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2019-12-15

MUSIC 2019: top EPs, live recordings - and my own shit



After my TOP 22 albums and my TOP 20 live shows it's time for the third and last part of my musical rewind of 2019, where I gather everythink else I want to rank or mention.

Which isn't very much this time, because two new 7" records (and one of them being a magazine extra) doesn't really justify a list. So here are my TOP 3 EPs and live recordings - and then three videos with my honestly most favorite music stuff of the year. Please check them out!








TOP 3 EPs:


  1. THE COMET IS COMING - The Afterlife
     
    Here's yet another example of "one excellent release per year just isn't enough". Think of "Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery" as a colourful ball of modelling clay; to fit it into a shorter running time you press it together with all your power. Its particles are closer together now, everything is tighter. The electronics are crispier, the droning keys are vibrating deeper. The beats are harder to resist and the saxophone reaches higher to the stars. The Comet Is Coming are just getting a little bit better with each LP or EP. Just as the album "The Afterlife" also features one track with a guest poet / musician, the male counterpart to Kate Tempest, if you will. It's Joshua Idehen, who we already love from his contributions to Sons Of Kemet's "Your Queen Is A Reptile".   

      
  2. RADAR MEN FROM THE MOON - Bliss
     
    Drone. Super drone. Radar Men From The Moon drone. No, wait! I've already reserved this introduction for another release. (See live recordings below!) It works for both bands though, since this EP from the Dutch psych heads especially in its more ambient moment feels very much alike Ulver's "Drone Activity". RMFTM's approach however is more direct, meaner and harder. When they're using harsh electronic beats you can imagine JK Flesh nodding in approval of this buzzdroning grumble-bee of a record.


     
  3.  MOLASSES - Morning Haze / Drops Of Sunlight
     
    Named after the last song of the album "Earth Air Spirit Water Fire" from Selim Lemouchi & His Enemies, it his no big surprise that this group, which was founded for a commissioned Roadburn performance, is basically a merger of the late guitarist's last psychedelic rock and his occult proto-metal with The Devil's Blood. The stomping beats with that signature groove, the hard rock powerchords, the layered lead guitars harmonizing into eternity... and of course she herself on lead vocals, "the Devil's Mouth" Farida Lemouchi, whose longing, mystical voice has been dearly missed. If the the sound of this EP would just be a tad clearer and the running time a little longer, "Morning Haze / Drops Of Sunlight" could have been my number one here.

 








TOP 3 live recordings:



  1. Drone. Super drone. Ulver drone. Two weeks before an event called (surprise!) "Drone Activity" in a former fish warehouse in Oslo Krystoffer Riggs' famous local band was invited to play a show there and agreed to perform 90 minutes of exclusive new music. Some band members could only come shortly before the performance, the drummer wasn't available at all. But somehow they managed to prepare just enough basic structures to have it bloom into a phenomenal dronescape. Edited down to four massive tracks this resulted in an album dramatically different than - yet truly on par with - their last studio work "The Assassination Of Julius Caesar".


  2. ORANSSI PAZUZU - Live At Roadburn

    When the Finnish blackadelic hypnotribalistic colossevil cosmic black metal force Oranssi Pazuzu played in Het Patronaat in 2016 the interest in the band was much bigger than the room. So they made a triumphant return in 2017, which is documented on this gigantic record. Considering that they already co-created my personal album of the year with the Waste Of Space Orchestra, this an extremely pleasant icing on the Pazuzu cake.

    [Speaking about dark and epic Roadburn records: Mizmor's "Yodh: Live At Roadburn 2018" is another jewel of doom and black metal you don't want to miss!]


  3. ZEAL & ARDOR - Live In London

    No, I won't delve deep into the genius of Zeal & Ardor's black metal meets gospel meets blues in an alternative universe mix again right now. But what I cannot emphasize enough is the pure mass of hits on this live recording. Only the debut EP and one full album are not much material for the kind of headlining status Manuel Gagneux's band has already achieved, so there's a whole handful of new songs which are celebrated just as euphoric as the rest of the repertoire. All in all "Live In London" is not only a great live recording, but also an excellent point to start in case you're still new to Zeal & Ardor.









and else?


I've thought about including other rankings, but I just don't have enough 10" records or re-issues or whatever to justify them. The category of disappointments is not only negative, but it also feels so samey, because every year there are bands who disbanded (Subrosa), lost crucial members (Sinistro) or avoided Hamburg / Northern Germany on their tours (hello, Earth!), so I'm not doing that either.

That leaves me to conclude with my own shit...




DRUTURUM activities:


DruturuM sadly did not play live this year. Yeah, it's been a horribly long time now.

However we finally finished "Druturum V: Wayfarer" and played a live home session of it in our rehearsal room in April. As always there are some small mistakes, but all in all we are very proud of this huge chunk of Danelectro drone with lots of psychedelica, Glockenspiel and some surprising twists and turns in it.

You can watch the whole session - flavoured with lots of my photographs and some new Digital Harinezumi video sequences - in three parts on our YouTube playlist:






Even though we haven't practiced it since then, we're still willing to do one exlusive "real" live performance of "Druturum V: Wayfarer" with an audience at some point. Maybe even as a double feature, if we're allowed to, haha.

Because meanwhile we're working on "Druturum VI: Tightrope Walkers on the Junction of Memory, Dream and Oblivion", which will again feature some new instruments and styles and already has a very fine cover artwork (1972, Ohlsen family archives):










THE HIRSCH EFFEKT und THE INTERSPHERE im Knust, Hamburg (12.12.2019)

The Hirsch Effekt


Na, wer von euch Schlawinern ist schon einmal nach einem Konzert durch eine Verkehrskontrolle durchgefallen?

Also ich nicht. Aber mit einem anderen Polizeibeamten hätte es Donnerstag Nacht in der Großkontrolle auf dem Parkplatz Forst Rantzau schon passieren können. Wohl nicht wegen des abgelaufenen Verbandskastens, den ich Montag im Zuge des TÜVs eh erneuern werde. Alkohol getrunken hatte ich auch nicht; ich trinke ja eh fast nie. Doch meine Pupillen haben beim Lampentest reagiert!

Zum Glück fiel mir ziemlich schnell und überzeugend ein, woran das gelegen haben könnte: Klar, so eine Kontrolle muss natürlich ausgerechnet nach einem Konzert kommen, auf dem die Augen gleich von zwei Bands mit Stroboskop-Dauerfeuer gestresst wurden.

Naja, "Musik für Aufgeweckte" halt, so der Slogan des Sponsors des Abends.


So erleichtert ich auch war, nach diesem kleinen Schreck aus der Kontrolle rauszukommen, so genervt war ich überhaupt davon, dass die Polizei den Parkplatz komplett okkupiert hatte. Ich hatte nämlich noch einen Burger auf dem Beifahrersitz, den ich hier eigentlich verputzen wollte, was nun natürlich auf einen späteren Halt verschoben wurde.


Irgendwie passte das aber auch zum abgesehen vom wichtigsten Teil nicht so ganz runden Abend. Die dritte Runde (und in jedem die Fall letzte, bevor ich nachgegeben und ein Parkhaus benutzt hätte) um den Heiligengeistfeld-Block hatte mir zwar zunächst einen guten freien Parkplatz beschert, und so kam ich noch rechtzeitig an, um der Lesung von Nils Wittrock aus der The Hirsch Effekt-Bandbiographie zu lauschen. Also theoretisch zumindest. Praktisch habe ich allerdings nicht geschnallt, dass diese Lesung im Nebenraum stattfand, während ich in der Peripherie der Bühne wartete und dachte, dass der Mann vielleicht stimmlich angeschlagen sei und die Lesung deswegen ausfiel.

Ganz Unrecht hatte ich damit letztendlich nicht, denn ganz bei Stimme war er tatsächlich nicht, was ihm allerdings längst nicht so sehr anzumerken war wie neulich Devon Graves genau an diesem Ort.

Trotzdem: mein doof, dass ich die Lesung so unnötig verpasst habe. Und mein Pech, dass die Vorband heute so wenig mein Fall war...


The Intersphere

The Intersphere waren mit ihrem modernen Genremix-Progmetal mit Alternative-Gesang ja auf dem Papier durchaus zielgruppengerecht. Wobei sie mich allerdings weniger an den doch erheblich wilderen und härteren Sound des Headliners erinnerten, sondern eher an Thank You Scientist. Also ohne Violine und Bläser natürlich. Und vom Leadgesang her natürlich auch nicht in der Liga. Und halt ohne die zündenden Ideen.

Das war mein Problem mit der Band: Die raumschiffgroßen Effektboarde, die tollen Instrumente, die spielerischen Fähigkeiten waren zwar aller da, aber letztendlich hat mich - bis auf diese nach Paul Masvidal klingende halbe Minute zu Beginn des vierten(?) Tracks  - unabhängig von Stil, Härtegrad etc. einfach keines der Versatzstücke wirklich abgeholt oder irgendwelche tieferen Gefühle bei mir hervorgerufen. Was bei einer fast durchgehend auf emotionalen Ausdruck gebügelten Gruppe jetzt nicht so ideal kommt.

Am erfolgreichsten im Bemühen um meine Gunst stellte sich ab und zu die postrockenden Leadgitarren an, doch ehrlich: ein paar Tage nach Mono braucht es da für mich auch eine größere, konsequentere Ausführung. Nein, so sehr ich für mich neue Bands auch stets mögen möchte - The Intersphere haben mich doch ziemlich schnell gelangweilt.

Sorry, nicht meins.



The Hirsch Effekt



Ganz anders The Hirsch Effekt, von denen ich mir - obwohl ich sie immer großartig fand - doch eine erstaunlich lange Pause genommen hatte. Von 2013 bis 2016 waren die drei Hannoveraner doch eine einigermaßen regelmäßige Erscheinung in diesem Blog. Doch dann erfasste mich irgendwann eine gewisse Mathematikmusikmüdigkeit. Also nicht, dass ich Progmetal und anderes sekundiös geplantes Gefrickel auf einmal scheiße fand. Aber der Nachschub an neuem Futter war bis auf wenige Ausnahmen halt nicht mehr so zwingend.

Und so erschien nur beiläufig von mir wahrgenommen, während ich mir mein kontrolliertes Chaos eher anderswo (z.B. im Jazz) holte, das vierte Album von The Hirsch Effekt, welches auch das erste Werk nach der "Holon"-Trilogie darstellte und das alte Material von eben jenem Zyklus im Liveset bald dramatisch zurückdrängte.

Und was bedeutete das jetzt? Ich habe mich in der Vorbereitung zum Konzert extra nicht auf den neuesten Stand gebracht, um das zum überwiegenden Teil aus "Eskapist"-Stücken bestehende Set ganz frisch erleben zu können.
Ob's besser gewesen wäre, mich doch vorher mit dem wohl härtesten und düstersten Material des Trios vertraut zu machen? Kann ich nicht beurteilen, ich weiß nur, dass mich The Hirsch Effekt wieder richtig derbe geflasht haben.

Grundsätzliche musikalische Ausrichtung (Kürzestbeschreibung: deutschsprachige Nachfolger von The Dillinger Escape Plan), Bühnenpräsenz, Humor - alles vertraut. Das Zusammenspiel in den irrwitzigen Brüllsingprügelstopandgogehirneinmaldurchslinkenasenlochzieh-Songs wahrscheinlich tighter denn je.
Die für Verkehrskontrollen nach dem Konzert kontraproduktive Lightshow hatte auch ein paar neue Elemente, die ich noch nicht kannte. Kein Ponyhof für die Augen also - wenn doch, dann mit ziemlich aufgestachelten Ponys, die im Akkord Regenbogenblitze scheißen -, aber halt leider geil.

Wahrscheinlich war das für mich die letzte Show dieses Jahr, und ich denke, das war ein exzellenter Abschluss. Wäre auch schwer, diesem Hirsch jetzt noch einen aufs Geweih drauf zu setzen.



Und ja, keine Sorge: Die "Eskapist" habe ich mir jetzt auch vom Merch-Tisch abgeernet.

Man braucht ja schließlich Beweisstücke in der Hinterhand, falls der Staat mal wissen will, wo man gerade gewesen ist.



The Intersphere:





The Hirsch Effekt:





2019-12-13

MUSIC 2019: TOP 20 live shows




Ok, technically this isn't a top 20 list. It's one top 8 list (solo/club concerts) and one top 12 (festival shows).

Why those numbers? Because they seem reasonable in relation to the total of shows I attended this year. It doesn't mean there weren't more fantastic nights (thinking of the four sets Bone Man extravaganza in Kiel, Psychotic Waltz, Wang Wen, Kikagaku Moyo...) and more great performances at the admittedly very few festivals I attended in 2019.

These however were the ones which stood out the most:




SOLO/CLUB SHOW TOP 8:





  1. It's amazing how after all those years a new Laibach tour is still an exciting prospect which will always floor and surprise you. In theory this show should have been old news, with most of both "The Sound Of Music" and the "Laibach revisited" material having been performed numerous times on previous tours. But thanks to new arrangements (and also a couple of new songs), new blood and new visuals this show was yet another mindblowing experience. Especially "Vier Personen" marked one of the best moments of the year for me.
       

  2. ESBEN AND THE WITCH - Molotow, Hamburg
     
    "Find your own peace" Rachel Davies requests in "Seclusion". One vital piece in the puzzle of how to achieve that might be to see Esben And The Witch live. Everything in the post punk trio's music "centers around the perfect juxtapostion of ostensible simplicity with emotional complexity", as I already put it in my review. This band is just so enormously raw, delicate and goosebumps-inducing. If you get the chance to see them - don't you dare to miss it!

      
  3. VOIVOD - Bahnhof Pauli, Hamburg
     
    I know, Voivod high in this list once again doesn't come as a huge surprise. But I am not at all to blame here, because come on, the Canadian SciFiProgThrashPunkMetal legends are just that fucking good. As always the set was too short to do their decades of high quality output justice, but hey, it had more "The Wake" in it than last time - and it ripped and killed from start to finish.


  4. MOTORPSYCHO - Markthalle, Hamburg
      
    See the Voivod paragraph above? Similar situation here. With Motorpsycho you can always count on being flattened by a ginormous rock'n'roll steamroller. Consisting of classics, highlights from "The Tower" and a block with the whole "The Crucible" album (played in reverse order) this show was nothing short of one long thundering superlative.

      
  5. SUNN O))) - Kampnagel, Hamburg
     
    Without Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar on stage, Sunn O))) presented themselves in a decidedly different form. Warmer, less abrasive, more meditative - but of course still earth-shattering loud. And that beautiful transcendent trombone moment at the crest of the show will stay in the heart of everyone who had the pleasure of seeing the drone metal masters on this tour.

         
  6. MONO + JO QUAIL - Mojo Club, Hamburg

    And yet another rightfully very expected entry in this list. They are at it for twenty years now and it shows in all the best ways. In cinematic, monumental, deafening instrumental post rock, there is just no match for Mono. To have looping cello player Jo Quail as support act and stage guest was also a very fitting decision.

      
  7. KANAAN - Hafenklang, Hamburg 

    "Ok guys, so how much John McLaughlin and Billy Cobham do you have in you?" - "Yes."

    Even though this was only their first date on their first European tour, the Norwegian instrumental power kraut rock jazz doom fusion trio Kanaan didn't waste any time in instantly becoming one of my new favorite live bands. Exciting psychedelic bliss!

         
  8. BIG|BRAVE + MY DISCO - Die Schute, Hamburg
     
    After a personnel change behind the drumkit following the recording of the last album, the live sound and appearance of Big|Brave surely looks and sounds a little different than before, but it's still an equally crushing masterclass in emotionally captivating drone rock minimalism. The fitting tour package with the experimental Sumac-meets-John Cage trio My Disco (also on the picture; Big|Brave hasn't changed THAT much) - and all this on a tiny boat - was the icing on the cake.


  






FESTIVAL SHOW TOP 12:




  1. Right now there are only few artists out there who can in any way compete with the massiveness of the drone and the otherworldliness of the voice of Swedish singer and instrumentalist Anna von Hausswolff. The audience in the packed 013 main hall fully agreed with this sentiment and ate out of her hand completely stunned and mesmerised.  


  2. SUN RA ARKESTRA - Überjazz Festival
     
    Wow! Who would have thought that after not much more than a year I would have another chance to see this legendary beyond words free jazz big band in Hamburg again? This time 95 years young band leader Marshall Allan had "only" ten other musicians with him, and without electric guitar and female vocals the band rang closer to its original sound from the 1950s. Yeah, I know. As if I could seriously judge that.


  3. IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT - Roadburn Festival

    Triumphant indeed! There could have been no better choice to say goodbye to the former church and beloved location Het Patronaat than the extreme, jazz-rooted black metal inferno the New York trio unleashed upon the thankful crowd at the very end of this year's Roadburn edition.
       

  4. MONO + JO QUAIL QUARTET - Roadburn Festival
     
    With a grand piano and accompanied by a string quartet the Japanese post rock giants Mono performed their full masterpiece "Hymn To The Immortal Wind". What more could you possibly need?


  5. GLERAKUR - Roadburn Festival
     
    What more than Mono could you need? Well, what about the Icelandic four guitars and two drummers post rock force that is GlerAkur? With musical ties to the mentioned as well as the gigantism of Swans and Cult Of Luna they took the audience in the Koepelhal by overwhelming surprise.


  6. BLACK BOMBAIM & PETER BRÖTZMANN - Roadburn Festival
     
    The infectious heavy psych stoner groove of the Portuguese improvisational trio Black Bombaim combined with the wild and raw saxophone expression of legendary free jazz elder Peter Brötzmann. What a joy to behold! Damn, I really need this released as a record.
     

  7. LOUISE LEMÓN - Roadburn Festival
     
    As a firm atheist I'm not easily converted to any kind of cult. Against Louise Lemón, glittery high priestess of death gospel, and her smoothly droning dark pop however I didn't stand any chance of resisting. Soul-soothingly beautiful!




  8. THE END - Roadburn Festival
     
    I've had a good dose of advantgarde jazz / noise experimentalism at Roadburn, but boy, Mats Gustafsson's The End featuring two brutal saxophones and outstanding wide range vocalist Sofia Jemberg took everything weird and insane and turned it up to maximum. This show was an epitome of "what the fuck" on all levels.


  9. THE COMET IS COMING - Überjazz Festival

    Synthwave prog rave fusion? Who knows? Whatever you call the explosive jazzocalypse of Danalogue (keys), Betamax (drums) and King Shabaka (sax), one thing is for sure: this mix absolutely kills. And the fabulous stage production of the Überjazz Festival didn't stand in the way of making this performance remarkable either.


  10. LUCY IN BLUE - Roadburn Festival
     
    I've already laid down my love for Lucy In Blue's debut album "In Flight" in my album of the year list. This show was was the towering reason why I had to buy the album, because in Tilburg the Icelandic retro psych proggers not only celebrated its release, but also played it in full.



  11. SATAN - Deaf Forever Birthday Bash
     
    The New Wave of Britisch Heavy Metal is not exactly the genre with maximum rotation in my daily music consumption. But if I get the chance to see one of its godfather groups on stage at a festival I surely won't say no. Especially not, when the band is blessed with a charismatic frontman like Brian Ross and still killing it as fast, dirty and crazy as these gentlemen. Hail Satan!

     
  12. various - PINK TANK Festival Heide
     
    Ok, I'm cheating a little again by overlooking a couple of Roadburn artists (sorry Molasses and Sumac!) in favor of including a local Northern German label festival. After a kind of identy crisis last year the Pink Tank was back in Heide again under it's original moniker, and I can't even tell which of the shows was my absolute favorite. I guess it's a close tie between the psych drone doom of Bees Made Honey In The Vein Tree (who also only scarcely didn't make my AOTY list), the space punk of Burnpilot and the instrumental stoner prog of Camel Driver. The night as a whole was great and deserves this shout-out of appreciation.