Not totally through with the year yet, of course, but I think at this stage I’m ready for at least this list. For most of the posts in this edition of NNMEOYGFFTEAF (Noise Not Music End-of-Year Get Fucked Festival to End All Festivals), quantity is the name of the game. Just trying to bring you as many potential discoveries as possible.
Monnier (Hardcore Detonation, Jun 6)
Although the differences between my mid-year and end-of-year picks are shaping up to be drastic, Monnier’s self-titled cassette, which collects 2018’s original Monnier and 2021’s EP 2, has been a formidably consistent favorite. With its vicious, rough-edged technical crispness and addictive riff wielding it is is everything I could possibly want in grind, and because of that, despite its brutal simplicity, it feels like so much more.
C.C.C.C. – Test Tube Fantasy Extended Edition (New Forces, May 21)
If you’ve been following the site for any amount of time you’re probably aware of the unyielding love I have for C.C.C.C., so all the recent reissuing and remastering of their older work has been an amazing wave to ride. Though the transcendent live recordings of Loud Sounds Dopa remain untouchable, this extended LP edition of the legendary Test Tube Fantasy 7″ may be the best archival offering yet with nearly fifteen minutes of unheard bonus material on each side. Sidekick hell lick perfection.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings (Blue Note, Dec 10)
I first heard Blakey hit the skins on Cannonball Adderley’s version of “Autumn Leaves,” probably close to ten years ago now, and his distinct presence and style have been permanent mainstays in my jazz tastes ever since. No matter how bizarre, raucous, or abstract you like your quintet jams to be, the Messengers’ infectious approach to bop will always appeal, and this incredible unearthing from Blue Note is case in point. A longer and better review by a friend
Hayworth – A Nostalgic Battle-Scar (Wax Vessel, Oct 12)
Wax Vessel’s pell-mell descent into the hellscape of cashgrab musical novelties hasn’t been pleasant to witness, but even so there’s something to be said for the digital versions being made available for the modest price of $1 each. The remaster of Hayworth’s two full-lengths that comprises A Nostalgic Battle-Scar is subtle but complementary, enough so that the double LP feels like more than just a simple re-release. The studio recording of “The Industrial Park” still has nothing on the demo version, though.
White Suns – Modern Preserves (Flag Day Recordings, Feb 5)
For me, The Lower Way was a disappointment even after the marked stylistic swerve of Psychic Drift (a record I actually really like), but luckily White Suns didn’t entirely fumble the opportunity for a killer 2021 thanks to Flag Day’s cassette release of Modern Preserves, a grimy basement smorgasbord of no-fi live recordings, meandering jams, and semi-coherent unreleased tracks. Somewhat similar to Black Dice’s Natty Light, Modern Preserves is an invigoratingly violent re-affirmation for a band that has lost their edge.
Armenia – ボロボロ (Swollen Gargantuan Fecal Fetus, Feb 16)
With ボロボロ (pronounced “boro boro”), Leonardo Sabatto’s prolific Armenia project joins the ranks of the most legendary harsh noise endurance assaults—Killer Bug’s Beyond the Valley of the Tapes, C.C.C.C.’s Early Works, etc.—in terms of both auditory causticity and sheer breadth. Amidst countless shorter pieces, each of which scorches with unique intensity, it’s the nearly hour-long bombardments like “Putrefaccion Ficticia” and “Hurana Personalidad” that make this staggering slab of work so memorable.
Ones – “A Going Concern” (Ongoing Discipline, Feb 22)
It’s often true that the musical ventures that never really get off the ground (so to speak) are the best, or at least the most interesting, and in that same vein there’s something unutterably wonderful with which the music is imbued when it is exhumed and redressed in this way. The slipshod genius of outsider improv duo Ones is on full display in the comprehensive “A Going Concern” CD release, a multifarious celebration of the mundane and usefully useless.
Blacks’ Myths I & II (Atlantic Rhythms, Sep 17)
This nifty Blacks’ Myths I & II has been one of my most played in my modest subset-collection since I picked up a copy from Luke himself at one of Chris Williams and Laura Sofía Pérez’s Bien Lit events, and, along with Monnier, is another example of a two-album collection in which each originally individual work somehow (and significantly) gains from being paired with the other. The contemplative sketches and spoken musings by Dr. Thomas Stanley (Bushmeat Sound) of II are a perfect counterpoint to immediately follow the sprawling, spacious jams of I.
Fursaxa – Alone in the Dark Wood reissue (Stench ov Death, Sep 16)
One of the defining albums of the early- to mid-aughts American weirdo-folk scene returns to physical format with Stench ov Death’s official cassette reissue. It’s strangely difficult to write about for a record that has been so ingrained and ubiquitous in my regular listening for many years, but those also into Fursaxa are undoubtedly well aware of this slippery elusiveness; despite the profoundly earthbound and occult atmosphere of Alone in the Dark Wood, it still feels as ephemeral as an anxious cloud of smoke.
…Kagel… – Quartet 1998, Trio 1997 (scatter, Feb 5)
Somewhat of a more austere sibling to the Ones CD listed above, this lengthy archival release draws from recordings of performances executed more than two decades ago, each meandering swath featuring the core trio of Mark Collins, Doug Theriault, and James Wood on a motley arsenal of amplifications and abstractions of objects, instruments, surfaces, and more. The quartet suite also adds an extra double bass to the mix, tweaked, flexed, and tortured by Matthew Sperry.
Trucido – Das Butcher reissue (self-released, Mar 15)
Originally distributed in 1992 in an ultra-limited edition of ten recycled cassettes (with the added guerilla factor of the original music on the extraneous tape not being dubbed over), Das Butcher, one of Michael Nine’s first audio works, has been crudely reanimated from one of these original copies into a dual digital/cassette reissue. Upon its initial creation the material was not actually intended for anyone’s ears other than Nine’s, and this hermitically introspective approach still gives the music a dusty but resolute shine all these years later.
Plants – Tapes 2014-2015 (Hemlock Garden, Jan 11)
There’s no explicit confirmation of the recording timeframe for Tapes 2014-2015 outside of the title, and those years weren’t too long ago anyway, but the vividly organic expanse of Plants’ lengthy audio-scrapbook certainly belongs on this list because the music itself already feels like something that had been entombed for hundreds of years before being retrieved by the artist(s). It’s still not nearly as long as Daughter of Darkness, but I’m still frequently reminded of it; blazing moonlight, burning silence, all of nature folding in on top of you.
Preening – Discography 2016-2020 (Discos Peroquébien, Nov 8)
One of the world’s most hardworking neo–no wave units bares every ugly inch on this compilation collecting work from demos and studio releases over the past four years. Despite that limited range, the tape reintroduces nearly 40 songs, from the humble beginnings of the first demo to the rabid tour-de-force that is Gang Laughter. The even more contorted heirs to The Contortions.
Ahlzagailzehguh – Enemy of the Future (Troniks, Feb 18)
Phil Blankenship’s Troniks continues to build its superb roster of compilations with Enemy of the Future, an intimidating set of 24 winding tracks from the genre-defining artist. The double CD loses a bit of punch from a rather quiet mastering job, but it’s still some of my favorite Ahlzagailzehguh material I’ve heard; this music is a singular but foundational piece in the twisted bridge between atmospheric and cut-up harsh.