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2020-12-25

MUSIC 2020: my favorite live albums and EPs

Oh no, yet another end-of-the-year list category which makes me cry inside! Well, let's be grateful that at least we have the conserved memories of times when music was performed live in front of an audience, ok?

I've already covered quite a bunch of live releases in my recommended streams and favorite downloads, but now it's time to get physical with some actually touchable records.

But first let's warm up with a ranking of the best short albums / long singles (or whatever your preferred definition of an EP is) of 2020!





TOP 7 EPs:


  1. VOIVOD - The End Of Dormancy

    With two recordings of a modified version of an already known song (studio and live) plus the live performance of a "Nothingface" classic that's been played at most shows of the last thirty years, this EP clearly doesn't win this ranking by quantity of new original material. But the vintage movie style brass treatment of "The End of Dormancy" from "The Wake", which is already one of the greatest musical journeys in 
    Voivod's history is just just too perfectly executed. More of that jazz please!


  2. -S- - Zabijanie Czasu I

    This I, Voidhanger Records release could already have been included in my favorite downloads, but since a CD version of this EP exists, I'm letting it co-lead the field here. Sporting bass, drums, vocals and clarinet this Polish group calls its style "Dark Occvult Funk", which is an astonishingly apt description of the weird mix of jazz, contemporary classic, punk, post rock and extreme metal on display on this twenty-six-minutes-track. Sick shit!
      

  3. ZEAL AND ARDOR - Wake Of A Nation

    Powerful. That's the description you get if you want to sum up the whole message, concept and musical realization of this EP in just one word. While the songwriting and performances of Manuel Gagneux' black metal meets blues meets gospel meets electronic etc. project keeps getting more refined and mature with each release, "Wake Of A Nation" also dials up the honesty and urgency by stepping away from the alternative history of its predecessors and reacting directly to racist police violence and the direct thematization of events concerning the Black Experience like the syphilis experiments of Tuskegee.


  4. MONO & A.A.WILLIAMS - Exit In Darkness

    Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful. Just wonderful.
    The combination of singer / songwriter / multi-instrumentalist A.A. Williams and Japanese post rock monumentalists Mono proved to be a meeting of minds and souls that could hardly have resulted in something more beautiful than this 10" EP. The calm patience and deep substantial emotion of these two tracks is a peaceful dream we didn't know we would need so badly, back in January, when "Exit In Darkness" came out.


  5. THE END - Nedresa

    Even being a little bit more accessible and straightforward than on their debut album, The End keep establishing themselves as an extra-weird, unique brand of avant-garde jazz/prog/noise fusion on this two-track 10" EP. While almost guaranteed by the involvement of saxophon animal Mats Gustafsson, it's mostly due to Sofia Jernberg's as eclectic as technically impressive vocal performance that the Swedish quintet's music explodes with delightful insanity.  


  6. FRA DET ONDE - feat. the Legendary Emil Nikolaisen

    Is this a blizzard or a firestorm? One thing's for sure: Whatever this Norwegian electric free jazz fusion trio unleashes with drums, bass and trumpet here, is guaranteed  to kick you out of your shoes if you don't brace yourself. Yet another proof that the psych and kraut label El Paraiso Records always kills the most, when its releases are going full jazz.


  7. LOUISE LEMÓN - Devil

    Within 2020's turmoil the gothic-ish soul of Louise Lemón somehow feels like a blissful caring hug, probably even in moments when it's not even supposed to do that. But the Swedish singer's warm voice and the seemingly simple beauty of her songs is just a too irresistable island for the heart to rest a while. Most times I listen to this I immediately repeat the whole EP at least once.











TOP 6 LIVE ALBUMS:

  1. TRIPTYKON with the METROPOLE ORKEST - Requiem (Live At Roadburn 2019)

    "What Triptykon have achieved here is highly remarkable and should be the universally accepted benchmark for artistic integrity and adventurous courage in any future metal / orchestra production from whoever, regardless of budget or subgenre." 
    This conclusion of my review still stands. It was a long journey from Celtic Frost's "Into The Pandemonium" to the completion of this piece for Roadburn Festival 2019, but there's no doubt that it was entirely worth the wait. In my book this is one of the most essential live recordings ever made from any metal band. Definitely worth the deluxe artbook version with vinyl, CD, DVD, bonus 7" and more extras. 


  2. LAIBACH - Bremenmarsch: Live at Schlachthof 12.10.1987

    There are already plenty of Laibach live bootlegs and a couple of official releases from the 1980s around, so one could have assumed that the market for that is pretty much saturated. But who would have thought that a performance from the golden "Opus Dei" / "Macbeth" times of this phenomenal sound quality could be unearthed from the Radio Bremen archives?
    But not only the production is great here. The  show itself - with extra musicians from a theater performance the day before - is punishingly ferocious and at the same time creative and playful as fuck. Essential!

    Also very much worth to be honorably mentioned here is another Laibach live album, which digs even deeper into the Slovenians' past. As far as I know "Underground", a special Vier Personen performance of early years classics like "Boji", Siemens" or "Smrt Za Smrt" inside a mining tunnel in 2012, isn't available on its own though, but remains one of several good reasons to purchase the gargantuan "Laibach Revisited" box. 


  3. ZOLA JESUS - Live At Roadburn 2018

    Capturing one of the most significant shows of the in my book probably strongest Roadburn edition so far and pressed on some of the most beautiful vinyl editions of 2020, this double album is a treasure inside and outside.
    Even if me experiencing it in the flesh from the center of the first row might make me a bit biased, I dare to say that the special energy of this performance for both audience and Zola Jesus herself can be felt in every moment of "Live At Roadburn 2018".


  4. SENYAWA & STEPHEN O'MALLEY - Bima Makti

    Does this fully count as a live album? Because I suppose it's based on a live show and improved with overdubs afterwards? But who truly cares about these technicalities, when there is such a stunning gathering of ethnic and metallic drone mastership? With flutes, elements of Gamelan music and the weird vocal wanderings of Rully Shabara the Indonesian duo and the Sunn O))) guitarist  find a unique, rich, storytelling and spiritually deep tone that makes "Bima Sakti" a timeless genre masterpiece.


  5. MYTHIC SUNSHIP - Changing Shapes - Live At Roadburn

    Recorded not only at the same festival, but also at the exact same time as Triptykon's "Requiem" the only thing the two performances clearly have in common is that they could both be descrived as monolithic in their own distinct ways. Danish fuzz wizards Mythic Sunship teamed up with "Another Shape Of Psychedelic Music" guest saxophonist Søren Skov again to recreate the feeling of said double album without sticking to the script of its songs - and boy, recreate they did! A seemless fusion of heavy psych rock with free jazz elements. 


  6. KONSTRUKT & OTOMO YOSHIHIDE - Eastern Saga: Live At Tusk

    I think by now it's safe to say that any cooperative record the Turkish experimental free jazzers Konstrukt unleash into the wild via Karlrecords can be expected to kill it.
    This time it's a festival show they played together with Japanese guitarist Otomo Yoshihide in the UK in 2018, which shows no willingness to let either your body nor your mind rest. With two six-string players and two drummers the oriental and blatantly jazzier aspects are sometimes forced to take a backseat in favor of raw noise rock power, but as a whole these two improvisations make a very cohesive - and with all its inherent craziness still relatively accessible - avant-garde music record.





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