Cyclic Defrost: Best of 2008

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Seb Chan

This year I’ve listened, again, to quite a bit of music – something like 23000 individual tracks, and although I’ve been DJing far fewer gigs than previous years, I’ve probably rekindled a bit more of an interest in dancefloor music. This year, too, I invested in a Squeezebox which has liberated a whole lot of digital sounds from the tyranny of the iPod in the lounge room.

So here’s a tiny smattering of my picks of 2008.

There’s been too much to list and too little time to do the listing – and if I don’t hit ‘publish’ now then it will be 2009 before this gets out the door!

Single tracks:

Born Ruffians – I Need A Life (Four Tet remix) (RCRD LBL)

What a lovely stripped back remix much in the vein of Four Tet’s Ringer EP which takes the originals’ vocals and turns them into a swelling multitracked chorus before the guitar fuzz gloriously arrives.

Zomby – Test Me For A Reason (Hyperdub)

8-bit dubstep/wonky producer Zomby released so many tracks this year (including a full album homage to 1992 ‘ardkore rave) but none better than this short 2 minute mournful tribute to UKG – much like Burial.

Raz O’Hara and the Odd Orchestra – Where He At (Apparat remix) (Get Physical)

I heard the remix before the original and in fact both were on high rotation. A very mournful, introspective track that pretty much soundtracked my April and May.

Home listening:

Children of the Wave – Carapace (Sensory Projects)

Yes, it is made by one of my friends (and Cyclic writer) Bob Baker Fish, but Carapace is a lovely odd album that is equal parts Eno and Animal Collective. In fact I’ve been shorthanding it as an ‘ambient Animal Collective’ and I featured it in the Cyclic Music Club shortly after its release.

High Places – Self-titled and High Places – 03/07 – 09/07 (Thrill Jockey/Mistletone)

Quirky Brooklyn duo High Places make joyous pop music on clattering clanking junk-fi instrumentation. I’d really like to catch this band live.

Stag Hare – Black Medicine Music (A Star)

Weird droning lo-fi avant-folk from Salt Lake City’s Stag Hare takes the spot that Paavorharju, had their latest album lived up to its promise, would have rightfully taken. Field recordings, loops, drones, strange instruments.

Mikkel Metal – Peaks and Troughs (Echospace) / Deadbeat – Roots and Wires (Wagon Repair)

Two albums that fill the gap left behind by the lack of anything really new from Rhythm and Sound. Both featuring Paul St Hillaire/Tikiman on guest vocals, Mikkel Metal and Deadbeat continued to plough the ever fertile field of dub influenced Detroit techno.

Tiago La is Losing the Plot – s/t (Lex)

A simple lo-fi concept pop EP but full of earworm melody and lyrics. Pretty much an unknown artist and standing more than a little out of place on the Lex imprint, this nearly skipped me by on its way to a reviewer, but since interception it has been on high rotation.

Errors – It’s Not Something But It Is Like Whatever (Rock Action)

Mogwai’s label put out this great debut album from Errors which sounds a little like Four Tet doing ‘indie dance’. Now that probably makes it sound far worse than it actually is – because the results are pretty fantastic. Bouncy, riffing, squelching – and nothing like The Klaxxons and their ilk.

Portishead – Third (Island)

A long overdue follow up album and one that was almost doomed to be disappointing. Nevertheless, Third was the kind of comeback album that pretty much threw away all the mainstream goodwill Portishead had accumulated as their previous albums became co-opted into the soundtrack of dinner parties and shopping malls. The result was a dark, taut, driving album.

Travelling:

Lindstrøm – Where You Go I Go Too (Rune Grammofon)

Wow this was like a flashback to early high school when I got obsessed with Jean Michel Jarre. Reduced to just three long tracks, Where You go I Go Too was the soundtrack to many ‘in-between film’ moments on the long haul flights this year.

Fuck Buttons – Street Horrrsing (ATP)

Another great album for travelling – probably the only time a parent like me gets to listen to an album as a whole without interruptions. Fuck Buttons manage to combine oppressive wall of noise with the loveliest melodies and electronics.

Mix:

Various Artists – Sleepwalk (mixed by Optimo) (Domino)

Optimo still are amongst my favourite mix compilers. Their stupendously large record collections and diverse tastes (they’ve jyst done a 10″ of Crass-related anarcho-punk edits!) mean that every mix they put out is like a series of gateways to new worlds of music waiting to be explored. Sleepwalk, their second commercially released DJ mix of the year, is a mix of two halves, the first weaving together a warm soundscape from Coil, Tuxedomoon, 60s psychedelic voyager Eden Ahbez, Cluster and Arthur Russell. The second half moves upbeat with a lovely Bollywood tribute from Future Pilot AKA (ex-Soup Dragons!), Mulatu Astatke and Wall of Voodoo covering Ring of Fire!

Onra – Chinoiseries (self-released)

French DJ/producer Onra dropped this mix made up of chopped up snippets of market sold Vietnamese and South-East Asian cassettes. Although it gets predictable, as a whole the mix is a great example of the clever use of limited source material and outdid Madlib’s efforts all this year.

Shaun Prescott

I was going to rant a bit here about how horrible lists are. In December it seems like everyone is in a rush to list their top 10 of everything. You know, I used to love this season! But I find myself caring less and less what credible publications regard as their “definitive’ best fifty albums of the year, mostly because, if anything, lists serve as a nice way of filling out the slow Christmas season with content. What actual “content’s these lists provide, I’m not sure. I don’ trust these arbitrary canon or zeitgeist fabricators though, and they’re godawful boring!

In a climate where mediocrity, fence sitting and retrograde hipsterism are prevailing trends in “championed’ or “critically acclaimed’ pop music, I find myself looking for the weirdest albums I can lay my hands on. To be honest, this has been my agenda forever – ever since dad showed me Hendrix’ “Third Stone From The Sun’ – but nowadays it feels like the tendency is growing and subsuming my tolerance for anything vaguely “normal’, much to the frustration of well-adjusted peers eager to share the new Fleet Foxes.

So without further ado, here are the five albums this year that were just stunning, for me. In no particular order. I hope you enjoyed them too.

vincentoverthesink
Vincent Over The Sink – 22 Coloured Bull Terriers

This came completely out of left field. I’ve listened to this album a sickening amount of times this year and I reckon I probably know the lyrics better than Matt or Chris do. I love how lethargic and exhausted this album sounds at times: it’s all lazily blotted melodies, hazy bucket-bong drone, with a hilarious, insomniac inscrutability about it. 22 Coloured Bull Terriers manages to be completely bonkers mad, but still occasionally poignant and touching. I’m still in love with it, some 10 months onwards.

thebug
The Bug – London Zoo

I listened to this album during a massive Philip K Dick trip earlier this year. I think this was really hitting home halfway through Dr Bloodmoney, Dick’ post-apocalypse novel set in California, a world away from London. You’d think JG Ballard would be a better literary accompaniment to this album – probably is – but Dick and Kevin Martin both have the art of dread down pact. Listening to this album makes me feel meek sometimes, so colossal is the rage. Warrior Queen says it best: “What’s wrong with this fucking world man?” If there was one album in 2008 that felt important, this would be it. This makes MGMT’ celebration of affluent hedonism seem cancerous.

thecaretaker
The Caretaker – Persistent Repetition of Phrases

This album isn’ much different to The Caretaker’ previous excursions – with the possible exception of Pure Anterograde Amnesia, an album that fractured The Caretaker’ ghostly ballroom apparitions until they were completely unrecognizable. Persistent Repetition of Phrases took the opposite route: the source material was right at the forefront here, to the point where you could prosaically regard a track like “Lacunar Amnesia’ as “catchy’. It’s just so beautiful though, this eminently sad music. It fits perfectly next to William Basinski’ rotted reel tape masterpiece The Garden of Brokenness. I’ve tried to write about this album so many times, but I’ll need to clumsily admit that I can’ properly explain the way this music makes me feel. Apologies.

theadvisorycircle
The Advisory Circle – Other Channels

I love how colourful all the Ghost Box albums are. So melodious! Not afraid to be pretty sometimes, though also quite disposed towards veering into seriously fucked-up territory (catch that guttural “MUUUUUMMMMY” at the end of “Eyes Which Are Swelling’ – it scares me every time). This is the type of music I listen to on sunny Saturday mornings. True story.

ganggangdance
Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna

Cyclic Defrost’s John Tijha did a great interview with Gang Gang Dance a few years ago, during which Brian DeGraw indicated that the group’ previous LP – God’ Money – didn’ at all turn out the way they wanted it. “We wanted the sound to be more of a bass heavy and sharp percussion oriented thing,” DeGraw said, “Like something that could fit sonically or production wise into the playlist of hip hop radio.” They didn’ quite get it on God’ Money, but they certainly have here, and the payoff is enormous. The internet, as per usual, has a great deal to say about this album: it generated a lot of discussion, especially in regard to Grime MC Tynchy Stryder’ contribution during “Princes’. In my eyes, there’ absolutely nothing regrettable about this album. It flows perfectly and even the most unconventional or plain silly ideas somehow work: an amazing feat considering how many seemingly unconsolable elements have been tossed into the mix. I should also mention that “House Jam’ works especially well if you listen to it twice in a row. Really hits the spot. Song of the year.

Peter Hollo
I’ve just posted my mega-2008 post over at the Utility Fog weblog, and I’d recommend that as the place to read this. I don’t want to clutter Cyclic Defrost with the enormity of that beast, so I’m crossposting the condensed bit of it here, including my, er, “top 21″ of the year. See:
Utility Fog’s “2008” post, incorporating the year-end ridiculously-comprehensive listening list and other lists!

If there’s one thing I can take away from 2008’s music for me, it’s beauty and mystery. Many of the artists I’ve discovered and many of the releases I’ve treasured have featured utterly odd song structures, and harsh noise crossed with delicate loveliness. But there’s also been plenty of rhythm – with the best of dubstep grabbing me for days on end, and some exciting breakcore and idm appearing later in the year – and melody, from the likes of Department of Eagles and Andrew Bird, not to mention the wonderful Why?. All in all, 2008 seems to have had a lot going for it.

I tried to put together a short list for this year – FBi wanted 5 and I gave them 6 after much deliberation. However, even that list was quickly put together before I did the complete one below, and as I scoured my hard drive and playlists, I kept on discovering more and more! A top 10 is impossible, but here’s something like my:

Top 21 releases of 2008

3ofmillions – immediate [space dairy records]
Autistic Daughters – Uneasy Flowers [Kranky]
James Blackshaw – Litany of Echoes [Tompkins Square]
bleeding heart narrative – all that was missing we never had in the world [tartaruga]
The Bug – London Zoo [Ninja Tune]
Burning Star Core – Challenger [Hospital Productions]
Cardopusher – Unity Means Power [Murder Channel]
Department of Eagles – In Ear Park [4ad]
Fennesz – Black Sea [Touch]
Mirrored Silver Sea – Continual Ascension [sound&fury]
Nico Muhly – Mothertongue [Bedroom Community]
Scuba – A Mutual Antipathy [Hotflush]
Shearwater – Rook [Matador]
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band – 13 blues for thirteen moons [Constellation]
Spartak – Tales From The Colony Room [hellosQuare]
Sunken Foal – Fallen Arches [Planet µ]
Vert – New Thing At Novara [Sonig]
Why? – Alopecia [Anticon]
Youthmovies – Polyp EP [BLAST First (petite)]
Various Artists – Living Bridge [Rare Book Room]
Various Artists – Recovery [Fractured Recordings]

Post continues here, with sublists and potted reviewlets of everything

Lawrence English
1. Finally making it to South Africa and South America…all in one year…
2. More sounds from Gas, what a legacy that project maintains.
3. Dethklok, their album and series one more than series two….
4. Brandon LaBelle’s Mono concert using just voice, but so utterly engaging!
5. Scott Walker…I’m gutted I missed his concert in London this year, but the records still catch the imagination
6. Steve Roden’s ability to turn Norwegian barge drones into astounding pieces of music!
7. Eugene Carchesio’s retrospective exhibition at QAG
8. Marcus Schmickler’s ball tearing concerts
9. Chris Corsano and his drums
10. Schnapps at the door

Steve Phillips
Just a quick one from Steve Phillips.

QUA – Silver Red
Panoptique Electrical – Let the darkness at you
Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
TV On The Radio – Dear Science
Nick Cave + The Bad Seeds – Dig! Lazarus Dig!
Juana Molina – Un Dia
Deerhunter – Microcastle
Holy Fuck – LP
KES Band – KES Band
Children of the Wave – Carapace

Ewan Burke
ndrew Liles & Daniel Menche –The Progeny of Flies
best album ever made about the life-cycle of small winged insects… Liles is also heavily involved in the ongoing C93 reissue program – his remix of Nature Unveiled is well worth hearing…

Current 93 – Birth Canal Blues
the End is nigh, apparently – but hopefully not before the release of the next album…

Death In June – ‘Black Angel – Live!’
DIJ’s Greatest Hits, unplugged… ‘Symbols of the Sun’, my favourite song of the year, was on this recording, probably my favourite album of the year…

Death In June – The Rule of Thirds
Douglas P confronts mortality on this elegiac album of pared-down acoustic songs…

Down In June – Covers… Death In June
sort of like the Cardigans do Joy Division – love me love me, say that you love me, you wolf-grey Adonis, you…

Various Artists – Auteur Labels: Les Disques du Crepuscule 1980-1984
this Belgian label ruled amongst black polo-neck-wearing youth in the early 1980s – here’s all the best stuff on a single disc…

Various Artists – John Barleycorn Reborn: Dark Britannica
era-defining collection of wyrd folk from around the British Isles…

Various Artists – We Rise Above
superb introduction to new Russian netlabel Lomeanor, specialising in neofolk, neoclassical and dark ambient…

Various Artists – Where Tattered Clouds Are Stranding
terrific double-disc compilation of neofolk and dark ambient from around Europe…

Various Artists – Wilde Jaeger
subtitled Alpine Myths and Masked Rites, this was a bizarre collection of neofolk, black metal and dark ambient, with superb sleeve/booklet photography… and you thought Austria was all Klimt and Wiener schnitzel…

Most played album which wasn’t a new release: Various Artists – Ultra-Lounge vol 1: Mondo Exotica
Martin Denny, Les Baxter et al transported me back to the space-age optimism of the 1950s…

Best TV show: Fringe
The X-Files upgraded and redefined for the 00s – and one of the leads is a statuesque Melburnian…

Best film: Australia
Big, bold, brash and populist – but enough about me… this might be the most important Australian film of the 00s – and very interesting to witness the ongoing spat over its merits between academics in the Australian press…

Best book: Drew Daniels – 20 Jazz Funk Greats
One half of Matmos writes a brilliant book about TG’s most poptastic LP – all music journalism should be this good…

Best live performance: Patti Smith & Philip Glass, Melbourne, Oct 2008
Smith, Glass and Lenny Kaye rocked the house in a tribute to Allen Ginsberg…

Favourite Australian public moment: PM Kevin Rudd says “Sorry”

Best tram ticket: the one with the Medieval Imagination design

Bob Baker Fish
Yawning Man – Vista Point (Lexicon Devil)
Hypnotic desert tinged instrumental rock jams, equal parts Meat Puppets and Desert Sessions.

Various Artists – Tingling Cheeks are Love (Sensory Projects)
2 beautiful melodic amazing emotional discs that demonstrate the diversity of the label. Just being reminded of Hood and Kammerfilmmer Kolektief makes it one of my favourite musical experiences all year.

The Sun Blindness – Like Pearly Clouds (Sensory Projects)
A tripped out reverb soaked wash of nostalgia masquerading as songs. Sweet hazy druggy psychedelic jams that have this indescribable jangly melodic carelessness .

Boredoms – Super Roots #9 (Thrill Jockey)
Live Xmas eve in Japan it’s three drummers, Eye with his 2cdj’ and a 24 piece choir. The entire effect is giant overwhelming bombast, one single 40 minute piece, it’s a relentless hyperactive assault on the senses.

Dengue Fever – Venus on Earth (Real World/ Planet Company)
Cambodian/ Californian 60’s psychedelia and lounge jazz with the odd burst of surf rock, incredible singing in Khmer, like a beautiful songbird. You can imagine her in a faded Cambodian nightclub pitching gorgeous torch songs to four drunken G.I’s.

Juana Molina – Un Dia (Domino)
Argentine former TV comedian now songstress. Incredibly quirky intimate and sincere, Un Dia is infused with her unique sweet gentle slightly euphoric hysteria.

Panoptique Electrical – Let The Darkness at You (Sensory Projects)
Gorgeous ambient swirls of sound to rest your weary bones. Timeless, in that time just stops when you listen.

Dan Friel – Ghost Towns (Important)
Puts the pop in noise music. Ignoring the fact that it was never meant to be there. Searing noise anthems that make you want to burn things down.

Terminal Sound System – Constructing Towers (Extreme)
Wait you’re meant to be this frenetic drum and bass dude, what’s the deal with this late night broken down jazz? Possibly the album I listened to the most this year as I kept finding new things to intrigue me.

II – Landlakes (Feral Media)
This album has everything from post rock to experimental noise. This is a kitchen sink first album and continues to astound after repeated listens. Finally saw them live this year at the Panoptique Electrical Launch and was amazed to witness this improvised aggressive set of pedal based feedback. Beautiful.

Bruce Haack – Haackula (Omni Corporation)
Dark electronics, but more importantly dark psyche, demonstrates how the music business can tear someone apart. Doesn’t make him produce more commercial music though, just makes him bitter and angry. Thank you Mr Omni.

Monkey – Journey to the West
Damon Albarn’s cues for the Monkey stage show are hilarious fun, beautiful soulful and quite experimental, a real revelation.

Various Artists – Roots of Chicha: Psychedelic Cumbias from Peru (Barbes/ Planet Company)
Rickety funky kitsch killer Peruvian music that blew my poor little mind and lightened up my soul.

The Bamboos – Side Stepper
Saw the Bamboos support Roy Ayers and the joint was rocking. They make me hate Kings of Leon because their cover of King of The Rodeo is so much better than the original. Turns out it was merely the handle I needed to dive into a great soulful funk album that is about 30 years too late but nonetheless is very very welcome.

Matthew Herbert – There’s Me and There’s You (!K7)
More Big Band, Disney at the Hollywood bowl experimentalism. Sure he’s scraping 80 condoms along the floor, but really every concept behind this music is so overly ambitious that it enters the realms of the ridiculous. In a good way.

Various Artists – Nashville Sputnik (The Omni Corporation)
Just listen to the production skills of Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan. Rusty Diamond’s Skellykins is the greatest song. Ever.

Matmos – Supreme Balloon
the duo attempt to chill out from their overly conceptual work of late using only synths, oh wait, shit, that makes it kind’ve conceptual anyway. I think.

Debashish Bhattacharya – Calcutta Chronicles: Indian Slide Guitar Odyssey (Riverboat/ Planet Company)
Gentle ragas crafted on acoustic guitar, with occasional sitar and tabla accompaniment that moves well beyond Indian stylings, into Flamenco, Hawaiian, even Americana finger picking. Gorgeous.

Qua – Q&A
an unrestrained sugar rush of cheeky electronic pop that is as endearing as it is complex.

Lucky Dragons – Dream Island Laughing Language (Mistletone)
It’s nice when you find people who choose to not follow the rules and put music together the way it feels right to them. It’s artificial yet somehow intimate, this curious throbbing primal mass of sound. Their live show at RRR performance space was even better with heaps of toys and much audience interaction. Who knew they were such showmen.

Mike Patton – A Perfect Place (Ipecac)
Thought I was sick of his shtick, then I heard this great soundtrack to an average short film. It’s a tribute to Mancini with a bit of his wailing thrown in for good measure

Moussa Doumbia – Keleya (Oriki)
raw African beats and 70’s American funk combine in a killer reissue from the James Brown influenced Malian based in the Ivory Coast.

Wayne Stronell
After listening to sooo much music through the year, I find it almost impossible to compile these ‘best of’ lists, its just too hard, so I’ve given myself room to breath, and picked 23 instead! These are the releases I keep coming back to, the ones that just get better with every listen, the ones that have made me sit up and take more notice…

~ Various Artists – Nigeria Rock Special: Psychedelic Afro-Rock And Fuzz Funk In 1970′ Nigeria (Soundway LP) With so many African compilations released this year, this is the cream.

~ Disrupt – Samurai Showdown/Last Blade (Jahtari download) Dub has never been so creative, so fresh, so 8bit…

~ Flying Lotus – Los Angeles (Warp LP) Skewed hip-hop with a soul, diverse and deranged, full of warmth and wonder.

~ Glen Porter – Something Glue (Inner Current Recordings 12″ EP) A master guitarist and incredibly fresh drum programming, a producer to watch closely.

~ MRR-ADM featuring Malcom Catto – Untitled (MRR-ADM 10″ EP) Library music from tomorrow, dirty drums like no other, this record blows my mind.

~ Mr Chop – Sounds From The Cave (Jazz & Milk Recordings 12″ EP) Psychedelic breaks, they sound fresher now than a decade ago, ahead of his time.

~ Mr Cooper – What Else There Is (Project Mooncircle CD) Fusing everything good from hip-hop, electronica and dubstep, an amazingly emotive album.

~ Various Artists – Inspired By Boards Of Canada (Myuzyk download) I still find it hard to believe free music can sound this good. Watch this label.

~ Portishead – Third (Universal CD) After a long hiatus, they return with a classic album that really grows on you.

~ Shackleton – Soundboys Suicide Note (Skull Disco 12″ EP) Sam Shackleton pushes the boundaries of dubstep even further, a true originator.

~ Son Of A Bricklayer – Shades Of Grey (Ground Floor Records download) Darkly cinematic instrumental hip-hop that deserves more attention from the music press.

~ Gaslamp Killer – I Spit On Your Grave (Obey CD) A brilliant mixtape of dirty psych drums from yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

~ The Heliocentrics – Distant Star (Now-Again/Stones Throw 12″ EP) Lifted from a fantastic album, conscripting MF Doom for vocal duties, genius.

~ The Natural Yogurt Band – Away With Melancholy (Jazzman 2×10″ EP) Instrumental future psych, funk and jazz from the drummer of Little Barrie.

~ Wareika Hill Sounds – Proverbs Of Proverbs (Honest Jon’ 7″) The Moritz von Oswald dub on the flip just shows what ever he touches is gold.

~ Various Production – Haven (Various download) A radically different approach on this free track, controlling the chaos with great effect.

~ Voice Of The Seven Woods – VVIIW (Self Released CDR) Rick Tomlinson can do no wrong with his blend of acoustic and psychedelic offerings.

~ Deadverse Massive featuring Dalek, Destructo Swarmbots, Oddateee (Public Guilt LP) A truly experimental album, with every artist weaving magic outside their usual production style.

~ Various Artists – Brazilika Mixed By Andy Votel (Far-Out Recordings CD) Andy Votel pieces together another mind blowing mix from vaults with rare records from Brazil.

~ Roots Manuva – Slime & Reason (Big Dada LP) It’s hard to resist Roots Manuva’ charm and humor on his most dancehall record to date.

~ The Declining Winter – Moteer Remixes (Mobeer 3″ CD) Beautifully fragile interpretations, great packaging, and so many exclusive extras.

~ One Day As A Lion – One Day As A Lion (Anti CD) Zach de la Rocha spits brutality over some seriously raw drums and screaming guitar.

~ Ghislain Poirier featuring Face-T vs Megasoid – No More Blood (Ninja Tune 7″) Sixtoo reinvents himself with Megasoid, an onslaught of bass and analogue synths.

Missnae
Oh, if you insist. Keeping in mind that there are always so many albums I’ve missed and will be playing catch-ups on well into the new year, here’s a smattering of music I enjoyed this year.

Atlas Sound – Let The Blind Lead Those Who See But Cannot Feel

A lovely solo project from Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox featuring dreamy vocals that linger in the densely layered atmospheric fug of guitars, bells, keys and a miscellaneous gentle torrent of tiny sounds.

Bachelorette – Isolation Loops

Bachelorette is my favourite anti-pop starlet. I’ve been living with this album all year, like a favourite painting of a future-retro space station or a portrait of a comic nerd with a ukele and a cup of chamomile. I also managed to see her perform not once but twice, and really dug her shy but sardonic one woman show.

Beach House – Devotion

What can I say? Beach House have followed up on their debut self-titled album with a gift of wondrous dimensions. I adore ‘Devotion’ (the title is apt) and their gig at the Hopetoun Hotel earlier this year rocked my little socks.

El Perro Del Mar – From The Valley to the Stars

Continuing my penchant for Swedish pop that began with The Concrete’ “Teenlove’ and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. I was quite surprised to learn that this is a solo project from Sarah Assbring who crafts this beautiful, soulful and melancholy music all on her lonesome.

M83 – Saturdays = Youth

m83 album cover
I haven’ enjoyed a love letter to the 80’s this much since the Donnie Darko soundtrack a few years back. Let’s go to the prom and sidestep all night with Kim and Jessie!

Matmos – Supreme Balloon

Matmos are unstoppable. Straying only slightly from their reputation as conceptual artists, Supreme Balloon is a tour de force, floating verily through the historic land of rare and vintage synthesiser sounds.

Sigur Ros – með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

Ok, so it’s very similar to the repertoire of previous offerings from this much lauded band but I’d say this album is worth it for the opening track alone – “Gobbledigook’ is so killer, “Lalalalalalalalalalalalalallalalalalalalalalaaaaah!” Enough to make you want to get your gear off and go tearing through a frostily cold Scandanavian forest in search of the pixies and glitter folk till twilight? Sigur Ros seem to think so.

actors running along the beach naked for the gobbledigook video

Twi The Humble Feather – Music for Spaceships and Forests

Terrible name, wondrously good music. This has just snuck into the 2008 listening list for me and I’m still attempting to summon words to explain the weirdness here. “Animal Collective meet a choir of Oompa Loompas on acid who record an album inside an old growth tree with merry dancing bears on the mix’ is what initially springs to mind.

Alaxandra Savvides
An apprehensive retrospective of the moments in songs from 2008 that made the hairs on the back of my neck do strange things and/or made me squeal with glee.

Probably my song of the year regardless of the Eurovision debacle

Sebastien Tellier – Roche (0:19, after the whirring plan motor fades out and the breezy, summer synth hits)

Ahh, Sebastien. Only you could make impersonating Jesus look so effortless.

Tellier’s Sexuality makes me think of Serge Gainsbourg on a particularly amorous night with a Moog. Love. It.

Mrs Jynx – My Friend T3 (0:43 when the percussion kicks in and makes the entire midsection soar with grandeur, and again at 2:41 as the throaty, somehow human sounding ‘ah ah’ comes in)
Morgan Geist – The Shore (0:45 as Jeremy Greenspan whisper-sings “It’s okay to let it out”, a thousand teenage hearts melt in unison)
M83 – You, Appearing (3:39 that last gasp of air before the onslaught of Loveless-esque beauty in ‘Kim & Jessie’)
Jim Noir – All Right (2:09)
Inch-Time – Snow Jewel (2:19. I remember listening to this on teaism.net months before the actual release, and struggled to tear myself away from the magnificent beauty of this particular moment. This entire compilation is a winner, but, this moment from Adelaide’s Stefan Panczak wins for its exquisite ability to tear my heartstrings apart.)
Cat Power – Ramblin’ Woman (1:25)
Benoit Pioulard – Golden Grin (0:33)
Daedelus – For Withered Friends (feat. Michael Johnson) (0:46)
Goldfrapp – Road to Somewhere (2:47)
Seekae – Void (2:14)

yeasayer_282
Yeasayer – Wait For the Summer (2:10)
Wiley – Wearing My Rolex (This was cemented as the most important crossover hit I can remember when I heard it in a suburban coffee shop, blasted over commercial radio. Bless.)
Friendly Fires – White Diamonds (2:57. The start of a serious love-affair with their harmonies and exquisite production.)
Air France – Collapsing At Your Doorstep (0:01)
Lawrence – Forever Anna (this is the song I write in my dreams and forget when I wake up)
Four Tet – Ringer (0:52)
Dosh – Don’t Wait For the Needle to Drop (1:35)
Raz Ohara and the Odd Orchestra – Kisses (Pantha du Prince remix) (0:01)
Apse – From The North
Beck – Chemtrails (the first Beck song I’ve truly ‘got’)
Leila – Mettle
Hot Chip – One Pure Thought (apart from the fact that no one believed me when I thought that the beat was identical to M83’s ‘Couleurs’…)
Ane Brun – Headphone Silence (Henrik Schwarz Remix – Dixon Edit – Ame Approved)

neonneon

Neon Neon – I Lust U (2:07. Apart from the press shots and media releases, I have no idea what this album has to do with DeLorean cars)
Lindstrom – Grand Ideas (Johan Agebjorn Remix)
Geiom – Boxes that Go Beep (this one seemed to be a MySpace stream/dubstepforum.com thing only, but was simply that gorgeous it can’t go without mention)
iTAL tEK – White Mark
Khoiba – In Every Second Dream
Antony and the Johnsons – Another World
Max Tundra – Will Get Fooled Again

A brilliant song from an otherwise disappointing/terrible album

Indeed.

The Streets – The Escapist

I got a lot of music for free this year. Doesn’t mean I love it any less…

Ghoul – M-O-O-N (0:56)
Faux Pas – Chasing Waterfalls/Renfield’s Dream

Tim also wins the Photoshop award of the year for this effort:
metheboyz

The silliest music-related story of the year

The Guardian blames AC/DC for economic downturn

Now for the albums that I couldn’t bear to play favourites with

Flying Lotus – Los Angeles (Such damn swagger, such exquisite style)
2562 – Aerial
Various Artists – Teaism
Various Artists – Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow
Children of the Wave – Carapace
Portishead – Third
Max Richter – 24 Postcards in Full Colour
Peter Broderick – Home and Float
Fennesz – Black Sea
Johan Agebjorn – Mossebo
Various Artists – Steppas’ Delight
Martyn – Vancouver 12″ with 2562’s Puur Natuur Dub and Flying Lotus’ Cleanse mix of Natural Selection

Innverversity Sound
A strange year with death licking the boundaries of my world, delicate sound still sneaks in and reminds you of a lighter world. At the moment it is a battle between the crow and the owl. I hope the owl wins.

Beneva vs Clark Nova – Sombunall (Fenetre)
All over the shop precision genre munching electronic weirdo’. They are too intelligent to sound like anything you know and yet reference all you know, undercut it and throw it back in your face. Somehow I still want more.

Akira Kosemura – Tiny Musical (Schole)
Sparkling beauty in delicate brittle sound scapes always sneaks home.

RF & Lili De La Mora – Eleven Continents
Even with it’s slightly naff poetry that moves towards the new age it is a wonderful sonic text of a guitar master and electronic native.

Oliver Mann – The Possum wakes at night. (Preservation)
What can I say; Oliver is my local librarian who has been feeding me texts for the last few years. Eat local and surprise yourself to listen beyond boundaries of your generation for enhanced understanding and clarity of the breadth and depth of musical life.

Johan Johannsson – Forlandia (4AD)
It is time for the electronica generation to storm the concert halls. Some just were there all along.

Pateras/Baxter/Brown – Interference (emd.pl/records/008)
Local experimental crew continues blasting apart music. At the end will there be only pure tone? Are your instruments such prison guards that you continue to abuse them for your life sentence? Why do we come back for more?

Emiliana Torrini – Me and Armini (Rough Trade)
Well yes Mr. Baxter I am “a sucker for metaphysics’ and also for a well crafted pop sensibility that doesn’ condescend or attempt to be avant gardist. A pleasure to behold not a doom laden breath to be heard.

Christophe Bailleau & Neal Williams – On Soft Mountains We Work Magic (Fenetre)
Bright intelligent melancholic, rich and full. There are not enough adjectives available to gush with here.

Adrian Elmer
Writing reviews for Cyclic Defrost has shown me how much music I DON’T get to hear! I get to listen to some nice obscure releases that most people won’t ever even know about, but there’s so much music just in the Cyclic Defrost inbox that I never get to hear, let alone all the releases in the whole world! So I can’t call this the Best Of 2008, it’s just a list of the things that I happened to get to hear, via buying or reviewing, in the same calender year as they were released. Which means there are no doubt things released in 2008 that I will come to love in 2009 or beyond, and plenty of great music released in 2008 that I will never even know about.

So, in alphabetical order….

Awesome Color – Electric Aborigines (Australian Edition) (High Spot/Fuse Music Group)
Actually, skip the Australian CD version with superfluous jam demos and head for the vinyl version. It will make the amped up 60s fuzz weirdness sound more authentic. Not that this is too retro, but it wears the influences for these great songs on its sleeve.

Alan Morse Davies – The Last Summer (At Sea)
A free netlabel download of incredible beauty. Three very old pieces of vinyl are processed, almost beyond recognition, as long, ambient washes. Completely mesmerising and great value for money!

Beem – The Future
Probably the thing I discovered of most personal value this year is the Finnish phenomena of skwee music. It’s kind of r’n’b, dancehall, baile-funk, electro – but without any (mostly) vocals, and with all the sounds sounding kind of blobby and, well, squeezed (hence the name). There’s lots of good stuff available, but I include this because it’s probably the most accessible, being a free download album from Beem’s website. It covers all fronts from jerky rhythms to elastic basslines and twinkly synths.

Buraka Som Sistema – Black Diamond (Fabric/Inertia)
A late entry, but very worthy. This became the soundtrack to my pre-Christmas summer holiday and is still growing on me. Reinventing western dancefloor music in the image of Angolan kudora rhythms, without any world music awkwardness or self consciousness. I can’t wait for the live show in a month’s time.

Joshua Burkett – Where’s My Hat (Time-Lag Records)
I find a lot of wyrd folk/new Americana over rated and under considered. Not Joshua Burkett. Starting with what sounds like some sort of bagpipe solo, it catches you off guard from the outset. Tape hiss and acoustic guitar – check. But depth, rather than first take improvisation laziness.

Color Cassette – Small Town Smoker (Mobeer)
Double 3inch CD-R set posing as sides A and B of an album. Brilliant. Field recordings blended into melancholy folk-tronica. Brilliant.

Deepchild – Departure (Future Classic/Inertia)
If I was strapped down and forced to pick my single favourite release of 2008, I’d probably end up saying this was it. Everything that Deepchild has become renowned for over his career, only even better. And concise. I really love it.

Department Of Eagles – In Ear Park (4AD/Remote Control)
Skewed, organic/electronic pop of the highest calibre. It’s got everything necessary – experimental production, memorable melodies and the right amount of melancholy.

The Faint – Fasciination (Pod/Inertia)
At the turn of the century it was called electroclash. Now it’s gone mainstream and has naturally been diluted to lowest common denominator stuff. Thankfully, there’s a few artists like The Faint who can pick up the mix of early 80s electro, guitars and good pop songs, and make it sound great.

Ghoul – A Mouthful Of Gold (Oyvey)
9 tracks in under 20 minutes of space oddities. The electronic basses really get me. And the pop melodies. Nothing Like their live show, which is also great, but distinct from most things making the rounds at the moment. And that voice which has already been discussed ad-infinitum elsewhere. And you can only get it for free.

Lessons In Time – Lessons In Time (4-4-2 Music)
Full disclosure – 17 year old Blake Wassell is a great friend of mine who makes great music – so much so that I asked him to join my band and released his solo EP on my own label. However, all of that happened because the music he is making is great, not the other way around! This is twisted folk and lo-fi stuttering of great quality. He seems to throw a hundred tiny sounds in the air then keep them up by some magical process as they begin to whirl around.

The Oscillation – Out Of Phase
Shoegaze began to find a bit of a critical mass during 2008, even though it hasn’t actually gone away since the late 80s and has always had its admirers. I’m one of its big admirers when it’s done well, and The Oscillation does it better than most. And it’s all one man, Demian Castellanos, somehow sounding like a full band ebbing and flowing off each other.

Parts & Labor – Receivers (Jagjaguwar)
I became rather obsessed by this album a few months back. It harnesses the noise of old into new pop jackets, making for a powerful, noisy, concise collection of great songs. Guitars and electronics mixed with not a whiff of the 80s – see, it can be done!!

Pivot – O Soundtrack My Heart (Warp/Inertia)
Editor Seb called it ‘Van Halen meets Vangelis’ and online editor Peter called it ‘”rock”, almost dumbed-down Nu-Pivot’. I’m going to have to go head to head with the big guns, disagree and say that this album is still one of the best Australian releases ever. There! You all know what it sounds like by now.

Seekae – The Sound Of Trees Falling On People (Knitting Club Records)
Another late entry, but another good one. My judgement is probably clouded on this one a little as I’ve spent the year getting to know the band and their music both live and on recordings, but it’s really great blippy, moody, twinkly stuff. Maybe the album is a touch long – they could almost have split it into two great albums, or maybe left off the older tracks we’ve already grown to love, but the actual music is very worthy of any best-of list.

Various Artists – Nashville Sputnik – The Deep South/Outer Space Productions of Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan (The Omni Recording Corporation)
Nothing on this under 20 years old and most of it is nearly 40 years old, but the compilation was released in 2008, so it qualifies. And it’s the most fun you could possibly have with a country and western template, weirding it out in all manner of lyrical and sonic ways. Bizarre, hilarious, and actually quite good.

Wounded Knees – All Rise (Specific Recordings)
It was the promise of hand silkscreened packaging and brown vinyl for this 10″ that got me in. That, and the name ‘Kevin Shields’ for the mixing credit. And it didn’t disappoint. It’s actually Shields’ brother’s duo playing great 60s shaded fuzz/gaze/pop.

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