Favorite 30 Albums of 2012 (So Far)
Revisiting the first half of an already amazing year of music


Keiji Haino / Jim O’Rourke / Oren Ambarchi
Imikuzushi

[Black Truffle]

“The initial impression created by Imikuzushi, the most recent collaboration of the Justice League (or perhaps Crime Syndicate) of experimental music that is Jim O’Rourke, Keiji Haino, and Oren Ambarchi, is one of mass and solidity, as we’re dropped in medias res into a full noise-rock wallop. Especially viz-à-viz 2010’s Tima Formosa, which even at its most oblique possessed a certain airy headspace to it, it seems for that initial jarring moment as though that vaporousness has sublimed into something solid and irreducible. Awareness of the sunn 0))) connection (Stephen O’Malley, an old friend, actually did the cover design here) only strengthens the illusion. Sure, it sounds a hell of a lot closer to those guys than it does to, say, O’Rourke’s pop dime museum The Visitor, but we shouldn’t let that momentary impression of inhuman hugeness distract us from a record on which these three greats have transformed themselves into something like a more razor-edged, rhythmically unmoored Can.” [Full Review]

• Keiji Haino: http://www.fushitsusha.com
• Jim O’Rourke: http://bit.ly/OZhCrU
• Oren Ambarchi: http://www.orenambarchi.com
• Black Truffle: http://www.blacktrufflerecords.com

BEBETUNE$
inhale C-4 $$$$$

[Self-Released]

“The cover image for inhale C-4 $$$$$ includes photographs of a bizarre publicity stunt in which six living Chucky dolls invaded Times Square to promote the DVD release of the 1988 horror film Child’s Play. The cover serves a dual purpose as an homage to an early mixtape by DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia, who pioneered a dark style of hip-hop with lyrical content fraught with references to Satan and serial killers. There are elements in Ferraro’s impressionistic take on hip-hop that are irreducibly dark and paranoid, a digital unease aggravated by multiple references to unhinged technological proliferation: ‘NERO CEA$SAR/ANTI CHRIST,’ reptilian societies and GTA suicides, ‘P.O.W.E.R.’ and ‘M A D N E $ $,’ tweeting the Armageddon using Siri voice commands, Hipstamatic photos, and T-Pain apps. It’s an extra-geographical, overly-rich slipstream of signs, omens, and synchronicities that point to nothing other than themselves, a kaleidoscopic information overload that sprawls out into a post-human event horizon. Ferraro’s project is focused on that eschaton point; if not the end of the world, then definitely the end of a certain kind of innocence. That end is evoked with a giddy horror on inhale C-4 $$$$$, turning what should have been Ferraro’s most accessible project to date into a relentlessly off-putting and occasionally terrifying mind-picture of a 21st-century apocalypse in the process of uploading.” [Full Review]

• BEBETUNE$: https://twitter.com/#!/JFerraro_zip
inhale C-4 $$$$$ (download): http://www.mediafire.com/?bqhva25brrt9ig8

White Suns
Sinews

[Load]

“On Sinews, White Suns inhibit the space where the opposing ends of their musical sympathies — the unstudied discontent of noise-rock and punk, and the abject physical precision of prog and jazz — fight and push heavily against one another until a forceful balance is crafted. In other words, there’s nothing that suggests one sonic approach is winning over the other on Sinews, which is an incredibly impressive feat for such a young band, let alone for any band trying to reconcile seemingly contradictory concerns. The music on Sinews oozes an untapped aggression befitting the most unhinged of the noise rock scene: the tribal bludgeon of Sword Heaven, the grinding ferocity of Burmese, the unstable hardcore of Black Dice’s early years. Opener ‘Fire Sermon’ encapsulates White Suns’ demanding approach optimally. Guitarists Kevin Barry and Rick Visser use their instruments with the intent of generating the most piercing feedback possible over the brunt of the track, the vociferous tones scheming an unnerving tension against Dana Matthiessen’s percussive false-starts. The masterful build and eventual release here proves to be a stunning asset for the band as applied elsewhere throughout the course of Sinews, and when four minutes into “Sermon” the song begins to, in the most exhilarating possible manner, recall ‘Ace Of Spades’ as rendered by Discharge, White Suns’ plain admiration for the confrontation of classic rock and punk adds an extra notch of emphasis on the absolute abandon at the band’s core.” [Full Review]

• White Suns: http://whitesuns.bandcamp.com
• Load: http://loadrecords.com

Actress
R.I.P

[Honest Jon’s]

“With the title of R.I.P, Actress invites imagery of decomposing recordings. Previous LP Splazsh seemed constructed out of the materials underfoot when waiting outside the club: a waterlogged collage of train tickets, cigarette butts, and club flyers — techno recordings as assembled by Kurt Schwitters. As opposed to the collages of Splazsh, this album is more like the Merzbau, a highly personal construction in space. For Heidegger, art creates a temple in which the teasing truth can both hide and come into view: ‘The building encloses the figure of the god, and in this concealment lets it stand out into the holy precinct of the open portico. By means of the temple, the god is present in the temple.’ Actress muses in an interview with Self-Titled, that ‘I make my music in a space which is thinking about all the sounds I’ve heard over the years and that’s it, really.’ On R.I.P, Actress evokes the space of his recording with an old dub trope; much of the sounds from this album seem to come from a distant source, booming up concrete stairs and across the face of alley puddles. The beats from ‘Shadow from Tartartus’ and ‘Marble Plexus’ sound to be coming from inside a club while you wait outside — the vertiginous sounds within reduced to buzzing, distorted bass and the distant thud of a kick drum. All of the euphoria is happening somewhere else. Actress has said that this album was inspired by Paradise Lost, and R.I.P indeed evokes a Jardin of Eden, but it also reminds us that Eden is securely locked.” [Full Review]

• Actress: https://twitter.com/#!/ctress_a
• Honest Jon’s: http://www.honestjons.com

Traxman
Da Mind of Traxman

[Planet Mu]

“Ferguson has been producing music for decades. He released ghetto house tracks back in the 1990s and was around to cut footwork’s umbilical cord. That personal history is deeply embedded in Da Mind of Traxman, most explicitly in the acid synths of the more-house-than-footwork ‘1988.’ But Da Mind of Traxman’s samples trace footwork’s connections more widely and even farther back, to soul, funk, and disco. In deep-crate-digging footwork, it’s not surprising to hear samples from any era or genre. But unlike of his peers, Traxman leaves much of what he takes intact — at least enough to suggest a mood, a group of instruments, some signs of age. It’s a minute distinction, but an important one: instead of eliminating signifiers or slashing them from their signified like most footwork, Ferguson piles them on and stitches them together. Sure, the vocals in tracks like ‘Callin All Freaks’ are cut and repeated until words become pure sound, but throughout the album, there are vibrant microcosms — textures, musical phrases — that maintain just enough context to be laden with cultural reference points. Which is all to say, this album’s richly-detailed world might be the erotic lit of footwork — or at least will have appeal outside literal dance circles and metaphorical kinks. But Da Mind of Traxman is definitely not rose petals, scented candles, and warm massage oil: in the absence of footwork’s usual aggression (I mean, there’s a song named ‘Chilllll’), the album’s rhythmic explosions just seem all the more impressive for how nonchalant they are about their own insane complexity. And for footwork fans used to something more rough? Just think of this as really great aftercare.” [Full Review]

• Traxman: http://soundcloud.com/traxman
• Planet Mu: http://www.planet.mu

Dolphins Into The Future
Canto Arquipélago

[Underwater Peoples]

Canto Arquipélago has a unity of vision, as well as an immediacy and vividness, that makes it unique in the Dolphins catalog, which tends toward the nebulous and impressionistic. The multiple nods to the aesthetics of vintage new-age musicians — such as Iasos and Steven Halpern — who were the touchstones for …On Sea-Faring Isolation are mostly absent this outing, along with the persistently formless, meditative structures of The Music Of Belief. Among the field recordings of waves, wind, birds, and insects, there are playful rhythms and open-ended melodic structures on Canto, giving the album a vitality and momentum that previous releases only hinted at. Martens creates his synth patches with care, metonymically selecting a synaesthetic palette of aerated bell tones, watery piano, and drums that sound as if they are constructed from organic materials. As usual, Martens bathes the synthesizer tones in layers of tape saturation but leaves his environmental recordings virtually untouched, lending the whole album a distinctly photographic dimension, with some elements remaining in sharp focus while others drift into unintelligibility. Taken as a whole, the album washes over like a particularly abstract version of Eden’s Island or Taboo, with the cocktail jazz subbed out for acousmatic tape music.” [Full Review]

• Dolphins Into The Future: http://cetaceannationcommunications.blogspot.com
• Underwater Peoples: http://underwaterpeoples.com

El-P
Cancer 4 Cure

[Fat Possum]

Cancer 4 Cure is as hard and vital as anything El-P has ever released, and that’s no light praise. The production might not quite reach the glorious heights graced by Cannibal Ox’s The Cold Vein (2001), but it exhibits a gritty savagery and restless experimental spirit that is never less than thrilling — and sometimes astonishing. The percussion on tracks like ‘True Story’ skitters, pops, and even falls off completely, only to be refolded into beats even more jagged and unhinged. And El’s synths are wielded alternately like power tools and firearms, except on ‘Drones Over BKLYN,’ where they come drunkenly together to evoke a dystopian future made frightfully present: urban sci-fi for 2012’s socially conscious rap fan. A ‘fresh start on a new world,’ indeed. Meanwhile, the eight-minute closer, ‘$4 Vic/FTL (Me And You),’ is every bit as ambitious and convoluted as its title, and would be a daring last act for any record; the fact that it feels fitting and justified here is a testament to the true breadth and scope of the sonic vision on display throughout Cancer 4 Cure.” [Full Review]

• El-P: http://www.definitivejux.net
• Fat Possum: http://www.fatpossum.com

Graham Lambkin
Amateur Doubles

[Kye]

“According to the liners, Amateur Doubles was recorded in a Honda Civic, providing ‘a perfect snapshot of life on the open road.’ […] These ‘dangerous, tedious, pointless and timeless’ improvisations are split into two tracks, each comprising a side of the LP. We hear playful children and sneezes; claustrophobic breathing and alerting honks; meandering, soothing synthesizers; car doors opening and closing; a car’s ignition. What’s heard even sounds like it was recorded in an automobile. In fact, it’s plausible that the sounds were performed while Lambkin was operating his Civic, shuffling selections from his vast archive of cassettes in and out of his tape deck (in actuality, he sampled the CDs 3000 Miles Away by Philippe Grancher and Pôle by Philippe Besombes and Jean-Louis Rizet). Needless to say, much of the album is pervaded by the roadside ambiance of passing truck horns and whizzing cars, possibly seepage from Lambkin’s open window. Only a few minutes into the second side, […] we are lulled into a stupor by Lambkin’s gorgeous loops. And once we reach that transcendental state, during which we forget whence we came — and think ‘Oh crap, did I just pass a cop?’ — the car suddenly stalls, its ignition cuts out, and the music halts. Lambkin directs a child to get out of car and the preceding sample returns, but only for a moment, as it sputters away into silence. Lambkin quickly engages the ignition again and a new loop enters, returning us to our open-road bliss.” [Full Review]

• Kye: http://kyerecords.blogspot.com

The Men
Open Your Heart

[Sacred Bones]

“If you had told me six months ago that the follow-up to Leave Home would jettison The Men’s harsher noise rock leanings in favor of an acoustic ballad and some slide guitars, my heart would have sunk. But honestly, there’s not a thing about this album that I would have liked to see done any differently. The songwriting is stronger; it maintains the distinctive qualities of their previous efforts but drills down closer to the essential core of who they are as a band beneath all of their indie rock hero worship. The apparent effortlessness with which they put it together (and in such a short time!) only makes it that much more remarkable. And those are really the things that matter here, not whether The Men’s embrace of the guitar is some kind of intrinsic indictment of the current musical climate dominated by synth or whether their widespread critical acclaim will spark a resurgence of guitar-driven music. The Men make the kind of loud guitar music that they like to listen to, and it’s no surprise that a lot of other people feel the same way. The Men aren’t out to redeem or revitalize guitar-driven rock music; they’re too busy being really awesome at it.” [Full Review]

• Sacred Bones: http://www.sacredbonesrecords.com

Locrian & Mamiffer
Bless Them That Curse You

[Profound Lore]

“Our losses, both ego and worldly, separated insofar as they can be, are the sources of our creative giving. Undone, all we have left to do is remake the world. Is it unsurprising, then, that at the beginning of Bless Them That Curse You, an album scarred by loss, the first words screamed into the storm of its becoming world are ‘[Acts] of creation!’ (Let there be lightning!) The body struck is rewritten, but the body remains; and the present, without negotiating with the past, dies. It is therefore also unsurprising that divergent mythologies (Alchemic, Christian, Greek) are utilized as sources for personal and aesthetic reinvention and redemption. In ‘Amaranthine’ (a word containing both healing and eternality), Hannum, buried, screams of ‘[exhuming] our ancestry.’ Wordless, the four instrumentals at the center of the album work into that negotiation, that digging, working up through the negative spaces of the pile, the wombs and graves alike, the manifestation of revealed pain, toward finding something otherwise and open. They are like prayers uttered to a possibility. They call back to themselves, finally, in answers, however fragile.” [Full Review]

• Locrian: http://lndofdecay.blogspot.com
• Mamiffer: http://mamiffer.tumblr.com
• Profound Lore: http://profoundlorerecords.com

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