Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Of the Making of Lists, There is Not Much Point...

I don't pay a whole lot of attention to best-of lists, but this year I got lured into making one, and I thought I'd share it here. This is not a "this is absolutely the BEST stuff of 2012" as much as a "this is what gripped my attention this year..." sort of list. I don't keep up with new recordings like I used to, and it's gotten a whole lot harder to do so anyway. The world is filled with astonishing music and I am probably NOT the best person to consult for current information on what's going on. As I've gotten older, I've retreated into a few passionate interests. The recordings on this list are in no particular order. Clicking on a title link takes you to an approved means of purchase.

McIntire Top 10: 2012

Wandelweiser 'Und so weiter' (Another Timbre)

Here's a six-disc set that I just bought, and it'll take me the main portion of 2013 to get a real grip on it, but this is a major musical movement that you'll be hearing more about in the future. They've been around since the early '90s and have amassed quite a discography. You might as well get in on it now. My friend Andy Lee described this as a great Wandelweiser "starter set," and I think that description hits it perfectly. If you're wanting to explore the terrain that lies between "music" and the hum of your refrigerator or a slow, quiet scraping sound, this is the place to start. Don't be in a hurry.

Daphne Oram: The Oram Tapes Volume 1 (Young Americans)

Daphne Oram was one of the great early pioneers of electroacoustic music, and she's been sadly neglected over the years. I'd read about her in accounts of electronic music history, but I'd never heard any of her music until recently. Specifically, last June, when I walked into Weirdo Records on Mass. Ave in Cambridge, MA. This was the first thing that my eye focused on upon entering the store. My ears have been focused on it ever since...

Mikel Rouse: Boost/False Doors (Exit Music)

Mikel has been making compelling and ultra-smart music for a long time. Not one to get locked into a particular sound, this release finds him pairing heavy dance beats and his recent interest in slide guitar. No artist since Prince has been this good at self-production, or as prolific. If there were justice in this universe, Mikel would have won several Grammy awards by now. He'd also be on our $100 dollar bill. Check out "Hurdle Rate," or "God Said No."

Jürg Frey: Piano Music (Irritable Hedgehog)

Right, so I produced this album myself, and it features my good friend Andy Lee. Big deal. It's still gorgeous and amazing and baffling and utterly unlike anything you've heard before. Be the first person in your zip code to own one.

Captain Beefheart: Bat Chain Puller (Zappa Records)

I bought my first Captain Beefheart album in 1976. It didn't make any sense to me. I didn't think I liked it. But: I kept playing it, for myself and my friends. Eventually, the genius that I apparently sensed was there through some intuitive means, became more and more apparent. This album was recorded in '75, but through a series of unfortunate events it was locked up until this year. One of the Captain's best ever, and Zappa's production crew have mastered it beautifully.

Peter Hammill: Consequences (Fie!)

I've been listening to the music of Peter Hammill ever since I bought a Van der Graaf Generator album for 98 cents at a W.T. Grant department store in 1976. This release is somewhere around his 50th. Each Hammill album takes a particular tack and on this one it's heavily vocal, with most of the songs examining the vagaries of language, its limitations and frustrations. Fans who are hoping for a collection of rockers will be disappointed, but the songwriting is subtle and profound.

Leah Kardos: Feather Hammer (Bigo & Twigetti, via Bandcamp)

My good friend Andy Lee steered me towards this recording, and it's just fantastic. It's also a fantastic deal right now.

Can: The Lost Tapes (Spoon)

The last couple of years have seen me really digging back into a lot of the experimental rock that intrigued me years ago. The Köln group Can has been a big part of that digging. Three discs of unreleased studio material and none of it is spurious. If you're a fan of the group, you really can't miss. I blogged about it a while back, and you can read about it here, if you want to know more. Another treasure I grabbed at Weirdo Records.

Conrad Schnitzler: Rot (Bureau B)

Schnitzler was a fascinating artist who delved into all manner of media. He also helped found Tangerine Dream and Kluster. His solo albums are even more astringent than those he made with collaborators, and they're being reissued. Rot (German for "red") shows him carefully exploring the potential of the EMS VCS-3 synthesizer, also known as the "Putney." For that reason alone, he's like a brother to me.

Pere Ubu: A Ghost Town Goes Where You Want to Go (Hearpen)

Pere Ubu has been around since the mid-1970s and this live release of a show from 2006 is amazing and shows why they've remained a relevant force. Simply for the wonder of the astonishing synchrony of bass/drum team of Michele Temple and Steve Mehlman would make this a savvy purchase. Keith Moliné's guitar and Robert Wheeler's synth offer a chaotic counterbalance to the driving rhythm. David Thomas's vocals remain one of rock's perplexing oddities. I've heard him do "Final Solution" a bunch of times. This recording makes me sit up and hear it anew.

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