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1997 Rewind: Vote Round Open

It's uncharted territory for us, as we didn't do a readers poll in 1997, but the time has come.

Vote round is now open!

This vote round will be open until December 15th. After that we will hopefully be ready to tackle the 2018 year in music. We appreciate all the readers who have taken the poll seriously over the years. Please continue to show respect for the staff and contributors to brainwashed and the work that goes into these polls. Hating and ballot-stuffing is uncool and swiftly deleted.

Thanks again for your attention and participation.


Bloom Offering, "Episodes"

cover image When Jim Haynes, head of the always fascinating Helen Scarsdale Agency, told me he would be releasing an almost pop record on the label, I was a bit surprised.  Here is a label that, over the past 15 years, has perfected the sound of rusting, rotting audio.  But with recent Ekin Fil releases hinting at a growing interest in musicality, the idea began to seem less bizarre.  The first proper vinyl album from Nicole Carr (also known as Bloom Offering) fits perfectly in this niche.  More conventional sounding than usual, but still experimental and challenging in its own way, it is a brilliant record that stands out among the best albums this year.


Howard Stelzer, "Across the Blazer"

cover image The latest work from New England's legendary tape manipulator (presented on CD, in a bit of irony) is another work in a series of releases that reflects his more meditative, contemplative side.  Like the somewhat recent Dawn Songs tape, Across the Blazer features Stelzer using his array of tape machines to construct vast expanses of sound, less about bent motors or mangled tape, but more the enveloping warmth of analog imperfection.  The end product is surprisingly inviting and relaxing, words that are rarely apt descriptors of something generally labeled as "noise".


"Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music"

cover imageThere are a number of great labels unearthing and breathing new life into forgotten treasures, but it is truly rare for anyone to match Dust-to-Digital when it comes to presentation and sheer comprehensiveness.  Each major release feels like an event years in the making, certain to send at least one circle of obsessive music fans scavenging for additionally extant releases by an eclectic array of previously unknown or obscure artists.  This latest opus is an especially big hit with me, collecting a remastered trove of '50s East and Central African rumba recordings by South African/English musicologist Hugh Tracey.  I had no doubt that these recordings would be unique and historically important, but I was legitimately blindsided by how incredibly fun these songs can be, often resembling a raucous, inebriated, and Latin-tinged street party where everyone knows all the words to every song and nearly everyone seems to have inexplicably brought along a kazoo.


Kelly Moran, "Optimist"

cover image New York based composer and pianist Kelly Moran has been quickly developing a body of work that rich and complex with not just piano and electronics, but also her exceptional and nuanced approach to production and sound design as well.  The instrumentation of Optimist may seem basic:  all nine songs feature piano (prepared and unprepared) and some additional synthesizer and electronics, but the finished product has so much more depth than it would seem.  It comes together as a fully realized, gorgeously diverse series of compositions.


Manchester Bulge, "2001-2012 Retrospective"

cover image It seems like any American city (or even large-ish town) has at least one local noise band.  Perhaps it is the ubiquity of the Internet or a handful of Wolf Eyes and Merzbow albums that received some significant hype and distribution, but what was once a style that was baffling to most is on par with punk or hardcore as far as local representation goes.  Manchester Bulge, hailing from Fargo, North Dakota, preceded this American noise band explosion (or sloppy outburst, depending on perspective) though, dating back to 2001.  This collections captures a band at the forefront of what somehow managed to become a scene and makes for an excellent window into one town’s premiere noise project.


Podcast Episode 398 & 399: December 2, 2018

We're plunging into 1997 with the latest two episodes of Brainwashed Radio: The Podcast Edition.

There's so much awesome music from 1997 that it would be a great disservice to only present an hour of music, so it has been split up into two episodes.

Music comes from Panasonic, Trans Am, Labradford, Nurse With Wound & Aranos, Laika, Dark Magus, Mouse On Mars, Aerial M, Low, Scala, GusGus, Fridge, Can, The Sea And Cake, He Said Omala, Songs: Ohia, Godflesh, Jessamine, Scorn, Bowery Electric, The Third Eye Foundation, and Windy & Carl.

Thanks for listening and don't forget to vote in the Brainwashed Annual Readers Poll: 1997 Rewind!

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Forced Exposure New Releases for 12/3/2018

New music is due from Wendy Eisenberg, Chandra, and Merzbow with the Opening Performance Orchestra, while old music is due from Just-Ice, Scientist, and Jade.


Peter Brötzmann/Heather Leigh, "Sparrow Nights"

cover imageThis first studio album from the formidable duo of Peter Brötzmann and Heather Leigh took me an unexpectedly long time to warm to, as it was not at all what I was expecting (skwonking and rapturous free-form flame-throwing).  Instead, Sparrow Nights is something considerably more stark, novel, and challenging, unfolding as a uniquely surreal fantasia of alternately gnarled and lyrical saxophone passages over a disorientingly woozy and shifting bed of blurred pedal steel.  That said, there are a few comparatively volcanic eruptions of catharsis to found as well, yet the true genius of this album lies primarily in its sprawling and immersive strangeness.  As a cumulative and complete work, Sparrow Nights achieves the transcendent indulgence of prime My Cat is an Alien, leaving me feeling weirdly drugged, disoriented, and transformed by the time the last notes fade.  That is not a particularly lucrative or instantly gratifying niche, obviously, but Sparrow Nights is more of a legitimate event than it is a mere album.


"African Scream Contest Vol. 2: Benin 1963-1980"

cover imageTen years ago, Analog Africa released the landmark African Scream Contest, an album that instantly established the fledgling label as one of the most intriguing and distinctive imprints in the global crate-digging milieu.  It was not exactly a perfect album, but it was certainly a perfect and resounding statement of intent, plunging deep into an eclectic vein of forgotten African funk outside the celebrated regions documented by Soundway, Strut, and Ethiopiques.  To celebrate that auspicious anniversary, Samy Ben Redjeb has released one hell of a sequel.  Sadly, it will not make quite the same impact as its predecessor, as a new label can only burst onto the scene once, but African Scream Contest 2 is actually the superior album in many ways.  Admittedly, some people will be disappointed that a bit of the weirdness and rough edges have been sanded away, which is a category that I would normally expect myself to fall into.  Redjeb has gotten significantly better at his job over the last decade though and that definitely shows here, as this latest installment is pared down to a wall-to-wall feast of tight grooves and great hooks that never overstays its welcome.

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Review of the Day

For their Warp Records debut, Antipop present a 7 track EP that's done spinning in less than 17 minutes. Warp may seem like a strange place for an MC trio to be, but APC's hip hop is as electronic and forward thinking as anything else on the label. NYC's Beans, Priest and Sayid fastidiously flow mile a minute rhymes, as always, and are as involved in the sparse yet phat production as producer/engineer/arranger/mixer Earl Blaize. "Tuff Gong" gets right up in your face quick, Sayid letting you know within the minute that he "have the need to tell what I see". "Splinter" is as close as you'll get to verse chorus verse but like "Vector", it's a bit too laden with annoying synth notes. Moog and synth lines help propel the instrumental future funk groove of "Dystopian Disco Force". In "39303," Priest testifies, "I write like a man who can't read / feelin' the need / to seize his mind of reason / I spit treason / MCs in season / vets freezin' / I rap like there's nothin' left to believe in / clumsily uneven," seconds before his voice is panned to one channel and digital gurgles fill the opposite one. Next, "Pit," disorients with 2 minutes worth of veering tones, off/on beeps and ping pong ball percussion, then "Perpendicular" adds another 2 minutes of tasty piano and atmosphere enhanced hip hop beats. This disc is all over the place, much like an APC album, but it's all the more obvious in such a short time span. And unfortunately, I'd say only 4 tracks are really necessary (but hey, it's only ~$7) so here's looking forward to the debut album for Warp set to drop early next year. In the meantime, get "Tragic Epilogue" and "Shopping Carts Crashing" if'n you don't already have 'em.



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