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The 2017 Round-Up: Albums of the year (4)

elder

Elder – Reflections Of A Floating World

This was one of those nice surprises – a cover that caught my eye, on a listening post in Rough Trade. It’s pretty intense, mostly instrumental, psychedelic progressive rock. The tracks are long and meandering, with crushingly heavy guitar riffs; it seethes like the alien ocean on its cover. It really encourages the listener to untether themselves from traditional song structures and just go with the flow. As this Stereogum review puts it quite nicely, “If the focus is anywhere, it’s on DiSalvo’s guitar, which is always doing blazingly triumphant hero-ball stuff. … But more than that, there is no focus. The way the album is recorded, everything fades into a single thundering blur. It’s like violent ambient music…

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The 2017 Round-Up: Albums of the year (3)

twod

The War On Drugs – A Deeper Understanding

Whilst this doesn’t quite hit the highs of 2014’s Lost In The Dream, the craftsmanship and assiduous attention to detail is still very much present. Again it’s a welcome throwback to era of the Great Rock Album, with songs both huge in scope and personal in sentiment. Much has been made of Thinking Of A Place as the album’s 11-minute centrepiece but the highlight for me is Pain, which further showcases Adam Granduciel‘s stunning guitar soloing, so unflashy and so emotionally resonant.

The 2017 Round-Up: Albums of the year (2)

Cavern-Of-Anti-Matter-Void-Beats-Invocation-Trex

Cavern of Anti-Matter – Void Beats / Invocation Trex

My token not-released-this-year entry. I picked this up right at the tail end of 2016 after I had already finished my list. I’m really struggling to describe it! It’s an epic album of mostly instrumental synthesiser, live drums and drum machines. The tracks are often loose and jammy, with a motorik rhythm section. The synthesisers seem to be sequenced (triggered by automated patterns) as much as played live, and the sounds used are often bold and resonant, with plenty of reverb and harmonics. Bradford Cox of Deerhunter sings on the short and good but slightly out of place liquid gate.

I also picked up Cavern of Anti-Matter‘s reissued debut album, Blood Drums, which is also excellent but not quite as ambitious or fully-realised as this one.

 

The 2017 Round-Up: Albums of the year (1)

In no particular order*, we begin:

james-holden

James Holden and The Animal Spirits – The Animal Spirits

It feels appropriate to be opening with this after having seen their excellent live show just last night. James Holden is such an exciting artist to follow as he pursues his own tangent to the ‘established’ electronic music scene with single-mindedness and distinctive individuality. He describes this latest project, a collaboration with percussionists and wind players, as ‘folk-trance’ but I would definitely add ‘jazz’ in there as well. The shamanic, pagan energy of 2013’s The Inheritors is there, with a liberal spoonful of psychedelia and then improvising saxophones, clarinets and cornets sprinkled chaotically on top. The result sounds like no-one else (at least that I’ve heard) but there’s no way it would work without James’s deeply musical instincts at its core.

 

*I always open with this and it has never been true. I do put them in a particular order – I just make sure that order is as arbitrary as possible. Last year’s was in alphabetical order of the last letter in the album name; this year will be in reverse order of the total number of letters in band and album names. Just so you know. 

Starting a Blog

Each year I like to compile my own end of year music list – albums I liked and so forth. Say what you like about reducing music to lists, but I like it as a way of reviewing the good music of the year, and a few people have even said they find the lists interesting and useful. Who knows? Anyway, previously I have posted them as Facebook ‘notes’ but those just don’t seem the optimal way of doing it, and having sat down to write this year’s list I find I have more to say than I have bothered to before. Hence I’m giving a blog a go – arriving at the party a good ten years too late, but what the hell. Initially I’m going to post the bits I’ve written about 2012 music, then I’ll see if other things crop up that I want to write about as I go along.

Thanks for reading!

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