I Still Have No Idea What to Put Here: Dwight’s 2015

Posted by on January 8, 2016

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In a year filled with over-hyped rhetoric, it feels a little surreal to try and parcel up my take on the experience. Honestly though, I may have felt similarly last year, if the title of my year end posts signals anything. America’s long-winded election is in full-swing… a year+ long leer at the world, because we assume no one has anything better to do than watch us come to terms with ourselves… but it’s clear to me that foremost I have Decoder’s other contributors to thank this year. For the privilege of their thoughts and efforts, for sharing both, and for making Decoder possible in the bargain. Through the second half of the year David Perron of Free Form Freakout and the FFFoxy Podcast helped produce three episodes of our in-house show, and we’ll have a fourth ready before too long, so his efforts have been a major part of what you’ve heard from us in 2015. Thanks also to Dan Goldberg and his Mountain Show series, for orchestrating a truly beautiful show in upstate NY with us this past spring. Obviously I also have to thank everyone who sent us their work, for all the care and patience given over to communicating their ideas. To any other websites, publications, twitter accounts, radio shows, YouTube personalities, SoundCloud producers, almighty Blogspots, themed DL sites, newsletters, even more cryptic net systems I probably don’t know shit about (but would want to (please don’t shoot me out the airlock)), or anything else acting as an umbrella for goofs and gobbers… thanks for keeping the internet interesting.

Having said that, most of my intro here will revolve around small labels, which remain the focus for my interest and involvement inmusic, as mostly mute and only semi-musical — at the very least, I thought small labels were the clear heroes of 2015. Imprints like Orange Milk and Hausu Mountain, if most of the year end lists I’ve seen are anything to judge by, manifested themselves particularly strongly in the “underground” super-consciousness. I have to lament Night-People‘s subdued presence this year, though they were still well in attendance with several discrete batches. Nebraska’s Tymbal Tapes debuted this year and blossomed across an 11-tape catalog, including bran(…)pos’s (aka San Francisco noise-maven Jake Rodriguez) Pickers & Peckers, undoubtedly one of my favorite releases of the year and an all-around sterling box-set. I talk more about vaporwave below and these guys don’t always fit the bill, so I’ll mention here that Florida based digital imprint Squiggle Dot‘s growth was another success story for 2015, releasing 9 bright slipstream offerings since launching in August. Astral Spirits, Notice Recordings, and Allen Mozek’s demure Vitrine label all had a spectacular year between them as well though — I’ve included a pleasant bit from the latter’s upcoming label compilation, Byron Recital Hall No. 3, in case you’re interested where he’s heading shortly.

In more international quarters I particularly enjoyed following the footprint of Irish experimental imprint Fort Evil Fruit, from Áine O’Dwyer’s exquisite Music For Church Cleaners — reissued by MIE, another label standout in 2015 — to Siorai Geimhreadh‘s wonderful Not a Room cassette, released just last month in an informal batch. 1080p’s expanding circle and a range of unrelated, heavily-vaped northern outposts also keeps a part of our focus constantly on Vancouver and Canada, Metaphysical Circuits and Phinery on Denmark, Full of Nothing on northwestern Russia, Baba Vanga on Prague, Wounded Knife on Warsaw, and so on, ad (nearly) infinitum. EM Records in Osaka also had a wonderful year, reissuing a 70s cult classic from Hawaiian composer Haku, as well as their second collection in a little more than a decade from hyper-realist composer Noah Creshevsky.

2015 also saw significant movements from a longstanding network of western imprints that have become deeply involved with Africa and sharing new musical exports; Sahel Sounds produced their wonderful film Akounak with Mdou Moctar and toured internationally, while Analog Africa and Terenga Beat collaborated on a wonderful compilation  of 70s music from Senegal, to say nothing of the globe-trotting activities of Brian Shimkovitz’ Awesome Tapes From Africa label. Their efforts have long since become routine, though it is nice to see a growth in capacity commensurate with their involvement.

From my perspective vaporwave had a particularly gregarious year, thanks in large part to Dream Catalogue and their focused reinforcement of the genre’s arc in ambient /new age. Other labels were conspicuous in that vein, Toronoto’s Adhesive Sounds spending the year transforming itself into a vaporwave hot-spot, and releases on prominent labels with adjoining thematic interests like Not Not Fun and BARO didn’t hurt — the former with a reissue of 2814’s 新しい日の誕生 (originally out via Dream Catalogue) and the latter offering what is undoubtedly a seminal split cassette from Hong Kong Express (shortened to HKE lately) and t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者. Luxury Elite also appeared on cassette via Plastic Response Records, a little more recently. Plenty of new imprints focusing more exhaustively on the genre have cropped up this year, though I should particularly single out Elemental 95 and Lost Angles in Canada, the latter having notably collaborated with Florida’s long-running DMT Records — No Problema Tapes in Santiago, Chile also had a prolific, bar-setting 2015 for themselves. Considering how encompassing the term vaporwave has become, little movements like these — particularly the addition of serious, structurally sensitive labels — seem to positively expand the ethos of the “genre” while preserving its often communal practice and palette. At least it’s hard not to think so, when each of these new spots so effectively weave old and new voices into their catalogs, and by extension into the effulgence of the genre generally.

It was also a good year for weirdo reissues. Captured Tracks’ dedicated cassette and reissue arm Manufactured Recordings may still be a subtle presence compared to its originator, but it’s building to last — my standouts from their catalog included a new LP edition of Scottish recorder Momus’ Circus Maximus and a stack of four cassettes from Hasil Adkins, one of my state’s most beloved and certainly weirdest weirdos. I feel like I’m already getting bogged down in this write-up so I’ll start moving toward a wrap, since I don’t have any grandiose pronouncements to make… though I will highlight a couple other standouts from my list… Leaving’s triple cassette reissue of Laraaji recordings, circa the late 70s, early 80s, and conscientiously bundled together as All in One Peace... and obviously Abductions’ reissue of Torch of the Mystics from Sun City Girls will have been one for the books / .txt notepad document. If you’ve accidentally scanned over the preceding text and don’t like the look of it, take Free Form Freakout’s list of archival releases in 2015 in its stead.

Oh and while I’m wrapping up, something I wish I’d gotten to hear in 2015 (but didn’t): Bill Nace’s cassette with Aaron Dilloway as Band, via Matt Krefting’s Silver Lining imprint. All gone, no streams, nary a trace. So I’ll be staring down the gullet of Open Mouth Records until their upcoming release with the duo arrives. Not a category I usually have to wrangle with in one of these introductions, but I thought I’d mention it in case… well, you were also looking for an alternative to hearing the first one.

Moving right along though… considering how much of my post this year is made up by a more or less conventional, free-form (alphabetical) list of releases from 2015, it feels important to say at least something about lists. This year I felt more awareness of the significance and implications of lists, though that didn’t always feel like it translated into a varied yield, or even a clear framework for conversation.  Pronouncements about best and worst would seem problematic regardless of how democratic the conclusions, but by comparison an unranked listing is just an extension of personal reality. The recordings on my list were sent or found, and enjoyed, consciously, so I feel qualified to recommend them. Liz Pelly of Fvck the Media opened a feature on her favorite tracks from the year with a good description of why I think it certainly can be important to do this sort of thing. You should make a list sometime too, if only out of deference to the fact that we make them in our heads to varying degrees of intention almost constantly. To talk about “best” in relation to a community should feel ridiculous when we can all acknowledge so much better our individual and shared reality by using a word like “favorite,” or even qualifying “my favorite.” Not to suggest either is particularly artful, or that ultimately this list isn’t anything but a reflection of an image in my head.

I should say, in line with our thinking on a more holistic approach to lists, we also hold off on year end reportage until the actual new year. The truth is a lot of great stuff comes out in that last span or so not usually covered in year-end gobbledygook. This year more than others I got the impression some labels targeted the holiday vacuum semi-deliberately; the quiet launch of Robert Beatty’s A.H.E.M. Editions imprint for instance, or a pair of gutrending tapes on Crisis Urbana, circa late November, and sadly their only offerings for 2015. Ukrainian “hard vapour” label Antifur also launched in December, with their lead release (ft. HKE, t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者, and others) receiving a quick cassette reissue this very week via the aforementioned Dream Catalogue.

As ever though, the only way in which these lists are frivolous is the extent to which they —  like most things — fail to automatically account for more critical shortcomings in the world. Presumably we haven’t been clinging to the hull of this great spaceship Earth for quite long enough to reconcile ourselves fully to one another, but I’m optimistic for what’s possible in a world of, if nothing else, attentive listening.

1. -bØb- – The Technical Academy plays -bØb- (Fixture Records)
2. 3FoNIA – Mneme (Pawlacz Perski)
3. 75 Dollar Bill – Wooden Bag (Other Music Recording Company)
4. 断片化された友人 – F r a g m e n t e d M e m o r i e s (No Problema Tapes)
5. A.C. Band/Sadistic Candle – S/T / S/T (Sun Ark)
6. Abba Gargando – Abba Gargando (Sahel Sounds)
7. AHRKH – Tone Mantra (Zam Zam Records)
8. Áine O’Dwyer – Music For Church Cleaners (Fort Evil Fruit / MIE)
9. All These Fingers – HOODS (Fuzzoscope)
10. Amalgamated – Solve et Coagula (Aubjects)
11. Angus Maclise – Angus Maclise Tapes (Pleasure Editions)
12. Anthony Pasquarosa – Morning Meditations (Vin Du Select Qualitite)
13. Bart De Paepe – Blood Clot In The Brain (Sloow Tapes)
14. Ben Varian – Part of the Y’all (MJ MJ Records)
15. Benzokai – Identities Too Abstract (Baba Vanga)
16. BOAN – Mentiras (Holodeck Records)
17. Booker Stardrum – Dance And (NNA Tapes)
18. Boxhead Ensemble – La Hora Magica (Astral Spirits)
19.bran(…)pos – Prickers & Peckers (Tymbal Tapes)
20. Brawny Lad – Shortstops (Self-Released)
21. Casting – 5AM (Cindy’s Tapes)
22. CFCF – The Colours of Life (1080p)
23. C Plus Plus – Cearà (Apothecary Compositions)
24. Chik White – Jaw Works & Behind a Dead Tree on the Shore (Notice Recordings)
25. The Coneheads – L.P. 1 (Erste Theke Tontraeger)
26. Don’T DJ – Magical Power 漫湖 (birdFriend)
27. Dog Hallucination – Mitzi (Aubjects)
28. Eisenhower – Rough Drafts of a Think Piece (SalopeCassette)
29. Fallbeil/Die Form/Slugbug/IBM – Events at the Fatal Party EP (Contort Yourself)
30. Felicia Atkinson – A Readymade Ceremony (Shelter Press)
31. Giant Claw – Deep Thoughts (Orange Milk / Virgin Babylon)
32. Gondwana – AUM (Opal Tapes)
33. Haku – Na Mele A Ka Haku (Music of Haku) (EM Records)
34. Heroiny – Ahh-Ohh (Dunno Recordings)
35. HKE & t e l e p a t h テレパシー能力者 – Gateway アセンション (BARO records)
36. Hybrid Palms – Voyage (Metaphysical Digital)
37. I Am Just A Pupil – 12 Hours FULL RELAXATION (1080p)
38. Jacober – The Gray Man (Geographic North)
39. Jesse Osborne-Lanthier & Robert Lippok – Timeline (Geographic North)
40. Kane Ikin – Warehouses (This Thing Records & Tapes)
41. Kanelbjørn – Udkants-tripper (Metaphysical Circuits)
42. Kescho – Unaccentuated (Pan Y Rosas)
43. The Kiriks – Mystical Poems of Rumi (Metaphysical Circuits)
44. Köshrimp – Métapolis: Département Isolation Temporelle (Adhesive Sounds)
45. Laraaji – All In One Peace (Leaving Records / Stones Throw)
46. Loren Chasse- The Sodden Floor (Notice Recordings)
47. Loto Retina / L’eoscombu Couti – Split (Carpi Records)
48. Macula Dog – S/T (Haord Records)
49. MAGAS – Heads Plus (Midwich)
50. Mazzmelancolié – S/T (Wounded Knife)
51. Mario Diaz de Leon – The Soul is the Arena (Denovali Records)
52. Metzengerstein – Alchemy to Our Days (Yerevan Tapes)
53. Michael Sena – Bali High OST (Anthology Recordings)
54. Miguel Alvariño – Participation (Hot Releases)
55. Mike Tamburo – The Way To Be Free (Self-Released)
56. Moa Pillar – Humanity (Full of Nothing)
57. Momus – Circus Maximus (Manufactured Recordings)
58. Moon Diagrams – Sketch For Winter IV (Geographic North)
59. Moon Wheel – Okänt Land (Where To Now?)
60. mus.hiba – White Girl (Orange Milk)
61. Nicole Brennan – Scary Moments II (Wasabi Tapes)
62. Night Court – Law & Order (Not Not Fun)
63. Noah Creshevsky – Hyperrealist Music, 2011-2015 (EM Records)
64. øjeRum – He Remembers There Were Gardens (Cabin Floor Esoterica)
65. Oorutaichi – Drifting My Folklore (Streamline)
66. Pablo R. Ruiz – QEP (No Problema TapesDiamante Records)
67. Paul Hares – MSC DTH (Big Ear Tapes)
68. The Person – Kiosk (Squiggle Dot)
69. pHoaming Edison – Oh (Self-Released)
70. Pleasure Island – Special Forces (Chondritic Sound)
71. Piper Spray – Krolorog (Hausu Mountain)
72. Ramzi – HOUTi KUSH (1080p)
73. Ratkiller – Comfortably Declined (Baba Vanga)
74. Rev. Edward W. Clayborn – I Have a Home in the Sky (Death Is Not The End)
75. Santiago Salazar – Chicanismo (Love What You Feel)
76. Sarah Louise – Field Guide (Scissor Tail)
77. Seth Graham – No. 00 in Clean Life (Orange Milk)
78. Shepherds of Cats – … with Dariusz Blaszczak and Panelak (Tombed Visions)
79. Shit & Shine – Chakin’ (Astral Spirits)
80. Siorai Geimhreadh – Not a Room (Fort Evil Fruit)
81. Sun City Girls – Torch of the Mystics (Abduction Records)
82. Sunhoods – Vol. 1 (Doubledotdash!?)
83. Swarvy – Superfoods (Rap Vacation)
84. TALsounds – All The Way (Hausu Mountain)
85. Tom Carter & Pat Murano – Kawnyarna (Dub Ditch Picnic)
86. Unguent – Otiose Pos (birdFriend)
87. V/A – [REC​]​•SELECTS, Vol. 1 & 2 (DMT Records)
88. V/A – Cloud Expo (Lost Angles)
89. V/A – Pocket Full of Stones (Adhesive Sounds)
90. V/A – Side Effects May Include (Allergy Season)
91. V/A – Triple Healing Mixtape (Social Harmony)
92. V/A – 美しい (Utsukushii) I & II (Wasabi Tapes)
93. V/A – Voooxing Poooêtre (Recital)
94. V/A – Wood & Wire: Ears Have Ears Soundtracks (Wood & Wire)
95. Ventla – For Human Consumption (Astro Nautico)
96. Vesica Piscis – Twin Yang (Indole Records)
97. Washington Phillips – S/T (Death Is Not The End)
98. Waterfront Dining – Spells 呪文 (Lost Angles / DMT Records)
99. Weanin – Windy City (Nekubi Tapes)
100. Weeping Windows – S/T (Lighten Up Sounds)
101. When – The Black Death (Ideologic Organ)
102. White Noise – An Electric Storm (Sanity Muffin)
103. Willis Anne – Déjà Vu (Isaiah Tapes)
104. Woven Skull – Emissions From Sun Bleached Brains (Eiderdown)
105. X.Y.R. – Mental Journey to B.C. (Not Not Fun)
106. YlangYlang – No Exist (Feel Special) (Phinery)