2016 was not a normal year. It is not a normal year. Right in the middle of it, I upped and moved from one continent to another. I fled from the Brexit Isles to go live in Trumpville. We lost many great artists this year. I failed to review many great records this year. I normally hate writing these end of year lists but this year it feels cathartic as we celebrate what was great. I live in my own little musical bubble so maybe your favourite record of the year never made it to my ears. This is a personal little list of what made my year, on both sides of the world. First up, the new releases:
1.ULVER – ATGCLVLSSCAP
When this one dropped back at the start of the year, I knew already it was album of the year. A semi-live album that goes from the whole range from hard rock to hypnotic drone to ambience to anthems. It’s absurdly ambitious and pulls it off.
2.THE GROUNDHOGGS – SPLIT-UP: AN EXHUMATION BY ANDREW LILES
Andrew Liles remixing The Groundhogs 1971 blues-rock classic really isn’t something that you would expect to happen nor would you expect it to work except it happened and it blew socks off. Just as the classic disco re-edits extended old funk and soul songs with extra effects, Liles does the same honours for Groundhoggs, making it sort of sound like someone sent them some guitar FX pedals back in the TARDIS to help them with the recording. There’s also some vintage synth sounds in there giving it just a little hint of the Hawkwind too. You’d have to be a stubborn, twisted kind of purist not to dig it.
3.DAVID COLOHAN – A MELBOURNE NOCTURNE
Further proof that end of year lists should be written right at the end of the year, this one didn’t land onto my doormat until quite a while after a lot of end of year lists were out. This tape was the perfect end of day album, sounding like Zbigniew Preisner stoned out of his mind and hyped up on Popol Vuh albums.
4.MICHAEL BEGG – A MOON THAT LIGHTS ITSELF / LET THE COLD STOVE SING
The man who seems to quite literally own the winter’s night and keep it in his recording studio hit us with two separate albums in 2016 and its just simply not possible to choose between the two. The first to drop was ‘Cold Stove’ which was the more experimental album while ‘A Moon’ was closer to classical composition. Either way, its was chilly and beautiful and melancholic.
5.GRUMBLING FUR – FURFOUR
A refreshingly breezy take on psychedelic electronic pop was just what the Autumn ordered and the duo of Daniel O’Sullivan & Alexander Tucker delivered the promise with an album felt as welcome as the easing up of the fierce Arizona summer.
6.NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – SKELETON TREE
High-end yet vividly raw production, discordant experimentation and a soul going through the ringer make this album sound like nothing else ever to hit the mainstream or anywhere. Not as morbid as it sounds, though, just powerful.
7.HYPNOPAZUZU – CREATE CHRIST, SAILOR BOY
Youth from Killing Joke with David Tibet of Current 93 and suddenly there’s fireworks. I’m a long term fan of both but I never expected THIS. Simply wow.
8.WILLIAM FOWLER COLLINS & JAMES JACKSON TOTH – UNDER STARS AND SMOKE
A fascinating collaboration that takes the two artists fields and somehow ties them together. Blurring distinctions between ‘song’ and ‘drone’ into a very warped take on both. Something strange and cinematic emerges, conjuring wide-open skies filled with very dark clouds. Toth has given us so many classic song-based albums in recent years that it’s easy to forget his strange roots but they’re back and boy are they welcome
9.SUZUKI JUNZO – SHARK-INFESTED CUSTARD
This one nearly didn’t make it to the list because I got it just days before emigrating and had since managed to convince myself that it came out last year. In fact, it was only seeing it on other people’s end of year lists that shifted the delusion. Maybe it’s because this album is so cosily lovable that it feels likes its been with me far longer than it actually has been. Junzo put out another new solo album in November but I’ve not heard it yet which is why it’s not mentioned
10.ASHTRAY NAVIGATIONS – PRESENTING THE MECHANIC ABARASIONS OF (VOLUME THREE)
Another moving album that went in my hand luggage. Like a jar of marmite or box of Barry’s Tea, some wonky and hyperactive Yorkshire psychedelia is an essential part of my ex-pat survival kit. I have another volume in the same series but its somewhere in all my stored stuff so can’t remember if it’s one or two but it’s a great series.
11.RANGDA – THE HERETICS BARGAIN
Sizzling trio of Richard Bishop, Chris Corsano and Ben Chasny sees duelling guitars and rolling drums going everywhere from amphetamine John Barry to ketamine prog.
12.THE MYRRORS – ENTRANCED EARTH
Really high-flying desert psyche grooves
13.THE DWARVES OF EAST AGOUZA – BES
A glorious debut for this Cairo-based trio that defies any easy categorisation.
14.GIRL SWEAT – BAD HAPPENINGS
One of the biggest curses of noise music has been people who try to act like they’re so fucking serious whilst hurling around tired old imagery. So thank fuck for people who do it just for the fun of it. Girl Sweat is a one man band mashing up frentic, skull-crushing noise with furious good time rock’n’roll. Fuck yeah!
15.GNOD – MIRROR
Gnod are one of the most unpredictable bands around. One day they’re a full-on psychedelic rock n roll animal experience then they’re Throbbing Gristle on steroids. For ‘Mirror’ they seem like prophets of rage, roaring against the state of the world as it fell apart to a soundtrack that went something like Swans on ecstasy.. “Mirror” came out back in April 2016 and as the year went on it began to feel like a brutal prophecy.f
16.CHICALOYOH – PORTE DÉVERGONDÉE
Channeling both the surreal eroticism of author André Pieyre de Mandiargues and the feral pop of Catherine Ribeiro is no mean feat but here Chicaloyoh (aka Alice Dourlen) pulls it off and also provides us with a sometimes disturbing, sometimes haunting dream diary by way of a bonus.
17.THE COSMIC DEAD – RAINBOWHEAD
The psychedelic Vikings of Glasgow continue their relentless campaign of fuzzed-out krautwind ecstasy. Like a Jodorowsky film on Buckfast.
18.THE STARGAZER’S ASSISTANT – REMOTENESS OF LIGHT
A breath-taking record that sucks the listener in to a whole other world. The musical equivilant of DMT.
19.DATASHOCK – HD_TRAILER
Germany’s current kings and queens of wild experimental music mercifully returned in 2016 with a brand new album and it was everything you’d want it to be: as weird, rocking and out-there as you’d expect while also being exactly like nothing else.
REISSUES, COMPILATIONS & STUFF
1.TRÄD, GRÄS OCH STENER – self-titled box set/GÄRDET 12.6.1970
A constant companion and comfort through the year has been these reissues. Starting off with a wonderful 3 album box set jam packed with extras and a great booklet, later followed by a stellar live album, they’ve brought some well-needed sanity with 1970s Swedish socialist commune psyche rock grooves.
2.SUN CITY GIRLS – TORCH OF THE MYSTICS
Was torture trying to pick between this and T,G & S for the number 1 slot but the box set thing made T,G & S take it but this is still just as essential. A classic album given a well-earned re-release. A blend of 90s hardcore/alternative with global influences and goofball humour but breathlessly beautiful all the same. The bands discography can be very intimidating to the novice and this one is a perfect starting point
3.JACK ROSE – KENSINGTON BLUES
I didn’t want to list six albums here although the thought did cross my mind. VHF and Three Lobed reissued the definitive Jack Rose albums, making sure the great mane legacy remains alive. A perfect guitar player who must never be forgotten.
4.BORIS – PINK (DELUXE EDITION)
For it’s tenth anniversary the classic breakout album from Boris got a nice reissue and world tour too. There’s a whole bonus album of out-takes but the deal-breaker for me treat was being able to own this finally in the greatly extended vinyl version that added around 21 minutes to the albums more experimental tracks and presents it all in a radically different track-list. It’s virtually a whole different album (though not on the CD/download).
5.THE CHILLS – KALEIDOSCOPE WORLD
Once just a very short compilation LP, now an exhaustive archive of early singles and EPs from the classic New Zealand band that should have conquered the world. Rises head and shoulders above so many of the sacred cows of 80s alternative music.
6.WOLF EYES – DREAD/MUGGER
2015 saw Wolf Eyes launching a bandcamp page and make us realise that, yes, we actually did need to own all those insanely limited edition tapes and CDRs they’d put out over the years. 2016 saw the band kindly put out their own tape reissues of a couple of those golden rarities. “Dread” was the noisy party album while “Mugger” was the drunken radiophonics basement session making them kind of yin and yang of wild rowdy tapes.
7.VARIOUS ARTISTS – THE QUIETENED BUNKER
There’s something so endlessly fascinating and intriguing about the whole aesthetics of the A Year In The Country label and the enigmatic website and design work sucks me in. They released a lot of amazing compilations in 2016 and I did consider just putting them all at number six but then decided to just put the one I played most here. A carefully arranged comp of great artists musing on empty bunkers. What’s not to like?
8.SUZUKI JUNZO – IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE
The worst thing about running a label is you feel you can’t put your own releases in the lists even though they’ve been some of the music that’s had the biggest impact on you. I would have loved to put this album on last year’s list after I put it out on tape but thankfully Utech reissued it this year on vinyl and I’m fully justified in putting it down on here because it’s four tracks of wild gee-tar noise psychedelic oblivion. So There.
9.MOODYMANN – DJ KICKS
It must have been 20 years since I bought an album in the DJ Kicks series but the prospect of a mix from Kenny Dixon Jr aka Moodymann brought me right back. A respectfully hands-off mix that’s all about songs not beats and is an education from start to finish taking in the finest funk, soul, hip hop and a few surprises like Anne Clark. There wasn’t a song on here I knew nor a song I didn’t love. Add to that the Bandcamp option means you now get the whole mix as one track and then all the songs in their unmixed form (in the old days it was just CD for the mix and vinyl for the unmixed). The bandcamp page is set to not allowing embedding so here’s a youtube thing of the first track on the comp:
10.ANGELO BADALAMENTI – TWIN PEAKS OST
It just shows how amazing 2016 was musically for this undisputed masterpiece to rock in only at number 10. My old CD copy from back in the day had suffered so much abuse/mash handling as to have to be binned so it was lovely to get this naughtily deluxe packaged vinyl edition with a good mastering job done. For some stubborn reason I tried not to buy this, feeling guiltily subsumed into the endless wave of soundtrack reissues going on at the moment, but the will was not strong enough. Coffee colour vinyl. Them owls just ain’t what they seem, Dale. Get back on my screen soon.
11.TANGERINE DREAM – ULTIMA THULE
A treasure chest of classic pre-synths era Tangerine Dream when they were at the heart of the Berlin scene. Includes both sides of the rare “Ultima Thule” 7″, some stuff normally relegated to CD bonus tracks, a little unreleased stuff and the 7″ put out The Ones, Edgar Froese’s old psych rock band. Magic stuff!
12.MANUEL GÖTTSCHING – E2-E4
Finally! A vinyl reissue of “E2-E4”, something I have been waiting for since…I don’t even know. Mr.Ash-Ra Tempel’s early 80s Balearic classic. It may not have invented techno and house as some chronologically-challenged people claim but it certainly whispered in the ears of the developing scenes and is also a damn enjoyable record. Can we get the Ash-Ra Tempel albums reissued on vinyl now please? Please? Pretty pleeeeeeeease?
13.INDIAN TALKING MACHINE: 78 RPM RECORD AND GRAMOPHONE COLLECTING ON THE SUB-CONTINENT
Sublime Frequencies releases are always reliable sources of quality, obscure music from around the world but here they went and got all deluxe on our asses with this two CD and a hardback book set that featured not just two CDs of restored Indian gramophone recordings but a sumptuous collection of glossy photos of 78-collectors stashes, stores and paraphernalia. Just intoxicating.
14.JOHN LENNON/YOKO ONO – TWO VIRGINS
Never expected to find John Lennon popping up on my Bandcamp recommendations list but here is it making riotous musique concrete-style tape mash-ups with Yoko Ono for the notorious “Two Virgins” album, reissued by Secretly Canadian as part of their timely Yoko reissue series. This is the one experimental music heads need to own for the next time a Beatlephile complains about your listening tastes so you can say “Ok, I’ll just pop on some John Lennon” and crank up the volume.
15.VARIOUS ARTISTS – SONGS OF THE BLOOD MOON
This tape and download comp was all music recorded during a 2014 blood moon. A great selection of people ranging from Neil Campbell to David Colohan all thinking about that big red moon.
16.VARIOUS ARTISTS – STAND WITH STANDING ROCK
Standing up for an important modern cause has never been so fun thanks to this wildly varied but deeply psychedelic comp on Sky Lantern Records. It’s a great way to support a great cause while enjoying great music from Bird People, Dead Sea Apes and many more
17.GQOM OH! X CRUDO VOLTA MIXTAPE
I’m now old enough to officially get grumpy when people mention new musical trends but when it’s Guillermo from Argentina’s Pakapai Records, I listen and with good reason. He tipped me off to this mix tape of new sounds from Durban, South Africa and I have to say I rather enjoyed it although I’d look fucking ridiculous trying to dance to it.
18.DEAD SEA APES – SOY DIOS
A nice tape AND vinyl reissue in Arizona for NW’s Englands most spacious psyche rock explorers. An expansive sense of time and rhythm makes them feel wider than the average band.