I've gotten together with 3 friends to present you with a collective and personal take on what turned our cranks musically in 2020. This is not a "best of" list, this is what got us through a rather weird year, given external global circumstances! One never stops learning about new or old music as there is an overwhelming amount of wealth to be shared !
One of life's joys is having friends who share a wealth of knowledge and LOVE of music...👽
Andy Uzzell is a music fanatic, published scribe (legendary online zine "Dayz Of Purple and Orange"), sometime concert promoter, owner of Misophonia Records and lives in Chelmsford in Essex County, UK. Brett Savage is a record shop impresario at Inner Space Records located in Uppermill Saddleworth/Yorkshire UK, runs The Acid Test Recordings label and slings guitar in one of the greatest modern day rock bands The Dead Sea Apes. Dave Cambridge is head honcho of Cardinal Fuzz Records and Optical Sounds (Killer Fanzine in the UK). Dave is based in Honley, West Yorkshire UK. Brett and Dave also both play guitar in The Golden Rule....(where the fuck is that BLISTERING album guys?)
Andy's Choice Cuts....
Nero Kane - Tales Of Faith And Unity (Nasoni): Ostensibly a psych-folk album but far more going on under the surface… intimate and melancholic but with darkness and depth….a masterpiece
Psychic Temple - Houses Of The Holy (Joyful Noise): New one from Chris Schlarb’s ever changing unit, this time round a double album with a guest artist per side…. The result of which is an album that goes through hazy alt-country (Cherry Glazerr), experimental jazz (Chicago Underground Trio), straight up psychedelia (The Dream Syndicate) and something more gritty and urban (Xololanxinxo)...as the saying goes, "all killer, no filler"
Herbcraft - Trash Heap (Cardinal Fuzz/Flower Room): To be honest I could have picked any of Matt LaJoie’s prodigious output from this year such is his genius but Herbcraft….it’s surely an ‘end of year’ nobrainer of an inclusion
Stonegrass - Stonegrass (Cosmic Range): collaboration between Matthew ‘Doc’ Dunn (The Cosmic Range, The Golden Road and damn decent fella) and Jay Anderson (Badge Époque Ensemble). You may be forgiven for thinking this is purely an album of psych jams but it is far more nuanced…fleeting glimpses of funk, soundtracks, library music and jazz are traced through it – a superb album.
Don Cherry - Om Shanti Om (Black Sweat): first release for this Cherry masterpiece. A document of a live performance in Rome in 1976; a mystical meeting of East and West with all that one would expect from the mid-70s Cherry…It is an album that has certainly helped me make sense (a little) of the shitstorm that has been 2020)
Black Unity Trio – Al Fatihah (Gotta Groove): Another much anticipated repress, this time of one of avant-garde jazz’s “holy grails” - deep, muscular and yet atmospheric and cosmic. Pricey, so a considered purchase but oh so worth it!
Acanthus - Le Frisson Des Vampires (Finders Keepers): Previouslu unreleased soundtrack from the ultimate French vampire hippy flick. "Imagine and early Gong/Ame Son/Soft Machine session Fuelled by a 1000 year old acid infused blood transfusion"
Special mentio to Polytechnic Youth, Castles In Space, Woodford Halse- I think I got pretty much everything these labels put out this year but impossible to pick faves, such is the quality!
First heard this year:
Jaimie Branch - Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise (International Anthem): Released in 2019. A visceral commentary on Trump’s America, Branch uses her voice and trumpet to conjure up not just a monster of a jazz album but a searing call to action
Robbie Basho - Visions Of The Country (Gnome Life) Never really paid much attention to Basho in the past…what a mistake. Absolutely brilliant! Haunting, virtuoso guitar picking and that voice!!…’Blue Crystal Fire’ is surely one of the best things EVER recorded!
C Joynes, Nick Jonah Davis - Split Electric (Thread Recordings) Released in 2016. More skilled guitar picking from Mssrs Joynes (he of Waterless Hills) and Davis, taking their cues from Fahey and Basho but with their own individual and contemporary styles
Ekiwojjolo – When Nothing Goes Right... Go Left! (Mangelsprack) Released in 2018. I was pointed in the direction of this awesome slab of experimental psych by Ste from Vohu Manah (thanks again Ste!). You really need to hear this!
Dave's Choice Cuts...
Ok –PLEASE do not think of my list as a ‘Best Of’ List – If you think of all the releases that came out in 2020 (even in my loved field of Psych/Garage/Kraut/Drone…) – I have heard only a tiny fraction, so I couldn’t possibly hope to compile a best of list based on that. But these are the releases that have somehow made it through to me – and believe me that when you have a record label – 90% of your listening time is spent on the releases you are putting your heart and soul into – it can make it hard for anything else to penetrate through that field. I’m glad these did. – No Cardinal Fuzz allowed (and yeah I cheated a little on that!).
Brigid Dawson & the Mothers Network – Ballet of Apes (Castle Face) Total genius heavenly maelstrom of cosmic music – Helped and accompanied by Sunwatchers, Mikey Young and members of Thee Oh Sees and SF crew of course.
Sonic Boom – All Things Being Equal (Car Park) – I know I am biased – Pete (&Jason) were instrumental in pointing a younger 14-year-old me to all the good music I needed to seek out. It has taken 20 years for Peter to follow up ‘Forever Alien’ (of course there was the excellent Spectrum meets Captain Memphis LP in between as well as EAR and Spectrum 12”s) and All Things Being Equal is an uplifting and joyous LP where Radiophonic Workshop melds with Suicide and heavenly Beach Boys melodies that will lift you up on beams of light – Get ready to oscillate.
Kings Of The Fucking Sea – In Concert LP and Death Dealer 7” (Agitated) – benjamin myers wrote ‘if mc5 and black sabbath had a baby it would be a biological miracle, and they would call it kings of the fucking sea’ – that is perfect for this blazing ear candy of rock n roll meltdown. Death Dealer is my pick for best 7” of the year and sold around 12 copies in the UK I was reliable informed.
Witches Broom – S/T (Flower Room) – I love 60s Garage Punkers and Witches Broom is for sure that. Teen angst stompers with snarling guitars and a swirling Farfisa Organ. Nearly all tracks clocking in at the 2 minute mark until last track ‘Watching’ fires up some face melting LRD guitar fuzzed and flanged to the max that will make ears bleed.
Matt Lajoie – Everlasting Spring (Flower Room) – So many great releases from Flower Room Records in 2020 but Matts transcendent looping guitar playing where melodies interweave into vast kosmische meditations make for a sweet journey into the abyss.
Banshee – Livin’ In The Jungle (Feeding Tube Records) – A cheat but hell – I’m allowing myself a couple cos this is a rabid rock n roll animal of a record that blazes red hot cinders to make one rock n roll mutha fucker of a record.
The GR Record Head – S/T (Opaque Dynamo) – Another one I am cheating on just because this LP is a fucking joy of all things I love - Guitar Razing, frenzied riffing, proto punk acid rave ups, rhythms like catapults, motorik plus deconstructive free forms, opaque vocals full of venom and fuelled by raw lines & metrics…— Now pair all that with the craft of fixing sounds onto an early 80s’ 1/4 inch reel tape and you got an idea of what The GR Record Head is all about.
Craven Faults - Erratics & Unconformities (Leaf) & Live Works (Bandcamp) More hypnagogic hallucinations of the highest order from Craven Faults. Sometimes Modular Synth tracks can sound lifeless but never with Craven Faults as they take a road somewhere between Berlin, Stockholm and Rugby and end up in deepest Yorkshire.
Slow Dawn – Experimental Farm (Self Release) – I am always needing my Spacemen 3 fix and every year it feels harder and harder to come by. This was sent my way by Scott Thompson for release but I just had way too much on the go – Something I hugely regret now (though I have them down for LP number 2). So get ready for some psychedelic punk THUD and THROB that lands somewhere between early Spacemen 3 and High Rise (PSF) wipe outs with added cello, viola, trumpet and sax.
Thayer & Jerome Deupree, Lloyd - Duets (Feeding Tube Records) - Mind-blowing set of duo improvisations. Using a Weissenborn-style lap guitar (the same type favoured by Fahey) and a gorgeous 22-stringed instrument called a Chaturangui, Lloyd unwinds four long improvs accompanied by the quietly flowing drum work of Jerome Deupree
OCH – II (Rocket Recordings) – The latest in a long line of far out Scandinavian bands OCH capture a sound freewheeling down the Kosmische autobahn. Whats not to love?
75 Dollar Bill Little Big Band – Live at Tubby’s (Grapefruit / ba da bing). This live recording captures the wild abandon / chaos I am always looking for in live recordings – Where the energy of the players feeding off each other is all here in a recording that manages to capture the sizzle and fire created without the sterility that some live recordings direct from the board always fail to capture.
Oh Sees –Levitation Sessions (Levitation Records) – It is Thee? Oh Sees live – No one comes close to them when there blazing like this.
Peel Dream Magazine - Agitprop Alterna (Slumberland) – I was hugely debating including this, wondering if it was just too close to the knuckle in its love of Stereolab – but the simple fact with Peel Dream Magazine is that everytime I play this I am drawn into how infectious it sounds and 6 months later it has not outgrown its welcome at all – That is all that should matter. (check out somesurprises if you like this kinda thing too)
White Heaven – Out (Black Editions) – My love of White Heaven (neigh – Obsession) was rewarded by Black Editions in the best possible way (Now if only they would agree to everything else getting reissued (I asked along long long time ago about doing a White Heaven Box Set and have asked many times on doing a vinyl issue of Electric Cool Acid (and the killer of all bonus tracks on that CD that is Cold Hour (my fingers melt just typing – seek out that track please (the one on Electric Cool Acid)…and Will (that by Stars). AND if ANYONE has a bootleg of Out that came out as a demo tape – (totally different recordings to the LP (different track list too) – Its one on my holy grails to hear it…
Black Unity Trio - Al – Fatihah (thanks to C.Joynes)
Trees-Box Set (Earth)
Paragons – ABBA 7”
The Stooges - Live At Goose Lake: August 8, 1970 (Third Man)
Galaxie 500 – Live Copenhagen (2xLP)
Craig Smith:Maitreya Kali - Apache/Inca (2xLP)
HEAVY LISTENING 2020
Les Rallizes Denudes – Double Heads Live Set
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – The 1st Album (Analog Africa)
TBWNIS – Live Clocktower 2011 (Bandcamp)
Big Blood – Daughters Union (Feeding Tube Records)
Maxine Funke – Silk (Feeding Tube Records)
The Mirrors – Lost 3rd LP (Bandcamp) Greg Ashley
SENSOR/SPOOK - Collapse & Rise At The Air Mass (Opaque Dynamo)
Waterless Hills – Plague Road (live tape)
Sloath – III (Riot Season)
Sunwatchers – Oh Yeah (Trouble In Mind)
Gerycz / Powers / Rolin – Beacon (Garden Portal)
Gunn-Truscinski Duo – Sound Keeper (Three Lobed Recordings)
Tengger – Nomad (Beyond Beyond Is Beyond)
Sunray – Music For The Dream Machine II (Polytechnic Youth)
Elkhorn – Sun Cycle / Elk Jam (Feeding Tube Records)
Steve Palmer – Useful Histories (Sunrise Ocean Bender) (give yourself an Christmas present by checking out the whole of the S.O.B back cat too)
Bushpilot – Already! and 23 and the 7” (God Unknown)
Smote (LP coming on Weird Beard)
Dan Greene & David Shapiro - Between Oceans (C-Site Recordings)
Brett's Choice Cuts...
Bushpilot – Already! & 23 (God Unknown) We are all well aware of bands that don’t get the recognition that they deserve in their time – but its taken 25 years to for these beauties to see the light of day. Out of the two, it was definitely Already! which completely blew my head off. It accompanied many Lockdown dog walks during what was already a very weird time in the year. I found its urgent mix of Hardcore, Post Rock and most noticeably Can like kraut impossible to resist. I could also hear Minutemen, Nation Of Ulysses/Make Up and Shellac in there. Its had plenty of play from me. 23 was really good too, giving them a chance to dig deeper into some Can like grooves – but it is Already! that will stay with me for a good long while.
The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol - Berserkir Vol. I and II (Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube) Its going to look incredibly toady to include Symbol albums in this end of year list of John’s, but by jove, you’ve got to hand it to them, they were firing on all cylinders during these sessions – all recorded live as it happened. The beauty of it was – the suspense was extended over two separate releases of long, jammed out throbbers of the type that we have come to know and love from the Symbol boys. Only this time they shifted it up a gear. Fair enough toadying when it’s this good, I reckon. The cover art wasn’t bad, too
Quatermass Seven – ST (Madlib Invazion) Little Barrie joins the brilliant Malcolm Catto from the Heliocentrics. An awesome album of groovy little numbers but the instrumental tracks After, After and T.R.A.B.S are worth the price alone. Lets not overlook that the Heliocentrics turned in two great albums this year as well.
Dire Wolves – Flow & Heady (Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube) Dire Wolves are one of those bands who can capture those time dilated TGoS repeato jams to perfection. This time they were joined by Nik Rayne, who adds his own distinctive to the mix. The spirit of Bo was definitely looking down and nodding approvingly when they recorded these gigs.
Sunburned Hand Of The Man – Headless (Cardinal Fuzz/Manhand) If you’re a fan of Amon Duul’s earlier psych folk commune jammers, then this album is right up your strasse. Its definitely up mine. An album full of folky belters!
OCH - II (Rocket Recordings) Great krauty vibes from Flowers Must Die peeps. Baum Baur comes on like ‘Pink Room’ from the Twin Peaks ‘Fire Walk With Me’ soundtrack. And that’s high praise. This has had a lot of spins from me this year.
Trees – 50th Anniversary Box Set (Earth) I’ve had my friend Bob raft on at me about the genius of ‘The Garden Of Jane Delawney’ for as long as I’ve known him. I’ve nodded along with him for the best part of ten years about him rhapsodising about his favourite album. And it turns out that he’s right; they’re great. However, On The Shore is better.
Cosmic Invention – Help Your Satori Mind (Drag City) Granted, this wasn’t released this year, but I finally bought after Mr Westhaver had pointed it out a few times previously. I am a slow learner admittedly. This album is ace, skimming as it does over psychy bangers, prog-outs and some Zappa-esque jazzy jams. I LOVE the cover too.
Pan American – Cloud Room, Glass Room (Kranky) Although I'm a big fan of Labradford’s Mi Media Naranjan (one of the albums that both DC and I bonded over – alongside Papa M’s Live From A Shark’s Cage), I can take or leave the rest of their albums. Maybe I need to come back to them at some point. It was only after noticing that Pan American had a new album out this year did I investigate further. Pan American is, of course, the solo work of Mark Nelson from Labradford. This album is beautifully floaty. It does get a bit dark and glowering in places, but the opening track The Cloud Room is absolutely beautiful. I will be digging deeper into their back catalogue.
John's Choice Cuts...
Carleton Melton - Where This Leads (Agitated) Simply TRIPLE "E" rated by Birdman standards! Exceptional, Excellent and Essential! America's complicated Krautrock commandos, knock another one straight outta the ballpark!
Craven Faults - Enclosures (Leaf) 2nd LP in one year and continuing the perfect understanding of HEAVY Berlin School kosmische vibrations...insanely deep, insanely lush...
Craven Faults - Erratics and Unconformities (Leaf) Awesome Kosmische electronic compositions that are perfect late night ambience or to set the tone on a days beginnings.
Big Blood - pretty much 4 albums that are available through Feeding Tube and one in conjunction with Cardinal Fuzz that was issued this year called "Dark Country Magic" (my introduction to the band and the "leap"! Outer planetary East Coast US deep woods psych. Records all that seem timeless and indispensable!
J. Zunz - Hibiscus (Rocket Recordings) a wicked cosmic experimental Krautrock trip from Mexico and a solo LP from Lorelle From Lorelle & The Obsolete.
Eddie Flowers & The Wax-Lip-Swamp-Dub(Feeding Tube) previously a cassette only release that makes the wax format. Drifted experimental psych-blues from the leader of the awesome Crawlspace and legendary weirdo punkers The Gizmos! Deep shit from the bwels of America!
Steve Palmer - Useful Histories (Sunrise Ocean Bender) Minnesotan guitarists 2nd album with a perfect combo of Kosmishe-American Primitive guitar. The outsider edginess is simply a revelation! More soon please !
Badge Epoque Ensemble - Self Help (Telephone Explosion) A large band made of of players from other projects in the Toronto area and their 2nd offering of Freak jazz, progressive funky pscyhe-isms. Fabulously deep and an awesome timeless feel.
Spiral Galaxy - S/T (Cardinal Fuzz/Lion Productions) Taking a few cues from Kraurock legends Amon Duul, Popol Vuh, etc and making it their own, this Chicago outfit features Steven Krakow (aka Plastiuc Crimewave and partner Sara Gossett. Their guests include Makoto Kawabata from Acid Mothers, Jean-Herve Peron from Faust and others, so you can imagine the heights this album achieves !
Wax Machine - Earthsong Of Silence (Beyond, Beyond Is Beyond) UK band who weave an excellent combination of free jazz and psych and have come up with a top shelf album for this year! Wearing my copy out with repeated spins. New one recorded I hear so coming soon hopefully!
Heliocentrics - Infinity Of Now and Telemetric Sounds (Madlib Invazion) 2 LPs in one calender year from a fave band. The best combination of Krautrock, jazz-psych and funky improv going! Can listen to these folks everyday !
Sly & The Family Drone - Walk It Dry (Feeding Tube) a smokin' hard tinged jazz excursion for this inventive free rock UK band.
Herbcraft - Trash Heap (Cardinal Fuzz/Flower Room) East Coast woodlot homespun psych from long timer Matt Lajoie. Free and easy, good and gnarly. Previously cassette only
Lloyd Thayer/Jerome Duepree - Duets (Feeding Tube) Top shelf improvised free jazz-isms. Absolutely stellar "drift" with guitar and drums. Fantastic and many trips to be taken every spin!
Elkhorn - both "The Acoustic Storm Sessions" (Cardinal Fuzz/Centripetal Force) and "The Storm Sessions" (Beyond, Beyond Is Beyond). Another excellent discovery for me with this 2 guitar duo from New York state. 1 acoustic tweve string and 1 electric guitar wash over you with a warm wave of American Primitive style and psychedelic improvisation. Most excellent !
Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes - Heritage Of The Invisble II (International Anthem Recording Co.) Sparks of Miles Davis 70's improv collide with modern afro jazz funkiocity for a killer sonic instrumental trip that is a fresh take and listen with every spin! Yowza!
The Silence - Electric Meditations (Drag City) Sizzling Japanese deep psych influenced rock with jazz-isms. Ex-Ghost members carry on the similar tradition of taking the listener to the farthest realms of the galaxy and led by Masaki Batoh. The groups 5th LP and exceptional.
Uffe Lorenzen - Magisk Realisme (Bad Afro) Uffe's 3rd solo offering and just FANTASTIC! Spans the decades with a time honoured and perfectly honed psychedelic rock sound. After years of the more than Pandemonica, On Trial, Baby Woodrose, Spids Nogenhat, Dragontears and more, Lorenzen never offers anything other than perfection. The uncrowned King of modern day Danish psych hands down !💗
Ancient River - After The Dawn (Little Cloud/The Acid Test Recordings) Simply an excellent LP of well referenced hard, psychedelic rock. A band from Florida, who spent a lot of time listening to similiar music from the early mid 70's. I feel like there's a nod to Sabbath within, or is that just me? A real banger!
Then there are these that also get highest recommendations from my perch 2020 and are getting constant spins and LOVE them to bits.... Sonic Boom, Tambourinen, Anthroprophh, Martin Rude & Jacob Skott Duo - both LPs !!!, Causa Sui, Dead Sea Apes, Tony Price (Telephone Explosion), Wasted Cathedral, The Switching Yard, Moths & Locusts, Aquarius Lux, Korb, Psychedelic Trips to Death, Vert:X "Hed", Alison Cotton, both Left Outsides LPs, Shit & Shine (all of them), Ozo, Slow Dawn, Mugstar, Mugstar & Damo Suzuki, Pretty Lightning, Plastic Dogs, Cotton Casino,Dire Wolves, Bent Arcana, Tengger, Brigid Dawson & the Mothers Network ....💗👽
and then there's the always constant staples...Miles Davis, Ngozi Family, Funkadelic, Acid Mothers Temple, Love, CAN, Guru Guru, Trad Gras Och Stenar, Dungen, Circle, The Heads, Hawkwind, Oresund Space Collective, Zone Six, Electric Moon, Electric Orange, Lamp Of The Universe, Kungens Man... 💗💗💗👽
Also, aside from re-discovering the joy of The Beatles - "White Album" and Steely Dan's "Can't Buy A Thrill" in 2020, perhaps the greatest discovery comes from here in Canada and the entire LP output from Saw-Whet Records in Alberta. Holy Drone Travellers, Nebular Wave, k. burwash and Ethan Bokma have collectively impressed me the most! Thanks to Brother Christopher Laramee for the pointed direction away back pre-pandemic! There is a whole lotta LOVE for this label here in "Fat cat City" since 💕