I'm not really obsessive about lists and I make no claims that this list is definitive or even fair in any sense, because I know I'll continue to discover new 2008 albums for the next several decades. This is just a short list of albums that I liked from this year and that would be my picks right now, as of 29 December. It's mostly drone/ambient stuff, because that's mostly what I listened to in 2008 (my 2007 list was almost all hip-hop, and with pretty clean production no less).
I will say that the most important release of 2008 is the Gas reissue box Nah Und Fern, but it was ineligible for this list since all the material was originally released 1997-2000.
Nachtmystium, Assassins - Black Meddle Part 1
This album has been shit on a bunch by black metal people, for the same reasons that it's getting praised by everyone else. It's a self-conscious attempt at a proggy, psychedelic and accessible black metal, which is not a new idea, but is hard to do. This album pulls it off pretty well as long as you don't expect it to sound either like Burzum or Pink Floyd. It certainly stayed in rotation longer than 2008's biggest brutal black metal album, Pyha.
You should be able to find or order this in brick-and-mortar stores. That's where I got it.
James Ferraro, Last American Hero, Adrenaline's End
That's not the correct cover art up there, I couldn't find a large resolution image and just picked something else instead. James Ferraro is one of the more prolific members of The Skaters and his solo work is among the best associated with the group. Last American Hero, Adrenaline's End stands out because it's a long, complete jam, whereas most of his releases are short EPs that end just as they've begun. This one really allows you to get involved in the weird textures and jams. Recommended if you dug the Lamborghini Crystal release posted a couple days ago.
You can get this and other Skaters releases from distributors like Volcanic Tongue and Forced Exposure. Unfortunately it seems to be a bad idea to buy anything from Ferraro directly, since he's notorious for ripping people off and getting them to buy albums that don't exist from bullshit catalogs.
I waited four months to hear this album, since it was late in shipping and I ended up leaving the country before it arrived at my house. It didn't disappoint when I got it. This isn't really too different stylistically from the dozens of other albums in the (VxPxC) discography, though it is one of the better things they've done.
Buy this and more (VxPxC) direct from the band at www.vxpxc.com.
Ulaan Khol, I
Ulaan Khol is the latest solo guitar noise project from Stephen R. Smith, who's been a fixture of the psych-folk scene for about a decade. This album is the first in what is going to be a trilogy (II was also released this year and is also good). It's really bleak but really great, especially near the end.
You can get this from Forced Exposure.
The Goslings, Occasion
Shit's just massive, destroys.
Get it from a brick-and-mortar store.
Fabio Orsi & Valerio Cosi, We Could For Hours
Fabio Orsi has amassed a huge discography over the last two years. Why? Because usually when he goes, he goes for hours. But like with a lot of ambient/drone/noise/experimental musicians, I think a lot of his best work comes out in collaborations, like in last year's Muddy Machines with Gianlucca Becuzzi, or this great album with saxophonist Valerio Cosi. Awesome and innovative drone from some of the best new minds in the genre.
Get it direct from Fabio through his myspace.
The Legendary Pink Dots, Plutonium Blonde
2008 was a pretty good year for veteran freakshows. Weirdo bands that have been around for years -- The Residents, Laibach, Acid Mothers Temple, to name a few -- released really good albums, though for the most part they didn't stick out enough from the whole discography or sound fresh enough to compete with newer artists. The Legendary Pink Dots are the exception, because Plutonium Blonde is some of the best LPD I've heard. It starts off with that sort of goofy darkness the band is famous for on "Torchsong" and reaches its drugged out peak with "Faded Photograph" and the pseudo-spoken word of "An Arm And A Leg." Even the spacey pop of "My First Zonee" sounds more badass the more you listen to it, and more interesting.
download part1, part2
Buy it in a store.
A.M, Rag Red Reverie
Antony Milton just hit the nerve this year with Rag Red Reverie, which separates itself from his other work and from the rest of this year's guitar noise releases with a good idea and a really unexpected sound. This album combines guitar shredding, bass distortion and the effects of cheesy 90s rave music in a really good way. After I first got it I listened to it daily for at least a week.
download part1, part2
Buy it from Antony Milton through his label PseudoArcana.
tpot's Top Eight of 2008 12/29/2008
Donald Byrd - A New Perspective (1963) 12/28/2008
Trumpet player Donald Byrd working with a gospel choir to create a truly unique and very soulful kind of space-jazz. "Cristo Redentor" is especially moving. This has got to be one of my most-listened jazz albums ever.
A New Perspective (1963)
Curtis Mayfield - Curtis (1970) 12/28/2008
For years the only Curtis Mayfield I really listened to was the soundtrack to Superfly, which is how I imagine it is for a lot of people these days. I've only recently started to delve into and be amazed by the incredible wealth of strong material he produced, both solo and with the Impressions. 1970's Curtis is his first solo album (came out before Superfly) and really the logical place to start. If there's hell below . . .
Fushitsusha - Origin's Hesitation (2001) 12/27/2008
Other than the two massive "Double Live" albums, this is my favorite Fushitsusha recording. Keiji Haino started his psych-noise power trio in 1978, but they didn't release any material until 1989. Their voracious touring, unapologetically difficult music and the legendary stature of Haino himself as a solo musician has made the band maybe the most important in the Japanese underground since Les Rallizes Denudes. On Origin's Hesitation, the trio is cut to a duo, with Haino on drums and Yasushi Ozawa on bass. Both provide vocals, and although the album starts off with a droney guitar-fuzz chant, it spends the remaining hour channeling Ruins or Derek Bailey. The drums and bass on this are totally beyond human understanding, and the grunts and cries you hear on the record can't possibly be coming from human beings. A grower for sure.
You can buy this and a whole universe of other obscure Japanese psychedelic gems from PSF. They've been doing this a long time.
Origin's Hesitation (2001)
This stuff has been melting my mind all week. Lamborghini Crystal is one of the million side-projects associated with the experimental group The Skaters, which I've avoided for a long time because I'm already obsessed with enough groups with huge discographies. But good music has won out and now I can't stop. Great lo-fi ambient with a lot of weird samples and 8-bit textures and soundtrack kitsch (not the cheesy 8-bit of stuff like Crystal Castles or E-Pro Beck; this is just as cheesy, but in a whole different universe altogether). Truly bizarre and incredible.
Dial 747-Creepozoid (2007)
Amebix - Arise! (1985), Monolith (1987) 12/23/2008
Amebix - Arise!
Amebix - Monolith
The godfathers of crust punk. Galloping, grimy english punk/metal with an experimental bent, played by homeless, jobless, bottom-of-the-barrel gutter punks. Influenced by Killing Joke and Motorhead. Not familiar? Your life has been meaningless up until this point.
After two decades out of commission... this ancient punk band has gotten back together for a reunion tour, and is coming to the USA. This is even more unlikely than the second coming.
AMEBIX - 2009 TOUR DATES
Jan. 22 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent Theater*
Jan. 23 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent Theater**
Jan. 24 - Austin, TX @ Emo's***
Jan. 25 - San Fransisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall^
Jan. 27 - Seattle, WA @ Neumos^^
Jan. 29 - New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom^^^
Jan. 30 - Boston/Providence @ [to be announced]$
Jan. 31 - Philadelphia, PA @ Starlight Ballroom$$
* w/ Doomsday Hour
** w/ Annihilation Time, Book Of Black Earth, Amala Sangre
*** w/ Severed Head Of State, Sub Oslo, Deskonocidos
^ w/ Annihilation Time
^^ w/ Tragedy, Mass Grave, Meisce
^^^ w/ Kylesa, Thought Crime, Attake
$ w/ Kylesa, Morne
$$ w/ Kylesa, Mischief Brew, Behind Enemy Lines, Parasytic, Lost Cause
The Rise - Signal To Noise (2002) 12/20/2008
Remember the Refused? In 1998 they made "The Shape of Punk To Come," an album that mixed punk with electronica, jazz, spoken word and other bullshit. It was really awesome, but they decided to break up before they even released the damn thing.
Well, The Rise tried to keep that dream alive. This album came out a few years later,blatantly aping the Refused. You can actually listen to this album and think "Ah okay, this part is supposed to be like 'New Noise'... and this part is 'Bruitist Pome #5'."
Not to say this album isn't good. It's pretty great. In fact, I'd say these guys have more talent when it comes to the techno-y parts. Where the Refused just threw in everything they could do, The Rise seems to actually know a bit about the genre, with glitchy beats, repeating samples, vocal fuck ups, and other flourishes the Refused did not use. However, when it comes to the actual guitar riffs, the Refused blow these guys out of the water.
The vocals are a little sissified for a hardcore album. The guy just has a weak scream. But it sorta fits. This isn't a album designed to bring the br00t mosh, it's a headphones album, just like "The Shape of Punk To Come"
Youtube 1 (note the emo-haired revolutionaries... lol)
This spoken word edition of Fear and Loathing came out two years before the movie, and it's a much more loyal rendition. Features the voice of Jim Jarmusch, of all people, as the young Hunter S. Thompson (Harry Dean Stanton plays the older HST telling the story). It retains the unpredictability of the novel in a way no movie ever could. Recommended.
Download it: part1, part2
Kino (Кино, "Movies") was probably the most important band in the USSR in the 1980s, and, for better or for worse, they had a greater impact on the sound of modern Russian pop-rock than anyone else. The closest Western reference point is probably the Smiths; most of the songs sound somewhat mournful, but not bitter. The most visible member of the band is unquestionably the lead-singer Victor Tsoy, who became Russia's greatest dead rock star when he died in a car accident in 1990 (he fell asleep while driving).
These three albums are my favorites out of the sizable Kino discography; as a whole these three albums are pretty even to me, but my favorite song from the band by far is the title-track from Blood Type.
Gruppa Krovi / Blood Type (1988)
Zvezda po imeni Solntse / A Star Called The Sun (1989)
Chernij Albom / The Black Album (1990)
John Cale - the Island trilogy (1974-5) 12/14/2008
Discerning music fans know that John Cale's solo career post-VU is better and more consistent than Lou Reed's. He never recorded anything as a solo artist that approaches the masturbatory radicalism of Reed's Metal Machine Music, but his punk effort Sabotage/Live is roughly on par with Reed's Street Hassle (to be fair, SH came out a full year earlier) and Cale handily beats Reed in every other period and every other album. The logical median-point for his solo output is the three albums he recorded for Island in 1974 and 1975, which contained a good measure more darkness and paranoia than his first couple solo albums, but didn't quite reach Sabotage/Live's zenith of nihilism. They were recorded with an all-star cast of musical collaborators, including Brian Eno. High points: Cale's psychotic vocal performance singing lyrics like "I'll do it right now, right now, you FASCIST!" on "Leaving It Up To You"; the incomprehensibility of "Cable Hogue," which just works; the cover of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel," dripping with evil after Cale had caught his wife in an affair; the sinister proto-sludge of "Guts," in which Cale fantasizes about killing his wife's lover ("shot him all over the living room floor like parrot shit").
Slow Dazzle (1975)
Helen Of Troy (1975)
This was #9 on my top-albums list for 2007. Giuseppe Ielasi is a rare ambient artist in that he creates extremely original and carefully textured soundscapes without losing a sense of rhythm. I don't know much about Nicola Ratti, but he apparently played guitar in a math-rock band until 2004; since that time he has characterized his musical endeavors as an effort to create a new language of expression. This album is a great success for both of them, drawing elements of ambient, musique-concrete and psychedelic into a cohesive whole.
They really channel Gas on the final track, which is a good thing.
This CD is out-of-print, but usually you can get albums by these artists at BoomKat.
Muslimgauze - Izlamaphobia (1996) 12/12/2008
Sprawling hip-hop-influenced album with a lot of really dirty, glitchy beats. High points are tracks like "Najibullah Headless" and "The Public Flogger Of Lahore," but it remains a pretty consistently high standard of quality for a double album. This is the CD reissue which includes four tracks left off the LPs.
part1, part2, part3
As I said when I posted the proper albums of EN's 80s material, the band mellowed significantly for the 90s and 00s, although they retained their experimental edge and their tendency to invent new instruments or make use of unusual sounds. This material, taken as a whole, is just as strong as the anarchic madness they recorded in their early years; it just appeals to a different mood.
Neubauten has also been extremely innovative in distribution methods throughout the oughts, running three successful Subscribers-only series through their website neubauten.org, as well as the experimental series Muesterhaus. I haven't included any of the subscription-only releases here, except for Jewels, which was released digitally in 2006 and 2007 and was given a general CD reissue this year.
In my opinion Perpetuum Mobile is the most varied of all these and the best place to start. Last year's Alles Wieder Offen is also a really strong effort. The only one of these that isn't that good is Ende Neu, because it's basically a compilation of rare tracks that was thrown together as an album to meet contractual obligations. Even that is worth getting for the songs though; it just doesn't feel complete as an album.
Tabula Rasa (1993)
Ende Neu (1996)
Silence Is Sexy (2000)
Perpetuum Mobile (2004)
Alles Wieder Offen (2007)
The Jewels (2008)
Cabaret Voltaire - The Crackdown (1983) 12/09/2008
Cabaret Voltaire was one of two bands that invented industrial music independently of each other in the mid-70s (the other Throbbing Gristle, also from England). The group was founded by Stephen Mallinder, Richard H. Kirk and Chris Watson, who started off experimenting with tape loops and broken analog equipment in their attic; later, Chris Watson quit the group to form The Hafler Trio and do solo work in ambient and field recordings. Kirk and Mallinder continued as CabVolt and eventually took the band into a more commercial direction, pioneering the dark electronic and dance music of the 80s and 90s. It is perhaps because of this that CV's reputation has suffered much more than that of Throbbing Gristle (which self-destructed early); their later albums were the link between the musique-concrete industrial of the early 80s and the laughably bad dance-metal industrial of the 90s. We shouldn't be too harsh on them, though; 1983's The Crackdown is probably the album most responsible for this, and it's evidence that this direction seemed a good idea at the time, or sounded like one. Dark synths, paranoid dance music. It's still pretty easy to laugh at it, but that doesn't mean it isn't good.
download: part1, part2
Muslimgauze book due next April 12/06/2008
A decade after his untimely passing, Bryn Jones, better known as Muslimgauze, left behind a staggering catalog of published and unreleased music that continues to be appreciated by dedicated fans as well as converts to industrial, techno, hip-hop, dancehall reggae, and dub-step styles. Jones was both prolific and controversial. Muslimgauze’s music highlighted the struggles of the Muslim world against the West, with the Palestine/Israel conflict as the focal point.
Ibrahim Khider spent several years researching and documenting this enigmatic artist. Muslimgauze: Chasing the Shadow of Bryn Jones contains interviews with close friends, collaborators, and family, as well as unpublished photos.
Available for preorder on Amazon.
In an amazing display of obscuro-music elitist nerd-dom, there's a petition in the works for a more expensive limited edition version of the book to be released for the real fans to fight over. Sign it.
People seemed to dig Sto Let Odinochestva, so here's the first album released by members of Grazhdanskaya Oborona under the Yegor & The Fuckups moniker. It's more psychedelic punk rock, perhaps a bit more straight-forward than Sto Let, with catchier hooks and less weird interludes. An exception would be the title track, a 9-minute monster, which features possibly the most psychotic vocal performance of Letov's career.
This album is only about half as long as Sto Let, so the 2005 reissue fills out the CD with 11 bonus tracks, mostly demo versions of songs that made it onto that 1992 album.
download: part1, part2
And here's a neat amateur video someone made for the fourth track, "About Little Worms":
Legendary second-wave industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten ("Collapsing New Buildings") was formed in Berlin in 1980 by Blixa Bargeld and N.U. Unruh. Originally conceived as some sort of performance art troupe (like a lot of other first- and second-wave industrial groups), the group later became famous for a relentlessly experimental approach to music that could utilize virtually anything as an instrument; liner notes credit members with such noisemakers as "amplified metal spring", "toy guitar", "power drill", and "presence." Although the band continues to produce music in this fashion now, in 2008, they underwent a significant mellowing-out at the end of the 80s, such that it makes sense to place a dividing line between the early and later years (more recent EN albums list instruments like "dry maple leaves"). This clip from Sogo Ishii's 1985 movie about the band will give you an idea:
My favorites of these are Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T. and Fuenf auf der nach oben offenen Richterskala, both of which are relatively subdued and make use of noise in a reserved, artful way. If you want to start with something with more typical rock song-structures, try Halber Mensch or the one with the ejaculating horse on the cover. The last album here, Kalte Sterne, is a 2004 compilation of tracks recorded between 1980 and 1982. It's inconsistent and very rough, showcases the band just fucking around as much as creating art, but some of the tracks stand with the best of their work.
You should order these directly from the band at neubauten.org; the band doesn't get any money from the versions sold in stores, at least in the US/Canada. You get better packaging and bonus tracks with the band's self-released editions too.
Kollaps / Collapse (1981)
Zeichnungen des Patienten O.T. / Drawings Of Patient O.T. (1983)
Halber Mensch / Half Man (1985)
Fuenf auf der Nach Oben Offenen Richterskala / Five on the Open-Ended Richter Scale (1987)
Haus der Luege / House of Lies (1989)
Kalte Sterne - early recordings - (2004)