fbcfabric & reindeer – Interview for DEAD Magazine

…recently unearthed from the archives, and now for the first time in English, fbcfabric & reindeer in interview with DEAD Magazine, 22nd August 2008…

> Your “bio” on Buttercuts (records) doesn´t give too much info – still one can read that you both started making music together in 1999. Where are you from, what is your musical background and where did you meet?

fbcfabric : I started writing music in 1995. My musical background is quite simple really, I was crap at everything at school and pretty much fell out with a bare minimum of qualifications and no direction whatsoever. I tried college, and failed, so I started writing music at home. I’m not actually sure why I started writing, it just seems to have happened. And thats that. Can’t play any instruments, can’t read or write music. Nothing that I write has any proper musical structure – I just stop changing it when it feels right.

I met reindeer through a mutual friend who was writing with him at the time. It would have been the three of us working together now had that friend not decided to call it a day.

reindeer : Yeah, we met at a run-down college in South London in 1999 through a mutual friend whom I had been working with for a few years previous. I started producing and writing lyrics in 1992 but it wasn’t till 1997, when I got my first decent computer, that I recorded my first vocals over my own beat. Like fbcfabric I have no musical experience in my background other than a strong compulsion to buying the most experimental music I could find from an early age.

> Touring, you are playing with a band – how much are those people involved in your songwriting?

fbcfabric : They are involved in the respect that both Reindeer and I love them all dearly and their judgements are worth listening to, but at the start we were simply converting songs written by me to play live, so most of the creative decision was already made. These days rehearsals are very different because we are all working together on fresh material, so everyone has a say. My role in the band is simply to suggest what I think might sound good; we are all good enough friends for them to tell me to be quiet when I’m wrong.

reindeer : We wrote the album as a duo but when it came to playing shows we really wanted to expand the sound with a whole band. Instead of audtioning for members we simply turned to our close circle of friends, like our long-term collaborator Michael Rea amongst others. We consider them to be the most talented set of individuals, all doing great work in their own right. So when it comes to creating new material they are also the best team for developing new ideas, as well as simply finding ways to perform the album material.

> The sound of the album – in my opinion – benefits the most from the “deepness” of the mixing, giving the same importance to drums, field recordings, voice and instruments / samples. Since I haven´t heard anything else from you but this album: how did you find this mixture / was it something you archieved working on the album and knowing its main themes?

fbcfabric : Its an overly simplistic answer, but I really cant think of a better way to describe it; I just try to make things sound as similar as possible to how I feel it should be heard. I have a strong dislike of overly ‘clean’ music. It’s like that sound of a distorted guitar recorded so well and so crisply that all of its meaning has been removed and you are left with this empty container where a guitarist once put their feelings. In my opinion, an instrument and even what is played on it is only a very small part of the picture. The important stuff is what you might not even consciously hear. Its all about the environment around the instrument and its player; the atmosphere.

reindeer : It might be that because nor fbcfabric or I are actual musicians that we are able to stand back from any individual instrument and consider the whole. Music should reflect the world it is part of and for us this is having the actual world within the music. If someone is playing a guitar on the top floor of a building looking out over the city, then I would want to hear the room they are in too, the breeze and sound of the street blowing in through the window, their fingers on the fret-board, their breath, the sound of the person shouting next door.

I’ve always loved listening to music on headphones, riding on the bus, the train or walking down the street and hearing the sound of the world around me mixed in with the music in my ears. So then, to record the sound of the street and then mix that in with the music in order to then go outside, hear both the music, the street and the street in the real world around you. Fascinating.

> Your album is split into 4 sections, feeling very much like a concept-album – did this concept write the album, or did it just fit the overall mood / content of the finished songs?

fbcfabric : I actually put together enough material for about two albums, and together we picked parts that would fit together to create what we wanted as a whole.

The overall mood of the album was decided long before we even started. I was always going to be a dark affair considering the hands it was in. Reindeer and I have never been known for our blinded-by-happiness outlook – its always been a matter of reality for us. The filthy truth is that we are all fucked, like it or not. We aren’t being all moody over here in a corner for effect. Neither of us walks around telling everyone how worthless their lives are. I like buying cool things like everyone else, but I suppose the difference is that I know that I am filling a void in my life with these material goods. I sedate myself with things I don’t really need, but these things make me feel good. I have no idea why they do but they do, and frankly, I want to feel better.

reindeer : As much time as we spent talking about the music we spent talking about how we feel about the world in which we live. The album was always going to be an extension of the two of us as inviduals and friends struggling in confusing times. The album was always going to be dark because we were in a dark place, but at the same time it is very much about communicating and reaching out, trying to explain how it feels. Being able to create a sense of not being alone in the storm.

> The last song of the album is called “and then John Peel died” – why was this incident so important to you to even use it as the silent exclamation mark of your first album?

fbcfabric : John Peel was essentially the only person within mainstream media who was outside of the cultural foodchain. A man who made decisions purely based on what he liked, and not what he was told to like by those in power (read: labels rich enough to hire expensive radio pluggers). Now, thats not to say that his taste in music was particularly great, but the fact that he had a genuine taste in music was unique. We have all said something stupid like “I don’t like House music”. John Peel would have listened and decided afterwards. Something we could all learn from.

reindeer : Mainstream music media always seemed so false. In listening to the radio it never felt like the DJ was actually playing the songs they wanted to. John Peel was different. Whenever I tuned into his show there really was a sense of a man just playing whatever he felt like, irrespective of genre or corporate backing. But I think in growing up in the UK and wanting to make music, wanting to be accepted as artists; the one voice you could count on to tell you whether you were doing good work or not was John Peel. So, in completing our album and never getting the chance for him to tell us how bad he thought it was, a regret to be sure.

> what are your future projects?

fbcfabric : Cake.

reindeer : Tea and cake.


top ten ‘most-listened-to’ artists of 2014

as with every year before it, 2014 has been a really special year of listening. there have been some amazing new releases to discover, along with many times and places to revisit some much-treasured classic works from the ever-expanding vaults. over the last twelve moons i really sought to try to keep abreast of the many new releases which would interest me, and how they surely influenced my overall listening activities for the year, but how i was consistently revisiting old favourites and conducting further investigations into past recordings; which lead to the overall pattern of my audio-experiences over the long days and weeks. so, might i take a moment to present to you what became my top ten ‘most-listened-to’ artists of 2014, in ascending order.

10. bohren & der club of gore

perennial favourites for more than a decade now, bohren always find themselves in my yearly top ten, and if not, then very nearby. for sure their most-well-renowned album ‘sunset mission’ took them directly into the dark-jazz sound that angelo badalamenti essentially invented with his work alongside david lynch, but, before and after that, each album from bohren has its own distinctive sound; each taking us in a slightly different direction, a different set of instrumentation, a different set of moods. this year, their ‘piano nights’ release proved to be an epic exercise into a strange, beautiful, sad, melancholic variant of their world. much less dark and menacing, much more timid, fragile, tender even. for my own money ‘black earth’ has always been my most-visited release from their catalogue, followed by the almighty ‘sunset mission’, but the new one has very certainly been on the most-heaviest rotation over these moons since its release. if you are without bohren in your life, or simply without their full catalogue of albums, i sincerely, sincerely urge you to pursue the possibilities therein.

09. charlie parker

every year, very-gladly, proves to be a new lesson in jazz for me, but how this last one provided me with such a wonderfully satisfying connexion of loose ends that have trailed all the way back to my childhood. of course i have been keenly, keenly aware of the name, and massive importance of charlie parker since as long as i can remember, and had no doubt, over the long years, heard many selections. but 2014 finally presented me with the chance to really sit down and investigate his recorded works in detail. my resource was the complete savoy/dial master recordings, and what an incredible treat they are. recorded between 1945-1948, they encapsulate the incredible bebop sound that was prevalent in new york, and for me finally helping to bridge the gap between my love of 30’s and 50’s jazz, the glowing sound of the missing decade in my listenings, save for a perhaps a few vocal artists and groups. as for charlie parker, he crushes so insanely hard, so hard. this is a legendary name, for good reason. i can only recommend you begin to investigate his canon, or continue to expand your own collection. onwards.

08. odd nosdam

if memory serves, i first sat down and listened to odd nosdam very, very closely with the arrival of the cLOUDDEAD triple-vinyl on my doorstep as a university student in west london, uk. the album destoyed me, utterly, in many number of magical ways, but the overwhelming initial highlight were the incredible drone-pieces from ‘cLOUDDEAD no.5’. how i was completely swept-up up in their incredible radiance, and have long looked towards his releases for these shimmering doses of impossible tranquility, not to mention his crushing drums, field recordings and dialogue samples along the way. for many years, i had two ‘favourite producers’; fbcfabric and odd nosdam. i have to admit that a few other guys out there have got a few things happening, edison, but these are the two perennial favourites. gladly, odd nosdam is a shade more prolific than fbcfabric, so how it is an ongoing pleasure to be able to audition new works alongside the old classics. the ‘trish’ tape was definitely govering this years’ listening patterns though, having gladly scored myself a copy at amoeba records in berkley, whilst on a tape-hunt with babelfishh; glory days.

07. john coltrane

utter crushing devastation, at every turn, forever. this year found me discovering some absolutely, absolutely critical live recordings of sir coltrane which had me quickly exponentially increasing my listening in to his astonishing work, as well as my very own ‘long-lost’ coltrane classic, as if i had been searching for it my whole life. i actually stumbled upon the ‘village vanguard’ recordings whilst pursuing some precious eric dolphy materials. first my searches turned up the original single lp release of the album, but then soon accorded me the chance of locating the ‘complete recordings’ box-set, captured across four nights’ in new york in 1961. the band had recently returned from a tough european tour, where they had faced booing crowds in some spots, due to the extremeness of their material during this period. but how these recordings capture nothing but piece after piece of monolithic deathcrush. coltrane and dolphy chew their way through ‘india’ and ‘spiritual’ like i do not choose to describe. but how, also this year, i finally secured myself a vinyl copy of the unutterable ‘om’. very often described as coltrane’s ‘worst album’, it is a twenty-nine minute free-jazz excursion into total abandonment. i do not have enough space for the words. find the record, find a dark room. take yourself to the place. do it.

06. angelo badalamenti

the true master will always feature on this list, and i will always find new ways to heap praise upon his music, and indeed his character. 2014 actually found me, for the very first time outside of his scenes in mulholland drive, seeing the great man himself, talking to camera, playing the twin peaks theme on the piano as he described how david lynch had sat beside him as they worked out the tune and arrangement all those years ago. such a magnificent little interview piece, and how he seems like the warmest fellow one could hope to collaborate with. but how his music still crushes and terrifies, lays furtive and brooding, swells with unimaginably sad rays of the faintest hope. the main titles to mulholland drive have long been my immediate drop-in point in recent years, and before that the theme from fire walk with me. but every badalamenti soundtrack is pure perfection, and his work with david lynch the highest of the high, whilst scarcely even needing to mention his single-handedly inventing the dark-jazz genre, giving way to all its doom-variants. a true living-legend on the strange musical landscape.

05. ella fitzgerald

last year saw me listening to vast swathes of recordings from both the boswell sisters and the andews sisters, so how fitting it would be this year that, one their greatest fans, would be boldly taking their place in this years’ list. one of the most clearest, and most beautiful voices in all of jazz, and one so adept at provoking such a great spectrum of emotions from the listener. ella fitzgerald could sing them all, and with what seemed like an impossibly effortless ease the whole while. her music is so perfect for all moods, but so very perfect for lazy sundays, under clear skies, a warm spring breeze, or gentle autumn hues. in the safehouse we were enjoying selections from the various song-book recordings; cole porter, duke ellington, george and ira gershwin; the absolute classics. such a pleasure to hear her crystal clear voice resonate with simply such a timeless nature; one cannot helped but be so moved and allowed to be swept up into a nostalgic world of long ago, that still resonates so strongly back into this modern existence, rendered so utterly meaningless in the interim. magic, captured in soundwaves.

04. sun ra

how i felt i had known the name of sun ra since birth, possibly with all the egyptology picture-books i used to devour as a very young boy, but i still distinctly remember first getting to marvel at his saturn releases first-hand, in intoxica records, portobello road, in what would have been the very late 90’s. i had no the cash to invest at the time, but upon enrolling at the london college of music and media, in ealing at the dawn of the new millenium, i suddenly had access to their recorded music library and soon made up for lost time. at first i was keen to hear anything and everything i could, but over time found that i was much more interested in his earlier body of work than his latter efforts. i slowly whittled his collection down to around the first twenty-five albums, which have since become my staple, replete with those one or two vital albums that i am still year to audition. still, with sun ra, one must find ones own path into the music. i am interested primarily in his bebop and free-jazz work, hence my own choice of selections, but those looking for the space-jazz would do well to perhaps investigate the next twenty-five releases. go by what style you think will please you the most. regardless of specifics of taste, he was a true master, one for all time.

03. philip glass

my top three ‘most-listened-to’ artists can be sure to throw up the name of one philip glass, i could hardly imagine any set of circumstances that would present any kind of plausible possibility to the contrary. as always, ‘the hours’ soundtrack has dominated all things. it must surely, in fact, be one of the very, very few albums that i can put on repeat and listening to from dawn til dusk, for a few days. this is almost a monthly ritual, so by the time i’ve had a few sessions of the masterful ‘solo piano’ and gone through the qatsi trilogy, the statistics start to speak for themselves. this year i did spend a good time revisiting his soundtrack to the candyman movie too, another very-welcome addition to my regular listening. ‘runaway horses’ from the mishima soundtrack has always been a long-standing favourite too. there is something about the music of philip glass that one should never attempt to describe. writing about music is like puking about food, edison, but one must surely dare to simply state that his work can be recognised in an instant, and will transport you to a familiar place, unlike any other, in that very same instant; and keep you there, and keep you there, and keep you there…

02. howard shore & ornette coleman

the final steps on the pyramid, and how the year could not be complete with the absolutely essential soundtrack to david cronenberg’s naked lunch, based on the novel by our father william s burroughs. if the hours soundtrack is one of the very few albums i can listen to for days at a time, then this must be one of the only others. the perfect marriage of shores cinematic strings, colemans horn-work, and some middle-eastern textures to lend the whole piece its sense of place and time. essentially though, while it is a magnificently executed commission, the need for the listener to be a fan of burroughs, cronenberg, the book, or the movie, is completely by-the-by. this is simply wonderfully engaging music that will transport you to your own personal interzone, whatever your mind might simply want that to be. for my own money, it does transport me into this burroughsian world, with tinges of imagery from the movie hidden within the notes. but my appreciation of burroughs himself has long been frequent and ongoing, so these moments when the music coincides with my literary intake are simply pleasurable connexions along the route. be sure to seek out these collection of songs, they are important, and more than worthy of a great deal of your time.

01. billie holiday

with both the boswell and andrews sisters sitting outside of my top-ten this year, and ella fitzgerald sailing high, logic might follow that this years’ top-spot, by a country-mile, is indeed the one and only, truest master of that impossible to imitate jazz voice, lady day herself, miss billie holiday. another name from my childhood that always rang out with familiarity, but whose recordings first came into my possession at the tender age of sixteen, back in the mid 90’s. i managed to obtain myself a cassette recording from a cd compilation which i held dear for a long while, til further vinyl treats emerged through the rest of the decade. but how vast her recorded catalogue is, outside of her officially-released long-players. this year i have had the impossible pleasure of investigating her complete columbia catalogue, which contains swathes and swathes of simply mesmerising takes, of such a wide variety of tracks, with an almost equally wide range of bands behind her. from early recordings with count basie, to even a couple of treats with artie shaw, the collection is awash with hours of hypnotic magic, in the form of this voice, this voice. again, it is another case of being wise enough to know that words are not enough. a salute, to miss lady day, and the struggles that made the magic possible. a wondrous flame in an utterly brutal world.
so, there we have it, my ‘most-listened-to’ artists of 2014… and, should you continue to find yourself interested, might i announce that i shall very shortly also be unveiling my ‘top ten releases of 2014’, a detailed look at what have, for me, been the best works from the last twelve moons, and how it is a varied and interesting bunch to be sure. til then, might i take a moment to thank you for you time, and to wish you a very happy holidays with your loved ones.

art forms of dimensions tomorrow

‘Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow…. contained “Cluster of Galaxies” and “Solar Drums”, two rhythm section exercises with the sound treated with such strange reverberations that they threatened to obliterate the instruments’ identity and turn the music into low-budget musique concrète. While testing the tape recorder when the musicians were tuning up one day, Hunter had discovered that if he recorded with the earphones on, he could run a cable from the output jack back into the input on the recorder and produce massive reverberation…’
‘By the 1950s commercial recording companies had developed a classical style of recording which assured that the recording process itself would be invisible… but Sun Ra began to regularly violate this convention on the Saturn releases by recording live at strange sites, by using feedback, distortion, high delay or reverb, unusual microphone placement, abrupt fades or edits, and any number of other effects or noises which called attention to the recording process. On some recordings you could hear a phone ringing, or someone walking near the microphone. It was a rough style of production, an antistyle, a self-reflexive approach which anticipates both free jazz recording conventions and punk production to come.’
– John F Szwed

most honourable mentions – 2013

so, might i let my final entry in this years musical reflections be dedicated to some most honourable mentions; the releases that i was forced to agonisingly remove from my final short-list of exceptional works that saw the light of day across the last twelve months.

in some cases i found the releases to be slightly flawed, or perhaps a little too patchy, when forced to be over-critical, but for the most part it was simply a case of forcing myself to strip back the final list to the absolute bare essentials. either way, the selection reads thusly.

ancient mith – and the dead shall lie there


always a pleasure to get to audition a new long-player from the perennially captivating ancient mith. how he is more than capable of  delivering a full albums’ worth of texts without once losing sight of the cohesive whole or growing tedious… and here’s to the next eu-tour!

david lynch – the big dream

anything new from david lynch will always be a notable moment, since my teenage fascination with his creative world, and how intruiged i am to see him release a new album so soon since the previous outing. more confounding, infuriating, mesmerising, captivating material to be sure.

soso – not for nothing

how i have long been partial to the works of the mighty soso, and how this latest outing is immediately captivating and remains so for its short duration. i am always struck by the sheer craft that he employs with each of his releases, giving them always the necessary gravitas to enthrall.

nosunnofood – nosunnofood

edison has been one of my ‘all-time-favourite’ producers for a long time now and how any outing from his musical realm is surely guaranteed to captivate, enthrall, entertain, sooth and stimulate. a perfect excursion back into his sonic landscapes between official solo releases.

james p honey – dIv_ØØNYgHN

the young captain honey murdering his way through half-an-hour of barbed materials. for my money always more visceral and captivating when stripped-down, these songs are further proof of his magnificent artistic path over the last few years.

earl sweatshirt – doris

probably the most ‘hyped’ release on this small list and how it was a curiously-intriguing item indeed. there can be no denying his incredibly powerful voice, nor his excellent flow, and how the lyrics and, for the most part beats, were able to generate a consistent journey though his world.

prodigy & alchemist – albert einstein


an unexpected treat to be sure. i cannot begin to explain how much i listened to the early mobb deep records as a teenager, nor how bemused i was by their plunging descent into utter dross. so, what a delight to hear prodigy offering bar after bar of gold, over a full-albums’ worth of solid beats.

action bronson & harry fraud – saab stories

scarcely able to bring myself to allow this release art onto this blog, but i cannot deny how many times i listened to ‘alligator’ and ‘seven series triplets’ this year; only two out of the six songs on offer, but just so compelling as to carry the weight of the release onto this list.

tesk – nerves

an absolutely stunning debut release from the masterful tesk. how it probably would have been in the short-list had it not arrived so late in the year, only giving me the chance to begin to be blown away by all that lays within. a full tape of shimmering magical hues. utter bliss.

home – word


how little could be more welcome that a further release from the always-masterful home. how this new set of ten songs carried me forward through this year on buoyant wings, always offering a keen and clear eye on the reasons why we are indeed moving forward. truly wonderful.

so, there we have it, my humble take on the musical facts in the case of 2013. i sincerely hope that you found a few enjoyable moments within, have managed to discover some new treats for your own archives, or simply enjoyed the shared understanding of mutual tastes, and how i sincerely hope that we are all still here this time next year to celebrate once again.
in final parting, i would also like to reference a number of artists that didn’t make it onto any of these lists, simply by way of my having not had the chance to audition their works over the last twelve months. i am keenly looking forward to hearing the latest releases from the following:

jesu, boards of canada, carcass, odd nosdam, the haxan cloak, arcade fire, low, billy woods & blockhead, cathedral, burial, bill callahan, dakota, tim hecker and many more …the tale is ongoing indeed…

top ten releases of 2013

as promised, i have managed to allow myself enough time to rifle through this last years’ archives in an attempt to isolate what i consider to be the best musical releases of the last twelve months. in truth, it proved to be quite a difficult task and so, following this list shall be another containing ‘most honourable mentions’, just to satisfy my completist tendencies.
still, after much agonising, i have managed to pare the list down to ten releases, spanning a wealth of styles and genres, from big-names to underground-heroes, from whistfully soothing to outrageously heavy; a splendid bunch indeed. so, might i request that you take a moment to put your feet up and have yourself a little perusal of the treats i have collected herein.
swordplay & pierre the motionless – tap water
despite some outrageously stiff competition, i would argue that this was my ‘most anticipated’ release of 2013, and would also probably have secured itself the top-spot, should i have buckled and reduced myself to listing them in my own order of greatness. not surprisingly ‘tap water’ has been featured on a lot of end-of-year lists and has received a good deal of press throughout the year and for good reason. for my own part, i was equally blown away by both swordplay and pierre the motionless from the first time i heard their sounds, and knew that this album would be something very, very special indeed. still, how they managed to outdo all of my expectations, bringing to the table a collection of impeccably crafted songs that come together to form a cohesive album in the most truest sense. in a modern age of rushed-releases, low quality albums and cobbled-together mixtapes, this release really highlights what can be accomplished artistically when truest craftsmen allow themselves the time to get it right. five stars, five mics, five cups of black tea. utterly essential.
koko blue – crosses and planks
the debut album from koko blue took me completely unexpectedly and had me absolutely fall in love with it almost directly. i had luckily managed to stumble upon news of the release and secured myself one of the most generous ‘free downloads’, found myself listening to it religiously and then was even more delighted to discover a limited edition cd version being released soonafter, which i naturally had to scoop up directly. the release coincided with the warmest weeks of the summer in the old world and how it soon became my soundtrack for days of riding to the lake by bicycle, gazing out over the shimmering waters, or relaxing in the soothing warmth of the evening, gentle breezes blowing through the window. thirteen songs so perfectly realised and not short of a few killer ‘singles’ too; the whole release a beautifully cohesive whole, wonderfully soothing, yet filled with a very real gravitas by way of the seemingly effortlessly penned texts relating tales of truly heartfelt moments. an utterly magical spell-binding album that i shall be sure to keep near me at all times as the years continue to race by. investigate immediately.
opium lord – the calendrical cycle – prologue : the healer
the horror. the outrage. i somehow very gladly managed to stumble upon the sounds of opium lord around the time of the promotional release of this two-track monster whilst in the ruhrgebiet working with dyxz on the beginnings of the dyxz.born.rndr extension of the throne burner project. somehow lurking on some dark metal blog these two songs absolutely exploded in my headphones and had me immediately pestering dyxz to audition them over the speakers. i can still vividly recall the looks on our faces as we were visibly shaken by the near-impossible magnificence of these utterly ruthless compositions. i have been a keen follower of the heaviest of sounds for more than twenty-years now, but the devastation of ‘heroin swirls’ and ‘street labs’ really did instill in me the kind of excitement i felt when first hearing ‘seasons in the abyss’ echo from within my sisters bedroom as a very young man. still, how a lovely sense of nostalgic pride washed over me to discover that they are a young set of gentlemen hailing from birmingham, uk; the birthplace of all that is metal; a fitting fact indeed. i hear tell that the debut album shall soon be upon us and how i’m honestly not sure that i have anticipated a metal release quite so heavily. if you like your death / doom / sludge / grind, then you need this. you really need this.
laska – laska
how very warming a feeling to be able to include a decorative stamp release on this list indeed, and what a majestic one too. i had been privy to the goings-on at the newly-formed laska camp and was keen to learn that their debut release was nearing completion and simply had to find myself asking very nicely if we could release it in conjunction with the stamp, and how graciously they did agree. three songs that hint at such vast worlds beyond, all shimmering with such a warm beauty; the perfect melodic work of rhys and amy, their magical twin-voices working in perfect unison and the whole being so effortless shaped together by the unbeatable treatments of the mighty beatoven. how the whole release gives me such a strong sense of some kind of identity that could be prescribed to modern electronic music hailing from the united kingdom, but which resonates with a tone of borderless understanding. of course, the always-staggering lyrics of rhys never fail to add the needed gravitas to such a release, and how their accents sure are pretty, but it is the way that the trio operate together, each displaying their greatest strengths that secures this outing a place in this list. wonderfully soothing, perfectly brooding, effortlessly hypnotic; magical indeed.
ghostface killah – twelve reasons to die
this year of our lord 2013 did indeed mark the twentieth anniversary release of the ’36 chambers’ and thusly marked my twentieth anniversary of being an undying fan of the ghostface killah, and what better way to be able to cherish this fact than revel in what quickly became one of my absolute favourite solo releases from the god himself. whilst the rest of the clan steadily let themselves descend into painful mediocrity i have always found myself to be very keen to hear what is to emerge next from ghostface and how ‘twelve reasons to die’ was a real treat indeed. forgiving the slightly hackneyed plot of this ‘concept album’, which is not so overbearing to detract from the whole, the release flows with such energy and gusto that one simply cannot help but be swept up in this new set of street tales which he unfolds. a great part of the credit must of course be given to one adrian younge for serving up some utterly staggering production that has the album hang together as the perfect foundation for ghostface to do his thing, made even more powerful by what appear to be genuinely enthused guest-spots from other members of the clan. still further, there is a wonderfully experimental nature to the release with some passages sounding truly bizarre; another welcome addition to the overall work. not world-changing, by wonderfully entertaining, and easily securing itself a place on this list.
run the jewels – run the jewels
i did find myself just a little late to the run the jewels party, but clearly needed to make my way there in my own time. as much as a few songs from the last el-p album really blew me away, i wasn’t feeling the whole release quite enough to get so very excited, and how i regrettably slept on killer mike’s ‘r.a.p music’, a fact which i have very gladly managed to remedy, which finally lead me full-circle onto this stunning release. now that the curious-surprise of el-p and killer mike joining forces is quite some ways behind us, all that is left is to marvel at how magical a combination they are together indeed. i am, of course, one of many graduates from the school of ‘funcrusher plus’ and have been a keen el-p listener since my late-teens and am always ready to hear his latest musical developments, and how this release is yet another fascinating excursion further into his steadily-evolving sound; always captivating and setting a masterful stage for raps that need to be very high quality to maintain the balance. gladly both gentlemen really do offer us some wonderfully captivating wordplay that does indeed keep the attention-level high at all times. this is the kind of quality that we should be able to expect from such hard-working artists and how reassuring and enjoyable that they should indeed deliver on such a scale.
the knife – shaking the habitual
a new album from the knife is always going to be a big deal, and how they are always guaranteed to confound, to mesmerise and to push boundaries as far as their immense reputation will allow. from the arc of their releases thusfar it would have been fair to predict that this latest album would be the ‘darkest’ and ‘weirdest’ yet and, to that end they certainly don’t dissapoint, but could any of us have been prepared for just quite how dark and weird it really is? one could even perhaps be forgiven for thinking that they really are just messing with us, given the utterly appalling album artwork, the audacious running-time and the bizarre juxtaposition of sounds, melodies and texts that make up this powerful collection. but, once allowing oneself to slowly soak up this immense body of work, the initial doubt, confusion and turmoil gives way to something incredible powerful, emotive and beautiful; masterstrokes indeed. i would be very willing to admit that this is quite easily the ‘most-challenging’ release on this list and really does demand a lot from the listener, but how wonderfully paradoxical that the most cerebral, most dense, most demanding release on this list is the only one that might find itself filed in the ‘dance’ section. joy.
my bloody valentine – mbv
any new release from my bloody valentine would surely guarantee its place on absolutely all end-of-year lists, even if it was only for the sake of hip-journalists trying desperately to cover their backs, but how they did indeed manage to unveil a ‘new’ collection of songs which does only serve to cement their reputation at the undisputed and much-imitated masters of shoegaze. the fact that the lions share of the material was written and perhaps even recorded but a few years after ‘bloody kisses’ can only be seen as a strong feature of this release. how the sound of their much-hallowed second album was so distinctive that the only way to perhaps satisfy listeners with a sequel would be to return directly to that source and continue to mine the depths therein, and how this release does exactly that; and somewhat effortlessly, it seems. mbv gets it exactly right, it is the perfect continuation of what we have all loved about the band for so long now, and only branches out a little into newer territory, enough to feel there has been a little development upon the path, but not too much to allow us to sense that they have wandered off in some direction influenced by the myriad on imitators that have taken their place in the intervening years. like stepping into the past, but through a new lens, somehow seeing everything splendid and anew.
dale cooper & the dictaphones – quatorze pièces de menace
another keenly anticipated release for this year, and one that did not disappoint. having been tuned onto the sounds of dale cooper & the dictaphones many years ago by the mighty fbcfabric, i have always been quick to reach for their music on frequent occasion and was thus over-the-moon to hear of fresh material on the horizon in the form of this new, sprawling release. once again we return to that effortlessly uneasy nocturnal world in which they invoke, and once again they slowly managed to expand the reach of their musical-magics by way of steadily drawing in more and more styles and feelings whilst still maintaining their own signature variant of the dark-jazz sound, as perfected by the masterful angelo badalamenti those long years ago now. still, here as with all their releases, it is the crisp and calculating electronic edge that pushes the whole in its own identifiable direction, and with such an ambitious running-time there is opportunity aplenty for them to explore their ever-altering whole to oftentimes mesmerising effect. how i sincerely hope that they may indeed be able to extend their listenership wider-still with this highly-polished release, that many more folk will be able to discover the delights of this powerful group of musicians.
walter gross – rotorcraft
utter, unspeakable devastation, always. walter gross is a name synonymous with monolithic noise terror, and rightly-so. anyone even vaguely interested in the possibities of sonic devastation within a beat context really ought accept that he has, by now, become a true master of the art indeed. how fortunate i found myself to be back in the spring to be able to play a show alongside the man himself at the legendary djazz in duisburg, north-west germany, and was treated to an utterly-relentless assault of a live performance which included cuts from this mighty release, and did indeed gratefully receive a copy of the release itself as a kind gift, for which i shall be eternally-grateful. ‘rotorcraft’ is an absolute bloody-mess of a release, spewing its gnarled and twisted guts all over the soundstage in horrific display after horrific display or sprawling noise-terror and frightening audio-threats, as if some kind of surreal nightmare with an all-too-real blackened core ready to burrow its way out into the waking day with each new distorted vocal-tone. this is scarcely music, more like some biologic-weaponry developed with the intent of purging sanity from fragile minds. one for anyone brave, or adept enough to travel to the darkest of regions.
so, there we have it. another wonderfully-mixed bag indeed; a little something for everyone perhaps. still, might i heartily recommend you investigate anything that tickles your fancy, as i will wholeheartedly stand by my opinion that each of the above releases is of the absolute highest quality indeed and without a doubt worth a good deal of your listening time.
again, thank you muchly for your time and attention, and how i do trust you might be finding yourself inspired to do a little investigation or re-celebrating from your own archives of the last year, and do expect a final list of ‘honourable mentions’ to follow; celebrating just a few more releases that i had to force myself to strip away from this short-list selection.

top ten ‘most-listened-to’ artists of 2013

so, as another year draws to a close, one finds oneself reflecting on this most-recent set of twelve moons now passed and all they have come to embody. as time permits, i am trying to allow myself the necessary moments to look back upon all that has transpired and to word a few of my own facts in the case, much for my own interest as well as your own reading pleasure.

how so much has transpired indeed, and how there is much to reflect on, to be sure. so, might i boldly begin with the jovial task of finding myself in a position to discover and indeed reveal my own top-ten ‘most-listened-to artists’ of 2013. calculated using the magic of my last.fm account, whilst factoring in my vinyl listening habits into the equation, the list reads thusly.

no. 10 : songs: ohia

a perennial top-ten artist for the last ten consecutive years; a fact that needs little explanation to the adept among us. but this year the entry swathed in impossible sadness. i can scarcely relate my own personal desperation at the knowledge of the passing of jason molina this year. if there was ever any one artist who so deftly captured the tortured pain of depression and the majestic beauty of efforts to fight its cruel embrace for my own personal voyage, then it would be he. listening to songs: ohia is, for me, a willingness to accept the unbearable weight of sadness, but to display a willingness to fight; to try to press on, ‘step by step through the black’, but how the understanding that he lost his own battle this year is a weight so hard to bare. may he finally be at peace, and may his songs stay with us until we reach our own inevitable end.
no. 09 : glenn miller

another perennial favourite, since my early childhood, when i first had the chance to audition my fathers’ vinyl edition of the jimmy stewart movie soundtrack of the glenn miller story. on to when my father and i would frequent the fairfield halls in croydon to take in the touring big bands still operating to this day. it is hard for me to step back and really assess the music of this, the most-celebrated of the big bands, for it is so intrinsically linked with my early childhood memories, my teenage years and onwards. often emerging from unlikely sources to always remind me of its power, ‘made cool’ again by david lynch with his movies and twin peaks successes, embelished with the nostalgic weight and significance of the war-time period, not least with the death in action of its leader. songs from an earlier time and place, made more innocent with the downward spiral we have witnessed since.
no. 08 : yo la tengo

another truly-perennial entry. yo la tengo is the band that i often cite as being my ‘favourite of all time’, a statement i can only logically prescribe to for the simple fact that their repertoire contains songs for almost every musical mood i can find myself in. from the most beautiful soothing ethereal pieces through to dark and a heavy dirges, by way of jazzy escapades, folksy moments of intimacy, waves of fuzzy shoegaze, country leanings and moments of sheer whimsy. i had the privilege of being introduced to their work by the near-legendary fbcfabric as our friendship was first beginning to blossom and how we have celebrated their work together ever since. still, for my own part, yo la tengo music is spring-time music, and how the binge beginning sometime when the light starts creeping into the month of march is always sure to secure a top-spot in my listening list for any given year.

no. 07 : helen forrest

surely a new entry into my ‘most-listened’ list, although it was early last year when i first began to procure myself rare 78 recordings from this most enchanting vocalist. her repertoire was vast indeed and how there are so many standards so effortlessly presented by her in collaboration with all of the big names of the swing-era, but for my own part, how the lions share of my listening has been taken up with just one recording; her rendition of ‘moon ray’ with artie shaw & his orchestra. i can scarcely imagine that there is anyone in the western lands who is unfamiliar with this piece, perhaps vitally or perhaps in a whistful dream of a childhood memory, but how i can only wholeheartedly recommend repeating listenings with a view to exploring more of her recorded catalogue; there are so many beautiful moments of time captured with early recording techniques for our own ongoing pleasure.
no. 06 : koko blue

the only entirely new entry on the list for 2013 and indeed the only music to actually have been released these past twelve moons. i had the distinct pleasure of getting to meet the enchanting miss koko bonapart in guelph, ontario whilst being on the ‘our accents sure are pretty’ tour back in the spring of 2009 and was quickly prompted of her songwriting prowess, but how it took my patient waiting until she unveiled the ‘crosses and planks’ album this year, and how it still managed to exceed all expectations. to say that i fell deeply in love with all of the songs contained therein would be the only way to do justice to my feelings for these wonderfully crafted pieces. the beautifully clear and simplistic production, the perfectly soothing melodies and then this impossibly rich and mesmerising voice. how my long summer months were spent bathed in the radiance of these hypnotically soothing sounds, and given such deeper resonance with the weight of the finely-crafted words therein.
no. 05 : philip glass

philip glass seems like a name i have been familiar with my whole life, but i imagine the first chance i had to sit and listen to his music was at age sixteen, when a copy of his ‘low symphony’ fell into my hands, or perhaps dare i mention when i watched ‘candyman’ for the first time. the scenes are a little blurred now, but they were enough for me to show great enthusiasm when fbcfabric mentioned his name for the first time and kindly shared with me a few more of his masterful works. still, as much as i am always ready to audition any number of his works it is still always his work on ‘the hours’ soundtrack that ensures his continued presence in my ‘most-listened’ list. it really is one of those rare recordings that i can listen to on repeat all day and all night. his immediately indentifiable style presented in such a warm and powerful fashion, cascading pianos and strings forever altering and changing their collective shape, a constant undulating set of waves to lull and stir in equal measure. hypnotic, mesmerising, soothing and rousing; absolute perfection indeed.
no. 04 : ornette coleman

most-likely a new-entry for this years’ list, but an artist that has been on my periphery vision for many long years now. how i must have first been drawn to his exceptional talent as a boy of fourteen or fifteen watching david cronenbergs film adaptation of william s burroughs’ ‘naked lunch’ and being immediately struck by the wildly-disorientating tones and patterns. of course i understood that it was ‘jazz’ at the time, perhaps even ‘free-jazz’, but it seemed like such a revelation to me; a revelation that has wonderfully haunted me since. still, my path back to his work has been slower than i would have imagined until it finally began to blossom these few years past til it finally reached full-bloom as the spring became the summer this year now passed. but what can be written about such a legendary figure? should you be adept then you will understand immediately, but should the moment still not be upon you, then do allow yourself the chance to let the music start to soak in; there is impossible magical waiting in the strange half-light.

no 03 : the andrews sisters

of all the great vocal-jazz groups of the swing-era, the andrews sisters must surely be the most well-reknowned, and with good reason indeed. three sisters; laverne, patty and maxine, operating alongside the glenn miller orchestra and a wealth of other big-band greats, performed unrivaled concerts and recorded an absolute wealth of vintage recordings during their fantastically successful career, and how we are to this day so lucky to be able to still cherish these magical slices of history and time for our own listening pleasure and musical journeys. there can be no denying that their music is from a different time, a different world indeed, but one that still resonates so strongly into this modern, meaningless world, and one that offers such timeless themes wrapped within a wonderfully sweet and charming whole. for my own listening pleasures, the ‘chesterfield broadcasts’ with the glenn miller orchestra are the truest delight to be found within their catalogue and the lions’ share of listenings that have them featured so highly in this list.

no. 02 : the boswell sisters

surely the only vocal-jazz group worthy of ranking a place above the andrews sisters can only be reserved for the true originals; new orleans’ very own boswell sisters. beginning their highly-celebrated recorded careers at tender ages in the early 1930’s after already successful performance careers from the very youngest of ages in their native city, the three sisters essentially invented what could be done with their art and at the same time re-wrote every rule for their own creative ends. they were the only vocal-group who were allowed to manipulate the standards in their own desired style and how the results are bewitching to say the least. should you simply be a music scholar wishing to study melodic technique, phrasing, timing and the like, or should you simply wish to be swept up in the magic of their catalogue, one cannot fail to marvel at their impeccable resume. yet still, the fact that absolute legends such as ella fitzgerald spoke of their massive influence can only reveal the facts in the case of their status to be irrefutable.

no. 01 : howard shore & ornette coleman

this combination of artists can only mean one thing; the soundtrack to david cronenberg’s 1991 film adaptation of ‘naked lunch’ by the omnipotent william s burroughs. i can confess, after repeated viewings over many years, to being rather partial to the movie, although certain elements, most-notably the last ten minutes, always disappoints me bitterly; but the soundtrack is something completely different again. from my first listenings via the film itself from that young age and across the subsequent years, to finally being able to procure a copy of the soundtrack itself, i have been utterly mesmerised by the sounds therein. this fascinatingly harmonious union of two absolute masters of their craft, coming together to create something that really does raise their own individual arts to even greater height is a magical event that could indeed only have come about due to the needs of this film adaptation by one great of yet another. still, harmonious unison could surely be much better predicted in this meeting of musical minds than the failed experiment that is cronenberg sourcing burroughs untouchable masterpieces. let us put the film aside, press play on the disc and enter our own personal interzone for a brief tenure of emotive exploration.

so, there we have it. a nicely curious collection of artists, and how i can do nothing but wholeheartedly recommend you taking some time to explore any and all on this list for your own personal experience, or perhaps i might simply have been able to nudge you into revisiting some of these treasures from your own archives. how there can be little greater pleasure to be had within the musical arts than to spend some time auditioning some of the very best quality music at ones disposal indeed… and here’s to the constant state of ongoing exploration into further depths of artistry and creative odyssey.
might i briefly take a moment to thank you for your interest, and how i shall boldly also hint that i am currently compiling a list of my ‘top releases of 2013’ for your amusement and delectation too. how there has been a wealth of staggering new music this year, and how i very much intend to take a moment to celebrate some of this young material that has emerge since last we cast our thoughts back across the long moons. so, please do stay tuned, and here’s to the ongoing, to the onwards and upwards. sending all the love.