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
Warning Light’s new 2-track single is “dedicated to all my friends and acquaintances who for whatever reason are not with their friends/family/sweethearts for the holiday season.” I feel you.
It Looks Like Snow (08:29) – The musical equivalent of a still life of a lone house in a winter landscape, the snow muffling the swirling drone. Strings come in like low sun coming in through the window. Do you draw the curtains, or let it blind you?
Heading Home Songs (08:29) – The road reels out, with the lane so straight you seem not to be moving. The other voices in the car are smothered by your distraction. You want to get where you’re going. But once you get close, you enter the city, and energy picks up around you, as you finally arrive, with the same wind in your ears.
Beautiful sounds, and not a sleigh bell in sight. Pay what you want at Bandcamp.
“You are not alone, much love to you all.”
Much love to you too, D, and to everyone out there.
…the world, the tide, the seasons, the wheel, the dial…
Change is a constant. Here we are with a selection of constantly changing releases to change your mind and your habits.
Fatima Al Qadiri is a NYC-based Kuwaiti visual artist and musician. ‘Brute‘ is an album that combines Mark Stewart-like police state recordings with trippy dubstep bits and ethnic flutes. A bit of politics, but cool nonetheless.
BBO’s review of Warning Light’s album XXXI described it as, variously, “just simply beautiful”, “airy propulsion”, “electro-motorisation”, and “sublime awe and cosmic wonder”. D Haddon’s latest EP, ‘Life/Death Suite EP‘ is made up of bits left over from his latest CD, which BBO will get to in due course.
The EP’s two tracks deal with such trivial issues as life and death. ‘Often Chance’ matches swirling strings with a deep pulse, then brings in stuttering back-and-forth percussion which sounds to me like the emerging Martians in Pal’s 1953 War of the Worlds. As the track expands, more elements combine until it turns into a literally entrancing wave. 10 minutes passed while I hardly noticed. ‘Dream Lovers Never Dream Alone‘ is a slower but nonetheless powerful piece, bringing to mind a triumphant funeral march through a village, to a meadow where the ceremony ends. Grab it.
I’ve always loved acid house, but I’ve never seen it as party music. I would listen to my TDK D90 cassettes marked “Dance I”, “Dance II” etc in my bedroom and on my bike, but I was never in a position to go out and shake it as was so often suggested by the music. A combination of age, personality, who knows what. Still, the squelch of a resonant 303 always gets me tingling.
To me, Posthuman embody that ‘headphone house’ aesthetic. Their forthcoming compilation ‘Back To Acid‘ is pretty straightforward. A silver box with knobs, a black box with orange buttons, and a white box with grey buttons – what else do you need? (rhetorical question, I know what you need. Indulge me). 12 tracks of caustic pleasure, from the robotic march of ‘Six Hundred’ to the delicious twang of ‘Beat Down’, via my favourite, the atmospheric throbber ‘Mezzotint’. I will be buying.
Baron Mordant is a name well known to those who dabble in the darker reaches of techno/electronics. Here as Phlekz, he’s released an EP of wondrously deep, dark and dubbed machine music. Shards of glitch and chiptune filtered through a hazy recollection. Rattling bass rhythms meld with rave whistles often mangled beyond bare recognition. Throughout, though, there’s a lightness of touch to the melancholic melodies that find their home in the background – glimpses of light on a dark but rewarding canvass.
Is hauntological Rave a nascent genre where half-remembered events that may not have happened are charted through drone and distanced rhythms? Dunno. But if it is then Body Boys, on the ever-reliable Opal Tapes, are ahead of the game. Over six carefully constructed pieces, Body Boys evoke the sound of a full-on club submerged in a heavy fog of recollection and half-formed memories of loved-up abandon. Spectres reach out of these memories to offer water and sweaty embraces, and ghostly DJs push at the levels but are barely heard through the veil of time. Marvellous stuff. Get it here.
Spring will spring, the grass will riz.
matthewpetty and angrybonbon
Every now and again an album will come from seemingly nowhere and truly alert the senses. Despite having recorded under the moniker Warning Light since 2004, Drew Haddon is a new name to us (hardly a surprise given our tardiness), but in XXXI he has revealed what electronic music can achieve with (probably a lot of) thought and care.
‘Grace Under Pressure’ is reminiscent of The Gyratory System in its morse code repetition and airy propulsion. Things then turn darker, with the deliciously uncomfortable tone of ‘Elaine Says’ (her discourse must be suitably disturbing). ‘Through the Storm Lands’ picks up the pace and ushers in, with self-aware hubris and knowing reverence, a desire to flee and hide from towering skies. The drones of ‘Approaching Algol (Moonphased)’ take this reverence into the realms of sublime awe and cosmic wonder. ‘Phono Stations’ is a real standout – a ten minute meditation on the velocity of electro-motorisation. And the culmination of XXXI, ‘Buried in Ice, Thinking of You’, is just simply beautiful and will haunt long after it ends.
This an album that effuses craft and art, a dexterity and lightness of touch, and a minimalist aesthetic that transcends the brash chest-bumping easy-fix of much electronic music today. Highly recommended. Buy.