1.VOICE OF THE SEVEN THUNDERS – Blue Comet mixes by Andrew Liles
I’m almost afraid to put this on the list after my repeated failed attempts to do a video review but it would not be a 2011 list without this enormous beast of a vinyl. Taking four tracks from the self-titled 2010 VOTST album and embedding himself deep into them, Liles takes these quick psychedelic blasts and expands them into epic spacerock monsters. Reminds me of when I first heard Hawkwind as a kid, this is as wild and crazy as it is heavy and psychedelic. However, the most important factor is just how fun it is to listen to. It explodes with joy as muchWith no CD, no promos and only 300 copies in existence, this one will end up costing an arm and a leg by 2013, so consider yourselves warned.
2. SAVAGING SPIRES – self titled
Landing here in a very warm October, it seemed like the perfect soundtrack: earthy and psychedelic and choral but with hints of darkness & melancholy. Now we are in a cold December and it still seems just as vital and alive now as it did then.
3. FAUST – Something Dirty
The album title does not mislead, this is the sexy Faust album. It is also the first officially released album from the current line-up of founder members Jean Herve-Peron and Zappi with Gallon Drunk boss James Johnston on guitars and his other half Geraldine Swayne on keyboards. The results are a big sexy noisy ranging from pastoral sketches, breathy vocals and storming stomps. A blast.
4.ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE & THE MELTING PARAISO U.F.O – The Ripper At The Heaven’s Gates of Dark
I know I keep saying this but this is an essential one. It’s got their current live opener “Chinese Flying Saucer” and some heavy keyboard stoner rock work-outs into infinity.
5. WOODEN WAND & THE BRIARWOOD VIRGINS – Briarwood
Was beginning to worry that this list might not have a Wooden Wand album on it, as he kept us waiting for most of the year and then this November this wonderful album dropped on the door matt. A full band recording that just blows me away, the very spirit of quality song-writing and Americana and it’s absence from the mainstream simply highlights everything that has gone wrong with popular music
6.MEG BAIRD – Seasons on Earth
Although her second solo album, following “Dear Companion” in 2007, “Seasons On Earth” was the first to highlight Meg’s song writing abilities (the former having only 2 original songs, the later only having 2 covers). Keeping this simple with a little bit of pedal steel from Marc Orleans (ex-Sunburned Hand of the Man), Meg’s talents shine through and establish her as a major talent in her own right, outside of Espers.
7. WHITE HILLS – Hp-1
This band on record just keep getting better and better. Not had the pleasure of seeing them live yet but each new album is more incendiary and more lysergic than the last. This one includes moments of psychedelic motorhead intensity and freaked out abstract weirdness. There are also some excellent companion releases under the banner of “The Process”.
8.HUMAN GREED – Fortress Longing
An all-out dream invasion from the haunting, evocative and creepily minimalist Human Greed. The album based on the concept of “the sleeping Egyptian”, a mummy in the British Museum longing for home. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time the strings of “The Green Line” begin
9.NATURAL SNOW BUILDINGS – Chants of the Niflheim
The elusive Natural Snow Buildings suddenly became slightly less elusive in 2011 with not one but two new albums that were actually pressed in sufficient numbers to meet demand. However, the music on both albums did nothing to diminish the bands mystique, blending unearthly drone and folk. It was hard to choose between this and “Waves of the Random Sea” but this one took the edge by being that bit more spine-tingling and enchanting.
10. CHARALAMBIDES – Exile
The astounding combination of Tom & Christine Carter always produces exceptional results but on this album for Kranky they outdo themselves, creating something as haunting and oppressive as it was intricate and spacious. The sparse mood made the album perfect for it’s Autumn/Winter release slot.
11.RELIGIOUS KNIVES – Smokescreen
Fantastic, fuzzy, smoked-out psyche of a completely different kind to those listed here. Religious Knives dance to a very different beat to their peers, taking a more intense yet strangely more laid-back rhythmic approach. A sort of tribal, hypnotic take on swirling psychedelic rock but still a blast to listen to.
12.CARLTON MELTON – Country Ways
2011 seems to have been a bumper year for good quality, out-there, psychedelic rock and it was great to have another studio album from one of the newest stars on the block. Possibly as mellow as they are intense, the band make this colossal cosmic wall of guitars that can be as wild as they can be gentle. You can get it as a perfectly formed mini album on vinyl or an expanded CD with some extra, long bonus tracks on the end, each configuration working in it’s own perfect way.
13. WOODEN SHJIPS – West
Wooden Shjips have always been a great, modern day psychedelic band but “West” saw them up their game another notch. With heavy grooves, swirling keyboard madness and storming rhythms, “West” took them into the highest fidelity, loudest sounding recording from them yet.
14.ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE SWR & UMEZU KAZUTOKI – Sax In The City
It may at first seem excessive to have to Acid Mothers Temple releases in the end of year top 20 but you could not find a more stark contrast to their other entry and, besides, this is a very different line-up. Here you get a frenzied, improvised scorched blast with some searing sax attack. Nothing psychedelic in the slightest about this brutal beast, which has the drummer from Ruins leading the way, creating something more in common with John Zorn or Derek Bailey.
15. THE COSMIC DEAD – self titled debut album
The name says it all: a wild, space-out krautrock-inspired psych-out jams. Hard to believe that this cassette/download release is their debut release, such is the confidence and quality of it. Exotic and trippy, easily one of the most essential, must-hear debut releases of the year.
16.MIMINOKOTO – Hitoyogiri
Miminokoto have remained a vital part of Tokyo’s psychedelic underground for a few years now, undiminished even by radical line-up changes and with this album for US label Important Records they will hopefully reach the wider audience they deserve. Sharing a drummer with Acid Mothers Temple, they feature a mellower kind of guitar heroics from frontman Suzuki Junzo and “Hitoyogiri” is the best studio album from them yet perfectly showcasing their skills.
17.TALVIHOROS – Descent Into Delta
An album of deep and intense drone work blending guitar works and electronic waves over five head-altering tracks. The vinyl version took ages to arrive but when it landed it virtually rendered the CD obsolete thanks to the stunning mastering by Jim Plotkin and a good quality pressing. Like a cross between early Cluster & Aidan Baker.
18. CURRENT 93 – Honeysuckle Aeons
Oddly, it seemed like an eternity since the previous album but, in truth, it had only been a year. The wait for a new Current 93 album always seems like a long time but the results make it worthwhile. Once again, sounding like nothing they had done before, this one was written all about friends passed and featured some astounding work on the church organ from Baby Dee and possibly the best theremin use on a record ever.
19. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Kanshin
This double CD compilation was rushed out to raise funds for the relief efforts in Japan following the earthquake. The funds went directly to Ian Hawgood of Home Normal Records who lives over there and was working on the frontline to provide help and had even turned his own home into a temporary animal sanctuary. Compiled by Daniel from Fluid Radio and Jonathan Lees of Hibernate, the results were far beyond any mere charity compilation but actually provided an excellent snapshot of the cutting-edge, experimental ambient scene as it stood in 2011 with a near definitive line-up of the scene at the time. Not only that but with nearly all the tracks being of the highest standard, you end up doing yourself a favour too by buying it.
20.NICHOLAS SZCZEPANIK – Please Stop Loving Me
Just one long track of haunting, celestial awe. Clocking in at over an hour and far too short. If only it could have been released as a twelve hour long Bluray.
1Barn Owl – Shadowland – EP
2Listening Mirror – The Heart of the Sky – cassette
3.Fat Cat Split Series #21: Foot Village/Super Khoumeissa – 12”
4.Darren Harper & Gimu –Field & Fern: Mountain & Sea – 3” cd
5 Baby Dee – Goes Down To Amsterdam – live album
6.Cannibal Movie – s/t – cassette
7Astral Social Club – Snaefell – 7”
8.Yaje – s/t – EP
9.Psychogeographical Commission – Widershins – 3” cd
10.James Blackshaw – Holly – ep
11.Seasons Pre Din – Lesser & Still – EP
12.Various artists – Clandestine cassette compilation
13.Michael Flower & Neil Campbell – with John Godbert – double live cassette
14.trans/human – The 8 Hour Dance – cassette
15.Carlton Melton/Bardo Pond – split 12”
16. Mars To Stay – s/t – cassette
17.White Hills – The Process – cassette
18.Orfanado – Iter – cassette
19. Sargasso Sea – Madonna – single
20. Mugstar – Serra (Robert Hampson remix)