by Sam Robinson
Does anybody listen to music anymore? Or do we just kind of pretend to have listened to the latest high-concept journalism-bait records and quote bot-generated thinkpieces about them to impress our friends who have also only pretended to listen to the albums in question. Last year I tried listening to music, and only came up with ten items to fill my listicle’s distended sac. So I gave up on that. Below are six albums I heard about in passing from cool people in 2015 – I hope you get invited to some killer New Year’s parties to quote these reviews at.
6. Black Wing – …Is Doomed
From the ashes of Dan Barrett’s (Have a Nice Life, Giles Corey, Married), failed Drive-inspired synthpop project, Dan Barrett and the Cruisers, comes a bombastic, pop tinged electronic romp through the mind of one of the most exciting musicians working in shoegaze today. The effects driven guitars may be gone from this record, but there is no absence of emotional soundscapes in their wake. Heavily processed synth drum kits scintillate across the soundstage and vocal tracks dip into hyper-compressed clipping collages that can best be described as aural car wrecks. This might not be a strictly shoegaze record, but Barrett’s pedigree still manages to shine through.
5. Jerusalem in My Heart – If He Dies, If, If, If, If, If
Jerusalem in My Heart is the ongoing international performance project that consists of musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh and visual artist Charles-André Coderre. All Jerusalem shows are site-specific installations and do not repeat. Themes of meditation and solidarity are dominant in the recorded music, which draws heavily from underground Syrian tape culture and the greater Middle Eastern musical canon. Moumneh’s ties to friends Godspeed You! Black Emperor are also apparent in the record’s willingness to explore intense, loose noodling over lo-fi field recordings, a stylistic choice that gives many tracks on the record defined spaces in which to reside. Between tracks there are claustrophobic corridors and vast oceans all serving as backdrops to be explored by Moumneh’s droning vocals and seemingly endless loop pedals. Check out a video of a live performance below:
4. Prurient – Frozen Niagara Falls
Yes, this is another Prurient record. No, it is not an all-out assault like Cocaine Death was. Frozen Niagara Falls may actually be Prurient’s most mature record to date, actually. The visceral, stream-of-consciousness shrieks and cacophonies are still present, but they are more tastefully framed than ever. Frozen deals with loss, but not in a traditional sense, on this record. Instead, the visual of a frozen Niagara Falls serves as an excellent reference point. A natural monument held paralyzed in memory, doomed to return to violence as soon as the thaw hits. Even if you are not inclined to listen to noise, there are plenty of approachable points of entry for the novice listener. Soft drone, soothing guitar interludes, even elements of dance-y industrial all reside comfortably in this so-called “noise” album.
3. Arca – Mutant
2. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Raise your right hand
Tell me you want me in your life
Or raise your red flag
Just when I want you in my life
1. Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete
After years of being on the cutting edge of sound and constantly leading the wave of electronic music to “the next big thing,” it is only fitting for Brooklyn-based producer Daniel Lopatin, after finishing an arena-tour with Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden, to release a record that sounds like his youth. Based on a fictional pubescent, alien teenager named Ezra who suffers from a skin condition that causes his face to constantly melt, Garden of Delete gives no ambiguity to the roots of its aggressive, thrashy sound. It is a delight to hear Lopatin indulge in such hyper-produced excess considering his roots are in the far less organized sound of noise music. It is a return to the past in more ways than one for Lopatin. Even the concept of ownership has a rebellious teenage attitude towards it. Over a month before the album’s release, Lopatin dumped the raw MIDI files on fans through an elaborate Geospaces-esque ARG involving a fictional “cyberthrash” band known as Kaoss Edge. Ahead of the record’s release, fans were already inundating Soundcloud and YouTube with their own interpretations of the album’s tracks through their own software and synthesizers. It is difficult to recommend this album alone, it really takes hearing the evolution of Lopatin’s sound to fully appreciate the intricacies and decision making behind Delete’s deceptively simple appearance- I recommend “Replica,” “R Plus Seven,” and “Eccojams” to start.
Glasses is a former radio DJ currently plotting a quiet return to WKDU.