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Both Bars On: Top Thirty Records of 2015

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2015. Our seventh end of year list, this time augmented by our two new writers, Matt and Pete. Which means double the confusion and argument, though actually our choices overlapped more than usual. Sort of. Anyway, you don’t need to know about the infighting, gerrymandering and filibustering that went on behind the scenes – someday it will make a great film but now you just want to know about the List, right?

This year it’s our top thirty records, to fit in all the choices of the four of us. It’s an eclectic mix, though it has the signature BBO elements you have come to know and love – well, OK, know and shake your head over while muttering “you boys”. In a disappointed way. But it’s very definitely us – the new, improved, BBO us.

Feast your mince pies on this little lot.

In the bubbling under category: Downtown Boys: Full Communism; King Khan and BBQ Show: Bad News Boys; Dead Sea Apes: Spectral Domain; Thomas Brinkmann: What You Hear (Is What You Hear).

Reissues: British Sea Power: Decline of British Sea Power; Super Furry Animals: Mwng

30. HOX: Duke of York

29. White Hills: Walks For Motorists

28. Het Droste Effect: Soar

27. Container: LP

26. Steve Hauschildt – Where All Is Fled

25. GNOD: Infinity Machines

24. Tim Bowness: Stupid Things That Mean The World

23. Girl Band: Holding Hands With Jamie

22. Diebenkorn: Magnox

21. Bad Guys: Bad Guynaecology

20. Pega Monstro: Alfarroba 

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Distortion, zippy tunes and reflective scuzzy ambience from Lisbon’s Julia and Maria Reis.

19. KoMaRa: KoMoRa

20 Komara

Industrial drumming, dark riffs and atmospheric noises; it is truly, in the bands own words, a “dark, deviant and explicit detective story”.

18.  Sufjan Stevens: Carrie and Lowell

19 Sufjan Stevens

Heartbreaking, immmensely affecting songwriting, bringing beauty out of sorrow.

17. Outblinker: Pink/Blue

18 Outblinker

Menacing but ecstatic, juddering but groovy, starting small but ending huge, you could dance to it, but you wouldn’t in public.

16. Evan Caminiti: Meridien

17 evan caminiti

Drones, crackling static, dark pulses and minimal percussive elements – a horror soundtrack for a post apocalyptic landscape.

15. Sauna Youth: Distractions

16 Sauna Youth

As we said, “Short sharp post-punk pop songs, propelled by insistent no wave guitars”, and more besides.

14. Orlando & Tomaga: Play Time: Music for Video Games

15 Orlando _ Tomaga

Out in the space forest, the neon frogs are looking for romance to a bossanova beat, before boarding the interstellar cruise – but the slomo robo crew are still marching over the tarmac, nodding and calling to themselves as they come.

13. Ultimate Painting: Green Lanes

14 Ultimate Painting

On very heavy rotation at the London office this year, this is guitar music full of pop hooks and irresistible harmonies.

12. Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress

12 Godspeed

Decried by some, celebrated herein, this album rekindled our love of the Montreal titans (and was semi-religious performed live).

11. British Sea Power: Sea of Brass

11 BSP

Performed by BSP and a full brass band, these songs become something completely different, capturing something of the live spectacle.

10. Heroin in Tahiti: Sun and Violence

10 Heroin in Tahiti

Well this came from seemingly nowhere, but was a stunning tour-de-force that left us partly uplifted and partly disturbed.

9. Titus Andronicus: The Most Lamentable Tragedy 

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A rock opera about manic depression and um I don’t know in five acts, this is also a collection of exactly the kind of rabble-rousing songs you were hoping for from one of the smartest and most interesting guitar bands in America.

8. Steven Wilson: Hand. Cannot. Erase.

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A huge brooding slab of a concept album, about a woman who chooses to disconnect from society in a big city and whose disappearance goes unnoticed. Wilson’s output is getting better and better with each album.

7. Parastatic: Recall Fade Return

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Reverby twangy echoey tuney goodness, with a beat that cries out to be drummed on the steering wheel over the Pennines.

6. Adderall Canyonly: Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains

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Adderall Canyonly has practically owned 2015. Stupidly prolific, it was between this and Museum of Fire as a pick for our list. Beneath The Crystal Canyon A Spark Remains reveals an almost sickening level of talent.

 

5. Du Blonde: Welcome Back to Milk

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Power ballads, anger, music-hall silliness, tenderness – Beth Jeans Houghton’s incredible voice made it all sound so natural. An unexpected best of the year for one of us.

4. Zombi: Shape Shift

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Living fully up to the hyped expectations, Shape Shift kept the funked horror and progressive rhythms. They’ve never sounded tighter and more exciting. And that last track, ‘Siberia II’…Oh. My/Our. Word!

3. John Carpenter: Lost Themes

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The master returns. There was much excitement from at least half of BBO when John Carpenter’s first ever non-soundtrack album was released, and the lack of a film to tie these songs to doesn’t detract from Carpenter’s ability to terrify and amaze us in equal measures with his signature horror sounds. A simply sublime album.

2. Ubre Blanca: The Sadist

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Horror theme this year? You betcha phantasmagoric bits there is! This Glaswegian duo simply blew us away with their Occult rock and spooked atmospheres. Incredible release and no mistake.

1. Teeth of the Sea: Highly Deadly Black Tarantula

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They did it in 2013 with Master and they’ve taken our highly prized top spot again. With HDBT, Teeth of the Sea retained something of their former selves but evolved into something more cerebral, yet guttural, sweaty and appealingly disfigured. As all truly great albums do, it just gets better and better with every listen. Brilliant. Really and actually, very brilliant.

 

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

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Steve Hauschildt: Where All Is Fled

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Hello readers. If you can tear yourself away from TOTS and Bon’s excellent review, I’m back with another collection of electronic soundscapes, and another dose of tortured stream-of-consciousness purple review prose, with a few references to video games thrown in.

Having tripped over and enjoyed Mr Hauschildt while listening to a Brainwashed podcast, I was pleased to see that Kranky were releasing a new album from him in September, so I grabbed it when it came out.

It’s a beautiful album of lush synths and arpeggiated tones. There’s definitely shout-outs to your German pioneers here, so if your copy of ‘Phaedra’ was getting a bit worn, this will do you just fine. The tracks generally fall into one of two forms, the einatmen-ausatmen sweeping forms, and the sequenced synth workouts.

The opener, ‘Eyelids Gently Dreaming’, doesn’t grab you immediately, but sidles its way in with a gently persuasive sequence of strings. But it’s just a palette-cleanser before the following ‘Arpeggiare’. This is much more of a melodic piece, and it lives up to its name, with overlapping sparkles and trills of sound, reminiscent of Cauty and Weston’s ‘Space’, and a tuneful line that is almost hummable. Don’t get used to that, though.

The title of ‘In Spite of Time’s Disguise’ is reflected in the way the organ stabs summon a clock movement, but a digital one. No swinging pendulums here. Xylophone trills herald a delicate reverbed tune, which comes and goes until all that’s left is the pulse of the clock and a gentle string wash. A personal highlight.

Title track ‘Where All Is Fled’ starts with melancholy piano, and in between distant almost-voices, it forms the bulk of this track. Definite soundtrack material, very pretty indeed, but I think a little out of place – although the artist put it here, so it belongs here.

The sounds on some tracks do seem to act as messengers and guides, leading you on to some secret location before leaving you to wonder how to get home. For example, arpeggiated phrases introduce ‘Vicinities’, then claves and wood percussion add a bit of a rainforest feel. Bass swells, and the phrases start to resolve themselves. A certain urgency builds, the phrases simplify, and having made their point the group disappears through the trees.

Or this – I’ve had my share of hospital needles, and been under the knife a few times, and I can say that if they could have piped ‘Anesthesia’ in while I was drifting away, it would have been a much more relaxing glide into oblivion. I might even have met some of the folks “out there”, as they were attracted to what I was listening to.

I was caught out by ‘The World Is Too Much with Us’, starting as it did with what I thought was just more synth sweeps. Then suddenly I was tripped by sinuous driving running appegiated synth rills, and a voice chanting through the atmosphere. This is definitely my favorite track on the album. The lines build and blend, growing to a smooth rounded hilltop, before scattering to the winds to spread their message.

There are some IMHO filler tracks. ‘Edgewater Prelude’ is a short plinky-plonky piece, but nice nonetheless. ‘A Reflecting Pool’ is a stroll through a vaulted hall, droplets of tone reverberating randomly. ‘Sundialed’ brings together the chatter of a cellphone, the swell of an LFO-driven phaser, and a simple bassline, then trips you up with sudden skipping offsteps to keep you on your toes.

Whether it’s actual birdsong or a some form of robotic simulation matters not in the alien forest of ‘Aequus’. It reminds me of the music used (created?) in the game Proteus. With the bass and clicking muffled beat, it wouldn’t be out of place on an FSOL album. We return to this location later on in ‘Lifelike’, only this time it’s nighttime. Hooting cries, insect violinists, and pond dwellers mix with a quite urgent rhythmic pulse, reflecting the rush of nocturnal life.

What did I say about this album wearing its influences on its (mylar?) sleeve? It had to happen. After the rains and the climbing chimes of synth open ‘Caduceus’, a distinctly familiar octave-jumping bass takes us back to the mid 70s. Very nice indeed. The final track on the album, ‘Centrifuge’, sums up what we’ve learned on our journey (if not tourney, no, not tourney). As the name suggests, it takes all the parts and spins them, but instead of separating them, it combines them into a final curtain closer.

As other reviewers have suggested, this album (indeed this kind of music) would be well accompanied by one of the new breed of procedurally-generated space exploration games. It’s certainly worth listening to while exploring your own space, inner or otherwise. Buy it where you can, or from iTunes if you have to.

Brainwashed Radio Podcast

nodcastAlong with the lovely chaps here at Both Bars On, the Brainwashed Radio Podcast has been a fantastic source of new music for me. My tastes could be said to have calcified in recent years, but a lot of the plaque has been shaken loose by this podcast. While I was riding the Transbay from Oakland to San Francisco every day, it was a regular accompaniment, and now that I’m taking the E12 from Al Reef via Yas Island, it’s back in rotation.

The format is pretty straightforward. The excellent host Jon Whitney gives just enough information about each piece of music, with a little bit of chat, but never enough to make me switch off (and believe me, it doesn’t take much). He will churn out a bunch of episodes in quick succession, then go quiet for months. But the episodes are about an hour long, often have great replay value, and the archives are quite extensive, with over 300 episodes so far. Plenty to dig into.

Brainwashed itself is a great thing and worth checking out – news, reviews, artist pages (including my beloved Meat Beat Manifesto), you name it, all under one digital roof.

Some of the artists that have appeared on the podcast are; Klara Lewis, Steve Hauschildt (new album coming soon – watch this space for review), Suicide, The Legendary Pink Dots, Broadcast, The Haxan Cloak, Factory Floor, the list goes on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on-‘n-on.

Have a listen.

matthewpetty

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