Round 22 – Akuma No Uta by Boris: Ian’s Choice

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We were themeless so I thought I’d play Akuma No Uta from Boris. Boris are an intriguing affair, Japanese and pretty much making it up as they go along. Sludge and drone rock seem to be their default setting but they’ve had a go at pop albums, ambient, psychedelic punk and whatever else takes their fancy. They are also pretty prolific, releasing several albums a year, sometimes a month.

This album cranks up the garage, intermingled with drone pieces. Any of it could have come from 1975 and it almost falls into pastiche (including the album cover itself which apes Nick Drake). True, it’s a primal racket but it’s not ‘edgy’ or challenging in any real way. Every song does exactly what you’d expect, arpeggios are played within major rock chords, riffs riff, one note guitar solos squeal and tracks dissolve into walls of feedback. Now none of this is necessarily a bad thing – who wants to be challenged all the time? – but it brought home that left to our own devices, we will cleave to music ‘comfort food’ at ERC as a default setting.

Dirty fuzz guitar still rocks though.

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Round 21 – Best of 2015: Ian’s Choice

Here’s what I played as my “Best of 2015” complation (in no particular order):

Nao – Zillionaire (from February 15 EP)

Fun RnB evolved but disparaged somewhat at ERC as “PC Music”.

The Chemical Brothers – Born in the Echoes (from Born in the Echoes)

Most surprising album of the year. They rewrote ‘Galvanise’ as the single and then actually went a bit weird and challenging on the rest of the album (relatively speaking).

Paul Hartnoll – Cemetary (from 8:58)

Basically if Paul Hartnoll farted in a bottle I’d think it was great. This is exactly what you’d expect – intelligent light techno with all the builds, breakdowns and synth pad sounds you love from Orbital. Does exactly what it says on the tin – but what a tin.

Shit and Shine – Upside Down Cheeseburger (from Everybody’s a Fucking Expert)

From precision-tooled techno to techno that sounds like people who don’t know how to make techno. Which is brilliant.

Public Service Broadcasting – Sputnik (from The Race for Space)

Lots of debate about this. Too mannered, too Pink Floyd, too Lottery-funded infotainment project? I get all that and it really, really shouldn’t work. So why do I like the album so much?

Checkpoint 303 – I Climbed The Top Of The Mountain (from The Iqrit Files)

Palestinian collective reimagine post-war Israeli clearance of ghost village through audio clips, field recordings and Tackhead style beats.

The Spectres – Where Flies Sleep (from Dying)

Shoegaze + MBV + noise from Bristol = winning formula.

Anna von Hausswolff – Come Wander With Me / Deliverance (from The Miraculous)

Goth centrepiece of pipe organ Scandinavian melodrama. Appropriates metal tropes to good effect.

Follakzoid – Electric (from III)

Hands down the best album I’ve heard in 2015. Four 10 minute psychedelic / Krautrock journeys from South America.

Bonus Track (not played as out of time):
Monolord – Crushing The One (from Vaenir)

Awesome, psychotically single-minded Sabbath-esque doom in a mediocre year for all things metal.

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Round 21 – Gareth’s Playlist

  1. Majorette – Beach House (from Thank Your Lucky Stars)
  2. In Time – FKA Twigs (from M3LL155X)
  3. Them Changes – Thundercat ft Flying Lotus & Kamasi Washington (from The Byond / Where The Giants Roam)
  4. Downtown – Majical Cloudz (from Are You Alone?)
  5. Why Don’t You Believe In Me – Natalie Prass (from Natalie Prass)
  6. All The Same – Deerhunter (from Fading Frontier)
  7. Bury Our Friends – Sleater Kinney (from No Cities To Love)
  8. The Moment – Tame Impala (from Currents)
  9. True Affection – Father John Misty (from I Love You, Honeybear)
  10. No Way Out (Redux) – Warpaint (from No Way Out / I’ll Start Believing)
  11. The Only Thing – Sufjan Stevens (from Carrie & Lowell)
  12. I’m Kin – Colleen (from Captain Of None)

 

So, 19 rounds later and I finally get around to posting my third update. I’m a bad person.

 

I found the task for this gathering one of the hardest of any we’ve done thus far – making a 50 minute playlist of our favourite songs of the year. For me, 2015 has been an incredible year for music and there was a lot of ground I wanted to cover.

I wanted to go for songs that had truly hooked me over the year, rather than reflecting the albums that had grabbed me as entire pieces of work. As a result, many of the albums at the upper end of the top 50 albums of 2015 list I geekily compiled on Facebook a week or so ago weren’t represented – not least Kendrick Lamar, Ezra Furman, Tobias Jesso Jr, Blur and Lower Dens.

I started with ‘Majorette’ from the second Beach House album of 2015 (out a few months after the stronger Depression Cherry); comfortingly familiar ground for Beach House, albeit with a slightly punchier wave of fuzz behind the dreamy melody. Beach House are one of those wonderful bands for me who always sound familiar, without being boring.

‘In Time’ caused debate within the room, with three quarters of the players seemingly of the opinion that her take on contemporary pop warranted the reams of attention she’s received in the press in recent years. This track, a standout from FKA Twigs’ excellent EP from this year wobbles and rumbles to a satisfying degree; never quite hitting a sugary high but doing more than enough to keep the listener interested.

Continuing a wobbly theme with the next track, ‘Them Changes’ contains my personal favourite bass work of the year; although you’d probably expect little else when Thundercat sets himself to pop mode. Given the work that he and Kamasi Washington did on the superb ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’, it was commented on that it would have made an excellent Kendrick Lamar single; which would probably have given this piece the attention it deserved.

Taking the mood down a notch on the next track, the downbeat adult pop of Majical Cloudz makes me think what Perfume Genius would sound like if he was slightly less tortured and had a slightly less abrasive voice (for the record I love Perfume Genius, but these are comments from those I’ve tried to inflict him on). ‘Downtown’, like much of the album has an immediate feel to it, with a very immediate chorus and earworm electronics. Lovely stuff.

‘Why Don’t You Believe In Me’ wasn’t originally on my playlist, but Nick stole my final track (Peroration Six by Floating Points, which admittedly would have knocked me slightly over the 50 minute window); meaning I had to think of something on the spot. Like the self-titled album, Prass’ songs are aided by outstanding production work from Matthew E White and with repeated listens really stick with you. Both Kat and I found her album irritating to start with (her voice seeming a bit weak and the songs not necessarily being strong enough on first glance) but a few months later and frankly it’s rarely left our CD player. The clincher for me was hearing her live, where stripped of the Spacebomb wrecking crew she was forced to reinvent the songs; the overwhelming majority of which sounded better than on record. This is a really good song, but I think she’s got a great album in her.

Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox is a shitlark, making it somewhat difficult to like his music. That said, like it I do. Consistently reinventing themselves, their latest album is probably their most accessible to date and ‘All The Same’ is my personal favourite from it; telling a dark tale of a Father and Husband who undergoes a gender reassignment, only to lose everything he had. Happy Christmas everyone!

Sleater Kinney’s return after the best part of ten years off was one of my highlights of this year, coming back with an album that combines huge riffs with the trademark jagged-ness and biting lyrical content. Like the next song on the playlist, there were at least six contenders from this album I could have picked (one of which Nick opted for), all of which would have demonstrated it’s’ excellence. Let’s hope it isn’t another ten years before they release something else, as the world needs more Sleater Kinney records. Well, I do anyway.

Tame Impala’s ubiquitous Elephant became something of a burden for ‘band’ dictator Kevin Parker in the writing process of their third album, ‘Currents’. He wanted to radically shift their sound, previously stuck in 1966/67 on their first two albums and find a new direction. This new direction was found through his purchase of several synths; meaning they now sound like a band from the mid-sixties who jumped in a DeLorean with Marty McFly and found themselves in his eighties homeland. Despite not really representing the radical shift in direction some would have you believe, ‘Currents’ is an undeniably superb pop album, with at least six contenders on it that could have made this playlist. I opted for ‘The Moment’, which has a very satisfying drive to it, along with a killer pop chorus. It reminds me a lot of something that I can’t quite put my finger on. Great story.

Father John Misty’s ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ album has caused me several moments of doubt over the year. The big problem for me is that it’s superb from start to finish, but you can’t help but think aspects of the musical direction at least are a big joke to him; setting out as he publically said to ape the sound of the Laurel Canyon scene of the mid-70s. Lyrically however, the album spews satire out in all directions, with making emotional connection with others in a digital age being the centre of his attention on the chosen track for this playlist; ‘True Affection’. Sonically speaking, the track isn’t really reflective of the rest of the album, but remains a personal favourite for me.

Warpaint’s self titles album of 2014 was one of my favourite favourite records of that year, representing a significant step on from the already excellent ‘The Fool’. ‘No Way Out (Redux)’ was a single that came out this year of off-cuts from the aforementioned LP. It certainly follows the same groove-led ambience of the 2014 album and would have made a super addition in my opinion, but the band themselves felt they couldn’t fit it on. I opted for the shorter version of the song that was released (partially because it’s more immediate, partially due to time constraints), but the slower and longer version of the song that’s also readily available online is also worth a listen.

Sufjan Stevens’ ‘Carrie & Lowell’ was comfortably my favourite album of the year – maintaining the dense lyrical content of his previous offerings, but stripping back the layers to reveal a much more personal album. Sonically the album reflects this stripped back approach, with a return to his folkier roots; having spent the last few years experimenting with a more maximalist approach. I’ll be honest and say I could have picked almost anything off the album, but in the end opted for ‘The Only Thing’; a song wrapped up in biblical references, dealing (as the whole album does) with the highly dysfunctional upbringing he had. As an aside, a Sufjan Stevens show from earlier in the year was also my gig of 2015 too.

Colleen’s ‘I’m Kin’ was the longest song on the playlist but it worked so well as a closing track after Sufjan (and it has also been stuck in my head for weeks), so I was happy to make an exception to my five minute rule. The French multi-instrumentalist’s latest album follows the same sonic direction as previous offerings, but like Beach House who opened this playlist; there’s always something new enough about her work to keep things interesting.

So that was an iteration of a best of 2015. I did produce a longer playlist to accompany my top 50 albums, which perhaps better reflects my listening of the year; but I’m happy enough sign off for 2015 with those 12 tracks.

New year’s resolution – post more.

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Round 21, Jon’s 2015 playlist

  1. “Mysteries” – King Midas Sound & Fennesz
  2. “Sky Wax (NYC)” – Helm
  3. “And They Still Move” – Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld
  4. “Age of Aquarius” – J.G. Biberkopf
  5. “Guantanamo” – Jlin
  6. “Holo” – Kode9
  7. “The Nest” – Faze Miyake feat. Little Simz
  8. “Hood Politics” – Kendrick Lamar
  9. “The Battle is Over” – Jenny Hval
  10. “Jester in Agony” – Prurient
  11. “Cellular Perimeter” – Kuedo
  12. “An Exit” – Holly Herndon
  13. “Thorium” – M.E.S.H.

This theme was  a blessing as I really don’t have a definitive favourite album of the year in 2015 and the amateur bedroom DJ in me made me try and match songs that worked well together – but it just ended up sounding a bit abstract and melancholic – so I’ve missed off a lot of my highlights and favourites which I will list below. What a fantastic year for music 2015 has been, and I’m sure this list will expand after Christmas.

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Round 21, Nick’s 2015 playlist

  1. “A New Wave” – Sleater-Kinney
  2. “The Man Without A Tan” – FFS
  3. “Fade Away” – Susanne Sundfør
  4. “Kala” – Mbongwana Star
  5. “Nest” – Young Fathers
  6. “5 Scorrier” – user18081971 (which is almost certainly Aphex Twin)
  7. “Archer On The Beach” – Destroyer
  8. “Don’t Let The Feeling Go” – Polar Bear
  9. “Play Mass” – Sons of Kemet
  10. “Peroration Six” – Floating Points

Two theme ideas came up for this meeting: playing something that wasn’t an album, and having a ‘best of 2015’ session. In a stroke of genius, we decided to combine the two and each make a mix for the year, limited to somewhere in the region of 50 minutes.

But what’s the methodology? Your favourite tracks? Representative tracks from favourite albums? The songs you’ve played most this year? Do you try and theme your choices or sequence the running order? Do you plan it chronologically? Predictably, I went with a mish-mash of all these approaches, fiddled around with it, dropped a couple of tracks and brought in subs, and eventually came up with a rough journey through the year that started with directness and got slightly more abstruse as it progressed, from pop and rock to abstract electronic and jazz. Or sort of. Roughly.

So I started with Sleater-Kinney’s rifftastic “A New Wave”, which just sounds like splendid fun – the song fades-out, giving a tantalizing hint that the band just kept playing this great, bouncy, razor-sharp riff, and variations thereof, forever and ever. After that we get some odd-pop courtesy of FFS – Franz Ferdinand and Sparks – a collaboration similar in many ways to the Scott Walker / Sunn o))) album last year; cross-generational, logical, and entirely predictable in terms of the aesthetic outcome. FFS is considerably easier to listen to than Scott o))) though, “The Man Without A Tan” being a jaunty slice off synth-pop weirdity slathered in hooks and irony.

Synthpop continues but mutates with Susanne Sundfør, whose exquisite <i>Ten Love Songs</i> album covers a huge amount of ground. “Fade Away” is the third track on the album and the third track in this playlist, and if one word could sum it up more than any other, that word would be ‘Swedish’. Though she’s actually Norwegian, I just associate Sweden with sophisticated, emotive synthpop, and Norway with, like, Burzum.

Mobongwana Star are from a different continent entirely though, and sound like they could be from a different world. Or, indeed, as the title of their album alludes to, the moon. I played the whole album at Devon Record Club a few weeks ago, and it went down very well indeed.

Back to Europe and Scotland’s Young Fathers, who subvert their usual drone-y, urban, experimental pop to essentially do a sweet Motown homage on “Nest”, which is somehow both minimal and lush, and ringingly romantic. This is followed up by 12-minutes of delicious synth oscillations courtesy of user18081971, who we’re all pretty convinced is actually Aphex Twin. “5 Scorrier” is one of the 200-odd tracks he braindumped onto SoundCloud at the start of the year, and of the dozen-and-a-half or so of the ones I’ve heard (courtesy of a well-curated playlist) is the most simply beautiful; it essentially does the same thing for its entire duration, but it does it so beautifully and so well that it doesn’t ever feel long.

Destroyer originally released “Archer On The Beach” as a single about five years ago, and back then it was a basically Dan Bejar half-singing over some ambient backing provided by Tim Hecker. Now, re-recorded for Poison Season, it is, as Ian put it, “very Homeland”, which is to say jazz, in a very low-key, musing sort of way. You can imagine Carrie listening to it while sitting on her Ikea sofa and crying into a bottle of pills.

From pseudo-jazz we go into proper jazz, of the English, dub-inflected variety, and perhaps the stand-out track on Polar Bear’s magnificent Same As You, and album which takes a mood and an aesthetic – grooving, subtle love – and holds it deliciously tightly for 55-minutes. “Don’t Let The Feeling Go” has vocals and hooks and is the closest thing to a single, and is wonderful.

Seb Rochford, the big-haired drummer who leads Polar Bear, is one of two drummers in Sons Of Kemet, a band lead by Shabaka Hutchings, who guests on “Don’t Let The Feeling Go”. Sons Of Kemet also feature a tuba player, who basically pumps out bass lines that sound like nothing so much as a 303; the end result is very danceable, modern-feeling, African-derived jazz, and it’s superb. They’re the only band I’ve seen live this year (due to having a baby) – in a theatre café in North Devon – and I’m incredibly happy that I made the effort.

The other drummer in Sons Of Kemet is Tom Skinner, who also plays in a band called Melt Yourself Down, with Shabaka Hutchings and a guy called Pete Wareham, who also plays saxophone in Polar Bear. Tom Skinner plays on some of Floating Points’ debut album Elaenia, although not the fabulously moody, creeping jazz groove of “Peroration Six”, which might be my single favourite track of the year. The rest of Elaenia doesn’t quite hold up – it’s brilliant but dips a little too far into ignorable Tangerine Dream-ambience during the middle third – but when it’s good, it’s amazing, the centre point of a Venn-diagram containing all my favourite music.

Loads of stuff missed out by a whisker – Julia Holter, Shamir, D’Angelo, Battles, Roots Manuva, Kendrick, House Of Blondes, Algiers, Kamasi Washington, East India Youth – and the album that I’d probably call my favourite doesn’t feature at all (because it’s two tracks that last 20-minutes each), and I haven’t even heard Grimes or Jenny Hval in full yet. I don’t feel like I’ve been able to pay as much attention to music this year as I normally would – due to that baby – but I’ve still found more than enough great stuff to fill my year. And none of it metal!

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Goat Lord – Reflections of the Solstice: Round 20, Jon’s Choice

goatlord_reflectionsofthesolstceI didn’t really know what to write about his album. I chose it because of the thematic ties with the Tory party (animal rites, drug fueled sex parties). It’s a great album and today I read this about the guitarist,

http://loudwire.com/goatlord-guitarist-murders-neighbor-her-son-commits-suicide/

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Goat – World Music: Round 20: Ian’s Choice

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For our barnyard theme you need a rock n roll farm animal and there is none more black than ‘the goat’ (see elsewhere on the page for further endorsement).

Goat’s 2012 debut came part-baked with its own very PR-able backstory: remote Swedish village, mask-wearing collective, voodoo rituals etc, which usually suggests the music itself is only a minor component. Add in that this album was very much ‘critic-adored’ and the hype warning flags were well and truly out.

However everyone can rest easy – here we’re presented with a heady, fairly extreme stew of psyche rock that slews into afro-beat and disco amongst more obvious wig-out / frazzled guitar tropes. And its primal / tribal drumming always makes me reach for the air bongos (which is undeniably ‘a good thing’).

It’s best consumed as a single piece, with the opening and final tracks looping around a similar theme. Over the 38 mins (which is the perfect length for an album) psyche riffs crunch, mellotrons mello and yes even jazz gets a look in. You can almost smell the incense (and perhaps something stronger) by the time the dense musical fug is finished.

Goat followed this up with a rather unessential live album (which is pretty much this set with poorer production) and then ‘Commune’ in 2014. While ‘Commune’ is by no means a bad album, it dials down the psyche and rawness a little, making this the purer sex with a pig experience.

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