Now That’s What I Call 2017!

It’s been one hell of a year, not just for music, but in general. Christ it was tough going, but from this burlap sack shit came some golden discoveries, shared here because I discovered them this year, though they may have come out earlier, because that’s how music works.

Slowly Building Weapons – Sunbirds (Art As Catharsis)

This is hardly surprising as I did the write-up on it for Astral Noize magazine’s Top 20 of this year, but I was only able to do that because it was a truly staggering piece of work. Legions ahead of their 11 year old debut Nausicaa, Sunbirds was amazing partly because it got made at all, its imposing shadow writ gargantuan across my sonic earscape. An essential record for any number of reasons, if you don’t check this out you are a donkey.

OmAdvaitic Songs (Drag City)

Yes, it’s from 2012, but I didn’t spend any time with this masterpiece until this year, and it became the record I listened to the most without exception. From beginning to end, the spirit of Advaitic Songs fed directly into my bloodstream and fed my very being, its total dedication to what it was being majestically inspiring in itself. This is a tremendous example of one of those records that’s extremely easy to listen to but very hard to play, due in no small part to the perfect rhythmic presence of Emil Amos of Grails on drums. Transcendent.

Probably NotThe Same Pain (Circle House)

I caught this band at the Cavern in Exeter by accident, as I was there to see Dead Ground, who were also very good, but Probably Not were incredible. No banter, supremely intense and honest and with the songs to back up not facing the crowd, The Same Pain was a true joy to experience. The fact that they’d only been a band for 5 months by the time this record was made gave me hope; hope that bands like this could still form and make records. Honestly brilliant, and I can’t wait for more out of them.

Piss VortexFuture Cancer (Indisciplanarian)

A band that I listened to because of their ace/terrible name while trawling through videos from Obscene Extreme, this Danish quartet broke my face. Of the records I’ve heard, Future Cancer was a hair ahead of their other material, which is all excellent. A worryingly thrilling sound that owes as much to the likes of Breach as it does to crust, Coalesce and breakneck grind, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough to fans of extreme music if this was the only extreme band in existence. Staggering.

Kikagaku MoyoHouse In The Tall Grass (GuruGuru Brain)

Floating out of Japan with the grace of a muslin curtain, I discovered this fabulous team of throwbacks when I started getting back into Bandcamp again. There’s loads of top stuff on this label, but I spun House In The Tall Grass every day for a fortnight upon hearing it at first, and revisited it for the remainder of the year. Completely devoid of brutality in any form, this encapsulated everything I wanted from old psych, right down the production. If you’ve got a drive to take somewhere and you need to feel peace and excitement at once, this is the record for you. Great.

 

Convulsing/Siberian Hell SoundsSplit (Art As Catharsis)

The second entry from the Australian label in this list (who also put out Hashashin’s magnificent opus this year), this split was fucking outrageous. Listening to Convulsing’s Engraved Upon Bleached Bone first was like undergoing major surgery while getting a serious kicking, and I was genuinely concerned that this would be a one horse race, but Siberian Hell Sounds’ The Breath Of The Beast was equally enthralling and fierce, the 40 minute run time felt like about 60 seconds. 60 seconds in a burning building, but 60 seconds all the same. Colossal.

BeastwarsThe Death Of All Things (Destroy)

Directly responsible for restoring my faith in sludge and doom after a good couple of years chasing those musical dragons, the New Zealand quartet’s third record was an oddly elegant effort, with no dead wood and a welcome, likeable character. Broad of sound and with proper songsThe Death Of All Things reminded me of how I felt when I discovered Ahab’s game-changing The Divinity Of Oceans. A tremendous record to listen to when doing just about anything, the news of their singers’ ailing health and a subsequent Instagram post showing that they were back playing together was one of the best moments of the year. Super.

Hobo MagicThe World Today

This Australian trio delivered a massive shot in the arm despite their awful name. From the initial seconds of Follow The Holy Riff, this album delivered at least two trucks of The Goods, devoting its every moment to being as meatily rewarding as possible. Even I felt proud of this record and I had nothing to do with it. Resplendent in its hulking size, The World Today is pair of open arms hugging you into The Riff, not just the in melodic terms but in spirit. Giant.

DiocletianGesundrian

One of the most compelling listens I’ve had all year came to light in the last few days, a direct result of delving into the New Zealand scene through gig posters, blog posts and internet radio recommendations. Gesundrian is a monstrously oppressive sounding album, the fourth from these deathly kings. Blasting like cannon across a bloodied, muddy battlefield, Diocletian seem intent on demonstrating how it feels to be trampled by rampant horses through sound alone. Where many have tried and failed, Diocletian sound like heavy sword combat without a shred of irony but plenty of iron. Unyielding.

Hopefully you enjoyed my list, though it’s unlikely you would if you like Waylon Jennings or Lil Pump, but if that’s your jam, hey, you go.

The Way Of Things – First Kick At The Ball

The first episode of The Way Of Things was a triumph in itself; a distillation of no only my personal music history, but an introduction to the whole idea of this marvelous show and yes, it is god-damn marvelous. This began a year-long crusade for local bands, extremity, and the abolition of the notion of the guilty pleasure.

It also marked the beginning of a shift in my depression, my view of myself as a person of worth, and an untold amount of shit happening behind the scenes that I won’t mention here.

The Bottom Half

Like most of you, I see people write things online that make me very angry. Not sad, not disappointed, but angry. Angry not because they have said those things, or for their lack of understanding, callousness or ignorance, but because regardless how heinous the declaration, not matter how cretinous, impossible, or untrue the statement, someone will get into it with them, creating a turbulent pocket of needless discourse.

‘Needless’ is perhaps a casual term for something profoundly important, and yet ineffectual at the same time; it is essential that human beings have debate, that we don’t all agree with one another, as this approach, if literally applied, would bring stagnation. Imagine if every statement made was unilaterally agreed upon – would we ever move forward? ‘Guys, the earth is flat’. ‘Well that’s that done. Cool.’

Of course this is an extreme example, but there’s nothing wrong with the principle. However, when debate exists between two or more people with no effect other than to piss each other off, nothing is achieved other than the strengthening of the resolve behind those ideas. What makes matters worse is when we start name calling, or even worse, using hateful slurs.

This is the golden age of the Asshole, where everyone has both the right and the opportunity to say whatever the hell they want, whether it needed to be said or not. In fact, the more it didn’t need to be said, the more likely you are to find it. If you want a neat synopsis of this, go and read any of the comments on trumps’ Twitter feed, pick up your jaw, and come back to this post.

Some of the things I’ve read even in the last couple of hours are incredible. Click on any picture, any video of anything, and there’s a fight going on. If the video says ‘I Love The Colour Blue!’, scroll down and you’ll be see someone saying ‘so u h8 purple u f*g lol fuk u’, or alluding to their religion, skin colour, clothing, height, fiscal circumstances, mental ability, upbringing, parentage, taste, or any number of the other things that we as a species deem worthy as avenues for direct hatred.

The Bottom Half of The Internet, as a friend of mine once described it to me, is a miasmic, turbulent pool, where grievances are aired in their millions. Post occurs. You get mad, and reply. Sneering/hateful/violent response is issued. You get madder. Your measured/condescending/pious reply gets up the arse of the person/people on the other end, and you spend the next hour locked in rampant conflict with a total stranger; meaningless because you’re trying to change the mind of someone who is absolutely not interested in changing their opinion, the same way you’re not budging on what you think.

Once, and only once, I posted the most innocuous of comments on a video on YouTube, only to receive the most unbelievable abuse from a total stranger, which escalated to threats of violence and assertions that I was an unclean lady’s body part among many, many other things. It was at this time that I decided that I could experience a lot of the internet without interacting with it, and have kept to this, outside of Facebook.

Because on Facebook, you’re fighting with your friends, or at the very least, people you’ve met or know, and so there is an inherent accountability. Fighting with strangers on Twitter, or some of the horrific stuff I’ve read on Tumblr or Instagram, seems to be infused with this idea that there are no consequences for anything you say, where anyone who disagrees with you opens themselves to as much bile as you can squeeze into the character limit.

The next time you find yourself drawn into this sort of behaviour, close the program, and think about what you’re doing. You’re not a great political leader trying to solve a humanitarian crisis. You’re on the toilet, telling a racist that they shouldn’t be a racist, which is like telling a tree not to be made of wood.

If you want to make a difference, don’t be a penis to other people because you can, or shout down anyone who disagrees with you. Recognise that those individuals who spout hateful polemic online have no courage to do it in real life, and they’re posting it online because you can’t punch them in the face from there.

This doesn’t mean your cause isn’t just, honest, or right, but the best way to make a change in the world is to do it in real life, so go out there and do it.