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wrapping up 2021... with DEAD NEANDERTHALS & AARON TURNER and SENYAWA

Ok, so here's the last post of the year for you.

Just like last year I don't have any look back on my photographic activities to offer. I did some fine stuff though, but I'm just way behind with the scanning and cleaning of my negatives again. So basically I'm continuing collecting pictures yet to be presented, while I just don't have the drive to determine what are my favorites now. And like every year a part of me hopes that at some point I will shift the focus of this blog a little bit back towards the photographic topics at some point. Probably still not too realistic, since I'm also writing reviews for / sharing reviews with a new webzine now...

Right here and now I'll just cover one little musical "leftover" and a new release. There are of course still more than a handful of 2021 releases, which I will probably cover in 2022, once I receive their physical copies.

But before that let me not answer the question whatever was up with my own band DruturuM this year:
After we started the year with "Druturum VII: enigmAoFrelativitY", we where pretty sure to finish "Druturum VIII" in April or May. But then we just didn't rehearse anymore for some reason. Yeah, I don't know. Just like I said: I can't really answer the question.

But now let's see what less lazy musicians have done for us:

Already mentioned as supplement in my albums of the year post, the Indonesian experimental duo Senyawa has not ony released the phenomenal "Alkisah" in 2021, but also a digital album called "Membaladakan Keselamatan (Ballads for the Survivors)", which features acoustic renditions of twelve songs from "Alkisah" and previous releases, performed only with guitar and voice - yet still astonishingly full and heavy. There is just a primal beauty and energy about this mystically anachronistic music. Together with the insane vocal skills of Rully Shabara it's a completely unique experience like nothing else.  And even without self-build electronic instruments this collection of ballads is a powerful masterpiece.

And of course today is the day to feature my deranged Dutch darlings Dead Neanderthals, who once again released a monstrous one-track EP for New Year's Eve. The twenty-five-minute mammoth "Corporeal Flux" sees Otto Kokke and René Aquarius teaming up with none other than Sumac/Old Man Gloom throat and guitar punisher Aaron B. Turner. And it's fucking mean, sick and glorious!
However I'll leave it at this here, because I've already promised to deliver a fresh review about it to Veil Of Sound tomorrow and don't want to write shit twice.

[EDIT: Here it is!]

Fuck yeah.

See you on the other side.


Wie? Dachte hier irgendwer, ich wäre schon durch mit Musik dieses Jahr?

So eins, zwei Veröffentlichungen hat 2021 doch noch in der Pipeline, darunter Imperial Triumphants Wiederveröffentlichung ihrer 2016er EP "Inceste" als Deluxe Edition mit vier Bonustracks.

IMPERIAL TRIUMPHANT - Inceste (Red Galaxy vinyl LP) (2016/2021)

Die gute Nachricht für jeden, der bisher nur mit den neueren Alben der New Yorker vertraut ist: Auch die (original) vier Stücke von "Inceste" sind bereits avantgardistisches, ultra-dissonantes Experimentalschwarzmetall mit Klassik-, Oper- und Jazzeinflüssen auf komplett dämonenbesessenem spielerischen Niveau. Vor allem steckt hinter diesem anfangs so chaotisch überladen scheinenden Geballer aber auch exzellentes Songwriting. Nein, mit dieser einmaligen Finesse würfelt einfach niemand sonst die Synapsen durcheinander.

Die Original-EP ist also an sich schon extremmusikalische Perfektion.
Und die Bonus-Tracks?

"Krokodil" ist ein Chorstück, welches demonstriert, wie sich Imperial Triumphants kompositorischer Ansatz auf ein reines A-capella-Umfeld übersetzt, bzw. was passiert, wenn man das Instrumentarium während ihrer anspruchsvollsten Gesangsarrangements einfach mal weglässt. So ein bisschen ist das die blackmetallische Horrorfilmversion von Björks "Medúlla". Sicherlich auch vergleichbar mit Elend.

Als nächstes folgt ein reines Bass-Cover von Miles Davis' "Nefertiti" als kürzeres Zwischenspiel. Es fügt sich nahtlos in den Kontext dieses Kessels voller Dunkelheit ein und offenbart eine weitere Facette des Selbstverständnisses dieser mit äußerst tiefer Jazzkompetenz gesegneten Gruppe.

"Breath Of Innocence" ist ein weiterer Gruselchoral inklusive hemmungslosem Geschrei und Rückwärtsstimmen. Und unnötig langer Stille, als wäre der folgende Abschluss ein hidden track.

"La Douleur Exquise" ist dann wohl das grenzwertigste Erlebnis dieser erweiterten EP. Hier wird ein wohl aus den Dreißiger oder Vierziger Jahren stammender Chanson von bellenden Hunden, Schreien, Lärm überrollt. Besonders schön oder essentiell ist das nicht, aber es rundet das vom Marquis de Sade irgendwie schon passend ab.

Das wohl nicht von ungefähr an einige Cover von Naked City erinnernde Bondage-Cover wurde auf dieser Neuauflage ins Booklet verbannt, während das Gatefoldcover sich eher am edlen urbanen Hochglanz der neueren Ästhetik von Imperial Triumphant orientiert.
Die Pressqualität der farbigen Platte habe ich noch nicht so ganz einsortieren können, einfach weil die Aufnahmen an sich eine Menge absichtlicher Schallplattenstörgeräusche enthält. Da ist es schwer zu differenzieren, was tatsächlich echt ist und was nicht. Letztendlich gehört beides vermutlich dazu?

Wie auch immer. Die Band hat auch mit dieser Überarbeitung von "Inceste" wieder extramusikalische Spitzenqualität abgeliefert, die untermauert, dass sie ohne Zögern zu den wichtigsten und kreativsten Metalbands der Gegenwart zu zählen ist. 


THISQUIETARMY X AWAY - The Singularity, Part I & Part II

Have you ever actively avoided listening to an album, just because you knew that it would be pretty expensive  to order it with international shipping, customs and all?

Speaking for myself, this actually happens every now and then. And it includes both "The Singularity, Part I" and "The Singularity, Part II" by ambient/drone artist thisquietarmy and Voivod drummer Michel Langevin aka Away. I checked out both records (which came out in 2020 and 2021) only very briefly, and definitely not thoroughly enough to realize how worthwhile it would be to get them.

Luckily Consouling Sounds issued both albums together as a double CD, which motivated me to listen again...

THISQUIETARMY X AWAY - The Singularity, Part I & Part II (2CD) (2021)

With "Part II" being such a coherent continuation of the first album, even carrying on the very specific alphanumeric track titles, I won't even try to view them as separate pieces. There's a reason they share the same title. These albums are very clearly meant to be presented and heard together as one work.

And if you still need any more help to sell the idea to you, the packaging should seal the deal. Both Langevin and Eric Quach (guitar, synths), the man behind thisquietarmy, are also visual artists and saw to it, that this CD digipak looks at least as great as - no surprise here - any recent album from Away's main band.  

But what about the music? Will you automatically love it as a fan of the sci-fi metal legends?

My guess is nah, because the droning synths and noisy guitars here are very far from any phase of Voivod. The only kinship I can detect is one with the big cosmic wall of sound on "Phobos", where I could indeed imagine shorter versions of the "Singularity" tracks as interludes / instrumentals.
But the general sound will be much more accesible to you, if you're not coming from the Voivod angle, but think more in terms of psychedelic noise rock, ambient and drone.

Especially during the slower parts it's almost unavoidable to think of the hypnotic pulse of modern Swans, as thisquietarmy is building looping layers upon layers of thick atmosphere. Meanwhile Away is enjoying the artistic luxury of not even being necessary, because everything would already sound complete and great without drums, living up to material like Justin Broadrick's Final project. Which of course doesn't mean that you cannot improve anything here. And improve he does!

Given the rather minimalistic structures he's working with, Langevin's performance is quite versatile. We have tracks, where you wouldn't recognize him, because he sticks very close to the demands of the music, which can result in - again - dramatic swansy swells, doom metal stomping or krautrocking roboter automatik.
But then there are also those pieces, where he just says fuck it and powers straight through his full-on Voivod thrash metal style, as if he was indeed accompanying actual bass and guitar riffs of his bandmates. Or he just burst into soloing. That sounds a little bit weird and off at times, but ultimately always comes to a satisfying conclusion which absolutely makes sense. And the ending of the whole thing actually reminds me of the 90's classic "Anti Body" by Fetish 69.

All in all the get-together of these two artists successfully creates a very unique take on the drome/ambient/noise genre. The whole double album has a fantastic feel, flow and dramaturgy. There's nothing I don't like about this. Great stuff!


HEDVIG MOLLESTAD - Tempest Revisited

And here's yet another record, which arrived just a little too late for my albums of the year list. In Hedvig Mollestad's case I don't feel too bad though, just because "Ding Dong. You're Dead", the recent release of her Trio, is featured there with an honourable mention.

So at least I'm not being completely unjust to this stellar Norwegian modern jazz fusion guitarist and composer. I guess. Well. Admittedly I still feel a little bit bad about it. But what's done is done.

HEDVIG MOLLESTAD - Tempest Revisited (LP) (2021)

Originally the commissioned work for the anniversary of a cultural institution in Ålesund in 2018, the recording of "Tempest Revisited" took place back to back with the sessions for her masterpiece "Ekhidna" in early 2020, so the recording team was the same and thus also the production is of quite similar quality. The line-up of Hedvig's band however is completely different, except for herself on guitar (plus some piano and vocals) and keyboardist Marte Eberson.

The rest includes bass, drums and one, two, three saxophone players, so yes, this record is really big on the woodwinds.

But then this is big on everything. A spark of funk here, a fat Motorpsycho groove there, bust mostly "Tempest Revisited" just delivers fat maximalist virtuosic jazz rock fusion with stellar guitar work, all kinds of saxophone goodness and congenial backing which never has to hide from it.

Or in other words: Hedvig Mollestad nailed it again. And she makes it sound incredibly effortless. This is as playful, profound, explorative, entertaining, just fucking good as it gets.


SUNN O))) - Metta, Benevolence BBC 6Music : Live On The Invitation Of Mary Anne Hobbs

The same procedure as every year: Once your album of the year posts are done, they are immediately followed up by reviews of the category too late for the game, as in: releases, which just arrived too late to consider them, even though they would have undoubtly have been worthy of being included.

The latest double album by Sunn O))) is the perfect textbook example for this, no matter if you you view it rather as a studio or a live album. The standout cover artwork by Samantha Keely Smith already tells you that it's connected to "Life Metal" and "Pyroclasts". And those shared the top five position of my albums of the year 2019!

SUNN O))) - Metta, Benevolence BBC 6Music : Live On The Invitation Of Mary Anne Hobbs (Aqua/White Swirl vinyl 2LP) (2021)

I've actually reviewed this music before, way back in November 2019, when this BBC broadcast originally aired. And since then I've ranked the recording of that stream among the very best material of the drone metal legends ever. Period.

Why is that? Especially now that it's finally officially released with slightly different cuts in an even better production, this session just proves to be the culmination of an already stellar phase.

The recording took place between shows while Sunn O))) were on tour, so it features the five-piece live line-up of Stephen O'Malley, Greg Anderson (both guitars and synthezisers), Tos Nieuwenhuizen on Moog Rogue synthesizer, Tim Midyett on bass and synths and of course Stephen Moore, who not only provided droning synths too, but was also responsible for the probably most shared and most magical moment of every show on that tour, when he played that yearning trombone in a section which made the music ascend from the rumble of tectonic movements to the gates of Heaven, while making Miles Davis smile.
That was in the "Life Metal" piece "Troubled Air", which during the live performances grew to triple size and is also the epic closer of "Metta, Benevolence" in a version of thirty-two minutes.

The track alone would already justify the release, but even before the deal is pretty much sealed, as the sides A and B of the once again fantastically packaged double record give us two more meditations / improvisations in the vein of "Pyroclasts". This time they are based on the notes C# and F - and performed with the participation of Sunn O)))'s support on the UK leg of the tour, who was none other than the magnificient Anna von Hausswolff, who plays keyboard (because everybody does, right?) and graces both tracks with the evocatice power of her mystical voice.
The resulting combination of droning guitar strings, organ and primal vocal magic is beyond the realm of the writable. Just an amazing visceral merging of the most transcendent strengths of both Sunn O))) and Anna von Hausswolff.

I doubt that anything about this album could be improved. This is truly special.

And yes, of course (and despite its long and winding title, which isn't even exactly the same on all versions) "Metta, Benevolence BBC 6Music : Live On The Invitation Of Mary Anne Hobbs" is one of the absolutely most essential releases of 2021.


MUSIC 2021: TOP 21 albums

Yes, in anticipation of the coming year (20+22=42) all signs are on silly numerology here. So after my 7 favorite live shows, 7 favorite live albums and 7 favorite non-album releases, it's only consequent to present my top 21 albums of the year now, to make the number which explains everything, 42, full again. But since 21 really isn't that much for this category, I've coupled each position with one more or less fitting extra recommendation. So yeah baby, we got 42 again.

The general rules are: This is my own fucking personal ranking, so no whining is allowed. It's only about albums which I already own in some form. It does not include reissues (my favorites are the first vinyl version of Brian Ellis's "Quipo" and the 25th Anniversary Edition of "Relaxing With..." The Heads), unless there hasn't been a physical release before. Following that logic also all releases, where I'm still waiting for my copy (I'm looking at you, Rostro Del Sol, Zaäar, The Lovecraft Sextet...) aren't considered until next year.
And of course there's also stuff still coming in now, which is just too late to the game.

As always - and most important: Music shouldn't be a competition anyway, so after the first couple of places the order really doesn't matter much and could be different on any day depending on my mood. So with all that being said, here are my...

TOP 21 ALBUMS 2021:

    1. AD NAUSEAM - Imperative Imperceptible Impulse

      It's already hard to be more death metal than the Italians Ad Nauseam. But it's close to impossible to push the genre into more unique, unheard territories of dissonant avant-garde than they do on "Imperative Imperceptible Impulse". Armed with their very own tuning, tons of dynamics and brutal virtuosity they created a sick masterpiece that makes most other metal albums look like elevator music in comparison. Listening to this double album might risk your sanity, but I prefer to imagine that it rather stimulates my cerebral receptiveness. A gift that keeps giving!

      One other boundless, yet in its loyalty to the core idea of the genre still somehow astonishingly pure death metal release of comparable magnitude is "Poison Palinopsia" by Qrixkuor. It consists of just two mammoth-tracks, over twenty-four minutes each, which fly by like a swarm of puking winged demons.

    2. SENYAWA - Alkisah

      Rooted in folklore, drone and unbridled experimentalism, amplified by self-build string, percussion and noise instruments and the exceptional vocal presence of Rully Shabara, the Indonesian duo Senyawa conjures a timeless spirituality and primal heaviness. While this music couldn't be more singular, its distribution is manifold, as "Alkisah" has been released in dozens of alternative versions by various labels all around the globe. The CN Edition by WV Sorcerer Productions, which includes a bonus CD with well-made remixes is a perfect package inside and outside.

      Senyawa also recently released their second (so far only digital) album of 2021. "Membaladakan Keselamatan (Ballads for the Survivors)" features acoustic reinterpretations of songs from previous albums and proves that even reduced to only acoustic guitar and voice the band's music is still incredible impactful, heavy, amazing.

    3. LINGUA IGNOTA - Sinner Get Ready

      The day has yet to come, when I will write something about Lingua Ignota and feel that I have done Kristin Hayter's art any justice. Even after dialing the obvious noise and brutality from "Caligula" down on her new wrath opus "Sinner Get Ready" and replacing it with a more naturalistic, folkloristic sound that sometimes even includes pure, pristine beauty, the way she channels heaviest themes and personal experience into profound, emotionally touching (if not even oppressing) art, is just one of a kind. A mercilessly uncompromising and unforgiving gospel that cannot leave you indifferent.

      Fans of Lingua Ignota should also check out "Mausoleum" by the Latvian trio Pamirt, whose singer Kristiāna Kārkliņa does not only remind of Hayter, but also takes notes from Jarboe, Anna von Hausswolff and Chelsea Wolfe. Their debut is rather short, but a grand and theatrical work of art nonetheless.

    4. ÅRABROT - Norwegian Gothic

      Kjetil Nernes, Karin Park and their family are living in an old church (which also works as recording studio and photo / video location) in the Swedish countryside. Rock'n'roll is their religion. On "Norwegian Gothic" their band Årabrot is redeeming everything this premise promises - and more. Recruiting help from members of Motorpsycho, Zu and Jaga Jazzists, as well as cellist extraordinaire Jo Quail they created nothing short of a dark noise rock / post punk masterpiece, filled with hits and creative surprises -  a carnival of the 80s, 90s and ultimately timeless rebellion.

      Oh well, fuck my no re-issues rule! There's no way of honouring "Norwegian Gothic" without uttering Karin Park's last solo album in the same breath. "Church Of Imagination" is equally as sprawling and intriguing, while speaking a different musical language of artistic pop with chamber, gospel and alternative rock elements. With "Omens To Come" it even features the original version of Årabrot's "Feel It On".

    5. SONS OF KEMET - Black To The Future

      They have done it again - the Sons Of Kemet are absolutely on fire! Fueled by the ongoing oppression and injustice people of colour keep facing "Black To The Future" is burning with urgency. Armed with two drumkits, tuba and saxophone, the Sons and guests like Moor Mother and Joshua Idehen continue their fight against the pain of the African diaspora and explore Black identity with a spectacular mix of bebop, funk, hip hop, Carribean and tribal music. Especially when the vocals halt for most of the second half of the double album, the musical storytelling gets spectacularly strong.

      A much more traditional, yet still vivid and exciting take on jazz can be heard on "The Space Where The Uncontrollable Unknown Resides, Can Be The Place From Which Creation Arises" by Work Money Death. The two longtracks "Dusk" and "Dawn" are perfect homages to the spiritual masters Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra and John and Alice Coltrane.

    6. EMMA RUTH RUNDLE - Engine Of Hell

      You can call the instruments of Emma Ruth Rundle's minimalistic acoustic album piano and guitar, but in truth she's playing directly on our heartstrings. Mostly recorded in complete live takes "Engine Of Hell" is her most vulnerable, purest and bravest album to date. No other album on this list has captivated me inside a repeat loop and made me neclect the rest of my collection for weeks like this channeling of Emma's inner Tori Amos.

      Speaking of Tori, whose impact on my taste cannot be overstated, since there are at least four albums noticeably influenced by her on this list alone: with "Ocean To Ocean" she added a wonderful new gem - which in comparison to Emma's album is rather maximalist - to her now sixteen studio albums strong discography. Outstanding as ever!

    7. CYNIC - Ascension Codes

      After the passing of both Sean Reinert and Sean Malone it seems like Paul Masvidal pulled off an almost impossible miracle with this new Cynic album. While "Ascension Codes" surely carries the sentiment of tribute, eulogy and solace, the new age / alien genesis themed concept work doesn't bind itself to the past at all, but instead bravely thinks forward and explores new territories within and beyond the band's established cosmos. Just like Cynic has always done. But in a scope - filled with just so incredibly much music - noone could have ever dreamed  of. Rest in peace, Sean and Sean!

      Albeit I haven't come across anything even remotely similar to Cynic, I feel that this is the right place to point at the also very progressive, genre-defying and spiritually charged masterpiece "Har" from the Romanians Dordeduh, who have widened their palette of influences far beyond black metal and folk into all thinkable directions.

    8. KING WOMAN - Celestial Blues

      Doom metal album of the year? Thanks to Kristina Esfandiari that's an unusually easy choice for me. Not only due to her stunning vocal performance, which seems more rooted in grunge and shoegaze than in metal, King Woman's "Celestial Blues" has a luring quality which makes you voluntarily follow her Lightbringer / outcast Eve persona to the darkest pits of the underworld. In a very relative way by the standards of the genre every track on this crushing album is a compact, downright radio-friendly hit, an unheard yet still eerily familiar hymn of doom and gloom.

      It takes two bands to come close to King Woman's addictiveness. So dial up the oppressive riff power and let your ears be blasted by Jon Davis' (Conan) other, equally devestating Ungraven and the  masters of shared doom split releases, Slomatics, who present themselves in the most epic Khemmis shape here, on their mighty as fuck untitled split album!

    9. WANG WEN - 100,000 Whys

      How are Wang Wen doing this? You're always thinking that the Chinese almost-instrumental band has already reached post rock perfection, but then they keep proving that there's still room to grow with every album. The morriconisms of the guitar and keyboard licks and the glorious horns, trumpets and flutes alone are the stuff of dreams. Dipping into prog, jazz, latin influence, shamanistic chants and whatever they please at any given moment, but always keeping accessibility and a coherent uplifting spirit in focus, they finally recorded their perfectly wonderful, ultimate masterpiece with "1000,000 Whys". Well, at least for now, I guess.

      If you know my post rock monumentalism favorites, it won't surprise you that I can't say Wang Wen without also gushing about their better known Japanese half siblings Mono, who followed up an career-encapsulating live album with a studio release ("Pilgrimage Of The Soul"), that shows that they still have some new tricks up their sleeve, while never once loosening their special grip on your primal emotions.

    10. 夢遊病者 - Noč Na Krayu Sveta

      "This is Alice Coltrane and Toby Driver having a raging black metal baby. This is Mansur torturing Mono in hell. This is ambitious and beautiful, a piercing bliss so bright, it burns the eyes out of your skull." I doubt that I could summarize this chaotic thunderstorm of infinite instruments and styles under the umbrella of ritualistic black metal any better than I already did. Even though "Noč Na Krayu Sveta" is a rather short border case between EP and full album, the Russian/Japanese/American project 夢遊病者 proves itself as one of the most creative forces in (and far beyond) metal today.

      Sentient Ruin Laboratories released more than one other album deserving to be recommended here, but the most important one is probably "Abominion" by the US blackened industrial death doom metal war machine Abstracter. This relentless, destructive, pessimistic onslaught develops a vortical atmosphere which pulverizes you and inescabably sucks the remaining particles into the void.

    11. JÜ - III

      The third album of the Hungarian trio Jü has a truly complex premise, as it interprets traditional music from Eastern Europe, Northern Africa and Southeast Asia by drawing lines from psychedelic prog and math rock to experimental jazz fusion, from phase "Red" King Crimson over Mr. Bungle to Javanese gamelan music. And that doesn't even describe half of the experience, which also includes enchanting and insane guest vocals and electronic ambient noises. Few albums of 2021 blow over faster than "III" - and even less are a purer joy to spin.

      If especially the atmosphere of 's opening and closing tracks speak to you, you should immerse yourself in the already third album from The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation mastermind Jason Köhnen's trio Mansur. The improvisations on "Minotaurus" drone with a foundation of bass and electronic sounds, over which oud and Martina Horváth's voice levitate to the furthermost mystical heights.

    12. I've stopped trying to fathom how Motorpsycho are doing it a long time ago. The Norwegians are putting out these huge sprawling subgenre-defying rock (double) albums so fast that there's just no other way than to feature the band in these rankings almost every single year. And "Kingdom of Oblivion" is a complete work in all respects: Music, lyrics, artwork, gatefold design, quality of the transparent disc... everything about this double album is just as top class as their "Gulvåg" trilogy.

      If you dig 
      Motorpsycho and love instrumental rock, you should also check out "Ding Dong, You're Dead!" by their fellow Norwegian country(wo)men Hedvig Mollestad Trio. It's an explosive mix of jazz, prog, funk, metal, experimentalism and hard rock that is guaranteed to kick your ass and brain!

    13. NICK HUDSON - Font Of Human Fractures

      "The Quiet Earth" by The Academy Of Sun was one of the greatest albums of 2020, but that's obviously no reason for Nick Hudson to rest on his laurels, as his solo album impressively proves. Between experimental synth pop, post punk, chamber sounds and grand piano art rock "Font Of Human Fractures" glistens in new facettes on each track, among which especially the multi-layered epic "Ballad of K69996 Roma", the glorious Exuma cover "Dambala" and "Come Back When There's Nothing Left" with Nick's transatlantic buddy Toby Driver as guest vocalist stand out.

      Speaking of Driver: His band Kayo Dot has also released a fantastic new album. "Moss Grew On The Swords And Plowshares Alike" was recorded by the line-up of the predeccessing group Maudlin Of The Well and is a sentimental throwback both within his autarkic musical cosmos and the bigger picture of the genre. Yet of course it's still as unparalleled and  forward-thinking as any piece of avant-garde gothic death ambient black etcetera metal could ever wish to be. 

    14. MONG TONG 夢東 - 台灣謎景 Music from Taiwan Mystery

      One of the most enigmatic albums of this year weaves Taiwanese folk and field recordings together with ambient drones and noises, experimental electronic music and a pinch of psychedelic rock. The interplay of modernism, tradition and anachronism which builds the mosaic of "Music from Taiwan Mystery" is utterly fascinating. A strange story, which I don't even come close to deciphering, yet it still transfixes me from beginning to end.

      Mong Tong have released a second album in 2021, but since my physical copy hasn't arrived yet, I'm using this space to highlight another outstanding WV Sorcerer release: "Míng Míng" by Otay:onii (aka Lane Otayonii, singer of the shoegaze band Elizabeth Colour Wheel) is an impressive and thrilling artistic statement between Björk and Dead Can Dance, brutal electro noise and Chinese tradition.

    15. LANA DEL REY - Chemtrails Over The Country Club

      Yes, the pop music slot on this list is reserved for Lana Del Rey once again. The songwriting, instrumentation, production... all the creative decisions which had to be made and on top of everything of course the absolutely flawless vocal performance are all pretty much perfect on "Chemtrails Over the Country Club". Even the featured guests hit the nail on the head again, so I'm actually more convinced now than back in April that the organic, dreamy, nostalgic folk ballad appeal of this is once again a perfect summation of how great pop music can actally be.

      Even though her albums never suffer from too short playing time, Lana Del Rey had enough stuff up her sleeve to release a full second album with "Blue Banisters". It sounds more deliberately washed-out (like "Ultraviolence"), sees more daring experiments and and at the same time feels even more nostalgic than "Chemtrails", because the lyrics are more autobiographic and several of its songs had been written years ago, but didn't find the proper place to be released before.

    16. BIG|BRAVE - Vital

      How do you break down music to its most minimalistic and brutal core while still keeping it engaging? Big|Brave are amongst those bands who have found and perfected the formula. The Canadian drone rock trio smashes you with guitar noises which can only just be called riffs at all, demonstrating an ever-growing mastership in the application of pauses and sounds - and still finding room for subtleties in this confined space. Robin Wattie multiplies the impact of "Vital" with a devastatingly emotional, raw vocal performance and heavy personal lyrics.

      Big|Brave also released a collaborative record with The Body this year, and surprisingly it's not the complete eardrum obliteration one could expect from this constellation. Instead "Leaving None But Small Birds" is their very intense and sincere take on English / American folk and country traditionals. In my mind this album completes a triumvirate, whose other parts are the ranks 3 (Lingua Ignotas) and 6 (Emma Ruth Rundle) of this list.

    17. NAOKO SAKATA - Dancing Spirits

      Ok, technically speaking, especially in a world which unvoluntarily questions the parameters defining a live show,  you could also count Naoko Sakata's "Dancing Spirits" as a live album, since it's just the Japanese pianist purely improvising seven pieces, recorded inside a church in Gothenburg. The profound moods, ideas and virtuosity flowing out of her fingertips into swirling, rousing, moving pictures beyond the parting lines between contemporary classical music, jazz and whatever drives her in the moment, make this records one of the most stunning  experiences of the year. I keep discovering something new every time I immerse in it.

      Since I don't have anywhere else to go from "Dancing Spirits", the only link to this recommendation is the common ground of improvisation. And the Danish freeform fusion rock ecstatics Mythic Sunship are exceptionally, explosively good at it. More krautish than ever, again sporting Søren Lyhne Skov's power saxophone, "Wildfire" does its title more than justice.

    18. NADJA - Luminous Rot

      There's a good handful of drone albums, which would rightfully deserve to be featured here, but since I'm feeling that I've neclected metal in this whole thing a little too much, I'm just going with the most metal one. Besides Nadja's "Luminous Rot" is also actually the most magnetic monster of that bunch. A formidably crushing beast of droning sludge / drum computer industrial metal and shoegaze, which cites from basically all phases Godflesh and Jesu have ever been through and adds a strong influence of the last White Hills albums. I strongly recommend the Japanese CD version, which features a worthwhile bonus longtrack.

      Ok, since we're already in the business of referencing industrial-ish greats, let's not omit the odd fact that this list is missing some Laibach, who sadly didn't get any of their recently promised studio works ready yet. Their metal countrymen Noctiferia (plus guests like Attila Csihar and David Vincent) however released an appropriately reconstructive cover album called "Reforma - Tribute To Laibach", which is pretty damn awesome.

    19. KING GIZZARD & THE LIZARD WIZARD - Butterfly 3000

      Does anyone still count how many albums König Muskelmagen und der Eidechse Zauberer (their name on my German version of "Schmetterling 3000") have put out at this point? Among the shapeshifting catalogue of the psych madmen from Down Under this one stands out with a very specific - and over its whole runtime very consistent - sound. Weird time signature psych rock meets sugary dream pop meets synth loop electronics. The result is dunked in almost obscene sweetness, but oh it's so fucking good! Addictive.

      Of course "Butterfly 3000" is not the only King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard work of 2021! "L.W." is equally as great and only doesn't get the spot in the ranking, because the successor of 2020's "K.G." is just not as completely original, being already the third full album of their microtonal explorations. It is however arguably the the most diverse and ultimately best one of that lot.

    20. SULA BASSANA - CV Sessions

      In current times recording a bedroom album while being stuck at home isn't exactly a unique selling point. Luckily Dave Schmidt's "CV Sessions" - even though they reflect the zeitgeist with a lot of ominous and brooding atmospheres - can confidently stand on their own without the context of the outer circumstances. The golden thread of this double album of elektrokraut jams is the use of modular synthesizer loops - which are connected via CV cables. The result is much more varied than the concept suggests and even in its darker moods developes soothing hypnotic qualities.

      One double album is something, two double albums in one year are certainly something more. "Loop Station Drones" is the spiritual sister of "CV Sessions" with a similar idea, but the subtle difference that these improvisations are based on effect loops. The quality of both is pretty much on par.

    21. AGUSA - En Annan Värld

      Once again the gorgeously extravagant psychedelic prog rock of the Swedish intrumental band Agusa just brings a big happy smile onto my face. Even though some darkness has crept into the two 20+ minutes longtracks, it's still a gloom which remains part of the big escapist fairytale, through which organ, guitar and the wonderful unmistakable flute are leading us. This music just let's me feel like a little round-eyed, big-eared child discovering everything in the world for the very first time again. And like that small boy deep down I know only one convincing explanation for what I'm experiencing here: magic!

      There are certainly a lot more deserving albums of both the psychedelic and the progressive kind out there, but I feel that the most exciting work to conclude this with is the gathering of Conny Ochs, Sicker Man and Kiki Bohemia under the moniker Trialogos. On their adventurous debut "Stroh Zu Gold" every single track explores a different flavour of kraut, while also wandering beyond that realm. Even though you should eat neither straw nor gold, this couldn't be more delicious!

    So that's a wrap! 2021. Of course I feel bad for a bazillion albums that didn't make it, but this already too long as it is, haha. Here are the previous parts:

    And here's a YouTube playlist with most of all that stuff: