Till The Band Comes In

Till The Band Comes In

I probably published my latest post about music some two years ago – so it is time to take stock of some of the music I have liked to listen to this year – and hopefully you will find one thing or other that you would like as well. After selecting ten of the best CDs, I will tell you a little bit about them in alphabetical order.

Marc Almond teamed up with Othon and Jeremy Reed to interpret Joris-Karl Huysmans’ 19th century decadence novel “Against Nature”. The sound of the crowdfunded project could be filed under pop music, the compositions, however, are far from pop. There are no refrains, and only some passages that get stuck in your head, while others are fleeting moments in time. Almond’s vocals are free of any sentiment as he conjures up a display of psychedelic colours drenched in a haze of lust and Absinth.

Having always been a big fan of Antony And The Johnsons, I have to admit I’m a bit puzzled by his reincarnation as Anohni – and I don’t mean his decision to live as a women, but the exchange of strings for electronica. Her voice and melodies are still beautiful masterpieces on “Hopelessness”, but somewhat diminished by beats and bleeps in the background. On the other hand, the music perfectly fits his criticism of current US politics from wars in the Middle East to global warming. The most consequent effort is the song “Obama” – with hardly any melody and distorted vocals, she is the furthest away from her days as Antony as she can get on her debut album. Nonetheless, I’m still torn weather I really love the album or not – but it is most certainly the most political pop album I heard for many years.

Coil’s “Backwards” is their lost album that recently saw the light of day, years after the death of the main band members Jhonn Balance and Peter Christopherson. The album was already recorded between 1993 and 1995 at the studios of Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Razor and further explores the acid drenched beats of the album’s predecessor “Love’s Secret Domain”. But as the album was not released in the 1990’s, Coil’s sound changed from beats to a more ambient sound and industrial soundscapes. A lot of the tracks were published in the late 2000’s as “The New Backwards” in a remixed versions that was more true to Coil’s sound at the time. Certainly, it is a matter of taste which version is the best – however, “Backwards” sounds like a missing piece in the history of electronic music.

On “Luys I Luso”, Tigran Hamasyan fuses sacred Armenian music from the 5th century to the 20th century with contemporary classical music and improvisation. The idea behind the piano parts was that they were never written down and left them open for change – a freedom you don’t have with music once it is written down. He is aided by the Yerevan State Chamber Choir and the result is a beautiful and haunting piece of music.

Being a great fan of the music of Serge Gainsbourg, I really liked Mick Harvey’s interpretations in English of most of Gainsbourg’s well known chansons. Now, some 20 years after “Intoxicated Man” and “Pink Elephants”, he went back to the singer’s catalogue to record “Delirium Tremens”. Though there are some songs that were missing on the first two albums, he also decided to record some more unknown tracks this time around. The first part is much darker and wilder than his earlier interpretations. The second part consists entirely of songs from the Anna soundtrack – where Harvey finds his’s way back to some lighter tunes. After the ride through all these emotions, “The Decadence” offers something like a release and certainly is the most perfect ending for this album.

When I listened to her for the first time, Anna von Hauswolff sounded like Nico to me.  When I got deeper into her music I noticed that she steers he music into different waters. Yes, there is the organ and there are the deep vocals not necessarily hit the notes perfectly – but “The Miraculous” drifts deeper in darker spheres and touches on tribal drums and guitar riffs on the way.

Suede (or “The London Suede”, if you live in the US) are certainly a phenomenon. Being partly responsible of the Britpop boom in the 1990s, they quickly became outsiders of the “movement” they created. After splitting up they have presented “Night Thoughts”, their second album after their reunion, which has a deep cinematic sound. The lyrics have moved away from themes like bad sex and bad drugs in an urban setting to more mature topics. But that doesn’t mean that adulthood doesn’t have its dark sides that need to be explored, which the band does perfectly.

Having travelled through many different musical stages, the Swans further explore their epic sound constructions somewhere between noise rock and folk on “The Glowing Man”. The music is driven through some throbbing, pulsing minimalist sound creations that finally explode in their brutal conclusions. If you had a chance to see them live on their current tour you will remember that they can be even louder and more brutal – like a force of nature that lets your whole body vibrate.

“Playing The Schoolhouse” probably finds David Sylvian at his most abstract. If you have heard his later records like “Manafon” you might remember all these little musical dots, held together by Sylvian’s vocals only. Now imagine the album without vocals and all the little tunes and bleeps even further apart and you can imagine how his latest offering sounds like. The CD consists of one track only that is based on an improvisation by the ex-singer of Japan and Jan Bang at the Old Schoolhouse in Ny-Hellesund in Norway

A somewhat menacing record that Scott Walker has recorded here. “The Childhood Of A Leader” is a soundtrack for a film recorded with full orchestra without the slightest easy listening tunes. Where his earlier venture into soundtrack recording (“Pola X”) offered some light in the darkness, here you hardly find any. None the less, it is a very interesting peace of modern classical music.