Well...here we are another year down the road! Been a somewhat challenging one! Those of us invested in music in far deeper fashion than just being a casual "listener", have felt a giant ball ache in many ways; some far more than others! We'll leave that :ranting" though, as you "heads" that may give just enough of a fuck, already well know what I'm talking about! Suffice to say, planet earth is still super screwed up! The BRIGHT side however, and as usual, there has been an overwhelming amount of wicked music recorded and released (on many platforms) in 2021. I've again asked my good friends; Andy Uzzell (Misphonia Records UK), Brett Savage (Dead Sea Apes/The Acid Test Recordings) and Dave Cambridge (Cardinal Fuzz) to tell us what turned their cranks the most in 2021...Let's have at 'er....👽
John goes first....
As I sit here listening to the latest beauty from Gerycz/Powers/Rolin and their LP "Lamplighter" on American Dreams Records a HUGE shout out and thank you must go to Cardinal Fuzz/Centripetal Force for the introduction with the "Beacon" LP from earlier in 2021💕 ! I am as usual overwhelmed by the amount of musical genius, as another year passes into memory. The following is a whole load of stellar moments and works that have seen light this year! You can check out any link that follows in this piece to check out what I'll stand behind as a few of 2021's shining moments...
More Favourites Here...
Canadians shone brightly this year offering albums that will stand the tests of time 💕
And Yet MORE Favourites !
STELLAR albums which are all in constant rotation !
Spiral Wave Nomads "First Encounter", Adam Stone Dead Sea Apes Black Tempest "dataland" , Plankton Wat "Future Times", Mouth Painter "Tropicale Moon", Kohoutek "Jurad", Upupayama "S/T", Matt Valentine Preserves "Galactic Ooze", Black Tempest "Psyborg", Scientists "Negativity, Great North Star "S/T", Astral Magic "Visions Of Infinity", Jeffrey Alexander and The Heavy Lidders "S/T", Jeffrey Alexander and The Heavy Lidders "Elixir Of Life", Mainliner "Dual Myths", Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso UFO/Perhaps "In Search Of Highs Volume Four", Expo Seventy "Mystic Caravan", Expo Seventy " Evolution", Les Rallizes Denudes "Maximum Psychedelic Blues", Dos Santos "City Of Mirrors", Carlos Nino & Friends "More Energy Fields, Current", Jantar "Sempronia", Zone Six "Psychedelic Scripture", Sula Bassana "CV Sessions", Joseph Allred "Branches & Leaves", Sunburned Hand of The Man "Pick A Good Day To Die", Endless Boogie "Admonitions", Embryo "Auf Auf", Irreversible Entanglements "Open The Gates", Trip Hill "Ain't Trip Ceremony" Senyawa "Alkisah" Telescopes "Songs Of Love And Revolution", Mirage "Telepathic Radio"......google any of these bands and check out their bandcamp sites ! 👽
Brett's 2021 shape's up like this....
Can – Live In Stuttgart
I wasn't entirely sure of this album on approaching it, given that it was recorded just outside of the ‘golden era’ of Can. That uncertainty was definitely unfounded as this album turns out to be an absolute masterclass of upfront, inspirational improvised experimental (I was going to say progressive, which would be accurate – but we know what associations that brings to mind!) music. It almost makes me nostalgic for an era that I never experienced directly (I would have been two years old at the time!). Hearing music taken into all different directions by musicians with with such innate and instinctive talent, live as it happened is really exciting – and suggests endless possibilities. This is the first in a series of planned archival releases of live sessions and its fair to say that its built expectations really high.
Mountain Movers – World What World/New Jam 2
Ever since taking on the breathtaking talents of guitarist Kryssi Battalene, Mountain Movers have been knocking out a string of pearls albumwise. Each album is usually divided equally into traditionally structured songs and extended jam outs. On World What World, it feels like these two approaches are starting to bleed into each other a little bit more as the whole album flows as a cohesive whole. There is definitely a (not unwelcome) nod towards the blasted territory of Crazy Horse which give Battalene as much room as she needs to reel off her singular, blown out guitar stylings. There is definitely a feeling that they have arrived at wherever they have been reaching for and it makes me excited to hear whatever is coming next from them.
New Jam 2 has been out for a couple of years now (around the time of the great Pink Skies). Why I didn’t pick this up at the time really is beyond me, as it seemed to suggest that this is an EP of the exquisite jams that Mountain Movers excel at (why I never became a detective, I will never know…). I was right to belatedly follow that hunch, as it is indeed the case. However, my detective skills failed me when trying to find out what the correct turntable speed was. Starting on the almost default 33.3RPM, I was met with incredible hypnotic, subaquatic jams that stretched out into infinity. These have truly blown me away. Subsequently, I have found it to be 45RPM release – and the jams are no less stunning, but believe me, if you haven't played this at 33.3RPM, I heartily suggest that you do!
Aging & Land Trance – Embassy Nocturnes
In the early days of meeting Dave Cambridge, we bonded over a couple of albums (that he had put in his great playlists in the editorial section of Optical Sounds) that people didn’t seem to talk about too much about at the time. One of those albums was Labradford’s peerless Mi Medea Naranjan. To be fair, that was a few years after its release, but if you haven't heard it, I would recommend that you seek it out immediately. Embassy Nocturnes has a similar vibe, and after speaking to Aging’s David McClean, he confirmed that it has a direct influence on this album. As the title suggests, the album has a noir-ish night time vibe that flirts with dark jazzy longuers, the alienated and minimal post-rock of the same stripe as The For Carnation’s amazing debut, some of the sparse, dark orchestral funk of David Axelrod (and by extension, DJ Shadow) and the experimental repeato gear that Land Trance did so well on their album earlier this year. Although equating instrumental music to that of soundtrack for a film yet to be made is a bit of a tired cliché (bonus pseud points for using the term ‘Lynchian’), there is something in this album that suggests that it might just be appropriate in this instance. One to play late on in the evening.
Wasted Cathedral – I'm Going To Love You Til The End Of Time
Through listening to Wasted Cathedral, I have my own mental vision of Chris Laramee’s home town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Its an aerial view of city lights twinkling in the cold, frigid air. My Own Private Saskatoon. This is in no small part due to the music made by Wasted Cathedral. Side one very much brings to mind the late night grooves of DJ Shadow, filtered through the frosty gauze of Wasted Cathedral. Side two is a more soft focus affair, recalling WC’s previous (and should say here – classic) Atmospheric Hangover, finishing with the extended haze-out, Trees.
Bobby Lee – Origin Myths
Somewhere between JJ Cale, Richard Thompson, Suicide and Harmonia, Bobby Lee plots a dreamy, homespun course with his guitar and drum machine. Stargazing, but with both feet on the ground, Origin Myths is an amazing album that has took an extended residence on my record player this years. It certainly makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Cant wait to hear what is coming next from him.
Sunburned Hand Of Man – Pick A Day To Die
Two absolute belters in consecutive years from good ol' Sunburned. Last year's Headless was so good that it made my end of year list back then. This album sees them on a roll, heading off in lots of different avenues. Although they keep dipping into their archive and the chronology is all over the place, you have to keep your fingers crossed that they keep this streak going and have more to offer.
Smote – Bodkin
Deep earth TgoS/International Harvester/Amon Duul style jams here, puzzlingly performed by one man, Daniel Foggin. The whole album is fantastic taking in as it does krauty repetition, PROGGy grooves and zoned out vocals (their follow up release on Rocket, Drommon – stalks similar ground). A little intense and creepy but well worth strapping yourself in for the ride. The spirit of Bo haunts these grooves.
Kohoutek – Jurad
On approaching Jurad, I have to say that I didn't think that it was going to do that much for me. How wrong I was. After 8 minutes or so of alienated, spiky ambience, Tidal Displacement coalesces into a beautiful, zoned out inner flight that I wasn't quite prepared for. Mournful and profound in the same way that Planet Caravan, Popol Vuh's Aguirre and Maggot Brain are, it puts me in mind of a genre that only exists in my mind so far – 'cosmic loneliness'. Cosmic Grease traverses similar territory but with added fuzzed out urgency. Really, really good.
Gnod – Easy To Build, Hard To Destroy
Its probably deeply uncool of me to admit it, but I cant say that Ive really been that into a Gnod album in its entirety since the Chaudelande albums. But having seen Gnod on a number of occasions in the past, I can attest to their visceral live power; they can be both crushing and arresting – and they really are a force to be reckoned with. This comp reaches as far back to Gnod's repetition-heavy but open ended Sunburned-eque jam days, takes in a Drop Out extra track, flies by Chaudelande - but its Inner Z and They Live that really pops here. Two live tracks that cruise along in a mesmerising repeat-o fashion for 10 or so minutes. Bliss.
Stone Coal White – S/T
A few Christmases back, Dave Cambridge kindly bought me the incredible Function Underground compilation on the ever reliable Now Again label as festive gift. The album is amazing throughout, as it compiles a groovy collection of 'Black and Brown rock sound from 69-74'. This is a heady period as bands with soul/funk instincts started to use louder amplification, and the influence of Hendrix is clear throughout. The one track that really stood out was Stone Coal White's self titled song - that channels the freaky guitar funk of prime time Funkadelic (first 3 albums) – but is so deliciously lo-fi and warped that it seems to exist in a space of its own. This lead me to seek out the album – a comp put together by DJ Shadow, I believe. And man, am I glad that I did. More freak flag funk than you can shake a stick at. Right up my street! Their version of Curtis's '(If There's A) Hell Below' is stellar. Seek it out!
Andy's 2021 touches down this way...
Rural Tapes – Rural Tapes (Rural Tapes/Smugglers Records) – Rural Tapes is the working moniker of Arne Kjelsrud Mathisen. This album really hit home for me this year, it is “a trippy, largely instrumental odyssey which draws inspiration from jazz, electronica, dub, 1970s krautrock, film music, classical music such as Chopin and instrumental bands like Tortoise” (label’s words). It is a truly stunning piece of work.
Badge Epoch – Scroll (Telephone Explosion) – A vast, meandering album that is impossible to get a handle on – but no handle necessary, just immerse yourself in this multi-layered, multi-faceted masterpiece….jazz, funk (the funkiest of funk), experimental noodlings, electronica….what’s not to love?
Paul Leary – Born Stupid (Shimmy Disc): As you would imagine from a Butthole Surfer this album is a long way from the mainstream. Taking in twangy spaghetti western soundtracks, chamber pop, horrorscapes and a world weary revisiting of the Surfers “The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave” (“The Shah Revisited”), ‘Born Stupid’ is a cornucopia of off-kilter goodness.
Jeffrey Alexander & The Heavy Lidders – Elixor of Life (Cardinal Fuzz, Centripetal Force): A trance-inducing album of free flowing jams from the erstwhile Dire Wolf and friends…simply bliss!
Ambassador Hazy - Glacial Erratics (Self Released) – Homespun, outsider psych that bewitches and bedazzles. Hopefully more to come in the future.
Adam Stone/Dead Sea Apes/Black Tempest – Dataland (Cardinal Fuzz/Feeding Tube) – should need no explanation. DSA are, as we know, one of the finest bands going. Add to that the coruscating polemic of Adam Stone and synth wizardry of Stephen (Black Tempest) Bradbury and you have an album that is a true tour de force.
Rallizes Denudes – Double Heads Boxset – One of those ‘considered’ purchases
that required less than a minute to actually consider. As bootlegs discussed in
hushed whispers the contents of this boxset gained cult status – and now
available in a lush 7lp set….woah! Gloriously noisy, deliciously fuzzy and puts
today’s pretenders firmly in their place.
Allred – Branches and Leaves (Feeding Tube) – Joseph Allred, in my eyes, is the
natural successor to Robbie Basho; not just the lilting primitivism in the
guitar work but the whole atmosphere that he seems to evoke. Genuine ‘outsider’
stuff that can be deeply melancholic only to give lift the heart a minute
later. A joyous record that adds to his already impressive canon.
Heard first this year: Intersystems - #IV (Waveshaper). Intersystems were an experimental band from Canada plying their trade in the late 60s – spoken word poetry (courtesy of Blake Parker, alas now departed) and the electronic machinary of John Mills-Cockell (plus Michael Hayden & Dik Zander). Deep shit! ‘#IV’ was given a re-issue this year and so, somewhat inevitably, Discogs became my friend in tracking down the full discography…..I just can’t help myself sometimes!
Rediscovered Love: After watching the brilliant ‘Zappa’ film, this year saw me re-discover my love of Zappa after many years. Shocked and yet happy to find out just how much I had up in the loft!
Mentioned in Dispatches – pretty much everyone; musicians and labels, who have put out music (except fuck Spotify and the majors) and made 2021 bearable. Special mentions to Cardinal Fuzz (Dave Cambridge), Woodford Halse (Mat Handley), Castles in Space (Colin Morrison), Polytechnic Youth (Dom Martin) and Up In Her Room (Dan Norrington & Denholm Ellis)
Dave's turn on his 2021....
Mountain Movers - What World What
(Trouble In Mind)
Boy oh boy do I love this LP. A quick heads
up to the New Jam 12” – When at Brett’s he played that at 33rpm and it blew our
minds (it’s supposed to be 45rpm). But Brett has wrote more on that so Ill dig
into the new LP. First I need to admit that Kryssi Battalene is a guitar player
who like, say Paul Allen, MikePolizze, and Brett Savage just knows how to DIAL IN THEE
PERFECT TONES! As we drop straight into
‘I Wanna See The Sun’ It’s all there – think Neil Young and Crazy Horse on the
PSF label – If I could have a 20 minute
version please if this track please – unedited. Dan Greens vocals float and the
whole band seems to play with such dynamic interplay that it’s a joy to listen
to from start to finish. NOW someone please send me an unedited cut of ‘I Wanna
See the Sun’. Hoping one day that I may get to see them live.
Sex Tide – Ohio (Feeding Tube Records)
A throbbing crunching grind that fits
somewhere between The Gories (in search of the essence of primal, raw rock n
roll) The Cramps / Link Wray. Where your favourite 60s tunes (Real Cool Time/I
Want You) are deconstructed and ripped apart with Wailing Sax and a whole load
of THROB. Freaked out blues for the unhinged.
Jantar – Sempronia (Feeding Tube Records)
You just gotta love Feeding Tube – you just
never know what the fuck to expect and that Is what makes a label great. This
was a total curve ball when I first put it on but boy oh boy did it hit home.
Lands somewhere between prime Oneida (it’s the woody keys) and high levels of
repetition BUT with a sugary sweet dose of harmonies layed on as well. There is
some cinematic stereoscope vision added in too. Apparently Jantar wanted to
create an LP of 'experimental easy listening music' – all I can say is more
Birds Of Maya – Valdez (Drag City) and Live
NYC (nyc taper)
Back to the primal throb I so love – Get a
riff – play it as raw as you possible can – do not deviate from the riff EVER –
Get 3 members who understand the mantra of never swaying from the mantra of 1
riff and one chord – Just grind that fucker away until there is nothing left.
Many try and only the talented few succeed – Worship Birds Of Maya.
Mirage – Telepathic Radio (Misophonia) – A cheat – I know. But people – There is music that would love to
be psychedelic and then there is music that just IS PSYCHO – FUCKING – DELIC
- ill eave you to guess which cat this
one belongs too. Cluster and Ash Ra Temple may be touch stones but this baby
also rawks – A picture of what might be Miles Davis blowing into a Datura
Flower? may tell you more than I ever can! Vinyl is ready – apologies on
Mount Maxwell – The People’s Forest and Only
Children (Hotham Sound)
For those of you who dig Craven Faults and
that sweet analog feel of music – Please introduce your ears to Mount Maxwell. 2
wonderous releases that take in the Berlin School and Boards Of Canada but at
times the minimalist feel brings to mind the vibe of Labradford too and
but that fucking wonderful drift and
feel you only get ever from analog keys and recordings. (and yeah both are
coming on LP via Cardinal Fuzz)
Muun Bato – ParaphonicVapors (Little
Cloud Records) Again – I know this came out via
myself too BUT it was down to Mike Nesbitt that this acid soaked stunner came
to the attention of myself. It took over my spring and summer listening and
still even now I heard nothing that could better it when wanting that neo psychedelic
kick I so love (Much love to the Diagonal Lp that Mike also tuned my ears into)
The Oscillation - Untold Futures (All
Just WOW – Dark and relentless – Music for
altered states indeed. Nods to Loop and Spacemen 3 but make no mistake with
Untold Futures Demian may well have unleashed the best Oscillation LP. Take
note to hear the ‘Ambient’ mixes too which are a multi layered assault on your
senses that need to be heard.
Djinn – Transmission (Rocket Recordings)
Spiritual Cosmic Jazz that like the Old
Million Eye releases works as the perfect lift off for a spiritual trip for
open minded explorers. For those that love Pharoah Sanders – Karma or Don
Cherry ‘Eternal Rhythm’ – you will find much to love and to lose yourself in
these intoxicating epiphanies created. There is no doubt that this is music for
Old Million Eye – The Incandescent Switch
(Feeding Tube) & Set & Drift
Well maybe the titles give it away a little
but Brian Lucas has created 2 releases in 2021 that every psychonaut should use
as their guide for exploring outer and inner space. Swirls of kosmiche keys
that ripple and breathe to create a mind bending soundscape that will ease your
body into a state of euphoric bliss.
Ben Chasny–The Intimate Landscape (Drag
Asked to record for the legendary KPM
library series Ben Chasny created these blissful and reflective solo acoustic
guitar pieces. A joy to listen too as you feel the anxiety / stress just lift
from your body as you get absorbed into the intimacy of a master at work
Maxine Funke – Séance (A Colourful
After been lucky enough to hear Maxine
Funke via Feeding Tube Records – Her latest LP is every bit as good – The
intimacy of the recordings of Maxine’s voice / playing display a fragilty that
transports you into the nocturnal ether.
Touchstones of Bridget St John / Sibylle Baier may seem obvious though Maxine
likes to experiment with soundscapes and drum machines too. Let Maxine Funke
warp a blanket around you with Séance.
Joseph Allred – Branches and Leaves
(Feeding Tube Records)
Branches and Leaves just glows with a
incredible uplifting spiritual hymn like quality that embraces you and says
Hallelujah as Harmonium / Banjos /Clarinet and more are used to full effect
across the whole LP. Branches and Leaves goes from sombre to joyous and
uplifting across the whole LP. A joy to not only listen too but too lose
yourself in too.
Matthew J Rolin - The Dreaming Bridge
(Feeding Tube Records)
Sublime Guitar Soli from Matthew J Rolin on
this double LP. Always neigh impossible to escape the twin influences of Fahey
and Basho but Matthew J Rolinis able to put easily enough of his own style be
that on ‘Hallucination’ that features Patrick Shiroishi on saxophone and ends
with some sweet reverbed 12 string or on the side long title track where Rolinkicks
out some glorious fuzz.
Les Rallizes Denudes - Maximum
Psychedelic Blues - Double Heads Box Set
Many times after listening to this set (3
shows spanning over 6 hours) – 99% of all other music can feel pointless and