The year has ended and I now present the No-Core Best of 2012 list! Or as it may more accurately be named, the albums I should have reviewed in 2012 round-up. Despite 2011 being The Year the Noise-Rock Bubble Burst, there was a load of killer noise-rock/no-wave in 2012, including several exciting NEW bands. This list is in no particular order, and I didn’t limit myself to any number.
Mincemeat or Tenspeed “The Tower”
I keep wondering when the larger noise world will discover that Mincemeat or Tenspeed is about the best thing going on. Is it because his noise just rocks too hard or his shows are too much FUN that Davey Mincemeat has still not been on the cover of WIRE magazine or whatever? No clue, but you’d be wise to grab this free digital album. Supposedly it’s a “metal” album and I guess it does lean on the heavy sounds and seems roughly in 4/4 time, not that there are any recognizable instruments anywhere in sight, just Davey’s table of pedals spitting out this rhythmic headbanger.
Alexander Moskos, ex- of AIDS Wolf, doing his (mainly) solo project thing. Creepy, fractured, deconstructed rock songs. The midway point between 1st album Royal Trux and 1st album Wolf Eyes? Loose and very focused at the same time. Drainolith pulls at the loose threads of rock music and creates a beautifully tangled mess.
Maybe like me, just saying this band is ex-members of Dazzling Killmen and My Name is Rar-Rar is enough to sell you on them. But if not, here’s what you get. Buzzsaw math-shred riffs, a blizzard of weirdtronics sounds, and hard, complex drum patterns. It all blows by in a whirlwind, but everything is carefully composed and expertly executed.
The Sediment Club “Time Decay Now”
These NYC (now Providence) No Wave torch-bearers have just been getting better and better. Still young dudes, and this being their debut full-length, I’m excited for their future. This album is packed with that No Wave/Post-Punk sound that feels instantly classic, even if you can’t peg them as sounding quite like any one band. There’s plenty of Contortions and Bush Tetras in there, but it’s lively and fresh with new ideas too.
Harry Pussy “One Plus One”
A double album of unreleased Harry Pussy music? SOLD! Actually, some of this material appeared on singles which appeared on the “What Was Music” comp, but here everything is carefully sequenced into a really cohesive and listenable album. That is, as long as you love boombox-fidelity blasts of chaotic guitar anti-playing, drum pounding, and shrieking. (of course you do) Actually, this album does highlight Bill Orcutt’s very unorthodox guitar skills and the band’s chemistry and vibe. I’d call this release ESSENTIAL.
Profligate “Come Follow Me”
Despite the haters dismissing noise people’s attempts at electronic music as “techno,” this album from Noah Anthony’s solo project (previously of Social Junk, also of a batch of stellar noise combos) has more in common with electronic pioneers like Kraftwerk and John Carpenter. It’s a dark and thrilling vibe, and Profligate nails the mood with every track. Maybe it’s the grime and grit and texture added by Noah’s second-(or third)-hand gear that makes this all sound so nice, but it is by no means sterile or clean. No matter how crisp those kick drums and handclaps are, you can tell this music is coming from a Philadephia basement.
I’ve told you before how amazing this band is, right? And how much this album was going to rule, right? Okay, just wanted to make sure I got my credit for knowing what’s what before everyone is singing the praises of Divorce. This album falls somewhere between Doomsday Student and the Melvins. Thee heaviest bass guitar sound of all time, with harsh and sharp guitar attack, some really stellar and creative heavy drumming, and vocals that go from garbled crooning to blood-curdling shriek. Well-paced with some tone-setting tracks, everything is on point, this is powerful stuff. I also must give kudos to the recording and mastering. Somehow everything sounds crystal clear and loud as hell. Please, please help this band become popular enough to justify a U.S. tour.
Normal Love “Survival Tricks”
Ambitious No Wave chamber music rock. Live, Normal Love all read sheet music when they play these bonkers compositions. Dropping the word “math” in here would imply some kind of music that you could count to, and “prog” would imply some kind of foundation in recognizable rock. Everything is precise and composed but don’t expect a backbeat, or a riff, or a melody. This is the classical music people listen to in a parallel universe where Fat Worm of Error are The Beatles.
Guerilla Toss “Jeffrey Johnson”
Let me assure you that, despite that album cover, this is not freak-folk music. It does sound like some members of this band went to music school, and I can almost imagine freaky folkers being into this, but the feel here is distinctly on the abrasive side. I’d put this halfway between the previously mentioned Normal Love and Coughs. When they do throw down in a groove, it’s gnarly and heavy, with screeched out vocals and clamorous guitars. A lurching, leaping beast of a band that’s also surprisingly nimble. Almost reminiscent of Soul Discharge era Boredoms (which really should send you scrambling for that link). I can’t tell if their claim that their next album will be on Tzadik is a joke or not…
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion “Meat + Bone”
I’ve always loved this band, though I haven’t been super-crazy about every album they’ve done. This new album focuses on their strengths, which is the chemistry these three musicians have when they play together. It also leaves out all the stuff that (in my opinion) never worked for them: trying to make songs that could get on the radio or making Jon Spencer into a singer. He’s a great shouter, frontman, hype man, but just not a great singer. On this record the guitars do all the singing, Spencer is MC, and it’s all short blasts of high-energy rock. This is the album I’ve flipped and listened to repeatedly the most in 2012. That’s right, it’s rock’n'roll. I think I put the word rock’n'roll somewhere in the official No-Core description – I reserve the right to rock.
Buy from the band
or I don’t know, Amazon.com?
If you like deep analog synth exploration and harrowing doom metal in equal measures, I think I’ve found your new jam. Vocalist/synthist Jane Vincent (ex-Abiku) is also one of the strongest singers in any extreme music genre.
The Dreebs “Bait an Orchard”
This album might not fully capture the captivating tension of a live Dreebs show, but it’s still an excellent document of their music. Violin, prepared guitar, and drums stir up a clamorous, but strangely soothing, racket – with a distinctly 80s NYC avant-guitar vibe. Reminds me at times of Branca, Mars, and “Confusion is Sex” Sonic Youth. More floating and melodic and textural than any of those, but with some rude wake-up moments. Maybe it’s time for sonic explorers to look into stringed instruments again, because the Dreebs are weaving magic with them. It’s not as if we haven’t also had multiple decades of synth knob twiddling and FX-chain slapping.
Listen/Download from Bandcamp
The label’s website seems to be down. No LP for you.
Mutwawa “Lamashtu Pazuzu”
With this release, the samples & FX duo Mutwawa sharpen up their noise-dance chops, and turn out some music that you could almost imagine moving bodies in the club. And causing everyone to rush the DJ booths wondering what kind of weird lost classic is playing. This lives somewhere between the worlds of post-punk/funk, original Detroit techno, and ’00s electro-noise. This is alive with the energy of discovery, of figuring out how to make a new style of music for the first time. Maybe the elements have been discovered before but never in quite this way, and rarely does music sound this fresh and raw. I also choose this as best album cover art (by Joe Legzz).
Microwaves “Psionic Impedance”
This album I did manage to review this year, but it still deserves a slot on this list. The OTHER sci-fi avant-math-metal duo (besides Xaddax) to put out an album this year and both were amazing.
Trin Tran “Dark Radar”
I think I did one of those cartoon double-takes when I saw that this album was coming out! Trin Tran is a one-man band featuring an ex-member of LEGENDARY 90′s Now Wave band Xerobot. This project has existed maybe as far back as 2000? but only a few songs have ever made it out to the public. Thank GOD? (“GOD?” being the name of the record label imprint that released this) for this collection of all the early Trin Tran recordings. Jerky, spazzy, robot rock that’s not too dissimilar to what other ex-Xerobotters were doing with their band Numbers. Trin Tran is onto a new, fuller and more rock’n'roll(?) sound these days, but I’m really glad these recordings got the release they deserve.
Aaron Dilloway “Modern Jester”
This has been on a lot of lists, probably because Dilloway is a respected and accomplished experimentalist and this is something of a magnum opus and “best of” double album. The thing I remember most clearly from my first listen was that I kept checking the turntable to make sure this wasn’t in a locked groove. That title, “Modern Jester,” and the fact that this features a lot of loops of exactly 33 RPM length, made me sure I was going to be pranked by some trick before albums end, but no! Or – was I pranked after all? I’m not that crazy on loops, and almost left this off my own list, but gave it a couple more spins recently and discovered all kinds of weird, subtle things happening within those loops. (there are lots of other techniques employed here too) Now I feel like I have to listen again to figure out what I was hearing, and evoking that response is a big win in my book. Music to make you think something is wrong your record player – or just your mind.
Lightning Bolt “Oblivion Hunter”
We all know Lightning Bolt, and we all know they rule, right? But this record is still one of the best of the year, a collection of practice space recordings that never got developed into songs – but are still some of my new favorite Lightning Bolt songs! Bands are great when they’re the result of unique and magical chemistry between members. The fact that the two Brians of Lightning Bolt simply jammed this material is further proof of what a great thing they have going on. (now I really hope I did understand the concept behind this album correctly)
Sister Fucker “California”
If you’re a sucker for harsh, lo-fidelity noise-rock, then man oh man, are you in luck! Seriously impressive heavy jams from this band, featuring members of other notables (but as I’m still confused about the lineage, I’m not going to try). Recommended if you like early Pussy Galore, Coughs, and jeez I’ve tried to avoid mentioning Harry Pussy in every review but I’ve got to play that card with this one. I’m genuinely impressed by the insane noises that are conjured with only (I think) guitar, distortion, and some crude techniques. I love everything about this band and album (except the band name, sorry).
Black Dice “Mr. Impossible”
This is the year I checked back in with Black Dice and found them making some totally fun noise-party songs. Garbled, squelchy sounds everywhere and bouncing drum machine beats, packed into a solid batch of song-length jams. Sounds pretty good, right? Sounds a bit like what Skoal Kodiak are doing, but without the live rhythm section.
Infants “Giant Leg”
LATE ADDITION! I don’t know how I forgot this when I first hit publish, but this album was definitely one of my happiest finds of this year. The Infants were some sort of multi-national group (based mainly in England I think?) who did a single in the mid-2000s and I was really, really excited about them. Apparently they split in 2009, but this completed LP just came out! Recommended if you like: Brainiac, Melt-Banana, Pre, and I don’t know if anyone’s going to recognize this one, but who remembers Space Streakings?! Hyperactive ADD freak-out rock, with guitars, synths, noises, lots of various accents shouting over the top of one another. Hairpin turns, heavy riffs, adrenalin. Recommended!
I did have to cut myself off from writing about albums at some point. There’s stuff I haven’t heard. There are some other albums that ruled:
Buck Gooter “Consider the Grackles”
Ed Schrader’s Music Beat “Jazz Mind”
Krallice “Years Past Matter”
White Suns “Sinews”
High on Fire “De Vermis Mysteriis”
Dick Neff “Dork Morph”
Lazy Magnet “Acts Without Error”
Some notable singles:
Whore Paint “Menarchy” 7″
fierce Providence feminist noise rock (and side note, who thought feminism would still be a radical idea in 2012?)
Wretched Worst “Funeral Burning” 7″
in theory a rock band, sounds like a scrap yard being demolished with an angry bear on vocals.
Buy from Husk Records
Eric Copeland & DJ Dog Dick “BYOB” 7″
That’s how it was credited on the label the record store put there. Sounds like it’s probably those dudes, but no identifying marks. This sounds like a fun but really weeeeird party happening.
Get it from … UNKNOWN!
Cellular Chaos “Cellular Chaos” digital single
3 tracks from Weasel Walter’s new No Glam band. You’ll want to hear this.
Listen/download from bandcamp
and I may be biased but…
This EP from Radio Shock came out this year and I think it’s pretty good. ;)