5 GREAT 2019 ALBUMS pt II

THE FESTIVE LIST THING CONTINUES (BUT IT’S SHORT, C’MON … )

Holly Herndon and Pelican starred in 5 Great 2019 Albums part I, but what else stormed our senses this year? Check these three, see if you agree.

RAKETKANON: RKTKN #3

Raketkanon 3

Appearing nowhere (why?) on any end-of-year lists are Belgian noise-art rock post-post punk ish provocateurs Raketkanon. More varied, catchy and moody than #2’s non-stick abrasions, RKTKN #3 inhabits a world all of its own where twisting riffs, carousel keyboards and Cold War espionage vibes co-habit with icy post-metal breaks, awkward discord and unplugged breakdowns. Vocals shift from whisper to hardcore and back. Really can’t place it.

The gentlest track – the addictive Melody – tiptoes through a post-grunge downer on an art-pop tip, while Hannibal is the exact opposite, a repetitive no-depth one-chord blare. Harry rides a killer machine-funk beat. Nothing sticks for long yet nothing’s twitchy either. RKTKN #3 is only 33 minutes but rides an ever-moving narrative through a weirdo urban/rural hinterland where anything goes … that’s Raketkanon.

 

KXM: Circle of Dolls

KXM Circle of Dolls

King’s X didn’t manage to release their new record this year – we’ll have to wait till 2020 for that – but the ever prolific Dug Pinnick did get an album’s worth of downtuned riffs and heavy melodics out with album #3 from the KXM groove machine. And there are no great changes from the first two KXM albums, thankfully. It’s just a bit harder, a bit richer.

What’s great about KXM is the adulterous kick you get from hearing Pinnick’s liquid, lived-in vocals and bass backed by tough Ray Luzier beats and the timeless George Lynch tone. It’s a metallic King’s X, though it’s not really fair to make out that King’s X are the parent band because it’s Lynch who kicks everyone into action. KXM don’t reinvent rock, but they do put their individual prints on it. Kinda like Rush do. And if you liked Dokken’s guitar sound but not the band, KXM is the right place because Lynch is all over it. He’s set up home in a place you actually want to visit.

Standout tracks? War of Words and Mind Swamp kick it off with aggression, but the softer, darker Lightning showcases everything – pure King’s X vocal lines while the deft solos and mood-setting percussion hint at voodoo. Class.

 

In the previous post, we said No Rankers. But the last album in this very short list is pretty damned special so if there was to be a favourite, it might just be this:

CAVE IN: Final Transmission

Cave In Final Transmission

Following the still-unbelievable death of Caleb Scofield in 2018, Cave In finished the in-progress tracks in tribute to their bass brother and as a fundraiser for his young family.

It’s an emotional listen. The usual Cave In spectrum of noise, hardcore, spacerock and loose acoustics is covered but, with the loss of an active musician top of mind, the bass parts are loaded with significance. Consciously or not, we notice them even more.

Final Transmission is a great Cave In album.

Shake Your Blood throws an absolute monster of a Cave In hook, but it’s bitter sweet – the lyrics knock you back, especially being clean-sung (screams and roars are absent). Lunar Day‘s soft burned drones and Strange Reflection‘s doom-heavy riff show the range on display, yet it’s the calamitous bone-rattler Led to the Wolves that ends the tribute. Chaotic perfection.

Bold, heavy, intense and defiant. And, through it all, THAT bass.

 

Festive rocks off to all, see you in 2020.

URTHONA MEETS THE OTHER WITHOUT: calm meditations

APRIL REWIND: ALBUM #2 FROM URTHONA/OTHER PROJECT, BLACKENED BEATS BY GHOSTS AND TEMPLE, AND NEW RACKET FROM RAKETKANON

April kicked arse in terms of gigs. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs bulldozered the Bullingdon and then, just two days later on the same stage, Jim Jones let us into his headspace. Of those two bands there’s no question that Pigsx7 have got more going on, but a sharp-dressed Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind made a rollicking Friday night. With tracks like Sex Robot and Satan’s Got a Hard-On for You, knocked out with righteous holler, how can they not entertain? They do. Right on.

OK, on with the show with new sounds.

THE OTHER WITHOUT: 2

If you’re partial to Urthona‘s heavy rural distortions then you probably already know about an Urthona-related project that’s on album #2 already, but I didn’t. It’s The Other Without.

Who they? Neil Mortimer and Michael J York. What they do? Penetrate your head with space – an hour and five minutes of it, to be exact-ish. Four long trips of quiet motion, field recordings, keyboard swells and guitar arcs. Birdsong. Waves. Motifs tinkling, slow planetary turns, not a shred of Urthona-styled violence. A Novel Method for Determining Galaxy Orbits serves a hushed ambience for outer space cinematics, while Albion Light Vessel strips all mass from its electronics. Galactic or not, everything is earthbound. Beat-less but pulsing. The nature of things? The things of nature. Tune in for a transporting shimmer.

The Other Without

Reel calm

That was the light. Now for the dark – a trio of lo-viz highlights.

SNOW GHOSTS: Rip

Industrialised beats push Hannah Cartwright’s vocal haunt into a dense, dark, edge-land trip that tips a nod to JK Broadrick’s heavyweight grim. Rip is a dream going wrong, the kind you definitely want to wake from. Run. Away. It all drags downwards.

PAULA TEMPLE: Post-Scarcity Anarchism

Hi-energy electronic DOOOOM …. you know how Underworld’s King of Snake has that white-hot scrape of a subway train hurling past at full tilt? Take that vibe, pound it heavier and pack those unstopping carriages with no-soul people-oids, aka the bodysnatched. Now you’re in the Post-Scarcity Anarchism zone. And no, the wonk euphoria ending does not lift the tension. Temple, next stop.

RAKETKANON: Ricky

RKTKN #2 was and is a non-sticky album – noise rock shot through with quiet-loud spaces and a bad-tripping carnival gothic. Short on hooks, big on stubborn twists, these Belgians are very much their own thing and now we’ve got a new album, RKTKN #3. From it, here’s Ricky doing what Raketkanon do but thickened by a synth underlay. Somewhere near Shortparis and New York art noise, perhaps?

And if you never knew you needed desert trance, electronics and guitar distortion from south Tunisia, wrap your e-holes round Moola Nefta by Ifriqiyya Electrique. Intense.

til next time!

2016: the worst, the best

Festive salutations and a happy new year!

Hope the bigfella Claus delivered the goodies, but whatever delights came spilling out of his magic sack, 2016 was a tough gig. What a remorseless cull of rock and pop names, and it didn’t even break for xmas – George Michael on Christmas Day, Rick Parfitt on December 23rd. Surely there’s got to be a little bit o’ room for a little bit of Quo in everyone’s collection, so how about spinning a handful of harder-rocking SQ to celebrate Parfitt and keep the party going at the 12 bar, even if it’s only in your head? Mystery Song, Don’t Drive My Car, Over the Edge and Is There a Better Way will all do the trick.

So, another bit of chat about the music events and highs of 2016? We’ll list a few, right after the shortest of December Rewinds.

REZNOR’S RETURN

Nine Inch Nails came back in recorded form with a new EP. Not the Actual Events appeared earlier in December and a first listen to Burning Bright (Fields on Fire) shows Reznor and soundtracker-turned-bandmate Atticus Ross on slow-grinding, doomy form. More to follow in 2017?

SHOCK of the year

David Bowie. Not over that one, even a year later, and Blackstar is still a difficult listen. The upcoming new Five Years documentary in January will no doubt be the most fascinating, and the most emotionally-charged, of the lot as it covers his last years.

TRACK of the year

OK, so the track came out in 2015, but Bowie’s Blackstar is a highlight for ANY year, as is the re-tooled Sue (Or in a Season of Crime). Iggy’s American Valhalla and Nick Cave’s Anthrocene are right up there for edgy atmos. And for something more manic, Spit Out the Bone is on heavy rotation over here too – fast and melodic Metallica with Hetfield in his most convincingly aggressive voice since the Black Album.

MISS of the year

As in, a gig on your doorstep that you really should have gone to. And in Oxford a few weeks ago, that was Primal Scream. Why a no go? Fear of too much Moving On Up and Rocks and Country Girl, not enough Vanishing Point Xtrmntr Evil Heat aggro. What did they play? Moving, Rocks, Country, but also Accelerator, Shoot Speed/Kill Light, Swastika Eyes and Kill All Hippies. ‘KIN ELL… ludacris decision making on my part. Kiran Leonard also a bad miss.

LUCKY MISS of the year

As in, a gig on your doorstep by a band you don’t know but, coz of who’s involved, you’ve got innerest piqued. Step forward Honky, the band of Butthole Surfers and Melvins bassist Jeff Pinkus. Check the music online – not great. Reject gig. Wonder if gig ended up being one of those ‘should have been there’ moments. Check trusted review source (Nightshift page 10). It wasn’t.

NEW SOUNDS of the year

Still getting into these new-to-me discoveries, but semi industrial groove psyche dealers Blackash from Birmingham and Belgian avant noise punks Raketkanon are doing the job nicely, as are Blackstar band leader Donny McCaslin – beefy modern jazz with a drummer who absolutely kills it – and downbeat electroni-cists worriedaboutsatan, who also have their music making its mark in Adam Curtis’s HyperNormalisation. Lofty company for the satanworrieds. Three Trapped Tigers and The Comet is Coming brought explosive prog math and Heliocentrics-fuelled heavy beats jazz-ish respectively.

ALBUM of the year

The old guard put out a lot of great great stuff this year, and the top 3 are linked by maturity, mortality and death: Bowie, Iggy and Nick Cave reached new highs in heavy themes, and Blackstar is the peak. Once January 10th revealed its scalp,  Blackstar became forever more than just a record.

Others: FUCKINGMETALLICA, Mogwai, Melvins, Crippled Black Phoenix, Kandodo and McBain, Cult of Luna w/Julie Christmas, Thee Oh Sees

PRINCE of the year

Prince. ‘nuff said. Check this clip, worship non religiously, then get a music fanatic’s view of Prince’s passing from Henry Rollins in what is one of his best LA Weekly missives of the year.

FISHY MEDIA FEATURE of the year

Did you see this feature in the Guardian back in the summer? Fishbone. Yes, Fishbone. Why??? Don’t know. But if, like me, you never got round to actually buying their albums when Swim and Freddie’s Dead and Everyday Sunshine were doing the rounds, here’s the prompt you need to pick up The Reality of My Surroundings and Give a Monkey a Brain…. the only downside is the 20-odd years without these phenomenal heavy funk rock ska metal explosions tripping out the (monkey?) brain.

BIG 3 AT 30 of the year

Three of the Big Four put out their meisterworks thirty years ago: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, 1986. Anthrax shunted Among the Living out a few months later, in 1987… heady days for head bangers, right?  Some, if not all, are ingrained so deep that we don’t even need to press play, but when DID you last press play and listen to Master of Puppets, Peace Sells and Reign in Blood end to end?

There’s nothing to say about Puppets. It’s pretty much perfect and reveals much less on a new listen, precisely because it was THE album of that bunch. Some say it needs a remix but nah, leave it – keep the mud on. Peace Sells and Reign in Blood can still bring surprises, though. With possibly the best opening track of any major thrash record, Megadeth’s #2 sounds even more accomplished today, and you can feel the chaos darkening the vibe. As for Reign in Blood, this is still the anomaly because it’s the least metal of the classics…way more disturbing and a truly diabolical force summoned in 28 possessed minutes. Still deadly.

Happy new year, have a great start to 2017. ‘til next time!