PRINT December 2016

Music: Best of 2016

Cameron Jamie

Cover of John Duncan’s Bitter Earth (iDEAL Recordings, 2016).

1 JOHN DUNCAN, BITTER EARTH (iDEAL Recordings) Since the 1970s, John Duncan’s performance art and sound/music works have radically transgressed the boundaries of both fields. His latest album continues to follow this path, creating an intensely compelling and poetic exploration of the inner self and beyond: the gospel according to John Duncan.

2 RAGNAR JOHNSON ASSISTED BY JESSICA MAYER, SACRED FLUTE MUSIC FROM NEW GUINEA: MANDANG/WINDIM MAMBU (Ideologic Organ/Editions Mego) This rare rerelease of sacred flute recordings carries a potent magic. It seems to share the DNA of everything that we have grown accustomed to hearing in the history of modern compositional music—except it doesn’t. No effect pedals or amplifiers were harmed during the recording of this album.

3 MARTIN REV (Festival Sonic Protest, Montreuil, France, April 8) Rev unleashed a bombastic set of electro–rock ’n’ roll as it should be performed: ferocious, energetic, brutal, intense, and extremely loud. The crowd was transfixed watching Rev singing while pounding both of his fists nonstop, giving the keys on his synthesizer the ultimate shiatsu massage without even using his fingers.

4 ANNA HOMLER AND STEVE MOSHIER, BREADWOMAN & OTHER TALES (RVNG Intl.) Vocal, visual, and performance artist Anna Homler and composer Steve Moshier have created a mysteriously beautiful album from another dimension. Homler sings and chants in a looped, dreamlike rhythm, repeating indecipherable words as if she’s speaking in tongues. The emphasis of sound in each reiteration begins to transform words and phrases into fictional characters entering our imagination.

5 JEFF MCDONALD (Bang! Records) Jeff McDonald, cofounder of the California alt-rock band Redd Kross, is one of the greatest songwriters and performers ever to emerge out of the Los Angeles music scene. McDonald’s solo album is a rare treat: a very raw and eclectic batch of basement tape recordings of his brilliant songs and electrifying guitar riffs, filled with catchy choruses of candy-coated rock ’n’ roll.

Martin Rev performing at Festival Sonic Protest, La Parole Errante, Maison de l’Arbre, Montreuil, France, April 8, 2016.
Photo: Divine Enfant.

6 EARTH (Hellfest, Clisson, France, June 17) It was amazing to witness a massive music-festival crowd bobbing their heads up and down in synced slow motion as Earth performed their powerful and mesmerizing set. Dylan Carlson’s body language was pure poetry, sustaining the heavy twangs of his extended guitar power chords, which proved that fifty thousand metalheads can’t be wrong.

7 TOM RECCHION, OAXACA DAWN | BAMBOO (Elevator Bath) This two-track LP captures a barrage of outdoor field recordings that Recchion brilliantly transformed into beautiful textural sound waves and unfiltered ambient soundscapes. He has masterfully created a whole new level of sound, crossing audial concepts of exotica and ambient music into something we’ve never heard before.

8 HEATHER LEIGH, I ABUSED ANIMAL (Ideologic Organ/Editions MEGO) This hypnotically meditative solo studio album conjures an intimate dialogue between two voices: Leigh and her pedal steel guitar. As her vocals collide and bounce back from reverberated and distorted string tempos, they suggest altered emotive states, merging into a beautifully hallucinatory listening experience.

9 DÄLEK, ASPHALT FOR EDEN (Profound Lore) Dälek are the undisputed masters of experimental rhythmic noise. They continue to push their music into maximal sonic realms that no others in hip-hop would ever dare to enter. Asphalt for Eden splits the atom of urban music, which detonates into Dälek’s own scientific language of sound.

10 EXOTIC ADRIAN STREET AND THE PILE DRIVERS, SHAKE, WRESTLE ’N’ ROLL (Burger) The fine folks at Burger Records are the only people on the planet who have the guts to reissue one of the most brilliantly insane lost nuggets of glam rock history. This record is for rock ’n’ roll purists only, no squares allowed.

Cameron Jamie is an artist living in Paris. His film Massage The History (2007–2009) recently had its UK premiere as part of the Hayward Gallery’s “Infinite Mix” exhibition. The sound track for the film, performed by Sonic Youth, was recently released on vinyl by the Vinyl Factory in London.