from the also brilliant first album Eclipse, Oscillotron’s return seems to be immensely well-timed: John Carpenter playing ATP in Iceland in July and touring later in the year; Goblin performing their soundtracks live; and the likes of Ubre Blanca, Umberto and Zombi in our midst – this is a very good time to be a fan of the horror-synth nexus.
Buy Cataclysm here (from May 27th or pre-order now). Do it now before some killer virus lays us all to waste.
You’ve been warned.
To quote me colleague “Must be a lot of war memorials missing their goths tonight.”
And so we give you a series of tunes that can soundtrack an ungothed war memorial. A series of tunes that have the potential to dissipate the smell of cider and worn-in patchouli and disrupt adolescent fumblings behind gravestones.
First up is Oscillitron’s Eclipse, an analog trip of Carpenter-Goblin horrorscapes produced by David Johansson of Swedish doom-sludge metal types Kongh. The whole album amounts to an extraordinary SF-horror score upon which you can draw and carve your own nightmares [out on 2nd of November. Pre-order/details]
Next, FINAL’s Burning Bridges Will Light Your Way. FINAL is/are one of Justin K Broadrick’s – he of Godflesh fame – many aliases and projects. Due to the sheer pummeling horror, my only interaction with Godflesh in the live arena (sometime in the early 90s) seemed to have been successfully repressed over many years, but this outing of chilling atmospherics and dark ambience is enough to see these memories erupt with uncanny abandon [buy/details]:
Umberto, a true modern hero and master of the horror synth, is a big favourite round these parts. His new album, Night Has A Thousand Screams, is out this week (and may get a review here at some point), but this ten minutes of floating screamatronica will send the shivers down the right places until the former has been absorbed [buy/details]:
And then there’s Nick Lyons’ Songs of the Asylum composed of multiple reversals of sounds and voices that never quite cohere into anything tangible, but still circle round you in their less than material presence. The fact that these near-presences swirl through an abandoned asylum only adds to the unnerving feel of this cinematic outing [buy/details]:
And finally The Eye of Time’s S/T: an album so bloody dark, foreboding and menacing in its affect I’ve managed one full listen since I bought it months ago. I might try again today given the portent of the date [buy/details]:
HANG ON! This has been all a bit too tasteful and serious for a Hallowe’en post. It has become traditional to post some dodgy goth to tempt those poor souls back to their war memorials. So it doesn’t get any dodgier than this (from one of the few albums I’ve ever sold). Enjoy:
And remember…he who fears death cannot enjoy life.