Surf goes noir, elegiac reflection is everywhere, and Krautrock reverence continues to inspire.

 

No jostling or pushing at the back…you’ll get your chance! Order is set-out purely on a alphabetical basis. For full reviews of all these albums and EPs click on the accompanying cover image.

 

A Dancing Beggar ‘Follow The Dark As If It Were Light’ (Audiobulb) LP

Sagacious James Simmons traverses a stimulating indolent landscape.  Using a sparse accompaniment of quivering electric guitar, elegiac piano, and ethereal yielding vocals, he contemplates such poetic tragedy as the loss of life at sea, and unrelenting maelstroms.  Ludovic Morrin’s (Sigur Ros and Fleet Foxes) production aches plaint nods to Scott Walker and Brian Eno.

Atlas Sound ‘Parallax’ (4AD) LP

Bradford Cox turns esoteric crooner on his third lucid and travail imbued Atlas Sound oeuvre, ‘Parallax’. This time around the contemplative broody songs seem more accessible, though they still maintain an otherworldly presence. The specters of Joe Meek, George Harrison and Gene Vincent are all channeled into Cox’s own brand of 1950s/60s rich  melancholy.

Beach Boys ‘Smile’ (Capitol/EMI) LP/Boxset

The complete magnum-opus, and all its sessions, as it was meant to be heard: only forty-odd years later!


Beat Connection ‘Surf Noir’ (Moshi Moshi) EP

Laconic and succinct, yet lush and iridescent, Seattle’s soulful duo Beat Connection compose sophisticated grown-up surf pop. But that’s only half the story. They also set aside the caustic washes, and tremolo for an unabashed move to the 80s dance floor, on this infectious, and generously extended, EP.

Bix Medard ‘Take A Deep Breath’ (Altair Musik) LP

The odd Norwegian/Belgium couple Bix Medard, have produced one of 2011s most languorous records. Partly conceptual, partly recondite, the ‘nouvelle chanson Francoise’ tag only goes so far in describing their yearning Trip-hop sound.  Floating through slow jazz, Pola X era Walker and U-She, the amorous, and often strange, beguiling vocals and backing take time to infiltrate the listeners world.

Can ‘Tago Mago: 40th Anniversary edition’ (Spoon)

Re-mastered with previously unreleased live material, the anniversary edition is a welcome reminder of Can’s legacy and integral influence on music.


CANT ‘Dreams Come True’ (Warp) LP

Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor ascends into the vaporous realms of psychedelic-electro-soul with his solo debut ‘Dreams Come True’.  Entrancing laments and expeditions into space-blues melt from the speakers as Taylor comes across like a combination of Spaceman 3 and Prince.

Darren Hayman ‘The Ship’s Piano’ (Fortuna Pop!) LP

The unhurried and highly attentive poetic songs of former Hefner front man, Darren Hayman, are playful and insightful.  Like a reassuring hug his observational musings are acute, heartfelt, inspired and beautifully executed.  Quintessentially an English treasure, Hayman’s charm oozes from every deft gesture.

De Staat ‘Machinery’ (Cool Green Recordings) LP

The Dutch psycho-rockabilly 5-piece work the anvil hard; beating into the submission their B-52s-meets-Psychic TV-meets-Kellis template sound. Picking the bones out of the slaughterhouse, junkyard,  apocalyptic disco floor, and scene of a serial killers purge; De Staat produce an ‘unholy’ sweating primal howl catcalling opus.

Eleanor Friedberger ‘Last Summer’ (Merge) LP

Awkward indie syllable-jiggling and quick-witted chanteuse Eleanor Friedberger steps away from the Fiery Furnace family business to release her inaugural solo effort. It’s pop but not as we know it; as Eleanor’s autobiographical swansong to New York is delivered with ponderous majesty. The sound of a straight-A Harved dropout playing around with a 70s musical sensibility.

Gregg Foat Trio, The ‘Dark Is The Sun’ (Jazzman) LP

Jazz pianist Greg Foat, composes a romanticized soundtrack to an imagined 60s futuristic backdrop. Imbued with all the finery of Michel Legrand, Alain Goraguer and Roy Budd; ‘Dark Is The Sun’ looks to the past and pauses before venturing forward.

John Foxx and the Math ‘Interplay’ (Metamatic) LP

Pioneering British synth magi and founder member of Ultravox, John Foxx needs few favors when it comes to honoring his impact on modern electronic music. Collaborating with electro wiz-kid The Maths, Foxx revitalizes his past conquests, wallowing in a souped-up backing of retro-Moog triggered flights of fantasy and cyborg beats. ‘Interplay’ evokes the spirits of Cluster, Cabaret Voltaire and The Normal, whilst also having a whole load of fun.

Lach ‘Ramshackle Heart’ (Song, By Toad Records) LP

Lach the Anti-folk founder and cat-calling scion of Dylan, enjoys rattling a few cages with his grizzled gnarling spit. With Slowdive’s Neil Halstead as a foil he charts a distinct path through the territory of Warren Zevon, Loudon Wainwright III and Patti Smith. ‘Ramshackle Heart’ is a befitting middle-aged cynics eulogy to love.

Land Observations ‘Roman Roads’ (Enraptured Records) EP

Alias of former Krautrock apostles, Appliance, James Brooks’ environment surveying new moniker allows for a more meditative and transient sound pallet. Adopting the Roman roads of the UK, and the history that comes with it, for inspiration; Brooks composes pastoral motorik passages using only guitar loops and effects. A fleeting taster for 2012s full album, this 3-track EP traverses the haunted soundscapes of Eno & Fripp, Takomia and The Durutti Column.

Lowland Hundred, The ‘Adit’ (Hunded Acre Recordings) LP

Climbing the versant coal face, literally, Paul Newland and Tim Noble amplify the “derelict mines” and empty “mountain roads” of a landscape they held dear. A statement or plaintive observation on the absence of toil and labour in the landscape, ‘Adit’ is an ambitious poetic ‘hauntologist’ opus that takes its cues from Robert Wyatt and Talk Talk.

Lykke Li ‘Wounded Rhymes’ (Atlantic) LP

Spector-epic panavision backing and melancholic swooning tones shake with effulgence brilliance. Like a Nordic Bat for Lashes fronting the Crystals. Another album I never had time to review unfortunately.

Matthew David ‘Outmind’ (Brianfeeder) LP

A white-noise static, and cross air-wave broadcasting soundtrack to the recondite buzz of a wired L.A; Matthew David’s eavesdropping transmissions prove engaging. Unrelenting magnetic swells crash upon the ‘musique concrete’ sidewalks, whilst attempts are made to forge a melodic raft for the listener to grab a hold of. Dogbite, Niki Randa and, fellow noise sorcerer, Flying Lotus all make appearances on this ever-probing collage of sound debris.

Mazes ‘A Thousand Heys’ (Fatcat) LP

Sun-kissed power-chord pop from Manchester that sounds more at home on the American college radio stations of the 80s. Laconic wit and new wave cool aloof, but smart, vocals and melodies take us on a fond regression back to our childhoods, or poke fun at the present vampire craze. Like the English cousins of Weezer – when they were worth writing about – Mazes goofball around, yet produce an evocative, infectious album of treats.

Moon Duo ‘Mazes’ (Souterrain Transmissions) LP

The Wooden Shjips duo of Riply Johnson and Sanae Yamada go west on a magical carpet ride, under the persona of the Moon Duo. Ether evaporating vocals probe an acid-fueled indulgent backing of countless swirling psychedelic and Krautrock influences. Sounds like the Royal Trux sharing a lift with Hawkwind on the road from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.

Panda Bear ‘Tomboy’ (PawTracks) LP

Noah Lennox’s congruous Delphic hymns once again prove hallucinatory inexorable and venerable. Inspired in part by his move to Portugal, the follow-up to ‘Person Pitch’ delivers a more exotic hotbed of undelinated suffused musical worship.

Rain Kings ‘Ghost Songs’ (iblametheparents) EP

Nordic drone and distortion ‘eye-shaking king’ Gustav Hadin records his communions with the spirit world onto a cheap cassette deck. What at first sounds like a conceptually ropey d.i.y method, in practice becomes a heavy-trip outpouring of prog, shoegazing and ethereal Krautrock that rolls around in the dirt with the Spaceman 3, Jesus and the Mary Chain, and Led Zepplin – an unholy alliance indeed.

Trent Miller & The Skeleton Jive ‘Welcome To Inferno Valley’

 

(BucketfulofBrains) LP

Of course it’s only logical that one of the best authentic revisionist troubadours and observers of the old American west is from…oh, Italy! Forget Sergio Leone’s take, Trent Miller, under darkened skies, morosely travels a macabre dusty road through an imagined Gothic landscape. With the rich timbre of experience, his paeans, balleds and odes take us back to a more lawless epoch.

Various ‘Bambara Mystic Soul: Raw Sound Of Burkina Faso 1974-79’  (Analog Africa) LP

Our favorite purveyor of the recondite, forgotten and lost treasures of Africa, Samy Ben Redjeb unearths some ethereal soul from an untapped part of the continent.  Its a shame I never got around to reviewing it, as this LP is one of my top picks of the year.

Zacht Automaat ‘We Can’t Help You If We Can’t Find You’ LP

Canadian omnivorous musical improvisers, Zacht Automaat are truly the bastard offspring of Krautrock. Rather then carbon copy the blueprint of such notable luminaries as Ash Ra Temple, Cluster and Faust they instead throw out the rules and ignore everyone else; producing minor opuses of indolent building fantastical voyages into the outer limits.


Dominic Valvona.

4 Responses to “Choice Picks of 2011”

  1. Jason Parkes said

    Nice selection – shall have to check out some of those titles I’m otherwise unfamiliar with….

  2. […] CD review – Bix Medard “Take A Deep Breath” by Dominic Valvona for GIITTV zine.The odd Norwegian/Belgium couple Bix Medard, have produced one of 2011s most languorous records. Partly conceptual, partly recondite, the ‘nouvelle chanson Francoise’ tag only goes so far in describing their yearning Trip-hop sound. Floating through slow jazz, Pola X era Walker and U-She, the amorous, and often strange, beguiling vocals and backing take time to infiltrate the listeners world. https://monolithcocktail.wordpress.com/choice-picks-of-2011/  […]

  3. […] composer Tim Noble (one half of the Monolith Cocktail most favored ‘outdoors hauntologist’ The Lowland One Hundred) to opine on his attentive suite. Rather than offer comments, Noble got stuck in and […]

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