Highlights of the Year #3
The storming Diagonal label had a pretty much near-flawless barrage of releases this year. Highlights were the salvo of head honcho Powell's Club Music and Russell Haswell's 37 Minute Workout. I don't really buy into the whole deconstructed techno label people seem so keen to apply: I think this is unrelenting and single-minded music that doesn't care if you dance to it or not. And it's great. Haswell also provided a live highlight in his collaboration/confrontation with Kevin Drumm at OTO in July. At times hard to work out if they were playing at or with each other, it was gnarly, incendiary, occasionally jarring, but never less than engrossing.
I was a bit late getting to Koenraad Ecker's Ill Fares The Land on Digitalis but it's highly worth seeking out. Murky and peculiar, rhythmic claustraphobia gives way to bass-heavy cello composition. Weird in all the right ways. Lawrence English's Wilderness of Mirrors for his own Room40 imprint managed to stand out above the flood of drone/ambient releases. Visceral, moving, and unwavering in approach, this record demanded attention.
Other notable picks of the year include Pascal Nichols' skittering drum improv record Nihilist Chakai Houses for Discombobulate, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Mark Fell demonstrating their craft in what felt almost like a workshop rather than a live performance at OTO, Sun Kil Moon's Benji from the opposite end of the spectrum (despite Mark Kozalek's seeming pursuit since then of erasing all goodwill towards him), pretty much everything on Spectrum Spools, and excellent releases from Tartaruga favourites Petrels (particuarly The Silver Chimney Club on Denovali), Brassica (Man is Deaf for Civil), and Call Super (Suzi Ecto for Houndstooth).
And live highlight of the year, already mentioned in part 2, was undoubtedly the dark, cold, November evening down in Brixton when Hey Colossus blew the roof off the Windmill. Last year's album on MIE was great, but live they're a different proposition, and we can't wait for next year's In Black and Gold.
Finally, tips to the following for providing ever-interesting sources of new music: London's best record shop Electric Knife, the Anti-Gravity Bunny blog, the awesome Crow Versus Crow radio show, and the superb Antidote Podcast.