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MUSIC 2021: TOP 7 live albums

I think this second part of my view back on 2021 really needs no clarification, except that especially in these times I don't necessarily expect every live album to feature an actual audience, as long as the performance is true.
And yes, I'm publishing this purposefully before the next triple LP of that Can series drops. 😉

So without further ado, here are my personal...



  1. A guy with suspiciously long and warm clothing, who popped up at many Can shows and stood still at one place near the mixing desk for the whole duration of the performance. For the genre-bending krautrock band it must have been as obvious that he was hiding a recording device and microphones in his sleeves as it was to Bojack Horseman that Princess Carolyn's love interest Vincent Adultman was in fact three kids in a trenchcoat. But luckily Michael Karoli, Holger Kzukay, Jaki Liebezeit and Irmin Schmidt tolerated him. So now, almost half a century later Andrew Hall's bootleg tapes get treated with modern studio magic and are transformed into official live albums. The first triple-LP of this series sounds fantastic (especially for what it is) and showcases a band in complete unstoppable frenzy of creativity and stellar musicianship. Legendary!

  2. MONO - Beyond The Past • Live in London with the Platinum Anniversary Orchestra

    In December 2019 post rock monumentalists Mono celebrated their twenty-fifth birthday with a show that can only be described as an absolute culmination of their work up to that point. Supported by a ten-piece string orchestra, with a grand piano on stage and welcoming cellist extraordinaire Jo Quail and singer / pianist / also cellist A.A. Williams as guests towards the end of the set and during the encore, the Japanese quartet keeps you in a state of permanent overwhelmed bliss. It may be a cliché: Post rock as a pure more is more of layered yearning melodies and dynamic crescendos, which rise to enormous volumes... But who cares? Mono are just so phenomenal at it!

  3. NEPTUNIAN MAXIMALISIM - Solar Drone Ceremony

    Nine members, including two drummers, synths, "digital soundscape", saxophone and lots of guitar, performing one single fifty minute piece. Recorded at a show before the sessions for last year's giantic debut "Éons" this live record of Neptunian Maximalism isn't dipping its tentacles too deep in free-jazzy waters yet, but rathers focusses on the "drone" in the title, with a very long build-up, Bong doom metal middle part and psychedelic rock finale, all delivered with a grand swans-inspired heaviness and purpose. This "Solar Drone Ceremony" surely is worthy of its amazing cover artwork, which as a standalone statement should already be enough to give you a glimpse of its majestic magnitude.

  4. LAIBACH - We Forge The Future - Live at Reina Sofía

    Not an exact copy, yet rather an impressive spiritual reenactment of the similarily titled infamous 1983 performance, which led to a four year ban of the band in Yugoslavia, this special show was recorded in Spain in 2017. Stylistically closest to (but not the same  as) the 2012 "Underground" from "Laibach Revisited" "We Forge The Future" is yet another in a series of recent throwbacks to the most noisy, industrial side of Laibach. It's a dark and chaotic collage of horrors, powerfully produced, bombastic and feral. As far as I know there's no source to stream or download this album in its original quality, so if you want to get your hands on this God Records, you should better look out for CD or LP copies as long as they are still available for reasonable prices!

  5. OF BLOOD AND MERCURY - The Other Side Of Death - Live In Tilburg

    The only album in my collection so far from an actual live stream of this year's Roadburn Redux is another release which you cannot buy as a download version. Well, theoretically you could, but just look up the price... It's only available as a limited CD, but if you're too late for that you can still watch the video on YouTube, so you're not missing out completely on this performance.
    More than just a little reminiscent of modern ambient synth pop Ulver (who also released an awesome live album this year) with other-worldy angel vocals the Belgian duo Of Blood And Mercury created something beautiful and worthy of a much wider reach with this commissioned piece, made especially for this occasion of playing to a virtual room.

  6. 李劍鴻 LI JIANHONG - 山霧 Mountain Fog

    If you like it just a little more guitar-centric, then the Chinese experimental musician Li Jianhong has you covered with these two longtracks of evocative drone and noise purity, recorded on different stops of his European tour 2018. It's already impressive how vast and fanciful he fills the seventeen minutes of "Did you see the fireball? It just lept beyond the Wanghai", yet even more amazing, to how many places of visceral storytelling his improvised duet with saxophonist Wang Ziheng climbs during the more than a half hour long duration of the title track. Maximalist minimalism!

  7. Recorded on the stage of the empty Slipper Room in their home city New York, "An Evening with Imperial Triumphant" is the second album emerging from a streaming event in this list. Its "Money Jungle" style cover and the whole sleeve design including liner notes and all is an homage to legendary jazz classics. And who if not this dissonant black metal trio (plus guest trumpeter) is allowed to do that in the world of extreme metal? Destructive dystopian chaos and spiritual jazz both dialed up to eleven in a stunning display of unfathomable brutal precision. A session of the masters.

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