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musical notes for 2012

it'll happen to you...
i used to do the occasional music review on the blog. i don't anymore, although i do occasionally do them now for other blogs or online magazines. that said, i'd love to be able to give more prominence to music in the coming year, not just in my play lists, which can give an idea of what i'm playing in a specific context, but not what i listen to as a whole. in fact, this year, i'd really love to have the feeling of discovering something new, because i'm veering increasingly towards being one of those insufferable old grumps who can't stop yammering about how music was just so much better when i was a kid, or a young adult, or at least younger than i am now.

part of the problem is that i don't have the time to investigate music the way that i used to and am relying more and more on my friends [who themselves are, like me, becoming older and more jaded] to point me in the direction of things that i might like. and so what i hear that is new is a cobbled together mix of things that include artists i've liked for a long while and will always make time for and artists working in fields where my tastes intersect with others.

often, the "newest" things that amaze me are previously undiscovered gems that i missed many years ago, which should make it clear to me that there absolutely is more to discover, since i obviously haven't even mastered those periods when i was supposedly paying attention. the trick is that with music getting more and more specialised and splintering into new and different forms all the time, it can get my aging brain addled very quickly just trying to figure out where to start looking for things that might interest me.

that seems like a sort of gloomy introduction to a recap of things that i liked, but the point is that, with things being harder to find among the masses of releases and with me having less time to dedicate to the hunt, it is exceptionally pleasing to have found things that i really did enjoy.

cut hands :: black mamba

i really enjoyed the first cut hands record, which i actually got my hands on this year, but i really loved this one. perhaps it's because i see it as a bold step forward from william bennett. yes, it still incorporates the influences that were rising to prominence in later-period whitehouse [as well as the first cut hands release], but this isn't something that's merely of marginal interest to those who've followed the power electronics' pioneer thus far. with "black mamba", cut hands truly becomes its own beast. and what a sexy beast it is.

i use that term to describe it often, because it's very apt. the music is undulating and hypnotic and calls on something in us all that, i think, connects us with the primal desire to make and hear music and to move to it. artists who you've long admired can sometimes do new things that make you wonder why you liked them to begin with. but this is that rare find: someone who's found a different method of sonic expression that's as intriguing and original as his first incarnation.

the only thing i don't love about this release is the fear it gives me that we're all about to be inundated with an ocean of pale imitators. brace yourselves: 'primal industrial noize' is coming.



subliminal :: under pressure

this is my blog and if i want to include something i participated in on a 'best of' list then i will! but in all seriousness, i just wrote a poem to serve as a sort of inspiration/ companion. the music, which is what we're talking about here, all comes from albert fisch, who continues to impress with his dystopian mechanical monstrosities. some may have been surprised that the content moved a little away from his established comfort zone, but that's actually what makes this even more of a wonderful listen for me than ever. it's not a vast departure, but it does introduce new elements.

although this 7" was sold out within minutes [vinyl from galakthorroe always is], you can still get a hit of subliminal on the second galakthorroe label compilation, kosmoloko 2. much like the original, it's a carefully curated exhibition of what the label has done and continues to do. one of the few labels whose releases i actively seek out, comparatively hard to find and criminally under-appreciated.



pop 1280 :: the horror

oh, thank god. i'd not heard of this band, which isn't surprising considering that they only formed in 2009 and i'm still not sure exactly how they came to my attention. but this is exactly the sort of taut, punchy "pop" [in comparison to other things that i listen to] my ears had been longing for. it wears its retro influences [u.k. punk and batcave sounds, with a distinct nod to the birthday party] without sounding trite. it has a phenomenal level of energy and the tunes are catchy as hell. those who have been to the caustic lounge in the last twelve months have gotten to hear a lot of this first hand!

is there anything so joyful in the life of a music nerd as finding something you really, really like that was completely unexpected?



liars :: wixiw

now that is a title that would have made me scream back in my radio days.

this is a fascinating turn for liars, forcing the electronics to the fore and dispensing with the chunky guitars. i think there were definite hints of what was to come on "drum's not dead", but this is really a leap into the beyond. a good deal of the music reminds me of the basic channel label in its spacey grooviness. i'm quite sure that this one is going to lose them a few fans, but their quirky, meandering songwriting still forms the background of all you hear.

to be honest, this is one that i'm still getting to know and i'm including mostly because i know dom has fall bum over noggin for it. for the moment, i find that, like all liars releases, it gives the listener a challenge and demands one's attention. that's a rare thing.



that's a few releases that have made my ears perk up in the past twelvemonth. i am likewise getting to know raime's "quarter turns over a living line". i have to admit that i'd sort of missed that one entirely until i saw it rated on the nomadic subject as his second favourite album of the year. once again, a challenging and gratifying listen [and quite likely something that will be heard at upcoming caustic lounges].



i was pleasantly surprised by led er est's sophomore effort "the diver", which helped to make up for a rather lacklustre [and abbreviated] performance this year at the death church.



one album that i've seen on a lot of top ten lists that simply didn't resonate with me was swans "the seer". although i've been a swans fan for a long time, i do go through periods of disenchantment, because sometimes the emotional waves, the great crescendo of anguish and beauty, leave me shattered, vulnerable, and purged by their power, whereas other times, i find myself fidgeting and believing the entire thing to be a little contrived. i've never quite worked out if those differences come from inside me or if there are real changes in the music that are subtly off-putting to me, but where as "my father will guide me..." was thrilling, this one seemed sort of irritatingly familiar. i wouldn't have michael gira return to his blood-and-guts early days, because he's managed an elegiac grace as he's aged that early swans material lacked, but there are moments where i just want to scream "for god's sake do some coke!!!"

as i said, i'm a minority among my musically inclined friends, most of whom are probably going to deny knowing me because of that.

what i'm looking forward to in the coming year?

well, i have promised myself that i'm going to try to keep a sharper eye out on shows. it's become frustrating to rely on the city's admittedly plentiful music festivals, since i didn't find the showing particularly strong this year. [yes, mutek, i'm looking at you.] also, since i'm not part of the "loop", i'm less likely to know about shows with the weird intuition i seemed to have as a young whippersnapper.

what i'd most look forward to is that when i write this recap next year, i have a selection of releases that i can describe once more as "challenging" and that at least once i use the phrase "something completely unexpected". because, as strange as it seems, a year that simply gives me the things i think i want now wouldn't be satisfying in retrospect.

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