ghost signal #2: the ninth inning
heroin & your veins – i feel nothing (00:42)
labradford – c (02:55)
nonsun – peace of decay, joy of collapse (08:11)
heinali & matt finney – tinderbox (16:43)
aluk todolo – iv xii mmx (26:26)
shrine – radiant skyline (unit 4) (35:30)
lawrence english – object of projection (43:20)
the bug & earth – agoraphobia (47:45)
dälek – it just is (52:47)
samples taken from detour (1945)
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.
It’s been a bit quiet here on Wanton Dilettantery over the past 2 months. It turns out buying and moving into a new house is really quite time consuming/insanely stressful. Who knew? But while I haven’t had much time to vainly fling words at music I have still found the time to fulfill my sworn duty to produce a 25 track playlist every 3 months. Some things are too important to let trifling things such as decorating or buying furniture get in the the way.
This year seems to already be a vintage one in terms of quieter sounds – sad pieces that take their cues from post- rock, modern classical and ambient/ drone. Kristoffer Lo’s The Black Meat might just be my pick of the bunch so far, not least for it’s great backstory – it was recorded in a disused lighthouse at the southernmost point of Norway. It has the desolate sounds to match – at 10 quiet minutes it might not seem like an obvious choice to start a playlist but good lord does it earn it. Elsewhere Dag Rosenquist’s exquisite static, Western Skies Motel’s sparse, fragmented take on American Primitivism, Christina Ott’s spacefaring neo-classical and Ben Lukas Boysen’s piano led ambience flying the flag for the quiet and the delicate. And with records from the likes of Ian William Craig and Eluvium still to come it’s really a special time for Team Quiet.
Which is not to say there isn’t anything interesting going on in Team Loud. It might not quite be as spectacular a time for the riff hungry but Bossk’s leftfield shift from post-metal to post-everything on Audio Noir has probably been the years highest point for me. It’s a record that demands to be heard as a whole but I’ve slipped Kobe in here as it’s just too good to leave out. Big Business have made a welcome return with Command Your Weather (which I just reviewed for Echoes & Dust) and sound as fantastic as ever, whilst Welsh 2 piece VAILS dropped a second ep of meaty, gravel voiced riffy brilliance. Cobalt have made an unlikely return after losing their vocalist and whilst for my money Slow Forever could do with some serious editing it’s still an undeniably powerful listen. Kvelertak’s third album has proved divisive, as has Gojira’s latest, but both are bright and celebratory in their way and have both seen a lot of action on my stereo, even if neither are likely to rank as their very best work.
In weirder heavy sounds Japan’s Otoboke Beaver have been getting a lot of love round Chez Dilettantery (note to self: never call it that again) with their effervescant blend of punk, harcore, noise and bubblegum pop. WRONG are basically and Unsane/Helmet tribute act but that’s a sound that will never get old to me, whereas Head Wound City feature guys from Blood Brothers and sound a lot like Blood Brothers. This is A Good Thing. Then there’s Menimals. I’ve no idea what the deal is with Menimals, but I think I like it.
To file under consistently great people doing consistently great things; Marrisa Nadler, Spencer Krug’s Moonface and Aesop Rock, all of whom are releasing effortlessly wonderful music that could easily be taken for granted. Moonface’s latest isn’t their best but I’m a sucker for Krug’s weird theater school preciousness and pretentiousness (who couldn’t fall in love with a line like,”I know that my behaviour is partly why you turned into a blade of grass“?). Whereas Aesop Rock followed up a career best record with an arguably even better one. The man can do no wrong in my eyes. Less expected was Dälek returning sans producer Oktopus yet sounding as potent as ever with Asphalt for Eden, a record every bit as vital as their best work in their first incarnation. Ok, maybe not quite as vital as Absence. But then almost nothing is.
It’s a good time for music fans, if not for human beings in general, what with the world at large seems to basically be on fire and careening towards a cliff face. At least we’ll go down with a decent sountrack.
I first started this blog for different purposes to the catch-all scribblings on Music and Gaming it became. It was primarily for my use only, essentially as a Happy Place for my sad self to return to to find solace in a big list of things I loved. It was an ongoing series of reminders that the world wasn’t entirely a festering nightmare of disappointment. Eventually it convinced me that writing about this stuff was really good for my mental health in and of itself. And so: here we are.
I deleted most of those Let me tell you why I love.. posts apart from the Dark Souls one, which I was quite fond of. One of the lost posts was a love letter to Absence, Dälek’s terrifying 2005 album, a record that production-wise sounds like a city under siege from monolithic metallic monsters. There’s nothing quite like it: ‘Apocalyptic’ is an overused adjective in music criticism, and one that has rarely been as apt as when applied to Absence. It’s something I have to brace myself whenever I put my headphones on to get dragged into it’s hellish world.
They released the excellent Abandoned Language after that, and finally the slightly lackluster Gutter Tactics before disappearing into the ether. So I was a bit nervous when Dälek announced they’d be back after a 5 year lay-off, especially as they’d be creating without producer Oktopus. Without the man who created that sound, what would they have to offer?
Spoiler: quite a lot, actually.
Songs stumbled upon, songs remembered, songs because why the hell not?
For a while there Dälek were probably the only explicitly political band worth listening to. It probably helped that their only competition at the time were white dudes controversially pointing out that Dubya wasn’t the smartest of guys, but in any era the run from From the Filthy Tongues of Gods and Griots to Abandoned Language would be pretty much untouchable. MC dälek’s flow may not be able to boast much in the way of variation or dexterity but what he lacked in dynamics he made up for with raw, burning passion. Absence, perhaps their finest hour, begins with some of the most ferocious, incendiary lyrics ever committed to tape. “How the fuck can I ever shake your hand when we’ve never been seen as equal?” he spits towards anyone under the misguided impression that racial politics are somehow ok now. Then Oktopus, a sonic visionary if there ever was one, brings down what sounds like an apocalypse at the hands of giant machinery. It’s Industrial music if the term were taken literally – as much a product of harrowing soundscapes David Lynch dreamt up in his Eraserhead days as Throbbing Gristle.
Megaton (deadverse remix) starts by showcasing the other more subtle side of Oktopus’ toolkit. A dark, brooding loop of some noir-esque jazz number full of lonesome guitar lines and subtly mangled strings rolls out over a slow, narcotic beat. It seems constructed with rainy streets in mind, of late night Taxi Driver street scenes, portraits of humanity at it’s most bored and depraved between the dark of the night and the glow of neon. MC dälek speaks of masks disintegrating, idols selling out, a “corpse-culture nicely packaged for corporate vultures”, scanning religion, politics and the state of rap culture with an indignant, unsatisfied eye. It’s an unsettling vision of the world made further unsettling by his voice being shadowed by a distorted, quieter version playing a few bars ahead, a disorienting timeshift that keeps you wrong-footed throughout. It’s no wonder that by final line MC dälek is longing for the apocalypse. Oktopus duly brings it with drums that sound like they mean to do physical harm and a climax which gives a taste of the carnival of static he ran on Absence. It’s a song of two halves – one showcasing the nuances that made Abandoned Language so intriguing and one bringing the aural punishment of Absence.
Dälek returned this year without Oktopus. It remains to be seen whether the new line up can match the likes of Megaton. If so then we might just see one of hip hop’s most incendiary voices reborn. If rumoured collaboration with Blut Aus Nord comes to pass then we’ve certainly got some interesting times ahead..