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Utility Fog

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Sunday, 28th of December, 2014

Playlist 28.12.14 - Best of 2014, Part 2! (8:06 pm)

Best of 2014, Part 2, peeps!

LISTEN AGAIN because moar best of the year! Podcasty or streamy? Your call!

Starting off with Brian C Barth's Names, impeccably produced indie with orchestral, electronic and generally experimental overtones. Introduced to me by Nick Zammuto, who mastered the album.

Lovely Newcastle indie peeps Firekites up next, with one of my fave Aussie albums of the year. It's pretty low-key shoegazey and folky stuff, but just so well-done.

James Kelly was frontman of Irish black/doom metal band Altar of Plagues, but that's something you'd never guess from the sound of his new project, WIFE. His 2012 debut EP on Throwing Snow's left_blank label was a brilliant handful of contemporary beats, and the new album consolidates those production skills and adds some non-screamy pop vocals on a lot of tracks.

Speaking of black metal, The Body have been one of the most adventurous bands in the left-field of metal for some years, teaming up with full choirs and folk bands, but on the new album they enlisted Bobby Krlic aka The Haxan Cloak to help with production, and so we have incoherent screaming vocals, distorted guitars and clattering drums but also distorted sub-bass, quantized beats and more. Challenging but awesome.

Meanwhile, Wreck and Reference have been making their form of black metal without the use of guitars from the start. There's bass and drums in there, along with keyboards, and an almost New Romantic sound along with rabid screaming (which could as easily recall Xiu Xiu as Burzum). No surprise the new album is superb.

However, metal album of the year has to go to that supergroup of genius tricksters, Old Man Gloom. It's a double album, except technically it's TWO albums both entitled The Ape of God - one with slightly shorter, more hardcore tracks, and the other with four 15-minute epics of post-metal, doom, hardcore, drone, you name it. There are genuinely scary bits, and genuinely humourous bits, and lots of massive riffs and grooves as well as lots of sonic experimentation. Massive.

Of course the new Swans album needs to be on the list, and it's only because it came out so early in the year that it hasn't perhaps been as high in my mind. But along with the extremely long sonic assaults, there were those amazing groove-based tracks like "Screenshot", "A Little God in My Hands" and "Oxygen"... but I ended up choosing the wonderful, eerie closer to the first disc of To Be Kind. Those string glissandi are amazing.

Carla Bozulich has a long history in adventurous bands, starting with the industrial cabaret of Ethy Meatplow. For the last while she's put out some stunning indie-postrock albums with her band Evangelina on Constellation, but the new one comes out under her own name. Intensely personal, it has less of the sprawling arrangements of Evangelista, but it's anything but standard singer-songwriter fare.

With a background in doom metal as well as experimental electronics and glitchy drum'n'bass, Terminal Sound System aka Melbourne's Skye Klein has turned everything inside-out for his new release (very late in 2014) on Denovali. It suits its moniker, Dust Songs, with whispered vocals, guitars and some drum machine beats, sometimes fed through the digital shredder, and all of it seemingly mastered to an old cassette and left on the dashboard... Masterfully done.

Speaking of masterful, next up is Hildur Guðnadóttir's 2014 album Samar, which easily trumps her lovely earlier work, with a variety of techniques on the cello along with vocals and other additions. Beautiful songs and sounds. Guðnadóttir also contributes deep cellistics to the opening track on the new album from Ilpo Väisänen & Dirk Dresselhaus's Angel project.

Italian drummer/percussionist Andrea Belfi has collaborated with countless musicians from Italian experimentalists to David Grubbs to Aidan Baker Machinefabriek to Mike Watt to none other than Carla Bozulich (pretty sure he's on the track I played above). His last couple of releases were on Brisbane's own Carla Bozulich">ROOM40, but the latest comes from the awesome Miasmah. Similar to his recent output, it's drones and subtle motorik percussion, atmospheric and engrossing.

Jason Sweeney seems to have settled on Panoptique Electrical as the moniker for all his solo output at the moment. It started as very ambient work on synths and piano, and those elements are still there, including lots of lovely close-mic'd piano thumps and clunks, plus some subtle beats and other sounds. He released a few albums in 2014, but Love Lost In a Storm seemed a particularly great achievement. It was also wonderful that finally his indie/postrock/tronica collaboration with Great Earthquake on drums and Richard Adams of The Declining Winter (and Hood) on vocals was finally released, even if just as a Bandcamp thing.

Speaking of indietronica, Canberra/Sydney duo (now trio) Spartak have long been UFog faves, so a new release is likely to find its way to the best-of list. But this year's EP should have been huge, if only everyone had my taste (in which case the aforementioned Hood would've been chartbusters their whole career, so yeah, probably unlikely). Their background is in loose postpunk/postrock improv and lots of electronic post-production; but here they turn to more song-based forms, and while the production is still challenging and adventurous, there are plenty of melodic hooks.

One version of the Spartak EP came with a set of remixes, including one from Marcus Whale aka Scissor Lock. His r'n'b/garage trio BLACK VANILLA didn't release an album this year, but this one track did make an appearance, and surely by next year they'll be winning all the Grammies.

Giant Claw is a recent discovery (for me, obviously), with a background in graphic art and the cassette noise scene, and his latest is a brilliant collage of ('80s?) r'n'b/pop samples, found classical MIDI sequences and contemporary beats. It's disturbingly amazing.

And finally, back to some heroes of the doom metal scene, all also pretty wide-ranging musical masters. Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O'Malley and Randall Dunn are also all connected with Sunn O))), but this album is somewhat different, a soundtrack to a multimedia movie/work originally released on vinyl on Drag City at the beginning of the year, and also available as a special 2CD set on Japan's Daymare. It's from the second disc that we hear this piece of weird synth/rock/noise groove. There's rockout numbers and also an almost folk number featuring Japanese singer Ai Aso on the album. Well worth a listen.

Names - The Long and Short of It [Names Bandcamp]
Firekites - Fallen [Spunk]
WIFE - Salvage [Tri-Angle]
The Body - Alone All the Way [RNVG International]
Wreck and Reference - Stranger, Fill This Hole In Me [The Flenser]
Old Man Gloom - Arrows to Our Hearts [SIGE/Profound Lore/Daymare]
Swans - Some Things We Do [Young God]
Carla Bozulich - Deeper Than The Well [Constellation]
Terminal Sound System - Deep Black Static [Denovali]
Terminal Sound System - Keepers [Denovali]
Hildur Guðnadóttir - Heima [Touch]
Andrea Belfi - roteano [Miasmah]
Panoptique Electrical - Action [Panoptique Electrical Bandcamp]
Great Panoptique Winter - Put Hope In Future Days [Great Panoptique Winter Bandcamp]
Spartak - Nightshift [Feral Media]
Spartak - Locked In Three (Scissor Lock rework) [Feral Media]
Giant Claw - DARK WEB 005 [Orange Milk Records/Virgin Babylon Records]
AmbarchiO'MalleyDunn - Metric Homme [Drag City/Daymare]

Listen again — ~106MB

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