PRINT December 2011

Music: Best of 2011

Nick Relph

Kelan Phil Cohran and Legacy performing at the Adler Planetarium, Chicago, 1993. From left: Aquilla Sadalla, Kelan Phil Cohran, Malik Cohran, and Oscar Brown III.

1 The Fall, Totally Wired, White Label This recording, which surfaced first on the unofficial Fall site ( and subsequently this year as a bootleg seven-inch, features an early-’80s prime gruppe tearing through a live rendition of the titular classic without the aid of any pesky instruments at all. Keeping in mind Mark E. Smith’s reckoning of rock ’n’ roll as “a completely nonmusical form of music,” this record—all booms, duh-duhs, na-na-nas, and laughter—is like discovering Fall DNA.

2 Kelan Phil Cohran and Legacy, African Skies (Captcha) Written and performed in 1993, in tribute to the then-recently departed Sun Ra, this new release is a stately but wide-eyed and joyful celebration of Cohran’s former bandmate. You may never hear a more beautiful record on this planet or the next.

3 Tonetta, 777 (Vols. 1 and 2) (Black Tent Press) Who doesn’t love horny Canadian dads who make groovy, happy music about eating shit? There’s no one like Tonetta, though we should all try to be.

4 Bill Callahan, Apocalypse (Drag City) Beautifully crafted, impeccably recorded albums with thoughtful sequencing tend not to be the things that have me running to the record store, and yet this LP—which is all those things and more—has had me completely dazzled like nothing else I can remember. There are moments on this thing where the music, in such keen service to the song, seems almost to disappear, and all you’re left with are Callahan, his stories, and his questions.

5 Terre Thaemlitz, Soulnessless “Concert” (Issue Project Room, Brooklyn, NY, June 14, 2011) While the Callahan record works within the classical, fortyish-minute, vinyl-era album model, this presentation by Thaemlitz outlined the principles and some of the components of Soulnessless (forthcoming in 2012), her critical reimagining of the album in the digital age. At its core will be the track “Meditation on Wage Labor and the Death of the Album,” a solo piano piece lasting nearly thirty hours.

Input device for Daphne Oram’s Oramics machine awaiting conservation at the Science Museum, London, 2010. Photo: Tim Boon.

6 Daphne Oram Although Paradigm Discs’ Oramics collection has been out for a few years now, the publication of Louis Niebur’s Special Sound (2010), which chronicles the history of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (of which Oram was a founder), and the exhibiting of her Oramics machine at London’s Science Museum have helped cement Oram’s position as a pioneer of electronic music. Now someone needs to republish her long-out-of-print book An Individual Note of Music, Sound and Electronics (1972).

7 Hype Williams While this shape-shifting duo’s back-and-forth shimmy within the increasingly murky space between the dance and noise undergrounds has been fun to keep up with, what really distinguishes Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland’s band is the surprisingly heartfelt music. Behind the bodybuilders, weed, and stalking white yardies lies raw modern melancholy.

8 Mick Barr, Coiled Malescence (Safety Meeting) Seeing some of these songs played live earlier this year made me convulse, see stars, and float. Mick Barr is plainly a genius, and this record is one of the best examples yet.

9 Conrad Schnitzler, Live ’72 (Further) This album is an incredible testament to a giant of electronic music and DIY spirit who passed away this August at the age of seventy-four. Somewhere between his looming physical presence and plain speaking on the one hand, and sense of play and generosity on the other, there always seemed to be something fatherly about Schnitzler. His children run amok all over. RIP CON IOU.

10 The Fall, Ersatz G.B. (Cherry Red) As I write, this record is on the verge of leaking and won’t be released for a few weeks—I haven’t heard it yet. What I do know is that the title’s great, the cover’s awful, and it’s a new Fall album. This makes me so happy.

Nick Relph is an artist based in New York. His first artist’s book, Vestiarium Scoticum, was published this year by KLTB.