Run for Cover (Michael Crumsho)
William Basinski – The River (Raster-Noton): A haze of loops and forgotten melodies from 1983 that still manages to sound better than a lot of his more digital, modern counterparts.
The Books - The Lemon of Pink (Tomlab): Somehow, inexplicably, I left Thought for Food off my list last year. But this ain’t no penance inclusion. The duo’s second disc is a more confident stroll through the same terrain of the debut, every bit as catchy and beguiling, but more focused and cohesive.
Cedric Im Brooks - The Light of Saba (Honest Jon’s): An essential smattering of tracks from all throughout this Sun Ra-inspired horn player’s career, ranging from straight-up roots, to funk and soul spliced with intricate polyrhythms.
Lightning Bolt - Wonderful Rainbow (Load): The obvious no-brainer - the Brians at their tightest and loudest yet.
Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers - Heroin (Orthlorng Musork): A clutch reissue adding a great disc of remixes to an essential, hard to find micro sound classic.
Jaylib - Champion Sound (Stone’s Throw): Two of the best producers in “the game” churn out one of the grimiest records in a long time. That is a very good thing.
SA Smash - Smashy Trashy (Def Jux): I like socially conscious, self-aware, far-out hip hop as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want to get drunk and pick a fight. I gather these two feel much the same way.
Pelt - Pearls from the River (VHF): The theatre of eternal hillbilly drone unplugs and takes it out to the front porch for a late night, late summer soundtrack.
Thuja - All Strange Beasts of the Past (Emperor Jones): Another great, low-key batch of earthly improvised pieces from an amazing Left Coast collective.
Supersilent - 6 (Rune Grammofon): At their most pensive, brooding, and at times oddly anthemic.
Deerhoof - Apple O’ (5RC/Kill Rock Stars): Not as far out as Reveille, but more cohesive and catchy.
Maher Shalal Hash Baz - Blues du Jour (Geographic/Domino): The Japanese duo with a rotating cast of supporting characters churns out another wonderful slice of naïve psychedelia.
Six Organs of Admittance - Compathia (Holy Mountain): Not Ben Chasny’s best, but still an inspired romp in a new and welcome direction.
Rhys Chatham - An Angel Moves Too Fast To See (Table of the Elements): A generous sampling of some of his best works - stark and beautiful all the same.
Various Artists - Wooden Guitar (Locust Music): Simple, but well played and basking in its own glow.
The Soft Pink Truth - Do You Party? (Soundslike): Prince isn’t so good anymore, but Drew Daniel softens that blow a bit. Also, props to the new Matmos record as well.
Califone - Quicksand/Cradlesnakes (Thrill Jockey): Oddball pop through a filter of cracked Americana and bent studio experiments. Sounds better than that, even.
Angels of Light - Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home (Young God): Doesn't quite scale the highs and lows of How I Loved You, but I'll take it.
Various Artists - DFA Compilation #1 (DFA): Okay, “Losing My Edge” and “House of Jealous Lovers” were straight-up 2002 shit, but I never owned the original twelves and the Rapture full-length was just so-so. The Black Dice tracks are worth having in any format, and the Juan MacLean’s contributions are fun. And “Silent Morning” is a surprisingly effective b-side.
Parts and Labor - Groundswell (JMZ): I was surprised at how much I loved this album, actually; it sticks off-hand melodies in the back of your head while throttling the front of it.
Do Make Say Think - Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn (Constellation): The first record of theirs that I’ve thought was truly, end-to-end brilliant.
Philip Jeck - 7 (Touch): I know this just came out, but I have a tendency to overlook stuff that falls in that pesky end-of-old-year/beginning-of-new-year gap. That and this sounds like Jeck’s warmest, most evocative, and most creative work to date.
Sightings - Absolutes and Noxagt - Turning It Down Since 2001 (Load): I enjoyed pretty much everything Load put out this year, but these two stick out the most. The trio from New York comes back their noisiest and most focused record to date, while the Norwegian three wed violin wails to stoner rock rhythms to excellent effect.
Prefuse 73 - One Word Extinguisher and Broadcast - HaHaSound (Warp): Same deal as above for Warp. Scott Herren’s newest is more schizo than his debut, but in a good way and Broadcast is always pretty great, in my opinion.
Khanate - Things Viral & Sunn O))) - White1 (Southern Lord): The former sounds like the ultimate soundtrack to a slow-motion stabbing, while the latter conjures images of drowning at half-speed in the North Atlantic during a hurricane.
Animal Collective - Here Comes the Indian & Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished/Danse Manatee (Paws Tracks and Fat Cat): The older stuff is better, but it’s all great regardless, pulling from an endless bag of “Syd Barrett playing with broken electronic equipment” tricks.
Jackie-O Motherfucker - Change & Wow!/The Magick Fire Music (Textile and ATP): The new disc showcases a more accessible (but no less enjoyable) side, while the double set revisits two of their finest formative moments.
And there's tons more, too, that I'll remember the second this is posted. I opted to leave off pretty much all major label stuff that I dug this year, partially because you'll hear about the good enough in weeks to come, but also because cats like, say, Pelt have promotional budgets that are grossly disproportionate to the amount of talent they exude.
As for other media, 28 Days Later and Lost in Translation were my two favorite movies, but admittedly, at $10-plus a ticket I don’t get out to the multiplex very often. I don’t have cable, but tapes of Da Ali G show nicely broke up extended periods of addiction to the collected Family Guy DVDs. All of which I watched, of course, when The O.C. wasn’t on. And if you want a good book to read, check out Matthew Derby’s perversely staggering Super Flat Times, which is one of the best collections of short stories I’ve ever read.
You now, I keep just wanting to sort of say, “2003 was a pretty rad year. Here’s a bunch of music I really liked. See ya!” But I can’t. I don’t know, but when I think of this year’s passing I can only kind of hope that 2004 is a little better for the numerous parties that all share our hot and salty planet. No, when I think of 2003, unfortunately, even though there were quite a number of wonderful, exemplary things that happened in one way or another, my thoughts keep drifting back to the obvious maladies that everyone I guess is sick of hearing/reading/seeing/living. I suppose most people probably come to Dusted for a welcome respite from the dearth of well-being so glaringly apparent in every media outlet. And as much as I enjoy both listening to and writing about music, I have to admit that it is among my most preferred forms of escapism, even when they can both at their most political. Anyway, “escapism”, as it were, has distinct and definite limits, none more so apparent than in the need to view a given year through the veil of musical expression. At its very core, music is an arm of culture, something entirely dependent on the auspices of society and is peoples, and as such in this particular year, as part of a sadly growing trend, it is nigh on impossible for me to separate my own personal tastes from the good, the bad, and the ugly of our current state of global affairs that inspired the need for them.
Basically, I listen to music a lot when I get all bummed out. I was pretty bummed for much of this year, actually.
There’s the obvious reasons, be it the redundant job you have, the frustrating job your roommate has with unequal compensation for the hassles, or the menial tasks that your friends are somehow not good enough to be employed at, despite the incessant reminders that the economy is recovering with a distinct lack of employment opportunities and a level of debt that would give Citibank a near fatal hard-on. Or perhaps it’s the feeling one gets from television, print, and internet news, always there to remind you each in its own sensationalistic way that your concept of a “shitty day” is way above someone else’s idea of a “banner fucking year.” Maybe it’s a war you never wanted, spinning off into casualties and body counts you screamed against, all at the behest of ideals you support (freedom, justice, and the like), but are pained to find a correlation between your own life and the practices undertaken to uphold them. Perhaps it’s the war you wanted, but under different pretenses and a more ideal outcome for all sides involved (regime change, democracy, and the like). Fear of outsiders. Fear of insiders. Fear of fleeting safety and happiness. Fear of fear.
As of this writing, we’ve captured Saddam Hussein, and yet I feel no more safety or pride in the acknowledgement of this accomplishment. Examining the scope of things, the length that brought us to this point and the distance left to travel, a sense of foreboding is still palpable as certain leaders prepare to trot this newest victory around in the hopes of eliminating any trace of public doubt. To me, it feels distinctly tokenized, as if far removed from the respectable ideals that anyone could choose to hold, as if being inserted into some shoddy linear narrative that serves only to capitalize on the emotions of the public. The coming year promises to bring much of the same, unfortunately, in a year in which many men (and hopefully a whole lot of women) will seek to gain public support from both voting bodies and the tacit (i.e. non-voters) alike. Obviously this fills me with a bit of trepidation seeing as our own basic desires can be so easily co-opted and spun off in directions that seem hard to imagine.
Since I can feel myself getting ready to ramble, I’ll wrap this up. The point of this magazine, in so far as I see it, is not to issue doctrine, but rather to try and instill a desire for listening and conscious decision-making of one’s own. We are at a point, however, where this necessity for sensory involvement establishes a link between our arts and different spheres of our society. In the end we all want the same things, be it a music that speaks to us or an ideology and a leader that aptly speaks for us. The only way to ever find either is to look around and make damn sure the things you surround yourself with are things you can consciously support and believe in at the end of the day, the result of a decision to evaluate something on multiple different levels and not just one simple perspective.
Yeah, I know, this is reaching into that "preachy bullshit" territory, but I'm panicking. I feel as though every year for the past few I've watched things get somewhat worse with my only recompense being a growing ability to make off-color jokes. I feel that I've only been kidding with regards to my actual desire for change measured against my will to carry it out. And I think that now is the right time to learn how to listen for meaning in other settings and divine a viable course of action. World leaders and major corporations should be working for us and not against, for it is our resources that allow them to function. One would be hard pressed to think of a time better suited for doing their best to remind them of that, and not just wallowing in cynicism while they fucking get away with it.
Seriously, are world peace and an Eagles’ Super Bowl victory too much to ask for? I think not.
By Michael Crumsho