Summarizing a year’s listening is always a bit of a weird proposition for me because my listening habits tend to shift and contort. For the past couple of years I’ve been seeking out older albums I may have missed or overlooked, e.g. I went through a pretty serious (I’m talking Howard from The Mighty Boosh-level) jazz phase. In 2020 I made an effort to seek new music and these are the albums that resonated most with me over the last twelve months.
10. Luminous Bodies ‘Nah Nah Nah Yeh Yeh Yeh’
Duh Duh! Duh! ‘Sometimes you gotta choose between one thing and another thing.’ Luminous Bodies kick it hard with what was easily my song of the year. The rest of the album veers between mean Butthole Surfers-esque freakouts and throbbing dirges. Just the thing to get you moving in the morning.
Label: Box Records
9. DEAD ‘Raving Drooling’
What? DEAD have been around for fifteen years? Jem and Jace celebrate hard with what might be their best album. Touchstones would be Floor/Torche, The Melvins, Harvey Milk, Thrones, and Australian bands like Mark Of Cain. To solidify the US sludge connection Harvey Milk’s Ceston Spiers and Thrones Joe Preston guest. What puts Raving Drooling head and shoulders above most other bands mining similar territory is Jem and Jace’s command of THE RIFF and their amazing sense of space and dynamics.
8. Einstürzende Neubauten ‘Alles In Allem’
The title track of Einstürzende Neubauten’s latest long player Alles In Allem sounds like Blixa and company decided to re-imagine INXS’ Never Tear Us Apart by way of Various Positions-era Leonard Cohen. This alonewould be enough to make it one of my albums of the year. (And yes, I would, if given the opportunity to ask Blixa if he’d been listening to Kick while writing.)
7. Anna Von Hausswolff ‘All Thoughts Fly’
Sullen, sombre, melancholy and joyous. Anna Von Hausswolff’s All Thoughts Fly became a late night and early Sunday morning go to. I wouldn’t have expected an album of organ music to be something I’d have in heavy rotation, but what can I say? It’s been a weird year. I’m sure various friends are sick of me talking about how Persefoneis one of the heaviest things I’ve heard in ages.
Label: Southern Lord
6. Human Impact ‘Human Impact’
Members of Cop Shoot Cop, Unsane, and Swans making turbulent, chaotic music that combines the best elements of their previous bands. The sound is very much rooted in the later Cop Shoot Cop albums, particularly Release, but Human Impact hit us with more guitar and Chris Spencer on vocals (review). An excellent driving soundtrack.
Label: Ipecac Recordings
5. Oranssi Pazuzu ‘Mestarin Kynsi’
The musical equivalent of a midnight triple bill of In The Mouth Of Madness, Event Horizon, and that Hellraiser movie set on a space station. On my first listen I had a weird sense of deja-vu, I later realised it was because it reminded me of Voivod’s Nothingface in vibe, if not always in sound. Although I’m sure Oranssi Pazuzu members have more than a few Voivod albums in their respective collections.
Label: Nuclear Blast
4. Bruxa Maria ‘The Maddening’
When I wrote about Bruxa Maria’s The Maddening earlier this year, I said it had what I’d call a syncretic heaviness. After another eight months of listening, I’ll go further and say they’ve mastered syncretic heaviness. The Maddening thrashes, grinds, crushes and is totally head-ripping.
Label: Hominid Sounds
3. Couch Slut ‘Take A Chance On Rock ‘N’ Roll’
Speaking of head-ripping, Couch Slut’s Take A Chance On Rock ‘n’ Roll is easily one of the most visceral listening experiences I’ve had all year. In a year of total frustration this is the album I turned to when I felt like someone needed to be eviscerated. I’m sure Megan Osztrosits and company would be down with that.
Label: Gilead Media
2. Aisha Orazbayeva ‘Music For Violin Alone’
Along with the top spot below, Music For Violin Alone is one of the most inspiring albums I heard this year. Aisha Orazbayeva shakes, knocks, and scrapes her violin in the most compelling way possible. Her interpretation of James Tenney’s endlessly ascending Koan and her own composition, the rattling, hushed, Ring are highlights.
Label: SN Variations
1. Orgöne ‘Mos/Fet’
Speaking of syncretic heaviness…I have to admit that when I first listened to Mos/Fet my immediate reaction was jealousy. It’s one of those albums, that as a musician, you wish you’d either recorded yourself, or at least had a hand in. Orgöne blend the best parts of Rock In Opposition bands like Art Bears with an essential heaviness. They play long, intricate compositions with abandon and make it seem effortless to the point where it’s almost absurd. And that they also came across as really cool people when I interviewed them back in June is just icing on the cake. It’s easily the album I spent the most time with this year.
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Some other albums that made an impression this year include…
Aside from Bruxa Maria’s The Maddening, Hominid Sounds released a lot of excellent music this year, including Casual Nun’s Resort For Dead Desires and Mark Dicker’s Carrier Waves.
Dakn Too Low, Too Far – Some very conceptually heavy electronics from Palestine
FRKTL Excision After Love Collapses – I like my electronic music unnerving and this is a very unnerving album.
Boris NO – Boris at their stripped back best.
WuW Retablir L’Eternite – To quote my review ‘One of the very few post-metal/experimental albums on par with Grails’ Doomsdayer’s Holiday’.
Scribed by: Neddal Ayad