Sunday, December 23, 2012

RIP Mike Scaccia

Mike Scaccia's metallic guitar work in Ministry's catalogue, from In Case You Didn't Feel Like Showing Up onward, is often seen as the nail that slowly secured the coffin of the band, but Scaccia and Jourgenson's work together in support of creating grindingly heavy, ugly monoliths of sound was initially that rare merge of brutal and beautiful that makes most metal I come across now seem like a defeated attempt to re-render that same formula.    In fact, the only metal band from that time frame I can think of that did it better than Ministry was Godflesh* (admittedly, I don't listen to much metal though).  The riffage on Psalm 69 and Filth Pig isn't a technically complicated style, but its use (and abuse) of distortion and effects pedals, particularly when combined with industrial/mechanical locked grooves, takes on an atmospheric and psychedelic quality not out of line with what was going on at the same time in the realm of shoegaze and post-rock.

Check the death's head tantra of "Scarecrow" and tell me its persistence doesn't recall Robert Hampson's textural use of feedback in Loop's discography or Main's first couple of records:

Or the way the very simple call-and-response chords of "The Fall" take on an apocalyptic grandeur when juxtaposed against twinkling pianos and a squealing noise loop synched to a jittery beat:

Unfortunately, after Filth Pig, the band did become everything fans thought they were becoming, though they had one two decent moments here and there.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Feels Like We Always Go Backwards: The Best Music of 2012

I've been avoiding publishing my year-end list because there's so much to say about the music here and I had anticipated being able to scribe some year-end thoughts on the selections listed below, rather than just blankly tag them for spamming purposes.  I hope to still be able to do this, but oh time it does fly and there's apocalypse now going on all around us and all that.

In short though, it was a phenomenal year for music.  I've got lists at least twice as long as the below of heavily-praised records I haven't gotten around to spinning yet.  Also, zoning in on which albums stood out when your listening habits entail psychogeographical forays into obscure labels at Bandcamp and leaps into Youtube wormholes is taxing, vexing, and perplexing.  As I stated in my previous post, I postponed listening critically for a good part of the year and just dove into the dizzy whirlwind of tunes and tones of 2012 and it's been a bit like a memory-crushing drug binge; you remember sensations more than the names of tracks, first impressions rather than solid standings, mystification rather than comprehension.   In a way, this must be what listening to pirate radio was once like.  Still, it doesn't seem sustainable, as what winds up floating to the top of my brain (as indicated below) is the music with plenty of representation at the level of word counts, while the unsuspecting discoveries slip away from me. 

Regardless, I really do commend the selections on my lists.  I'm not just cobbling together enough music to round it off into a cozy number. Each and every one of the selections on the below lists is terrific in its own rite.  The ordering is bound to change as listening habits do.  With dynamic and moving music like this being made, it's hard to fathom a critical community that piledrives adoration over perversely backwards-fawning R&B or MOR hip-hop or strummy indie fluff or post-hardcore opuses that wouldn't recognize hardcore if it tripped over its grave.  In a banner year for gay rights, "queer" as a synonym for "weird" risked being whitewashed into a bracket of discrimination, difference becoming a fatal stance for a culture with its sites set on assimilation.  I'd take Le1f over Frank Ocean any day though.  If a precondition of equality is that all LGBT dress up and act respectably indistinguishable from their hetero peers, it's just another form of conversion therapy.   In a time when women are finally beginning to outnumber men in terms of producing daring sonics, why settle for the middling passivity of Beach House?  If your puffs of weed smoke find you returning to Kendrick Lamar's same old beats rather than trying to figure out the contours of Jam City, Traxman or Arca, you're not a sonic journeyman, you're a headphone couch potato. 

And then there's Death Grips, who in one of music's gothiest years of record was probably the only group to encompass the brutality of a year of Travyvon Martin, Hurricane Sandy, mass shootings, pedophilic cover-ups, Libor, Gaza assaults, zombie cannibals, indefinite detentions of whistleblowers, drone strikes, further austerity,  et al.- a hardline channeling of anger that's like the digital techno animal lashing out at its Frankencreators.

2012 was devastating, but also liberating.  Though Occupy didn't topple the power structure, they gained undeniable credibility post-Sandy and got a couple candidates from their side of the fence into Congress.  Guns in America seem to be due for a long-awaited twilight. In direct inverse to the norm just a couple years ago, gay marriage won the popular vote in a number of states.   The U.S. is now home to the most progressive drug policy in the world in a couple of its states.  As frustrating as Obama can be, the fact that his opponent did not win can only be seen as a coup in the battle against the race to the bottom.  The Supreme Court and the voting electorate decided that we can't take away people's healthcare, even if the costly band-aid fix of Obamacare kind of sucks.  People power meant cops joining with Anonymous to oppose Westboro Baptist, Wal-Mart working with everything to risk walking off the job,  and fast food employees weighing the benefits of organization.

Likewise, 2012's music contains many reasons to be cheerful, but not to be content.  Music at all times faces the possibility of retreat and that is always more likely the case when we don't recognize the new because we're busy calculating its referents. 

The Best Albums of 2012

1. Death Grips- The Money Store
2. Julia Holter- Ekstasis (listen here)
3. Le1f- Dark York (dl here)
4. Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras, The Congos- FRKWYS Vol 9: Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras meet The Congos- Icon Give Thank (listen here)
5. Carter Tutti Void- Transverse
6. Jam City- Classical Curves
7.  Arca- Stretch 2/ Stretch 1
8. Swans- The Seer
9. Mark Van Hoen- The Revenent Diary
10. Andy Stott- Luxury Problems
11. Tame Impala- Lonerism
12. Dan Deacon- America
13. Nick Edwards- Plekzationz
14. Burial Hex- Eschatology II (or the precession of nightfall pt IIL Awaken sons of the fire festival) (listen here)
15. Traxman- Heat EP/ Da Mind of Traxman (listen/dl)
16. Voices from the Lake Featuring Donato Dozzy & Neel- Voices from the Lake
17. Burial-Kindred EP
18. Container- LP
19. Death Grips- No Love Deep Web
20. Stay+-Arem
21. The Weeknd- Echoes of Silence
22. Tig Notaro-Live
23. Perc- A New Brutality EP (listen)
24. Robert AA Lowe- Timon Irnok Manta (listen)
25. Mykki Blanco- The Cosmic Angel: Illuminati Princess (DL)
26. Sculpture- Slime Code
27. Panabrite- Soft Terminal (listen)
28. Animal Collective- Centipede HZ
29. Grimes- Visions
30. Black Moth Super Rainbow-Cobra Juicy
31. Lilxlil- II- Cirrus (listen)
32. Pye Corner Audio- Black Mill Tapes Volume 3: All Pathways Open (listen)
33. Beak>-Beak>> (listen)
34. Opponents- Temple of Decadence
35. Peter Van Hoesen- Perceiver (listen)
36. Liars- WIXIW
37. B. Bravo & teeko- the starship connection
38. Grubby Little Hands- The Grass Grew Around Our Feet (listen)
39. Ship Canal- Please Let Me Back Into Your House (listen)
40. D'eon- Music for Keyboards vol 1 (DL)

The Best Singles/Tracks of 2012

1. Death Grips- Get Got
2. Plan B- Ill Manors
3. Grimes- Oblivion
4. Julia Holter- In the same room
5. Mykki Blanco- Wavvy
6. Jam City- How We relate to the body
7. Perc- A New Brutality
8. Holly Herndon- Fade
9. Tame Impala- Apocalypse Dreams
10. Dan Deacon- True Thrush
11. Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland- The Narcissist
12. Death Grips- Hustle Bones
13. Nicki Minaj- Come on a Cone
14. Jay-Z and Kanye West- No Church in the Wild
15. Traxman- Footworkin on Air
16. Burial- Kindred
17. Blawan- Why They Hide Their Bodies Under my Garage?
18. Maria & the Mirrors- Gemini Save My Life
19. Jessie Ware-110%
20. Andy Stott- Luxury Problems
21. Nite Jewel & Julia Holter- What We See
22. Beth Jeans Houghton and the Hooves of Destiny- Sweet Tooth Bird
23. Ital- Boi
24. Stay+- Hush Money
25. Kuedo- Work, Live & Sleep in Collapsing Space/" "(Laurel Halo Mix)
26. Charlie XCX- Nuclear Seasons
27. Darq E Freaker feat Danny Brown- Blueberry (Pills and Cocaine)
28. Tame Impala- Feels like we only go backwards
29. Nicki Minaj- Stupid Hoe
30. Nicki Minaj- Beez in the Trap
31. Le1f- Wut
32. Tame Impala- Elephant (Todd Rundgren Mix)
33. Grubby Little Hands- uneek
34. D'eon- Al-qiyamah
35. Nite Jewel- One Second of Love
36. Jessie Ware- Running
37. Sleigh Bells- Comeback Kid
38. fun.- Some Nights
39. Liars- No 1 Against the Rush
40. Scott Walker- Epizootics!
41. Nicki Minaj- Pound the Alarm
42. Salva & Grenier- forest floor
43. Frank Ocean- Bad Religion
44. Elite Gymnastics- Here, in Heaven 4 & 5 (CFCF mix)
45. David Guetta feat Sia- Titanium
46. Daphni- Ye Ye
47. The Weeknd- Wicked Games
48. The Flaming Lips ft Erykah Badu- The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
49. Jai Paul- Jasmine
50. Kanye West ft big sean, pusha t, and 2 chainz- Mercy (Salva and RM Grime mix)

The Best Old Stuff Newly Released:
Com Truise- In Decay
Carl Craig- Elements
Aaron Dilloway- Modern Jester
Drexciya- Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller
David Lynch and Alan Splet- Eraserhead OST
John Maus- A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material
My Bloody Valentine-Loveless, Isn't Anything, EPs
Jurgen Muller- Science of the Sea
Regis- Adolescence
Laurie Spiegel- The Expanding Universe
Vatican Shadow- Kneel Before Religious Icons

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

EOY Superlatives begin

Read a couple entries I wrote at The Best Electronic Music of 2012 list on Carter Tutti Void, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Pye Corner Audio, Burial, Burial Hex, and Traxman.

Also, I wrote a pair of entries on Death Grips and the FRKWYS collaboration between Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras, and The Congos on the best albums list  (also, Swans at #5!  Not bad for an otherwise fairly conservative list).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Past Year's Man

Hello trolls and other fine digital creatures,

As you might have already figured out, I'm a bit of an irregular blogger, not to mention a pretty awful twitterer, and an absentee tumblrer. Early in 2012, I made the conscious decision to slow down my music-centered writing for a number of reasons.  In terms of criticism, I felt like I was running out of things to say that the music couldn't speak for itself and seriously questioned the need for all these words induced at the inception of a musical object (reviews specifically) in a world where the music naturally creates dialogues.  I'm not even really sure that music needs to be judged right out of the box anymore, and if it does I'm not sure I'm the one to do it.

Prior to this decision, I seemed to be getting bogged down by assignments and was missing out on finding things for myself.  I had a strong desire to distance myself from the rush of exploration and the subsequent crash of divestment, a perpetual cycle of hype and discontent filtered through the feedback apparatus of a bunch of wincing curmudgeons intent on destroying the enjoyment of anyone whose exacting tastes didn't match theirs.  If music writing was becoming a joyless affair, music writers certainly didn't help with their sweeping generalizations, their inattention to detail, their proud prejudices, and their general lack of adventurousness.  I know, I know- all the more reason to keep going, but I kept feeling-and continue to feel- as if it's the trolls that set the parameters for the conversation.    

Concurrently, there had been a number of creative projects I'd been shelving for years (probably literally over a decade in some instances).  I thrived for a clean break, but every time the e-mail got sent out with the new list of shiny new free objects, the temptation was usually too hard to resist.  I did drastically reduce my output, as you may or may not have noticed, but I found myself still being sucked into the surface web vortex of updates, streams, newness, and novelty.  In truth, I probably enjoyed music far more this year than any past year in recent memory and my semi-objective determination in the long run is that 2012 was a great year for sound.  I'm not yet clear on whether this has anything to do with the the way I listened (without a bypassed deadline roaming around my neck like an albatross) or the music itself, but I'm leaning towards the latter.  Still, reflecting on how 12 months could have passed without any clear objectives being met (in a strictly extracurricular sense since I also work full-time in a draining role at the inverse spectrum of my own personal ideology), I can't help but conclude that it's been a failure. Outside of this, it's been a great year.  Being a father constantly produces levels of joy in me I never knew possible and being more financially secure than ever, owning a fantastic home, and having a great family I can't wait to spend time with make my life a consistent blessing.  Yet, in terms of my goals, my fictional output amounts to some research notes and outline sketches.  I capped off some long dormant musical renderings, but produced very little new (4 Albums may not seem like nothing, but almost everything here was 3/4 of the way done and there are tons of talented folks that shit out twice as much quantity-wise that's at least twice as good quality-wise). I played two live sets and met some wonderful folks via those settings, but still feel desolately alone in terms of an artistic community and support network.  Researching potential peers in the surrounding area recently was a grim undertaking that probably could have been time well spent towards other endeavors (If you're in CT and have even a semblance of interest in the stuff I regularly talk about here, please contact me.  I'm not as much of a sad sack as I'm making myself out to be).

I'm grateful to the handful that do check up on me when I decide to utter some amount of jargon on this or other forums, particularly given the good company of other folks you read.  I'm still not sure that a blog or the other forms of writing I've done in the past are the best outlet to channel the limited amount of energy my exhausted body and brain can tweak out these days, but I'm looking to find a way to make it work better in the upcoming year. If you have any recommendations, I've reenabled comments on this site after a long hiatus.  Feel free to DM me as well.

Here's a couple things I recently scribed:

A review of Konx-Om-Pax's new one on Planet Mu
A review of Gary War's insane album of Spectrum Spools
And a minor blurb on Death Grips's "Get Got" in the annual PM Top 75 Songs List (So much more to say about this band at some point).

RIP Dave Brubeck