Cyclic Defrost started 24 years ago and we celebrate our quarter century next year. That feels so weird. What began as a zine-as-flyer for a weekly Sunday nighter called Frigid in Sydney (1996-2006), became a nationally distributed print magazine for a good many years before retreating (or expanding) into an online-only thing. Over those years a lot of music has come across our desk, inboxes, and eventually some of it reached our ears.
So as we do, we asked all of our contributors for a ‘Top 5’ for the year. Some can’t count, some ignored us, some listed drum machines or tea, and we embrace the messiness of it all. Chaos reigns! We wont rank releases, and frankly we don’t really care when the music was released. If it made it to the ears of our writers this year then you may find it here. So at a time when the odds really are stacked against artists, where inflation and algorithms conspire to steal their income, and a release window spans a few days (if that), we just want to reiterate that great art can and does make a difference. Music can seduce, challenge, inspire and even terrify you. It can become the soundtrack to your world, or even change it entirely.
So thanks to all the artists who followed their muse despite the challenges, thanks to all our writers who were inspired to put some words to what they heard, and thank you the reader for giving us your the time. We hope you find something in this list that will change your world.
Bob Baker Fish (Editor)
Moth Cock – Whipped Stream And Other Earthly Delights (Hausu Mountain)
Novelty noise, prog improv from this Ohio duo, where their weirdness and unpretentious improvisations are all about inclusiveness. Punning on Herb Alpert, well that’s just the (whipped) cream on the cake.
Tegh & Adel Poursamadi – “Ima ایما” (Injazero)
“Ima ایما” is the sound of the past and the future colliding, imploding and birthing something new, something unprecedented and immensely satisfying that exists totally out of time.
Merzbow & Lawrence English – Eternal Stalker (White Noise)
Moody noise music? A post industrial meltdown? The sounds of a soul being extracted from a body? I have no idea what this is. I purposely interviewed Lawrence English to find out. He couldn’t tell me. I’m simultaneously terrified and bewitched. Remarkable.
Broken Chip – Beyond (Bandcamp)
Hypnotic loop based Australiana. Quite contemplative music that feels like being in the bush. Just beautiful.
The Phonometrician – Cóiste Bodhar (Lost Tribe Sound)
This is what the music from death’s carriage sounds like, gentle hypnotic acoustic guitar and atmospheric gurgles as life escapes the body. This is music for darkness.
Seb Chan (Founder)
Seb’s random 11 picks
The Soft Pink Truth – Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This (Thrill Jockey)
Moor Mother – Jazz Codes (Anti Records)
Horace Andy – Midnight Rockers/Midnight Scorchers (On U Sound)
Vegyn – Don’t Follow Me Because I’m Lost Too (PLZ Make It Ruins)
Christoph el Truento – Giraffe (Bandcamp)
Aldous Harding – Warm Chris (4AD)
Clarice Jensen – Esthesis (Fatcat)
Deepchild – Fathersong (Mille Plateaux)
Carla dal Forno – Come around (Kallista Records)
Field Works – Stations (Temporary Residence Ltd)
Tengger – Earthing (Cardinal Fuzz)
And one more bit cheese-ball awesomeness – Cruisic’s Japanese jazz cover of 808 State’s Pacific 707
Jason Heller (Associate Editor)
William Fowler Collins – Hallucinating Loss (Western Noir)
For me, 2022 was the year of extended and blurred listening – and the finest proponent of extended and blurred was William Fowler Collins. One day I walked into my local favourite record shop and Collin’s ‘Perdition Hill Radio’ LP was thrust into my hands as a must buy. I got it home and was immediately blown away by the abstracted smeardness of this music. I had no idea how this music was made. It sounded like drones emanating from a wind tunnel 50 kilometers away and I loved it. When I discovered it was made by one human on a guitar I was even more astounded. In awe I shot William a message proclaiming my admiration and he sent me back his then unreleased LP ‘Hallucinating Loss’ which was just as epic in a different way. The new record is a more cinematic sprawl of smeardness – epic, evocative and cinematic. I am going to take this opportunity to apologise to William as he very generously gave me an in depth interview about his works, I just haven’t had time to write it up. What a year. But seriously. If you are into any kind of ambient/drone/bliss out/cinematic smeared psychedelia please go check this out. It’s amazing. Buy it right now.
Jean-Marie Massou – La citerne de Coulanges (Vert Pituite La belle)
I went to a record fair earlier this year and a well respected human in the Melbourne avant-whatever scene had a table full of aural magic for tender. I asked him if he had any music that sounded like it was recorded in a tunnel 50 kilometres away (see previous entry) and he swiftly pulled out two records by French outsider dilettante Jean-Marie Massou for me. Now we aren’t talking “sounds like it was recorded in a drain” figuratively here, our friend Jean-Marie spent his days exploring a vast property that his mother had invested in to keep him out of a life of being institutionalised. So our hero went wandering around with a dictaphone and these two volumes collate four sides of very strange and otherworldly recordings – many of them recorded in a concrete cistern in the woods. If you’re into this kind of thing you are probably already a fan, but if not then you will not be disappointed. Seek out the documentary film as well, you will be well rewarded.
Kungens Män – Fuzz på svenska (Adansonia Records)
Kungens Män are a small Swedish village worth of psychedelic wanderers who specialise in churning out side after side of the most perfect long form improvised modern space rock/psychedelic/wig out jams this side of Uranus. A collective of eight (?) musicians that seem to get together every week to record yet another perfect collection of skronky weirdness, which perfectly scratches the itch left by no new Bardo Pond releases this year (think Gazing At Shilla kind of exploration). They have approximately 100000 albums and they are all amazing. It’s enough to send you broke. I really need to stop visiting my friend’s record shop.
Nicholas Winding Refn – Too Old To Die Young (Amazon)
If I told you that there was something better than Twin Peaks The Return I doubt you’d believe me unless you’d seen Nicholas Winding Refn’s ode to expanded cinema with Too Old To Die Young, that somehow got signed off by Amazon Studios. Too Old To Die Young is ostensibly a crime noir that is narratively quite straightforward. Formally though, this series is an 18 hour mindfuck of how serialised long form screen works can surpass the medium of traditional cinema. Most of the episodes are feature length, Refn takes his goddam sweet time to get anywhere with anything. A single scene from a conventional film will stretch out for a half hour – because it can… and it needs to. My god. After insisting that a friend watched this I received a series of messages from their partner rebuking me for bringing this spectre into their lounge room. It’s an incredible watch that is one of the most important films of the 21st century, or something. Somehow Refn’s convinced Netflix to let him loose and he has another series due out early 2023. I will be renewing my Netflix subscription just for this. Incredible stuff.
Vacuum – Vacuum (It Records/Heavy Machinery Records)
After an extended hiatus of I really don’t know how long, the Melbourne based duo Andrea Blake (ASPS / Chrome Dome) and Jenny Branagan (NUN) returned with their debut full length album of late night dark wave bad time hypnosis, and it was excellent. Some arts festival at the start of the year, or last year – I don’t know – gave artists some money to make some music and release the records on the Heavy Machinery label – or something (hey don’t sue me – I know almost nothing about this and I am guessing). All I know is that I was excited to finally be able to play the minimal electro industrial nihilism of one of Melbourne’s best acts at high volume on the old turntable. I mean, if you don’t like this then you’re probably dead. The best Australian release of the year – hands down. Do it. Buy it. Now.
No Zu – Heat Beat (Chapter Music)
An honorable mention must go to the one and only No Zu, who have reformed and reinvigorated the world with a new EP on Chapter and a series of live performances that have felt like an incredible tribute to and celebration of Daphne Camf. I have only spent a short amount of time with this release so far, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to encourage people to go forth and sweat out the toxins of the year with another dose of the beat. Heat Beat to be precise. Of course Nic Oogjies’ mate Cong Josie has been galavanting around and getting lots of Cyclic press this year, so you should go check that stuff out too.
Peter Hollo (Website Editor)
Best duo albums of 2022
As usual there is too much great music from 2022 for me to whittle it down to 5 selections, but I was pleased to find 5 er, 12 collaborative albums in my top selections, so here we go:
700 Bliss – Nothing To Declare [Hyperdub/Bandcamp]
Moor Mother & DJ Haram’s debut album as 700 Bliss arrived early in 2022 from Hyperdub. The Philadelphia musicians are a great pairing. Moor Mother is comfortable in her usually gruff raps with hip-hop, punk, free jazz, metal and no doubt more; DJ Haram merges her Middle Eastern roots into club sounds, lo-fi hip-hop, noise and whatever else takes her fancy, and raps as well at times – e.g. on “Bless Grips”, which turns the macho aggression of Death Grips on its head. I’ve played a couple of the collaborations earlier this year – guests adding r’n’b tinges, angelic autotuned melodies and glitched breakbeats – but the talents of the duo are such that there’s hardly any repetition here, and no slackening of pace or interest, even in the tongue-in-cheek skits.
Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden – I get along without you very well [Thrill Jockey/Bandcamp]
If you know the work of Swedish musician Ellen Arkbro, it’s probably as a composer of super-minimalist works for organ or horns or guitar, with strange chords ringing out one by one. Thus her stunning new collaboration with fellow Swede Johan Graden, a free jazz pianist & arranger, might come as a surprise. Yes, it’s minimalist, but the deceptively simple arrangements for multiple bass clarinets, tuba, contrabass and piano, as well as occasional sparse drums, trumpet and other instruments, underscore Arkbro’s fragile, candidly melodic voice. The opening track is a beauty, but “Other side” stands out from an already stand-out album with its unusual harmonies (each piano chord includes two notes a tone or semitone apart), the all-bass orchestration (bass clarinet, tuba and contrabass join the piano’s left-hand in the second half), and the gorgeous, subtle vocal loop that carries through the last phrases. No sign of Chet Baker among these originals, but I get along without you very well achieves all the subdued emotion of the jazz standard it’s named after, with even fewer ingredients.
Ayala and Zac Picker – All Prayers Flow To The Stormdrain [Ayala Bandcamp]
Based on a story by Zac Picker called “Bessamim” published in Soft Stir Vol 2, this stunning work combines Zac’s spoken word with music and sound design from Ayala aka Donny Janks. Picker is in fact a physicist, but his talent for that very mathematical of sciences is balanced by a talent for very evocative prose, generating nostalgia via all the senses in a story about being (almost) 13, training for bar mitzvah. Picker’s lush, wry storytelling is carried here by the sensitive setting by Ayala, allowing the spoken prose to float in a bed of electronic tones, occasionally subtly processing the vocals.
Jockstrap – I Love You, Jennifer B [Rough Trade/Bandcamp]
So here it is. After a couple of brilliant singles, following the two extraordinary EPs released on Warp in 2020, and their debut EP on Kaya Kaya Records in 2018, UK duo Jockstrap’s first full album I Love You, Jennifer B is finally out from Rough Trade. The songs and sumptuous string arrangements of Georgia Ellery (also of Black Country, New Road), with the shiny-but-experimental production of Taylor Skye, make Jockstrap a unique and joyful experience. Part of Jockstrap’s brilliance is the juxtapositions: irreverant humour with deep emotion, luscious jazz harmonies & progressions with glitched programmed beats, intensely catchy pop sensibility with experimentalism. The album covers all the ground of their previous EPs, including frequent references to “the city”, and tracks named after women’s names. And that pop sensibility is unquestionable.
Julia Sabra and Fadi Tabbal – Snakeskin [Beacon Sound/Bandcamp/Ruptured Music/Bandcamp]
Released simultaneously by excellent Portland label Beacon Sound and great Beirut label Ruptured Music is the beautiful album Snakeskin from Lebanese duo Julia Sabra and Fadi Tabbal. Sabra is one third of dream pop trio Postcards, all of whose releases have been produced by Tabbal. Inevitably it’s deeply influenced by the massive Beirut port explosion of August 2020 that left hundreds dead, thousands injured, and destroyed countless people’s homes, but it also references other events from the region: the Palestinian uprising and Israeli crackdown in Sheikh Jarrah, and Azerbaijan’s invasion of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Armenia. Sabra’s soft voice expresses tragedy and loss, and the duo bring glitches and drones along with dubby Arabic percussion at times, all embedded in reverb. At times the more aggressive aspects of Postcards’ shoegazey rock emerge, but mostly it’s more quietly compelling. Don’t sleep on it.
Lueenas – Lueenas [Barkhausen Recordings/Bandcamp]
The incredible Danish duo Lueenas are made up of Ida Duelund on double bass, drum machine, Moog bass and “pedals”, and Maria Jagd on violin and pedals. The string instruments are the core, but some of the best material comes when the violin is screeching through distortion and the double bass is producing thundering drones. That said, we also find material on the more subdued side, including a gorgeous piece of almost-jazz featuring a touching vocal from Emma Acs (whose current band is Evil House Party). Through the album there are filmic violin swells, drones, thudding rhythms from the instruments’ bodies, and groaning noise drones as well as beautiful pizzicato lines and delicate string interactions. Also notable, Duelund was based for a time in Melbourne – always nice to have an Oz connection.
PETBRICK – Liminal [Rocket Recordings/Bandcamp]
The interface between breakcore and metal has always been eldritch thin. Here’s a perfect example: one half of PETBRICK is Wayne Adams, who made breakcore for years as Ladyscraper, but has also been in hardcore bands like Death Pedals, and party noise rock band Big Lad. Adams’ foil in PETBRICK is none other than Igor Cavalera, founding drummer in Brazilian heavy metal band Sepultura, but also electronic music producer and touring drummer with Soulwax. I first discovered PETBRICK through their incredible collaboration with Brazilian punk/experimental/noise group Deafkids, DEAFBRICK. It’s hard to pin down what’s producing the noises on PETBRICK’s second album Liminal – there are metal/industrial riffs that could be synths, drones that could be guitars, beats that could be live drumming but are often clearly sampled and programmed. It’s at times intense and rhythmic, at other times sparse or doomy. Hardcore/metal vocalists guest as well as underground rappers. As a response to a world falling apart, it’s quite visceral and yet also pretty fun. Meanwhile, back in May they released the Ayan EP, with four versions of the eponymous track, including remixes from techno veteran Surgeon and ex-breakcore veteran Cardopusher, but the real gem is their own “Bubblelogue” remix, which despite the reference to Aphex Twin’s Analogue Bubblebath releases is more in line with the annagramatic Hangable Auto Bulb EPs, drill’n’bass madness.
Randi Pontoppidan & Povl Kristian – Life In Life [Chant Records/Bandcamp]
Danish singer Randi Pontoppidan is powerhouse of vocal creativity – not just vocal techniques, but also the use of technology with her voice. She is also an accomplished improviser, and it’s perhaps more surprising to find that her collaborator here, the film composer Povl Kristian, interacts so instinctively with her on the piano in this wonderful album of spontaneous compositions, Life In Life. There’s little to indicate that these aren’t contemporary compositions, with ambiguous tonal centres and quiveringly evocative discords, and beautiful extra-musical touches from Pontoppidan’s electronics. It’s an antidote to the glut of “neo-classical” prettiness – any “subtle electronics” here are employed in a context of an unsettling and deeply satisfying lack of compromise.
Robbie Lee & Lea Bertucci – Winds Bells Falls [Telegraph Harp]
I know NYC composer Lea Bertucci from her exploration of site-specific acoustic phenomena (e.g. the brilliant Acoustic Shadows), work with computer, and her own playing on clarinet, sax, flute and other instruments. On Winds Bells Falls however, she’s working tape and effects in realtime while fellow New Yorker plays Robbie Lee plays celeste, flutes, gemshorn, contrabass recorder and orchestral chimes. These different instruments each interact in beautiful and strange ways with their tape-manipulated shadows, warping in pitch and flickering in and out alongside their real counterparts. A little bit of magic.
Ben Vida + Lea Bertucci – Murmurations [Cibachrome Editions]
Annnnd here’s a second duo from Lea Bertucci, this time with veteran US experimental musician Ben Vida (who released three beautiful albums as Bird Show on Kranky some years ago). Here Bertucci brings her wind instruments to the studio – sax, clarinet, flute – as well as the tape manipulation that made her Robbie Lee collaboration so special, and both her voice and Vida’s are divorced of meaning in cut-ups alongside the acoustic textures and the rumbles and gurgles of Vida’s synths. Compellingly off-beat stuff.
Saint Abdullah & Eomac – Patience of a Traitor [Other People/Bandcamp]
Is a duo of brothers working with another artist a “duo album”? Obviously not, but I do like to cheat.
This is a surprising but perfect collaboration between Ian McDonnell aka Eomac (one half of Lakker) and NY-based Iranian brothers Mohammad & Mehdi aka Saint Abdullah. With Saint Abdullah, the brothers explore various aspects of their culture and the way it’s filtered and twisted in the “Western” context, melding field recordings and samples of Iranian music with dub and IDM-inspired beats and ambiences, free jazz and noise. McDonnell too has brought traditional Irish music into his techno and experimental electronics, and the artists were able to find parallels between the ways religious traditions in their cultures have been used to oppress their peoples. The album runs like many Saint Abdullah albums, with crackling samples from Iran & the Middle East and further afield, and abstractions of various types of dance music. If you like this awesome work, be sure to follow up their many previous releases.
ubu boi & r hunter – A Symbol For Disguise [Genot Centre]
In 2020, Melbourne producer Asher Elazary aka r hunter released an excellent album called Dead Ambient on .jpeg Artefacts with two tracks featuring US producer & pianist ubu boi (a name that will generate chortles from anyone familiar with the work of Alfred Jarry). So it was great news when Prague’s Genot Centre announced A Symbol For Disguise – an entire album of duo work from the two artists. Here we have highly cromulent Genot Centre fare, the sounds of rave deconstructed into scintillating ambient, reconstructed into broken beats and shuddering subs, arranged symphonically and cinematically. It’s the strangeness of now, briefly pinned down like a cloud from an e-cigarette.
Acid Mothers Reynols – Vol.2 (Hive Mind Records)
What a weird and beautiful collision of worlds. The music is somehow unknowable, definitely indescribable, but there’s something so joyful and messy.
Etran De L’Air – Agadez (Sahel Sounds)
Gorgeous catchy tuareg guitar music from Northern Niger. This is music for the soul. Impossble not to have a smile on your face.
MLK-ULTRA – Ambent 6 – Music For AI Generated Graveyards (Bad Laser)
Whilst myself and Cyclic editor Bob Baker Fish went a little nutty on the mysterious somewhat demented Trentacles, I’ve found myself returning again and again to the elongated synth journeys of labelmate MLK-Ultra. They’re all live, without editing and usually recorded the night before. They take you somewhere.
Serpente – Dias da Aranha (Discrepant)
Its beat music, but all the beats are weird and wrong, like it was made in and for an alternate universe where the laws of gravity are different. Confusing and amazing in equal measure.
Madeleine Cocolas – Spectral (Room40)
Sometimes music can feel magical, not of this world. It’s totally bewitching me. I can actually feel it healing me. It’s heavy yet it retains its beauty. Such an achievement,
Party Dozen – The Real Work (Temporary Residence)
The Sydney duo more than delivered on the groundswell they’ve been building over the past few years. Their latest album, The Real Work, builds on the sonic gut punch of their live sound, and also sees them adding unexpected nuance to their musical palette on tracks like ‘Fruits of Labour’, ‘Earthly Times’, and ‘Risky Behaviour’. Having been signed to U.S. label Temporary Residence, with a single on indie heavyweight Sub Pop, and a guest vocal spot by Nick Cave, it seems like nothing is out of reach for them.
Mako – Death Of A Romantic (Samurai Music)
Drum and Bass and Jungle is going through something of a renaissance in recent years, and while the popularity of festival raising bangers has continued to grow, it’s the move into more experimental, post-club territory that is most exciting. UK producer, Mako finds a suitable home on Samurai Music, a label whose catalogue continues to push the boundaries, not relying on any of the well-worn stylistic tropes of the genre. Death Of A Romantic is the perfect distillation of the Samurai sound, all brooding techno atmospherics and pummelling breakbeats. Essential listening for anyone who enjoys their beats at 170bpm.
Keeley Forsyth – Limbs (The Leaf Label)
The depth and immediacy of Keeley Forsyth’s voice will always pull focus, as it should, but it’s the subtlety and restraint of the accompaniment and how it serves the overall song that makes Limbs work so well. The album feels weighty and forlorn but like its predecessor, Debris, there are moments of aching beauty on tracks like ‘I Stand Alone’ and ‘Land Animal’ that can’t help but levitate the listener.
Extra Life – Secular Works Vol.2 (self-released)
2022 saw the surprise return of Extra Life, the criminally underappreciated project of band leader Charlie Looker. Coming 10 years after their last album and some 14 years after their quintessential full-length debut, Secular Works Vol.2 (as the title suggests) is a sequel of sorts to the aforementioned debut, with the band returning to the utterly unique melding of complex rhythms, medieval elements and devastating heaviness, all buoyed by Looker’s unmistakeable vocal style. Hopefully this is just the start of a new chapter in the Extra Life story.
Jockstrap – I Love You Jennifer B (Rough Trade)
I Love You Jennifer B is pop music for the modern era; smart, catchy and tirelessly inventive. While the 2020 EP, Wicked City, was a great introduction to the duo’s knack for pushing their angelic pop melodies and interesting production into unexpected directions, I Love You Jennifer B is a fully formed artistic statement showing they can write pop songs with the best of them, while retaining that element of surprise and mischief.
Everything that piqued my interest – recommendations of friends, record shops, labels, radio shows etc – were plucked from the aether and into a coveted spot on my personal daily listening mega-playlist. This crowded playlist threw up new algorithmic suggestions, which were duly auditioned and ingested or rejected. From this sonic torrent, I have distilled my albums of the year.
All 2022 unless indicated otherwise:
Cool Sounds – Like That (Chapter Music)
Bouncy and very poppy with an infectious awkwardness that reminds me of the Talking Heads. Cleverly crafted, overflowing with hooks and catchy melodies. Utterly unique.
Key track – AB
The Smile – A Light For Attracting Attention (XL Recordings)
Sophisticated, slinky and beautifully recorded by longtime Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich. Wouldn’t have blinked if this had been the next Radiohead album. The addition of Sons Of Kemet drummer Tom Skinner to the Yorke / Greenwood / Godrich power trio adds a skittish rhythmic complexity that greases the tracks beautifully.
Key track – The Smoke
Yard Act – The Overlord (Universal / Island Records)
Sassy and engaging Fall-esque narratives underpinned by trashy hi-hats, funky bass and great songwriting.
Key track – Land Of The Blind
Wet Leg – Wet Leg (Domino)
They came to rescue us from 2021’s spiralling Covid doldrums with concise and surreal vignettes and promises of wig-out parties to come.
Key track – Chaise Longue
Panda Bear & Sonic Boom – Reset (Domino)
In which two oddballs from parallel universes make a record full of intriguing sounds and loopy grooves. A wonderful and unexpected album from two artists who both benefit from the collaboration.
Key track – Go On
Oren Ambarchi – Shebang (Drag City)
Four parts – but one single flow – of flickering instrumental intensity. This is time travelling guitar jazz fitting for long haul flights or intercontinental train journeys.
Key track – II
Andrew Tuttle – Fleeting Adventure (Mistletone)
There’s a pinch of Boards Of Canada and Chill Out-era KLF in the Tuttle approach of blending five-string banjo and six-string acoustic guitar with electronic treatments. Mixed by fellow Brisbanite Lawrence English and featuring guest appearances from Steve Gunn and Chuck Johnson Fleeting Adventure is a hazy summer trip.
Key track – Next Week, Pending
Lankum – The Livelong Day (Rough Trade)
A mesmerising and heartfelt album of ancient Irish origin and inspired contemporary music production courtesy of John ‘Spud’ Murphy. Dig the deep drones, intuitive instrumental and vocal interplay and searingly honest and poetic lyrics. (2019)
Key track – The Wild Rover
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – Carnage (AWAL Recordings)
A sublime collaboration of great depth and soulfulness. (2021)
Key track – Hand Of God
Blue Chemise – Flower Studies (B.A.A.D.M.)
In his third album as Blue Chemise, Mark Gomes is inspired by a series of floral studies by 19th-century French photographer Adolphe Braun. The ‘études’ are piano led, minimal, and coloured with subtle treatments and drones that are cinematic and often achingly beautiful.
Key track – Chrysanthemum no 2
Lawrence English – Themes and Atmospheres for Adam Curtis’s Russia 1985-1999 TraumaZone (Politics Is Noise/Room40)
Eerie and atmospheric, these excerpts from Lawrence English are the perfect companion pieces to the disquieting and otherworldly stories of inspirational filmmaker Adam Curtis. Drawn from Curtis’s seven-part BBC documentary television series ‘Russia 1985–1999: TraumaZone’ the series examines the collapse of the USSR and rise of new Russia.
Key track – Another Ending (Theme To TraumaZone)
Top five Roland Boutique sound modules:
This drum machine benefits from the addition of delay and distortions to dial in, as well as probability programming to add some variety to the sequencer. The limited voicing is improved with alternate drum sounds, including kicks in the style of 808 and 909.
The Juno sound covers both 60 and 106 flavours, as well as choruses, with an arpeggiator under a big knob to give a hands-on dynamic to the sequenced notes.
The Moog-style mono-synth tries to cram as many knobs onto the front panel as possible, which can be a challenge to use but provides so many options to tweak the incredibly thick analog engine.
I like the option to split two patches across the keyboard as they are versatile analog-style emulations. Many classic sounds here to choose from and some chorus and delay as well, although the latter are somewhat underwhelming.
Love the design of this one, particularly the option to set two different patches on separate MIDI channels. The layers in the presets provide a different approach to manipulating the digital sounds.
Deathcomet – Deathcomet Discogrophy (self-released)
OK, I get that this is probably stretching the brief, but you can buy all of DEATHCOMET’s albums for a buck forty on Bandcamp. It’s up to the 14th instalment, but the rules haven’t changed: slabs of offensive space-tinged noise made by one bloke in the wilds of West Wyalong. It’s metal, it’s chewy sonics, and for fuck’s sake, one of the website’s tags for the album is flanger. This is a perfectly solipsistic skree that doesn’t care if you like it, which is really the best reason to listen.
Oxbow and Peter Brötzmann – An Eternal Reminder of Not Today – Live at Moers (Trost Records/SGG)
In which two titans combine to play a gig you’re pissed off to have missed. The sinuous Oxbow are joined by sax-mangler par excellence Peter Brötzmann for a set that spans the band’s career, and is at once painfully personal and ear-rippingly intense. Eugene Robinson’s regrets and imprecations float, hands twitching, to join with Brötzmann’s enthusiasms above the band’s assured musical bed. It’s the stuff of dreams or nightmares, and sometimes both at once.
Bad Manor – The Haunting (Labyrinth Tower/Avantgarde Music)
Oh man. This is ridiculous. It’s the black metal soundtrack to a story or book (I’m not entirely sure which) about a haunted house, and features horrific, driving music with a slight (slight!) carnival vibe, recorded in a sock drawer, performed by people called THE IMPALER and THE HAUNTED STRIGOI. Vocals are even more batshit terrifying/silly than you’d expect from the description of the work. I can’t stop listening to it, so I assume I’m now cursed and will have to tread the earth as THE BOG BEASTMAN or some such shit. You’ve been warned.
Nadja – Labyrinthine (Broken Spine Productions)
So, the two-piece juggernaut that is Nadja put out loads of music and (infuriatingly) most of it is excellent. But occasionally they top even themselves. Labyrinthine is perhaps the best example in their discography: it’s a relentless, sludgy quartet of tunes custom-built to ensure you Feel Bad. Aidan Baker and Leah Buckreff have roped in guest vocalists – including Khanate’s Alan Dubin – to stand in for destruction, woe and general bummedness. No song is shorter than 12 minutes, no happiness remains within. Brilliant.
Harry Howard – Slight Pavilions (Lulu’s Melbourne)
A COVID lockdown album that mines Howard’s ridiculously loaded backstory – Crime and the City Solution? These Immortal Souls? – to provide an elegant sufficiency of songs that address his life and the music surrounding it. There’s supreme goth moments, beats that don’t quit, and a general feeling that something bad is behind the couch. Reverb you can swim in and lyrics you probably don’t want to probe? Fucking great.
Also, five teas
1) Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Extra Strong
2) T2 Sydney Breakfast
5) Lapsang Souchong.
Hello readers. LIke many of you out there, 2022 had some pretty challenging moments for me – but at least I had the opportunity to see a ton of awesome live music. Yes, praise the Lord for the return of live music in full force. Amen.
So, if your past 12 months have been as painful as mine, then you’ll forgive me for shorthanding my top 5 this year. This is today’s snapshot in no particular order, described by five words/phrases and a top track or two for each album.
Chris Abrahams / Clayton Thomas / Miles Thomas – Words Fail (Hospital Hill)
delicate piano / minimalist loops / dense waves / lectro / interstitial – insisting on the by now
Black Country; New Road – Ants from up There (Ninja Tune)
Essential / compelling / anthemic / orchestral / lush
Mmryxloss – Narcissist (self released)
chopped / local / cloud rap / abstract rap / melodic
Fly Away and Chamber of Secrets
Weiland – Vices (Victor Victor Worldwide Inc)
80s Roland vibes / reflective / aloof / plugg-ed / fat chords
Dangerous Woman and Blaming Myself
Vijay Iyer / Linda Oh / Tyshawn Sorey – Uneasy (ECM)
driving / jazz improv / longlines / piano thrills / edgy
TSVI & Loraine James – Gloom (AD93)
After seeing Loraine James play live this year, the only thing that could be done was to get immersed in her discography. ‘053’ is her new work together with Tsvi, released on AD93 back in May. ‘Gloom’ is just a personal favorite here, but the whole record is fantastic. Well-crafted rhythms over soothing and trippy pads, an atmospheric bliss that will delight every ‘IDM’ or breaks enthusiast.
Plaid – C.A. (Warp Records)
Yes, Plaid are back with a new album called ‘Feorm Falorx’ and yes, it is very good. Yes, there are a lot of lovely Plaid moments, and yes, ‘C.A.’ is one of them. Slowly evolving through repetitions until it reaches the zenith of oneiric bliss.
Soundwalk Collective w/ Patti Smith – Song Of The Highest Tower (Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith Rework) (Bella Union)
Usually, most of what Soundwalk Collective touches turns into gold, and it just turns out that the same thing happens with Kaitlyin Aurelia Smith. This sounds dreamy, surreal, and trippy. Processed vocals and a beautiful sound journey.
Szun Waves – Exploding Upwards (Leaf)
Szun Waves (Luke Abbott + Jack Wyllie on saxophone + Laurence Pike on percussion) are back at it on the Leaf label with their new album ‘Earth Patterns’.’Exploding Upwards’ was the first single that we got to hear. It doesn’t take much more than some good electronics + percussion and a rising saxophone to hook us up, and the aura around this track is just soundtrack-like, love it.
Beispiel – FB&JJ2017-1 (Faitiche)
Frank Bretschneider and Jan Jelinek form Beispiel, with their debut album ‘Muster’ out on Faitiche, Jelinek’s own label. ‘FB&JJ2017-1’ is glitchy, atmospheric, with lovely textures, and quite a ride.
Nyokabi Kariuki – Home Piano (SA Recordings)
‘peace places: kenyan memories’ is Nyokabi Kariuki’s debut album on SA Recordings. Beautiful field recordings that feel delicate on ‘home piano’ are definitely worth more than one listen. ‘Galu’ is another personal favorite from this record.
In 2022 my methods for discovering new music definitely shifted from relying solely on Spotify. I found tracks via Instagram/TikTok, traditional radio, following podcasts all in a bid to open my ears, I feel I was enlightened and enriched for it. Here are some of the gems that lingered on my stereo this year.
Odesza (featuring Olafur Arnolds) – Light of Day (Ninja Tune)
There is absolutely no argument to be had; the long awaited (five years) sophomore album The Last Goodbye from Odesza really energised the listening lands throughout August. American electronica is sometimes a genre unto itself and for acquired tastes only, but Odesza have managed to breakthrough with their unique swept-away summer anthems that capture the seasonality and associated celebration in their continent in a strong percussive vibey manner. The collaborations are always well executed, with throwbacks to house-gone eras elevated through female vocalists like Betty Vayette’s soulful and memorable chorus that wafts through the title track or Julianna Barwick’s seering opening for This Version of You. Yet it was the partnership between progressives, Icelandic minimalist maestro Olafur Arnolds and Odesza that felt for me to be the most inspired and also, a little bit magical. Our days started to become longer as I listened, and listened and listened. The haunting vocal, along with the many mini builds in this track is everything and then the climatic drop!
Beyonce – Break My Soul (Parkwood Entertainment & Columbia Records)
Another artist who released a long-awaited follow-up release during Amercian summer was dance-floor dynamo Beyonce. From the album Renaissance, Queen Bey teased her first single and instantly it spoke to me. In a similar sense to how Formation got beneath my skin on Lemonade, this track is layered and multi-dimensional. “Release your wiggle” is the underlying hook but more than this repetitive lyric this track is a homage (it feels) to “House” genre music of yesteryear, with her true artistry demonstrated to create something completely deft and original. Whether it’s a contender for cultural moment via music of the year, is up for validation and discussion too. Perhaps to support your sway in certainty, and to truly understand just how much has been poured into this acclaimed ‘banger’ I encourage you all to take a listen to podcast Switched on Pop’s ep: Beyonce’s House. Dare to dive beneath the surface of the catchy lyrics there is a lot to be celebrated and scrutinised here as Beyonce crafts her own pre-text, subtext and context, all via one song.
The Teskey Brothers – Man of the Universe ( Ivy League Records)
This was the opening number for The Teskey Brothers Live at Hamer Hall performance with Orchestra Victoria, an album released in 2021 but that they’re still touring in 2022. On Aus Music T-shirt Day I saw The Teskey Brothers perform for the first time and I was unbelievably impressed. I had heard much about them but hadn’t ever found my way to listening to them. I (along with many before me) love their take on soul and blues but more than that, Josh’s vocals transport you to another era and perhaps South Carolina or New Orleans is the destination. The 42 piece orchestra supporting in the live show added that extra ‘wow’ factor too. A special performance worth its weight in gold to be unearthed a year later!
Wet Leg – Chaise Lounge (Domino Records)
“Is your muffin buttered? Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin?” Lyrics to live by? As we might recall Splendour in the Grass this year was a bit of a flood-frenzied event that forced the artists who were set to perform on Friday to reboot and reroute to surrounding smaller venues. For those of us here in Sydney the side show where it was at. I can confidently share that I’ve never seen so many people fill out Oxford Arts Factory and on a Sunday night no less. The reason behind the sell-out show? Two very talented women from the Isle of Wight in the UK and their penchant for french disco infused indie rock – Wet Leg. This song is epic and when heard live even more so. Hot tip: frontwoman, seductress Rhian Teasdale knows exactly how to butter muffins.
Rujen – New Life (self-released)
Hailing from Atlanta this single hit my inbox through unusual means but it landed it at a time when I was starting a new chapter. A new life as it were! It’s a great track and I hear subtle Local Natives and Beach Fossil influences and also I get washed away with the psychedelic lengthened strum of the bass guitar solos. From what I know of Rujen they are that quintessential indie-rock American outfit who play gigs and tour festivals and are of the old-school ways of making and performing music with a very fresh feel.
Ben Morgan – As Waves Crash into Time (self-released)
There is a bit of a story to how I met Ben. I feel like it’s been one of the best things that could happen in life though as it is one of those story arcs that has kept us in each other’s orbits. Enough for me to head along to his first ever live show recently. I rarely bet on anything but I really believe Ben is going to be a breakthrough artist for accelerated ascension in 2023.
Another great year for music. Having worked from home for the last two and a half years, and now only a few days back in the office, I’ve had ample opportunity to absorb a shed load of music at home, so narrowing this to five is always a hard task. Most things I’ve listened to this year have been on the bleak side, reflecting the craziness of the world with so much unrest and division. As always, music is what keeps me sane, and I’ve certainly been relying on this therapy. Here are my favourite five records of 2022:
ojeRum – Through The Archway Of Mouths (Roman Numeral)
Originally released on Opal Tapes in 2019, the prolific ojeRum, otherwise known as Paw Grabowski, hailing from Denmark, has released so many tapes, digital and a smattering of vinyl since 2007. Always in limited quantities, and selling out pretty quickly, Roman Numerals released a vinyl edition of quiet beauty. An ambient classic you didn’t know you needed in your life. Paired with Paws collage artwork, there is so much to love about this.
Favourite track: Through Nothing We Shall Wander
London Odense Ensemble – Jaiyede Sessions Volume 1 (El Paraiso)
I’ve had a bit of an obsession with El Paraiso Records, also from Denmark, they release nothing but quality, from psych, space rock to krautrock and synth wave. They’ve ventured into jazz territory too, which this release could be categorised as, albeit with an experimental bent, Miles Davis electric period, or some obscure ECM ethno jazz otherworldly offering. Volume 2 is coming very soon, I may have it by years end! There is some serious heat between these players, Al MacSween, Jakob Skott, Jonas Munk, Martin Rude and Tamar Osborn.
Favourite track: Jailed Suite pt.2
Shackleton – The Majestic Yes (Honest Jon’s)
Without warning this dropped mid year, which is always welcome! Pure percussive polyrhythms over three long tracks, and a Mark Ernestus dub. Hand drums sit atop a sea of bass, incredibly mesmerising, feeling like its been stripped back to just bare bones. Reminds me of some of Burnt Friedmann’s percussive experiments, but with that Shackleton trademark cavernous bass, channeling the ghost of Muslimgauze. One of the few dubstep originators that have taken the sound to somewhere else completely.
Favourite track: The Stick And Twist Mood
The Vivid Oblivion – The Graphic Cabinet (Downwards)
This collaboration is dark and dense, managing to cage the beast for the most part, so much compressed angst. The brainchild of Anthony Child and Karl O’Connor (better known as Regis), an unlikely coupling, but it works so well. Again, dark, post-industrial sounds made to pound you into submission, drawing from a similar sound palette as the recent Eros project (also on Downwards). Striking artwork designed by Chris Bigg, probably better know for his work with 4AD Records.
Favourite track: Immediate Possession
WUR – The Anachronist (MISM)
More bleak dystopian soundscapes, this time from Zurich, Switzerland. Styptic and F Metal have created a John Carpenter-esque monster. Styptic’s heavy beats underpin a soup of synthesizers, drum machines, an array of analogue instruments and field recordings. The Bandcamp description sums this up perfectly: “the Anachronist trudges through the snowy deserts of the nuclear winter, descends into the underworld of the catacombs and illuminates with his headlamp dark corners that haven’t been seen by anyone for decades…”
Favourite track: Metal Coated