2011: Joseph Burnett
The hardest-hitting Fall album since the early 1980s may also be their best in a decade. Mark E. Smith is in fine snarling form, whilst his vicious backing band channel The Stooges, Black Sabbath, krautrock and a bit of rockabilly to perfection. Long live The Fall.
Rambunctious, in-your-face jazz percussion descended from the school of Han Bennink is married to squalling noise on this brazen duo’s second self-titled album. A triumph of raucousness mixed with unexpected subtlety.
Two stalwarts of the U.K. dubstep scene combine to remind us just how great the genre can be, especially when it delves into darkly urban atmospheres and restrained, hypnotic melodies. Far from the brash technicolor vistas of the current scene, Pinch & Shackleton is stripped-down, ghostly and edgy, and is all the better for it.
Huge kudos to Stephen O’Malley for resurrecting this forgotten masterpiece of subterranean pre-Buddhist vocal drone. So dark and murky it could have been recorded at the bottom of a well, Trowo Phurnag Ceremony sounds like nothing else released this year.
Bill Orcutt’s solo work may be anchored in the blues, but its ferocious, unfettered intensity owes just as much to his background in hardcore noise rock. The inchoate vocals and machine gun acoustic guitar playing are exhilarating and exhausting.
Thoughtful electronic music at its best. Carsten Nicolai explores the juxtaposition and integration of techno beats with the universality of language, and how that impacts musicality and communication. It’s a cold, calculating project but (and this is key) univrs also packs some serious melodic punch.
Type Records continue to explore the darkest reaches of the human soul with this second album from Pat Maherr’s Indignant Senility project. Unfathomable sounds drift in and out of the soundscape, from intense drones, frightening samples, drifting melodic snippets and the omnipresent crackle of morose, broken-down vinyl. If you thought hypnagogic pop was getting twee, check out Consecration of the Whipstain.
The mysterious Eleh reworked his/her/their earliest vinyl pieces for the digital age, resulting in a titanic triple album of deep electronic drone, the kind that insinuates itself into every nook and cranny of the listener’s perception. Eleh’s music takes patience, but rewards it with music that will swallow you whole.
Vomir is quickly becoming a giant in the noise world through his intransigent approach to harsh noise walls. Application à aphistemi sees him break new ground, using a 12-string acoustic guitar on one track to create a fascinating widescreen wall of fierce drone. Meanwhile, the other track is trademark Vomir harshness, a brutal waterfall of overwhelming mulch.
The prolific Scotsman maintains his remarkable form of late on yet another album of glorious, haunting folk. His looped, echoing vocal is drenched in emotion, whilst his delicate guitar playing juxtaposes inventive style with gorgeous melodies. His best album since Sapphie.
Never anything less than brilliant, Matt Bower’s Skullflower project continues to push back the boundaries of noise and metal. Fucked on a Pile of Corpses is the band’s most extreme album in years, overflowing with crunching power electronics, transcendent wall noise and black metal-derived monster riffs.
Kuedo’s Jamie Teasdale transcends his dubstep roots to deliver a rapturous, hypnotic album of escapist futurism in electronic form, one that runs the gamut from Chicago house to trance-like synth music, via delirious coke rap-inspired beats and throbbing bass lines.
Since the ‘80s, Gordon Sharpe’s Cindytalk has been operating in the shadows of British popular music, from moody goth to adventurous electronica, but the trio of muted, thoughtful electronic albums released over the last few years on Editions Mego represent the summit of Sharpe’s unique vision, with Hold Everything Dear standing as its triumphant conclusion.
The best reissue of 2011. Surface of the Earth were a short-lived New Zealand act, and this, their second album, is an unrelenting masterpiece of clanking, thundering industrial drone, all performed on overdriven, mangled guitars. Dead C fans take notice.
Veteran noise legend Richard Ramirez delivers the ultimate statement in the harsh noise walls genre over four discs of brutal, overwhelming and unexpectedly haunting layers of unrelenting noise.
Essential triple album compiling the British duo’s three outstanding and ground-breaking 2010 LPs. Few bands are as adept as Demdike Stare in the creation of tense, mesmerising and atmospheric sample-based electronica.
For those of us who have been lamenting the demise of Yellow Swans, the emergence of Pete Swanson as a vital solo act has been a godsend. On Man With Potential, he takes the noisy drone central to YS’ aesthetic and marries it to warped techno beats, creating a furious strand of pulsating, noisy electronica.
There may be something simple in the heartfelt emotions explored in Leyland Kirby’s music, but that doesn’t stop it from being overwhelmingly powerful and resonant. Extended piano melodies drift in and out of clouds of drone, capturing the heart and stirring the soul.
Erstwhile power electronics legend, and supreme provocateur William Bennett breaks new ground with his Cut Hands project, creating a form of harsh mutant techno using a mixture of industrial noise and African percussion. One of the most ferociously challenging and weirdly sexy albums of the year.
Through Glass Panes approaches minimalism via the dusty sound of American Primitive music. Intense, drawn-out drones tug at the mind’s eye, eliciting dreams of endless prairies and forgotten landscapes. Fullman’s emotive use of long string instruments brings new depths to the minimalism of LaMonte Young, Pauline Oliveros and Tony Conrad.
By Joseph Burnett