To celebrate their first album in 5 years (check out my review here) I’ve tried to condense Grails’ work into 10 a mere tracks. Tricky stuff, though Spotify have made it easier by not having Take Refuge in Clean Living (check the video below for a taste of that), Black Tar Prophecies 1-3 or Interpretations Of Three Psychedelic Rock Songs From Around The World available. Needless to say then that this is an incomplete primer; but it does just about trace the line from their early Dirty Three-esque sonic wanderings through their voyages into psychedelia, prog, soundtrack composers, krautrock and a hundred other musical hinterlands all the way to latest release Chalice Hymnal, the sound of a set of musicians playing and composing with complete freedom.
They’ve been a frequently misunderstood band over the years (hell, I’m not entirely sure I’ve truly got a handle on them) due to the scope of their ambition and, perhaps, the narrowing of ambitions of their supposed contemporaries. This selection won’t teach you all there is to know about their ways, but I hope it makes for a welcoming introduction to their world.
I love winter – for the first few months. After Christmas has packed up and left and the New Years promise dissolves into the same-old same-old it’s pleasures soon fade. I find around this time is when I reach for that breed of heaviness, of sonic density, that washes over you, envelops you, holds you close and won’t let you go. Be it the shoegazing of Blonde Redhead, the crushing beauty of Jesu or the heartbreaking slowcore of Low, when the world outside seems cold and uninviting (weatherwise or peoplewise) this is what I use to see me through until Spring.
Similar to last week’s this is a collection of modern composition/ambient/instrumental acoustic pieces from 2016. It was an ugly year but plenty of beauty somehow seeped through the cracks, like flowers between paving slabs. With the inauguration happening across the pond I for one would prefer to hide between my headphones and remember that.
An hour and a quarter of the best ambient/drone/electronica produced in 2016.
Usually there’s a track-a-day write up on the 20 for… playlist but you’ll forgive me if I wish to put 2016 behind me and pretend it never happened. It’s a shame that so much good music will be indelibly marked with the events of 2016, both the political cataclysms and personal nadirs. But if you can stomach it there’s plenty of gems to be found among the wreckage of the year we’d all rather forget. Stuff that’s worth clinging to when trying to tell ourselves it’s all going to be ok.
The final Wanton Playlistery of 2016 (and indeed ever under that name) rolls in fittingly late and tired. Featuring a fine selection of songs from the last few months of that god forsaken year, along with a few slow burners from earlier on, it just about wraps up 2016 – and with it the Wanton Dilettantery era. All that’s left to do is post the annual 20 tracks of the year playlist tomorrow. Over the next few weeks I’ll be starting a weekly playlist series with some wrap ups of various genres and sounds that were perhaps neglected by this blog. Which is to say: anything but doom and psych, really. I had a doom and psych heavy year.
I regret nothing.
I don’t think I’m going out on too weak a limb to suggest there haven’t been many bona fide classic records released in 2016. There’ll probably be a few that will grown in stature and be considered classic in time, and possibly for all my flailing around trying to hear everything (reader: I have a problem) that I’ve missed entirely. But right here and now nothing obviously stands up as Timeless.
And yet it feels like it’s been a great year for music already – the sheer breadth of wonderful sounds created boggles my tiny mind on a near daily basis. Much of it may be forgotten fairly quickly – but it was beautiful while it lasted. It’s nice not to think of posterity all the time and let stuff drift through your life like a cool breeze and enjoy it while it’s there. Right?
Indie Rock, they say, is pretty much a dead art – yet there go the likes of Dinosaur Jr, the Julie Ruin, Parquet Courts indie rockin’ away like the 90s never ended. Which for a guitar junkie like myself is always welcome. In contrast the realm of ambient/drone/modern composition continues to go through a veritible golden age with the likes of Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Jherek Bicshoff, Juliana Barwick et al weaving voice, electronics, organic instrumentation, field recordings and untamed static into wistful, melancholic, nostalgic slices of beautiful noise.
I keep thinking it’s been a poor year for heavy music but there are a few reliable stalwarts keeping the flame lit. Wrekmeister Harmonies continue to surprise with the scope of their dark epics, Neurosis continue to defy time and the laws of diminishing returns, Russian Circles just about keep an old formula fresh, Big Business continue to expand their sonic palette despite contracting in numbers and Ulver continue to keep everyone guessing. Newcomers MAKE bring a much needed sense of righteous indignation to post-metal and Helen Money showcases the under-explored heavy potential of the cello.
Yeah. It’s been a pretty good year. And it’s still not done, with a few big names left on the release calender and still more as yet unknown suprises afoot. It might have been a pretty shit year in most other respects for us as a species but there’s plenty of joy to be had hidden between a pair of headphones. We can always be thankful for that.