End of year Brainfart: 2010 in bite size chunks: Part 2: the Rest of the World

02 Jan

Now while i spent a fair amount of time looking at Icelandic music and many of its quirky antics this year, i also spent a lot of time musing on what music that was out there in the big bad world.

And the thing is that i really didn’t like a lot of what was on offer. Taking a simple straw poll of big albums that came out this year, you had releases from the likes of The Gorillaz, Arcade Fire, The Walkmen, Interpol, Klaxons, MGMT, Kings of Leon and Vampire Weekend among others. And i listened to most of them…. and found them wanting. It’s not that most of them were bad (except the Kings of Leon. That was a truly despicable record). In fact, when i looked at something like the NME’s top 75 albums of the year, there were about 20 or so albums that made me go “that’s actually a good album”. But too often i found that most of what passed for cool and “alternative” just left me cold and unmoved. And when you had something like the iTunes Festival, which perfectly showed just how much indie music has been totally co-opted by the mainstream industry (with the likes of Fearne Cotton), i realised that i needed to start looking elsewhere for something that flipped my serotonin sluice channels to “Full power”….


After coming across the flip sides of Hauntology and Hypnagogic pop at the scrag end of 2009, 2010 saw me delve even further into the world of obscure and confusing British electronic music as well as the main influences and precursors to the music itself. The end result was almost by accident becoming a semi-regular contributor to the Found Objects blog, which titled itself as a Hauntological Information dumping ground. And with contributors such as Phantom circuit, Dolly Dolly, Moonplague and UNMANN-WITTERING, and writers such as Ken Hollings and Simon Reynolds, i felt pretty much like a ham-fisted amateur. These guys know their history and can chart the strands between the brutal architecture of ’60s council buildings, ’70s BBC sci-fi television, bizarre Cornish folklore and Department of Information public services leaflets. It’s certainly thought-provoking. Also there were some wonderful released from the likes of Pye Corner Audio Transcription Services and DD Denham. Alas I’ve yet to get the new album from Moon wiring Club, but what i have heard also made my ears tingle a little.

And in the US, the Hypnagogia scene continued to grow, evolve and branch out into differing strands with lovely record released from Oneohtrix Point Never and Sun Araw. There was also a developments with the lumping of several artists into something known as Witch House (of Drag, Ghost Dub, Ghost Trance, etc). Although a lot of it is not really stuff you could dance to. The nature of the way it was created (mostly in bedrooms, with lots or darkness and hash) meant that a lot of what was made was a very internal head listen. And thankfully there were a few real highlights such as Salem’s “King Night”, the debut EP from oOoOOo, most of the stuff  from †‡† , as well as the visuals of mater suspiria vision.


In tracing back much of the new music i was listening to, i ended up coming back to a lot of music that seemed to have been made between 1972 and 1985. and this was split into 3 main strands. Obscure 70s soundtrack albums for cult horror and exploitation movies, experimental electronic music from the late 70’s and a LOT of early ’80s post punk music. It would be easy to say that i was wallowing in some form of nostalgia, but that can’t really explain it as i wasn’t born or was a very small child when this stuff came out. I think the reason i felt more drawn to it was that a most of the music seemed to invoke more of a response and in the context of the society and environment of the period, a lot of the music seemed to be a lot more daring and experimental that what seems to be released today.


But i suppose that the main driver for most of the new and old music i was listening to in 2010 was the invocation of Horror. In his 2010 review piece in this months Wire Magazine, Joeseph Stannard hits the nail on the head when it came to celluloid horror influences in this years music. Most of the artists i was listening to this year either had a massive cult/horror influence (Umberto, Raime, Demdike Stare, Zola Jesus, Pye Corner audio Transcription Services, Ensemble economique, Majeure, Ga’an, 95% of Witch House), or were actual soundtracks to Film or TV horror. i think it was more to do with the  visceral form and nature of the music, and the slight uncomfortability of it all. Some of it was sleek and dripping in saturated colours, some of it sounded as if it was taken directly from an Italian zombie movie from 1978. Either way a lot of it seemed to make me rather excited that something such as N-Duz or Scouting for girls will NEVER do.


In terms of electronic music, i was definitely sticking my flag on the branching out of dubstep into the main substrate for a lot of the interesting electronic music. Even my nephew had heard of Dubstep this year, but like most people the main thing he associated with the genre was just the “wub wub wub” bass sounds that many artists were trying to break away from. The main term used by musos this year was “Post-Dubstep”. A lot of people were very unimpressed with the term (when i interviewed Mount Kimbie this year, i desperately tried NOT to utter those words…), but to be honest it was probably the best descriptor as it denoted  a form of music that was in a state of flux, that it was moving away from its origins, but unsure of where it was going to. People like Mount Kimbie, James Blake, Ikonika and Girl Unit were slowly moving out into their own spaces, while people were mapping new genre offshoots such as Future Garage, Techno Step and Emostep(?). Whatever happens, then next 12 months will see a lot more younger artists using the internet to start raiding older genres such as early acid house and Detroit techno to splice with a forward-looking vantage.


If there was a genre that did underwhelm me this year it was the world of metal. A lot of death and black metal just felt so up its own arse. Much of the back metal tried to sound nasty and dangerous, but just felt lacking, without form, and just didn’t feel transgressive, like i was listening to something dangerous. A classic album was this “Belus” by Burzum, the first release by Varg Vikernes after being released from prison. I just ended up putting in the bin after a few listens. It was just so one-dimensional. To be honest i felt that the best metal i was listening to this year was from Iceland (Momentum, Severed Crotch, Manslaughter, Logn) with the exception of Shining and Kvelertak from Norway. Next year, i want more bands to start growing a pair and make music that will scare me and make me start lashing out like a wounded animal….

So that is pretty much it really. Again i could spend another 5000 words going on about the nooks and crannies of what iw as listening to, but what i want to do now is look and start to see how 2011 will completely make me weep bitter tears of anger…..


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Posted by on January 2, 2011 in literature, music


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