Saturday, December 24, 2005

beta's eleven (thru twenty)

Turning down any and all offers of year-end thoughts and empirical numerical rankings, and just barely being able to rank and file ten things for the imminent Pazz & Jop clusterfuck, here's more scrapple from the apple, some not in the Top Ten just because P&J is a numbers game and I tend to shade populist rather than wave lone banners over there.

Gathering my year-end thoughts, I oft-times realize that maybe I'm not a pop music critic at all, as I'll be damned if I heard the year's finest as posited in inumerable glossy mags and whatnot. While house-sitting over the holidays, I finally saw me some Fuse, getting my first exposure to Bloc Party, Le Tigre, Annie, and Missy videos, not to mention finally seeing the "Galang" video (okay, there's an island of women that don't know how to dance? and why had I never noticed that a chorus of blazing purple haze is a drug reference to be bleeped out?). That said, this is what registered:

11. Link Wray : Wray's Three Track Shack
This just made his passing all the more bittersweet. Playing this for people never fails to blow minds.

12. Goldmund : Corduroy Road

This spare, sparse, solo piano work from one Keith Kenniff, gossamer as it was, was crucial to making this Seattle Weekly CDR-Go! mix hang together like it did, like smoke near the ceiling, or a Civil War-era Satie, playing in a greenhouse comprised of the fading plates of Matthew Brady photos. The other Type titles I came across, like Sanso-Xtro's Sentimentalist, were uniformly delightful.

13. Gang Gang Dance : God's Money
Discussing GGD way back when, I noted its scraps and cheapness. Who knew they would turn this crisp, so expertly ornate, and razor-etched so quickly, either when just clacking and hovering in place or suddenly shooting through the stratosphere at the crack of a snare? It would be impossible to mistake them as ragged and improv; now they're an odd, immaculate pop band.

14. Satwa : Satwa / Lula Cortes y Ze Ramalho : Paebiru
Another crucial component of my SW mix, these two discs tipped off open ears to what other pleasurable treasures grew in Northeast Brazil, far from Tropicalia's plastic leaves and synthetic creeper vines, as well as Nascimento's urban corner club. The drawing of two long-haired angels sitting cross-legged in a forest clearing on the Satwa disc encapsulated the spirit of this fourth-stream music perfectly. While in Costa Rica, winding through the verdure slowly getting hacked to make more grasslands for chewing cows, the receding spirit of the rainforest grew crescent once again through the airing of this music.

15. Judee Sill : Dreams Come True - hi, i love you right heartily here - new songs
A package that was simultaneously extravagent, colorful, lovingly-rendered, biographically-illuminating, and completely user-unfriendly, this unfinished third album from Judee Sill fulfilled her statement about her influences being "Bach, Pythagoras, and Ray Charles" by embracing the spirit of the latter on this life-affirming set.

16. Antony & the Johnsons : I Am A Bird Now
The ideal for a late winter's evening listen (meaning 4pm), I ever so slightly cooled on the disc, mostly due to the parade of lesser voices sent to spar yet ultimately grovel before that maddening ever-warble of Antony. He also put on one of the most self-effacing and disarmingly funny live shows I saw all year.

17. Stephan Mathieu : The Sad Mac
/ Mountains : Mountains
Exquisite multi-textured electronic minimalism from one of its finest practitioners, utilizing ancient wire recordings, Jacques Tati soundtracks, Handel, Monteverdi, and a crashing Macintosh Classic II.

The once-Brooklyn duo of Brendon Anderegg and Koen Holtkamp, already building up an exquisite catalog with their Apestaartje imprint, reach an apex here. Oddly enough, their designer would come into my work to fine-tune the cover shot of laundry drying on an enormous boulder, a temporal red house erected on top.

18. Dominik Eulberg : Kreucht & Fleucht
Unable to keep up with the prodigal gushing forth of German house music, it takes an expertly navigated path across such raging waters by biologist extraordinaire Eulberg to get a worthwhile glimpse of all the current currents. It doesn't hurt to have four bangers by wunderkind Robag Wruhme, though even I can't stomach the vocals on "This World." That said, my friend at EMI in Europe just laced me up with the Wighnomy Bros./ Robag Wruhme Remikks Potpourri set, and it's killer. I'm sure to be discussing it later on.

19. The Juan Maclean : Less Than Human
(and remixes)/
Delia Gonzalez & Gavin Russom : The Days of Mars
It took the peeling of layers by remixers like Cajmere, Prins Thomas and Lindstrom, and Booka Shade to reveal the melancholy and paranoia teeming under the veneers of even the most hedonistic of dance idioms.

The Days of Mars is easily the most misunderstood record of the year, with all the focus being on its evocation of the past (meaing Klaus Schulze or whatever 70's reference you wish to insert here), but not understanding why. Almost no-one is engaging their ref. to Bryher (save for this excellent post and interview at Kid Shirt) and how this music recollects a time of war, be it WWII or the secret war that the American art conscious barely even registers, much less the feminine presence and intuitive influence that separates it from its previous Mars-slanted practitioners. It mesmerizes, and to recapitulate an earlier musing, it focuses the mind so that you too can create.

20. Luny Tunes and Baby Ranks : Mas Flow 2
Or as Lil Jon said when confronted with reggaeton: "Whaaaa???" "Yeah!"


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