After a year of back catalogs and meandering through the history of rock, I focused my interests on new music in 2011. I dove into experimental music, writing and reviewing music for Foxy Digitalis, and listened to a lot of acid rock and outsider music.
I am enamored with psychedelic music because of the relationship between repetition and perception induced by patterns in music. Each sound imprints itself on the soul, into the mind, allowing the listener to frame their desires, emotions, and thoughts according to the precepts of that sound. Even repetitious sounds continually imprint the mind, and although the pattern may be the same, each reception of each repetition by the body marks a new signpost in perception, memory, etc. From psychedelic sounds unfold infinite fields that allow each person to thoroughly explore their affectivity and rationality. Needless to say, I take psychedelic music to truly mean, "mind-manifesting."
In 2011, I learned that beyond the perceptual powers of psychedelic music, individual, personal encounters are yet another valuable aspect of the small scale community that celebrates acid music. Last year, the ability to share in someone's individual vision through music greatly affected my listening. In a land where major distribution is eroding and regional labels and local bands are amplified, music reconnects to its roots as cultural communication. In that regard, the proliferation of small vinyl and tape labels, and individual, self-pressed records suggests that music is not suffering, but rather supremely vital, slowly returning to the raging local and regional scenes of the 1930s and 1940s.
Furthermore, experimental music presents a clear opportunity to move beyond music's ability to communicate culturally, instead focusing on templates that are completely free of cultural norms and sometimes actively opposed to our own society's commerce. By using synthesizers, electronics, and commercial tools, etc., to create pure noise or drones, experimental/noise music allows musicians to transcend and oppose everyday constraints of labor and commerce, and communicate a classless, universal society (however brief).
One of the constraints of statist thought is the requirement that any alternatives to the state be conceived in terms of structural organization -- for instance, the requirement of Marxists to answer, "how would classless society look?" However brief, my experience with noise and experimental music is entirely classless, entirely outside of the state, and thoroughly universal in an immediate, individual manner. I can describe how a classless society sounds, and that we can experience this sensation through music gives me hope that Americans might eventually rediscover a true political orientation to one another.
This is what I learned about music in 2011, beyond the records I purchased, traded, or heard, beyond the shows I saw, beyond the words I wrote. Here are some particular moments that I enjoyed, working beyond my list at FoxyDigitalis:
Best of the rest!
Carrion Crawler/The Dream by Thee Oh Sees (In The Red) and Black Sun Transmissions by Jasper TX (Fang Bomb) were the pop and experimental albums that I felt excelled in their intention and execution, and Phaedra's The Sea (Rune Grammofon) was the LP that hit me hardest overall.
However, I felt a lot of records were really strong this year, and there are many candidates for the best LP of the year; ultimately, I think it's the emotional and situational impact that leads someone to choose one over the other. So, here are some other LPs I seriously considered for the best:
Cleared S/T (Immune)
Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972 (Kranky)
Lumerians, Transmalinnia (Knitting Factory)
Implodes, Black Earth (Kranky)
Efrim Manuel Menuck, Plays "High Gospel" (Constellation)
The Men, Leave Home (Sacred Bones)
JeaLousy, viles (Moniker): Poetry and slithering, decaying, processed bass outline sparse terrain that somehow feels completely enclosed. Opening, expanding, closing in on itself, perpetually. Beautiful layers emerge from a poverty of elements. Raw and worthwhile.
Helado Negro, Canta Lechuza (Asthmatic Kitty): A rural, remote album by an electronic noisemaker. No tension, suspended peace. Clearly a product of its own world, one particular place and time. A footnote.
Probably my favorite beat-oriented album of the year.
Bad Drugs, Raw Powder (Rotted Tooth): Claustrophobic predatory rhythmic doom metallic gloss ungodly pummeling breeding seismic shifts completely entrapped. Ritual: paranoia, addiction, intelligence, assault. Pure transcendence.
Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop): I feel like this record provided a lot of people a meeting point; out and about, shop owners would play it, everyone had an opinion on it. This is the closest LP I experienced last year where I feel everyone I encountered heard it, enjoyed it, digested it. Beyond the developments, the maturity gained since the EP and debut LP, I can easily summarize this one: side D featured one of the most badass litesike excursions I've ever heard.
The Fresh & Onlys, Secret Walls (Sacred Bones): If 2010 was the year that Fresh & Onlys planted blistering garage pop seeds in our minds, 2011 was the year that Fresh & Onlys landscaped the fields. As nearly everyone in San Francisco seems hellbent on producing explosive acid rock, The Fresh & Onlys retreated only slightly to indulge in magnificent key-embellishments and distant reverb pan licks. THE closest logical conclusion to Echo and the Bunnymen I've ever heard, The Fresh & Onlys submerged 60s acid consciousness into remote 80s gloss. If it wasn't an EP, it might be my favorite album ever.
Lou Reed and Metallica, Lulu (Vertigo / Warner Brothers): I don't have anything smart or witty to say about this one. All I want to say is that I find it rather convenient that an entire generation of people that discovered Lou Reed as an experimental pioneer after the fact can completely destroy the man for a collaboration that might not even be the worst in his career. Anyway, I don't think anyone that wasn't there for the initial reception of Metal Machine Music can have any meaningful perspective on Reed's work with Metallica. Anyway, my money is on Lou Reed once again proving everyone wrong (set your clocks to 2031, when Lulu is reassessed as a conceptual, theatrical masterpiece), and my money remains on Lou Reed doing whatever the hell he wants anyway because that's why we love him and that's why his career is truly one-of-a-kind.
Favorite Old Records:
The Ronettes (everything)
Bo Diddley (everything)
The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man
John Coltrane, Meditations
Echo and the Bunnymen, Ocean Rain
David Bowie, Let's Dance
Tegan and Sara, The Con
The United States of America
Nice Strong Arm, Mind Furnace
The Dandy Warhols, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars
Thank you to everyone who read posts here (or on 'Spective Audio) and purchased or listened to a tape this year!
I truly enjoyed working with all of the bands and artists on 'Spective Audio this year: thank you Cyrus Shahmir, cinchel, The N.E.C., Implodes, The Sunny Muffdivers, The Great Society Mind Destroyers, Rabble Rabble, Killer Moon, Sovus Radio, Soft Opening, Brainworlds, and All The Saints. I owe special thanks to my bandmates and partners in crime, Travis Bird, Kelley Crawford, and Evan Lindorff-Ellery.
I owe thanks to Permanent Records and Reckless Records for selling and featuring 'Spective Audio tapes. I especially owe thanks to Permanent and Aquarius Records for their weekly newsletters, which helped me learn a lot about music.
I also truly appreciate the time and energy of Robert Cole Manis, Mark Perro, Oliver Ackermann, Dion Lunadon, and Curt Sydnor, who helped me to write features thanks to their interviews and extended conversations.
I have not thanked my wife, partner, and best friend, for her encouragement, spiritual guidance, and gracious turntable time.
Intense, surreal, remote, dynamic. Come along with us as we chronicle the adventures of the soul through psychedelic, drone, noise, experimental, pop music based around Chicago bands in particular and local bands everywhere.
- ▼ 2012 (9)
- ► 2011 (13)
- ► 2010 (24)