If you’re in the market for something to get sad to, then Vases is just what you’re after. The collaboration between dark electronics musician Wet Nurse. and Matt Finney is bleak, depressing, and possessed of a certain beauty. This is music for staying up late, wondering where it all went wrong and feeling powerless to do anything about it. And yet, as unappealing as that may make it sound, there’s something about Vases that makes it easy to listen to for hours at a time, sinking in to its dark, melancholy embrace.
Following on from Part I, which can be read here, here is the second installment of my favourite releases from this year; still in alphabetical order, and still full of awesome, wonderfully diverse music. The top five will follow soon, along with a few other reflections on the past year. But in the meantime, enjoy!
And so here we are, fast approaching the end of 2016, and what a year it has been. Leaving aside all that has happened in the world at large, there have been plenty of worthwhile releases in the world of underground music (and even some decent mainstream ones, too). Over these posts, I’ll be picking out some of my favourites – albums, EPs, and demos that kept me coming back for more, and which have shaped my impression of 2016 in a musical sense. The first few posts will go through records in alphabetical order; it’s only once we reach the end that I’ll assign a ‘top 5’, and also give a brief overview of some releases that didn’t quite make the cut, and even a handful of mainstream highlights. Just because you can buy something in a HMV, it doesn’t always mean it’s shit.
The usual disclaimer applies – these are my favourites, which means they are not necessarily the best records of the year. There’s far more released than I can keep track of, and to hold even 25 records up and say “these are the best” feels dishonest. And, as you might expect, there is some cross-over with my summer ‘best of 2016 so far‘ list. But, whatever. Enough of this. On to the first part of the list.
One of the most wonderful things about artistic creation is that you never really know where it will take you. Even though Photosynthesis started out as an attempt to write some quasi pop/classic pieces, you’d never know that from the finished product. What the duo of Dave Ball and Jon Savage have created instead is a haunting, delightfully organic album of ambient and experimental electronica. This is a record to sink in to, letting it take you on its journey to some other place, and it has a refreshing, almost cleansing feel to its retro soundscapes.
Although they have a strong record for this kind of thing, it’s not absurd to suggest that Angels may be the saddest, most downbeat recording either Matt Finney or Maurice De Jong have put their names to. The duo, operating under the It Only Gets Worse moniker, have several records of bleak, depressing, yet beautiful music in their discography, but Angels is perhaps the most affecting of them all. There’s no denying the gorgeous nature of the soundscapes Maurice conjures, but when wedded to Matt’s spoken word sections, it all takes on a much darker tone, dealing with themes of loss, love, and treason.
It’s safe to say that there’s plenty of music I cover here that is, in some way, heavy. Whether it’s of a musical or emotional nature, heaviness (and, arguably, underground obscurity) is the key theme running through most of my reviews. Manchester duo Shield Patterns aren’t heavy in a musical sense. Instead, Mirror Breathing fits in with what I cover because of its undeniable emotional heaviness. The music may be graceful and almost ethereal, possessed of a lightness that sonically puts it at odds with most other records I review; but the impact it has is the equal of practically anything else you might care to name.
It may only be just shy of six minutes long, but this little three track release is something pretty special. Pop Duo are one of several projects involving Matt Finney (also of It Only Gets Worse and Secret Admirer), and here he teams up with Brandon Duncan, to produce something that can adequately be described as the soundtrack to “2am drives to nowhere”, as Matt states on the duo’s bandcamp page. Whereas other projects involving Matt have tended towards the bleak and depressed – something there’s strong elements of here – Pop Duo are notable for the almost desperate sexual tension in their music. Recalling a whole host of diverse acts – from Sisters Of Mercy to Drake to Skinny Puppy to an army of forgotten trip-hop artists – it’s an uncomfortable listen, but one that is incredibly addictive and impressive in its portrayal of such desperate, physical humanity. Continue reading →