Panic & Carousels February 2016 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Despite my best efforts to make this Panic & Carousels column fairly regular, sometimes life intervenes. So it was in the last months of 2015, and to my shame that meant there were dozens of excellent releases I didn’t get to evangelise about. So before an imminent column fresh for 2016, here’s a nod to some of the things I wish I’d managed to cover.

Riot Season is a contender for this column’s favourite label and it ended a strong year with two excellent albums: Take A Lover by Early Mammal was some pleasingly sludgy bluesy acid jams, sharing some power-trio DNA with Blown Out but more concise, less cosmic. Play Loud by Workin’ Man Noise Unit was stunning: filthy sludgerock with some electronic touches that sound integral rather than cursory, a way with a chorus that recalls everyone from Fugazi to Mission Of Burma, and a pleasingly fuck you attitude throughout.

Front & Follow released two gems in the latter half of 2015: Shape Worship’s A City Remembrancer was probably my favourite electronic album of the year, reconfiguring a quarter century of electronic styles into a powerful and emotional work that was both an elegy for a London that’s being lost and a subtle raging against the forces behind that loss. Political electronic music like they don’t make any more, making room for human voices amidst the programming. The other great F&F release in late 2015 was Laura Cannell’s remarkable second album Beneath Swooping Talons, starkly beautiful compositions for recorder and violin (reviewed here). This was followed by the Swooping Talons Remixes collection a couple of months later (available from Bandcamp): remix projects like this tend to be patchy, but it’s a credit to Justin and Laura’s taste (and address books) that this really is all killer / no filler, with P&C regulars like Karen Gwyer, Kemper Norton and the aforementioned Shape Worship all working Cannell’s music into surprising and evocative shapes, alongside excellent contributions by everyone from Peverelist to Charles Hayward. Speaking of which, Cannell, Hayward and Gwyer all played a blinder at Hickeysonic’s favourite festival, Supernormal, which my shadowy accomplice reviewed here in a piece which makes the extent of our fanboy Gwyer-crush all too evident.

Other late delights were the blistering Terminal Cheesecake live album, the insanely long awaited release of what purports to be the original version of Coil’s (in)famous Backwards album, the point where their Love’s Secret Domain occult-rave incarnation began to morph into their explicitly magickal drone era; amazing career retrospective boxed sets from Mogwai (Central Belters) and Harmonia (Complete Works); The Cesarians’ Pure White Speed (Not Your Average Type) was a dark, baroque delight; there was a a slew of releases from Kevin Martin, both as  The Bug and in collaboration with Fennesz in his King Midas Sound incarnation (review here), and don’t forget all that unreleased stuff he shared on Youtube; and there was an excellent compilation of some of Regis’ finest work.

There was also the debut album from DBUK (formerly Denver Broncos UK, presumably until lawyers got involved). DBUK are the latest Slim Cessna’s Auto Club spin-off, featuring Slim Cessna, Jay Munly and Dwight Pentacost from SCAC and regular collaborator Rebecca Vera. Nearly a decade in the making as other projects came and went,  Songs One Through Eight is nearest in style to one of Munly’s previous projects, The Lee Lewis Harlots, and its tar-black gothic Americana owes as much to Gorey, Poe, Faulkner and Portis as it does the Denver Sound. A singular blend of gallows humour and warped sexuality, infanticide, cross-dressing and bullhorns, this is minimal and creepy, with acoustic instruments that sound like creaking doors and a mesmerising attention to tiny details.. It’s disturbing and funny and genuinely, unarguably, utterly unique. You can get it here.

Just out on the inimitable Was Ist Das? tape label is Noise In The Woods, a stunning collection raising money for the Calder Valley Flood Appeal, mostly taken from recordings of gigs in and around Hebden Bridge and Todmorden, wonderful places that were hit hard by the Boxing Day floods. More words from me about that here, but you should definitely invest.

Autumn saw the mighty Rocket Recordings, release a trio of interesting EPs.  Italy’s Mamuthones didn’t convince on their split with Evil Blizzard earlier in the year, but their new EP, Symphony For The Devil, is wonderful – the title track being a frankly demented reworking of Sympathy For The Devil in the style of LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge (there’s a tasty Lucretio remix too).

Psych legends Oneida‘s contribution, the Positions EP, is pretty special too – some remarkable covers of This Heat and Chrome tracks (if that isn’t a fine pair of influences, I don’t know what is) and a gorgeous, blissed out original. The Capra Informis contribution to the series, Womb Of The Wild, feels less essential – a little too Goat-y (they’re a spin-off so that’s fair enough) – but still worth a listen. Let’s hope Rocket keep these releases coming in 2016. Speaking of This Heat, the absolutely essential set of vinyl reissues of their short but incredible back catalogue have probably sold out now, but you should try and find them.

And then I was going to tell you all about Tor Ist Das? and Supernormal and how Woven Skull were the highlight of my gig going year…

Of course, the endless delays to vinyl pressings mean that some of the releases I thought would have missed the boat have all been pushed into the new year. More on those in the next column.

Finally, each year I pull together an end of year albums chart for the Speakers Push Air blog, and here’s a Panic & Carousels-friendly top 20 lifted from that:

  1. =Hey Colossus – In Black & Gold (Rocket Recordings)
    = Hey Colossus – Radio Static High (Rocket Recordings)

 

      1. DBUK (Denver Broncos UK) – Songs One Through Eight (SCAC Unincorporated)
      2. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Asunder, Sweet & Other Distress (Constellation)
      3. Woven Skull – Lair Of The Glowing Bantling (Penske Recordings)
      4. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets (Harbinger Sound)
      5. Low – Ones & Sixes (Sub Pop)
      6. King Midas Sound & Fennesz – Episode 1 (Ninja Tune)
      7. Grey Hairs – Colossal Downer (Gringo)
      8. Blown Out – Jet Black Hallucinations (Golden Mantra)
      9. Teeth Of The Sea – Highly Deadly Black Tarantula (Rocket Recordings)
      10. Henry Blacker – Summer Tombs (Riot Season)
      11. Jenny Hval – Apocalypse Girl (Sacred Bones)
      12. Shape Worship – A City Remembrancer (Front & Follow)

 

  1. Wire – Wire (Pink Flag)
  2. EEK & Islam Chipsy – Kahraba (Nashazphone)
  3. Luminous Bodies – Luminous Bodies (Box)
  4. Workin Man Noise Unit – Play Loud (Riot Season)
  5. Steve Gunn & Black Twig Pickers– Seasonal Hire (Thrill Jockey)
  6. Bad Guys – Bad Guynaecology (Riot Season)
  7. Shit & Shine – 54 Synth Brass, 38 Metal Guitar, 65 Cathedral (Rocket Recordings)

 

And if that’s not enough, here’s a new Hickeysonic mix – a blend of selections from the end of year chart and some of the releases mentioned above.

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