PRINT December 2017

Music: Best of 2017

Cameron Jamie

1 AARON DILLOWAY, THE GAG FILE (Dais) Why do we obsess so much more over hallucinatory and mind-bending “bad trip” experiences than over good ones? Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in Dilloway’s latest masterwork of auditory trips, which sends the listener through a fun-house labyrinth of sound in search of The Gag File’s punch line.

Cover of Aaron Dilloway’s The Gag File (Dais Records, 2017).

2 ALICE COLTRANE, THE ECSTATIC MUSIC OF ALICE COLTRANE TURIYASANGITANANDA (Luaka Bop) This album collects the rare devotional ashram music that Coltrane recorded and self-released on cassettes during the 1980s and ’90s in California. Coltrane composed prayer songs and performed them with ashram singers and musicians, fusing gospel- and jazz-influenced vocals, synthesizer drones, and traditional Indian instrumentation to create ethereal, meditative music that achieves the highest degree of spiritual divinity.

Photographs of Alice Coltrane at the Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda event, Red Bull Music Academy Festival, Knockdown Center, New York, May 21, 2017. Photo: Ysanya Perez.

3 WILL GUTHRIE, PEOPLE PLEASER (Black Truffle) Percussionist extraordinaire Guthrie combines his drum patterns by chopping, screwing, and mixing irregular and raw beats with audio clips. He rhythmically blasts through an astonishing range of sounds—taken from skateboarding videos, barely audible dialogue, sirens, field recordings, distorted noise, ringing bells, and lo-fi church-choir singing—to form a remarkably layered field of percussive bliss.

4 I APOLOGIZE (MAC VAL, Vitry-sur-Seine, France, February 26) Artist Jean-Luc Verna led his band I Apologize through a set list that included several covers of songs performed in their signature darkwave/gothabilly sound. One of the highlights was a slow, downer melancholic rendition of “Anarchy in the UK,” which Verna performed along with a solo accordion player, prompting the audience to collectively reach for tissues to wipe away the tears.

5 LOS ANGELES FREE MUSIC SOCIETY, LAFMS BOX BOX (Box Editions) This beautiful behemoth of a box set from the West Coast giants of experimental and free-form music, contains thirteen vinyl LPs and a book. The recordings were made at a series of live performances held at the Box gallery in 2012 to commemorate an exhibition of the LAFMS’s fortieth anniversary. The megalist of bands that performed includes Le Forte Four, Dinosaurs with Horns, the Doo-Dooettes, Smegma, F for Ache, Airway, and Extended Organ.

One of thirteen cover details from the Los Angeles Free Music Society’s LAFMS BOX BOX (Box Editions, 2016).

6 JASSS, WEIGHTLESS (iDEAL Recordings) JASSS is DJ/sound artist Silvia Jiménez Alvarez, and her debut solo album feels like a spectrum of sound-energy shapes and forms moving from the inside out. Weightless explores deep and heavy trancelike industrial dance beats and dub echo-rhythm structures, pulsating and stretching into atmospheric sound chasms.

JASSS performing at Berlin Atonal, August 17, 2017. Photo: Helge Mundt.

7 CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE (Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, Paris, June 14) Palestine performed a stunning solo set on his piano, ritualistically decorated with colored fabric and surrounded by his stuffed-animal deities. At one point, he built up natural acoustic feedback through the sheer velocity of his piano strumming, bringing a lightness to our physicality, as if we were levitating off our seats.

8 Z. B. AIDS AKA VALERIE SMITH, MUSIC FOR IMPLANTATION (Premier Sang) Hendrik Hegray’s latest music project of pleasurably harsh ambient electronica is a well-mixed cocktail of jerky, oscillating patterns speeding up and slowing down into both brutal and subtle textural sound waves. Hegray unpredictably jumps in and out of sloppy synth beats while jabbing, bending, and banging bubbly distorted noise effects.

9 “AFRAID OF MODERN LIVING: WORLD IMITATION & MONITOR 1977–1982” (These Days, Los Angeles) World Imitation was a late ’70s collective of LA-based artists who created art exhibitions, zines, and, most famously, the legendary music group Monitor. Michael Uhlenkott, an original member of the group, brilliantly designed this exhibition (with curator Antonio Beecroft), which could have been mistaken for a mini science museum: Visitors were surrounded by sound installations, videos, wall diagrams, and display cases filled with odd ephemera, all offering a look inside the group’s musical legacy.

Cover of World Imitation’s Tesla-Rama, August 1978.

10 VIPER PIT, SNAKEBITE (Acid Bryan) Seven-inch debut of lo-fi crust punk from a Belgian rock trio with an incredible singer, who sounds like he’s literally both retching and belching out his guttural, gaseous, screaming vocals. I’m wondering whether the famous flatulist Le Pétomane, if he were alive to hear Viper Pit, might consider performing with his mouth after all.

Cameron Jamie is an artist living in Paris. Recent solo exhibitions of his work have been held at Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne; Bernier/Eliades Gallery, Athens; and Capri, Düsseldorf. He is a member of the music group Cannibal, whose latest album was released on Ultra Eczema.