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2011 :: musical notes

when i was younger, i used to be able to do a top ten album list every year, without fail. in recent years, i really haven't found that possible, partly because i'm slower than ever to catch up on listening to music, partly because my tastes are so obscure that i often don't find out about music until it's a year or so old, partly because i think my standards were lower [in many ways] when i was young and partly because i am, undeniably, of an age where i don't have the stamina to keep up with all the latest trends and bands. sigh. there is nothing like music to let  you know that you're getting old.

slater's sons live at katacombes 28.12.11
of course, i still take some pride/ solace in the fact that my musical tastes continue to evolve and that each year, i do seem to make contact with a handful of releases that do make me perk up my ears. i make an effort to go to shows when i can and when it doesn't interfere with my nap and ovaltine schedule. and i do still try to keep abreast [sometimes both of them] of new musical developments. having the caustic lounge monthly helps me in that regard, although it does tend to push me in a certain direction [that direction being "music acceptable to play in public and be invited back"].

that said, a lot of what i get isn't new. in the days when i was doing a radio show, i felt more compelled to come up with new releases on a regular basis, since being on air weekly meant that my audience [such as it was] became familiar with what i was offering pretty quickly. doing a monthly slot doesn't carry the same weight, because a lot of times, people will have forgotten what they heard weeks [or even a few months] before and, more to the point, there is a lot more tolerance and even comfort in hearing something familiar in a public environment.

there are releases about which i'm curious that i haven't managed to get hold of yet. cut hands, the new project of william bennett of whitehouse is certainly something i want to check out. for that one, i can't blame anything but my own laziness.

current 93 released an album this year, but, having been bitterly disappointed with their last offering, i've been a little shy to approach it. i'll get around to it one of these days.

there are actually a lot of releases from this year that i haven't had the chance to listen to yet, and you'll forgive me if i don't list them all here. i will slowly get caught up, at which point i'll most likely be writing recaps of 2012 or 2013. 

 SO WHAT THE HECK DID I LIKE?



of the things i did manage to hear, many were enjoyable without being earth-shattering. new york's wierd records [yes, that's how it's spelled] continues to be a source of fun, poppy, retro-electro music and there were a number of releases from them that made for a great listen- the new album from xeno & oaklander, led er est [which i believe might have actually come out in 2010], the icy cold staccato du mal and an excellent release by frank alpine are all worth checking out. i'll also say that i very much appreciate wierd making their releases available in a variety of formats- usually vinyl, cd and itunes download. i'll even admit that i broke with a long-standing rule and went with official downloads in a couple of cases this year. i'd received a bunch of gift certificates through itunes and figured it was one way to put them to use. i'm normally a champion of the cd as artifact and in the value of a total package, but i do have to admit there is also a certain appeal to not having another object. our home has too many of them.

poster for the iceland-canada arts festival
at once closer to home and farther away, "initial conditions" is a little jewel of a 7", marking the return of icelandic industrial icons reptilicus and featuring a mix by senking [who is normally part of the german raster-noton roster]. the release is the first on the new canadian imprint yatra arts and what a promising debut it is! the release of the single was celebrated with events in iceland in the spring and in toronto and canada [a real iceland-canada arts fest] in november. the mind behind yatra has a lot of experience in the music world and i'm looking forward to see what the future holds.

often times in recent years, i've found myself falling back on the galakthorroe label for my annual favourites. and this year is no different. of the full-length albums i heard this year, haus arafna's "new york rhapsody" and maska genetik's "strada" are without doubt my favourites. there is no doubt that there is a signature "galakthorroe sound" and it's the sort of thing that people either love or dismiss, but for me, it never seems to get old. over the years, haus arafna have become less brutal- leaving the harsher power electronics to label-mate albert fisch's subliminal- and, i believe, more heavily atmospheric. there's something remote and melancholy about their sound, something despairing. as i've mentioned before, the album was written as a soundtrack for a show at the fall 2009 new york fashion week. i can only imagine that it was an incredible experience.

maska genetik
the maska genetik album was an incredibly pleasant surprise not just because it was so good- although it is- but because, after contributing a couple of tracks to the "kosmoloko" compilation and releasing a 7" several years back, maska genetik apparently retired from music altogether. this debut full-length was well worth the wait. although it rarely gets very noisy, there is something hard-edged and often unsettling in the music. i hope that "strada" marks a permanent return for this russian project.

most surprising to me in the past year was how few times i went to live shows. of those i did go to, a large portion were local bands, such as post-post-punk dekoder and ska-masters slater's sons. normally, montreal is a mecca for live shows. there are multiple music festivals of various sorts, especially throughout the spring and fall, but this year, the quality of most of them seemed to suffer noticeably. i enjoyed a couple of shows at the elektra festival back in may, but for the most part gave others a pass. the truly sad thing is that i don't really have any shows i regret missing. there simply weren't that many opportunities for a person of my tastes to enjoy themselves.

although i've grown less fond of her music as it's gotten better produced, i was very impressed with zola jesus' performance at il motore. it's quite remarkable to hear that powerful a voice come out of such a petite person. where many people use studio trickery to "create" a vocal style for themselves, ms. jesus is the real deal. she has true talent and i actually find that the depth of it and the emotion of her music comes through better in a live environment than through recordings.

my choice for best performance of the year goes to keiji haino, who played at sala rossa this summer. it had been thirteen years since i'd last seen him and i'd forgotten the raw power and swirling beauty of his live shows. he cuts an odd figure, dressed in black, eyes obscured by dark glasses, a mane of grey hair swaying as he works his magic on the guitar, but he is at the same time, oddly hypnotic. it's honestly not difficult for me to choose this as my favourite show of the year, but i have a feeling it would rank highly in years when there was far more to offer.

so went 2011 musically. although i've not heard much about upcoming shows or releases, i'm hopeful that next year will be one that excites me a little more with what it has to offer. in the meantime, i have some of this year's releases to track down.

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