End of the Year (Charlie Wilmoth)
My Favorite Records of 2003
Let's get these three out of the way right now:
- Deerhoof - Apple O' (Kill Rock Stars/ 5RC), Aesop Rock - Bazooka Tooth and Outkast - Speakerboxx/ The Love Below (Arista). You can read about these on about a dozen other lists, and for good reason.
- Charlotte Hug - Neuland (Emanem). Charlotte Hug's solo viola could often easily be mistaken for a string orchestra. On Neuland, she shapes an immense collection of extended techniques - including many of her own - into a whole that's as creepy as the underground prison that much of the album was recorded in.
- Keith Rowe and John Tilbury - Duos For Doris (Erstwhile). John Tilbury's delicate touch on his instrument has made him a leading interpreter of Morton Feldman's piano music, and Duos For Doris unfolds at the same leisurely pace as Feldman's late works. An epic, subtle, and altogether gorgeous album.
- Sachiko M and Sean Meehan - Untitled (self-released). At least one noise musician has grumbled that sinewave manipulator Sachiko M is a fraud, presumably because she doesn't actually do very much when she makes her music. I think she's great, for exactly that reason. On this release, she's paired with percussionist Sean Meehan, who makes sustained sounds on a snare drum that sound like nothing you've ever heard.
- U.S. Maple - Purple on Time (Drag City). U.S. Maple are so thorough in their decimation of rock - so careful in making all of rock's typical gestures seem meaningless - that it's easy to write their music off as an exquisitely crafted joke. But their sound is so singular and strange that it can't be anything but dead serious. Perfect on Time is no better or worse than any of U.S. Maple's other four albums, which is to say that it's fantastic.
- Melt Banana - Cell-Scape (A-Zap). Before this year, I hadn't heard anything Japan's Melt Banana had released since 1996's Scratch or Stitch, which I remembered as one of the strangest records I had ever heard. So I was confused when I saw Cell Scape near the top of Dusted's Top 40 earlier this year. Melt Banana's music is a lot more accessible now, but the group's important features are still intact, beginning with its breakneck hardcore rhythms and Agata's guitar playing, which sounds like the history of rock being shot through a laser.
- Axel Dörner and Fred Lonberg-Holm - Object 1 (Locust). This auspicious beginning to Locust Records' Object series features trumpeter Dörner and cellist Lonberg-Holm playing extended-technique improv as well as anyone played it this year.
- Ex Models - Zoo Psychology (French Kiss). Zoo Psychology manages to be both stripped-down and extremely weird. Albinified guitars belch in frenzied call-and-response, the bass and drums turn funk into a game of connect-the-dots, and Shahin Motia screams like Ronnie Spector at a horror movie.
More Great Records
- Alessandro Bosetti/ Michel Doneda/ Bhob Rainey - Placés dans l'Air (Potlatch).
- Lê Quan Ninh and Frédéric Blondy - Exaltatio Utriusque Mundi (Potlatch).
- Kevin Drumm - Land of Lurches (Hanson).
- Paul Flaherty - Voices (Wet Paint).
- Carl Stone - Nak Won (Sonore).
Favorite Live Shows
- Marilyn Nonken performs Morton Feldman's Triadic Variations in Ostrava, Czech Republic in August.
- Jason Lescalleet and Thomas Ankersmit in Middletown, Connecticut in March.
- Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif in Middletown in October.
- nmperign and Lê Quan Ninh in Boston in February.
- Memorize the Sky in Middletown in April.
-Beans in Middletown in December.
Five Records I Should've Put On My 2002 List
- El-P - Fantastic Damage (Def Jux).
- Deerhoof - Reveille (Kill Rock Stars/ 5RC).
- Mike Adcock and Clive Bell - Sleep It Off (Emanem).
- Spunk - Den Øverste Toppen Pa en Blamalt Flaggstang (Rune Grammofon).
- The Streets - Original Pirate Material (Atlantic).
Ten Pieces of Music That Mattered to Me in 2003, Not Released in 2003 Division.
- Morton Feldman, Piano and String Quartet.
- Helmut Lachenmann, Gran Torso.
- Stereolab, "Wow and Flutter" from Mars Audiac Quintet (Elektra).
- Greg Kelley and Jason Lescalleet, "Man On the Outside," from Forlorn Green (Erstwhile).
- Comsat Angels, "Be Brave" from Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones (RPM).
- Giacinto Scelsi, Kya.
- Yuji Takahashi, Mimi No Ho.
- Theo Bleckmann, "Douce Dame Jolie," from Origami (Songlines).
- Otha Turner, "Station Blues," from From Senegal to Senatobia (Birdman).
- The Chills, "Heavenly Pop Hit," from Submarine Bells (Slash).
Best Musical Experiences of 2003
- Performing on Anthony Braxton's massive Sonic Genome recording, which will, upon release, become known as either the best or worst Braxton album ever.
- Taking a composition lesson with Tristan Murail.
- Teaching music theory to gifted junior high kids.
- Performing with the Roscoe Mitchell quintet in the Czech Republic.
- Another year at Dusted, for sure.
By Charlie Wilmoth