2015 was an amazing year for music but a bit of a quiet one for Was Ist Das? reviews. The demands of writing a book, which including reviewing the entire Radiophonic Workshop back catalogue, meant that for ¾ of the year, only a handful of reviews were written. Also, I had to single-handedly move our whole family’s horded belongings out of our house into various friends’ attics in anticipation of emigrating. And my dog ate the reviews. Plus I have a note from my wife saying I was too poorly to write.
The end of year lists are normally a thing of dread for me but this year they give me a second chance. It is a chance to rave about the wonderful albums that were sent to me that I never got the chance to review in a timely manner, if at all. Will 2016 see a change in review volumes? Possibly not, there will be at least two house moves, lots of living out of suitcases and a whole new world and routines to adjust to. It will plod along at a slow and steady pace. I reckon 2017 will be great, though. I’ll be in the groove then.
THE TREMBLING BELLS – THE SOVEREIGN SELF
The Trembling Bells make a wistfully catchy blend of psychedelia and old English folk but on “The Sovereign Self” they took another step forward by expanding their line-up to add another guitarist, creating a more complex and dense sound.
JOHN BAKER – THE VENDETTA TAPES
A mind-blowing compilation taken from the Radiophonic Workshop’s archives of previously unreleased soundtrack work from 60s member John Baker. Lovingly remastered and served up on vinyl, CD and digital, it showcases a sparkling fusion of jazz, electronics and classical that can hold their own along any 60s movie soundtracks.
WOLF EYES – I’M A PROBLEM MIND IN PIECES
Wolf Eyes always made a more joyous, hypnotic and unpretentious brand of noisy improv than their peers but this new album for Jack White’s Third Man Records sees them becoming more accessible while losing none of their edge.
IRON MAIDEN – THE BOOK OF SOULS
The pre-release hype made this out to be Maiden’s epic prog album but when it finally landed what we actually got was just a straight up Iron Maiden album that was a bit longer than normal. Nothing wrong with Maiden being Maiden especially when they do it so well. Sure, since Bruce and Adrian Smith came back they’ve had three guitarists instead of the usual two but while things are more complex its still balls to the wall and why not?
UNITED BIBLE STUDIES – THE ALE’S WHAT CURES YE
A whole album of traditional songs performed by the mighty United Bible Studies makes for the freshest folk-related release of the year by a country mile. Somehow they manage to be both faithful to the sources and yet breathe new life into the songs. Subtitled “Traditional Songs From The British Isles Vol.1” which hopefully means further volumes to follow
RAISING HOLY SPARKS – TRANCES OF THE BLAST
The solo project of United Bible Studies co-founder David Colohan has been responsible for many memorable albums but nothing quite as surprising as this before. A perfect fusion of Popol Vuh-esque devotional synths with raw black metal. It sounds impossible, even after you’ve heard it.
CHICALOYOH – LES SEPT SALONS
After a quiet 2014, it was a pleasure to have Chicaloyoh back and busy in 2015. This single sided white vinyl release was her most intense but lovable work from 2015.
HARMONIA – DOCUMENTS 1975
Originally exclusive to an expensive vinyl box set, this collection of unreleased vintage Harmonia material quietly snuck out as a cassette release. Essential lost krautrock classics.
HUMAN GREED – HIVERNANT
Now seemingly a permanent fixture on our end of year lists, Michael Begg’s Human Greed once again stunned us with another rich, glacial and overwhelming album of unusual beauty.