2022 Annual Readers Poll: The Results

The Brainwashed Readers Poll aims to be set apart by other online music polls. The staff and contributors aren't here to dictate to readers what we think people should be enjoying, we welcome the community to voice their opinion, and then we add our bits and pieces after.

Thanks again to all who have taken part in this year's Readers Poll. And thanks to all for your patience as this was the first year voting began after the year ended. Lots of surprises this year but keep in mind we all have been voting on what we liked and the items that seem to overlap the most with people rise to the top. See something missing? Sorry, it's a readers poll, participate more next year!

And here they are:

Shebang

Album of the Year

  1. Oren Ambarchi, "Shebang" (Drag City)
    "A deserving winner! Probably my favorite album from Ambarchi's more fusion-inspired rhythm-driven era." — Anthony D'Amico
    "The breadth of Ambarchi's catalog can be quite intimidating, especially as he is historically defying genres, classifications, and expectations. His previous recordings with Johan Berthling might have been somewhat of an indication for what to expect, along with the other release on Drag City from this year, but I was completely unprepared for how amazing this album is." — Jon Whitney

  2. Caterina Barbieri, "Spirit Exit" (Light-Years)
    "Her development as a composer and arranger is nothing short of spectacular. This is a magnificent album." — Jon Whitney
    "The Italian synth sorceress lets some dance and pop elements into her world of hypnotic arpeggios and spacy, neon-lit futurism. I especially loved "At Your Gamut" and its chopped-up techno deconstruction ("Terminal Clock"). Anthony D'Amico

  3. Lucrecia Dalt, "¡Ay!" (RVNG Intl.)
    "I definitely did not expect Dalt to drop a sexy sci-fi tropical album last year, nor did I expect it to feel like such an effortless and natural direction for her. Hopefully a similarly sensuous companion album from Aaron Dilloway is not far behind." — Anthony D'Amico

  4. Bitchin Bajas, "Bajascillators" (Drag City)
    "Bitchin Bajas historically delve too far into the new age side of the psychedelia spectrum for my taste, but the 'tropical Steve Reich' magic of 'Amorpha' won me over on this one." — Anthony D'Amico

  5. Bill Orcutt, "Music For Four Guitars" (Palilalia)
    "Four tracks means four times as much Bill Orcutt. Yet another dazzling and sometimes surprising opus from an avant-guitar visionary on one hell of a hot streak." — Anthony D'Amico

  6. The Soft Pink Truth, "Is It Going To Get Any Deeper Than This?" (Thrill Jockey)
    "Drew Daniel rounds up a murderers' row of collaborators for an endearingly sincere disco homage. Gets a bit trippier and more eclectic than the EP, but its similarly great (and fun as hell)." — Anthony D'Amico
    "Drew has continued in the trajectory from the last album to construct something even more epic and mature. But even when I tried to give him this compliment in person he snickered, so I'm glad he still considers SPT his space to have fun." — Jon Whitney

  7. Matmos, "Regards/Ukłony dla Bogusław Schaeffer" (Thrill Jockey)
    "An edgy yet playful elegy packed with surprises." — Duncan Edwards

  8. Širom, "The Liquified Throne of Simplicity" (Glitterbeat)
    "Sounds like the lost freak-folk recordings of a krautrock commune living in a jungle. One of my favorites, unsurprisingly." — Anthony D'Amico

  9. Carla dal Forno, "Come Around" (Kallista)
    "I enjoyed the eclectic new influences that crept into this album (girl groups, tropical rhythms, etc.). The somnambulant post-punk anthem 'Stay Awake' is especially wonderful." — Anthony D'Amico

  10. Gnod, "Hexen Valley" (Rocket)
    "I did not personally find this to be one of Gnod's strongest releases. It's a powerful onslaught as they hammer home the sludge, but I found it to be too repetitive and lacking their typical inventiveness. That said, I'm still looking forward to their next release." — Eve McGivern
    "One of my favorite albums of 2022 to play BLISTERINGLY LOUD (along with the Veldt album which sadly didn't crack the top 100)." — Jon Whitney

  11. Cosey Fanni Tutti, "Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And The Legendary Tapes" (Conspiracy International)
  12. Kali Malone, "Living Torch" (Portraits GRM)
    "More slow-burning magic from the ever-fascinating Malone, but with a small ensemble this time around. I didn't definitely expect to get so absorbed In a recording of a site-specific performance." — Anthony D'Amico
    "I did not think Kali Malone could ever match The Sacrificial Code, but she has. It is utterly bemusing that this album makes the list, though, while Delphine Dora's Hymnes Apophatiques gets the complete cold shoulder." — Duncan Edwards

  13. Pan•American, "The Patience Fader" (Kranky)
    "Another ethereal beauty from the great Pan•American. I'm glad to see this one in the Top 20, well deserved. This release continues to prove Pan•American timeless yet continues to flow with the times." — Eve McGivern
    "While the cover depicts a cold, overcast, grey time of year I found myself using this album as a soundtrack to warm, clear summer nights outside under the stars. This is my favorite album from Mark Nelson in the last 20 years." – Jon Whitney

  14. Carmen Villain, "Only Love From Now On" (Smalltown Supersound)
    "I loved this album's Fourth World feel in general, but the haunted exotica of 'Portal' is especially brilliant." — Anthony D'Amico

  15. Earthen Sea, "Ghost Poems" (Kranky)
  16. Sam Prekop and John McEntire, "Sons Of" (Thrill Jockey)
  17. Dry Cleaning, "Stumpwork" (4AD)
  18. Oren Ambarchi / Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin, "Ghosted" (Drag City)
    "Another stellar year for Oren Ambarchi. Ghosted is every bit as magnifcent as Shebang."- Duncan Edwards

  19. Current 93, "If a City Is Set Upon a Hill" (House of Mythology)
  20. Ian William Craig, "Music for Magnesium_173" (Fat Cat)
  21. Alabaster DePlume, "Gold" (International Anthem)
    "I was fully prepared to dismiss this as merely The Album After To Cy & Lee but, despite some annoying vocals and hype, Gold has some gorgeous moments and a spirtual groove." - Duncan Edwards

  22. Andrew Chalk, "The Circle of Days 5" (Faraway Press)
  23. Diamanda Galás, "Broken Gargoyles" (Intravenal Sound Operations)
    "Even after close to four decades of listening to Diamanda's music, words escape me when trying to describe her music. She is beyond classification, genre-defiant, peerless, and her subjects take time to thoroughly comprehend. There's no room for passive listening to her. Nothing of hers doesn't command attention, and this is no exception. I know that sounds vague but the longform sound sculptures like Broken Gargoyles are so dense with meaning through multiple movements, that it's best to just stop talking and listen." — Jon Whitney

  24. Andrew Chalk, "The End Times" (ICR)
  25. Bill Callahan, "YTI⅃AƎЯ" (Drag City)
  26. Christina Vantzou, "Nº5" (Kranky)
  27. The Smile, "A Light for Attracting Attention" (XL)
    "Whoah! I can't believe this isn't much higher ranked. Is it because people are sick of Thom Yorke, or a certain other band of his? I found this to be far better than anything he (or they) have ever released, and it quickly became one of my albums of the year. I hope more people will give it a listen and then push it up in their own personal ranks." — Eve McGivern

  28. Brainwaltzera, "ITSAME" (FILM)
  29. Mary Lattimore & Paul Sukeena, "West Kensington" (Three Lobed)
  30. Loop, "Sonancy" (Cooking Vinyl)
    "While I generally prefer Loop's lengthier songs, this more concise album is an excellent return after all these years." — Creaig Dunton
    "
    While this is not, say, A Gilded Eternity, it's a solid addition to their stellar catalog. This is a refreshed Loop, and easily one of the most anticipated releases of 2022." Eve McGivern

  31. Horace Andy, "Midnight Rocker" (On-U Sound)
    "Paired with its partner, Midnight Scorchers, Andy and Sherwood have packed an astounding 1-2 punch: contemporary, relevant, and powerful." — Jon Whitney

  32. Ak'Chamel, "A Mournful Kingdom of Sand" (Akuphone)
    "Masked mariachi-mad psych weirdos who seem like they just materialized from a Jodorowsky-inspired nightmare. If that doesn't grab your attention, I don't know what to tell you, buddy. A worthy and inspired follow up to The Totemist." — Anthony D'Amico

  33. Nonconnah, "Don't Go Down To Lonesome Holler" (Ernest Jenning)
    "A mind-melting avalanche of weird shoegaze sound collage magic. Probably my single favorite album of the year (albeit currently tied with Voice Actor)." — Anthony D'Amico

  34. HTRK, "Death is a Dream" (N&J Blueberries)
  35. Sam Prekop, "The Sparrow" (TALmusic)
  36. Duster, "Together" (Numero Group)
  37. claire rousay, "everything perfect is already here" (Shelter Press)
  38. Horace Andy, "Midnight Scorchers" (On-U Sound)
  39. Félicia Atkinson, "Image Langage" (Shelter Press)
    "Another year, another gorgeous, immersive, and endlessly mysterious Félicia Atkinson album with a unique theme. Feels like one of her strongest releases to date, but I suspect I've probably said the same thing about at least three other Atkinson releases in recent memory because she keeps releasing great albums." — Anthony D'Amico

  40. Makaya McCraven, "In These Times" (International Anthem)
  41. Daniel Avery, "Ultra Truth" (Mute)
  42. Wet Leg, "Wet Leg" (Domino)
    "The world needs more upbeat, clever tunes that are undeniably infectious, especially during times which continue to make us more polarized and isolated. It often feels that the days of the rock band are long gone in a world that favors the solo performer. But then something like this thankfully somehow manages to break through the dreck and bring people back together as a community to enjoy music together again." — Jon Whitney

  43. Anna von Hausswolff, "Live at Montreux Jazz Festival" (Southern Lord)
  44. Dälek, "Precipice" (Ipecac)
  45. Madeleine Cocolas, "Spectral" (Room40)
  46. Jesu, "Pity / Piety" (Avalanche)
  47. Eli Winter, "Eli Winter" (Three Lobed)
    "Broadrick slows the immense Jesu sound to a crawl to create the soundtrack for a mountaineer hanging on for dear life in the snow. — Matthew Jeanes

  48. Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett, "Christina Vantzou, Michael Harrison and John Also Bennett" (Séance Centre)
  49. Nik Colk Void, "Bucked Up Space" (Editions Mego)
  50. The Legendary Pink Dots, "The Museum of Human Happiness" (Metropolis)
  51. William Basinski & Janek Schaefer, ". . . on reflection" (Temporary Residence)
    "This first collaboration between Jelinek, Basinski, and a gaggle of unwitting birds apparently took eight long years to come to fruition, but it definitely wound up in the right place in the end. Essentially just a single brief piano passage beautifully twisted, stretched, layered, and dissolved into a shape-shifting and poignant album-length reverie. Sublime minimalist perfection." — Anthony D'Amico 

  52. Cate Le Bon, "Pompeii" (Mexican Summer)
  53. KMRU, "there was nothing in between" (self-released)
  54. Marisa Anderson, "Still, Here" (Thrill Jockey)
  55. Andrew Chalk, "Dreams" (Faraway Press)
  56. Roy Montgomery, "Camera Melancholia" (Grapefruit)
  57. Edward Ka-Spel, "Conspiracy Of Pylons" (self-released)
  58. This Immortal Coil, "The World Ended A Long Time Ago" (Ici d'ailleurs)
  59. Sarah Davachi, "Two Sisters" (Late Music)
  60. Rat Heart Ensemble, "A Blues" (Shotta Tapes)
  61. Ryoji Ikeda, "Ultrasonics" (Noton)
  62. The Advisory Circle, "Full Circle" (Ghost Box)
  63. Billy Woods, "Aethiopes" (Backwoodz)
  64. Colin Stetson, "Chim​æ​ra I" (Room40)
  65. Raum, "Daughter" (Yellowelectric)
  66. Lustmord, "The Others [Lustmord Deconstructed]" (Pelagic)
  67. Laura Cannell, "Antiphony Of The Trees" (Brawl)
    "Cannell shows no sign of either slowing down or letting the standard of her releases dip. As here where she uses a neglected instrument - the recorder - to celebrate the sacred, otherworldly, aspect of birdsong " — Duncan Edwards

  68. Mabe Fratti, "Se Ve Desde Aquí" (Unheard Of Hope)
  69. Ami Dang, "The Living World's Demands" (Phantom Limb)
  70. Kyle Kidd, "Soothsayer" (American Dreams)
  71. Cucina Povera, "Tuhka" (Infinite Greyscale)
    "Maria Rossi's collaboration with Ben Vince seemed to get most of the attention this year, but this single-sided solo album is absolute heaven. Both pieces are mesmerizing, gently hallucinatory delights." — Anthony D'Amico

  72. Erik K. Skodvin, "Schächten" (Miasmah)
  73. Deathprod, "Sow Your Gold In The White Foliated Earth" (Smalltown Supersound)
  74. B. Fleischmann, "Music for Shared Rooms" (Morr Music)
  75. Big Thief, "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You" (4AD)
  76. Just Mustard, "Heart Under" (Partisan)
  77. Rachika Nayar, "Heaven Come Crashing" (NNA Tapes)
    "I've listened to this album roughly a dozen times and still can't decide how I feel about it. On the one hand, there are plenty of swooningly lush and lovely moments. On the other, the new 'vivid, fluorescent, cinematic maximalism' almost makes it feel more like an M83 album than a Rachika Nayar album." — Anthony D'Amico.

  78. Jeff Parker ETA IVtet, "Mondays at the Enfield Tennis Academy" (Eremite)
  79. Clarice Jensen, "Esthesis" (Fatcat)
  80. caroline, "caroline" (Rough Trade)
  81. Scanner & Modelbau, "Loess" (Moving Furniture)
  82. Saloli, "Ghosts: Music For Piano vol. 2" (self-released)
  83. Kelly Lee Owens, "LP.8" (Smalltown Supersound)
  84. KMRU, "Temporary Stored" (self-released)
  85. Ellen Arkbro & Johan Graden, "I get along without you very well" (Thrill Jockey)
  86. Rafael Anton Irisarri, "Sacred Hatred" (Black Knoll)
  87. Beach House, "Once Twice Melody" (Bella Union)
  88. Treasury of Puppies, "Mitt Stora Nu" (Discreet)
    "Discreet was releasing killer drone albums and weird hiss-soaked bedroom art-pop gems left and right last year. This one is a fine example of the latter, but Arv & Miljö, Gothenberg Sound Workshop, Klara Livet, Jon Collin, and Astrid Øster Mortensen brought the heat as well (and that isn't even a complete list)." — Anthony D'Amico

  89. Julia Sabra and Fadi Tabbal, "Snakeskin" (Beacon Sound)
    "This album floored me. So haunting, so beautiful, and gnarled and unsettling in all the right ways. A collaboration made in heaven. The moment when the snare kicks in on 'All the Birds' delights me every single time that I hear it." — Anthony D'Amico

  90. Pale Sketcher, "Golden Skin" (Give/Take)
  91. Postcards, "In Parenthesis Vol. 1" (self-released)
    "The next best thing to discovering Snakeskin was learning about Julia Sabra's shoegaze/dreampop band. This particular album is not an especially representative one, as it was recorded live with borrowed gear during a brief residency in the ancient city of Jbeil, but the looseness and spontaneity of these recordings suit the band extremely well." Anthony D'Amico

  92. Raphael Loher, "Keemuun" (Three:Four)
  93. ulla, "foam" (3 X L)
  94. Marina Herlop, "Pripyat" (PAN)
  95. Julia Reidy, "World in World" (Black Truffle)
    "Reidy has always been a reliably compelling and adventurous guitarist, but this batch of shorter, more focused pieces felt especially revelatory. I was especially impressed with how close 'Holding Onto' comes to resembling a killer indie pop single despite its haunting, broken-sounding dissonance." — Anthony D'Amico

  96. Tangerine Dream, "Raum" (KScope)
  97. Huerco S., "Plonk" (Incienso)
  98. Anteloper, "Pink Dolphins" (International Anthem)
  99. CS + Kreme, "Orange" (The Trilogy Tapes)
  100. Edward Ka-Spel, "100 Seconds To Midnight" (self-released)
    "Once again a stunner of a year for Ka-Spel with four fantastic full-length solo albums, a full-length Dots LP, and various singles,... I'm still trying to familiarize myself with the nine solo albums from 2021! I'll get there." — Jon Whitney


Single of the Year

Moon Over Deetjen's

  1. Mary Lattimore, "Moon Over Deetjen's" (self-released)
    "Exactly the sort of rippling, bittersweet dreaminess that I always hope for in a new Mary Lattimore single." — Anthony D'Amico

  2. The Soft Pink Truth, "Was It Ever Real?" (Thrill Jockey)
    "The best moments on this EP sound like Goblin and Coil teaming up to throw a sexy, psychedelic disco party." — Anthony D'Amico
    "In 1997 I visited Chicago and Thrill Jockey's HQ, Peter Christopherson gave me a Black Light District LP to hand to them for consideration but they passed. Great to see Coil finally ending up on Thrill Jockey, if only indirectly!" — Jon Whitney

  3. The Legendary Pink Dots, "The Legendary Pink Dots' Hallowe'en Special 2022" (self-released)
    " I keep expecting Edward Ka-Spel to eventually run out of great ideas for these, but he just keeps pulling more rabbits out of his hat. An exquisite annual pleasure (along with the Christmas song)." — Anthony D'Amico

  4. Nailah Hunter, "Forest Dwelling" (Longform Editions)
    "Yes please, more long, beautiful pieces from Ms. Hunter." — Jon Whitney

  5. Burial, "Antidawn" (Hyperdub)
  6. KMRU, "Imperceptible Perceptible" (Longform Editions)
  7. Midwife, "Sickworld" (Hardly Art)
    "Until we get a new album from Madeline Johnston, she has gifted us another breathtaking masterpiece, this time in the form of a nearly seven minute piece opening up her heart and sharing her feelings on a world desperately in need of healing. " — Jon Whitney

  8. The Legendary Pink Dots, "The Legendary Pink Dots' Christmas Special 2022" (self-released)
  9. Andrew Chalk, "Bright Rivers Run / Shimmer in the Sun" (Faraway Press)
    "Originally released back in 2015 on a 7" from the Japanese label Meditations, these two small electronic tunes are a little slice of heaven, showcasing Chalk's ability to create compact melodic pieces that are just as beautiful as the epic long, sprawling masterpieces he has become cherished for. " — Jon Whitney

  10. Dean McPhee, "Cosmos/Ether" (Reverb Worship)
  11. Esau, "Other Places" (self-released)
  12. Karate, Guns & Tanning, "Graffiti Children" (Turntable Kitchen)
  13. Pan•American, "Alpalhão" (self-released)
  14. Sam Prekop, "Saturday Sunday" (Longform Editions)
  15. Carmen Villain, "CV x Actress" (Smalltown Supersound)
  16. Nonconnah, "At the River of Hell You're a Sparrow" (self-released)
  17. Bauhaus, "Drink the New WIne" (self-released)
  18. Four Tet, "Mango Feedback" (Text)
  19. Dummy, "Mono Retriever" (Sub Pop)
  20. Big Blood, "Weird Road" (Don't Trust the Ruin)
  21. Source Direct, "Snake Style 2" (Tempo)
  22. Dummy, "Hallogallo (Live)" (self-released)
    "I loved how they covered this, and lots of folks have covered it for sure. Dummy just seems effortlessly tuneful, no matter what they do." — Eve McGivern

  23. Pan•American, "Both Noun and Verb" (self-released)
  24. Laura Cannell, "We Long to be Haunted" (Brawl)
  25. ulla strauss, "Hope Sonata" (Longform Editions)
  26. [V/A], "Send the Pain Below" (The Flenser)
  27. Actress, "Dummy Corporation" (Ninja Tune)
  28. Fovea Hex, "All Those Signs (EarthPercent Mix)" (Janet)
    "No. There were not 27 better singles in 2022." — Duncan Edwards

  29. perila, "corridor between days" (Longform Editions)
  30. Burial, "Streetlands" (Hyperdub)
  31. Springtime, "Night Raver EP" (Joyful Noise)
  32. House of Harm, "Feel My Heart Beat / In Threes" (self-released)
  33. Madeleine Cocolas, "A Memory, Blown out" (Room40)
  34. Nailah Hunter, "Forest Dark" (self-released)
  35. serpentwithfeet, "I'm Pressed" (Secretly Canadian)
  36. The Veldt, "Check Out Your Mind EP" tied with "Electric Revolution (Rhythm and Drone) EP" (5BC)
    "They were easily in my personal top 10 with their majestic Entropy is the Mainline To God LP and these two preceding singles were only a hint at its greatness." — Jon Whitney

  37. ESG, "Not My First (Rodeo)" (self-released)
    "Continue to be bringing it, although the recorded version of this doesn't capture the power of the group as a live entity. One of my favorte shows from last year." — Jon Whitney

  38. Ela Minus & DJ Python, "♡ EP" (Smugglers Way)
  39. Jason Molina, "The Lamb and Flag I" (Secretly Canadian)
  40. FIRE! w/Stephen O´Malley & David Sandström, "Requiēs" (Rune Grammofon)
  41. Lia Kohl, "Untitled Radio (futile, fertile)" (Longform Editions)
  42. foodman, "Percussion Oyaji" (Longform Editions)
  43. James Bangura, "Wichita" (Incienso)
  44. Matt LaJoie, "Trine" (Longform Editions)
  45. Munchi, "The Mambo Detanao EP" (Nyege Nyege Tapes)
  46. Natalie Rose LeBrecht, "Star Water Shapeshift" (Longform Editions)
  47. Solomon Fesshaye, "Star City / Save Our Place" (Ghostly)
  48. TSVI & Loraine James, "53" (AD93)
  49. Gavilán Rayna Russom, "Trans Feminist Symphonic Music" (Longform Editions)
  50. Sun's Signature, "Sun's Signature" (Partisan)
    "Kind of surprised Liz Fraser produced by Thighpaulsandra didn't score higher with brainwashed readers." — Jon Whitney
    "I'm with Jon; this was a stellar single, and a perfect release for the Brainwashed audience." — Eve McGivern

Compilation of the Year

Saturno 2000

  1. "Saturno 2000 - La Rebajada de Los Sonideros 1962 - 1983" (Analog Africa)
    "Mesmerizing collection somewhere in the region of Hany Mehanna, Joe Meek, Olga Mella, Mort Garson, and Konono #1, which is a hell of a region, yet distinct and idiosyncratic." — Duncan Edwards
    "Plenty of cratediggers find killer lost records in far-flung places, but Analog Africa unearths entire lost subcultures. This instant classic documents slowed-down cumbias popularized by Mexican sound system operators, which is definitely something I didn't realize I needed in my life until I heard the opening 'Sampuesana.'" — Anthony D'Amico 

  2. "Luke Schneider Presents Imaginational Anthem vol. XI : Chrome Universal - A Survey of Modern Pedal Steel" (Tompkins Square)
    "I have historically not been a big pedal steel fan, but Chuck Johnson's recent work has recalibrated my ears enough to dig this collection. Curator/contributor Luke Schneider made quite a few inspired choices and most of the featured artists were entirely new to me. I especially enjoyed the Maggie Bjorklund piece." — Anthony D'Amico

  3. "Studio One Women Vol. 2" (Soul Jazz)
    "I am a total whore for these Studio One compilations. This is one of the lighter, more pop-focused instalments, but it is characteristically strewn with gems. Nana McLean's dubbed-out girl group bliss was especially revelatory." — Anthony D'Amico

  4. "Silberland - Kosmische Musik Vol 1 (1972​-​1986)" (Bureau B)
    "I'm so pleasantly surprised to find this in the Top 5 ranking of compilations this year! So many great tracks here, and some lesser known selections that deserve the spotlight" — Eve McGivern

  5. "WaJazz: Japanese Jazz Spectacle Vol.I - Deep, Heavy and Beautiful Jazz from Japan 1968-1984" (180g/ WaJazz)
  6. "Ghost Riders" (Efficient Space)
    "The ache and throb of teenage hopefuls. Do not miss 14 year old Dennis Harte's fantastic track "Summer's Over", a 1960's gem." — Duncan Edwards
    "Yet another singular collection ('coming of age garage soul') from the label who previously blessed us with Sky Girl. Watch your back, Numero Group!" — Anthony D'Amico

  7. "Hallow Ground presents: EPIPHANIES" (Hallow Ground)
  8. "Echoes Of The Quadrature - One & Two & Three & Four (tied)" (insectorama)
  9. "I Had the Craziest Dream: Modern Jazz and Hard​-​Bop in Post War London, Vol. 1 & 2 & 3 (tied)" (Death Is Not The End)
  10. "Begging the Moon: Phleng Thai Sakon & Luk Krung, 1945-1960" (Death Is Not The End)
    "Beguiling melodies which, as with Ferkat Al Ard's Oghneya, hooked me from the first few bars." — Duncan Edwards

  11. "All Bad Boy & All Good Girl: Manchester Street Soul Soundtapes, 1988​-​1996" (Death Is Not The End)
    "Like enjoying a tour of Manchester's hipper streets circa late 1980s-mid 1990s without any of the real life irritation of suffering someone blasting their musical choices in public. Classic mixtape mythology, then." — Duncan Edwards

  12. "Studio One Music Lab" (Soul Jazz)
  13. "Beirut Adrift" (Norient)
  14. "SESTRO" (система | system)
    "Some fantastic gems on this Ukranian release to benefit women and LGBT+ people affected by the war." — Jon Whitney

  15. "Longing for the Shadow: Ry​ū​k​ō​ka Recordings, 1921​-​1939" (Death Is Not The End)
  16. "A Colourful Storm USB Bomb" (A Colourful Storm)
  17. "Padang Moonrise: The Birth of the Modern Indonesian Recording Industry (1955-69)" (Soundway)
    "Soundway's Miles Cleret was already responsible for at least a half-dozen compilations that remain in perpetual heavy rotation for me (The Sound of Siam, Cartagena!, etc.) and this one is yet another instant classic." — Anthony D'Amico

  18. "XKatedral Anthology Series I" (XKatedral)
  19. "Pefkin / Roxane Métayer split LP" (Morc)
  20. "Aquapelago: an Oceans Anthology" (Discrepant)
  21. "Studia Spiritual" (12th Isle)
  22. "Elsewhere VXIII" (Rocket)
  23. "Pure Wicked Tune: Rare Groove Blues Dances & House Parties, 1985​-​1992" (Death Is Not The End)
  24. "Get This: 32 Tracks For Free - A Tribute to Peter Rehberg" ($ pwgen 20)
  25. "S​í​ntomas de techno : Ondas electr​ó​nicas subterr​á​neas desde Perú (1985​-​1991)" (Buh)

Vault/Reissue of the Year

The Dead Texan

  1. The Dead Texan (kranky)
    "Sounds just as great as it ever did." — Duncan Edwards
    "Christina Vantzou is only credited as contributing film and videos to this release but thankfully her music career has taken off with numerous solo releases since then and appears twice in this year's top 50 albums." — Jon Whitney

  2. Stereolab, "Pulse of the Early Brain [Switched On Volume 5]" (Duophonic)
    "Hearing Simple Headphone Mind performed live was certainly not on my bingo card but there it was, and it was a magnificent experience!" — Jon Whitney

  3. Gavin Bryars, "The Sinking Of The Titanic" (Superior Viaduct)
  4. Sarah Davachi, "In Concert & In Residence" (Late Music)
  5. Diamanda Galás, "The DIvine Punishment" (Intravenal Sound Operations)
    "Classic, and my favorite in the Red Death trilogy. Glad it is available once again." — Creaig Dunton

  6. Emeralds, "Solar Bridge" (Ghostly)
  7. Coil, "Selvaggina, Go Back Into The Woods" (Retractor)
  8. Ekkehard Ehlers, "Ekkehard Ehlers plays" (Keplar)
    "I don't know if I should be excited about the vinyl reissue of this 20-year-old collection or not, but Plays is an absolutely canonical 'early 2000s laptop milieu' album in my book. Please play 'John Cassavetes 2' at my eventual funeral." — Anthony D'Amico 

  9. Can, "Live In Cuxhaven 1976" (Mute)
  10. Coil, "Persistence Is All (Live At Royal Festival Hall)" (Retractor)
  11. Fennesz, "Hotel Paral.lel" (Editions Mego)
  12. Codeine, "Dessau" (Numero Group)
    "I am not a passionate enough Codeine fan to have a strong opinion about how this long-lost second album stacks up against the one that was ultimately released in its place (1994's White Birch), but I am a passionate enough Codeine fan to be delighted that their tragically lean discography unexpectedly expanded last year. It is extremely rare for a formerly shelved album to be this good." — Anthony D'Amico 

  13. Sonic Youth, "In/Out/In" (3 Lobed)
    "As a long-time SY devotee, I didn't think twice about pickup up this one. I'm always happy to see rarities, though I found this to be mostly for the obsessive fan." — Eve McGivern
    "As a fan of the Musical Perspectives series over their '90s major label pop albums, this was a welcome pleasure." Jon Whitney

  14. Coil, "Limoges 2002" (Retractor)
  15. Nate Scheible, "Fairfax" (Warm Winters Ltd)
    "Is there anything sadder than anonymous sadness, or more hopeful than anonymous hope?" — Duncan Edwards
    "This one is an absolute all-timer for me. A once-in-a-lifetime thrift store find loving transformed into a singular emotional gutpunch of an album. Total stunner from start-to-finish." — Anthony D'Amico


  16. Thomas Leer & Robert Rental, "The Bridge" (Mute)
    "One of the finest albums Industrial Records issued." — Jon Whitney

  17. Lustmord, "[The Dark Places of the Earth]" (Pelagic)
  18. Sun Ra and his Blue Universe Arkestra, "Universe in Blue" (Cosmic Myth)
  19. The Sonora Pine, "II" (Husky Pants)
  20. Photay with Carlos Niño, "An Offering" (International Anthem)
  21. Galcher Lustwerk, "100% Galcher" (Ghostly International)
  22. Mouse On Mars, "Radical Connector" (Thrill Jockey)
  23. Wire, "Not About To Die" (Pink Flag)
    "One of the few bands (and eras) where the demos are not only drastically different, but stand brilliantly on their own." — Creaig Dunton
    "Proving that even in their rawest forms, Wire is a genius musical force." — Eve McGivern

  24. Maxine Funke, "Pieces of Driftwood" (Disciples)
  25. Laraaji, "Celestial Vibrations" (Numero Group)


Boxed Set of the Year

  1. Coil, "Love's Secret Domain (Chaostropy Edition)" (WaxTrax!)
    "I'm glad more generations get to experience this incredible album." — Eve McGivern

  2. Iannis Xenakis, "Electroacoustic Works" (Karlrecords)
    "The fact that this has been sitting unplayed on my bookshelf for months fills me with a high level of ambient shame at all times." — Anthony D'Amico

  3. Jesu, "Jesu (deluxe)" (Avalanche)
  4. Karate, "Time Expired" (Numero Group)
  5. "Bound For Hell: On The Sunset Strip" (Numero Group)
    "I never realized how much I missed hairspray, tight pants, and guitar solos." — Jon Whitney

  6. Al Cisneros, "Sinai Dub Box (2012-2022)" (Drag City)
  7. Celer, "Selected Self-releases, 2006-2007" (Two Acorns)
    "Most of the strongest albums from Celer's classic duo years lovingly and stylishly compiled in one place." — Anthony D'Amico

  8. Edward Ka-Spel, "The Quarantine Tapes Volume 2" (Witch Cat)
  9. Neu!, "50" (Grönland)
    "One of the most highly anticipated releases of 2022, but ultimately not essential if you have all the original albums. Still, there are some goodies here that will warm a completist's soul." — Eve McGivern

  10. Tindersticks, "Past Imperfect: The Best Of Tindersticks '92 - '21" (City Slang)
  11. Love and Rockets, "The Albums 1985-1994" (Beggars Arkive)
    "I coveted this one pretty hard, but ultimately couldn't justify the price tag as an owner of the 180 gram reissues. Still, a worthy collection from one of my favorite bands for anyone that doesn't already have these in a non-digital format." — Eve McGivern

  12. Sleep, "Dopesmoker" (Third Man)
    "How many times has this been reissued? An album of mythical proportions for sure." — Eve McGivern

  13. The Heads, "Under Sided (20th Anniversary Edition)" (Rooster Rock)
    "More from the early catalog please." — Eve McGivern

  14. Ákos Rózmann, "Mass/Mässa" (Ideologic Organ)
  15. The Residents, "Wormwood Box" (Cherry Red)
  16. Merzbow, "2017 - 2020 & 35CD Box (tied)" (スローダウン)
  17. Peter Murphy, "Peter Murphy" (Beggars Arkive)
    "Beggars Arkive has been hit and miss with the re-pressings and reissues. I was certainly not impressed by the records from this set that I did hear, along with the fuzzy artwork. The Dali's Car record, however, not part of this set, I felt was fantastic." — Jon Whitney

  18. Motorpsycho, "Salad Days Vol. 1 & 2 (tied)" (Rune Grammofon)
  19. Sleep, "Sleep's Holy Mountain" (Earache)
    "I'll ask again, how many times has this been reissued? Still, recommended if you had neither this, nor Dopesmoker in physical format." — Eve McGivern

  20. Roland Kayn, "Infra" (Reiger)
  21. µ-Ziq, "Lunatic Harness (25th Anniversary Edition)" (Planet Mu)
  22. Robert Fripp, "Exposures" (Discipline Global Mobile)
    "Five versions of the one album, and a metric ton of Frippertronics performances. Redundant as hell, but I still bought it." — Creaig Dunton
    "While I didn't spring for the ultra-deluxe massive version of this one, having never owned it previously on vinyl meant purchasing at least the original format." — Eve McGivern

  23. Muslimgauze, "The Extreme Years" (Aquarelist)
  24. Karen Dalton, "In My Own Time" (Light in the Attic)
    "After hearing tracks from this one, I ran across the deluxe set for a good price, and sprung for it. I don't regret it." — Eve McGivern

  25. Pere Ubu, "Nuke The Whales 2006-2014" (Fire)

Artist of the Year

Andrew Chalk

  1. Andrew Chalk
    "Between solo releases and collaborations, Chalk continues to give us nothing but high quality pieces of art." — Jon Whitney

  2. Oren Ambarchi
  3. Sault
    "Six full-length albums and one small length album in a single year mathematically earned this mysterious collective this high a score, yet I'm disappointed none broke the top 100 from the readers, as they all command attention." — Jon Whitney

  4. The Soft Pink Truth
  5. Edward Ka-Spel
  6. The Legendary Pink Dots
  7. Pan•American
  8. Lucrecia Dalt
  9. KMRU
  10. Diamanda Galás

Label of the Year

  1. Thrill Jockey
    "I just uncoved a catalog of theirs from 25 years ago in a CD from back then and was reminded how consistent they have been over the years with issuing fantastic music. (Sadly the LP prices are now pretty much tripled for what they were in 1998.)" — Jon Whitney

  2. Drag City
  3. Longform Editions
    "Pretty much every new batch of Longforms Editions releases in 2022 featured at least one near-masterpiece, delightful surprise, or a beloved familiar name gamely trying their hand at something new." — Anthony D'Amico  

  4. Kranky
  5. Room40
  6. Smalltown Supersound
  7. International Anthem
    "International Anthem is a bit more jazz-centric than my usual haunts, but albums like the Alabaster DePlume one make me wonder how many other leftfield delights I may have unknowingly slept on." — Anthony D'Amico

  8. Numero Group
  9. Mute
  10. Rocket

New Artist of the Year

Kyle Kidd

Kyle Kidd

"The best moments of Kyle Kidd's solo debut sound like a '70s soul diva just awoke from a coma and developed a healthy passion for the pleasures of tape hiss, subtly hypnagogic production, and the Arthur Russell/Larry Levan side of the late '70s NYC underground." — Anthony D'Amico

"When I'm exposed to someone who grabs my attention this much, I passionately seek out more information of who they are, their history, and what got them to this point. The music of Kyle Kidd over the last few years that I was able to find is beautiful—that voice is absolutely gorgeous—but if I had heard those songs first, I would not have been prepared for the remarkable depth and finesse of Soothsayer. The haunting arragements, the compositons trigger so much emotion it feels like a warm embrace, almost as if soul was injected into Satie." — Jon Whitney

Lifetime Achievement Recognition

Adrian Sherwood

Adrian Sherwood

"Adrian Sherwood famously taught himself sound engineering as a reggae-obsessed teen (before the emergence of cassettes) and has been tirelessly championing cool underground music and the DIY ethos ever since. In just his '80s heyday alone, he was arguably at the cutting edge of the post-punk scene (working with Ari Up and Mark Stewart), London's reggae scene (Creation Rebel, Prince Far I, Mikey Dread), industrial music (Ministry, Skinny Puppy, NIN), and maybe even rap (Sherwood's Tackhead bandmates were the Sugar Hill house band and backed Grandmaster Flash). Along the way, he also made some significant dub innovations (playing effects backwards), established a killer house band of his own, and helped reinvigorate the careers of some of his Jamaican heroes. There have certainly been some lean years and disappointing albums along the way (as Sherwood would be the first to admit), but he just kept moving forward regardless because that is simply what he does. More than four decades after he started, Sherwood is still releasing fine albums, restlessly trying out new ideas, and hipping new generations to canonical dub/reggae sounds." — Anthony D'Amico

"My very first unwitting exposure to Adrian Sherwood was in the remix of The Beatnigs Television: The Drug of the Nation in 1988, after which I then kept seeing On-U plastered over albums by my most recent exploration, Mark Stewart. While I've been aware of Adrian Sherwood as a producer, and On-U as a label for years, I'm a latecomer to truly understanding the vast span of his career." — Eve McGivern

"I was a big Depeche Mode fan when I was 13, and words could not describe my shock hearing that Are People People? re-remix from Sherwood. I had never heard something labeled as a remix that was so far removed from the original: it was completely unrecognizable and made very little musical sense. But I had more questions. Where on earth did this inspiration come from? Who would bury something so massive so deep on limited releases? And WTF is an ON-U Sound Science Fiction?? In the next couple years Sherwood's name was appearing on albums from groups heavy on my playlists like Ministry, Cabaret Voltaire, Tackhead, KMFDM, and Skinny Puppy. Most of the music he did for the post-industrial acts I had known resembled nothing before nor after his involvement. It was still a few years before I finally gained exposure to his reggae and dub history stetching back to the late '70s, along with genre-bending releases from Annie Anxiety, Missing Brazilians, and Voice of Authority, and it is all about as flawless as it gets. Over 40 years later he's still at the controls, as relevent as ever, the two albums this year from Horace Andy and previously from Lee Perry are perfect evidence." — Jon Whitney 

 

Kali Malone, "Does Spring Hide Its Joy"

Does Spring Hide Its JoyThis latest release from this eternally innovative Stockholm-based composer is a durational tour de force that first began to take shape in empty Berlin concert halls in the early months of the pandemic. While I note with grim humor that the pandemic has itself become an endlessly shifting durational tour de force, Malone’s primary inspiration came instead from the ambient sense of unreality and distorted time that became pervasive as the fabric of normal daily life quickly unraveled. Like many other artists, Malone suddenly found herself with plenty of free time during that period of dread, isolation, and uncertainty, yet she was fortunate enough to get an invitation to record new music at Berlin’s Funkhaus and MONOM and even luckier still to have some extremely talented friends around with newly open schedules themselves. In short, the stars were in perfect alignment for one hell of an avant-drone dream team to form, as Malone (armed with 72 sine wave oscillators) tapped in like-minded souls Stephen O’Malley and Lucy Railton and the expected slow-burning dark sorcery ensued. Does Spring Hide Its Joy feels like an inspired twist on the longform drone majesty of artists like Éliane Radigue, as Malone employed just intonation to layer complex and otherworldly harmonies while her collaborators gamely helped ensure that the crescendos were visceral, gnarled and snarling enough to leave a deep impression.

Ideologic Organ

I have no doubt at all that Kali Malone brought her usual compositional rigor to this “study in harmonics and non-linear composition with a heightened focus on just intonation and beating interference patterns,” but Does Spring Hide Its Joy is more open-ended than her usual fare and leaves some welcome room for spontaneity and improvisation. Malone envisioned the piece as a puzzle of sorts that is assembled from five-minute blocks approximating a ladder that the musicians can choose to ascend or descend. The total number of blocks is fluid as well. For example, the album versions of the piece are an hour long while the live version can sometimes stretch to 90 minutes (note: the CD includes three performances of the piece while the LP includes only two). On top of that inventive structure, Malone deliberately wrote the piece with her collaborators’ styles and techniques in mind, envisioning the composition as a “framework for subjective interpretation and non-hierarchical movement.” In practical terms, that means that this piece is essentially a drone fantasia of bowed strings, smoldering distortion, and shifting harmonies that occasionally blossoms into something more fiery and transcendent. This being a Kali Malone composition, however, the organically evolving harmonies and oscillations are invariably absorbing, sophisticated, and distinctive regardless of the shape the piece takes. Notably, this album is also a bit more earthy, psychotropic and texturally varied than previous Malone opuses. It feels akin to a ghostly ballet or hallucinatory tendrils of smoke, as the sustained tones of the three players languorously intertwine and dissipate in a dreamlike haze of lingering feedback, overtones, and harmonics.

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Voice Actor, "Sent From My Telephone"

Sent from my TelephoneThis mammoth and category-defying opus is easily the most wildly ambitious debut in recent memory (if not ever) and also happens to be my favorite album of the year. It was one hell of an enigma at first as well, as Stroom quietly released the album back in October with absolutely no background information provided at all. Given the absolutely bananas volume of material (4 ½ hours) and the consistently high level of quality, I expected that it would be revealed to be some sort of decade-spanning art project involving an all-star cast of sound art luminaries, but I turned out to be spectacularly wrong about most of that. As it turns out, Voice Actor is instead a recent collaboration between Noa Kurzweil (Supertalented) and Levi Lanser (Ludittes), neither of whom I had previously encountered. However, I was at least partially right about the “art project” bit, as Sent From My Telephone collects three years of pieces that the duo originally intended as a radio play (and there are plenty of guest collaborators involved as well). The heart of the project, however, is Kurzweil’s seductive voice and her enigmatic diaristic monologues, which makes Félicia Atkinson a close kindred spirit, yet Lanser’s varied and phantasmagoric backdrops elevate the project into a mesmerizing durational mindfuck that effortlessly blurs the lines between spoken word, plunderphonics, ambient drone, outsider R&B, psychedelia, and Hype Williams’ hypnagogic sound collage side.

Stroom

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Omertà, "Collection Particulière"

Collection ParticulièreThe French Standard In-Fi label has been one of my casual obsessions over the last few years and this second album from Omertà was my favorite release that surfaced from that milieu in 2022. From what I can tell as an outsider, there appears to be a loosely knit family of artists, psych enthusiasts, and avant-folk weirdos that convene periodically in varying configurations and occasionally an album will eventually surface documenting whatever magic transpired. Omertà unsurprisingly shares key members with other fitfully killer projects like France and Tanz Mein Herz, but this ensemble is an unique animal for a number of reasons. The most striking of those reasons are the breathy, sensuous vocals of Florence Giroud, who I believe is only active in this one project (as far as rock bands are concerned, at least). Giroud’s vocals aside, Omertà is also far more informed by eroticism, dream states, pop music, and chansons than the usual Standard In-Fi fare. To my ears, something compelling almost always seems to happen whenever Jeremie Sauvage & Mathieu Tilly assemble a group of like-minded artists, but Collection Particuli​è​re’s “Amour Fou” and “Moments in Love” are easily among the most beautifully distilled and haunting pieces that the label has released to date.

Standard In-Fi/Zamzam

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Ak'chamel, "A Mournful Kingdom of Sand"

A Mournful Kingdom of SandThe latest from this shapeshifting and anonymous southwestern psych duo marks both their return to Akuphone and the first proper follow up to 2020's landmark The Totemist. To some degree, Ak'Chamel revisit roughly the same distinctive stylistic terrain as their last LP, approximating some kind of otherworldly and psychotropic collision of Sun City Girls and Sublime Frequencies. That said, Ak'Chamel do sound a hell of a lot more like a mariachi band soundtracking a jungle puppet nightmare this time around and that festively macabre vibe suits them quite nicely. The band might see things a little differently themselves, as this album is billed as "a perfect soundtrack for the desertification of our world," but experiencing this lysergic Cannibal Holocaust-esque mindfuck is probably just the thing for helping someone appreciate the wide-open spaces and solitude of desert life. In keeping with that desert theme, there are plenty of prominent Middle Eastern melodies and instruments on the album, but Ak'Chamel is singularly adept at dissolving regional boundaries (and possibly dimensional ones as well) in their quest for deep, exotic, and oft-uncategorizable psychedelia.

Akuphone

The album opens in deceptively straightforward fashion, as the first minute of "The Great Saharan-Chihuahuan Assimilation" starts with a minor key Spanish guitar and hand percussion vamp. However, subtle signs of unreality gradually creep in (such as the eerie whistle of throat-singing) before the piece blossoms into a spacious and melodic interlude of Tex-Mex-style surf twang. The following "Clean Coal is a Porous Condom" is similarly musical (if unfamiliar), as Ak'Chamel sound like some kind of outernational supergroup trading Latin, Indian, and surf-inspired licks over a pleasantly lurching "locked groove"-style vamp. Both pieces are quite likable, but the album does not start to wade into the psychedelic deep end until the third piece (the colorfully titled "Amazonian Tribes Mimicking The Sound of Chainsaws With Their Mouths"). Unusually, it is a jaunty yet bittersweet accordion-driven piece at its heart, but the central motif is beautifully enhanced by layers of vivid psychotropic sounds (flutes, voices, ululating, eerie whines, pipe melodies), resulting in something that feels like a festive collision between The Wicker Man and a haunted street fair at the edge of the Amazon.

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Carla dal Forno, "Come Around"

Come AroundThis latest album from Carla dal Forno is her first since relocating to a small town (Castlemaine) in her native Australia and that dramatic change in environment has understandably made quite an impact on her overall vibe (as the album description puts it, she "returns self-assured and firmly settled within the dense eucalypt bushlands"). Fortunately, it seems like the transformation was an entirely favorable one, as literally everything that made dal Forno's previous work so wonderful and distinctive (ghostly pop hooks, stark bass-driven post-punk grooves, tight songcraft) remains intact. Now, however, her bloodless pop songs are charmingly enhanced with an understated tropical feel as well. For the most part, Come Around is still light years away from anything like a conventional beach party, but songs like the title piece at least come close to approximating a hypnagogic one. Aside from that, dal Forno also displays some impressive creative evolution on the production side, as these nine songs are a feast of subtle dubwise and psych-inspired touches in the periphery. That said, the primary appeal of Come Around is still the same as ever, as dal Forno remains nearly unerring in churning out songs so strong that they truly do not need anything more than her voice, a cool bass line, and a simple drum machine groove to leave a deep impression.

Kallista

The opening "Side By Side" is a damn-near perfect illustration of dal Forno's distinctive strain of indie pop magic, as crashing waves give way to a rubbery, laid-back bass line and a bittersweet, floating vocal melody. Lyrically, dal Forno still seems to be in the throes of heartache, but also comes across as very clear-eyed, confident, and sensuous. That turns out to be quite an effective combination, as these nine songs radiate deadpan cool and wry playfulness while still maintaining palpable human warmth and soulfulness at their core. That alone would be more than enough to carry this album (along with all the great hooks and bouncy slow-motion bass grooves), but dal Forno is also unusually inventive with beats, psychotropic production touches, and the assimilation of unexpected influences this time around. The album's stellar title piece is a prime example of the latter, as it feels like dal Forno seamlessly mashed together The Shangri-Las and Young Marble Giants to soundtrack a surf movie for ghosts.

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Matt McBane & Sandbox Percussion, "Bathymetry"

BathymetryAs a teenage surfer Matt McBane became obsessed with the sea and the way in which the bathymetry of the ocean floor affects the way that waves break. His composition Bathymetry mirrors that relationship, with his bass synthesizer providing the platform to shape the more trebly waves of varied percussion played by Sandbox Percussion (a well-named and playful ensemble). On the surface, this album is slightly out of my, rather idiosyncratic, comfort zone. The accompanying videos were off-putting and (politeness dictates that I cannot write what I would cheerfully do with them) ping-pong balls overused. Despite this, my listening curiosity was piqued and held steady. Then halfway through the 40 minute duration, the track "Groundswell" completely won me over, and I rode a wave of enjoyment all the way to the end. Later on, afer repeated listens, it occurred to me that the same process happens on each track, as bursts of percussive grit, pops and scrapes away, to eventually leave the rewarding pearl.

Cantaloupe

For whatever reason, I found that the second half of Bathymetry has a greater emotional and melodic impact, perhaps due to the slower pace and less cluttered soundscape. This allows the synthesizer to be more prominent and the percussion more glassy and transparent (maybe hitting bottles and bowls, or using vibraphone, instead of dropping the aforementioned balls). I have heard nurses describe conversations with certain patients as like playing table tennis with someone who rarely tries to hit the ball back and I detect a similar movement, and progression, here. As intriguing the first twenty minutes or so is, from "Groundswell" onwards it's game on. The use of a traditional drum kit there, and also on "Refraction" comes as a refreshing surprise and the effect is propulsive, as if we've been lowered slowly down into the depths of the ocean which is intriguing, but now are off and zooming around exploring in a small submarine. At several points, including "Coda", we hear what could be an underwater bell or gong; very appropriate as similar to sounds punctuating Hendrix's extended aquatic-themed pieces "1983 A Merman I Should Turn To Be" and "Moon, Turn the Tides… Gently Gently Away." The feel of Bathymetry becomes rather like improvised ambient chamber music with overtones of both dub and Harry Partch, although his percussive bowls were called cloud chamber bowls and it's possibly a breach of some critical rule to mention his name and the word "ambient" in the same sentence.

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Spiral Wave Nomads, "Magnetic Sky"

Magnetic SkyProlific artists on their own, the duo of Eric Hardiman (guitar/bass/electronics) and Michael Kiefer (drums/keyboards) have still managed to put out their third album in four years as Spiral Wave Nomads. The spacey, psychedelic tinged guitar/bass/drum excursions are of course expected by now, but the inclusion of additional electronic instrumentation makes Magnetic Sky even greater.

Twin Lakes/Feeding Tube

With six songs spread across two sides of vinyl, the duo keeps their performances somewhat succinct, given the improvisational approach. Dynamic drumming and long guitar passages tend to be the focus, but there is so much more going on in the layers beneath. Both Kiefer and Hardiman contribute electronics/synths this time around, and the watery sounds that open “Dissolving into Shape” nicely flesh out the restrained drumming and commanding lead guitar. “Under a Magnetic Sky” is also bathed in soft electronics, covering the outstretched guitar, prominent bass, and taut drumming like a warm, fuzzy blanket. “Carrier Signals” features them leaning a bit more into jazz territory, punctuated with pseudo-Eastern melodies, unconventional drumming, and sitar-like drones.

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Julia Sabra and Fadi Tabbal, "Snakeskin"

SnakeskinThis is the first full-length collaboration between Sabra and Tabbal, but it is apparently also the sixth collaborative release between Portland's Beacon Sound and Lebanon's Ruptured Records (which was co-founded by Tabbal). While Tabbal's solo work has been a very enjoyable recent discovery for me, this is my first encounter with Julia Sabra, who is normally one-third of the excellent Beirut-based dreampop trio Postcards. The pair do have a history of working together, as Tabbal has co-produced several Postcards releases, but their creative union only began to take shape in the aftermath of Beirut's massive 2020 port explosion (which destroyed Sabra's home, badly injured her partner/bandmate Pascal Semerdjian, and displaced a whopping 300,000 people). Unsurprisingly, one of the primary themes of Snakeskin is the precarious concept of "home" and the "the disappearance of life as we know it" in a volatile and oft-violent world. Those are admittedly more urgent themes in Tabbal and Sabra's neck of the woods than some others (the album was also inspired by the 2021 Palestinian and the invasion of Armenia), but loss and uncertainty eventually come for us all and they make a universally poignant emotional core for an album. And, of course, great art can sometimes emerge from deeply felt tragedies and Tabbal and Sabra are a match made in heaven for that challenge, as Julia's sensuous, floating vocals are the perfect complement to Tabbal's gnarled and heaving soundscapes.

Beacon Sound/Ruptured

The first piece that Sabra and Tabbal wrote together was "Roots," which surfaced last year on Ruptured's The Drone Sessions Vol. 1 compilation. That piece is reprised here as the sublimely beautiful closer, which was a great idea as it is one of the strongest songs on the album. However, it also illustrates how this collaboration has evolved and transformed, as "Roots" has the feel of a dreamy, bittersweet synth masterpiece nicely enhanced with hazy, sensuous vocals. Execution-wise, it is damn hard to top, but the duo's more recent work feels like a creative breakthrough that is greater than the sum of its parts. Put more simply, the pair previously merged their two styles in an expected way to great effect, but then they started organically blurring into a single shared style and the results turned into something more memorable and transcendent. The first major highlight is "All The Birds," which calls to mind a collision between the murky, submerged dub of loscil and what I imagine a bossa nova album by Julee Cruise might have sounded like. As cool as all that sounds, however, the reality is even better due to the muscular, snaking synth undercurrent and surprise snare-roll groove.

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Angelo Harmsworth, "Singe"

SingeI was a bit later to the Angelo Harmsworth party than I would have liked, but the Berlin-based American composer has been fitfully releasing very distinctive blown-out "ambient" albums for about a decade now on an array of hip and discriminating small labels (Opal Tapes, Vaagner, enmossed, Psychic Liberation, etc.). Harmsworth's latest is his first for Students of Decay and marks a rare vinyl outing, as most of his previous physical releases have been limited to cassette. According to the label, Singe "may be the high water mark" of Harmsworth's career to date, which does feel like a completely plausible claim, but one that is very hard to confidently echo given how many killer Harmsworth pieces already exist. Even if Singe fails to conclusively eclipse all of Harmsworth's past triumphs, however, it does seem to be one of his most consistently strong releases and an ideal starting point for the curious. Notably, describing Harmsworth's vision as "ambient" or even "power ambient" feels cruelly reductionist, which is probably why he amusingly titled a 2020 release Fully Automated Luxury Ambient. That imaginary subgenre feels much closer to the mark, as the intensity and textural inventiveness that Angelo brings to these compositions shares far more common ground with artists like Tim Hecker or Fennesz (or collapsing power lines during a live volcano) than it does with anyone trafficking in droning, meditative loops.

Students of Decay

Those craving the aforementioned "collapsing power lines" vibe will have a mercifully short wait, as the opening "Igniting the Periphery" calls to mind buzzing high tension wires swayed by a deep seismic shudder as the surrounding buildings collapse in slow motion. There are some other elements as well, like fragments of twinkling piano and warm waves of frayed drones, but the viscerally heaving, buzzing, and gnarled wreckage at the heart of the piece is the showstopper—everything else is just there to color the mood. That balance holds true for the rest of the album as well, as the Singe experience feels akin to wandering through six cataclysmic yet weirdly beautiful natural disasters. For example, the crackling and hissing "Frothed" evokes slow jets of magma breaking through a buckling, blasted landscape, while "Drip Motion" has the feel of a storm slowly forming and then slowly dissipating. In short, Harmsworth harnesses the proverbial "force of nature" and wields it beautifully. That said, "Drip Motion" is an album highlight for more conventionally musical reasons as well, as it resembles the burning and heaving wreckage of a killer Porter Ricks cut fading in and out of focus. "A Twofold Excess" then ends the album's first half with yet another gem, as it feels like slowed-down footage of a tornado ripping apart a sawmill before dissolving into a sublime coda of sputtering static, tender piano, and warbling, whimpering streaks of psychedelia.

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