If Ears Dominated The Eyes: 2013 In Music

It took me quite a while to get this list done, mostly because I'm not fine with missing any of the releases I've kept tracking of, and that those are usually grand in number; while, adding the number of promos and band requests I receive during each year, the final result is enough to eradicate one's routine life and responsibilities to be able to keep up with them all. In any case, I think the Stockhausen quote (alright, I've manipulated the original sentence a bit) explains it all -- just one final note: each selection's review varies in length from the other, and that's not supposed to indicate anything, as with the ordering, which -- as always -- remains random. Here you are and the finest records released in 2013, as chosen by Holy Grail From Hell:

Nohome ‎- Nohome

Picking a name which might be an allusion to his last Massaker album, "Home", Caspar Brötzmann's return was a triumphant one. Accompanied with Full Blast members Michael Wertmüller (drums), and Marino Pliakas (bass), Caspar took a signally improvisational approach with Nohome. The absence of the sporadic vocals that were an element of Massaker's music, and the overall rejection of groove, both make the project stand out, erecting its own philosophy.

Samuel Blaser Consort In Motion - A Mirror To Machaut

It was John Cage who was terrified by the idea of Branca retroceding into the middle ages, in terms of philosophy (as Cage asserted). That makes me wonder what he would have thought of Samuel Blaser's Consort In Motion's latest voyage, "A Mirror To Machaut". The record is set to explore modernist notions intervening medieval music; and as the name suggests, it's especially inspired by Guillaume de Machaut, the French composer of the 14th century. I haven't listened to anything from the medieval period. As a matter of fact, I barely even listen to baroque or romantic music; let alone the renaissance and the medieval, and that's largely because I find too many intriguing modernist, contemporary, and/or postmodernist composers. But having studied both the medieval and the renaissance literature -- thanks to all the useless courses I've passed in college -- I do comply that there're substances of modernism and even postmodernism to be found within those periods' works; Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote" being the leading example, and here, after listening to "A Mirror To Machaut", I can certainly think of a parallel perception in music, as well.

Phill Niblock - Touch Five

The fifth release in Niblock's 'Touch' series, "Touch Five", was also last year's pinnacle of drone music. Niblock's been one of the most prolific minimalist composers of the past twenty years, and to the same extent, he's been oracular and unnoted. One of the main reasons could lie in the fact that he wan never associated with any of the well-known minimalist schools, including the vein of composers who had studied with Pran Nath, the Theatre Of Eternal Music, and/or the more baroque-influenced group of European composers. In fact, Niblock hasn't studied music in the university, and so none of his compositions are executed systematically. Still and all, his comprehensive use of tape, microtones -- akin to Parch's use of just intonation or Tony Conrad's experiments with the Pythagorean tuning -- and overdubs of numerous tones, often leads to conspicuous density of the texture, and subsequently, the development of psychoacoustical fallouts, which all contribute to the immense impact of most of his works.

DKV Trio - Schl8hof

This trio's been explosive enough that when Gustafsson, Nilssen-Love, and Pupillo joined them live in 2011, the result was a beast named after the Austrian venue of the same name they performed at: "Schl8hof". Possibly the most extreme improvised jazz record of 2013.

The Fall - Re-Mit

Another surprisingly brilliant record of last year was "Re-Mit". While Wire, the Stranglers, and New Order have all released boring, pop-wannabe albums in the past years, the Fall once again made it clear naming themselves based on Camus' book of the same name wasn't a coincidence.

Hans Theessink - Wishing Well

You adore Joseph Spence; Mississippi Fred McDowell, Robert Johnson; and Ry Cooder, but you think it's the end of the world for some good ol' acoustic blues? It's time for you to get into the Hans Theessink experience.

Scott Fields & Jeffrey Lependorf - Everything Is In The Instructions

The magnificent guitarist, avant composer, and improviser; Scott Fields, collaborated with the shakuhachi player Jeffrey Lependorf in late 2012 and their recordings were released some months ago on Ayler Records. The duo gave birth to seven songs of inexplicable vagaries, with an addition of a superb cover of John Coltrane's 'Naima'. Not to be missed, period.

Konk Pack - Doing The Splash

Konk Pack are Varèse of improvisational music. The trio is composed of longtime avant musicians Tim Hodgkinson (Henry Cow, K-Space) (lap-steel guitar), Roger Turner (the Recedents, the Ferals) (drums/percussion), and Thomas Lehn (MIMEO, Vario 34) (analogue synthesizer); each of whom has collaborated with countless composers, from Han Bennink; Derek Bailey, and Lol Coxhill to Keith Rowe, Scott Fields, Mats Gustafsson; and John Butcher. Comparing it with their insane live performances, on "Doing The Splash", they offer a rather restraint discharge, yet their music stands out as a psychotic pipedream: a microtonal insight into the agitated and the aghast. This is one of those records that will continue to echo in retrospect, times after your first listen and haunt you unceasingly.

Antediluvian - λόγος

The most depraved, twisted death metal record of 2013.

Mainliner - Revelation Space

I don't care about the specific variation: "Revelation Space" was %100 Mainliner and %100 rape-o-delia.

Philip Corner - Rocks Can Fall At Any Time

A copacetic collection of four previously unreleased recordings from the fluxus artist Philip Corner was one of the best things I was able to get last year. Corner's been one of those innovating composers not many people even in the avant scenes have heard of. Having studied music with Otto Lueninghis, Henry Cowell, and later Messiaen and Cage, his wide explorations in chance, minimal, and gamelan music have made him one of the pathfinders of postmodern classical music. "Rocks Can Fall At Any Time" includes his duet with James Fulkerson -- 'OM.Duet:Jug And Bottle' -- where the two fellow trombonists experiment in conjunction with a jug and a bottle; his improvisations for a cymbal and a gong, 'Two In Thailand' (referring to his collaboration for the performance of the piece with Phoebe Neville); and two of his singular pieces, respectively for harmonium and cymbal, 'Satie's 2 Chords Of The Rose+Croix...As A Revelation' (inspired by Erik Satie's piano composition, 'Trois sonneries de la Rose+Croix') and 'Gong (Ceng-Ceng)/Ear'.

Elliott Sharp, Melvin Gibbs, Lucas Niggli - Crossing The Waters

Read the review.

Jarboe - Dreams

When I posted on Swans Lunacy about Jarboe's latest record, although there are more than 300 blogs following SL, none reblogged or liked the post. Now, whenever I or my friend Scott Mitchell post a random photo of Swans, there'll be at least forty reblogs and favorites coming up afterwards. Administrating Fuck Yeah Mastodon for more than two years, I can say that is partially due to Tumblr society's idiotic fascination with sentimental bullshit. Anyway, Jarboe, like Steven Stapleton and loads of other experimental musicians, has been self-publishing her music, leading to the overall unawareness of many fans and non-fans of her albums. It is regretting to see things like that happen. And, while I agree that music is alive and well as Henry Rollins suggests, I doubt it is screaming loud enough like in the 60's, 70's, or even the 80's.

Painkiller - The Prophecy

I was completely stuck between choosing the Merzbow record, "Cuts" (collaboration w/Mats Gustafsson and Balazs Pandi) or "The Prophecy". Both live albums; "Cuts" a rather poorly recorded one, I decided to go for "The Prophecy" in the end. The title might remind one of Albert Ayler's "Prophecy", but it is not clear if it was intended as such, since Zorn's always exploring religious concepts in their darkest form, especially when it comes to Painkiller. Recorded live in Warsaw and Berlin (2004/5), and just like the last release which was part of Zorn's 50th Birthday Celebration series, it features a rather different line-up: this time with no vocals at all, and Ruins' Yoshida Tatsuya filling in for Hamid Drake on drums. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoy the more grindcore-oriented, Painkiller of the 90's, with Mick Harris on drums, blastbeating his way out, but it's been also a treat to see where Zorn and Laswell could go with radical percussionists like Drake and Tatsuya.

Chrome - Half Machine From The Sun: The Lost Chrome Tracks From '79-'80

Quite amazing that Chrome's rarities deliver more chaos than most of today's psych rock releases. This is the punk-fueled space rock I wanna listen to, not some indie rock bands aping the image only.

Voivod - Target Earth

Read the review.

Seven Sisters Of Sleep - Opium Morals

Absolutely monstrous record -- on a primeval level.

Kawabata Makoto - Love Phase

A challenging, demented, and minimal trip into the mind of a musician mostly known for quite the opposite: the funky, fuzzed-out acid rock.

Bill Frisell - Silent Comedy

I enjoyed "Big Sur", but I went thru "Silent Comedy" over and over and over, each time getting absorbed in it deeper. It's relatively impossible to believe the whole record was improvised in real time: it's twice as delicate as both of the more systematically executed Zorn records Frisell also was involved in last year, and it's the most rapturous electric guitar work I've ever heard.

Queen Elephantine - Scarab

Read the review.

Sebastian Lexer, Evan Parker, Eddie Prévost - Tri-Borough Triptych

Three sonic paintings by three of music's most pioneering musicians.

Final - Infinite Guitar 4

Broadwick's an overrated Brit. This release; I don't think so.

Xiu Xiu + Eugene S. Robinson - Xiu Xiu + Eugene S. Robinson Present Sal Mineo

I remember finding out about the record I expressed my negative pre-assumptions about Xiu Xiu to Mr. Robinson, and he said to me they're definitely great. I then picked up their record "Always" which was overwhelmingly sound, but it wasn't until the release of "Sal Mineo" that I truly appreciated Jamie Stewart's forte. I've heard Robinson collaborate with dozens of acts, from Capricorns and Rope to Philippe Petit, Barry Adamson, and Anthony Saggers, but I believe apart from Robinson's longtime companions in Oxbow, Stewart remains as the sole musician with the ability of thoroughly unleashing the compositional side of Robinson's psyche.

Peter Brötzmann / Steve Noble - I Am Here Where Are You

Peter is in his 70's, nevertheless, the machine gunophone he set out in '67 hasn't stopped firing its seemingly endless sonic ammunition. In fact, he releases more records than Caspar, and all of them are impressive ones, too. If I'm not mistaken, last year saw six of his collaborations; two with ADA, one with Konstrukt, and three others; respectively with Hamid Drake, Paal Nilssen-Love, and Steve Noble. I didn't get to listen to the first three, though, for all that, "Solid And Spirit", "A Fish Stinks From The Head", and "I Am Here Where Are You‎" were outstanding albums. Brötzmann's use of the same instruments (alto/tenor saxophone, tárogató, and clarinet) makes every improvisation's chief divergence lie in every drummer's approach, and I have to say I appreciated Noble's pliable, intermittent drumming best.

Bastard Noise Split W/Brutal Truth - The Axiom Of Post Inhumanity

Unfortunately, last year I missed all of Jean-Claude Eloy's releases, but Bastard Noise's giant contribution (48 minutes for all the songs on both the vinyl and the CD editions) to the split they did with Brutal Truth was sexy enough for my ears to forget the concrete and bathe in the abstract.

Rhys Chatham - Harmonie Du Soir

Evening can connote several things for you, many of which might not be the same, for the person standing beside you.

La Düsseldorf - Japandorf

Klaus Dinger resurrected the seminal La Düsseldorf (I don't give a damn if they didn't let him use the name, who are "they" anyway but a bunch of clowns?) and released a record trippy enough that made me able to forget about all the recent Tangerine Dream releases.

Rick Reed / Keith Rowe / Bill Thompson - Shifting Currents

The second performance of Tom Phillips' "Irma", which was released in 1988, featured the group AMM plus some other performers like Lol Coxhill and Phil Minton. But that was not how I got into Keith Rowe's territory: since I've only listened to the '78 Obscure Records release (conducted by Gavin Bryars, with performances from Michael Nyman, Howard Skempton, and John White). I first noticed his name on some of Evan Parker's collaborative records, then again his collaboration with Mark Wastell, for which I was sure I wanted to know more about him. "Shifting Currents" was one of his two collaborative records I picked up last year; the other being "Making A". The project revolves around the trio's improvisations on Thompson's sound installation of around a hundred field recordings. An uninjured, adventurous listen, somewhere during the 'Stirling' piece, it stimulated a musical brainstorm for me, picking up my acoustic guitar and playing like hell.

James Plotkin & Paal Nilssen-Love - Death Rattle

If I had to go for one record only, for this list, it would have been, without a doubt either "Death Rattle", "Silent Comedy", or "Crossing The Waters". And that's not because Plotkin is the singular inspiring mind among the entire metal community. Not even because I was super psyched to hear about his collaboration with one of past years' finest free improv. drummers -- Paal Nilssen-Love: it is because this record is simply beyond.

Rorcal - Világvége

Anybody who recalls the gruesome, grim crush of "Heliogabalus" would have most probably got himself or herself a copy of "Világvége". Why am I even writing all this?

Immolation - Kingdom Of Conspiracy

Forget the cheesy, Orwellian dystopia which schemes its concept, for Immolation have got back to their habit of slaying the listener's ears with sadistic precision. "Kingdom Of Conspiracy" follows the solid footsteps of 2011's "Providence", the freely-released EP that did more damage than any full-length death metal release in that year.

Wolf Eyes - No Answer-Lower Floors

Didn't top "Strangulation Tank" or "Dog Jaw", but Wolf Eyes can't do wrong nonetheless.

HaiKai No Ku - Sick On My Journey

Bong's Mike Vest remains as one of the very few guitarists within the stoner scene who has fathomed the foundation of psychedelic rock, thoroughly and matchlessly. His outlook reminds me of the exceptional Matthew Bower, who also released shittons of records without caring much either about them being hi-fi or about the level of exposure. Vest's been involved in countless projects, releasing countless records during a yearspan, and one of them from last year was by the trio that go by the name: HaiKai No Ku. An instrumental project dedicated to the core of everything acid, space, and psychedelic about rock n' roll.

Charlemagne Palestine & Z'EV - Rubhitbangklanghear Rubhitbangklangear

Palestine needs no introduction. Neither does Z'EV. Here hears the ear.

Jeff Albert's Instigation Quartet - The Tree On The Mound

Beautiful, beautiful free jazz quartet led by the fabulous trombone player Jeff Albert, composing the most beautiful music on earth. Side-note: It also underscores the best drumming performance from Hamid Drake in past year

Murcof & Philippe Petit - Murcof & Philippe Petit: First Chapter

Musique concrète, dark ambient, and operatic mania? Yes, that is so.

Coilguns - Commuters

Botch are disbanded; Coalesce and Narrows release records with long, disturbing intervals in between, TDEP implant an excessive amount of pop vocals on their albums, Converge are almost moving across the screamo line of crap; and then there's a band named Coilguns.

Jucifer - за волгой для нас земли нет

Misspelled on both Metal Archives and Discogs, "за волгой для нас земли нет", was Jucifer, at their very best.

Psicomagia - Psicomagia

As much as last year's pick, "Titans" was relevant, Psicomagia's self-titled record is relevant.

Ken Vandermark & Mats Gustafsson - Verses

It was when I got into Sonore's "Only The Devil Has No Dreams" that I discovered these two brilliant musicians, and ever since I've been into nothing but a string of mindblowing records from them both. Not sure if this record was conceptually anything like Scott Fields' "Drawings" or not, "Verses" was one of the collaborations of the duo in last year, and unlike the rest, features no drummer -- firing up that lost, derelict feel Evan Parker's "Monoceros" and Han Bennink's 1972 release "Solo" encompassed. However, having two magnificent saxophonists improvise in real time together can be a bit different from the aforementioned instances. Here we encounter things that are chaotic in a collective sense, while they still maintain a splendid delicacy.

Massacre - Love Me Tender

Recorded live at three different gigs, "Love Me Tender" can't be called a regular live record. This is a new record, as almost all Massacre releases have been recorded live due to Frith's highly improvisational approach for the project. And a great one as well.

The Stooges - Ready To Die

Loved everything from its raw production to the plain, punk songwriting. Truly what one could expect from the Stooges.

KK Null - Material Of Darkness

If you've been into Zeni Geva and still haven't checked out any of KK Null's albums, then I suggest you start with "Material Of Darkness" -- one of the three records he released last year. It's the kind of noise music that sucks you in rather than letting you act as an external entity, eyewitnessing the process only. Think of the reader-response criticism, all in abstracto: a sickening whirlpool of sounds.

Five Horse Johnson - The Taking Of Blackheart

I'd be totally fine with "Earth Rocker" if it read 'The Company Band' on the artwork, cause it wasn't Clutch by any means; no forward-thinking songwriting whatsoever, not even on the same level as the overall groove-oriented "Pure Rock Fury". Now, if you're wondering why I'm writing all this for FHJ's entry, I suggest you keep on wondering.

David Bowie - The Next Day

Unbelievably good.

Henri Texier Hope Quartet - At «L'Improviste»

Hope, the last miserable creature that came out of Pandora's box (damn, I despise Greek mythology but this particular myth sums up the concept of hope pretty much well), is the label given to the latest variation of Henri Texier's backing band: a triplet comprising Louis Moutin, François Corneloup, and Henri's own son, Sébastien Texier. "At «L'Improviste»" is easily one of the most strenuous albums Texier has done since "Varech". Strongly recommended to all lovers of post-Mingus bop and free jazz alike.

Krautzone - Kosmische Rituale

Probably the only band out of the so claimed krautrock revival bands (the specific ones like Föllakzoid, Papir, etc, not sporadic acts that play various forms of music including krautrock, like Julian Cope, all incarnations of Acid Mothers Temple, and any underground band like La Otracina, Alabama Kush, the Quash Wagon Reclusion, etc.) that actually plays krautrock. As excepted from members of the acid/stoner rock band Electric Moon, "Kosmische Rituale" favors the psychedelia and drone-driven krautrock: anything within the universe of the Cosmic Jokers, Popol Vuh, Sand, and Ash Ra Tempel. So, it's neither set to traverse in the noise, free jazz, and experimental aspects of krautrock, as with acts like Faust, Cluster, or Guru Guru, nor the space folk/funk of German Oak, Amon Düül II, and Sameti. The record is a powerful one whatsoever, and I'm highly anticipating their next move.

Doom - Corrupt Fucking System

As much as the last Von record was a deviation from their roots, the last Doom record was the same ol' crust band we all know.

John Tilbury & Oren Ambarchi - The Just Reproach

Think of how ambiguously sinister the Messiaen pieces for solo piano on "Catalogue d'Oiseaux " are, now, time-travel to 1996, and go catch the red fingernailed Dylan Carlson droning on 'Crooked Axis For String Quartet'... Wait a minute, is that hard? Why don't you just go get the record then?

Made To Break - Lacerba

A quartet comprised of Christof Kurzmann (lloopp), Tim Daisy (drums), Ken Vandermark (reeds), and Devin Hoff (bass), improvising on two of Vandermark's compositions; each having been respectively dedicated to painter Alberto Giacometti, and composer Dick Raaymakers. Controlled chaos is what the record is, oddly reminiscing Soft Machine's "Fifth", at times.

Clagg - Gather Your Beasts

Four years after their high-up debut "Lord Of The Deep", Clagg returned with a less-menacing record "Gather Your Beasts", turning the blues volume upper than sludge's. A conqueror at any rate.

Portal - Vexovoid

Acid Mothers Temple & The Melting Paraiso U.F.O - In Search Of The Lost Divine Arc

It was the sui generis James Plotkin himself who officially said the latest Uncle Acid record was crap. Now, I want to introduce you to a record that really is representative of the 70's. Yeah, you've got that right; it's from the Acid Mothers Temple. Among their last year's offerings, "Doobie Wonderland", "Black Magic Satori", and "Cometary Orbital Drive To 2199" were all great records, but I think "In Search Of The Lost Divine Arc" was the best of the best. There's more insanity to this record than it is to Guru Guru's latest album "Electric Cats": this search is a search for Jimi Hendrix thru space and time -- an astral meeting between Daevid Allen, Klaus Schultze, and Jerry Garcia. This is the glorious 70's reflected back at you in 2013.

The Necks - Open

The nonesuchs; close.

Cathedral - The Last Spire

Cathedral's farewell album was also a nasty one.

The Black Angels - Indigo Meadow

Gnaw - Horrible Chamber

Whenever you notice Alan Dubin has contributed vocals to a record there'll be two things striking your mind in the first secs; one, this is not the kind of record your grandmother would be fond of, and two; it's gonna be a painful, compelling trip for both your mind and your ears. In Gnaw there're only two rules: plenty of industrial noise, and plenty of drone doom. Yes, no way to escape the sonic reaper.

Pestilence - Obsideo

As a major fan of the Patrick Mameli-era Pestilence (referring to the two records with him on vocals), I found the reformed band just as irrelevant as the reformed Suffocation. "Obsideo" proves otherwise, however; it is fulfilled with "Spheres"-trademark riffs and luckily some thought-provoking concept, too.

Melvins - Tres Cabrones

Both the EP "1983" and the 7" release "Gaylord" were top-notch, and it would have been a shame not to have them on any of my best-of/whatever lists (that is exactly why someday I should reconsider a separate list for all the mini-albums, EPs, singles, etc.). But last year, in addition to the cover album "Everybody Loves Sausages" we witnessed a second full-length from the mighty Melvins, "Tres Cabrones", a probable allusion to ZZ Top, the record included all the seven songs from the EPs, plus five new tracks recorded with the same twisted '83 line-up of Buzz, Dale (bass), and Mike Dillard (drums).

John Zorn - The Mysteries

Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away

Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine - White People And The Damage Done

Couldn't get any better.

Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog - Your Turn

If you haven't heard of Marc Ribot, I can say you've been missing out one of the very few guitarists of the past three decades whose music embodies a unique vision of his own. Ceramic Dog's "Your Turn" wasn't as extreme as the rest of Ribot's output in terms of experimentality, but it was certainly a fantastic one -- a collage of Music Revelation Ensemble's "No Wave", Fatso Jetson's "Archaic Volumes", and Love's "Da Capo".

Akimbo - Live To Crush

Another great farewell record besides Cathedral's "The Last Spire" was from Akimbo. These guys have been doing absolutely amazing shit since their debut and it was with certain regret to see their desistance.

Church Of Misery - Thy Kingdom Scum

Last year Monster Magnet went with their post-2000's birthright of bullshit and released another utterly trite record, and so Church Of Misery kept their ball of blues and doom rolling. Rather ironic that they're both touring together, now -- isn't it?

Merchandise - Totale Nite