PRINT December 2005

Music: Best of 2005

Stephen Vitiello

1 STEVE RODEN (ON THE BOARDS, SEATTLE, WA) As much as I enjoyed Roden’s CD Transmissions (voices of objects and skies) (Fresno Metropolitan Museum/New Plastic Music), there was something even more satisfying about watching him build loops in a live setting—not to mention observing his strange habit of singing to a table. (Roden told me, “I sing ‘into the table’ because I can’t bear the thought of singing and looking at people . . . it’s my disappearing act!”)

2 ANDREW DEUTSCH, THE SUN (AND/OAR) A CD consisting of five long tracks in which the sounds of ocean waves were filtered through digital processors. There’s an ambient quality to Deutsch’s richly textured work (he describes each piece as having no beginning or end) but not one that easily settles into a backdrop.

3 A TROVE OF ARCHIVAL PERFORMANCES BY CHARLOTTE MOORMAN (UBUWEB AT WWW.UBU.COM) I helped to gather these, but that doesn’t seem sufficient reason to exclude them from my list. The pieces by Terry Jennings and Toshi Ichiyanagi are particularly musical, in contrast to the perhaps more familiar visually oriented performances featuring Charlotte as the “topless cellist.”

4 CHRIS WATSON, NORTH BY NORTH WEST (BBC RADIO 4) Watson, a former member of the British experimental music group Cabaret Voltaire, is also a master of location recording. North by North West (archived at is a gathering of his haunting recordings of wind sounds from the British coastline and elsewhere. Watson’s The Galapagos Islands—an audio diary of recordings on the famed archipelago, available at —is equally evocative.

5 ALARM WILL SOUND, ACOUSTICA: ALARM WILL SOUND PERFORMS APHEX TWIN (CANTALOUPE MUSIC) A friend told me that he was morally opposed to this recording. I remember having that discomfort hearing string groups play Jimi Hendrix, but Aphex Twin seems much more suited to such transformations.

6 TONY CONRAD, BRYANT PARK MORATORIUM RALLY (1969) (TABLE OF THE ELEMENTS) A fascinating, newly released archival document. This aural chronicle of an anti–Vietnam War rally taking place throughout the US, taped by Conrad from his midtown Manhattan apartment using one microphone pointed out of the window overlooking the rally and a second pointed at a television broadcasting live commentary, offers a unique, subjective view of a particular time and place.

7 GITHEAD, PROFILE (SWIM) Well crafted and carefully manipulated pop songs created by Colin Newman (of Wire), Robin Rimbaud (aka Scanner), Malka Spigel, and Max Franken. It’s amazing to hear Rimbaud become an unlikely rock god.

8 BOARDS OF CANADA, THE CAMPFIRE HEADPHASE (WARP RECORDS) Fully enjoyable and the best of what they do—even if they never go beyond their instantly recognizable take on pastoral electronica. Perfect headphones music.

9 CLIMAX GOLDEN TWINS, HIGHLY BRED AND SWEETLY TEMPERED (NORTH EAST INDIE) Smart twists and turns from this Seattle-based avant-garde pop duo, mixing found sound collage with guitar-laden melody.

10 RICHARD THOMPSON, GRIZZLY MAN ORIGINAL SOUND TRACK (COOKING VINYL) Guitar (by Jim O’Rourke) that’s amazing in every way, with cello surprises from Danielle De Gruttola, created to accompany Werner Herzog’s extraordinary “true story of a life gone wild.”

Stephen Vitiello is a sound and media artist and a member of the faculty of the Department of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University.