ACL 2012: A Fool’s List

I’m an expert!

Hi there, welcome to my list, a kind of fool’s list. When I made my first attempt, I realized I was just echoing, in lots of choices, the general ACL list, and who needs to read once again that this year’s GY!BE was completely awesome? You probably know that by now, so I’m just going to list a bunch of stuff I truly think will stay with me for a long time, and which I found out until this year. Don’t worry – it’ll be mostly about music anyway! So, in no particular order, here goes:

  • Hotline Miami game and soundtrack. Man, is this game powerful. The play on violence is masterfully handled, so much so that by the second level you’re probably already descending into a strange miasma of murderous desires, turned on by the retro-styled techno thumping endlessly, dirtily, into your head. I’m sorry, but I have to rephrase that in boring academic terms: it’s like living out torrential Romanticism on a platform that easily arouses, through very mechanical means (tense hands, eyes moving fast), a kind of deadly poetry that aims at transcendence through blood, a great festivity of passion for death. The music is perfect – grinding, noisy, extremely physical (late-night dancing, a heart pumping, a fist smashing into someone’s face) and even psychodelic at times. I’m not very good with electronic music, so take this with a pinch of salt. Fortunately, you can find the whole soundtrack in soundcloud over here to make up your own mind fast: https://soundcloud.com/devolverdigital/sets/hotline-miami-official
  • About halfway through the year I felt I had uncovered an enormous treasure, one I ought to share with everyone I can. I’m not pretending to be “discovering” anything, of course, but I just felt that way when I came upon this: http://www.harmonies.com/releases/19907.htm . If you’re still reading, it’s a collection of 17 CDs titled The Music of Islam, covering an enormous territory of amazing folk traditions in music. If you don’t know where to start, give the excellent Vol. 1 a shot, or if you’d like to get straight into the religious aspect I’d say go for 14. It’ll make for a fantastic journey, to say the least.
  • When friends ask me about an underrated album I always immediately think of L’autopsie phenomenale de dieu, by Kreng. It surprised me back in 2009 (while working for The Silent Ballet) how misunderstood it was by most publications, a misunderstanding that nonetheless led, I think, to the greatness that was last year’s Grimoire. It fundamentally depended on the easiness implied in associating sounds like a crying woman to a certain ‘darkness’, but it utterly obviated the subtler points of Automobile Financial contact between such things and stuff like a Chopin cut: the brightness and the holism of humanity’s last night, a true nocturne that shined with beauty. I mention it now because I want to take advantage of the attention Kreng’s been getting ever since Grimoire in order to encourage you to give that first album a spin. I assure you, you won’t regret it at all! (but to be fair you might just cry a little…)
  • I didn’t really find out this year about him (he was my countryman, after all 😉 ), but let that not be a detriment for me to say: let’s all wish a happy 100 birthday to the late Conlon Nancarrow! May the player piano in heaven forever play Canon X! Which you can listen to, by the way, over here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2gVhBxwRqg
  • Now this composer I did get to know until this year, and I love his music. It’s Nikos Skalkottas, from Greece, and you can listen to his Violin Concerto from 1939 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uj-FU_JVCI I believe his most famous works are the 36 Greek Dances, but if you want an all-around taste of his ouvre, there’s a really nice BIS edition that includes the above concerto, a “Largo Sinfonico”, and seven of the dances. All you have to do is look around the internet, I’m sure you’ll find it!
  •  And here’s another one from another countryman of mine: the Suite “Los Naranjos” by Julián Carrillo, from 1905. Carrillo is best known for his microtonal work, but there’s not much acknowledgement beyond biographical data that he was also an excellent Romantic. “Los Naranjos” is the proof of that, and Ediciones Conquista made my day this year by releasing the Suite completely free for you to download. Link: http://edicionesconquista.mx/aula/. Enjoy!
  • Another composerly adventure I’d like to share is SHSK’H volume 7, featuring the US composer Kenneth Kirschner. His works in this album evoke the spirit of Morton Feldman’s minimalism, which is always good given how much more attention the rest of the minimalist crew gets. In any case, I also wanted to mention this release in order to link you to SHSK’H itself, a netlabel dedicated to the more avant-garde sort of modern composition, and which gives away all of its volumes for free (you can donate via PayPal, though, which would be great!). There’s a volume with Garth Knox performances, another with new versions of Webern works, and other ‘rarer’ albums that are very worth of your time, so check it all out here: http://www.shskh.com/www/

Now, from the realm of good ol’ rock n’ roll / noise / whatever (pretty known stuff, so no blurbs except a very strong word of recommendation for you to give them a shot sometime):

  • Kayo Dot‘s Gamma Knife (been a long-time fan, and this was a great album that went very much unnoticed)
  • SwansThe Seer (you know, if you haven’t listened to this, get out there now and do it!)
  • Pig Destroyer‘s Book Burner
  • White Lung‘s Sorry
  • DeftonesKoi No Yokan (teenage forever!)
  • Since Ween is no more, I thought I’d include The Mollusk, my favorite from them!
  • Lightning Bolt‘s Oblivion Hunter (more of the same when more of the same is awesome)
  • Gifts From Enola‘s A Healthy Fear (if, like me, you didn’t like the self-titled but thought the change in direction seemed good, this is what you’ve been waiting for!)
  • Converge‘s All We Love We Leave Behind
  • Earth‘s Angels of Darkness… II
  • Extra Life’s Dream Seeds
  • Haino / O’Rourke / AmbrachiImikuzushi (I think Haino fans will be especially attracted to this… the man’s like some ancient spirit possessing the stage, and it’s inspiring)
  • Chris Corsano / Virginia GentaThe Live In Lisbon (Chris Corsano. Virginia Genta. Need I say more?) (just a warning, this is from 2009)

And other things…

  • Something I really enjoyed this year was watching Mad Men. I had no idea about this series until some random dude recommended it, and I’m glad I heeded his words. If I had to teach a class about post-war capitalism I’d use this as prop, because it’s history done right: you’ll end up understanding a bunch of stuff about today, and more importantly, about yourself in this today. It’s that cool, and I love it.
  • I was able to get my hands on the complete Space Ghost: Coast to Coast series, which I used to watch from time to time when I was a little kid. Since it was a late night, cable-only show, I caught it rarely, and watching it again I now realize how stupid and wacky it is, which is why I liked it so much and why I still like it quite a lot. Besides, the music tracks are by Sonny Sharrock, so yeah, it’s awesome. Additionally, the very first episode features Timothy Leary, so you know you’re in for a really good, sometimes edgy time (I say ‘sometimes’ because at many points it gives up, which is refreshing given how many shows end up trying too hard).
  • I’d never tried Thai food before, and let me tell you, my friends (yes, I’m calling you my friends in honor of the greatness of foodstuffs), it’s definitely my top whatever of the year. I’m sorry if this is totally inappropriate, but it even trumps GY!BE and Kreng together, especially in terms of flavor. If you haven’t ever gone to a real Thai restaurant, well, I heartily recommend it. I hope you like it as much as I do!
  • Another great computer game series I re-installed this year is the old-school RPG Icewind Dale. I used to play them back in my teenage days with friends, and I always remember the music fondly. It’s by Jeremy Soule, who’s like the Hans Zimmer of computer videogame music, and while it’s not as massive as his most recent output (read: Skyrim), it’s memorable on its own despite the shortness and sparsity of the tracks. If you ever want to break your head trying to kill some stupid nearly-invulnerable Ice Golem, under the influence of a pretty solid story and some really good music, then don’t hesitate to look around the net for this game. It’s cheap, and it’s worth it!

Well, I’ll bore you no more with this fool’s list, and let you keep enjoying your morning / evening / midnight. I hope you find something you will like. It has been an honor and an absolute joy to write for you all, and I hope to get better at it for you as well. It seems like 2013 will be an awesome year for music just like this one, so it would seem that I have, regardless, no choice but to improve. Happy new year! (David Murrieta)

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