Earthling Society – Zen Bastard

zenbastardThe chance to put the word ‘bastard’ in a headline, non-gratuitously? Sold!

Actually, though, this is probably my favourite album of the year so far. When my brain gets invaded my unwelcome ear-worms, it is the current – and formidable – defense system, especially Outsideofintime.

According to the blurb, these are re-recordings of some older tunes, with a new one thrown in. As I was previously unfamiliar with the band except by name, they’re all new to me. Reworking old songs is a good idea, though, when appropriate. I’ve started to realise with my own material that a song is never finished and will always continue to evolve of its own accord if you let it. The wonderful Big Blood frequently do this, too. There’s something about this notion that I’ve been wanting to put in a post for a while, so there may well be a macro-post coming up soon.

The songs are loooong, which I like. They skip around a bit, which I normally don’t like cos it makes me think ‘progressive’ which used to be a swear word around rock music when I was younger (thankfully, I grew up), but these boys make it work very well which proves the strength of the material. Stylistically, we’re talking about a 70s influenced space-rock vibe, so if you likes you your Hawkwind, do check these out. I also find myself thinking of Litmus in the approach and delivery. There are also dub infusions. More rock bands should have dub infusions.

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Favourite releases of 2014

I present these in no real order (except for the obvious number 1) because how can you compare a Pink Lady apple with a Granny Cox’s one? Some days one hits the spot better, other days the other does.

Obvious number 1: Big Blood – Unlikely Mothers

I love this album so much it turns me into an idiot.

Stara Rzeka – Cień chmury nad ukrytym polem

This discovery justifies all the trawling through Tiny Mix Tapes that I occasionally subject myself to. You want to know why I rarely get into excessive descriptions of the music I post? Tiny Mix Tapes. Also, this music is almost impossible to describe. Parts of it are like James Blackshaw jamming with Ben Chasny, other bits are Death Metal, still others ambient, and finishing up with what sounds like an elegy.

Thee Oh Sees – Drop

This band can do no wrong. Their consistency is astonishing. ‘Garage’ rock at its best.

Narcosatanicos – Narcosatanicos

I’ve already posted about these…

Villagers Of Ioannina City – Riza

and these…

Horseback – Piedmont Apocrypha

Horseback is one dude (Jenks Miller) for those of you not in the know, though some of his recordings feature a backing band. Piedmont Apocrypha is one of my favourite HB releases, combining elements of his rock, drone and noise tendencies to excellent effect.

Midday Veil – The Current

Definitely at the more accessible end of what I listen to, the best song is ‘Without and Within,’ which is very meditative. They are thought of as a psych outfit, but the band they remind me of most is actually Fleetwood Mac! But without the sexual tension, obviously… I cannot give you a valid ‘objective’ reason for that except to report that it is so.

Goat – Commune

Not that these need my help getting any recognition. I will say as a caveat though that a little nagging voice keeps going on when I listen, and it keeps saying ‘passion or pastiche?’ Maybe that sort of thing isn’t as important as I think it is. It’s her vocals that raise these up for me. She’s nearly as raw and true-angelic as Colleen Kinsella, although not quite as fully developed.

Earth – Primitive and Deadly

If you know Earth already, this needs no intro. If you don’t, they’re the original inspiration for sunn 0))) although they moved to a more meditative style some years back. This album sees them cranking it back up again but staying with the compositional style of the last few years, and it works very well, even being able to cope with guest vocalists! (I rarely like albums which have to rely on guest vocalists, although there are exceptions).

The Pack A.D. – Do Not Engage

I will probably do a separate post about these to document how mad my discovery of them was. Stylistically, they’re a 2-woman stadium rock outfit, though they prefer the term ‘garage rock.’. Where are you going? They’re actually really good, particularly the tune ‘Creepin Jenny.’

https://www.youtube.com/user/ThePackad

Verma – Sunrunner

Not only amongst the best of the year, but also they get an award for leaving it til the last minute, though that is not their fault, I only just discovered it in the last week of the year! Features the uber talented Whitney Johnson as part of their line-up, kind of heavyish jam band not afraid to stick a bit of structure in where it can do the most good.

http://www.troubleinmindrecs.com/bands/verma.html

The Wharves – At Bay

Also get an award for late entry onto the list, having discovered these in the holiday between christmas and new year… think Sleater Kinney with some outrageous vocal harmonies. Their energy is awesome.

Prince Rupert’s Drops – Climbing Light

there are a couple of clunkers on this album, but also some songs that make me jealous. This band have a way with the guitar lick, they really do.

And on that note, I should point out that there’s a shedload of stuff I haven’t listened to (such as most of the stuff listed here, some of which may be in a post roughly this time next year detailing stuff I discovered in 2015 from years other than) because you can’t listen to everything. There’s a tremendous freedom in resolutely ignoring all TV/radio and almost all music media and just going by peoples recommendations and your own sense of ‘that’s a cool/interesting/intriguing name/title’ and subsequently building up a completely unclassifiable taste in music. Also, the best music is always underground, and you only find that by going outside, getting your hands dirty and digging with your own spade… you dig?

Villagers of Ioannina City

They also seem to shorten themselves to VIC quite regularly.

This was a band I came about completely by accident. I think I was trying to find any recent stuff by The Heads, and maybe a soulseek user had this in a silly folder, which confused me into thinking that indeed there was new stuff by The Heads called Riza. Mistakes like this can happen more often. It also synched somewhat with my love of Narcosatanicos and their brass/punk/psych mashup, which I got into around the same time.

Musically, they play a fairly straightforward heavy psychrock/slightly postrock feel with an exceptional feature – the use of the clarinet. It adds such an extra dimension. Given that the majority of their words are also sung in their native Greek (I assume so, anyway – I don’t speak Greek!), this adds up to a kind of mystic quality to the music, from the perspective of a mono-linguistic, culturally ignorant Englishman.

I’ve really got into listening to music sung in different languages over the last few years, and I think I love it so much because I can just listen to the sound of the vocals as they interact with the music, without getting hung up on meanings per se. Also, I believe that artists will always express themselves most naturally if they do so in idioms that they are most comfortable with.

As with all the great music I have discovered via Soulseek, I since found a way of paying them for it, as they have a bandcamp page and use my favourite payment model (pay what you like).

They’ve also very recently put out a two-track release which seems to emphasise the folky/traditional aspect a bit more, though it is still heavy. I’ve only played it once so far, but my initial impression is that this band is really on to something. I think more people should know about them.