As you may have noticed, it is customary for DJs to compile some sort of “top ten” list at the end of the year. Since I have the worst sense of time imaginable, I have generally neglected this duty– besides, I’d hate to out my “off-off-Broadway” status while raving about something from two years back. I can hear the New Yorkers twittering, “How gauche! The poor fellow has mistaken 2005 for 2006!” as they sniff the sweet smell of subway air.
It is with this peril in mind that I cautiously bring you my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2006! For selections previously mentioned in STARTLING MONIKER, click the bold titles to see the original review. Enjoy! –DaveX
1) Mazen Kerbaj — “Starry Night” — Back in July, when the top dog morons of Israel and Lebanon decided to plunge their citizens into war, Mazen Kerbaj captivated myself (and many, many others) with his “Kerblog,” which featured incredible drawings commenting on the horrific situation around Beirut. On the 15th of the month, Kerbaj recorded an improvisation of trumpet, dueting with the Israeli Air Force’s bombs. It’s an incredible statement, and a powerful recording.
2) Na — “Na is Nice” — A truly bizarre “debut” release (following a flood of CDRs) on Pax Recordings, this is surely one of the strangest albums I played all year. But for all its weirdness, it works.
3) Yoav Gal & Yael Kanarek — “Bit by Bit, Cell by Cell” — A gorgeous work for Atari 800XL and soprano voice, this multimedia disc on Innova Recordings really threw me for a loop. There are many layers of meaning here, to the point that its ultimately unclear what’s happened. Nevertheless, this release really pushed the envelope of how much can be asked of the listener. I’m more than certain I’ll be using a large portion of 2007 to continue figuring this album out.
4) Various — “Montreal Sound Matter” — Easily the most inscrutable album of the year, in my opinion. Constructed from a pool of sounds collected in Montreal, Francisco Lopez cajoles a group of sound artists to present a variety of altered environmental recordings that only slightly resemble an Earthly city. However, the “bleeding edge” quality of the recording and construction of these tracks are of great appeal. Available through Pogus Productions.
5) Clayton Counts — “The Beachles” — As Negativland, Salvadore Dali, and any Fluxus member could tell you; one of the great things about art is being able to just plain piss people off. “The Beachles,” a mash-up of the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and the Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” albums, brought the ire of the EMI legal team who sought to shut The Beachles down. Now playing on the P2P network of your choice, its doubtful this great release will be difficult to acquire.
6) Robert Ashley — “Foreign Experiences” — Distilling all the paranoia, heat, and weirdness that we know as “California,” Ashley presents an avant-opera that would make Phillip K. Dick proud. Featuring Sam Ashley and Jacqueline Humbert, this Lovely Music release will make a fine addition to any fan of music that truly explores inner thought, no matter how disturbed it may become.
7) Jack Wright — “The Indeterminate Existence” — I don’t know if this will actually be released by the end of 2006 or not, to be honest. But what better way to thumb my nose at those haughty subway riders than to nominate something this new and this fantastic? This album totally amazes me on so many levels, I originally described it as “frightening.” A disturbingly well-done set of improvisational work, available any minute now on Last Visible Dog Records.
8 ) Helena Espvall — “Nimis & Arx” — Again, my penchant for recordings pushing the envelope is apparent. Espvall drags her cello through a dischordant electronic warzone, water-damaged Impressionist paintings, and a carpet-remnant warehouse to treat listeners to her unique ear for electroacoustic sound. Also featuring George Korein, “Nimis & Arx” is available as a split release through Pax Recordings and Fire Museum Records.
9) Brekekekekoaxkoax — “We Used To Be Such Good Friends” — Austinnitus editor Josh Ronsen displays a deft touch with his first full-length release driving the improvisitory ensemble Brekekekekoaxkoax. Restraint, breathing room, and excellent use of dynamics are the order of the day for this release, on Hushroom Records.
10) Richard Lee Johnson — “The Legend of Vernon McAlister” — Inspired by a 1930’s National Duolian steel-bodied guitar containing the mysterious etching “Vernon McAlister,” Johnson creates a work of simple beauty on this Cuneiform Records release. With his imagination in full-gear, Johnson conjures a fanciful narrative that is quite delightful.
11) My Fun — The Quality of Something Audible — Easily kicking Fennesz’s over-praised career to the curb, Justin Hardison kicked 2006 off right with a wonderful composite of treated field recordings, electronics, and talented editing. Just the track “Fireworks” alone should be enough to convince you that this album belongs on many more “best of 2006” lists. Amazingly, you can now download it for free from Hardison himself.
12) Danielle Palardy Roger — “Bruiducoeur, prieres des infideles” — If one thing consistently interests humans, it’s our own mortality. “Bruiducoeur, prieres des infideles,” available from Ambiances Magnetiques, focuses on the final, painful hours of one man’s life. Confused, terrified, and incoherent; he is accompanied by a emotionless reporter of his condition, and a helplessly sympathetic chorus. It is powerful, raw, and cuts straight to the heart.
I hope you enjoyed the Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List of 2006! Write me a comment if you have anything you’d like to add, or you think I missed!