петак, 10. децембар 2010.

the lists: 2010

1. Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here (Kscope)

The wait was finally over. The new chapter begun with this one. During the past couple of years the band didn't have a label or a tour manager, so the band was kept alive by the fans' donations. Some of the songs were available for download via their site. Finally, they put their shite together, asked Steven Wilson for some production help and here it was. We're Here Because We're Here was a strong, yet still kind of modest, brave statement. Whether you liked it or not, Anathema were doing this again.

The songs were great. Even if the clinically pretty clear production of Steven Wilson's mixdown wasn't something the fans got used to, Steven did a great job of stripping down some of the tracks to the more bare side of the harmonies. This album had less psychedelia of A Fine Day To Exit and more simplicity of A Natural Disaster. More importantly, a great difference were these newfound positive views and aspects and brightness of living and having close friends.

Some journalists called We're Here a prog album. I wouldn't tire myself of putting Anathema in a proper genre, or genres. They play great music for so long, it stopped being of any importance what the fuck it was called. It was always Anathema and that was most important. These guys were capable of doing covers of Iron Maiden, Nick Drake, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd or Led Zep and then some of their own doom relics such as Sleepless or A Dying Qish off the first albums. Anathema were this great band with proper musicianship in it and the young world of newfound Porcupine Tree fanbase was going to realize that for the first time in their lives too. Cause Anathema have been here for so long, the only thing is that they missed the hyperdownload era because of the hiatus of seven years the band was experiencing after the last full length.

The feel of Anathema was undeniably there with the Everything opener. Echoing voice of Vince crossed with some gentle phaser (flanger?) on Danny's guitar and the atmosphere was set properly. It was a prog rockish piece with a post rock influence and this theme circling round and round. Summernight Horizon was a strong one. I remember I fell on my ass when Danny played a demo of it some two and a half years ago, when he was visiting Belgrade for his acoustic show. Dreaming Light was a piano driven ballad with a scent of some Lennon and Sigur Ros, while Presence reminded of a spoken word intro of Hope, a song made fourteen years ago. The themes of eternal life now seemed more important than ever. However, the ultimate highlight was A Simple Mistake that summed up the band's whole discography in eight minutes. No, there weren't Silent Enigma era growling vocals on there, but the atmosphere of a falling soul that would rise again in a glorious light couple of songs later (Hindsight, with a introing bass that reminded me of some Mogwai song very time I heard it) and this transition was clearly visible and audible.

We're Here Because We're Here was a record of change, a final transition from melancholy turning into bright new morning of light, hope and newfound happiness that love was offering. I have this feelings and I don't know why was this line from one of the previous albums. It seems that the guys finally figured those out.

Thanks guys. And welcome back.

2. Autechre - Oversteps (Warp) | 3. Autechre - Move Of Ten (Warp)

Aah, Autechre. I loved their first albums, especially Incunabula (1993) and Amber (1994). Whenever I think of synth, keyboards, synth pads or anything with ambient music and beauty around it, I think of Autechre. The later albums such as Tri Repetae (1995) and Chiastic Slide (1997) showed much experimentation and the progress the duo was always keen on. LP5 (1998) was a peak of their unique style and it is only now that I realize how much have LP5 influenced Radiohead and the boys when they were making Kid Amnesiac.

Confield (2001), Draft 7.30 (2003) and Untilted (2005) were true electronic avantgarde. There wasn't any borders to Brown's and Booth's imagination - it seemed they could do anything, to make any machinery sound musical. Those albums might sound very difficult and too hermetic for the fans of Ae's early work, but with enough time spent - and more importantly, right state of mind - true reward was waiting for the patient ones. Those albums were more about rhythm and broken (well, shattered is a better word) beats while the melodies were so alienated, overtweaked and buried in the mix, the beats themselves were actually giving away the melodies. Quaristice (2008) was a bit of a strange, transitional kind of record. it had 20 (!) songs and a couple of different versions of the album, so the songs and the album were more of a palette that showed openendedness of the tracks.

On the other hand, Oversteps is something rather special. It is Autechre with more melody and brightness, something that resembles their earlier work. But, the strange beats are still there. Oversteps is like Autechre have taken all of their discography and made kind of album the fans would love them to make. Which is odd enough, cause every Autechre fan has their own favorite record. Which one is mine? Honestly, I don't know. It depends on the occasion and the mood I'm in. I will always love Incunabula cause of 444 (my favorite Ae track by far) and Kalpol Introl, although Amber is Incunabula improved. Tri Repetae is perhaps the most likable Ae record in a sense that they found themselves there. Later on they progressed from that point, so... It's all down to one's feeling or mood. I know that I have to listen to either Draft 7.30 or Untilted with a clear head cause if I was nervous or worrying about something... It would fuck me up. It is amazing how Autechre's music cures me and brightens me up. Intellectual catharsis? Perhaps.

Oversteps is no different. Move Of Ten too. Move Of Ten is actually an EP that followed a couple of months later. It's Oversteps improved and is not, depending on the view. It's more mechanical, that's for sure, cause the beats are upfront. Oversteps has the beautiful reverbed pads that always made me think of Autechre when someone said the magic word... 'synth'. Ilanders is one of the best Autechre tracks, reminding a bit of Rale, but not as dark. R ess has more of that dark ambience and See On See is just plain wonderful with shining high pitched overtones. Known(1) is one of the stranger tracks Ae always have on their albums and Yuop is a hidden gem waiting at the end of the album. Move Of Ten is Autechre moving often, Oversteps with a bit more groove - y7 is fantastic, and so is Rew(1) and Iris Was A Pupil. There are some AFX flashbacks too, such as M62 (Autechre going 4/4? Nooooo haha). All in all, what makes Autechre special? I don't know, and maybe I don't wanna know. All I know is that that something is in these two records and I feel lucky being able to enjoy them. Welcome back.

4. Oceansize - Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up (Superball)

For some reason I didn't like the previous Frames so much. But this one... This one rocked the shite properly good again.

Oceansize were angry, emotive and hungry with this one. Hungry for exciting melodies and psyched out rhythm parts. The opener Part Cardiac hit the right spot - right through the chest. Superimposer continued the ride through the prog park, although the best stuff happened later on the album. Ransoms was giving this good old Fender on a singlecoil neck pickup the most beautiful treatment it could get. Every drum snare was also caressing the song with every beat. Nothing was rushed and the emotion was intact. Ransoms was one of the most beautiful soundscapes these Manchester lads ever wrote. Silent / Transparent showed the silent-to-loud affinity in a best possible way, only to fuck everyone's mind with a three minute brainstormer that It's My Tail And I'll Chase It If I Want To was.

Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up showed Oceansize at their best. They've become one of the bands on the top of my must-see-live list.

5. Massive Attack - Heligoland (Virgin)

I honestly didn't like this at all at first. I was still pretty much hooked on 100th Window and Mezzanine I subconsciously wanted something in the vein of those two. Heligoland sounded too happy and poppy for its own sake. It took me a whole year to pass to sit up and listen to Heligoland with fresh ears and pay attention closely to what it was all about.

The only two tracks I liked instantly were Atlas Air and Rush Minute, cause of Robert del Naja's distinctive trademark massive voice. The other guests on the album I had troubles with at first, as the music was more in the vein of Protection than Mezzanine - the music was backing up the vocals and not the other way round. Mezzanine and especially 100th Window had that thick sticky serpentine atmosphere with voices topping that. On Heligoland, as with Anathema's new record for instance, everything is more pure and clean.

Flat Of The Blade had Elbow's Guy gracing the tune, while Paradise Circus was a centerfold gem with a gal Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star fame, pouring her heart out whispering. I still have the strongest affection for Rush Minute and Atlas Air, although I have to say Splitting The Atom, Girl I Love You, Saturday Come Slow and Pray For Rain are all excellent tracks. Heligoland takes some time and when it gets you, it's more than rewarding. Massive, welcome back.

6. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)

What a comeback. Swans were influencing the whole scene of extreme music, was it metal, industrial, gothic, noise or whatever. Eighties and Nineties were the era of their realm - Children Of God, White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity and the best of them all, The Great Annihilator. Soundtracks For The Blind was this gigantic piece of experimental music that introduced some drone music, as well as some serious sampling (Neurosis and Godspeed You Black Emperor! later would rely on those heavily). The demise of Swans was a logical step, because they sucked all the energy out, splashed it like feces onto people's faces and hearts and the tomb was secured afterwards.

Michael Gira made some acoustic records in the meantime (even played live in Belgrade in Dom Omladine in 2004 and that was a hell of a show) and decided to resurrect the damn beast again. Jarboe went completely left-field in the meantime, so taking her back in the band was out of the question. However, in all honesty My Father wasn't so ominious one might expect. The opener No Words / No Thoughts was a strong one, and no doubt that after ten seconds of it the thought would slash your mind like a razorblade - this is Swans. However, Michael Gira confessed a few months after the release that he regretted that the tortured intro to this song didn't last ten minutes instead of just three. Now, that would be some real shit we're talking here.

My Birth gave the scent of old Swans back again. Although... It seemed like the song wasn't finished yet. The songs were naked and bare and they would probably get a fuller shape on the gigs with live band like this twenty legged insect making a feast for the queen. However, You Fucking People Make Me Sick and Eden Prison are the clear highlights of the album, bringing some fresh ingredients to the Swans table and not just revisiting the old ghosts of the past.

Swans are now topping the must-see-live list along with Neurosis. Although Swans already confirmed Zagreb for May 2011 so... Looking forward to that one.

7. Deftones - Diamond Eyes (Reprise)

Wow. I liked Deftones before. Loved the singles but couldn't listen to the whole albums in a row. Diamond
slapped me in the face and track by track, I was playing the whole album without skipping any tracks.

The massive production is what got me hooked first. The Meshuggah flu of all the heavy bands throwing their seven string guitars to the garbage and getting eight strings instead got into Stephen Carpenter too. Yet he knew what to do with it. He made a couple of super heavy riffs that made the title track, and especially You've Seen The Butcher so huge, memorable, heavy and catchy. The Butcher is certainly the best metal track in 2010. The djent (I just heard the word recently and hate it already, since it sounds so stupid) style of playing the eight string guitar is shown wonderfully. Chino's voice is present in the mix just rightly. He was never a perfect singer, but the clever articulation and good arrangement of it did the songs great favors.

The funny thing is that I had some melody in my mind for some time and knew the melody was not mine, since I had the whole arrangement of the song (the drum fills kicking in and everything) in my head already. It was couple of months later after listening to this album. I needed a couple of days of mind boggling to find out the chords were the ones introing the Beauty School. And the funny part was that I was never a fan of the track before that moment - the reason why I had it in my head was because I played The Butcher for a lot of times, and this song was the next one on the album. So I must have heard its intro as many times as I played The Butcher as well. Song by song, I reached the end of the album and liked every track eventually. Deftones were a great band that made a glorious comeback with Diamond Eyes. The mainstream was also happy, cause there was nothing good in it since last year's Alice In Chains album.

8. Agalloch - Marrow Of The Spirit (Profound Lore)

Black Lake Nidstång was the most pleasantly surprising track of the whole year. It was a long time ago when I heard so devoted vocal lines in a black metal or a doom metal song last time. This song explained the core of the band, not just the nature-loving tree-hugging thing, but the earthly rooted nihilism towards everything man/men ruined. The screams were tortured, honest and from the depth of the heart. The Moog part in the middle reminded of some Neurosis off Given To The Rising and that level of atmosphere deserves only applause.

The band made good albums in the past. 1999's Pale Folklore was a couple of years late with the pagan/nature/black metal thing the Europeans cherished earlier (Ulver on Bergtatt) and 2002's The Mantle showed some serious creative aspects of the band. 2006's Ashes Against The Grain I didn't like for some reason. Maybe it was too polished, or perhaps I wasn't interested in checking out all the bands that were running for a train with post- things written on the wagons. However, the band had a break after that one and returned with a piece that could be described as their most mature, dark and demanding. The whole post- hype passed, so they could cool their heads and make a record that was more honest and not set to any trend visible at the horizon.

Into The Painted Grey shows the Ulver Bergtatt affinity again, but in a more gentle way. The back to basics system the band used by recording on analogue again and using the best amps and guitars with only a couple of selected pedals, really improved the way the band was putting the ideas down on tape. Everything works on Marrow Of The Spirit and me being known as not-the-biggest fan-of-all-that-is-black-metal kind of person, by rating this album so high, must add that band like Agalloch returned me some faith in black metal and the good aspects of making and playing it.

9. Mike Patton - Mondo Cane (Ipecac)

10. Deathspell Omega - Paracletus (Norma Evangelium Diaboli)

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