Bret’s Ramblings presents 2016 Reminisces
2016 was a great year for new music from all over the world, from new and old bands and artists, mixing the familiar with the unique.
Airbag released their fourth album Disconnected, with anguished singing, melancholy guitars and elegant melodies, yet singer/guitarist Asle Tostrup and guitarist Bjorn Riis know how to build a song for maximum rock’n’roll catharsis.
Airiel teased us with the Cloudburst single and made us ripe with anticipation for a new full length.
Ambientsketchbook continues to explore guitars and keyboards, challenging himself yet soothing the listener.
An Autumn for Crippled Children are a mysterious trio that mix screamed vocals over lovely instrumentation for a queasy yet entertaining listen. Their latest album Eternal would put them in the same heavenly realm of Sigur Ros or Alcest, yet those harsh vocals set them in a class of their own with that dichotomy of ghastly and enchanting.
Ayahuasca is another Canadian trio and on Yin present their spin on 90’s bands adding their own brain-frying flavors and epic journeys.
Bloody Knives is an Austin, TX band led by bassist/vocalist Preston Maddox. On I Will Cut Out Your Heart For This the band once again blends guitars and noise with driving rhythms and Maddox’s drawn out vocals. Catchy melodies are buried within the miasma and will get your blood pumping and feet moving.
David Bowie passed away one week after his 69th birthday after 18 months of failing health due to cancer, the day before his last album Blackstar was released. Blackstar, at seven tracks is too short, though each song contains such depth, such character, you can hear Bowie’s desire to get it all out before his last days, and the musicians’ performances are amazing and the compositions are dramatic and moving. Bowie’s artistry drove him to find these collaborators and his talent helped blend free-jazz, dance music, rock’n’roll and more into such a fearless and gorgeous album.
Carbon Based Lifeforms remind me of the ambient electronic groups of the 90’s with their rolling atmospheric beats and flights of fantasy.
Dead Leaf Echo brought us more of their punk and gaze on their Lemonheart EP.
DIIV presented Is The Is Are, a double length release of dance and rock for the beautiful losers of the world.
Current Rush producer worked with Kentucky progressive rockers Dream the Electric Sleep on their third album Beneath the Dark Wide Sky and their passion, talent and performances nourish the soul.
Dyntatron‘s The Rigel Axiom was another dose of sci-fi movie soundtrack electronica while Perturbator and Gost returned with more of their dance beats and gritty atmospheres on The Uncanny Valley and Non Paradisi respectively.
Eye sound like they stole their parent’s record collection of garage and psychedelic rock from the late 60’s-mid 70’s and created the best jukebox listen for fans of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix on Vision and the Endless Light.
Fourth Dimension‘s The Core is dubby, spooky and mysterious electronic soundscapes.
Mark McGuire keeps pulling sounds from other realms with his oscillating guitars and keyboards mesmerizing and delighting.
Meshuggah keep getting better and better, and on The Violent Sleep of Reason bassist Dick Lovgren joins drumming god Tomas Haake in tweaking the Meshuggah sound just enough to keep your necks snapping and fists pumping. Haake decided to leave all his drum takes as is, no digital correction, making the music more human. Meshuggah are mThe Brotherhood of the Snakeonsters of metal, always have been, yet The Violent Sleep of Reason includes enough levity, impressive guitar textures and lead and quiet spaces to let you catch your breath for the next mosh session.
Hugh Myrone is a guitarist and musician that put out an extremely fun album called Drift Stage, Vol. 1, that sounded like every soundtrack from the late 80’s early 90’s with Eddie Van Halen guitars over keyboards and synthesized drums. Put this album on any time of the day for instant uplift.
Opeth‘s third album of psychedelic heavy rock Sorceress sees the Swedes piece together different tempos and moods for a progressive and trippy journey.
Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann, also known as The Orb, release COW/Chill Out, World! hot on the heals of their last album Moonbuilding 2703 AD and the History of the Future Part 2 double disk retrospective. Several times I got “Orbed” where I wasn’t sure if what I was listening to wasn’t coming from some outside source. The duo’s focus is on electronic music usually without beats, where the rhythms are created by the synth patterns. There isn’t much more of a message than the album title suggests and maybe that’s just fine.
Pinkshinyultrablast‘s Grandfeathered is a sweet and crunchy blend of cooed vocals and shimmering guitars and perky powerful rhythms sure to set your eyes alight and your lungs on fire as you dance around and sing to this St. Petersburg, Russia group.
On 2814 Remember craft textured atmospheric electronic scores to a neon-lit megalopolis.
Ricinn was the singer on 2015 standout Corpo-Mente and on Lian the often operatic singer sets her pipes to folk and dark rock songs. A most compelling talent.
Ringo Deathstarr‘s Pure Mood album is the sound of a bunch of teens sneaking into the liquor cabinet and rocking out to old records from Kiss and Lush and Cheap Trick and more, not a care in the world at who appreciates your tastes. The Austin, TX trio audaciously mix buried male and female vocals with punktastic and heavy rhythms and jangly, textured and wailing guitars. You’ll find yourself losing your own cares for the world and want to spend many hours with this band.
Shmu is a guy from Texas that puts his rock’n’roll songs in the blender and hits frappe, a mindfuck of pop melodies and chopped up performances sure to beguile.
Anomalies is SPC ECO‘s most fully realized and confident album to date. The duo of Dean Garcia (Curve) and daughter Rose Berlin aim higher than ever with downtempo numbers like Think Twice that grab you by the heartstrings as well as songs like False Start that expand the mind and lift the spirits.
Al Jourgensen is the warped mind behind such bands as Ministry and Revolting Cocks. On his recent album with producer and beatmaker Sam D’Ambruoso as Surgical Meth Machine, the two create epilectic-fit beats, searing guitars and the messages and humor Uncle Al is known for.
Testament hit us with another masterpiece in The Brotherhood of the Snake, lyrics inspired by 6000 year-old Sumerian texts are transported to the world we live in, Chuck Billy spouting uplifting and action-taking vocals over the band’s fastest and thrashiest songs in over a decade. Every musician shines on Brotherhood of the Snake, another classic from an old-school band that keeps improving decades after their Bay-area beginnings.
TILES returned after many years with the double progressive rock album Pretending 2 Run. As produced by early Rush producer Terry Brown and artwork by Hugh Syme, TILES surround themselves with two architects of Rush’s sound and visuals yet sound little like their Canadian heroes. What TILES does share is an unquenchable desire to expand their stylistic range and blend jazz, metal, electronica, reggae and all manner of tasteful, chaotic and muscular playing into their modern masterpiece. Guests include Ian Anderson, Mike and son Max Portnoy. The Detroit quartet are super-nice and supremely talented and passionate about making fantastic rock’n’roll.
True Widow tell tales of the lost and lonely on AVVOLGERE mixing stoner, doom, desert rock and shadowy atmospheres sure to get your smoke-shrouded head nodding.
Vinyl Williams is also from another world, looking out and delving deep into the void between and on Brunei once again comes up with music that transports and soothes in equal measure. I’ve never heard anything like Williams before. A truly unique talent and his three-dimensional videoscapes are amazing to watch.
90’s IDM masters Woob continue to release enthralling music. Overrun_exe is full of New Wave and New Order-isms while Death by Co-op is more menacing and contemplative yet no less captivating.
(Reviews by Bret Miller)