Amoeblog


My Promiscuous Cochlea: Everyone My Ear Took Home in 2014

Posted by Mark Beaver, January 8, 2015 05:33pm | Post a Comment


Vinyl isn't cheap, nor is is tawdry, so the collecting of it has become much more a matter of discernment than it used to be.

The following is a list, alphabetical, perchance by merit, of the vinyl (new titles and re-issues) that made the cut in 2014. It doesn't presume to be a "Best Of," as I am very aware of the peculiarities of my particular set of listening apparatuses. It is a list of the vinyl that my scattershot attention locked on to, brought home and allowed to bed down in the limited space that I allot for records in my home.


amen dunes love sacred bones





































AMEN DUNES
Love (Sacred Bones)

Folky, trippy, with that under-water production we've heard from the likes of KURT VILE, except where VILE is stoned and hanging with his buddies, AMEN DUNES' Damon McMahon is lost in a vast open space, deep in the mushroom and calling "Marco Polo" to the night sky. Stark and brittle while somehow managing to remain lush. I don't think I listened to any album of 2014 as often as I've listened to this.

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AMON DÜÜL II
Yeti (Purple Pyramid Records)

Do we need another re-issue of one of the landmark achievements, one of the single-most definitive artifacts of Krautrock? Well, sure. And if, just if, it were to be re-issued with a lenticular cover and deep blue vinyl that sounds, well, just terrific. Hells yes! The most expensive piece I laid out for this year (#375 of a limited edition of only 500!), but absolutely worth it!

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APHEX TWIN
Syro (Warp)

What is there to be said? It's been a long wait for another AT release and it was well worth it. Alternately playful, serious, clubby, experimental. Elements of rave culture snuggling shoulder-to-shoulder with 21st Century composition. Fun for thinkers.

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VASHTI BUNYAN
Heartleap (DiCristina)

The crush of the modern world requires Vashti Bunyan. Her music is salve, balsam, emollient.  She skirts the edges of twee but the weight of her sheer, simple musicality pinions her into the real. Repeated listenings have locked Heartleap in as my favorite of her releases to date, and, sadly if her claims are true, the last.

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COH
To Beat Or Not To Beat (Editions Mego)

There's very little to be found regarding the name(s) behind this mysterious Russian(?) electronica imprint. The music is playful and spooky in the way that only experimentalists with a toe on the dance floor seem able to do. "eena ferroix" is my stand-out track, a slow build like a soundtrack to a horror movie in which Kraftwerk come back as zombies and shuffle a path of destruction through Algiers. Side D features a Ryuichi Sakamoto remix of it, as well.

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DEERHOOF
La Isla Bonita (Polyvinyl)

So many things going on here: The base layer is solid pop rock with far-flung polyrhythmic tendencies. It's weird, it's sweet, it's clunky and angular. I'm often reminded of pre-Eno Talking Heads, but only in brief moments, then it's buried in Henry Kaiser/Fred Frith-ish guitar-jabbing and sparring. I dig it. "Baseball is cancelled/E.T. is running late."

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JORDAN DE LA SIERRA
Gymnosphere: Song Of The Rose (Numero Group)

Numero Group was not to be outdone by last year's Light In The Attic overview of the history of New Age music, I AM THE CENTER.  Here they re-issue a near-forgotten 1976 treatise of piano-reverb magic. For when you need to just stop what'cher doing.

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ARIEL KALMA
An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings: 1972-1979) (ReRVNG)

Clearly there's a hippy buried deep within me that is dying to be recognized. More tripped out experiments in piano, modulators, percussion and voice that we should all have known about all along. RVNG is my vote for label of the year, as there are 2 more re-issues by them in the list below.

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KINK Under Destruction (Macro Records)

Not real sure what to make of the fact that two of the few Electronica records I brought home this year were of Russian origin besides the fact that something strange and awesome is going on over there. Not as dark as the COH title listed above, but rather much more playful and silly and even tribal. Made me giggle.

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K. LEIMER A Period Of Review (ReRVNG)

Again on stellar re-issue label, RVNG, recordings by Kerry Leimer compiled from the years 1975-1983. Exotica flavors much of the proceedings, as does a particular New Wave quality. Some tracks seem cousins to Jon Hassel's Dream Theory In Malaya, while others feel ready to open for Flock Of Seagulls. 

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CRAIG LEON
Anthology Of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos/Visiting (ReRVNG)

The third item I collected from the RVNG label. Re-issues of two albums that were intended to be issued together in 1981, but were issued a year apart due to numerous obstacles. Leon was a producer for Suicide, Blondie and Richard Hell, the only obvious alignment being with Suicide. Similarly repetitive electronic patterns mark these albums, interspersed with modulating meditations and Japonesque rhumbas.

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Liars Mess Mute






































LIARS
Mess (Mute)

How about a little "truth in advertising." The LIARS have always been a mess, but here they admit it. Their longevity seems poised on one driving principle, "do not let them guess what's coming next." The closest they've been to the dance floor yet ("Dress Walker"), but at the same time, the closest they've been to the dark ambient disturbance of psycho-sexual warriors like Current 93 or Coil ("Left Speaker Blown"). I love that I don't know what they're thinking.

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GIGI MASIN
Talk To The Sea (Music From Memory)

Take a pop song and then start pulling pieces away. Make it less and less and less. Install wide open landscapes between all of the few remaining parts. If you've loved this process from the likes of Talk Talk and Bark Psychosis, you're gonna love what Gigi Masin's doing.

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MODEST MOUSE
This Is A Long Drive For Someone With Nothing To Think About (Glacial Pace Recordings)

The original 1996 LP remains my favorite and so glad Glacial Pace made it possible for me to have a shiny new, slightly expanded copy. Hey, thanks!

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MONO/POLY
Golden Skies (Brainfeeder)

So I heard this album, bought this album, dug this album deeply LONG before I ever read anything about them. I guess this guy, Charles Dickerson, is associated with Flying Lotus and Thundercat, which caught me by surprise, as I thought it HAD to be somebody associated with Fuck Buttons. Really great, intricate, open-horizoned electronica. Lots of forward drive and lots of things to see and do while you're driving there.

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MARISSA NADLER July (Sacred Bones)

As always, here on her 8th album in 10 years, Marissa Nadler is witchy and trippy and adept at finding ways to pry up the lid on the beautiful things that squirm around under love and time and lonely locations. 

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OOIOO
Gamel (Thrill Jockey)

As per the title, OOIOO have pulled their inspiration from Indonesian gamelan music, incorporating the rhythmic gongwork into an angular, artrock document that makes more and more and more and more and more sense the more you listen. A conceit that I was unsure of became logical, then obvious, then essential. Could everyone please add gamelan to whatever their doing? Now, please.

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KRZYSTOF PENDERECKI
Works (Naxos)

Naxos has started pressing vinyl?! You could have pushed me over with a feather, but then I bought this gorgeous item and it burned my face off, instead! Penderecki's the honey-badger of 20th Century composition; he doesn't give a s$%& and he will scare the behoozits outta you...but in a beautiful way.

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SONGS:OHIA
Didn't It Rain expanded re-issue (Secretly Canadian)

It feels strange for their to be an "expanded" issue of what was one of the late Jason Molina's most contracted and sparse albums. So, that means there's a lot more of as little as possible. The last album under his moniker SONGS:OHIA before he would ever-so-slightly expand his vision into MAGNOLIA ELECTRIC CO., Didn't It Rain is a document, a complicated heart's soulprint direct-to-wax.

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ANDY STOTT
Faith In Strangers (Modern Love)

The first track from Stott's newest is akin to 6 minutes of foghorn, digitally created, of course. The album slowly lifts off the water from there. Faith In Strangers is the first Stott release that I've connected with, mostly due to the sheer unusualness of being completely captivating while having next to nothing taking place. Not really ambient, as there are beats, but he's a DJ that won't lay one down until you're looking at something else. He's acting the shadow person, performing in the periphery of your vision.

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TOTAL CONTROL
Typical System (Iron Lung)

Saw these guys open for THEE OH SEES in 2011 at Alex's Bar in Long Beach (IMHO, one of the area's best venues), and they were awesome. The hooks and vocal detachment of Joy Division delivered with raw punk energy over SUICIDE-al beats. Their 2012 debut, Henge Beat was killer, and Typical System ups the ante. The perfect balance of New Wave ethos and Punk attack.

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TRUST
(aka TR/ST and TRST) Joyland (Arts & Crafts)

Here are some of the words reviewers used in their luke warm reception of TRUST's sophomore effort: "slick," "repulsive," "disturbing," "lewd" and "numbing." Add all those up along with the album being described as, "a dance record for the club underneath the club," and I'm hooked. 

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TUNE-YARDS
Nikki Nack (4AD)

Forget all the hyped, songwriter-fed, jetset-producer-fixed R&B that is force fed to you during every network halftime event. There's a new soul sound as angular as the Buzzcocks, as nutty as Ivor Cutler and as smart and confounding as your last Statistics final. Get smart!

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WOVENHAND Refractory Obdurate (Deathwish)

Let's imagine that IF the GUN CLUB's Jeffrey Lee Pierce had wrested control of SOUTHERN DEATH CULT away from Ian Astbury, turned his life over to the Lord Jesus by way of revelation and slipped down into the catacombs to dust off all the Apocryphal texts that he could (but probably shouldn't) get his hands on, then we might be approaching the sound of David Eugene Edwards' WOVENHAND. This is a revival tent I will enter.

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YO LA TENGO
Extra Painful! (Matador)

Yo La Tengo's songs are a lot like planets: They're out there spinning around us and some of them are warm, some are cold, some of them are lush or stark, and some of them we're not sure we can even say are planets, maybe moons or just satellites. But when they align, you can really feel the pull. Their 1993 release Painful! was one of the band's true harmonic convergences, a perfect flow of dream-pop, jangle and full-on jam. Extra Painful! adds another disc's worth of live and demo proof that it wasn't a studio-manufactured fluke.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS
Savage Rhythm (Stag-O-Lee)

There is hope. A while ago I watched GOLDDIGGERS OF 1933 on DVD. I figured I might have to groan through some real cornball antics, but what struck me was just how razor-sharp the comedy of those early talkies truly was. Similarly, record bins all over every town in America, in every Goodwill and St. Vincent De Paul thrift store, in every Salvation Army and swap meet are full of the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Charlie Barnet, Bob Crosby and Artie Shaw. You see them there marked 50 cents and figure they're just corny and square and stale. This beautifully packaged and brilliantly curated set proves we're wrong about that.

Relevant Tags

Stag-o-lee (1), Savage Rhythm (1), Yo La Tengo (17), Wovenhand (1), Best Of 2014 (20), Amen Dunes (4), Amon Duul Ii (1), Apex Twin (1), Vashti Bunyan (7), Coh (1), Deerhoof (14), Jordan De La Sierra (1), Ariel Kalma (3), Kink (2), Kerry Leimer (1), Liars (13), Craig Leon (1), Mess (1), Gigi Masin (1), Modest Mouse (8), Mono/poly (1), Marissa Nadler (7), Ooioo (5), Penderecki (1), Songs: Ohia (2), Andy Stott (12), Total Control (3), Trust (8), Joyland (1), Tune-yards (14)