Archive for the ‘year-end list’ Category

Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2009!

January 1, 2010

Well, what do you know– this year’s list is right on time, and it actually has 12 entries! (Well, one is a repeat. But it appears there is hope for my stunted mathematical abilities, no?)

Having picked myself up from the 78 rpm-induced wreckage of last night’s party for one, I’ve found that 2010 is presenting me with the challenge to improve my broadcasts and my reach as a researching DJ. We’ll see how it goes, but for now, enjoy my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List for 2009! As always, these are presented in no particular order.

1) Rothkamm — “Frank Genius Is Star Struck” — Rothkamm didn’t make my list for two years running because I’ve got nothing better to listen to; he’s on here because the man is absolutely freakin’ brilliant. More than any release this year, I just couldn’t stop smiling whenever I put it on. Definitely one that blurs the lines between high-concept sound art and lowest common denominator pop disco… it’ll leave you baffled, entertained, and amazed all at once– and probably within the first few tracks.

2) Various — “Dictaphonia” microcassette series — Florida’s microcassette champion Hal McGee’s ongoing work curating the Dictaphonia volumes (five so far) also deserves to be on this list, not only for putting the micros back in the spotlight, but for encouraging so many disperate artists to begin stitching together a fractured picture of the artistic possibilities locked inside such ubiquitous recording devices. Purists will appreciate that these releases maintain a mechanical continuity– unless you miss the point and download them from Hal, you’re going to need a microcassette recorder to hear them as well!

3) T.D. Skatchit & Company — “T.D. Skatchit & Company” — Tom Nunn and David Michalak perform with selected guests, mostly using Nunn’s homemade “cardboard synth” Skatchit instruments. The results are bewilderingly complex, and often truly beautiful. Standout tracks feature vocalist Aurora’s extended technique, resulting in phenomenal improvisations not out of league with those of David Tudor’s electronics work or Joan LaBarbara’s sound paintings.

4) Thanos Chrysakis, Wade Matthews, Dario Bernal-Villegas — “Enantio_Dromia” — In my opinion, it’s damn near impossible to go wrong with an Aural Terrains release. Although this disc was well out of my depth to review properly, I have sincerely appreciated the incredible level of musicianship that is maintained throughout these fully-improvised works. While this quality alone couldn’t put any album into my year-end list, it is the fact that I find it identifiable among music that eludes me so thoroughly– I’ve found that a sense of confusion is not entirely unhealthy when confronting experimental works, tossing us about in our thoughts leads to new perceptions and understandings. I’m not at the end of my journey with “Enantio_Dromia” yet, and I doubt I will be for quite some time.

5) Yoshihide Sodeoka — “Video Metal” — Of course, there’s also room for spectacle in the experimental community– in fact, some of the recordings I most treasure seem to have their roots in one absurd or grandiose gesture or another. And while this isn’t exactly Stockhausen’s “Helicopter String Quartet,” I can imagine where some similarities exist. Besides, how often is it that you don’t have to be ashamed to own something with titles like “Psychedelic Death Vomit” and “Electric Hair Doom”?

6) Various — “Go Ahead, Copy This Noise” — Should I take shit for being on this double-disc compilation of Southern Illinois noise artists and later putting it in my year-end list? Please. I’ve got two tracks in Dictaphonia as well, and I’m not even blushing. It’s true, I may have no ethics– but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a kick-ass collection. Plus, you just know it’s going to be a collectible someday, most likely re-released on some Dutch label with intense liner notes and a wooden box. That thing’s going to be expensive too, and you’d have to hunt for it on eBay. Better just download this one now, and save yourself the hassle.

7) Neil Rolnick — “The Economic Engine” — This is why I always present my list in “no particular order.” Clearly, my noise activities aren’t any threat to Rolnick’s absolute ability to command my stereo for days at a time. On his third release for Innova, Rolnick presents a compelling four-part picture of modern China, and it’s a set of works that really gets me excited to have heard them. It doesn’t hurt that this is fertile material for intellectual consideration as well– it ought to at least hold me until Rolnick’s next offering.

8) Renato Rinaldi — “We Shall Overtone” — My favorite unexpected noise of the year, and rather strange stuff to boot… well, strange enough that even Last Visible Dog doesn’t quite know how to describe it. If you were excited about the potential (somewhat) unrealized in their Yermo release, you’ll really dig this disc, which is firing away on all cylinders towards destinations unknown. Recommended for adventurers.

9) Chefkirk & Ironing — “Notorious” — Ironing’s tape delirium goes surprisingly well with the spare no-input mixer contributions from Chefkirk, much more so that I would have expected. This is the Hymns label’s second entry in my Neat-O lists, so consider it your heads-up for picking yourself up a copy of this one– you’ll be happy you took my advice.

10) Matt Weston — “Seasick Blackout” — I haven’t been this excited about an EP since… well, I don’t know when. I’ll grant you that I’m a bit manic, but my sustained interest usually means I’m on track. “Seasick Blackout” has got me riveted, and I’ve played it for anyone I can corner with a speaker and 20 minutes to spare. If I beat you over the head with one release this year, it’s this one– so go get it, and buy an extra for a friend.

11) Eyes Like Saucers — “Parmalee, Tribute to a Dog” — This one might be a bit time-weighted, I’ll admit. It’s hard to tell whether or not I would have still been hot on this one if it had come out in January, but that’s the nature of chronology, eh? Regardless, I’ve dug enough of Eyes Like Saucers to know that I continually enjoy his lo-key improvisations, particularly so for their spare aesthetic and highly-individual sense of direction. I also note that it’s a disc that I’ve been returning to on a regular basis, which is always a plus.

12) Various — “Zelphabet” — I mentioned GX Jupitter-Larsen’s ongoing series of 27 noise releases last year, and I meant it when I said they were worth your while. They’re on the “I” volume now, and I’d feel bad if I didn’t mention to you all again how much this series has consistently maintained my interest and my respect. If you’re missing out on these, get your shit together before any of them sell out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Already own all of these? Go check out my lists for 2006, and 2007, and 2008 then!

Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2008!

January 13, 2009

Yes, it’s mid-January 2009. Let’s just say I’m fashionably late, and leave it at that. Or think of this list as your buying guide– if you’re spending this coming Valentine’s Day alone (perhaps tearfully re-organizing your record shelves?) see to it that you order a bunch of these fantastic releases to cheer you up. Just as last year, I will be treating my inability to count as less of a handicap, and more of a endearing eccentricity. And now, in no particular order, here are the Top 12 13 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2008 winners:

amo_2001) Mooey Moobau — “All Murmur of Our Mothers’ Waters” — Earlier this year, I referred to this disc as “dictio-fuckery,” a term which captures the pure glottological delight of rolling words back and forth on your tongue until all meaning is lost save for the sweet sonority. As a child, I once said the word “question” repeatedly until I couldn’t figure out if I was saying it correctly at all. This could have easily been the accompanying soundtrack.

40782) Eddie the Rat — “Out Behind the 8-ball” — Privately, I think of Eddie the Rat‘s Peter Martin as  a more unruly modern-day version of Harry Partch. This may not be totally accurate, but hey, it’s my head. Still, what with the brash polyrhythms coaxed from oddball homemade percussion instruments, I may not be too far off. But where Partch carried elements of the American folk landscape back to a greater listening audience, “Out Behind the 8-ball” mines South Asian influences, resulting in something like a post-trepanation Les Baxter album. Lovely!

40773) Jess Rowland — “The Problem With the Soda Machine” — Here’s a weird one for you. Rowland comes across some intra-corporate vending machine related e-mail drama, and decides to set it to music. In less capable hands, a disaster. For Rowland, one of the most immediately loveable albums right out of the box that I heard all year. Order this, and I’ll tell your future as a free gift: you’ll soon find yourself singing “we are faced with a choice about the future of the machines.” (Psst, this disc and #2 are from Edgetone Records. Order them both, and you’ll save on postage!)

frank-rothkamm-just-3-organs4) Rothkamm — “Just 3 Organs” — I used to think that if I had math skills, I would have made Rothkamm music; that’s how much I enjoy what he’s doing. But lately, I realize that nobody can make Rothkamm music but Rothkamm. It’s really the only similarity this list of albums shares– it’s strange stuff, a unique product of a unique mind. Simultaneously sound-obsessed and math-enabled, “Just 3 Organs” visits a series of hyper-organ works upon us. It’s a post-Second Life music, both virtual and yet displaying the umbilicus of its creator. If my ongoing fascination with Rothkamm hasn’t got you to pick one of his releases up yet, now is the time.

5) GX Jupitter-Larsen’s “Zelphabet” Series — Didn’t I say it best already? “Like the RRRecycled tapes, but done with some class, and considerable more attention to quality.” This 27-CD subscription (or buy ’em individually!) series shows why Jupitter-Larsen is the Bruce Schneier of noise– he’s got deep connections, and even deeper knowledge. Each disc is like sitting at the knee of a master, so you better believe they’re worthwhile.

cc_elementalshifta6) Cristopher Cichocki – “Elemental Shift” — This is the kind of release that only comes around once in a blue moon; a perfect artistic statement in its own right, but also able to vividly enhance one’s perception of many other unrelated works. Undoubtedly, this was my favorite release of the year– I couldn’t shutup about it, either– so there’s more of my gushing here and here.

mangler-redbeard7) Warm Climate — “Mangler Redbeard” — Apparently the locus of many LA experimental projects I’m currently enjoying, Warm Climate’s Seth Kasselman recorded “Mangler Redbeard” in a month as part of an online challenge… true evidence of how hard inspiration can strike! Equal parts glam-rock and bizarro-world influence, this ugly little bit of Xerox-and-CDR should not be missed.

tefasimage8) Glenn Weyant — “SonicAnta D-Construction Series” — If you’re looking to develop an ongoing relationship with something truly unexpected, consider subscribing to this series of CDRs. They from full-length explorations with a Honeywell fan; to sonic smorgasbords of homemade instruments, field recordings, and Weyant’s trademark border-fence-and-violin-bow collage. Wild and heady stuff, crafted by someone with a palpable love of sound.

9) George Korein — “Another Corpse” — I can’t seem to nail down exactly when this disc came out, so I’m going to be bold and claim it for 2008. As always, Korein appears to have dropped in from somewhere out in space, content to mystify Earthling listeners with another art-fractured gem. Describing Korein’s music always reminds me of an old Rolling Stone review for Missy Elliot, “She jumps so far off the heezy, she lands right on another heezy.”

10) LX Rudis — “Audible Method 1.43” — I don’t have a lot of info on this one, but I’m still super-excited to hear a live-studio-CDR hybrid disc such as this. Field recordings, live performance, editing, mastering all get mixed up quite thoroughly here. It’s hard for me to make this sound as amazing as it actually is, the mystery of whether you can actually acquire a copy makes it every more fun. Better check with Rudis at his MySpace profile… and while you’re there, dig his blogged bio for fun bits about trying out for tuxedomoon and the Dead Kennedys.

transe_des_mots11) Frederique Bruyas — “La Transe Des Mots” — This is the album that got me thinking, “gee, I really need to learn French.” It’s a one-two punch of bibliophile elan and Diamanda Galas’s swagger, and well worth your time. Bruyas collaborator Pierrejean Gaucher’s dexterous fretwork surprises at all turns.

51tixbrjyxl_sl500_aa240_12) Annea Lockwood — “A Sound Map of the Danube” — A triumph, which all sound enthusiasts should own. Lockwood not only covers the entirety of the Danube in this three-disc hunt for the river’s voice, but features many inhabitants whose daily lives are shaped along its way. This is fascinating listening, perfectly captured in a sumptuous release from the always-worthwhile Lovely Music Limited label.

bnn21_313) Lee Hangjun, Hong Chulki — “Expanded Celluloid, Extended Phonograph” ( 확장된 셀룰로이드, 연장된 포노그래프 ) — An astounding film demonstrating a concept vital to understanding many of the fine releases from Seoul-based Balloon & Needle label, that of “cracks” or “gaps” in media. For Hangjun, this takes the form of not filming anything, but rather choosing to work directly with the film itself. For Chulki, listeners are confronted with the sound of recordless turntables, or of the “meta-record” created by putting two needles to digital time-code vinyl records. It’s a world where sound influences itself, and raw film finds a place in the spotlight, and is definitely a world worth your visit.

Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2007!

December 31, 2007

At this time last year, I was worried that I’d mistake a 2005 release for something from 2006. This year, I find myself wishing for such a mistake, as I’ve been unable to winnow down my list of top releases from 14 to 12. In the same spirit that has left me unable to open a checking account for the rest of my life, I’ve decided to fudge my numerical shortcomings, and present my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2007 anyway.

In no particular order:

1) Al Margolis/If, Bwana — “An Innocent, Abroad” — With all the ability of producers to realistically render digital unreality, I’m still a little surprised I’m so taken with this disc. It’s not a brand new idea to combine unrelated elements into a working whole… but Al Margolis makes me think it is, putting “An Innocent, Abroad” into my top albums of the year.

2) Sabrina Siegel — “Grace/Precarious” — Yeah, I became Sabrina Siegel’s number one fan this year, sue me. Siegel’s ‘situationist’ approach to recording results in hyper-personal work where setting, physicality, thought, and personality interact as equals. It’s a stunning disc, and you’d be a big dope to miss it.

3) Circle Six — “Night in Kansas” — Talk about a missed opportunity! C6 releases one of the best albums of the year, in an edition of 30… for trade only. Compounding the unlikely scenario that a noise album about Kansas could kick so much ass, my good friends at Roil Noise Offensive actually have a remix album of it in the works. What’s next? A crow-themed double-disc drone set?!

4) Various — “Crows of the World, vol.1” — GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!! But seriously, this is a terrific set. Last Visible Dog, well-known for last years 6-disc outer-limits drone Invisible Pyramid set, once again manages to curate an essential collection of drone wooziness guaranteed to fuel your next excursion to the place between “pleasantly stoned” and “fugue state”.
5) Tom Nunn — “Identity” — Things just keep getting weirder and weirder. Tom Nunn plays moth-shaped instruments (of his own design) with combs, masters the knitting-needle-spring combo, and generally leaves my jaw on the floor the whole time. I could have easily added a few more Edgetone Records releases to this list, but this is the best of the bunch, hands down.

6) The Transhumans — “Into the Maelstrom” — Cursed with a somewhat dorky-looking cover, this disc still provided one of my best listening experiences of 2007. Post-listen, I was physically exhausted; a full believer in The Transhumans unique dynamic utilizing drums, electronics, and more electronics. Don’t worry, nothing remotely techno occurs.

7) Thanos Chrysakis — “Klage” — The folks at Aural Terrains sure know how to kick off a label! With “Klage,” Chrysakis has created a crystal-perfect world of electroacoustic sound with a high level of physicality still present… not an easy thing to do, if the sterile and disembodied releases so often claiming the “EA” title are any indication. As a fun fact, “Klage” has also gotten more people to call in to “It’s Too Damn Early” than any album this year.
8 ) Jeff Rehnlund — “Our Thin Mercy of Error” — Hymns released a ton of killer recordings this year, but for me, Rehnlund’s disc was one of the real high points. Taking the “anything goes” found sound aesthetic of the label, but also combining it with a narrative feeling resulted in a disc not only strikingly open to influence but also notably human.

9) Mike Tamburo — “Language of the Birds and Other Fantasies” — This one is kind of a no-brainer. Seven discs of Mike Tamburo’s exploratory free-folk improvisations and compositions, an 80+ page booklet, hand-made artwork, and a DVD of his film experiments to boot. Last I knew, these were still under $50— if there’s any left.

10) My Fun — “Sonorine” — One of two returning artists from last years list, Justin Hardison continues to send full-color maps and supplies for those interested in exploring the land promised by home recording and CDRs. This album is like the North Star, people! Seriously, I can’t say enough good things about it.

11) Phil Hargreaves, Glenn Weyant — “Friday Morning Everywhere” — Here’s one you can even download for free. I’ll admit, I didn’t really take into account netlabel releases in this list– if they’re free, you should just be checking them all out, right? Lucky for you, “Friday Morning Everywhere” squeaked in when Phil Hargreaves mailed me a copy. I guess he knew my printer was out of ink, cause I got the full pdf-cover workup and everything. Both Hargreaves and Weyant have joined my short list of incredible musicians this year (Hargreaves work with Caroline Kraabel on “Where We Were,” and Weyant’s “Sonic Anta” series are essential listening) so having them both on one disc is fantastic. While you’re ordering the other 13 releases here, why don’t you put on your new download of this?

12) Shelf Life — “Ductworks” — Judging from Public Eyesore’s release page for this disc, I was one of the only people who gave “Ductworks” a good review. You know by now that this means they were all wrong, and I was right. Otherwise, how could it be on a Top 12 list of best albums?! (See what I did there?) But seriously, I’m super-impressed. Collectively, Shelf Life resist the tendency to make something familiar of their sounds, and instead remain wholly focused on wringing every conceivable sound from their respective instruments, whatever they are. The level to which this quartet manages to fully blend their sounds is amazing, pointing away from the call-and-response improv model to something completely new.

13) Robert Ashley — “Now Eleanor’s Idea”— Robert Ashley is the second of the returning artists to my top albums list. Surely assisted by my near-fanatical devotion to Joan LaBarbara’s work, “Now Eleanor’s Idea” fascinates me for many of the same reasons as Ashley’s “Foreign Experiences;” the ordinary human impulses followed to fantastic conclusions, the ability of the performers, and the restrained elegance of Ashley’s music.

14) Various — “Untitled” — A three-label, three-disc untitled noise collection from the Public Guilt, Epicene Sound Systems, and Underadar labels. Everyone seems to have their own unique path to noise music, so it’s hard to recommend an entry point– but as a survey of the impossibly wide-spread noise “scene,” this is probably as close as it gets. Extra bonus points for keeping this release reasonably priced, and in an edition greater than 25– a freakin’ rarity these days, it seems.

Startling Moniker’s Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2006!

December 21, 2006

As you may have noticed, it is customary for DJs to compile some sort of “top ten” list at the end of the year. Since I have the worst sense of time imaginable, I have generally neglected this duty– besides, I’d hate to out my “off-off-Broadway” status while raving about something from two years back. I can hear the New Yorkers twittering, “How gauche! The poor fellow has mistaken 2005 for 2006!” as they sniff the sweet smell of subway air.

It is with this peril in mind that I cautiously bring you my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2006! For selections previously mentioned in STARTLING MONIKER, click the bold titles to see the original review. Enjoy! –DaveX

mazen.jpg1) Mazen Kerbaj — “Starry Night” — Back in July, when the top dog morons of Israel and Lebanon decided to plunge their citizens into war, Mazen Kerbaj captivated myself (and many, many others) with his “Kerblog,” which featured incredible drawings commenting on the horrific situation around Beirut. On the 15th of the month, Kerbaj recorded an improvisation of trumpet, dueting with the Israeli Air Force’s bombs. It’s an incredible statement, and a powerful recording.

2) Na — “Na is Nice” — A truly bizarre “debut” release (following a flood of CDRs) on Pax Recordings, this is surely one of the strangest albums I played all year. But for all its weirdness, it works.

bitbybit.jpg3) Yoav Gal & Yael Kanarek — “Bit by Bit, Cell by Cell” — A gorgeous work for Atari 800XL and soprano voice, this multimedia disc on Innova Recordings really threw me for a loop. There are many layers of meaning here, to the point that its ultimately unclear what’s happened. Nevertheless, this release really pushed the envelope of how much can be asked of the listener. I’m more than certain I’ll be using a large portion of 2007 to continue figuring this album out.

4) Various — “Montreal Sound Matter” — Easily the most inscrutable album of the year, in my opinion. Constructed from a pool of sounds collected in Montreal, Francisco Lopez cajoles a group of sound artists to present a variety of altered environmental recordings that only slightly resemble an Earthly city. However, the “bleeding edge” quality of the recording and construction of these tracks are of great appeal. Available through Pogus Productions.


claytonmcdonald.jpg5) Clayton Counts — “The Beachles” — As Negativland, Salvadore Dali, and any Fluxus member could tell you; one of the great things about art is being able to just plain piss people off. “The Beachles,” a mash-up of the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” albums, brought the ire of the EMI legal team who sought to shut The Beachles down. Now playing on the P2P network of your choice, its doubtful this great release will be difficult to acquire.

ashley.jpg6) Robert Ashley — “Foreign Experiences” — Distilling all the paranoia, heat, and weirdness that we know as “California,” Ashley presents an avant-opera that would make Phillip K. Dick proud. Featuring Sam Ashley and Jacqueline Humbert, this Lovely Music release will make a fine addition to any fan of music that truly explores inner thought, no matter how disturbed it may become.

7) Jack Wright — “The Indeterminate Existence” — I don’t know if this will actually be released by the end of 2006 or not, to be honest. But what better way to thumb my nose at those haughty subway riders than to nominate something this new and this fantastic? This album totally amazes me on so many levels, I originally described it as “frightening.” A disturbingly well-done set of improvisational work, available any minute now on Last Visible Dog Records.

8 ) Helena Espvall — “Nimis & Arx” — Again, my penchant for recordings pushing the envelope is apparent. Espvall drags her cello through a dischordant electronic warzone, water-damaged Impressionist paintings, and a carpet-remnant warehouse to treat listeners to her unique ear for electroacoustic sound. Also featuring George Korein, “Nimis & Arx” is available as a split release through Pax Recordings and Fire Museum Records.

9) Brekekekekoaxkoax — “We Used To Be Such Good Friends” — Austinnitus editor Josh Ronsen displays a deft touch with his first full-length release driving the improvisitory ensemble Brekekekekoaxkoax. Restraint, breathing room, and excellent use of dynamics are the order of the day for this release, on Hushroom Records.

legend.jpg10) Richard Lee Johnson — “The Legend of Vernon McAlister” — Inspired by a 1930’s National Duolian steel-bodied guitar containing the mysterious etching “Vernon McAlister,” Johnson creates a work of simple beauty on this Cuneiform Records release. With his imagination in full-gear, Johnson conjures a fanciful narrative that is quite delightful.

qualcov.gif11) My Fun — The Quality of Something Audible — Easily kicking Fennesz’s over-praised career to the curb, Justin Hardison kicked 2006 off right with a wonderful composite of treated field recordings, electronics, and talented editing. Just the track “Fireworks” alone should be enough to convince you that this album belongs on many more “best of 2006” lists. Amazingly, you can now download it for free from Hardison himself.

12) Danielle Palardy Roger — “Bruiducoeur, prieres des infideles” — If one thing consistently interests humans, it’s our own mortality. “Bruiducoeur, prieres des infideles,” available from Ambiances Magnetiques, focuses on the final, painful hours of one man’s life. Confused, terrified, and incoherent; he is accompanied by a emotionless reporter of his condition, and a helplessly sympathetic chorus. It is powerful, raw, and cuts straight to the heart.

I hope you enjoyed the Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2006! Write me a comment if you have anything you’d like to add, or you think I missed!