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Year in Review, Pt. 2 (Brainwashed)

The Brainwashed.com “best of” list is a reader’s poll now in its 17th year. Rather than have the writers pick their favorites of 2014, Brainwashed asked that they comment on what the readers select in the polls. Records are broken up into album, single, reissue, various artist, and boxed set categories (and a worst album of the year category too). Artist, new artist, and label of the year awards are then calculated by how reader’s vote in the other categories. The Lifetime Achievement Award is determined by the staff alone.

I’ve posted some of the records I commented on below, but not all of them. Click through the link to see the entire list. Writers usually comment on what their favorites were and Brainwashed readers have a great way of remembering excellent albums that other publications forget.

5. Sunn O))) & Ulver, “Terrestrials” (Southern Lord)

Out of the two Sunn O))) collaborative albums (more on the other one should you cast your eyes downwards), this was my favourite. Short and sweet, this covered all the bases (and basses) that I would hope for from Sunn O))) and Ulver. About 10 years ago, Ulver remixed a track for Sunn O)))’s White1 which always hinted at possible greatness and Terrestrials has more than been worth the wait. – John Kealy

This was a great year for Sunn O))) though they passed through it quietly. LA Reh 012 isn’t something I’ve given much attention yet, but both of their collaborative records were very good. Odd to think of them playing the backing band, but I think that is the case on both Terrestrials and Soused. Sunn O))) are extremely flexible and I continue to enjoy listening to everything they touch, whether they’re in the spotlight or not. – Lucas Schleicher

7. Aphex Twin, “Syro” (Warp)

There is a lot that could be said about Syro but everyone has already said it ad nauseum. It’s fine, it’s nothing amazing but it’s listenable. The hype didn’t kill it but it did try my patience. You would think electronic music didn’t exist before (or after) Richard James. – John Kealy

The actual album was totally overshadowed by its announcement by blimp for me.  I still liked it though.  Of course, I expected to LOVE it, but James cannot really be faulted for failing to blow my mind at this late stage in his career.  – Anthony D’Amico

I was surprised at how much I liked Syro. It’s a pleasant reminder at how good RDJ is at riffs, however it’s a reminder at how terrible he is at “experimental” fluff. Some of the album’s dead weight could have been easily been relocated to single B-sides to form a far stronger record. – Jon Whitney

Syro is the first Aphex Twin record on which Richard D. James sounds as if he is following someone else’s lead. It’s a fine record that doesn’t even come close to cracking my favorite records list for 2015. – Lucas Schleicher

23. Klara Lewis, “Ett” (Editions Mego)

For a first statement, it’s an exceptionally remarkable fully formed concept. Klara has an undeniable talent for composition and construction as well as an intuitive ear for depth and space. I look forward to her artistic trajectory as it almost feels like she’s holding back a little still. – Jon Whitney

I suspected that Lewis had backed herself into an impossibly constrained stylistic corner with her first EP, but she managed to find a way to expand and improve upon her unusual collages with Ett.  This was a delightfully strange, inventive, and unpredictable debut.  – Anthony D’Amico

Klara Lewis’s music is very subtle and imaginative and this is probably the most underrated album in the top 25. – Lucas Schleicher

38. Valerio Tricoli, “Miseri Lares” (Pan)

Here’s another candidate for one of the best, most over-looked records of 2015. Valerio Tricoli has produced and recorded with numerous people in the past ten-plus years, including 3/4HadBeenEliminated, Thomas Ankersmit, and Autistic Daughters. He has also contributed to recordings on Die Schachtel, Room40, and Tochnit Aleph. Miseri Lares isn’t Tricoli’s first solo full-length, but it’s a great introduction to his dark, looping, pseudo-concrète work. – Lucas Schleicher

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Review: Scott Walker + SunnO))), “Soused” (4AD)

Bish Bosch is an exhausting record that takes off at an exhausting pace. Its first four songs occupy more than half of its total running time, and Scott Walker stuffs every minute of that opening half hour with awkward transitions, asymmetric structures and lyrics that, at their best, speak to the intuitive and subconscious mind. At their worst they necessitate an annotated guide and draw the listener away from the already messy music, pulling them through the twisted and endless avenues of Walker’s varied interests. They’re a diversion that leads to confusion as often as poignancy. Walker casually drops references to Frank Sinatra and communism in Romania, then leaps to astronomy and Roman history, and in the middle he skips through something about the spread of diseases among animals, a topic he laces with images of Hawaii, Pope Julius and dead men in zoot suits.

Connecting unlikely — or invisible — dots can be its own reward, even if the picture it forms is ostentatious. It can also be a distraction, with all of the disparate elements sitting side by side as naturally as a bright red paisley patch on a torn white wedding dress. With Bish Bosch the novelty of Walker’s combinations often swallowed the content, transforming his poetry, music and ambition into a muddy and overwhelming wave. Fortunately, Soused avoids this fate.

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Review: SunnO))) & Ulver, “Terrestrials” (Southern Lord)

Six years in the making, SunnO))) and Ulver’s first collaborative record arrives at the end of a long stretch that saw members from both bands performing together in various configurations.

According to Stephen O’Malley, the basic tracks for Terrestrials were first laid down in 2008, shortly after SunnO))) performed at the Øya Festival in Oslo, Norway. A couple of years later, O’Malley, Daniel O’Sullivan, and Kristoffer Rygg met in Oslo again, this time with percussionist Steven Noble. Together they performed a series of concerts as Æthenor and released the results as 2011’s excellent En Form for Blå. Prior to that, Rygg had produced a track for SunnO)))’s White1 and O’Sullivan had recorded with O’Malley on Æthenor’s debut album, Deep in Ocean Sunk the Lamp of Light. Terrestrials represents the first time Greg Anderson, Jørn H. Sværen and Tore Ylwizaker have joined the party, but there’s a long musical relationship playing silently behind the scenes here.

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Stephen O’Malley Video Interview

omalley_rehbergRed Bull Music Academy has posted a nearly two hour video interview/”lecture” with Stephen O’Malley to Vimeo.

The interview features a snippet from O’Malley’s forthcoming collaboration with Mika Vainio as well as a film clip from This Is How You Will Disappear, the Gisèle Vienne play for which KTL provided the music. Toward the end of the interview he answers questions about why he writes music and how he reacted to the racism and far right political idealism in black metal as a young writer. John Cage comes up a fair bit too.

He also discusses touring as SunnO))), technical specs for lots of different equipment, the success of Black One, working with IRCAM, discovering Pandit Pran Nath, listening to and performing with Keiji Haino, designing album covers for Recollection GRM, and a lot more.

If all you’ve heard is SunnO))) or one of Stephen’s other metal-like projects, definitely watch this video, and check out his collaboration with Steve Noble—it was one of my favorite records from last year.