2008: Michael Crumsho
Albums of 2008:
Kurt Vile – Constant Hitmaker (Gulcher)
Easily my biggest pleasant surprise of the year, Vile handed in a set of beautiful songs that balanced his earnest pluck with heaps of carefully placed background drone, affecting this year’s most criminally neglected debut. Sounding like vintage folk-rock run through a kinder, gentler Royal Trux filter at times, this is someone you need to know about, and sooner rather than later.
Stephan Mathieu – Radioland (Die Schachtel)
I’m surprised I didn’t hear more about this record during 2008. Oh well – I guess having an (incredible) Italian label release your stuff in small art editions will do that to you. No matter, as this was the most complete and fully-realized Mathieu recording to date, one that took his familiar methods of signal processing and applied them to a set of radio transitions for one of the most haunting pieces of grainy ambient music to emerge this year.
Portishead – Third (Island)
I never really cared about this band during their first go-round in the ’90s and, based on a recent re-appraisal of those first two records, I still don’t really give a crap about “trip-hop” (it makes my asshole clench just to type that word). But this one sounds like Portishead spent the past few years listening to krautrock records so they could make tracks like “We Carry On” and “Machine Gun,” the latter of which takes the most repetitive, nagging beat possible into unimaginably beautiful and ominous territory.
Billy Bao – Dialectics of Shit (Parts Unknown)
Granted, the Fuck Separation 10” on S-S was way better, but this LP from Basque noise dweeb Mattin’s aggro-punk project was no slouch, either. Ignore the silly, made-up backstory (Nigerian expat finds himself hating humanity while in Spain, makes a punk a record to celebrate that fact), and dig into a disc that balances out plenty of irritating experimental jabs (intentional skips, and tweaked out recordings) with songs that sound like Brainbombs attempting Bleach.
Food for Animals – Belly (Hoss)
I listened to this record more than any other in 2007, but alas, Belly didn’t officially make it out until the beginning of this year. Even after 18 months in near constant rotation, this still sounds fresh, with Vulture V and Hy’s flows offering some grounding to Ricky Rabbit’s increasingly fractured, mangled, left-field beats.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colors (Aarght!)
Ooga Boogas – Romance and Adventure (Aarght!)
Leading the charge out of Australia this year was this modest four-piece. This is pretty quintessential meat and potatoes punk, channeling bits and pieces of post-punk and pub rock into one of the most consistent and unassuming rock records to arrive in a long time. The Ooga Boogas feature members of ECSR, but instead lean a little more heavily on classic British DIY, thus taking the whole of their debut full-length into territory that calls to mind Swell Maps sitting down and writing honest to God anthems.
Idea Fire Company – The Island of Taste (Swill Radio)
Another pleasant surprise, this latest LP from IFC dabbled in well-worn minimal composition techniques and field recordings in a way that made these types of sounds feel completely innovative. Alternating between beautiful, delicate melodies and grim patchwork, this one was good enough to have a much higher profile.
Religious Knives – Resin (No Fun) / Live at Big Jar Books (Archive) /
The Door (Ecstatic Peace)
From here on out, anyone who insists on referring the RK as a noise band is an idiot who isn’t listening. These three 2008 recordings fully documented the band’s transition from grimy moaners to full-on narcotic rock pushers.
Janek Schaefer – Extended Play (LINE)
A great concept for an installation (separate instrumental scores played on turntables that change pitch in accordance with foot traffic in a room), Schaefer’s Extended Play documentation of his gallery piece ended up becoming a pretty great high-water mark for the intersection of experimental electronics and modern composition. Delicate and spare in a way few of his recordings have ever been, this is easily Schaefer’s best work to date.
Lindstrøm – Where You Go I Go Too (Smalltown Supersound)
Lindstrøm’s mixes, singles, and collaborations have been a pretty consistent go-to for me on those oh-so-long commutes over the past few years. This one was unexpected, though – three long tracks of glorious space disco that took the dude’s basic palette into some pretty indulgent territory. The biggest shock? It actually worked.
Fennesz – Black Sea (Touch)
Sic Alps – U.S. Ez (Siltbreeze)
Cult of Youth – A Stick to Bind, A Seed to Grow (Dais)
Fucked Up – Chemistry of Common Life (Matador)
Graham Lambkin and Jason Lescaleet – The Breadwinner (Erstwhile)
Mayyors – Marines dot com (Waste of Oil) / Meagan’s LOLZ (Gome)
Easily my favorite of the new class of shit-brained lunk-head rock, Mayyors’ two singles played this type of stuff as it should be – loud as fuck and practically jumping off the vinyl. Here’s hoping there’s more of this to come.
Sex/Vid – Nests (Dom America)
Between this, the great Communal Living mini-LP, and a blistering live set I caught in Chicago in July, I’ll believe the hype of these four and their super brawny, insanely blown-out jams.
Byetone – Plastic Star (Raster-Noton)
Probably one of the most accessible things to ever bear the Raster-Noton imprint, this single from label co-founder Olaf Bender pulls the usual R-N set of sounds from their cold, precise origins into a warm track full of shimmering drones and insistent rhythms.
Cold Cave – The Trees Grew Emotions and Died (Dais)
Another great side from Dais this year, this one sporting some great Echo and the Bunnymen-styled synth pop for a whole new generation. A full length is due next year, and if these tracks are any indication, that one will be a doozy.
Vivian Girls – Wild Eyes (Plays with Dolls)
I still don’t understand how the Vivian Girls went from being a little Brooklyn band to the trio that dudes love to bash, but that’s the way it goes. It started here - two songs, a few minutes, and some great melodies. Countless discussions can’t suck the fun out of this stuff.
Hoyt Axton – My Griffin Is Gone (The Omni Recording Corporation)
Chrissy Zebby Tembo & Ngozi Family – My Ancestors (Hummingbird)
Gas – Nah und Fern box set (Kompakt)
Hellhammer – Demon Entrails (Century Media)
J.A. Seazer/Tenjo Sajiki - Reissues on Showboat/Sky Station
By Michael Crumsho