Thursday 31 December 2020

BEST of 2020


Duma - Duma
Rock Sutra - Sun Araw
Tonic - Lo Five
The Most Unusual Cat in the Village/Jass Of Thun - Moon Wiring Club
Black Sarabande - Robert Haigh
Laying The Ghosts To Rest - Nick Edwards
The Art Of Living - Lo Five
Rec And Ruin Ep - Howlrownd
Songs From Another Life - Steve Kilbey & Gareth Koch
Playing - Busy Microbes
Unit Signals - Ploy
Esoteric Healing: Friend Or Foe? - Her Majesy's Coroner For Wirral
Chryse Planitia - Steve Kilbey & Gareth Koch
After Hours - N Chambers
Loom - Katie Gately
Music For Psychedelic Duelling - R.E.E.L.
Beginning To See The Light - Nick Edwards
Hill, Flower, Fog - Emily A Sprague
Sabbatical - Rangers
Temporal Bandwidth - Nick Edwards

2020 was beaut as we all know. I was lucky that the four members of my family who contracted COVID-19 survived. I'm sorry for everyone else's losses. It's fucking tragic!

*To avoid reading anything about the end of Western Civilisation and the regressive politics behind it, don't read the GREEN PRINT!

I think I've become too obsessed with society/civilisation or lack thereof to give much of a toss about music or anything else for that matter. I'm going to be more critical here of the left because seriously giving the far right any more words is a waste of webspace but the insanity is across the board of the political spectrum. So much nonsense is being espoused I'm flabbergasted. I mean I've been monitoring it on youtube, twitter, 4Chan and other servers since 2013. For all this nonsense to become mainstream is a disgrace. The bloody QAnnons, Pizza Gaters, The neo-racism masquerading as anti-racism, the insane child abuse of the trans-zealots at the Tavistock Centre, the science deniers,  the world health organisation, the maths de-funders and every dickhead in between are here to make your world a much much worse and horrifying place! Why aren't we we discrediting these twats en masse and keeping them as far away as possible from healthcare, education, children and me?  

But once you track it all back through a 30+ year history it's not that surprising though. A lot of people don't actually understand that an idea such as "White Privilege" just doesn't arrive organically by some kind of osmosis. Some numskull has to come up with that piece of rhetoric in an academic essay by flipping an underprivileged classes critique, getting rid of poor white Americans as underprivileged by tossing them into the trash so that it was then only just people of colour could then be underprivileged or oppressed in the USA and 30+ years later after its gained some traction through some mental intersectionality my nephew thinks it's a fact because he learnt it at university. My nephew also learnt I'm a racist because if I deny it it's true. "It's all written down at a university Uncle Tim so it's true!" 

Governments mean absolutely nothing now as the authoritarian lunatic fringe have got hold of governance through Big Tech, Big Pharma, Education, Media, Multinational Corporations, whoever you work for and now your children. It's a sideways revolution and if I hear another narcissistic sanctimonious zealot espouse anymore bullshit I'm going to explode. I'm not allowed to show concern over the unquestioned rising authoritarianism in my home state of Victoria, Australia. I can't even ask Do you reckon Dr Fuckin Fauci is perhaps a bit dodgy? Why will race-baiter Barrack Obama not denounce critical race theory (which is weird and shameful considering his rich kid background and he's half white like that's a fucking race now, and his dad was a government economist for the Nigerian government. So he's not even part of the oppression game...) or ask Whether trans women (that's biological men for those not keeping with the program, not that I can bloody blame you) should be allowed to compete in women's sports? or What's in Hunter Biden's laptop? or Why do you think so many more minorities voted for Trump in 2020? No, No, No! How very dare you? The far left illiberals, blm and baby tantrum anarchists have it all worked out in their condescending racialised minds. This was perfectly illustrated by Chelsea Handler, a white American celebrity, saying to her ex-boyfriend 50 Cent, an African American, that she had to remind him that he was black and that he needs to be voting on the left. She may has well have said "Know your place boy!" 

Anyway music-wise I didn't check out any pop, rap or anything that didn't really come straight to me via my bandcamp ie. My best of new music list isn't anywhere near as adventurous as last year's as its mainly full of old faves although there are a couple of new artists to me Duma, Ploy & Her Majesty's Coroner For Wirral.

Lo Five deserve a special mention for continuing their consistent run of British underground esoteric electronics with occasional hints of psych, ambient and whatever else can be found in the dank countryside of music's memory. This year Lo Five served up two terrific slabs of wintry post rave comedown that is fresh in a soggy déjà vu kind of way today even though we all thought Mordant Music wrote the final chapter to that story with his brilliant Dead Air in 2006. There's still some glow in the half-life of rave's radioactive transmissions on these paranormal Lo Five recordings. 

I did listen to some other stuff I quite liked but I just haven't given them enough time for them to sink in yet like Carl Stone's Stolen Car, Lamentations from William Basinski, Emperors New Clothes by Duckett, The SIGN and PLUS LPs from Autechre and Myth Of Equilibrium from C Lavender. 

All my previous champs who have been there since the start of my blog are present and accounted for ie. MoonWiring Club, Sun Araw, N Chambers (aka Panabrite), Nick Edwards (aka Ekoplekz) and Rangers. All with stellar records. I know I say it every year but MoonWiring Club is the most under-appreciated musician on the planet. As for Sun Araw nobody seems to have given a damn about him for like 8 years since he did that LP with The Congos. Rock Sutra though is a goddamn masterpiece in Sun Araw's genre of one!

I wanted to like the Charli XCX record but I think i'm just too old and have heard it all before a lot. I get kiddie ravers diggin it though because it wasn't bad just like say a Tame Impala LP isn't either but Ive just been in these sonic zones too often.

I don't even know what any of 2020's old trends were apart from adding Neo or nu to an existing genre. I did notice some Death Metal & Shoegaze but fuck me these genres haven't been good or innovative since the early to (and this is pushin it) mid 90s!

I missed past favourates The Flaming Lips, The Weekend, The entirety of Atlanta rap and Oneohtrix Point Never The only thing I missed that I'll probably check out is the Clipping record.

Anyway I'd say I missed a whole lotta good music just so long as I didn't miss any great music!

Talking about music seems trivial but there were some special things that need attention because they were immensely helpful during this stressful time. For a start music this year was all about instagram for me. Not long after releasing the amazing 70s tropical psych cumbia jamz of Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical by the mysterious Ranil, Analog Africa, the fabulous reissue record label, kept posting these great sometimes totally unknown tunes every day during the initial fully paranoid panic days when you didn't know if you were actually going to come back alive from the shops or not. It was a new delight to listen to everyday. It seems like a small gesture now but at the time it meant everything. Analog Africa even issued a special digital Ranil compilation for a small donation to a Peruvian health org. So that was really fucking cool as his music has been so rare to Western ears up until recently. I mean Raúl Llerena Vásquez aka Ranil was from Iquitos in the Amazon, one of the most remote cities in the world, you cannot get there by road.  Sadly though after everyone discovered Ranil's Cumbia Amazonica records 40 years after they were recorded, he died due health issues complicated by Corona. RIP. 

If 2020 was about one musician it was Steve Kilbey. It was about his love and generosity. He's been around for over 40 years and is the singer-songwriter-bass player for legendary Australian neo-psych rock band/pop group The Church. They influenced The Smiths and The House Of Love amongst hundreds of others. The Church had international hits and most of you people under 40 probably know him because The Church's Under The Milky Way was featured during the party scene in the 2001 movie Donnie Darko. You also hear The Unguarded Moment, Almost With You, Metropolis etc. every time you enter a supermarket, in Australia anyway. Their LPs Of Skins & Heart (1981), The Blurred Crusade (1982), Seance (1983), Heyday 1985), Starfish (1988), Priest=Aura (1992), Hologram Of Baal (1998), Uninvited By The Clouds (2006) & Untitled #23 (2009) etc. are absolute classics not just considered so here in Australia but in America, Europe & other international territories. 

Steve's done a million other projects too including a bunch of terrific solo LPs as well as collaborative duos like Hex (with Donnette Thayer), Jack Frost (with Grant McLennan), Gilt Trip (with his bro Russell) plus many more. His more recent efforts in the last decade have been a fabulous spate of collaborative LPs with either Martin Kennedy or Gareth Koch. One of my favourite  records of the 10s is his solo masterpiece Sydney Rococo (2018). His creative well has never ever run dry! I think he released at least 4 LPs this year alone including one with unlikely collaborator Kate Ceberano.  

He gave us all a gift this year though when the fear was so strong. The strain was exhausting. We were scared, lonely, cabin fever crazy, discombobulated and just gone weird. Steve was a bit glum as his American "Indie 80s Revue" tour with the likes of Morrissey was cancelled. So his income became unstable like many others throughout the world. I think it was the first Monday night of Lockdown in Australia that he decided to do an hour long concert for his instagram followers. You could pay if you could or just take solace in the generosity of his artistry. He was in his eastern suburbs Sydney seaside apartment gettin stoned, being a card and giving us the tunes. Not just from his own pen but from his favourite influences like Bowie, Lou, T-Rex, Cockney Rebel, Bob, The Boss etc. 

It developed over the months and became very ambitious as he took on doing entire Church LPs just on his acoustic guitar. Bear in mind he wasn't the guitarist in The Church he had incredible masters Peter Koppes & Marty Wilson Piper for those duties. Somehow he even sometimes made the tricky bits work for him but sometimes it all went humorously awry. He also did his solo LP classics Remindlessness (1990) & Sydney Rococo (2018). It was fun, rough around the edges and at times incredibly touching. I've never cried at a concert but he had me in tears several times. As restrictions lifted then went back into place then changed again sometimes he would have his mates join him such as George Ellis, Barton Price, Stefan Horlitz (via computer file) and probably a few I've missed. He even did a Bruce Springsteen tune, I didn't know, Racing In The Street that moved me so much because it was about living life to the full but we had all become the people in that song not living due to a fucking virus but hey we're here to tell the tale while many sadly and tragically aren't. It wasn't just that he was spitting in the face of this abyss with love and sometimes hedonistic abandon but also with hopeful humorous spirit that made these Monday night i-phone shindigs so essential and intoxicating! 

He reached his ambitious and creative zenith when at one stage that he promised to write 10 new songs for the next week's show. He did it! When some restrictions were lifted he even managed to record these songs for the critically acclaimed album 10 Women. This was recorded with his posse Garth Koch, Barton Price, Roger Mason & George Ellis. He's long been a hero of mine, since I was a teen in fact, but I never imagined I'd spend such an intimate year with this psych pop poet guru at this stage of my life. Monday nights at 6 o'clock during the pandemic lockdown of 2020 will forever be remembered as the best hour of the week. We got to go and have a great time at Steve's apartment. Strange days made great by Steve Kilbey. Thankyou!

*I've noticed many other artists cottoned onto this idea during the pandemic like Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Dave Graney, Dean Wareham etc. Whether or not SK invented it is a moot point. He utilised it at an incredible moment for humanity and for all of us who experienced it, it was a gift where you could give him a gift back. 

Origins - Foul Play
Black Riot: Early Jungle, Rave & Hardcore - Various 
Join the Future: UK Bleep & Bass 1988-91 - Various
Frankfurt Trax Vol. 1: House Of Techno - Various
The Most Famous Unknown: Expansion Pack 1 - Marc Acardipane
The Most Famous Unknown: Expansion Pack 2 - Marc Acardipane
The Most Famous Unknown: Expansion Pack 3 - Marc Acardipane
The Primitive Painter - The Primitive Painter
America Invertida: Leftfield Pop & Experimental Folk From 80s Uruguay - Various
Ranil y su Conjunto Tropical - Ranil
Stay Safe & Sound: Ranil Selection!! (SHARE IT !!!) - Ranil
Cadence Revolution 1973-1981: Disques Debs International Volume 2 - Various
Under The Influence Volume 8: A collection of rare Boogie & Disco - Various
Love Saves the Day: History Of American Dance Music Culture 70-79  - Various
Soul Brother Records Presents: Groove On Down 3 - Various
The Sound of the San Francisco Christian Center - San Francisco Christian Center
Sign O' The Times (Remastered) - Prince
Brown Acid: The Tenth Trip: Heavy Rock From The Underground Comedown - Various
The King Of Sudanese Jazz - Sharhabil Ahmed
Maarifti Feek - Fairouz
Venus - Logic System
Jazz Rock - Tadao Sawai, Kazue Sawai, Hozan Yamamoto, Sadanori Nakamur, Tatsuro Takimoto & Takeshi Inomata
Gohan Ga Dekitayo - Akiko Yano
Danzindan-Pojidon -  Inoyama Land 
#Notes of Forestry - Motohiko Hamase
Nick Luscombe Presents Tokyo Dreaming - Various
Pacific Breeze Volume 2: Japanese City Pop, AOR & Boogie 1972-86 - Various
Wamono A To Z Vol. I: Japanese Jazz Funk & Rare Groove 1968​-​1980 - Various
Gateway Summer Sound: Abstracted Animal and Other Sounds - Ann McMillan
Crystals: New Music for Relaxation 2 - Craig Kupka
Wrekage 2011-2019 - Ekoplekz    
Tabitha Reverb - Moon Wiring Club

It's funny that the first 8 reissues listed here are the most modern music written about on this entire post. They were recorded between 26 and 32 years ago! When music was future and future was music. The kids don't even care now. I played some Marc Acardipane to my 30 something friend and he just said he hated it. He's was a hip-hop kid in his youth now he'll just go for country or whatever neo is going. He's probably loving some neo-soul right now.

Frankfurt's Marc Acardipane's gabber, doom/gloom-core, breakbeat science etc. still rules sonically so much I really can't think of anything that betters it. 4 LPs of this stuff reissued in 2020 is almost enough but don't worry there's more remasters on the way! 

Foul Play's elegant, sparkly yet still deliriously darkside 'ardcore jungle is as fresh as the day it was recorded just like lots of the stuff on the Soul Jazz Hardcore/Rave/Jungle comp which has an odd & perhaps somewhat misleadingly divisive title (So 2020!). Don't forget where this nascent scene kicked off, that music is put together on the brilliant UK Bleep & Bass 1988-1991 compilation.

Primitive Painter's armchair /chill-out room electronica is a top notch obscure outlier. It should accompany your Ultramarine and Global Communication cds. The sorta stuff both techno-heads and rockists could agree on. It got lost in the mid 90s glut somehow but it's here now and well worth a listen.

America Invertida: Leftfield Pop & Experimental Folk From 80s Uruguay was the surprise archival comp of the year. It was like if 4AD, dreampop, ye olde psych folk melded with music indigenous to South Americas. Of course it has an 80s alien Uruguayan vibe all of its own and its exquisite stuff. Thank you Vampi-Soul. Strut & Analog Africa released gold from Central & South America too.

Then there was all the disco, jazz-funk, soul jazz, gospel disco and boogie that keeps coming from Japan, America, Britain and wherever else for all your good vibe needs. Disco was my go to 2020 genre as it was last year too. Plus the line of history where it originated from ie. Latin, gospel, soul, funk, Afro-Cuban, European electronic music pioneers etc.

There were so many terrific Japanese reissues and compilations of archival material this year (and the last 4 or 5) I'm starting to think it needs its own category: BEST JAPANESE REISSUES! Tokyo Dreaming is worth singling out as a supreme slice of Japanese, synth pop, ambient, jazz funk, soundtrack and city pop Japanese stylee. These tracks were taken from the cult label Nippon Columbia and its subsidiary Better Days, most of which were issued outside Japan for the first time. Classic. 

But then there was Gohan Ga DekitayoAkiko Yano's visionary classic 1980 double LP epic with backing from various Yellow Magic Orchestra alumni. It might very well be her finest record. I've seen ignorant people online compare her to Kate Bush but Akiko had LPs released several years before ole Kate debuted so it the other way around. Kate Bush is the British version of the wonderful Akiko Yano with the bonus of cooler musicians plus not a David Gilmore in sight. I know this is sacrilege but one does wonder if Kate did ever hear Akiko in her formative years?

I could keep going but I'll just give one more special mention to a Japanese reissue even though they all deserve it. Jazz Rock by Tadao Sawai, Kazue Sawai, Hozan Yamamoto, Sadanori Nakamur, Tatsuro Takimoto & Takeshi Inomata! Did these guys oppose band names or something? Anyway this piece of esoterica which I think bypassed Julian Cope's book Japrocksampler is gold. The title while tangentially thematic is totally misleading. Perhaps in Japan at the time though these sounds may have been considered very western or rock? I mean there's no guitar on Side-A at all. Maybe pastoral spiritual funky jamz with some ye olde atmospheric Japanese instrumentation would have been a better title. Anyway it's hard not to say this is a unique meditative sonic palace and if so inclined you will find yourself back here again and again. Glorious!

Habibi Funk continue their great run of killer releases with this year's The King Of Sudanese Jazz from Sharhabil Ahmed! Don't let the title fool you this is just good old fashioned Rock'n'Roll/Boogie Woogie/Rhythm & Blues from er... Sudan. This is so infectious it hard not to just keep reeeewinding and playing it all over again. 



John Cooper Clarke is so clever and funny. He's honed his craft to beautiful poetic perfection. Don't read it! Have him read it to you. After all he is a performance poet of the highest order. One of a kind!

The Crown
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Inside No 9

Tofu Chan aka Tofu Pudding Jones aka Toff Pupper aka My personal spiritual Guru! He can be found on instagram & youtube spreading his love via cheese & bread spirituality!