Well, what do you know– this year’s list is right on time, and it actually has 12 entries! (Well, one is a repeat. But it appears there is hope for my stunted mathematical abilities, no?)
Having picked myself up from the 78 rpm-induced wreckage of last night’s party for one, I’ve found that 2010 is presenting me with the challenge to improve my broadcasts and my reach as a researching DJ. We’ll see how it goes, but for now, enjoy my Top 12 Best Happy Neat-O List for 2009! As always, these are presented in no particular order.
1) Rothkamm — “Frank Genius Is Star Struck” — Rothkamm didn’t make my list for two years running because I’ve got nothing better to listen to; he’s on here because the man is absolutely freakin’ brilliant. More than any release this year, I just couldn’t stop smiling whenever I put it on. Definitely one that blurs the lines between high-concept sound art and lowest common denominator pop disco… it’ll leave you baffled, entertained, and amazed all at once– and probably within the first few tracks.
2) Various — “Dictaphonia” microcassette series — Florida’s microcassette champion Hal McGee’s ongoing work curating the Dictaphonia volumes (five so far) also deserves to be on this list, not only for putting the micros back in the spotlight, but for encouraging so many disperate artists to begin stitching together a fractured picture of the artistic possibilities locked inside such ubiquitous recording devices. Purists will appreciate that these releases maintain a mechanical continuity– unless you miss the point and download them from Hal, you’re going to need a microcassette recorder to hear them as well!
3) T.D. Skatchit & Company — “T.D. Skatchit & Company” — Tom Nunn and David Michalak perform with selected guests, mostly using Nunn’s homemade “cardboard synth” Skatchit instruments. The results are bewilderingly complex, and often truly beautiful. Standout tracks feature vocalist Aurora’s extended technique, resulting in phenomenal improvisations not out of league with those of David Tudor’s electronics work or Joan LaBarbara’s sound paintings.
4) Thanos Chrysakis, Wade Matthews, Dario Bernal-Villegas — “Enantio_Dromia” — In my opinion, it’s damn near impossible to go wrong with an Aural Terrains release. Although this disc was well out of my depth to review properly, I have sincerely appreciated the incredible level of musicianship that is maintained throughout these fully-improvised works. While this quality alone couldn’t put any album into my year-end list, it is the fact that I find it identifiable among music that eludes me so thoroughly– I’ve found that a sense of confusion is not entirely unhealthy when confronting experimental works, tossing us about in our thoughts leads to new perceptions and understandings. I’m not at the end of my journey with “Enantio_Dromia” yet, and I doubt I will be for quite some time.
5) Yoshihide Sodeoka — “Video Metal” — Of course, there’s also room for spectacle in the experimental community– in fact, some of the recordings I most treasure seem to have their roots in one absurd or grandiose gesture or another. And while this isn’t exactly Stockhausen’s “Helicopter String Quartet,” I can imagine where some similarities exist. Besides, how often is it that you don’t have to be ashamed to own something with titles like “Psychedelic Death Vomit” and “Electric Hair Doom”?
6) Various — “Go Ahead, Copy This Noise” — Should I take shit for being on this double-disc compilation of Southern Illinois noise artists and later putting it in my year-end list? Please. I’ve got two tracks in Dictaphonia as well, and I’m not even blushing. It’s true, I may have no ethics– but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a kick-ass collection. Plus, you just know it’s going to be a collectible someday, most likely re-released on some Dutch label with intense liner notes and a wooden box. That thing’s going to be expensive too, and you’d have to hunt for it on eBay. Better just download this one now, and save yourself the hassle.
7) Neil Rolnick — “The Economic Engine” — This is why I always present my list in “no particular order.” Clearly, my noise activities aren’t any threat to Rolnick’s absolute ability to command my stereo for days at a time. On his third release for Innova, Rolnick presents a compelling four-part picture of modern China, and it’s a set of works that really gets me excited to have heard them. It doesn’t hurt that this is fertile material for intellectual consideration as well– it ought to at least hold me until Rolnick’s next offering.
8) Renato Rinaldi — “We Shall Overtone” — My favorite unexpected noise of the year, and rather strange stuff to boot… well, strange enough that even Last Visible Dog doesn’t quite know how to describe it. If you were excited about the potential (somewhat) unrealized in their Yermo release, you’ll really dig this disc, which is firing away on all cylinders towards destinations unknown. Recommended for adventurers.
9) Chefkirk & Ironing — “Notorious” — Ironing’s tape delirium goes surprisingly well with the spare no-input mixer contributions from Chefkirk, much more so that I would have expected. This is the Hymns label’s second entry in my Neat-O lists, so consider it your heads-up for picking yourself up a copy of this one– you’ll be happy you took my advice.
10) Matt Weston — “Seasick Blackout” — I haven’t been this excited about an EP since… well, I don’t know when. I’ll grant you that I’m a bit manic, but my sustained interest usually means I’m on track. “Seasick Blackout” has got me riveted, and I’ve played it for anyone I can corner with a speaker and 20 minutes to spare. If I beat you over the head with one release this year, it’s this one– so go get it, and buy an extra for a friend.
11) Eyes Like Saucers — “Parmalee, Tribute to a Dog” — This one might be a bit time-weighted, I’ll admit. It’s hard to tell whether or not I would have still been hot on this one if it had come out in January, but that’s the nature of chronology, eh? Regardless, I’ve dug enough of Eyes Like Saucers to know that I continually enjoy his lo-key improvisations, particularly so for their spare aesthetic and highly-individual sense of direction. I also note that it’s a disc that I’ve been returning to on a regular basis, which is always a plus.
12) Various — “Zelphabet” — I mentioned GX Jupitter-Larsen’s ongoing series of 27 noise releases last year, and I meant it when I said they were worth your while. They’re on the “I” volume now, and I’d feel bad if I didn’t mention to you all again how much this series has consistently maintained my interest and my respect. If you’re missing out on these, get your shit together before any of them sell out. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!