Ruix comes and goes, but here we are, so let’s go. We’ll be posting a mix of new and archival content in the coming weeks. I know it’s March, and most of us are doing our best to distance ourselves from 2017, but I’m going to revisit some of the albums that offered comfort over a tempestuous year.
Having checked out a lot of year-end lists, I realize I don’t know a damn artist on ’em. Having spent 1/3rd of the year in a van (down by rivers and otherwise), most of my listening was to cassettes, often by folks I met along the way. Here are some short spiels on some of my favorite releases from 2017, starting with one of my most-listened to van tapes:
Macho Blush – User Guide (Tymbal Tapes)
I drove 10+ hours today, the final 3 in snow. Tour can be dumb like that sometimes. Decompressing with this tape, which, if I were into ranking stuff, would probably have to call the album of the year or some bull. Gina Probst is a friggin’ genius, and User Guide hits me hardest of all her excellent tapes. Chaotic percussion and effected voice lay the foundation for dense and beautiful compositions that continue to slowly unfold with each listen. The INTENT in this music is so strong! Much of my favorite music evokes that feeling that you are being granted a peek into a person’s inner world, a true and honest, vulnerable and pure place. User Guide takes me there and inspires me to be more honest to and with myself.
Some more albums from 2017 that hit my sweet spot:
GOSH! – Cities On the Plain (We Be Friends)
Gorgeous and somber – yet uplifting – pop that touches on Velvets-psych ’n’ crunch as well as some twee vibes that veil a deeper sadness. Beyond glad we got to tour together this year. Expect big things from them, with a new LP coming in 2018.
More Eaze – firesid3 ch@t r00m (Orange Milk) [as well as 11 other releases in 2017]
Seriously prolific, prodigious, and diverse. Another person I was privileged to see live this year on tour. Across 12 albums, splits, and singles in 2017, More Eaze touches on every imaginable genre and combination thereof, handling all with deft and exact skill. firesid3 ch@t r00m feels like his unifying thesis, both paying homage to Orange Milk’s history and pointing toward modern electronic music’s new frontiers.
Billington / Shippy / Wyche – s/t (Astral Spirits)
Laser pinpoint cacophony. Of course these three are all top drawer, but the resultant trio is still an unexpected treat.
The Hell Hole Store – Return to the Hell Hole Store (Already Dead)
Bucking the sophomore slump, Philly’s hip-hop wonder twins, Darko the Super and ialive, deliver with the goofy and the sincere. Love the production on this one.
Charles Barabé – Le livre des battements & Cicatrices II (never Anything)
Two more excellent Barabé tapes on one of my favorite labels, Never Anything Records. Two sides of this modular hero get explored to great effect.
Axel Quinlan – Above Covered Skies (Already Dead)
Beautiful, fragile guitar and voice sketches. Came back to this one a lot over the year.
Andrew Weathers – Build a Mountain Where Our Bodies Fall (Full Spectrum)
Was wonderful to finally meet Andrew this summer. This LP is a huge statement, full of heart and featuring a gaggle of talented friends. DIT-to-the-max.
Obnox – Niggative Approach (12XU)
Not much to say about Lamont Thomas aka Bim aka Nox – he says it himself with an average of 2 to 4 LPs every year. This one bumps jeep beats with some claustrophobic production, all the while keeping one foot in the garage. The future of the history of music. Preach.
Arrington de Dionyso & Ted Byrnes – The Ballot or the Bullet (Astral Spirits)
Another great free improv release on Astral Spirits. Seeing Arrington play in Mississippi in March may have had some sway on my having toured solo sax for three months in the fall. This duo recording is an assault on all the unholy business in the world today. Arrington screams through the horn while Byrnes pounds on everything in sight. Total fire music.
Complainer – Floodplain (Already Dead)
Joe Hess is a busy drummer, blurring the lines across several genres. Mabel Suen’s & Joe’s duo Complainer sounds like golden-era Skin Graft, fusing the heaviness and insistent vocal delivery of the Dazzling Killmen with Melt-Banana’s frenetic blink-and-you-missed-it writing.
Don Gero – Wizarding (Crash Symbols)
I’ve previously referred to this as “Kosmiche pastiche”, but mostly cuz it’s fun to say – the vibes and thumps on this tape are prime dervish synth & drum meditations.
Rob Funkhouser – Iteration & Revision (Medium Sound)
This conservatory-endorsed percussionist has no problem going deep. Beautiful, dense compositions on the A-side, live improvisations on the flip. Features Neutrals, who also floored me this fall at the State Street Pub in Indianapolis.
Mujahedeen – s/t EP (self-released)
Lo-fi pop the northwest way, with some nice effected bass assuming the lead role in most places. Glad to have hosted and been hosted by Ali Muhareb and crew.
Mustard-In-Law – Tape Womb (self-released)
My best boys Jay Schleidt & Tyler Luetkehans pass the 4-track back and forth and come up with some heady collage. The “most accessible” Mustard-In-Law tape to date, which means it’s still confounding and adventurous and bubbling with fun.