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"Flux Gourmet Original Motion Picture Soundtrack"

Flux GourmetI acknowledge it is only February right now, but I believe I can confidently state that this soundtrack will be the weirdest and most mystifying new album that I will encounter this year. The film itself was released back in 2022 and follows the trials and tribulations of an imaginary performance art group during a surreal and contentious month-long artist residency. It is an absolutely brilliant and wickedly funny film (possibly director Peter Strickland's finest work) and joins similarly deranged fare like Holy Mountain in the pantheon of cinema so audaciously batshit crazy that it is hard to fathom how it was ever financed, cast, or released. As befits such a bananas endeavor, the soundtrack features a murderers' row of compelling artists from the experimental/psych fringes, drawing participants from Broadcast, Nurse With Wound, Stereolab, Neutral Milk Hotel, Swans, and elsewhere. Obviously, that seems like a solid recipe for a unique album, but it is a unique album with a twist, as the heart of it all is Strickland's own Sonic Catering Band, a shifting collective devoted to transforming the preparation of vegetarian meals into ritualistic noise performances.

Ba Da Bing

The Sonic Catering Band allegedly formed as an anonymous ensemble in 1996 after finding unexpected inspiration in a bout of food poisoning. The band's mission statement is quite simple (if comically niche): "to employ a similar approach to electronic music as to (vegetarian) food; taking the raw sounds recorded from the cooking and preparing of a meal and treating them through processing, cutting, mixing and layering. No source sounds other than those coming from the cooking of the dish are used and as a commitment to artistic integrity, every dish is consumed by all members of the Band." The project spawned a record label (Peripheral Conserve) as well, releasing work by many of the folks who appear on the soundtrack as well as some other hard-to-categorize art provocateurs like The Bohman Brothers and Faust's Jean-Hervé Péron. Unsurprisingly, the project also resulted in some truly memorable-sounding performances ("on the wall by the table hung a lifesize 5ft gingerbread man with headphones on, listening to the sound of himself being cooked.").

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1569 Hits

Dead Bandit, "Memory Thirteen"

Memory ThirteenThis is the second album from the instrumental duo of Ellis Swan and James Schimpl and the first Dead Bandit album to follow Swan's killer 2022 solo album 3am. Happily, Memory Thirteen returns to the hypnagogic "witching hour" vibes of 3am, but it also marks a very compelling creative leap forward into fresh stylistic terrain. To my ears, that blearily dreamlike terrain is best described as "what if Boduf Songs scored a gig as the house band at a strip club in the Donnie Darko universe?" Needless to say, that is a very tricky and hyper-specific niche to fill, yet Dead Bandit consistently find new ways to combine hushed and haunted late-night melancholy with neon-soaked sensuousness, deadpan cool, and dreampop shimmer.


The opening "Two Clocks" introduces most of the elements central to the duo's current vision: understated guitar melodies, well-timed flickers of human warmth, submerged and distressed-sounding textures, and slow-motion, head-nodding beats. It is a fine way to start an album, but it feels more like a setting of the stage than a legitimate album highlight (even if it undergoes a gorgeously dreamlike transformation around the halfway point). The first unambiguous highlight follows soon after, however, as "Blackbird" feels like a window into a narcotic and carnivalesque cabaret of eerie melody, throbbing bass, lysergically smeared textures, and simmering, seething intensity.

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1134 Hits

Concepción Huerta, "The Earth Has Memory"

The Earth Has MemoryOn her first solo vinyl release, Mexico's Concepción Huerta largely employs the use of Buchla and Nord synths, recorded in residence at EMS Stockholm. Further tape manipulation is then used to create a record that sits somewhere between atmospheric space and intense noise. Textures and distortion sprawl outward, but occasionally relent to allow some gentle elements to slip in, resulting in a record that sounds rooted not just in the Earth, but also expands far into outer space.

Elevator Bath

The opener of the first side, "Emerges from the Deep" (featuring co-production with Olivia Block) is a perfect summary of how the piece sounds. Opening with muffled tones rising from a deep ocean trench, Huerta crafts a subtle melody that soon transitions into crunchy resonating low frequency sounds, adding a subaquatic heaviness. Eventually the low-end subsides as the piece gently floats off into the distance. Huerta follows with "The Crack Is Illuminated," where sweeping shimmering synths glisten a gentle floating passage, accented by some pleasant buoyant distortion.

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1143 Hits

Matt Weston, "This is Broken"

This is BrokenBarely six months after his last double album Embrace This Twilight, Matt Weston has just released another record of idiosyncratic compositions. Consisting of two side-long pieces, Weston balances two notable different approaches to composition, with the first side being the more spacious and sustained, and the other dense and sprawling in approach, linking disparate sounds in an incredible manner.


"You Have to Question the Validity of your Sneer," comprising the first side of the record, features Weston exercising restraint into what sounds he works with. In the simplest terms, what resembles a ghostly, inhuman howl opens the piece, with a heavily processed chime/bell/gong/something metallic punctuation throughout. Through the entirety of the piece there are groans and squeals making for an uncomfortable, unsettling lurch. As the piece progresses, he incorporates rumbling, what sounds like war trumpets, and evil screeching birds to the already sinister proceedings. The vibe is darker and more unsettling than a lot of his work, but it is still excellent.

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989 Hits

2023 Annual Readers Poll: The Results

After over two and a half decades, we're miraculously still here and still conducting the longest running online interactive music poll where readers both nominate and vote. The lists aren't perfect, we'll probably be constantly adding more comments, possibly correcting errors, but until then, here we are.

This year we had a record number of entries (over 1500) and the following are what made the top lists.

Thanks again to everyone for their support, participation, and patience.

No Highs

Album of the Year

  1. Tim Hecker, "No Highs" (Kranky)
    "Each new Tim Hecker album these days is a bold and compelling reinvention of his aesthetic and the execution is always flawless. I genuinely did not expect to like Morse code-inspired minimalism this much." —Anthony D'Amico

  2. loscil // lawrence english, "Colours Of Air" (Kranky)
    "Usually mashing together two things that I like does not yield a new third thing that I like, but this album is a rare exception. Gorgeous pieces like 'Cyan' easily stand with either artist's strongest solo work." —Anthony D'Amico

  3. Mary Lattimore, "Goodbye, Hotel Arkada" (Ghostly International)
    "Mary continues to expand her sound and evolve as a composer and arranger, allowing more guests but never distracting from her core sound." —Jon Whitney
    "'Horses, Glossy on the Hill' is one of the most movingly beautiful pieces that Lattimore has ever recorded." —Anthony D'Amico

  4. Caterina Barbieri, "Myuthafoo" (Light-Years)
    "A compelling sister release to Ecstatic Computation devoted to pieces that evolved and transformed as Barbieri tried out new ideas on tour." —Anthony D'Amico

  5. Swans, "The Beggar" (Young God)
    "Demanding the attention of a listener for over two hours is bold, and Swans continue to do this and continue to have success with it."—Jon Whitney

  6. Radian, "Distorted Rooms" (Thrill Jockey)
    "Probably the most inventive and forward-thinking project in the post-rock milieu right now. I truly do not understand why Radian is not as revered and universally beloved as Tortoise." —Anthony D'Amico

  7. Slowdive, "Everything Is Alive" (Dead Oceans)
    "Shoegaze is having a moment this decade, isn't it? This is a worthy winner, and one of the tightest records of their career." — Eve McGivern
  8. KMRU, "Dissolution Grip" (OFNOT)
  9. Colleen, "Le jour et la nuit du réel" (Thrill Jockey)
  10. Colin Stetson, "When we were that what wept for the sea" (52Hz)
    "This album made it abundantly clear that I have not been listening to nearly enough Colin Stetson. 'Infliction' is absolutely sublime." —Anthony D'Amico

  11. Vanishing Twin, "Afternoon X" (Fire)
    "Every Vanishing Twin album boasts at least one perfect weird pop song and this one has the title track. Also "Marbles" has a wonderfully wonky groove." —Anthony D'Amico

  12. O Yuki Conjugate, "A Tension Of Opposites Vols 3 & 4" (OYC Limited)
    "I'm always glad to see OYC get some love! Always carefully crafted, and a fine entry into their catalog." — Eve McGivern

  13. Lea Bertucci, "Of Shadow and Substance" (Cibachrome Editions)
    "Two commissioned compositions that nudged Bertucci out of her comfort zone and into some of the finest work that she's ever recorded." —Anthony D'Amico

  14. Black To Comm, "At Zeenath Parallel Heavens" (Thrill Jockey)
    "I always find Marc Richter's work interesting and unique, but his run of Thrill Jockey albums has been especially strong. Yet another wonderful and hallucinatory headphone album, but now with added antiquarian erotic innuendo." —Anthony D'Amico

  15. Forest Swords, "Bolted" (Ninja Tune)
  16. Yo la Tengo, "This Stupid World" (Matador)
    "I've gone through so many musical phases in my life and Yo La Tengo has continued to release cool albums throughout all of them. 'Miles Away' is pure slow-motion bliss." —Anthony D'Amico

  17. PJ Harvey, "I Inside the Old Year Dying" (Partisan)
  18. William Ryan Fritch, "Cohesion" (Lost Tribe Sound)
  19. Oval, "Romantiq" (Thrill Jockey)
  20. Klara Lewis & Nik Colk Void, "Full-On" (Alter)
    "Playful and spontaneous-sounding miniatures from two artists who are very much on the same wavelength. I especially enjoyed the duo's more 'fun' side characterized by pieces like 'Junk Funk.'" —Anthony D'Amico

  21. FACS, "Still Life In Decay" (Trouble In Mind)
  22. The Necks, "Travel" (Northen Spy)
  23. Godflesh, "Purge" (Avalanche)
    "With the heavy use of loops and samples, Purge sits nicely between Songs of Love and Hate and Us and Them without sounding as dated." - Creaig Dunton

  24. Nonconnah, "Unicorn Family" (Was Ist Das?)
    "Nonconnah has been steadily releasing one shoegaze-damaged collage masterpiece after another lately and this is the latest one. One of my absolute favorite projects around. Characteristically transcendent." —Anthony D'Amico

  25. CV & JAB, "Κλίμα (Klima)" (Editions Basilic)
    "For a second I thought this was CV Vision's monumental 2023 release. Then I woke up."—Duncan Edwards

  26. Liturgy, "93696" (Thrill Jockey)
    "I don't know why they keep tagging the term black metal to Haela Hunt-Hendrix's Liturgy project when listening feels like a blast of blinding brightness not unlike footage of the atom bomb being detonated."—Jon Whitney
  27. Blonde Redhead, "Sit Down for Dinner" (Section1)
  28. emptyset, "ash" (Subtext)
    "James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas bring Bristol sound system culture right to your living room to appropriately seismic effect." —Anthony D'Amico

  29. Midwife & Vyva Melinkolya, "Orbweaving" (The Flenser)
    "An excellent matching of the minds. NMP could possibly be my favorite song of the year."—Jon Whitney

  30. Craven Faults, "Standers" (The Leaf Label)
    "A(nother) wonderful release from Craven Faults, showcasing what it means to be some the best kosmische available in the 21st Century." — Eve McGivern

  31. Film School, "Field" (Felte)
    "This entry should have been much higher; what an incredible blend of dream pop, shoegaze, psychedelia and pop bliss. Still, I'll take it." — Eve McGivern

  32. Loraine James, "Gentle Confrontation" (Hyperdub)
    "Lush, kaleidoscopically multifaceted, and emotionally resonant. Yet another gem from Loraine James." —Anthony D'Amico

  33. Big Blood, "First Aid Kit" (Ba Da Bing!/Feeding Tube/dontrustheruin)
    "The hooks. This is what makes even the most gritty home recordings become some of the most loved music in our collections. They may never make it to pop radio but they bring the hooks like so few are able to do."—Jon Whitney

  34. Mandy, Indiana, "i've seen a way" (Fire Talk)
    "A Manchester-based post-punk band with clattering industrial percussion, plenty of gnarled noise, and a French woman who occasionally raps? Check! And the album was partially recorded in a cave and a crypt? Check! Count me in." —Anthony D'Amico

  35. ANOHNI and the Johnsons, "My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross" (Secretly Canadian)
  36. bdrmm, "I Don't Know" (Rock Action)
  37. Nation of Language, "Strange Disciple" (Play It Again Sam)
    "This one instantly hooked me! I think they just get better and better. Again, would have loved to see this a lot higher on the list, but I'm glad readers liked it enough to get it within the Top 50." — Eve McGivern

  38. Lea Bertucci & Lawrence English, "Chthonic" (American Dreams)
  39. Laurel Halo, "Atlas" (Awe)
    "I enjoyed this understated album just fine, but I'm still perplexed by how many people were instantly hailing it as The Album of The Year when it was released." —Anthony D'Amico

  40. Tristan Allen, "Tin Iso and the Dawn" (RVNG Intl.)
    "All of the beauty, melancholy, and wonder of an epic puppet romance, minus the puppets (for now). One of the year's most pleasant surprises for me." —Anthony D'Amico

  41. thisquietarmy, "Hiatus" ([self-released])
  42. Aidan Baker, Jana Sotzko, Melissa Guion, "Trio Not Trio - Letzte" (Gizeh)
  43. Death and Vanilla, "Flicker" (Fire)
  44. Zaumne, "Parfum" (sferic)
  45. Kassel Jaeger, "Shifted in Dreams" (Shelter Press)
    "My first exposure to Jaeger's work stunned me." —Duncan Edwards

  46. Paul St. Hilaire, "Tikiman Vol. 1" (Kynant)
    "I greatly appreciate that Paul St. Hilaire is out there valiantly trying to fill the Rhythm & Sound-sized hole in my heart single-handedly." —Anthony D'Amico

  47. African Head Charge, "A Trip To Bolgatanga" (On-U Sound)
    "My vote for most addictive release this year."—Jon Whitney
  48. Elodie, "Clarté Déserte" (La Scie Dorée)
  49. Edward Ka-Spel, "A Carrington Event" ([self-released])
    "It is so easy to get overwhelmed with EKS and LPD releases but there's always a track that stands out as a future classic and my pick is "Taming the Tiger," which has been on heavy rotation since this release."—Jon Whitney
  50. Rrose, "Please Touch" (Eaux)
  51. Divide and Dissolve, "Systemic" (Invada)
  52. The American Analog Set, "For Forever" ([self-released])
    "A surprise and warmly welcomed comeback, looking forward to the archive box coming soon."—Jon Whitney
  53. Kali Malone, "Does Spring Hide Its Joy" (Ideologic Organ)
    "A two- or three-hour magnum opus of heady deep listening recorded in empty concert halls by three like-minded friends in the early days of the pandemic." —Anthony D'Amico

  54. Anthony Naples, "orbs" (ANS)
  55. Edward Ka-Spel, "Tease Seize....Apply" ([self-released])
  56. Jonnine, "Maritz" (Idle Press)
  57. 58918012, "Blue" (Syntes)
  58. Bill Orcutt, "Jump On It" (Palilalia)
    "Bite-sized, reverb-marinated, chunks of high-quality, guitar lyriicism. Memorable."—Duncan Edwards

  59. Water From Your Eyes, "Everyone's Crushed" (Matador)
  60. Joseph Allred, "What Strange Flowers in the Shade" (Feeding Tube)
  61. Cloudland Canyon, "Cloudland Canyon" (Medical)
  62. Saloli, "Canyon" (Kranky)
  63. Wanderwelle, "All Hands Bury The Cliffs At Sea Release" (Important)
    "A deeply upsetting subject renderred into a great lamentation. Sad as hell, though."—Duncan Edwards

  64. The Drin, "Today My Friend You Drunk the Venom" (Feel It)
    "An impressively unhinged and ill-intentioned rock n' roll vision. These guys would have been a solid opening act for The Cramps' legendary mental hospital gig." —Anthony D'Amico

  65. Guided By Voices, "Nowhere to Go But Up" (GBV Inc.)
  66. Eluvium, "(Whirring Marvels In) Consensus Reality" (Temporary Residence)
  67. Kammerflimmer Kollektief, "Schemen" (Karl)
    "This album immediately sent me down a Kammerflimmer Kollektief rabbit hole and I was quite pleased with my findings. I feel like I owe this band a heartfelt apology for sleeping on the previous two decades of their oft-killer discography." —Anthony D'Amico

  68. Angel Bat Dawid, "Requiem for Jazz" (International Anthem)
    "Diamada Galás fans should be taking notice of Angel Bat Dawid. No, she doesn't sound like her one bit. However, as a composer, performer, and sound artist she has the ability to create longform epics such as this one, incorporating her incredible talents, knowledge, and ability, her experiences with spirituality, religion, and oppression, and constructing something beyond the ability to classify and conform into a single genre."—Jon Whitney

  69. Niecy Blues, "Exit Simulation" (Kranky)
    "it's like everything and nothing you would expect from Kranky. The context of a deep, compelling, atmospheric otherworldly listen is nothing new to the label, but the strong roots in southern gospel, soul, and R&B is nearly uncharted territory and it comes together beautifully for my favorite debut album of the year."—Jon Whitney 

  70. La Sécurité, "Stay Safe!" (Mothland)
    "Late 2023 release may have been lost in some of the shuffle, but a very engaging rock album from this Montreal quintet, full of earworms."—Jon Whitney

  71. Mint Field, "Aprender a Ser" (Felte)
  72. Troller, "Drain" (Relapse)
    "A lot has happened in seven years but Troller have returned with an album that didn't grab me like Grapic but has been a slow burn that has grown on me quite a bit."—Jon Whitney
  73. Benoît Pioulard, "Eidetic" (Morr)
  74. Surgeon, "Crash Recoil" (Tresor)
  75. Lorelle Meets The Obsolete, "Remezcla" (Sonic Cathedral)
  76. Alva noto, "HYbr:ID II" (Noton)
  77. Earth House Hold, "How Deep Is Your Devotion" (A Strangely Isolated Place)
    "Not just a new album, but a remastered overview of the entire lifespan of Brock Van Wey's long-running house-inspired side project. Admittedly a bit overwhelming and relentlessly soft-focus, but I absolutely loved some of these pieces." —Anthony D'Amico

  78. Nicol Eltzroth Rosendorf, "Internal Return" (Negative Capability Editions)
  79. Tirzah, "trip9love...???" (Domino)
  80. Grand River, "All Above" (Editions Mego)
  81. Merzbow, "CATalysis" (Elevator Bath)
  82. BIG|BRAVE, "nature morte" (Thrill Jockey)
  83. TALsounds, "Shift" (NNA Tapes)
  84. A Certain Ratio, "1982" (Mute)
  85. V/Z, "Suono Assente" (AD93)
  86. Drop Nineteens, "Hard Light" (Wharf Cat)
    "Probably wins this year's award for Most Time Between Albums. I am very happy for their return."—Jon Whitney

  87. Martyna Basta, "Slowly Forgetting, Barely Remembering" (Warm Winters)
    "I am very much a Martyna Basta fan. I preferred the more spare Diaries Beneath Fragile Glass EP to this full-length, but her hot streak remains unbroken." —Anthony D'Amico

  88. Matmos, "Return to Archive" (Smithsonian Folkways)
  89. Raphael Rogiń​ski, "Tal​à​n" (Instant Classic)
  90. Frédéric D. Oberland, "Solstices" (Zamzamrec)
  91. Shit And Shine, "2222 And Airport" (The state51 Conspiracy)
  92. Ale Hop & Laura Robles, "Agua Dulce" (Buh)
    "I am always eager to hear whatever idiosyncratic mindfuckery Alejandra Cárdenas records, but teaming up with a talented Peruvian percussionist was a welcome and inspired evolution." —Anthony D'Amico

  93. Piotr Kurek, "Peach Blossom" (Mondoj)
  94. Nonconnah, "Shadows From The Walls Of Death" (Cruel Nature)
  95. Tengger, "Tengger" (Beyond is Beyond is Beyond)
  96. Ben Chasny & Rick Tomlinson, "Waves" (Voix)
  97. Helen Money / Will Thomas, "Trace" (Thrill Jockey)
  98. Justin Walter, "Destroyer" (Kranky)
  99. JK Flesh, "π11" (Pi Electronics)
  100. A Place To Bury Strangers, "See Through You Rerealized" (Dedstrange)

Single of the Year

Legendary Pink Dots Halloween 2023

  1. The Legendary Pink Dots, "The Legendary Pink Dots' Hallowe'en Special 2023" ([self-released])
    "The Legendary Pink Dots' Christmas and Halloween singles invariably delight me every single year. A beloved underground institution that almost always captures Ka-Spel at the height of his powers." —Anthony D'Amico

  2. Caterina Barbieri, "Perennial Fantas" (Light-Years)
    "I definitely did not expect 'Fantas' to keep expanding and evolving for four more years after Ecstatic Computation was released. It's the gift that keeps giving! Possibly forever!" —Anthony D'Amico

  3. The Legendary Pink Dots, "The Legendary Pink Dots' Christmas Special 2023" ([self-released])
    "It is very amusing that my LPD fandom has gradually and imperceptibly evolved from 'these guys collaborated with Skinny Puppy-I should check them out!' to "Edward Ka-Spel is basically my Santa Claus now.'" —Anthony D'Amico

  4. Mary Lattimore, "A Lock of His Hair Under Glass" ([self-released])
  5. The Bug, "Machine I" (Pressure)
  6. Bark Psychosis, "Scum" (Rolling Heads)
  7. Edward Ka-Spel, "All Flags Are False" (Witch Cat)
  8. Aphex twin, "Blackbox Life Recorder 21f In A Room7 F760" (Warp)
    "Enjoyable, but not nearly audacious enough to make a memorable impression." —Anthony D'Amico

  9. Four Tet, "Three Drums" ([self-released])
  10. Sam Prekop and John McEntire / The Soft Pink Truth, "A Yellow Robe Remixes" (Thrill Jockey)
  11. A Winged Victory for the Sullen, "All Our Friends Are Vampires" (Ninja Tune)
  12. The Bug, "Machine II" (Pressure)
  13. Meat Beat Manifesto & DHS, "Man From Mantis" (Love Love)
  14. Om, "Gebel Barkal" (Drag City)
  15. James Blackshaw, "Why Keep Still?" ([self-released])
    "It is wonderful to see Blackshaw releasing new music again, even if it is only one song (for now)." —Anthony D'Amico

  16. Godflesh, "Nero" (Avalanche)
  17. Sun's Signature, "Sun's Signature Extended" (Partisan)
  18. Eric Random & Stephen Mallinder, "Deadeye Remixed" (Emergency Hearts)
  19. Strategy, "Graffiti In Space" (Community Library)
  20. Letting Up Despite Great Faults, "Crumble EP" ([self-released])
  21. Death and Vanilla, "Reimagined by Civilistjävel!" (Fire)
  22. Drab Majesty, "An Object in Motion" (Dais)
  23. Kieran Hebden & William Tyler, "Darkness, Darkness / No Services" (Psychic Hotline)
  24. Mouse on Mars, "3D-LS" (Sonig)
  25. Loraine James, "5 a Day" ([self-released])

Compilation of the Year


  1. "Gespensterland" (Bureau B)
    "I am 100% the target demographic for a collection of supernaturally inspired German artists 'operating in the margins and intersections of folklore, experimental electronics, dreams and nightmares.' A murderers' row of fringe-dwelling visionaries like Brannten Schn​ü​re." —Anthony D'Amico

  2. "When the Frog from the Well Sees the Ocean (Reports from English UFOlklore)" (Folklore Tapes)
    "Folklore Tapes steps a bit outside of their comfort zone with an eclectic and freewheeling celebration of UFO sightings, alien visitations, and their forever-altered witnesses. A characteristically wonderful and singular collection." —Anthony D'Amico

  3. "Cease & Resist - Sonic Subversion & Anarcho Punk In The UK 1979-1986" (Optimo Music)
    "I really wish this had come out during my lengthy Crass phase." —Anthony D'Amico

  4. "Searchlight Moonbeam" (Efficient Space)
    "Astonishing to hear 'Never Anyone Around To Hear It' by Bo Harwood and John Cassavetes."—Duncan Edwards
    "Both Time is Away and Efficient Space have proven themselves to be pretty damn infallible at digging up cool and eclectic obscurities." —Anthony D'Amico

  5. "Subliminal Skull Palace II" (Utech)
    "Utech is really doing god's work with this series celebrating tripped-out Japanese guitar music. The Tatsuya Goto and Kawabata Makoto pieces on this one were especially revelatory." —Anthony D'Amico

  6. "Imaginational Anthem vol. XII : I Thought I Told You - A Yorkshire Tribute to Michael Chapman" (Tompkins Square)
  7. "Future Sounds of Kraut Vol. 1" (Compost)
  8. "Space Funk: Afro Futurist Electro Funk in Space 1976-84 2" (Soul Jazz)
  9. "XKatedral Anthology Series II" (XKatedral)
    "Sweden's XKatedral consistently releases some of the most compelling drone/'slowly evolving harmonic and timbral music' around. If you're a connoisseur, this is the vanguard." —Anthony D'Amico

  10. "Kotti Island Disc – An Auditive Snapshot" (Tresor)
  11. "7A19" (Sähkö Recordings)
    "I am reliably drawn to '80s cassette underground compilations like a moth to a flame. I think that probably counts more as a neurosis than a recommendation though." —Anthony D'Amico

  12. "Antipodean Anomalies 2" (Left Ear)
  13. "Ariwa Sounds: The Early Sessions" (Melodies International)
  14. "Channel One Soundsystem: Down in the Dub Vaults" (VP)
    "Unusually quiet year for Jamaican dub compilations (presumably because Soul Jazz is busy being funky in space), but I really enjoyed this one." —Anthony D'Amico

  15. "Denshi Ongaku No Bigaku (The Aesthetics of Japanese Electronic Music Vol 1 & 2)" (Cosmocities)
  16. "American Dreams Diner Open 24 Hours" (American Dreams)
  17. "Radigue: Dedalus / Akama" (Montagne Noire)
  18. "Eccentric Boogie" (Numero Group)
  19. "Pacific Breeze 3: Japanese City Pop, AOR and Boogie 1975–1987" (Light in the Attic)
  20. "Ballads Of Seduction, Fertility And Ritual Slaughter" (Was Ist Das?)
  21. "Contaminazioni No Wave Italiane (1980-1985)" (Spittle)
  22. "The NID Tapes: Electronic Music From India 1969-1972" (The State51 Conspiracy)
  23. "If You Want to Make a Lover: Palm Wine, Akan Blues & Early Guitar Highlife, Pt. I" (Death Is Not The End)
    "The singing and playing here transcends locale or genre and ends up as a mystical bottling of the square-root of charm."—Duncan Edwards

  24. "Mondo Industrial: A Selection Of Rare Tape Music From The '80s & '90s" (Mafarka)
  25. "ElectroDub Vol. 3 & 4" [tie] (Emergency Hearts)

Vault/Reissue of the Year

Commercial Album

  1. The Residents, "Commercial Album" (Cherry Red)
  2. Bowery Electric, "Bowery Electric" (Kranky)
    "An absolutely flawless release, restored to the full tracklist plus given a bonus side of the first EP, sounding just as massive as ever."—Jon Whitney

  3. Drew McDowell, "Lamina" (Dais)
  4. Techno Animal, "Re-Entry (2023 Remaster)" (Relapse)
    "I was really expecting this to take first place, but I may just be biased. Beautiful job reissuing the duo's absolute masterpiece."—Creaig Dunton

  5. Emeralds, "Does It Look Like I'm Here? expanded remaster" (Ghostly)
    "It was cool to get an expanded reissue of this album, but it was already pretty damn canonical." —Anthony D'Amico

  6. Earth, "Earth 2 Special Low Frequency Mix" (Sub Pop)
  7. Andrew Chalk, "Dreams: Scenes I - XV" (Faraway Press)
  8. Moonshake, "Eva Luna" (Beggars Arkive)
    "Some aspects of Moonshake's audacious and influential debut album have not aged particularly well, but 'Little Thing' and 'Sweetheart' are still perennial favorites for me." —Anthony D'Amico

  9. The Legendary Pink Dots, "Only Dreaming" ([self-released])
  10. Sonic Youth, "Live in Brooklyn 2011" (Silver Current)
  11. In The Nursery, "L'Esprit" (ITN Corp)
  12. The Chameleons, "Script of the Bridge" (Blue Apple)
  13. Arthur Russell, "Picture of Bunny Rabbit" (Audika)
    "I hope the vault of Arthur Russell continues to produce more fantastic collections like this. It's okay to vary between styles and maintain a bit of a theme for time and location of recordings. My addiction grows stronger."—Jon Whitney

  14. The Legendary Pink Dots, "Come Out From The Shadows Volume 3: The 80s" ([self-released])
  15. Bardo Pond, "Peel Sessions" (Fire)
  16. Air Miami, "Me. Me. Me." (4AD)
  17. Pan American, "In Daylight Dub" (Foam On A Wave)
  18. Nurse With Wound, "The Sylvie and Babs Hi-Fi Companion" (United Dirter)
  19. Fridge, "Happiness" (Temporary Residence)
  20. Edward Ka-Spel, "Caste O' Graye Skreeëns" ([self-released])
  21. Edward Ka-Spel, "Ghost Logik 2" ([self-released])
  22. Mouse on Mars, "Bilk" (Sonig)
  23. Nurse With Wound, "Brained By Falling Masonry/Cooloorta Moon" (United Dirter)
  24. Nurse With Wound, "Alice The Goon (Funeral Music For Perez Prado)" (B.F.I.)
  25. Big Blood & The Bleedin' Hearts, "Big Blood & The Bleedin' Hearts" (Feeding Tube)
    "One of the finest albums in Big Blood's entire discography finally got a non-CDr physical release! Pretty exciting day at the mailbox." —Anthony D'Amico

Boxed Set of the Year

Collected Works of NMH

  1. Neutral Milk Hotel, "The Collected Works of..." (Merge)
    "Essentially just a vinyl reissue of 2011's career retrospective with some additional live material added, which is probably somewhat revelatory for more obsessive NMH fans than me. Everyone else can safely just keep listening to In The Aeroplane Over The Sea forever, as there is nothing in the vaults that rivals it." —Anthony D'Amico
    "I'm probably the only person in the world who prefers On Avery Island more, Anthony, but what do I know?"—Jon Whitney

  2. The Residents, "Eskimo" (Psychofon)
  3. Hawkwind, "Space Ritual: 50th Anniversary Edition" (Atomhenge)
  4. Pharoah Sanders, "Pharoah" (Luaka Bop)
  5. Magnolia Electric Co., "Sojourner" (Secretly Canadian)
  6. A.R.Kane, "A.R.Kive" (Rocket Girl)
  7. Pere Ubu, "Elitism for the People 1975 - 1978" (Fire)
  8. Laraaji, "Segue To Infinity" (Numero Group)
  9. [V/A], "Remix Anthology Vol. 1​-​4 2002​-​2022" (Smalltown Supersound)
    "This was my personal favorite boxed set of the year, as it was quite a treasure trove of killer songs that I had never heard before." —Anthony D'Amico

  10. Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso UFO, "Acid Motherly Love" (Riot Season)
  11. Jack Dangers, "Lucky Bag" (Flexidisc)
  12. [V/A], "Steven Wilson Presents: Intrigue - Progressive Sounds In UK Alternative Music 1979–89" (Burning Shed)
  13. King Crimson, "Larks' Tongues in Aspic (The Complete Recording Sessions)" (Panegyric)
    "Surprisingly very little overlap between this and the 15 disc set from a decade ago, and I appreciate that it doesn't take up too much shelf space." -- Creaig Dunton

  14. Laibach, "Nova Akropola / Live In Europe 1997-2020 / Live in London 1985-1987" (Cherry Red)
  15. Pere Ubu, "Architecture of Language 1979 - 1982" (Fire)
  16. Killing Joke, "Honor the Fire Live" (Live Here Now, Live Here Now)
  17. Acid Mothers Temple & the Melting Paraiso UFO, "Vinyl Archives Volume 1" (Riot Season)
  18. Duster, "Moods, Modes" (Numero Group)
  19. Einstürzende Neubauten, "Phase IV - The Singles" (Potomak)
  20. Celer, "Selected Self-Releases 2006-2007" (Two Acorns)
  21. [V/A], "The Complete Obscure Records" (Dialogo)
    "I did not expect a retrospective of Brian Eno's hugely influential imprint to be this low in the rankings. It has admittedly been a long time since I was personally excited about anything Eno-related, but Gavin Bryars' The Sinking of the Titanic is an all-timer for me.'" —Anthony D'Amico
    "Mine didn't arrive until the new year, Anthony."—Jon Whitney

  22. King Crimson, "Absent Lovers (Live in Montreal 1984)" (Discipline Global Mobile)
  23. Karate, "Complete Studio Recordings" (Numero Group)
  24. Luc Ferrari, "L'Œuvre Électronique" (INA GRM)
  25. The New Blockaders, "Etudes de Rien" (Coherent States)

Artist of the Year

  1. The Legendary Pink Dots
  2. Caterina Barbieri
  3. Mary Lattimore
  4. Tim Hecker
  5. The Bug
  6. KMRU
  7. Loraine James
  8. Swans
  9. Godflesh
  10. Benoît Pioulard

Label of the Year

  1. Thrill Jockey
  2. Kranky
    "It comes as no surprise these two labels continue to dominate the Brainwashed Readers Poll. It is a testament to their tireless dedication to quality."—Jon Whitney
  3. Fire
  4. Drag City
  5. Psychofon
  6. International Anthem
  7. Important
  8. Room40
  9. Light-Years
  10. 4AD

New Artist of the Year

Derecho Rhythm Section

"It is important, for me at least, to hear Alan Sparhawk's voice on new music again, and he is not afraid to let us know exactly how he feels. Joined by his children with Mimi Parker, something special is definitely evolving. Hard to say what will become of this project in particular, but I hope to continue to hear all of them together."—Jon Whitney

Lifetime Achievement Recognition

Phill Niblock

Phill Niblock

"As a drone fan, Phill Niblock was always a bit of a living legend for me, as he and contemporaries like Éliane Radigue were instrumental in elevating the form into the realm of high art. Also, he was definitely a guy who understood and appreciated the elemental power of immersive, room-shaking vibrations. Beyond that, however, he played quite an outsized role in building and maintaining NYC's legendary avant-garde scene as the long-time director of Experimental Intermedia. I cannot think of many other people who were hip enough to book artists like Arthur Russell, Rhys Chatham, and Charlemagne Palestine as early as 1973/1974 and the list of other artists who played Niblock-curated shows in the 1970s is basically a who's who of nearly everyone who shaped the late 20th century avant-garde (Annea Lockwood, Suzanne Ciani, Catherine Christer Hennix, Laurie Spiegel, etc.). The musical landscape of 2024 would be a much bleaker place without Niblock's lifelong passion for championing groundbreaking and iconoclastic artists." —Anthony D'Amico


2376 Hits

Tristan Allen, "Tin Iso and the Dawn"

Tin Iso and the DawnThis is New York-based composer/puppeteer Tristan Allen's full-length debut and it is quite an ambitious one, as Tin Iso and the Dawn is the first chapter of a planned "shadow puppet symphony" trilogy loosely based on Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde" that has been in the works since 2015. From where I am standing, there are innumerable ways in which such an album could go wrong and they range from "forgettable score to cool puppet show" to "cloyingly precious" to "outright bombastic." Instead, however, Tin Iso and the Dawn sounds like a stone-cold masterpiece dropped by a creative supernova. Listening back to Allen's previous discography (a pair of classical piano EPs), it almost feels like this vision materialized out of nowhere, but the seeds of this puppet-centric magnum opus may have been planted more than a decade ago when Allen co-wrote a piece with Amanda Palmer in the early days of her "Dresden Dolls hiatus" solo career.


The album begins in somewhat deceptive fashion, as "Opening" is initially just a bittersweet solo piano melody that feels like a simple yet lovely classical piece built from a few well-chosen arpeggios. That is familiar territory for Allen, but that familiarity begins unraveling in under a minute, as the arpeggios are quickly enlivened with harmonies, melodic flourishes, rhythmic disruptions, psychotropic tendrils, and a wake of groans and lingering decays. Then yet another surprise happens in the final minute, as it sounds like Allen stops playing, closes the piano, and lets the lingering haze of murk threaten to become a self-perpetuating drone piece. If Allen were some kind of Andy Kaufman-style performance artist/comedian, it would have been a solid move to let that haze of decay play out for another forty minutes, but it instead segues into the first of four acts ("Act I: Stars and Moon"). From that point onward, Tin Iso and the Dawn features a near-unbroken run of achingly beautiful and unique orchestral pieces.

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2278 Hits

Richard Sears, "Appear to Fade"

Appear to FadeMuch to my surprise, my favorite tape music album of 2023 did not come from any of the usual suspects (Nonconnah, Lilien Rosarian, Ian William Craig, etc.) and instead came courtesy of this unusual collaboration between newly Parisian jazz pianist/composer Richard Sears and producer Ari Chersky. While I am unfamiliar with Sears' previous activities in NYC's avant-garde scene before his trans-Atlantic relocation, Appear to Fade is an entirely new animal altogether, as it is a series of collages built from decontextualized/recontextualized recordings of solo piano compositions and live improvisations. I can understand why this is being released as a Richard Sears album, given the fact that he played everything and has some serious jazz cred to boot, but the impact of Chesky's editing and healthy appreciation for pleasures of analog tape distortion elevates those recordings into something brilliant that feels far greater than the sum of its parts. While much of that success is due to the pair's unerring intuitions and Sears' undeniably beautiful playing, the real magic of Appear to Fade lies in how masterfully the duo were able to organically weave together looping melodies with fluid and spontaneous-sounding improvisations while evoking a mesmerizing mirage of elegantly shifting moods.


The opening "Tracing Time" is quite possibly one of the most gorgeous tape-based pieces that I have heard in my life, as a delicate piano melody lazily winds through a shifting and swaying landscape of straining tape warbles, analog murk, and subtly rhythmic swells. Moreover, beyond its immediately obvious melodic and textural pleasures, the piece evokes a wonderful strain of frayed and unraveling opulence and also feels like time is fitfully freezing and reversing due to all the ingenious tape manipulations. There is even a surprise twist at the end, as the dream-like bliss curdles into something more ominous that resembles the soundtrack from a mangled VHS of a Bela Lugosi-style classic vampire film played backwards. Obviously, it does not take a genius to realize that putting your best foot forward is a great way to kick off an album, but there is definitely an art to sequencing the remaining pieces so they feel like different flavors of wonderful rather than a dip in quality. To their credit, Sears and Chesky succeed beautifully in that regard and even managed to keep a second masterpiece ("Manresa") in the chamber until nearly the end of the album.

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2913 Hits

Emptyset, "Ash"

Ash It has been a while since this duo of James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas last surfaced, but they are back with a new EP to celebrate Subtext's 50th release. Since releasing 2019's Blossoms, the pair have been quite busy with other projects, as Purgas's research played a crucial role in the release of The NID Tapes: Electronic Music from India 1969​-​1972 while Ginzburg has kept himself occupied with running a record label, releasing solo albums, and performing as part of "experimental supergroup" Osmium. Emptyset was never fully dormant, however, and Ginzburg and Purgas convened in Bristol this summer to shape their accumulated ideas into one of their most focused and singular releases in recent memory. It is also one of their most concise, as ash clocks in at an extremely lean 16-minutes. If this were any other project, that brevity would suggest a serious dearth of fresh ideas or compelling new material, but it is exactly the right length for a perfect distillation of Emptyset's viscerally spasmodic and pummeling percussion assaults.


Much like their Manchester peers Autechre, it is very easy to forget that James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas were ever interested in making beat-driven music aimed for the dancefloor, as they long ago plunged into an avant-garde rabbit hole of abstract deconstructionism, cutting edge sound design, and self-built instruments and have not looked back since. I bring up that origin for a reason, as understanding that ash was inspired by Bristol's sound system culture is crucial to grasping the appeal of the duo's current vision. In fact, I was initially underwhelmed by these songs, as I could not understand why Ginzburg in particular would want to regress to punishing, no-frills rhythm workouts after blowing me away with the droning immensity of his 2021 solo album crystallise, a frozen eye.

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2133 Hits

Black to Comm, "At Zeenath Parallel Heavens"

At Zeenath Parallel HeavensI am almost always intrigued by the eclectic and unusual inspirations behind Marc Richter albums and this latest full-length for Thrill Jockey is no exception. The core concept at the heart of this one is the "hybridity within each and every one of us," which Richter set out to mirror through a mixture of self-created sounds and manipulated samples. Things got more interesting along the way, however, as Richter had the epiphany that his own methods are quite similar to artificial intelligence "hallucinations," which is a phenomenon in which an overloaded AI starts perceiving non-existent patterns or spewing incorrect or nonsensical conclusions.

Thrill Jockey

Beyond that, the methods behind this album remain an enigma to me, as does the inspiration behind the album's curious title, though Richter does note that the song titles borrow phrases from poetry and mythology with a deliberate leaning towards erotic innuendos and the ridiculous. Naturally, most of the humor and ridiculousness that found its way into these sound collages is far too buried or oblique to be readily apparent to listeners, but I had no trouble at all grasping that At Zeenath Parallel Heavens is yet another excellent Black to Comm album. In fact, this might be one of the most beautifully focused and immersive albums that Richter has ever released.

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1877 Hits

Aki Onda, "Transmissions From The Radio Midnight"

Transmissions From The Radio MidnightThis is one of the more enigmatic and compellingly inscrutable albums that I have heard in quite some time, but I could probably say the same thing about a half dozen other Aki Onda albums at this point. This particular project began in 2006 when Onda acquired a slim handheld AM/FM radio/cassette recorder and began bringing it with him whenever he traveled: each night when he went to bed, he would turn on the radio and scan the dial in search of something interesting to soundtrack his descent into sleep.

Dinzu Artefacts

Unsurprisingly, that nightly ritual was soon enhanced by Onda's fascination with the spaces on the dial in which multiple frequencies overlap in surreal and unpredictable ways and his nightly hunt for entertainment soon transformed into a sound art project. Naturally, the spontaneous and unique juxtapositions of colliding transmissions are the album's most immediate/obvious pleasure and there are some great ones strewn throughout the album. However, those surface-level pleasures are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as any inquisitive mind will easily find a host of deeper layers and meanings to contemplate.

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1743 Hits

Robert Piotrowicz, "Afterlife"

AfterlifeHaving dabbled in other styles and methods of instrumentation in recent years, Afterlife finds Polish composer Robert Piotrowicz returning to modular synthesis, the mainstay of his career thus far. Rather than using that complex array of modules and patch cables to generate bizarre, idiosyncratic sound effects, as many do, he instead intentionally utilizes it to emulate traditional, physical instrumentation, with the pipe organ being the most utilized. Combined with harmonic structures that the physical instrument would be unable to replicate, the result is familiar, yet alien, and is a wonderful demonstration of the psychoacoustic properties of electronic sound.

Penultimate Press

"Rozpylenie (Overdusting)" leads off the disc with a massive church organ like swell of sound, although there is a hint of modular squeal to be heard peppered throughout. Overall, though, the layers of massive shifting, enveloping sound are almost overwhelming at times, sounding both like it could have been captured in a medieval church as much as a state of the art recording studio. The forceful dynamic he utilizes throughout makes the abrupt conclusion all the more jarring.

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1336 Hits

Fortunato Durutti Marinetti, "Eight Waves In Search Of An Ocean"

Eight Waves In Search Of An OceanI have not encountered Dan Colussi's work before this album, but the Turin-born artist is a bit of a lifer, as he has been steadily releasing music and touring for the last 20 years with various Canadian bands "of varying degrees of obscurity." His solo project, Fortunato Durutti Marinetti, first surfaced back in 2020 with the acclaimed Desire cassette. This latest release is his second for Soft Abuse (and his first for Quindi) and it is something of a bold creative leap forward, as returning collaborator/producer Sandro Perri has steered the project into a more synthpop direction with the addition of synths, drum machines, and other electronic touches.

Soft Abuse/Quindi

Notably, Colussi is an artist who makes no secret of his influences (Robert Wyatt, Lou Reed, Annette Peacock, etc.), but the main one definitely seems to be Leonard Cohen and this album amusingly mirrors Cohen's own stylistic evolution from his acoustic beginnings into the kitschier, more jazz-influenced work of his later years. I cannot say that I was entirely thrilled by that move in Cohen's case, but Cohen did not have Sandro Perri in his corner: the louche "yacht rock" charm of these arrangements is frequently the perfect counterbalance to Colussi's wonderful literary melancholy.

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1316 Hits

Mark Solotroff, "Today the Infinite, Tomorrow Zero"

Today the Infinite, Tomorrow ZeroAn artist who always has something in progress or forthcoming, Mark Solotroff's has been most prolific under his own name as of late. Different from the frenetic, yet organized chaos of BLOODYMINDED, the doomy bombast of Anatomy of Habit, or the murky improvisations of The Fortieth Day (and those are only a few examples), his solo material in recent years has been more introspective and meditative, at times drifting into almost ambient territories. Following 2020's You May Be Holding Back and 2021's Not Everybody Make It, Today the Infinite, Tomorrow Zero continues his focus on using analog synths alone with a four track, but creating a depth and variance of sound that belies its rather Spartan origins. Compared to these recent albums though (and the Return to Oneself compilation of digital singles), the depth is even greater and further realized, and the sound has expanded to one that is almost musical, without ignoring any of the intensity expected from Solotroff.


From a structural standpoint, Today the Infinite features shorter pieces than the previous two, with You May Be Holding being a pair of 30-minute pieces, and Not Everybody Makes It's six, ten-minute segments. He once again imposes that rigid hour-long duration on the album, but in smaller, six-minute increments this time. Because of this, the sound and style differ more notably from song to song than it did on those previous albums, emphasizing both noise and melody throughout.

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1355 Hits

Lea Bertucci, "Of Shadow and Substance"

Of Shadow and SubstanceThis latest full-length from NY-based composer/multi-instrumentalist Lea Bertucci features two longform Just Intonation commissions composed for small ensembles. Given that, it is no surprise that Of Shadow and Substance is a unique album within her discography, but the added participants and the non-standard tuning were not the only new elements, as Bertucci embraced a "textural approach to composition" as well.

Cibachrome Editions

The results are quite unique and compelling, as Bertucci and her collaborators nimbly avoided any missteps or predictable decisions to produce a shapeshifting and emotionally intense drone album like no other. In fact, even Bertucci herself was a bit surprised with how Of Shadow and Substance turned out, as she notes that these two pieces feel informed by a "sense of deep, ancestral knowing" beyond herself as an individual, which seems like a valid and insightful claim, given that she shared the driver's seat with both ancient mathematical relationships and textural affinities and was also inherently prevented from falling back on any familiar scales or melodies. Ladies and gentlemen, Lea Bertucci has just crossed over into The Twilight Zone (or at least into releasing a killer album that borrows its title from that show's introduction).

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1997 Hits

Mary Lattimore, "Goodbye, Hotel Arkada"

Goodbye, Hotel ArkadaThis six-song album borrows its title from a beloved Croatian hotel damningly slated for modernization, which is a fitting inspiration for an album that "celebrates and mourns the tragedy and beauty of the ephemeral." Obviously, that is an especially resonant theme these days, given the endlessly accelerating pace of change and the relentless erosion of the comforting and familiar. Lattimore has always been unusually well-attuned to such feelings, but Goodbye, Hotel Arkada is also inspired by her passions for collaboration and travel, both of which "shake loose strands of inspiration."

Ghostly International

In keeping with those themes, this album features a number of intriguing collaborators (Slowdive's Rachel Goswell, The Cure's Lol Tolhurst, etc.), as well as a number of pieces inspired by warm memories of specific places and times from her travels, tours, and childhood. In fact, this is now the second Lattimore release that alludes to the island of Hvar (the first being 2020's landmark Silver Ladders). Naturally, the end result of all those reawakened memories and inspired collaborations is yet another gorgeous Mary Lattimore album, but it took a few listens before I fully appreciated this one's magic, as Goodbye, Hotel Arkada often feels deceptively simple on its surface. In reality, however, these are some of Lattimore's most focused and beautifully crafted pieces to date (they just take a little bit longer than usual to reveal their full depths).

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1566 Hits

Techno Animal, "Re-Entry"

Re-EntryOut of print soon after its initial release in 1995 and on vinyl for the first time, the second collaboration between Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) and Kevin Martin (The Bug) has always been considered a high point in their lengthy collaborative discography. A sprawling two-and-a-half-hour masterwork of heavy beats and rich ambience, it is just as captivating today as it was nearly 30 years ago. Reissued and repackaged with care from all involved, it is a masterpiece that is deserving of the attention it is receiving.


Any time some sort of social media prompt of "favorite albums of all time" or the like pops up, Re-Entry is one of the first titles that comes to mind for me. I still have vivid memories of purchasing the original CD set. It was a bit after its release, so roughly late 1995 or maybe early 1996, when I managed to get a special order (one of the few options in a pre-Internet ordering world) from Blockbuster Music in Brandon, Florida as an import. I had become a fan of Godflesh the year before, around the Merciless EP, and started tracking down some of Broadrick's numerous side projects, with this one being among the most hyped at the time. To say it was an influential release for me is an understatement: It fundamentally changed the way I perceived music, and electronic music specifically.

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2425 Hits

American Cream Band, "Presents"

PresentsThis is not my first exposure to Nathan Nelson's freewheeling Twin-Cities improv collective, but it may as well have been, as the droning kosmische psychedelia of last year's Embrace You Millions provided no hint at all of the dramatic stylistic reinvention looming on the horizon. To my ears, the band's entertaining new direction is best described as "James Chance fronts the B-52s," but the album's description goes even further and promises both "a spiritually-charged journey" and "a shit-kicking party record." The fact that Presents emphatically delivers on the latter claim is quite an impressive feat indeed, as the number of shit-kicking party records successfully recorded by shapeshifting collectives of synth and space rock enthusiasts tends to historically be quite low. To their everlasting credit, American Cream Band buck that trend quite decisively, as Nelson seems literally evangelical in his desire to make a fun and raucous party album and he assembled one hell of a killer band to bring that dream to life.


The "building blocks" for Presents were originally recorded back in December 2021, as Nelson brought ten musicians to Cannon Falls' Pachyderm studio to "live together," "eat together," and "lay down some drum-heavy sessions." That studio choice was presumably quite deliberate, as Nelson seems like a guy who is intuitively attuned to seeking and setting the right vibe and Pachyderm birthed quite a few iconic albums in its first heyday (The Wedding Present's Seamonsters and PJ Harvey's Rid of Me being two prime examples) and became a post-foreclosure labor of love for the late engineer John Kuker in more recent years.

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1658 Hits

Choke Chain, "Mortality"

MortalityAs evident from many of my reviews at the time, I was (and remain) a big fan of the noise to EBM pipeline of genre overlap that was popular a few years back. Representing my two most momentous musical preferences during high school, hearing the two alongside each other was a perfect paring. Choke Chain, the solo project of Milwaukee's Mark Trueman is keeping this tradition alive, with a new album that leans more towards the rhythmic, rather than harsh end of this spectrum. Synth heavy, yet with aggressive vocals and production, it makes for an appropriate, fully realized album.

Phage Tapes

Mortality is the first full length from Trueman's project, following a handful of EPs and stray songs. Fittingly, it is the most definitive refinement of his approach to date. The components are consistent from what came before: pummeling drum machines; grimy/aggressive FM bass synths; and simultaneously angry/pained screaming vocals. The aforementioned noise influence is more notable on the unconventional production and the aggressive vocals that could almost be lifted from a power electronics record. The overall feel/aesthetic leans more in to the black and white austerity of the noise world, as opposed to the more cliché goth industrial world.

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1636 Hits

Rick Reed, "The Symmetry of Telemetry"

The Symmetry of TelemetryAustin's Rick Reed has been an active composer and performer of electronic music for over 30 years, but The Symmetry of Telemetry represents his first release since 2018. Using synthesizers, organs, vocoders, and found radio noises, Reed's compositional approach of developing smaller, disparate segments that are then later strung together in a collage is perfect for this material, juxtaposing different sounds and moods across the album's three lengthy compositions in a way that is dynamic, yet still coherent and cohesive as a whole.

Sedimental / Elevator Bath

The 20-plus minute "Dysania" is immediately a work of weird, wet electronics. Coded transmissions beep and bleep through what sounds like synth bass and stuttering machinery. At times the more modular qualities of the synthesizers pierce through constantly evolving idiosyncratic bursts. Reed eventually steers the work into old school sci-fi soundtrack territories, but just as quickly introduced luxurious, glossy tones. The dynamic nature of the piece is what makes it most captivating, as Reed jumps from different sounds, moods, and dynamics effortlessly, while still retaining the cohesion of a composed work. Symphonic loops, humming machinery, and crunchy wobbles all appear at some point, making for an almost disorienting pace and development.

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1754 Hits

Radian, "Distorted Rooms"

Distorted RoomsIt has somehow been seven years since this long-running Vienna trio last surfaced with 2016's stellar On Dark Silent Off, but they seem to have spent that time diligently dreaming up innovative new ways to be amazing. In a general sense, Radian's vision is not a far cry from the austere, jazz-adjacent post-rock of their celebrated labelmates Tortoise. The magic of Radian, however, lies in the band's singular attention to detail and their quixotic compulsion to continually turn sounds upside-down in imaginative feats of dynamic sorcery. The overall effect is akin to that of dub techno being made by an incredibly tight live band, but the live aspect is quite illusory, as Distorted Rooms presumably sounds almost nothing like what the band originally recorded (in fact, the band themself note that one piece "eliminates nearly all traces of the original performance"). While many of the sounds do remain present in one form or another, Radian revels in celebrating and amplifying the barely audible and non-musical bits while also eliminating or burying the louder, more traditional "rock" tropes like chords and melodies. Obviously, The Dead C have made a fine career out of similarly deconstructing and inverting rock music, but Radian are the gleaming, precision-engineered opposite of Dead C's own shambling, spontaneous, and blown-out vision.

Thrill Jockey

The opening "Cold Suns" was also the album's first single, but it is unclear if it was chosen because the band believed it to be one of the most perfect distillations of their vision or if they merely thought it was one of the album's more immediately gratifying pieces. I suspect the reason may be the latter, as the album's second single "Skyskryp12" features a similar level of comparatively heightened drama. For the most part, however, "Cold Suns" offers a fairly representative first impression of Radian's current direction: gently stuttering loops, killer drumming, and a remarkably minimalist palette of guitar sounds. Unlike many other songs on the album, however, it eventually coheres into a brooding and tense chord progression, which lands the piece in somewhere near the post-punk revivalism of Moin (at least until the bottom drops out for a lengthy outro of distorted vocals, smoldering distortion, whimpering synth quivers, and broken, skeletal drums). "Skyskryp12" has a roughly similar aesthetic, but with one key difference: after it collapses upon itself, it kicks back into gear and builds towards a darkly cinematic crescendo. While both pieces are admittedly enjoyable and satisfying, however, the album's strongest pieces tend to be the ones with a bit of a lighter touch.

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1783 Hits