Top 10 of 2013

Words: Christopher Laramee

Solaris OST

Eduard Artemyev – Solaris: Music From The Original Motion Picture By Andrei Tarkovsky (Superior Viaduct)

Finally available after years in the wilderness, this classic of hissing synth washes and choral madness is THE reissue of the year, no doubt. The best sci-fi soundtrack of all time.

I Am The Center

Various Artists – I Am The Center: Private Issue New Age Music In America 1950-1990 (Light in the Attic)

Light In The Attic continues to prove their steez as one of the best reissue labels on the planet. The beautiful packaging and the blasted drool contained in the grooves hits all the sweet spots. Essential if for no other reason than exposing folks to Michael Stearns’ jaw-dropping Planetary Unfolding album from 1985, this gem also includes heavy hitters from Iasos, Laraaji, and Constance Demby, amongst other treats. OMMMMMMM…….

7 Days of Funk

7 Days of Funk – 7 Days of Funk (Stones Throw)

Snoopzilla (nee-DOGG) and boogie king Dam Funk together for a whole album? YES PLEASE. This one fullfills all expectations easily and is Snoop’s best foot forward since Dre’s The Chronic 2001. Smooth? I’m still on the floor as I type this.

Hawkeyes

Hawkeyes – Poison Slows You Down (Meat Tooth Recordings And Snacks)

The four-guitar, bass and drums instrumental wall of fuck from Kitchener/Waterloo’s Hawkeyes made me breathe cement, and I liked it. Being epic and subtle with this much firepower at your disposal is a hell of a trick to pull off. Screw the stoner/doom tag, this is elemental ROCK of the highest order. Best thing to come out of Canada this year.

Ketamines

Ketamines – You Can’t Serve Two Masters (Mammoth Cave Recording Co. / Southpaw)

The other Canadian release that floated up above the rest was YCSTM. With more spit and snark from TO’s K-dawgs, this record’s a real clear shot of tunes, tunes and, yes, more tunes. If Hawkeyes made me breathe cement, these dudes made me inhale Scotchgard.

Carlton Melton

Carlton Melton – Four Eyes EP (Blackest Rainbow)

Oakland’s finest continue cloud-bursting on this four-song release for the great Blackest Rainbow label. Vistas. Smog. Glimpses of space through the streetlight. In a year when the word PSYCHEDELIC gets bandied about with worrying and unjustified frequency, here’s the real deal, people. HEADBANDS ON.

White Hills

White Hills – So You Are, So You’ll Be (Thrill Jockey)

The latest effort from the hardest working band in America didn’t blow me away on first listens, but lately it’s been stapled to the turntable. Building on their strengths and using the studio to maximum effect, this one just takes off like a motherfucker, with Dave W’s guitars shearing the speakers AND ears of the listener. “The Internal Monologue” is the best pure drone whirl anyone put out this year. Kudos!

The Ballasted Orchestra

Stars of the Lid – The Ballasted Orchestra (Kranky)

Speaking of drone, here’s one of the greatest albums of the last 20 years, tweaked and brought up to speed. Anyone who “likes” atmospheric music, head music, DRONE stuff, if you don’t have this one already, well, check your papers. Don’t wanna Dad anyone, but come on, get with it! Your third eye will thank you!

The Cult of Dom Keller

The Cult Of Dom Keller – The Cult Of Dom Keller (Mannequin)

This one is a compilation of tracks from previously released CD-Rs. What really gets me is how well it hangs together as an album listen. The Cult Of Dom Keller is the best thing, along with Mugstar, Hookworms and precious few other groups, that the UK has issued forth in awhile. Their thing involves a dark and distorted wall of sound that doesn’t forget a certain melodic sense, while simultaneously making you realize most of the boring shit-gaze currently making the rounds is, well, shit. Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3, et al, yeah, everyone’s doing it these days, but none anywhere near the quality these gents have. Buy now.

Krang Rats

Krang – Rats Flying Planes (Self Released)

Duane Allman fucks with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop? A chance meeting of an eagle and a spaceship on a McDonalds rooftop? All this and more, my friends. Two tracks of hard broom-age that mos def make those cold prairie nights a little more tolerable. Hell, they’ll do it for you wherever you hang your hat. I smell their sweat on my tape.

Pure Pleasure :: Six releases, old and new, that punched my ticket this year

Words: Christopher Laramee

White Hills – The new lords of space rock

Carlton Melton
Photos of Photos
Agitated Records
2012

This San Franciscan three piece came out of nowhere (for me) and blew my head clean off. Spaced synthscapes and burnt riffs for days, these guys up the ante and stand out in a BIG way in a scene crowded with delay-soaked longhairs. Check out their back catalogue for more sublime raunch. John McBain (Monster Magnet) plays, and also mixed and mastered the thing. DO NOT IGNORE THIS ONE!

Pharoah Sanders
Karma
Impulse
1969

This one’s been in my racks for a couple of years and I never gave it a proper listen. My mistake. The true post-Coltrane godhead of reed-destroying madness, Karma surprises with some quiet, interstellar passages, and Leon Thomas’ scat/spoken narrative guiding you through the storm of rattled percussion and hot tongues. Pure pleasure, from start to finish.

The Chinese Restaurants
River of Shit 7″
S.S. Records
2010

Wow. That was my first response. Props to my man Ben for the tip on this one (and Carlton Melton). Along with the Soggy 2LP reissue, this is one of the best PURE rock releases in quite some time. Lo-fi? Yup. Noisy as all fuck? Sorted. Obama samples? Check. Now, do we got a song which is a straight version of THEM’s “Gloria” with new lyrics called “Queen of the Skanks”? Absolutely, my friend! What are you still doing reading this?

Curtis Mayfield
There’s No Place Like America Today
Curtom Records
1975

Can’t quit this one. An under-appreciated classic if there ever was one. A reflection of mid ’70s urban decay and collapse that only lets in some light occasionally, this album should be as revered as Marv’s What’s Going On. Stark as daylight drums rise from the floorboards and try to pull you down with them. Down where, you ask? Down to hell, bro. And guess what? It’s just a few blocks down the road. As topical today as it was then.

The Men
Immaculada
Self-Released
2010

Just got this one a few weeks ago. I sure dig the two records that came after, but this one pulls my goalie in a real wicked way. Hmmm, let’s see what comes to mind. Black Flag circa My War, uh, Boston’s lost heroes The Swirlies, some KARP, and uh, well let’s just say there’s a bit of amplifier abuse happening here. The second song “Problems/Burning Up” kills the lights and goes for the lapels with a LOT of subway swagger. Worth checking for that one alone.

White Hills
Frying on this Rock
Thrill Jockey
2012

The new lords of space rock come correct yet again. I find it disgustingly strange that this band has yet to break the whole fuckin’ scene wide open and be hailed as the King and Queen they rightly should be. I guess being one of the top live acts in the world and putting out ROCK MASTERWORKS with alarming regularity doesn’t count for shit these days. Mark my words, when that douchebag from KINGS OF LEON (I dunno, you pick which one…) is drooling in his own barf behind a Denny’s dumpster a few years from now, these fine folks will be in their crystal palace recording concept albums about Rasputin rising from the dead or something like that. That’s the world I want to live in.

Tunes from the Crypt :: Earth – Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions

Words: Christopher Laramee

Earth – Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions (Sub Pop) – 1995

This album contains eight songs spread across two 12”s, clocks in at 55:04 and was released in 1995 (as stated above). Now that we got the technical shit out of the way, let’s get on with it. Dylan Carlson, for all intents and purposes the leader/sole constant member since Earth’s inception in 1989, has never quite slotted easily into any movement or genre construct, preferring to light out for distant territories when the mood strikes him. Not to say that his path is that of a willful polymath, veering wildly from genre to genre, but he has been known to confuse those listeners who have stuck it out for the long haul (myself included).

Yes, Dylan has been excavating a very clear path throughout all the albums and EPs released under the Earth banner these past 23 years: a very American and maverick path encompassing basic riff-rock, mind-bending drone, cosmic country / British folk-based excursions and an always straight ahead, clear-eyed vision of where he and his band are going, all other considerations be damned. In other words, he is a visionary and an all too rare example of a recording artist and performer whose career, to me, seems like an extension of one long thought or idea, bending into the horizon before settling again back at the beginning, always lucid, always entrancing.

So let’s dispense with the backdrop surrounding the creation of this album, most notably his friend Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Dylan is admittedly the one who bought the shotgun used in Kurt’s final act, with a debilitating heroin addiction of his own that he eventually kicked, the physical effects of which still mar him to this day. Yet throughout the drama of his personal life, the music was always there, heavy as a sun-baked desert floor and simultaneously ascending to stratospheric heights rarely heard, as best experienced on this album.

Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions, along with the previous Earth 2, have been largely held up as the starting points of Drone Metal, a sketchy classification at best. Turgid Sabbath-inspired riffs gliding on repetitive overtones that aim to obliterate the listener in an ecstatic glory. True. Sleep’s Holy Mountain and the mythic Jerusalem being another tandem of recordings which also unintentionally sparked DM, all gaggles of stoned young men with Orange amplifiers bigger than a house trying to bum rush Heaven. Righteous! (Really!)

Earth’s genius on this album involves the marriage of that truly invigorating thrill of blown-out amplified teenage riffage melting into raw, untempered snarling drone. It feels a lot closer to La Monte Young, another pioneer in durational music and overtone and an admitted influence on Carlson. On the song “Tibetan Quaaludes”, the swell and richness of the sustained notes have an orchestral feel of Debussy arranging the finale of a particularly violent Stooges gig, all heat and flash. No center left, sound exploding all at once. It strikes me as exceptional that this album took its shape and form by the simple removal of drums from the equation. And on certain parts, such as the sidelong “Phase 3: Agni Detonating Over The Thar Desert…”, it sounds like a recording of surf ran through a dirty phaser pedal, and the 12:28 running time seems to stretch much longer than that. This is unrelenting, speaker-ripping noise signalling that we have left the main road and WE ARE ON OUR OWN. Stellar and wicked.

That Earth have not been approached to score a film is an injustice that needs to be rectified ASAP. An obvious thing to point out, I know. As one of the most “cinematic” (cringe!) groups operating right now, it should be a no-brainer. Especially with a back catalogue of amazing tunes to plunder, the line-up should be down the block. Your loss, filmmakers. My number one song on this record, “Thrones And Dominions”, paints the most beautiful scene of faded grandeur, an epic evocation of rusted, abandoned factories bowing down into polluted stank rivers. Overgrowth swallowing ambition. The rustling of an unquiet night fallen once more. You get the picture. Shit’s heavy, but gorgeous to boot.

Thanks Dylan! This album just gets better as I get older. And that’s all you can really ask for, eh?

Tunes from the Crypt is a semi-regular feature on Texture with a rotating cast of writers. Its aim is to unearth overlooked, forgotten or little-known musical artifacts, found in the dusty discount or used bins of record shops, your cool uncle’s attic, church bazaars, garage sales, so-called ‘alternative channels’ or simply hiding in plain view on the Internet.

Tunes from the Crypt :: Flipper – Blow’n Chunks

Words: Christopher Laramee

Flipper – Blow’n Chunks (ROIR) 1984 / Reissue: 2001

Despite being consistently labeled a “hardcore” band by dint of association of the scene they grew out of and the bands they played with around the San Francisco area in the late ’70s/early ’80s, Flipper were one of those one-off anomalies the universe likes to throw up every once in awhile.

When I first encountered the band years ago on a Henry Rollins compiled retrospective on his short lived Infinite Zero imprint, my first reaction was balls out laughter. “They can’t be serious,” I giggled to myself as I scanned through the CD. Zig-zagging atonal guitar lines smashing head long into a wildly careening rhythm section, topped off with a particularly vicious vocal spew concerning liquor, drugs, bubble gum sex, the status quo, more drugs and nihilism, nihilism, nihilism. Fun, eh? I filed the disc away, only occasionally pulling it out to hear my favorite Flipper jam, “Sacrifice”, a song I always gravitated towards for its unholy dirge tempo, akin to a collapsing galaxy, the whipping-a-slave Bruce Lose vocal decrying war as society’s validation of itself, an animalistic self hatred turned outwards. If I had to offer a starting point for the Flipper experience, this would be it.

But anyways, flash forward a few years later, I spy a used copy of this disc and seeing that it had a live version of “Sacrifice” on it, decided to pick it up. And, hey, it was only five bucks to boot. And now I get it. Big time. Like the donkey laughter of a drunken idiot god raining down on a stupefied, dumbed down world, Flipper honestly reflect everything: the pathos, love, stupidity, humour, hopelessness, hope of this insignificant little spinning acorn we call home.

Yeah, tall words, I know, but the coat fits in this case. Check the track “If I Can’t Be Drunk” for confirmation. This sort of retard roar is surely some kind of bastard genius, naysayers be damned. Any groop that can pull off a Wagnerian swoop of molasses stomp like this deserves a lifetime achievement forever award. “Falling apart” doesn’t do justice to what goes down here. This is Bukowski at his drunkest jammin’ with The Who on downers. Someone randomly firing a rifle into nothing, nothing shoots back, nobody wins. One could posit this song as a endgame of sorts for ROCK in general, if one were willing. I’m not.

So I could go on and on, such is my love for this warm beast. Just check it out. Oh, and there’s also a whole lotta love going on with Flipper. They have love, laughter, ice-cold beer and so much more.

Tunes from the Crypt is a semi-regular feature from the previous incarnation of Texture with a rotating cast of writers. Its aim is to unearth overlooked, forgotten or little-known musical artifacts, found in the dusty discount or used bins of record shops, your cool uncle’s attic, church bazaars, garage sales, so-called ‘alternative channels’ or simply hiding in plain view on the Internet.