PANIC & CAROUSELS: December | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This time of year – especially the gap between Christmas and New Year known as the perineum – is always pretty slow release-wise, even for the avant-garde miners at the coal face of noise and experimentation this column is devoted to. Obviously, local musician Rhodri Davies released a beautiful new album of sparse, minimal harp (An Air Swept Clean Of All Distance) along with an accompanying boxed set, Pedwar, and you can read about that in my interview with Davies here.

Preston bass lunatics Evil Blizzard have had a ridiculously good year, which is all the more surprising when you realise their four-bassists-and-a-drummer schtick was initially perceived as a joke (not least by the band themselves). But debut album The Dangers Of Evil Blizzard was a beast and with a recent, fantastically wretched Christmas single just out, they kick off 2015 with a split release on Rocket Recordings, a label which has released some of the best music of the last two years (let’s not talk about Goat). The fourth in the Collision series, which has also included the likes of The Heads, Mugstar and White Hills, is released on January 19th. The Blizz contribution is two versions of live favourite Sacrifice, which pulls off the unlikely feat of sounding like a sludgy goth Hawkwind whilst still being very good indeed, and the Teeth Of The Sea remix is even better. Italian psych outfit Mamuthones share the release, and while they’re in a similarly psych sludge vein, don’t quite nail it. You can preorder it here.

Last month’s debut column was full of praise for the Kemper Norton album Loor, and it’s followed this month by Spingoed, an EP of six remixes of Loor track Helston 91 (out now on Front & Follow). All the versions work well (unusual for a project like this, but you’d expect nothing less of Kemper Norton). The Ekoplekz version is especially good, bringing a fractured rave quality to the track, while astonishing folk/drone artist Laura Cannell’s Helston Cave 91 is a really powerful piece of music. P&C favourite IX Tab closes out the EP with Helstone 91, and it’s the highlight: disembodied voices, lysergic soundscapes and analogue eruptions abound.

You don’t get a more heavyweight line-up than Keiji Haino, Oren Ambarchi and Stephen O’Malley and their second album as Nazoranai is an intense, often bewildering experience. Released last month on Editions Mego,

“the most painful time

happens only once

has it   arrived   already..?”

was recorded in Birmingham last year and shifts between an “everything in the red” maelstrom to more reflective but no less in your face moments. While the album isn’t the best thing these three have put their name too, it’s very good regardless, and it’s Ambarchi – limiting himself to drums and percussion here – who really shines, especially on the first track.

Hey Colossus’ Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo was my favourite album of 2013 so expectations are high for Black & Gold which is released on Rocket Recordings on February 2015 (full review and an interview with the band nearer the time). Promising an album which continues their move from arsequake revivalists (this is NOT a criticism) to something more focussed and refined but no less demented, Black & Gold is accompanied by a tour that finally sees the band hit Newcastle. Thanks to the sterling efforts of Leave Me Here, Hey Colossus play The Head Of Steam on February 19th, supported – inevitably and appropriately by Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, and Lovely Wife.

It’ll probably be a rare Panic & Carousels column which doesn’t feature Richard Dawson somewhere, this month simply to draw your attention to a remix of The Vile Stuff by the wonderful Karen Gwyer, which works the central riff into a totally hypnotic, totally blissed out ten minute wonder. No clear plans for release as yet although it’s apparently likely.

If you care about such things, there’s plenty of end of year chart nonsense going on at the moment. This website has already posted my top five albums of the year, and the rest of my top 30 are on my blog, but to keep things neat, here’s my top 25 Panic & Carousels-friendly albums.

1       The Bug – Angels & Devils
2       Richard Dawson – Nothing Important
3       King Champion Sounds – Songs From The Golden Hour
4       Swans – To Be Kind
5       Mogwai – Rave Tapes
6       Sleaford Mods – Divide And Exit
7       Kogumaza – Kолокол
8       Shellac  – Dude Incredible
9       IX Tab – R.O.C.
10     Aphex Twin – Syro
11     Carla Bozulich – Boy
12     Grouper – Ruins
13     Resource Centre – Low Fantasy EP
14     Scott Walker & Sunn O)))  – Soused
15     Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals
16     Kemper Norton – Loor
17     OOIOO – Gamel
18     Ambarchi/O’Malley/Dunn – Shade Themes From Kairos
19     Earthling Society – England Have My Bones
20     Soft Pink Truth – Why Do The Heathen Rage
21     Year Of Birds – Slack Handfuls Of Nothing
22     Ben Frost – A U R O R A
23     Sly & The Family Drone – Uneccesary Woe
24     Blown Out – Drifting Way Out Between Suns
25     Earth – Primitive & Deadly

And in the season of giving, there’s even a mix up on mixcloud with selections from many of those albums and some other notable tracks from 2014.

Give the mix a listen, reflect on a year that’s included an absolute wealth of innovative, exciting, uplifting, challenging music and realise that the naysayers out there claiming there’s no good music out there anymore (and these people are getting younger every year) are just too fucking lazy to go find anything outside the 6Music remit where an endless diet of landfill indie (no names mentioned, or needed) might lead you to believe that everything’s a tired and sorry rerun of the recent past. It’s not, you know, and that’s what this column – and NARC. as a whole – is here to show you.

You can now listen to a collection of songs from this month’s artists on our Soundcloud page:

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