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Twelve Great Post-Rock / Psychedelic / Jazz / Avant-Garde / Experimental Albums That Are Perfect For Thinking About Life & Other Important Stuff

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 9, 2018 07:47pm | Post a Comment

By Michael Henning

This list is a bit eclectic musically, with a number of styles and genres represented. However, the albums here are held together by a common thread: they all contain music that is excellent for thinking. Sure, you can think while listening to pretty much anything, but these 2017 releases are guaranteed to take your mind on a journey through inner space. They will undoubtedly lead you to some interesting places, so check them all out and see where your mind goes... just close your eyes, relax, and float away on a cloud of sound.

Cornelius, Mellow Waves

12.  Cornelius - Mellow Waves (Warner Music Japan)

A triumphant return for this Japanese artist, his first new proper (non-soundtrack) album since 2006's Sensuous. As the title perhaps indicates, this new one finds him mellowing a bit, but his penchant for slightly skewed pop music is still here. Some odd time signatures lead to interesting places, and his distinctly Japanese sensibilities are on full display again. Overall, this is an enjoyable and pleasant ride through the universe of quirky electronic-tinged pop we are used to from him. Although it might not be his best record, it is a very strong effort, and it fares quite well when compared to his earlier masterpieces Fantasma and Point.
Do Make Say Think

11.  Do Make Say Think - Stubborn Persistent Illusions (Constellation)

Kell's Best of 2013: A Year of Sounds and Feels

Posted by Kells, December 29, 2013 04:20pm | Post a Comment
2013 was a pretty great year for music and nothing quite cures that "where did the time go?" feeling like recollecting a year's worth of music enjoyment with conclusive consideration and whittling it down to a year-end list of bests. For putting together this here post I decided to drag out all the records I bought since last Christmas, spread them out on the floor like tarot cards, and listen to each of them one by one, like this: 



And then write about them, like this:
The rub was trying to keep my list trim and fit thus accompanying my select "bests" are other titles I've enjoyed within the last twelve months. Happy New Year everyone! Peep my Best of 2013 on the downhill scroll...


Little Wings - LAST
(RAD Records)

LAST comes first not just because I'm a longtime avid supporter of Kyle Field as an artist and musician, but it just so happens that LAST was one of the very first new records I bought in 2013. LAST is one of those "total package" records about which I could spin infinite yarns of praise n' things regarding the songwriting, the recording, the artwork, and total overall vibe and I kind of already did that in the interview piece I put together last Spring and so I urge anyone interested in this two-fer plate of odd hip-hop with a lotta folk-rockin' goin' on to check it out as it'd be redundant to put further shine on this diamond.



 
"Neptune's Next" is one of my favorite songs on this record and a great gateway track. Check it:





Worth mentioning: Bummer jams ahoy with Grouper's The Man Who Died in his Boat. It's choice rainy day music for those grey Winter days when the surf conditions are very poor indeed. For something equally as quiet and intimate sounding yet more playful and upbeat I recommend checking out Unknown Mortal Orchestra's II, especially the track "So Good at Being in Trouble". Better yet get into that reish-alanche of R.Stevie Moore's bedroom jammers that hit the shelves this year -- sometimes his voice sounds like Kyle Field. Anyway, Glad Music gives me life!



Clothilde - Clothilde
(Born Bad)

Don't sleep on this limited vinyl release! This compilation includes all of yé yé girl Clothilde's fantastic recordings, complete with the Italian language versions of both EPs as well as the stereo version of the much beloved “Fallait pas ecraser la queue du chat”. Superb psychedelic pop arrangements and very original songwriting skills of this caliber are the stuff current California throwback garage/psych/jangle/Burger pop scene's wet dreams.

It's just like Marvin and Tammi said: ain't nothin' like the real thing, baby. 


Clothilde - "Fallait pas ecraser la queue du chat" [stereo]




Max + Mara - Less Ness
(Dark Entries)

I have vivid memories of getting ready to go out a-gothing with like-minded friends when I was nineteen or so. Though I never preached the Gothpel as a way of life I've always felt a keen affinity for theatrical costume and dramatic dancing in the dark and relished dabbling in the scene whenever in the mood. The minimal waves marching steadily forth from this record at once had me wondeering what had become of my fishnet sleeves while instinctively reaching for my coal black eye-liner. However, this is NOT a goth record, but like early aughts Adult and Trust's TRST for example, there's a decidedly vintage sound here (inherent to the hardware) and a vibe that just urges one to "go darker" and I have to wonder if Max + Mara would agree.





Warm Soda - Someone for You
(Castle Face)

The primary color scheme and simplicity of the cover art of this record immediately appealed to me when I first saw it leaning against the shelf of a friend's record collection (indicating that he had just been listening to it). "They sound like The Strokes," he replied when I asked him about it, "that is, if The Strokes had continued to make albums as good as their debut." I don't usually go for fill-in-the-blank "sounds-like" record reviews, but he could not be more right. It's an all killer, no filler power pop teenage dream in worn denim and leatherette -- ripped, faded, lean in all the right places. 





Worth mentioning: Shannon and the Clams' new jam for 2013 is fun fun fun and I dig most of the new Kelley Stoltz record as well, especially "Kim Chee Taco Man". I really want to love the Sonny Smith curated I Need You Bad comp featuring  "a buncha bands from Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Portland", but I'm hung up on the sucky oversight crediting "Sun in Rain" to The Sandwitches when it is actually a solo effort composed , arranged and performed by Sandos drummer Roxy Brodeur. Still, there are so many rad exclusive tracks etched into that slime-green wax and, personally speaking, it's worth it just for the Little Wings, Warm Soda, and Jessica Pratt inclusions alone. 



Purple Snow: Forecasting the Minneapolis Sound
(Numero Group)


It's worth keeping up with the Numero label because they've become quite the powerhouse of researching, compiling, and purveying some of the nerdiest, heaviest and most enriching precious gems of deep cut musicology. This latest compilation spans more than two hours and focuses on the sounds of funky pre and post-Prince sophisticated paisley groove scene that bubbled up from the Twin Cities' funky, muse-cestuous wellspring once upon a time in the 70s and flowing freely throughout the 1980s. More than just a mishmash collage of Funk and New Wave, this sick nugget is a journey to the center of a sound.
 
 

Cue excellent promotional preev. vid:

 
 
Worth mentioning: I'm such a glutton for compilations and 2013 did right by me. Spanish label University of Vice a re-upped on their wonderfully weird Poco Loco in the Coco collection, delivering a second volume of demented international surf/lounge/novelty/trash to tide me over until someone (pretty please) releases a third installment in the Jungle Exotica series. Soul Jazz also gave the people what they want this year (according to me) when they dropped New Orleans Funk Vol. 3 which, if you count their Saturday Night Fish Fry comp, really amounts to the fourth volume in this most excellent curation of vintage NOLA soul/ funk vibrations.



Hot Lunch - Hot Lunch
(Tee Pee Records)

This band riiiips! We were lucky to host a live in-store performance with Hot Lunch (as well as with Golden Void who are also totally rad 'n' smokey, riff-heavy rockers) in conjunction with  those Converse Rubber Tracks gigs this past Fall (a collab that  also spawned an exclusive 7" split). As with most any band, the Hot Lunch record does not nearly capture the shreddy energy of their live show, but if you listen to it loud enough  you're kind of half there. Srsly, we're lucky we still have curtains on our stage; this one goes to e-lev-en. Check out the album opener, "Handy Denny" (that title!) below. 

p.s. They also have a song called "Lady of the Lake" which, for me, fulfills several requisites at once when it comes to the zone where the many flavors of rock and my personal music preferences collide.


 




Worth mentioning: The self-titled Fuzz record that got gooey-gobs of critical acclaim earlier this year (because: Ty Segall?) is a decent riff-heavy rock record and the latest Queens of the Stone Age joint is, well, worth mentioning, but coastal rockers Mammatus recently dropped the smokiest brain-bomb of mind-blowing extended heavy lifters called Heady Mental. I'm still crawling out from underneath it. 

[Note: I had to listen to Golden Void's self-titled 2012 LP again before moving on. It rules so hard!]


Frederico Durand - El Idioma de las luciernagas
(Desire Path)

The title translates to "The language of fireflies" but it just as easily could be called the gentle piano breeze or pulse warming cricket or weathered memory gauze or wind breathing chimes because it presents those sort of quiet, found sound elements, field recordings, and barely there compositions as one woven piece of work like a meditation/spa ambiance piece that doubles as a super dope HDTV 5.1 surround sound demo reel. The impression is akin to admiring a sonic tapestry from afar yet this is totally a blanket record for burrowing into.





Worth mentioning: looking for more far out relaxation jams? Ariel Kalma's rainforest saxophone odyssy Osmose was reissued this year on Black Sweat Records and Numero Group put out a collection of San Francisco-based New Age guru composer Iasos called Celestial Soul Portrait. Both really great, reeaalllly ethereal transmissions from the ambient spirituality zone. 
 

Omar Souleyman - Wenu Wenu
(Ribbon Music)

One of the derpy-est headlines in music news was made earlier this year when Syrian recording artist Omar Souleyman was denied entry to Sweden due to fear of the "extreme risk" that he'd apply for a residence permit as a refugee of war. Though this "embarrassment" was later corrected, not without heaping helping of filing difficulties and skepticism on behalf of the Swedish government, however allowing him to make up for his cancelled performance due to the previous hang up, Souleyman said of the incident, "As troubled as it is, I love my country. I would never defect to Sweden." That such a beloved performer, regardless of his nationality or creed, suffered such senseless indignation for the wholly unpolitical act of touring with intent of sharing music with the world was a bummer indeed.

Good thing Souleyman's latest LP, Wenu Wenu is the ultimate bummer remedy. I think this is his best effort to date and it seems a bit strange that that might have everything to do with the fact that it was produced by Kieran Hebden (Four Tet). And yet, maybe he has little or nothing to do with the way the record sounds at all as there is nothing remotely Four Tet-ish coming out of your speakers when you drop the needle on this platter. The signature Souleyman sound --  that commanding, sweaty dance party-starting Dabke sound -- is all up on this record only this time it's more visceral, more crystalline and more brilliant than ever. Gone are the crunch and gristle that edge and obscure previous offerings, characteristics I reckon to be indicative of less sophisticated recording/transfer processes involved in delivering Souleyman's earlier works to a larger audience (with many thanks to the good fellows at Sublime Frequencies), thus lending fierce clarity to the marathon synth-bending rips and rich vocal tears that have rendered this music beloved worldwide. The vinyl pressing is rather limited so, like, don't miss out on this one either. 

Here's the official video for "Warni Warni" -- so much going on here.
 


 

Worth mentioning: David Byrne's Luaka Bop label just released a collection of Nigerian synth-slaying funk pioneer William Onyeabor called Who is William Onyeabor (World Psychedelic Classics 5). It's kind of an expensive record but there is perhaps no better value for your dollar if you're looking for an influential electronic record as rhythmic and epic (yes, epic) as this. For it's infotainment value I have have have to recommend Mirror to the Soul: Music, Culture and Identity in the Caribbean 1920-72. Soul Jazz as always offers a nothin'-but-class presentation but this time it includes a DVD full of very rare footage of a time and place where music and people could not be more strikingly jubilant given Britain's complex relationship with the region at the time. Such a dense nugget, but a pleasure to digest.

 

Egyptian Sports Network - Interstitial Luxor 
(New Images)

Listening to Omar Souleyman put me in mind to throw this on next. It's a real far out spacer but there was a time when this came out that I listened to it a lot, over and over. There's some constructed context involving a zero gravity sports network transmission over an Olympic Space Station trans-global intergalactic satellite feed or whatever that supposedly relates to the hows and whys that inspired these tracks but the only thing anyone really needs to know about this record is that it's a collaborative effort by Matt Mondanile (Ducktails) and Spencer Clark and that it's worth listening to at both 33 and 45 rpm. 



 
Worth mentioning: I don't know what I'd ever expect a record called Bitchitronics by an outfit called Bitchin Bajas to sound like. Maybe the slowest, longest bong rip through a didgeridoo? More like Aquarian flute flutters over eddying layers of synths signifying a new dawn or something like an inner-self awareness birth ritual for that is the sound this Chicago trio relinquished to Drag City for release. Again, Bitchitronics. And it doesn't suck. If that doesn't coax your third eye open try yanking it directly out of your head with Tim Hecker's minimalist Steve Reichian echo-phase vibrationairum album, Virgins



Takako Minekawa & Dustin Wong - Toropical Circle
(Thrill Jockey)

Waiting thirteen years for a beloved music maker to create and publish new music, or any music at all for that matter, just sucks. When I fell in love with Takako Minekawa's music I had zero clues that the first piece of her music I ever got my paws on would be her last for a long, lonnng time. Of course I had her entire back catalog to digest, however that only sharpened the void that remained when it seemed she'd gone for good. But lo, 2013 marked her return to the realm of public music-making, praise be to Dustin Wong whose singular looped guitar stylings not only inspired Minekawa's resurfacing, but lead to this excellent experimental electro-pop collaborative record. 


The title of this song "Party on a Floating Cake" pretty much says it all. See vid below:



Worth mentioning: the best J-Pop album of 2013 is without a doubt Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's Nanda Collection. Producer Yasutaka Nakata's mixed bag of tricks -- much informed by the Shibuya-kei old guard, pulling inspiration from arcade ambiance and dance house sensibilities as well --  pairs well with blogger/fashionista/model/pop artist Kyary Pamyu Pamyu's ever-evolving visual aesthetics and charming animatronic savoir-faire. On the other end of the spectrum, somewhat closer to Ms. Minekawa's leanings, is Sapphire Slows 2013 release Allegoria on the always interesting Not Not Fun label. Bordering on the edge of electronica and indie singer-songwriter instrumentation, Kinuko Hiramatsu recorded her vocals at a whisper for every song (as to not disturb her neighbors) with compositions ranging from Chicago house-inspired dream pop confections to evocative dub-techno melancholia -- a sound that comes of channeling the club music scene in the intimacy of a confined, private space. Makes me wonder what Tujiko Noriko is up to these days.



Joanna Gruesome - Weird Sister
(Slumberland)

You can play the "sounds like this" and "rips off that" shame game all day with this band, but in the end there's no escaping their being great at making the music they make. Nitpick and diss their influences, however mapable or obscure, all you like but give this Cardiff outfit more than a cursory listen before soaking that waffle in judgey arguments, bent interpretations and personal preferences. Even if this band has a dumbass name or makes crap videos they rule harder and push/pull that sweet twee/punk punch with more authenticity than any of the "death to false riot grrl" etc. criticism hurled at them. So good. 

Here's their crap video for "Sugarcrush" 





Worth mentioning: MBV, GBV and YLT also put out great records this year --  I recommend them all heartily, especially for all a youse so focused on looking back while looking ahead.



Mount Eerie - Pre-Human Ideas 
(P.W. Elverum & Sun)

If the cover of this record isn't enough forewarning that this is gonna be straight-up weird guy jams then you're not staring directly into the donut, friend. Phil Elverum is no stranger to slicing out alarming amounts of fuckery (most of it really, really good), but this auto-tuned, Garage Band created re-contextualizations of previous Mount Eerie works is like stumbling across the "fun" version of a class picture taken after a series of intense and introspective, detail-laden sonic nature portraits. Which is, you know, laughable. Doubly so because this record is so surprisingly satisfying for being so corny.

 



Worth mentioning: I don't know what to do with the new Death Grips record. I think I like it? It's a challenging listen to say the least. Add to that the explicit album cover art for No Love Deep Web and subsequent  outpouring of comedic "decent" alternates (the above censor-sandwich version is my fave). Another album I really like but kind of don't know what to do with is weirdo kiwi crooner Connan Mockasin's Caramel. He achieves an unsettling sort of smoothness, like he's channeling Pure Guava era Ween slow-dancing the ghost of Ariel Pink's cocaine-based post nasal drip or something, grinding perilously close to Bob Welch's French Kiss era seduction (stand out track "I'm the Man, That Will Find You" is the totally creepy contagious). While I'm at it here let's add Sky Ferreira's Night Time, My Time to the WTF file as well. I like it, lawd, I do. I have deep, behind-the-scenes reasons why this record confounds me (as my Cloud City brethren no doubt understand) but I find her fame intriguing and the music makes me think of Laura Palmer, but really dumbed down in a Bling Ring kind of way. That said, how perfect is that cover art? 
 
Total Destruction To Your Mind, 2013: the year of the Swamp Dogg reissues!


Swamp Dogg and I have one thing in common: we both claim the same podunk tidewater town as a birthplace. However, we exist 35 apart and we've never met yet I feel his inspiration, ambition and ability to interpret that into music on a soul-deep level. Before this year I had only heard a teeny sampling of his genius thus when the great Swamp Dogg reish-a-thon of 2013 hit back in March (via Alive Natrualsound label) my mind done expanded for further total destruction wrought by this criminally unsung master of surreal psychedelic soul and country-fried funk. I'm not a baller or I'd have already copped all of these reissues by now but I managed to get the two Swamp Dogg records I didn't already have (Rat On! and Gag A Maggot) as well as Irma Thomas' In Between Tears which rules oh so improbably hard. The Wolfmoon record is pretty great too, I'm still digesting that one -- "Cloak of Many Colors" is where its at.





Jonathan Rado - Law and Order
(Woodsist)

This record earned a best-y inclusion because the last song on side B, "Pot of Gold", is a white-hot slice of Miami Vicean, summer city nights rock that I cannot live without. The rest of the record is pretty good. I mean, I think I've listened to it all the way through maybe three times, thrice. I cannot, however, recall the many times I've cycled through "Pot of Gold" -- I love it so. I love the way it sounds like an unfinished demo, the kind that gets abandoned in the studio, after hours, suspended in the air, melodies swirling slowly together  like the smokeline in a hotel bar. There is a loneliness to it that I find, borrowing from the great Robert Palmer, simply irresistible. Check it out:

Jonathan Rado - "Pot of Gold"

 

Worth mentioning: Out of all the slump-dodging sophomore efforts released this year these three stand out for me in terms of quality content and repeat listenability. Blouse, Veronica Falls, and Blood Orange continue to kill it without swerving too far from their debut material which isn't a bad thing but, you know, if this was a reality TV indie pop competition, they'd all be lauded for their efforts and earn immune from elimination but no without being read to filth for playing it safe.

and finally...