american – Violate And Control

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Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Fragile Branch Recordings / Shove Records

In the increasingly populated world of extreme music, it gets harder and harder to stand out. There’s only so many novel ideas out there, and there’s no guarantee that musicians have the requisite talent to properly convey what they have to express. It’s this context which helps make american seem an all the more startling prospect. Their mix of black metal, industrial, and harsh noise already sounds exciting on paper, but what Violate And Control demonstrates is that the duo have both the ideas and talent to take this combination in to strange new places. This results in an album that feels remarkably fresh, even as it indulges in some of the most horrific music committed to tape whilst still remaining listenable.

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2016 Favourites – Part II

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!

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2016 Favourites – Part I

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.

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Twilight Fauna – Fire Of The Spirit

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Label: Ravenwood Recordings / Fragile Branch Recordings

There’s no point getting hung up on genres. As useful as they can be, they’re really just arbitrary tags, with very little agreement on what actually defines a particular genre. This is especially true of the broad church that is black metal. As such, whether we class Twilight Fauna as black metal or not really shouldn’t matter. There are arguments to be made either way; the music of the one-man act is certainly heavy on haunting, lonely atmospheres which are a key part of black metal. But at the same time, the folk influence on Twilight Fauna’s music is readily apparent, and never more so than on Fire Of The Spirit. The six tracks on the album are ethereal constructs, built more on atmosphere than anything solid, and anyone who associates black metal with violence and noise may well be left disappointed. But those of us who look to the genre to provide something deeper, something that goes beyond mere music, will not be left wanting. This is an album where atmosphere is king; and what a powerful atmosphere it creates.

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2016 Favourites (so far)

There’s a lot of music out there; too much to adequately cover, and it’s easy for worthwhile records to get lost in the sea of noise that exists on the internet. That’s why I’ve decided to present a list of some of my favourite records of 2016 so far. As with all my lists, they may not necessarily be the ‘best’, but they’re my favourites, and that’s close enough. There might be the odd one that got released at the very end of 2015, but whatever. It’s the thought that counts.

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Mur – Heartworn

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Label: Fragile Branch Recordings

Heartworn is perhaps one of the most ambitious records to have come my way recently, and it’s also one of the more successful. The new album by one-man act Mur combines raw, atmospheric black metal with North American folk music and more besides, to create something very distinctive and captivating. The press release for the album describes it as being centred upon the themes of migration, loss, and rebirth inherent in North American fauna. As pretentious as that may sound, it makes for a remarkably powerful listen, successfully merging different genres to striking effect, resulting in one of the most exciting records of the year.

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