It’s a cool night in November and I’ve been awake since 3:30am and I’m listening to John Carpenter‘s Lost Themes album and thinking about what a wondrous year of music I’ve just experienced.
Thanks to Bandcamp making it so easy to learn about new artists and PayPal for helping me support them. I’m now a subscriber to Ambientsketchbook‘s page, meaning I can download anything he has or will release and listen to it streaming from his page for a year. Lee Gorman is a guitarist and producer from Northern Ireland and his music is textured and beautiful, mainly instrumental ambient compositions. I can only guess that Aphobic is also Gorman as its linked to ASB and the Bandcamp page also says Northern Ireland, but unlike ASB Aphobic is loopy, live instrumental rock obviously indebted to the gods of Post-Rock Tortoise. Proggy, moody and groovy.
Something led me to Ben Sharp, aka Cloudkicker. Sharp has some quite involving releases, his earlier tunes are acoustic and electric guitar pieces and more recently he’s dove into hard rock and heavy metal with Little Histories, including drums, vocals and more traditional songwriting, keeping things epic and head banging. His latest release Woum has the band feel, dynamic rocking instrumentals composed with drama and emotion.
Then there’s the retro synth and techno producers reliving Blade Runner, Miami Vice, Halloween and all the cheesy comedy, horror and sci-fi movie soundtracks and scores of the late 70’s through late 80’s. You can find these musicians on Blood Music, Aphasia Records and Telefuture among other labels. Some of my favorite producers from these labels are Perturbator, Protector 101, GosT, Troxum, Fixions and Dan Terminus. Their music brings me back to the days of searching through VHS tapes at the video store, bringing home the goriest, stickiest horror movie, or the raunchiest comedy or neon-lit action movie and these new artists remake the music from those days into something fun and fresh.
I’ve also snatched up everything from psych-gazers 93Millionmilesfromthesun. While many of their releases tread the same path, that of midtempo rock with slow, drawn out vocals blending with keening and fuzzed-out guitars, they do it so well you’ll be pulled into their warm blankets of distortion and never want to leave. On their Ride EP the Doncaster, UK band take on three Ride classics putting their own spin on Unfamiliar, pouring tons of crackling distortion and buried guitars into the instrumental second half. On Vapour Trail the band slow the song down to a dirge with lava-hot tendrils of guitars burning into your eardrums. And on Drive Blind the guitars and drums cymbals threaten to shatter under the pressure of all that compression, the trebly guitar line running over the top of it all and the surprisingly clear vocals distract you from all the churning bass bubbling up from below.
Mark McGuire is a young musician who for the past decade or so has experimented with and improved on the one-man-band idea, first playing with Emeralds, and then solo with guitar, keyboards, loops and more, sounding like the spiritual descendent of Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Steve Reich and Steve Hillage. His music is intelligent, playful, heartfelt and amazing. Just don’t call it ambient. His latest full-length album Beyond Belief is reviewed on this site and just left me like I’d been cold-cocked, I haven’t heard anything like McGuire ever, and to hear him perform these compositions live is a joyful experience, even on Youtube. Earth:2015 is just one of the most incredible compositions you’ll hear in years.
Music Complete is the most New Order-iest New Order album to come out since Technique, blending the tight percussion and jagged guitars of Brotherhood with the dancey keyboard-heavy sounds of Technique and Republic, and while some air could have been introduced into the production, every time I hear the album I’m brought back to 1986 grooving to Bizarre Love Triangle, Blue Monday and The Perfect Kiss. The songs on Music Complete turn that frown upside down with slightly melancholic minor chords and melodies while making you want to dance your troubles away. Singularity just kicks my ass every time with that combination of prominent bass, techno beats and Bernard Sumner’s angry vocals and scathing guitars.
Saint Marie Records continues to release great music: Dean Garcia (Curve) and daughter Rose Berlin put out Dark Matter as SPC ECO, and while the atmospheric music certainly IS dark, Rose’s voice is getting better and better, sensual and deadly. Some of the bands I’ve been enjoying on the label are Elika, Echodrone, Presents for Sally and Seasurfer, all who have new albums out in 2015 as well as Spotlight Kid and Lightfoils. Their upcoming Static Waves 4 compilation is an effective introduction to the Saint Marie roster of shoegaze and dream pop bands as well as giving the listener three CDs, 33 tracks and 24 previously unreleased songs. Label runner Wyatt Parkins also re-releases albums (on vinyl!) of lost and forgotten bands giving them a second life amongst fans of quality music.
And finally, one of the best deals online now is the Ambient Online Compilation: Volume 5. One hundred and eight tracks of pure ambient genius from the world over for $9.99 or more, all proceeds go to maintaining the Ambient Online site.
Rush‘s 40th Anniversary show at The Forum
The Tubes at The Canyon Club
Fleetwood Mac at the Forum
Chemical Burn at The Whisky a Go-Go
Steely Dan at the Forum
Underworld at The Hollywood Bowl
Swervedriver at the Satellite with Gateway Drugs and Dead Leaf Echo
Ride at the Wiltern
Cheatahs at The Echo with Vulkano and Gazoota
Charlatans at Henry Fonda Theater
Anthrax, Testament and Shattered Sun at the Sunset Blvd. House of Blues
FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2015:
Australasia – Notturno (Apocalyptic Witchcraft)
The Bixby Knolls – Tomorrow Never Comes EP (El Camino Media)
Bjork – Vulnicura (One Little Indian)
Cheatahs – Mythologies (Wichita Recordings)
Chemical Burn – Raining Anvils (Megasonic Records)
Corpo-Mente – Corpo-Mente (Blood Music)
Echodrone – Five (Saint Marie Records)
Evvol – Eternalism (Self-released)
Gateway Drugs – Magick Spells (Cobraside)
GosT – Behemoth (Blood Music)
Gwenn0 – Y Dydd Olaf (Heavenly Recordings)
He Whose Ox Is Gored – The Camel, The Lion, The Child (Bleeding Light Records)
Jaakko Eino Kalevi – Jaakko Eino Kalevi (Weird World Records)
Jaga Jazzist – Starfire EP (Ninja Tune)
Killing Joke – Pylon (Spinefarm Records)
La Casa Al Mare – This Astro EP (Self-released)
Malpas – Rain, River, Sea (Killing Moon / Yebo Music)
Mark McGuire – Beyond Belief (Dead Oceans)
New Order – Music Complete (Mute)
Ozric Tentacles – Technicians of the Sacred (Madfish Records)
Public Image Limited – What the
World Needs Now
Spectral Lore – Voyager (Blood Music)
Supersuckers – Holdin’ the Bag (Acetate Records)
Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born to Lose You (Cobraside)
Toadies – Heretics (Kirtland Records)
(by Bret Miller)
Dead Ocean (Mark McGuire’s label)