This is a listening thread for UK avant-music publication THE WIRE's best-of lists published at the end of every year. We pick a year, listen through all the albums ranked, discuss any and all impres

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

This is a new thread idea that I tjhought might be cool: basically listening through all the different albums that make The Wire best-of at the end of any given year. I'm usually already familiar with a handful of them per year, bit that still leaves a ton of exploring to do.

My source for these lists are starting with 2000, it appears that website includes all the genre side-lists, which I absolutely want to cover as well. However, although I've decide to suspend chronological.irder for the moment, I've also decided to start with perhaps one of my favorite of the last thirty years in music--1997--and for that, there is only the main list of fifty.


1.Robert Wyatt - Shleep
2.Jim O'rourke - Bad Timing
3.Wabi Sabi - Wabi Sabi
4.Arto Lindsay - Mundo Civilizado
5.Mouse On Mars - Autoditacker
6.Tomasz Stanko Septet - Litania: Music Of Krzysztof Komeda
7.Gyorgy Ligeti - Ligeti Edition Vols. 1-6
8.Roni Size And Reprazent - New Forms
9.John Wall - Fractuur
10.Porter Ricks - Biokinetics
11.Henry Threadgill & Make A Move - Where's Your Cup?
12.Autechre - Chiastic Slide
13.Gravediggaz - The Pick, The Sickle And The Shovel
14.Bjork -Homogenic
15.Farmers Manual - Fsck
16.Squarepusher - Hard Normal Daddy
17.Vinicius Cantuaria - Sol Na Cara
18.Toru Takemitsu - Film Music
19.Various Artists - Driftworks
20.Fushitsusha - A Death Never To Be Complete
21.Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus
22.Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds - The Boatman's Call
23.Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
24.The Fall - Levitate
25.Fushitsusha - The Time Is Nigh
26.Tom Recchion - Chaotica
27.Stereolab - Dots And Loops
28.Iannis Xenakis - Kraanerg
29.Joe Maneri Quartet - In Full Cry
30.Ground Zero -Consume Red
31.Paul Schutze - Second Site
32.Evan Parker Electroacoustic Ensemble - Towards The Margins
33.General Magic - Frantz!
34.Porter Ricks- Porter Ricks
35.John Zorn - Duras: Duchamp
36.Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One
37.Bisk - Strange Or Funny Ha Ha?
38.Portishead- Portishead
39.Kaffe Matthews - Cdann
40.George Crumb - Quest
41.Metheny/Bailey/Bendian/Wertico - The Sign Of 4
42.Guschwachs - Guschwachs
43.Jeff Mills - The Other Day
44.Maurizio - M
45.Giya Kancheli- Caris Mere
46.Patti Smith - Peace And Noise
47.Ornette Coleman & Joachim Kuhn - Colors
48.Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club
49.Arcana - Arc Of The Testimony
50.Hariprasad Chaurasia - Four Drums

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 25 September 2016 03:35 (two years ago) Permalink

Definitely my favorite thing out of that list is 24.The Fall - Levitate. I was heavily into early Fall--from Dragnet to Perverted by Language--when I first started out on ILX, but it was definitely through the ever-present encouragements of imago that I checked out the late 90s & 00s albums. This seems to me to kick off a peak period of creativity & quality for the band, carrying it through the next 12-15 years with a lot of great releases, like The Unutterable, The Real New Fall LP (formerly known as Country on the Click), Imperial Wax Solvent, and Your Future, Our Clutter.

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 25 September 2016 03:42 (two years ago) Permalink

The review from the Wire is a favorite of mine as well:

To skim across the surface for the moment of this latest, riveting, quixotic chapter of the dog-eared Chronicles of the House of Eldrich Smith. Levitate contains at least one solid gold entry in The Fall's Greatest Song Titles of All Time list. Wait for a reading on the content, because in this most pointed of music charts, "the quartet of doc SHANLEY" as it is printed on the sleeve) is right up there with DIY Meat, Bonkers in Phoenix, Mollusc in Tyrol, The Aphid, The League of Bald Headed Men, Lucifer over Lancashire, British People in Hot Weather and Gut of the Quantifier.
As Mark Sinker suggested in his review of last year's Light User Syndrome in The Wire 150, it takes time for Fall songs to reveal themselves to the object. Listening recently to the relatively plain-speaking, 20 years old Bingo Masters Breakout, the full hilarious import of one particular couplet leaped out and hit me for the first time. The keywords in Quartet of doc SHanley appear to be 'pranny' and 'recipe', but as these are traded back and forth between three overlapping narrators, who are in turn largely buried by a heaving juggernaut of a soundtrack, who knows what else will emerge from the mix over the next two decades?
Mark E Smith has always kept The Fall's complexity (and wit) covert, shielded it behind a pock-marked mask of Lancashire pragmatism and a seemingly shambolic approach to presentation. The latter 'obfuscating' characteristic has often been interpreted as amateurish ineptitude, as if The Fall was a half-hearted project, a casual undertaking to be judged alongside the part-time idiot-brained antics of Fall plagiarists from the Nightingales to Pavement. In fact, to get clinical for a moment, the sound of The Fall could be defined as both an extension of Smith's anti-bourgeois maverick politics, and a desire to birth in this world noises which have been revealed to him down the years in shattering awake dreams and via unknowable psychic conduits.
More so than any other group, The Fall occupy the recording space in order to manifest visions of existential revelation. As a result, Smith's abilities as an arranger of wayward sonic material have usually been overlooked in favour of close analyses of his refracted lyric-texts (see Michael Bracewell's England is Mine). In Fall songs, and that includes the 19 that are included on the two CDs of Levitate, all instruments sound (de)tuned to hermetic scales and modes. Driven by the urge to distort, the song's rudimentary frameworks are rethought ad reborn by the use of unusual rhythmic accents, the scalene placement of the instruments in the mix, the instinctive accumulation of multiple layers of sonic debris, extraneous noise bursts, and the constant manipulation of all sound levels. Texts become metatexts, fragmenting as they go, folding in on themselves, sinking deeper into the recesses carved by the group's trawl through a uniquely organic soundworld.
On Levitate, Smith and this latest version of The Fall continue to capsize traditional rock'n'roll dynamics and songform, partly by tapping into the motorik (im)pulse that connects The Johnny Burnette Trio's Train kept a-Rollin' with Neu's Hallogallo, a link made explicit by what on first appearing appears to be a filler, a throwaway version of Hank Mizzell's Jungle Rock. Accepting the fact that it is a cover version, this could almost be the defining Fall track: a mercurial motorik pulse, the clash of overdriven frequencies, instruments dropped in and out of the mix in accordance with an oblique, intuitive logic, an out-of-tempo guitar part set to one side of the soundfield that nags at the brain until it becomes the song's focus pull, Smith's vocal line delivered as a dirty smear across the surface of the music.
Compared to Light User Syndrome, which turned out to be The Fall's most concentrated and centred work since 1982's Hex Enduction Hour. Levitate at first feels too diffuse (like all Fall records in fact). The ferocious sonic and textu(r)al vortices described by Hurricane Edward, 4 1/2 Inch and Ol' Gang seem to overshadow the opening breakbeat-driven montage Ten Houses of Eve, the hurting Everybody but Myself (and its brilliant audio verite tape intro) and an elegaic piano miniature, Jap Kid (which later turns up as the music track to I Come And Stand At Your Door, credited to keyboard player Julia Nagle and 'anon'). But over numerous hearings the tracks coalesce, their angular textures held in riveting tension by the idiosyncratic studio mixdown, and of course, ME Smith's slurring delivery of texts which continue to map and illuminate our collective topographies and interiors like no other.
"I wish there was someone out there who wasn't afraid of me" he sings on a searing version of I'm A Mummy (writing credit: 'unknown'). No chance: The Fall's intelligence addresses, scours and liberates us all.

Tony Herrington

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 25 September 2016 03:46 (two years ago) Permalink

everyone needs this. the rest of that stuff you could live without.

scott seward, Sunday, 25 September 2016 04:00 (two years ago) Permalink

Interesting! I've never even heard of it!

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 25 September 2016 04:20 (two years ago) Permalink

huh I never knew andi toma co-produced Dots & Loops

brimstead, Sunday, 25 September 2016 04:29 (two years ago) Permalink

I can't live without that Porter Ricks album. And Maurizio. Well I can live without the M cd, just don't take away my 12s

brimstead, Sunday, 25 September 2016 04:32 (two years ago) Permalink

Keepers from this list, for me:

11. Henry Threadgill & Make A Move - Where's Your Cup?
19. Various Artists - Driftworks
20. Fushitsusha - A Death Never To Be Complete
21. Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus
23. Spiritualized - Ladies & Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
25. Fushitsusha - The Time Is Nigh
28. Iannis Xenakis - Kraanerg
38. Portishead- Portishead
47. Ornette Coleman & Joachim Kuhn - Colors

Don Van Gorp, midwest regional VP, marketing (誤訳侮辱), Sunday, 25 September 2016 11:47 (two years ago) Permalink

This is an interesting idea, but what album should we start with? Shleep?

Looking over the list, I'm struck by how old it seems, how many 'legends' are on here. It's not particularly avantgarde, more an appraisal of yesterdays avantgarde.

Frederik B, Sunday, 25 September 2016 12:07 (two years ago) Permalink

shleep is the best robert wyatt album.

a confederacy of lampreys (rushomancy), Sunday, 25 September 2016 12:36 (two years ago) Permalink

I vaguely remember liking Shleep but I can't bring to mind any of the music on it so will have to give it another listen.

My top pick is very strongly Autoditacker, it was the album that got me into MoM and I have much love for it still.

huh I never knew andi toma co-produced Dots & Loops

― brimstead, Sunday, September 25, 2016 5:29 AM (eight hours ago)

Somehow I didn't know this either? Weird.

emil.y, Sunday, 25 September 2016 12:43 (two years ago) Permalink

Cool idea. Shleep is kind of great actually. But yeah, Levitate is one of my favourite things ever and the moment when The Fall finally met the horror and madness they'd been seeking

imago, Sunday, 25 September 2016 13:34 (two years ago) Permalink

Bad Timing is probably my favourite Big Jim - that, Eureka or Halfway to Threeway. Is his stock falling?

Sunn O))) Brother Where Art Thou? (Chinaski), Sunday, 25 September 2016 13:44 (two years ago) Permalink

re: consume red - i can't do the "one track that lasts for an hour" thing. i much prefer _plays standards_ from the same year.

a confederacy of lampreys (rushomancy), Sunday, 25 September 2016 14:08 (two years ago) Permalink

I was gonna listen to Consume Red last night but I got waylaid, partly because Im still rocking Free Youtube.

Ideally, my own plan for this thread is to listen to all the albums--prob in the order in which they are mentioned, which means Id go onto Dots and Loops next--and p much anyone else wants to do this is obv welcome, and anyone who wants to only contribute conversation is obv more than welcome as well.

I think I fucked up by starting with Levitate because it's out of print and not on Spotify (I dont think) used to all be on Youtube but thats not even true anymore. Here's a couple of the more appealing somgs though:

Quartet of Doc SHanley:

4 1/2 Inch:

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Sunday, 25 September 2016 16:47 (two years ago) Permalink

I really need to check out Consume Red, I am familiar with some Sachiko M stuff but not Ground Zero

still own Wabi Sabi, Shleep, Fsck, Nick Cave, Spiritualized, The Fall, Stereolab, Yo La Tengo, Patti Smith, Recchion's Chaotica, and that excellent Kaffe Matthews CD.

will report back here as I check out some others, good thread idea

sleeve, Monday, 26 September 2016 01:44 (two years ago) Permalink

Consume Red was going for £5 in the RER sale recently - a mandatory purchase

Also enjoyed these at the time:

Bad Timing
A Death Never to be Complete
Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space
Porter Ricks
The Sign of 4

Foster Twelvetrees (Ward Fowler), Monday, 26 September 2016 08:13 (two years ago) Permalink

I think the only ones of these I've spent much time with are

17. Vinicius Cantuaria - Sol Na Cara
30. Ground Zero - Consume Red

Both good albums! Though I haven't listened to either in a while...

1997 was about when I started subscribing - I vaguely recall this list but I was still in the "confused" phase of being a Wire reader and I didn't have the budget or shopping resources to acquire much of what I was reading about.

ǂbait (seandalai), Monday, 26 September 2016 19:37 (two years ago) Permalink

Does anyone listen to Farmers Manual? I remember they brought out that DVD full of mp3s - hours and hours of stuff.

Fushitsusha, O'Rourke, Ground Zero, Yo la Tengo, Wyatt, Cave - loads of great albums on that list

I stopped my subscription to the Wire a couple of years ago. Sometimes I regret it.

Duke, Monday, 26 September 2016 20:47 (two years ago) Permalink

I'd love to own a physical copy of that Driftworks comp.

Duke, Monday, 26 September 2016 20:50 (two years ago) Permalink

Haha I keep running into obstacles trying to listen to Consume Red. Hopefully some time tomorrow. :-P

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Monday, 26 September 2016 20:53 (two years ago) Permalink

I think I prefer the live version of Consume Red on the "Gig - Last Concert" album.

Duke, Monday, 26 September 2016 21:01 (two years ago) Permalink

Or, as the spine of my CD calls it: "Last Cncert"

Duke, Monday, 26 September 2016 21:05 (two years ago) Permalink

Ok haha so skot otm; Consume Red is immense. It's kind of hard to describe or to talk about...I guess this could be what maybe FLOOD sounded like if Boris had been obsessed with idk, maybe Borbetomagus, or some of the RIO bands, instead of the Melvins. I didn't realize this at first (though I think a lot of you prob did) but this is classified as 'japanoise', a genre I've had a burgeoning interest in for the past few months. I've been approaching that stuff through the metal/psych side--through stuff like Mainliner and Fushitsusha, and related bands like Gravitar and the Goslings--and not so much the avant/abstract side. I never would've guessed this was 'japanoise' from the first few minutes of this, when it sounded like call-and-response saxophone (actually hojok) field hollers, but it totally is.

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 27 September 2016 21:04 (two years ago) Permalink

Try the live version! It's less refined; shorter and heavier (IIRC)

Duke, Tuesday, 27 September 2016 21:48 (two years ago) Permalink

Adding to the Ground-Zero love here, seeing them play it live in London that year was religious. Also the Takemitsu compilation would be one of my desert island discs, were I to find myself in such a position.
I guess Wabi Sabi is something to do with the Pluramon guy, having just looked it up (with some difficulty). I have no memory of it ever existing.

めんどくさかった (Matt #2), Tuesday, 27 September 2016 22:57 (two years ago) Permalink

9.John Wall - Fractuur

this one's v good iirc. the takemitsu too

r|t|c, Tuesday, 27 September 2016 23:40 (two years ago) Permalink

Next up for me is Dots and Loops , since I'm prob one of only about a few hundred people on Earth who haven't listened to it yet ;-)

the coyotes have taken over the town (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 29 September 2016 21:32 (two years ago) Permalink

I used to read The Wire a bit in the late 90s/early 00s. I had stopped reading Melody Maker as it had gone shit. I came across a lot of good stuff from The Wire - japanese music like Cornelius, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, Jim O'Rourke, Faust, the more weird indie stuff like Woodbine.

The Wire Tapper CD's could often be incredible too.

Neptune Bingo (Michael B), Thursday, 29 September 2016 21:49 (two years ago) Permalink

dots and loops and emperor tomato ketchup are the stereolab i listened to when i started listening to them, so they'll always be definitive of the band to me

a confederacy of lampreys (rushomancy), Thursday, 29 September 2016 22:08 (two years ago) Permalink

I decided to begin from the bottom, and noted a mistake. The album at number 50 is Four Dhuns not Four Drums. It's Indian classical music with flute. Hariprasad Chaurasia played on George Harrison's The Inner Light, even. I'm one track in, and it's quite good.

Arcana at 49 is jazz-fusion with Tony Williams, Bill Laswell and Pharaoh Sanders amongst others. Not on spotify. 48 is Cuban masters. 47 a live album with Ornette Coleman, and then Patti Smith at 46. 45 is an old Georgian composer, so it's Maurizio at 44 who is the first artist who wasn't big in the 70's or earlier. That's kinda weird...

Frederik B, Thursday, 29 September 2016 22:19 (two years ago) Permalink

I only just discovered 90's Henry Threadgill recently and Where's Your Cup is one of his best.

calzino, Thursday, 29 September 2016 22:48 (two years ago) Permalink

This list got me to check out the two Arcana albums for the first time ever. The first one, The Last Wave, came out on the Japanese DIW label and was a power trio session (kinda) with Derek Bailey on guitar, Laswell on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. Arc of the Testimony is a more typically Laswellian project, with Williams back but no Bailey; instead, you get Nicky Skopelitis on guitar (and Buckethead on three tracks), Pharoah Sanders on sax throughout, Byard Lancaster on sax on three tracks, and Graham Haynes on cornet on two (overlapping with Lancaster). I think it might have been rawer and noisier had Williams not died with the record still unfinished, thus permitting Laswell to take the reins completely. Still, it's pretty nice in a drifty dubby ethno-jazz with metallic/skronky moments kind of way.

Don Van Gorp, midwest regional VP, marketing (誤訳侮辱), Thursday, 29 September 2016 23:24 (two years ago) Permalink

It's quite fun googling and trying to find the lesser known bands. 42 is Gushwachs, not Guschwachs (it's a mistake that's also on the wire webpage). It's swedish free-jazz trio Gush (which includes Mats Gustafson) meeting Phillip Wachsmann's electro-acoustic experiments. It was rereleased on bandcamp last year, if anybody wants to check it out.

The Sign of 4 sounds fun. 3 hours of noisy live improvisations with two drummers, apparently. 1,5 stars on all music. Would love to hear that one.

Frederik B, Thursday, 29 September 2016 23:30 (two years ago) Permalink

The Sign of 4 is better on paper than in your ears. Metheny's and Bailey's improvisational languages are totally incompatible. The two drummers do what they can, but ultimately it's one of those "you had to be there" sort of things - probably fun live, but a slog when listened to at home. Metheny talked about it on his website a while ago.

Don Van Gorp, midwest regional VP, marketing (誤訳侮辱), Thursday, 29 September 2016 23:38 (two years ago) Permalink

Wow, just heard Ground Zero - Consume Red, that's pretty brilliant. Also heard Paul Schutze - The Second Site, though only the second disc. Is it an opera of sorts? It's moody pseudo-world music with spoken word on top, quite good. Schutze has another disc on the list - he's one of four artists in the Driftworks box - and apparently also wrote for Wire.

Frederik B, Friday, 30 September 2016 13:53 (two years ago) Permalink

Oh, yeah, the second disc of Second Site is on youtube. Check it out.

Frederik B, Friday, 30 September 2016 13:53 (two years ago) Permalink

The one by Vinicius Cantuaria is a keeper as well. Brazilian singer, the album is done with help from Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, even Ryuchi Sakamoto on one song. Brazilian folk with gentle electronic touches, almost like the updated tropicalia album Gil and Veloso kinda failed to deliver with Tropicalia II.

It's also cheesy as fuck. Which is a good thing, I love the cheesy in Brazilian music, and think it's way underrated in Western reception - which is so often about how 'out there' and 'wild' it is. But even on Tropicalia - Panis et Circenses, the second song is an old schlager that they just put in there. It's the balance of cheese and invention that I love about it. Still, I love love love that this here song is on an album from the Wire list:

Beautiful. But poppy.

Frederik B, Friday, 30 September 2016 15:59 (two years ago) Permalink

Cantuaria played on the Arto Lindsay album at #4 too iirc, he was in Arto's band for quite a while actually

めんどくさかった (Matt #2), Friday, 30 September 2016 17:26 (two years ago) Permalink

Is Dots and Loops known as the Stereolab album where they deliberately turned away from motorik towards exotica?

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Tuesday, 4 October 2016 21:26 (two years ago) Permalink

"Dots and Loops" is their first fully formed exotica album, but there was definitely traces in earlier albums like "Mars Audiac Quintet".

Ross, Tuesday, 4 October 2016 21:32 (two years ago) Permalink

dots and loops and emperor tomato ketchup sound pretty similar to me

a confederacy of lampreys (rushomancy), Tuesday, 4 October 2016 21:44 (two years ago) Permalink

i seem to recall dots and loops was remarked as their first time working in a dice and slice copy and paste DAT type environment, hence the name?

I wish you could see my home. It's... it's so... exciting (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 4 October 2016 21:57 (two years ago) Permalink

Thought Dots and Loops was their "dance" album? Cobra was the start of exotica iirc.

minimal hat spiritualism (seandalai), Tuesday, 4 October 2016 23:35 (two years ago) Permalink

Meant to type DAW not DAT

I wish you could see my home. It's... it's so... exciting (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 4 October 2016 23:43 (two years ago) Permalink

Part of the interest with lists like this is to look at was isn't on the list. In this case, the obvious one is OK Computer, which of course every voter must have known, and most of them rejected. Another one that they've probably known but rejected is Homework by Daft Punk. But as I looked over the Acclaimed list from 1997 there was one album that seemed more like something Wire just a few years later would have kicked themselves for missing. Missy Elliott - Supa Dupa Fly. We're really just a few years away from this kind of pop-avantgardism being all the rage, and Supa Dupa Fly is so much an auteurist statement, with all songs written and produced by the same team, in a forward thinking experimental style. Instead we get Company Flow (makes sense) and the second Gravediggaz, which isn't that well thought of today, right?

Frederik B, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 12:24 (two years ago) Permalink

have you ever read The Wire?

Neil S, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 12:31 (two years ago) Permalink

He, once or twice. Why? I've checked their end-of-year lists, and Missy Elliot are on later ones.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 12:32 (two years ago) Permalink

the obvious thing that people have sort of been talking round is that when something genuinely new comes around, it will catch most people by surprise, "vanguardist" publications like the wire as much, if not more, than the established pop media. the wire, as much as any other media, was dependent on labels and publicists (and now i suppose is dependent on the internet grapevine). if you look at the rym list, which yes has problems but has a benefit of hindsight the wire's year end lists don't, you'll see plenty of apparently obvious omissions (like, say, biosphere) that don't make the list because the wire weren't as aware of them as they were of robert wyatt and jim o'rourke.

a confederacy of lampreys (rushomancy), Wednesday, 5 October 2016 12:34 (two years ago) Permalink

xp just interested. It's very UK-centric by and large, and in 1997 the voters would probably have actively decided not to vote for stuff that the "mainstream" music press would rep for, incessantly, hence no Radiohead or Daft Punk, despite whatever claims they might have to being avant garde.

Neil S, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 12:35 (two years ago) Permalink

Pretty cool list overall, I think it points to 1997 as a very exciting year for the potential future of electronic music that didn't quite pan out. People would've been mighty disappointed to find out that those Squarepusher/Mouse on Mars/Bjork albums were arguably their peaks, rather than a springboard to an interesting and evolving career.

frogbs, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 13:35 (two years ago) Permalink

There's probably something ironic about the Radiohead kerfuffle: in 2001, Radiohead was easily more avant garde than Dots and Loops , which for all its various non-rock impulses, is basically a lovely indie-pop album. But I can also grasp, even from my layperson view, how Laetitia Sadler and co. had built up their radicalist cache throughout the 90s...

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 5 October 2016 19:04 (two years ago) Permalink

maybe there's an element of the wire feeling a need to have its own singular perspective on things that are popular elsewhere, as it does with hip-hop through 'critical beats' nomenclature etc, or could with stereolab by making that radicalist cache front and centre. when the mainstream press are lauding radiohead for being influenced by uh a bunch of things you can read about in the wire, this could be a harder move to make

lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living (Merdeyeux), Wednesday, 5 October 2016 19:16 (two years ago) Permalink

In 2011, King of Limbs was on their end-of-year list, probably as one of the few music magazines. I do like that album as well, though, better than anything since Amnesiac, so I'm not complaining.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 19:24 (two years ago) Permalink

Haha thats a great point xp

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 5 October 2016 19:32 (two years ago) Permalink

In 1996 or '97 the Wire praised Limp Bizkit's debut album and thought the Frogs were actually gay, so mainstream avoidance may have been only right and natural for them.

Three Word Username, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 20:51 (two years ago) Permalink

I remember when The Wire trashed Amy Winehouse for being mindless pap or some such (direct citation needed). Some of their writers were pretentious in their derision towards what they felt were lesser forms of music.

Ross, Wednesday, 5 October 2016 23:26 (two years ago) Permalink

I definitely hear the dance elements in Dots and Loops btw. It feels like 97 was a year for trying to incorporate ?d'n'b? elements into indie. It works really well playing off the larger lounge-pop affectations. A lot of aesthetic sophistication here, which quite enhances the loveliness. And mind kept wanting to lump this in with The Sea and Cake's The Fawn (prob bcz how _unrock_ both are) but I tend to like that album a little more, the songwriting seems more memorable

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 6 October 2016 01:29 (two years ago) Permalink

Lo Fi Allstars "how to operate with a blown mind" came out in '98 which was kinda the Brit Indie versh of LCD Soundsystem

Neptune Bingo (Michael B), Thursday, 6 October 2016 01:32 (two years ago) Permalink

i don't think it's weird to lump Dots and Loops in with The Fawn; John McEntire plays on 8 songs on D&L, and all of those tracks were recorded in Chicago about 4 months after The Fawn. I also love The Fawn, and agree that it has more memorable songs than D&L

intheblanks, Thursday, 6 October 2016 04:28 (two years ago) Permalink

Ok so I had no idea about any of that (not even sure I knew McEntire was in Sea and Cake, except for some vague sense that they get mentioned often with Tortoise) so that's kind of crazy.

Anyways, I'm onto Porter Ricks now. Second track in: sounding alright. I don't really have a lot of context for electronica, but a genre tag like 'dub techno' is something I'm p much always game for

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 6 October 2016 20:50 (two years ago) Permalink

Okay, third track, "Exposed", is absolutely my kind of thing

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 6 October 2016 20:57 (two years ago) Permalink

...aaand "Scuba Lounge" is even better. A fully realized dub nightmare, invoking the sort of 'wateriness' that that genre can affect and exploiting it fully for claustrophobic effect.

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 6 October 2016 21:18 (two years ago) Permalink I was searching around for reviews for the Porter Ricks self-titled album that I'd started listening to last Friday (#34), and it was kind of hard going. However, the album PR put out before that, in '96, Biokinetics , had gone re-released in 2012 and subsequently had been subjected to breathless reviews from at least a few of the crucial music websites (P4k, FACT). I searched around for that album in the '96 Wire list, hoping to link to those reviews on a tangential post, only to find out... Biokinetics is #10 on the '97 list, and likely the PR album brimstead had been referring to.

So now I'm listening to that one, too. My first response is that the dub stuff seems a little less overt. I kind of want to say this sounds like the dance counterpart to a lot of the amorphous, abstract psych that I love from this time (Super Roots 6, yes, but even R Montgomery, Fuxa, Hovercraft, Azusa Plane, Circle's Hissi), but I'm really unqualified to discussed electronica, and dimly suspect that a lot of music could qualify for that description. Is "Biokinetics 1" one of the tracks that play an important role in the evolution of what would end up being called 'dubstep'?

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 12 October 2016 20:20 (two years ago) Permalink

Here's some opinions that are surely worth reading. Ph1l1p Sh3rburn3's review for Pitchrok (8.5 rating):

If you bought Porter Ricks' Biokinetics on CD in the 1990s and the disc is still intact, consider yourself lucky: The original edition is currently trading for $65 and up on Discogs. The price has something to do with the album's place in history: Biokinetics, a touchstone of experimental techno, was the first album released on Berlin's widely worshipped Chain Reaction label. But scarcity is a bigger factor: Biokinetics, like all of Chain Reaction's CDs from that era, came packaged in an aluminum tin that tended to crack the CD it was supposed to be protecting. (As a comment on Discogs notes, "Another Chain Reaction release, another metal box that eats up CDs.")

Fortunately, 16 years later, John Twells' Massachusetts-based Type label has stepped up with a reissue of the landmark album, not just on CD (this time in a standard jewel case) but also, for the first time, on 2xLP and digital download. It's a welcome reissue, and long overdue. It comes as certain ideas from techno's fertile, experimental, mid-1990s period are being picked up by a range of underground musicians. Many of these ideas have permeated so deeply into the culture that it's hard to remember a time without them, but we wouldn't have Burial, to name just one of the duo's distant descendants, without Porter Ricks' seafloor crackle and mottled-granite color scale.

Porter Ricks were the duo of Thomas Köner, a sound artist and ambient composer, and Andy Mellwig, a techno producer who also recorded as Continuous Mode and, with former Monolake member and future Ableton founder Gerhard Behles, as Async Sense. Released in 1996, Biokinetics was Porter Ricks' debut album, gathering tracks from three vinyl EPs released that year along with three songs exclusive to the album. It had been years since I last listened to it, and the Type reissue surprised me first by reminding me how diverse the album is. "Chain Reaction" has long since become shorthand for a certain fusion of buoyant dub, hazy ambience, and coiled techno, but on Biokinetics, none of these has quite settled into place; it's a dynamic, unpredictable mixture of pulse and hiss.

The opening "Port Gentil", a precursor to the template Wolfgang Voigt would adopt under his Gas alias, pairs soft, monochromatic tones with a muted 4/4 pulse. On the surface, it couldn't be simpler, but as it pulls you in, you become aware of shifting contours and unusual dimensions, the interplay of light and shadow; it sounds like a string section tuning up atop a freight train trundling through a deep canyon.

"Nautical Dub" hews closer to textbook techno, with muscular bass pushing relentlessly forward, but it's hardly conventional. There are no sharp edges, for one thing: Percussive accents have been buffed to a dull gleam, and the upper register of the track, normally reserved for crisp, cutting hi-hats, is diffused into a fine-gauge spray that sweeps back and forth like a lawn sprinkler. Only "Port of Call" assumes dancefloor techno's chiseled boom-tick profile, but this time it's the low end that's fizzed to near nothingness. A few years later, Pole would famously construct an entire aesthetic around the vagaries of a broken Waldorf filter, but Biokinetics was first: Everything sounds broken here, all frayed cables and dusty contacts, and every gesture toward techno clarity feels like a trade-off made at the expense of another element that's left to crumble.

Dub techno has since become one of electronic music's most mannered styles, but here, Porter Ricks' tracks feel not so much like compositions, much less stylistic exercises, than answers to very specific, fairly arcane questions-- what happens when we route this LFO through that filter? How many divisions can we parse between the downbeats? How can chaos be turned into rhythm, and how far can a repetition be stretched before it's rendered senseless? Where is the boundary between tone and white noise?

On "Biokinetics 1", a heaving, wheezing synthesizer struggles to stick to a regular pulse as it's fed through disorienting delay and looped back upon itself, stumbling and confused. As an experiment in stretching a groove to the breaking point, it's as exhilarating as anything in the history of techno. "Port of Nuba" and "Nautical Nuba" submit drum machines to a similar warping process, resulting in rhythms that gallop like teams of horses. Here, you can hear the origin of Thomas Brinkmann's tumbling cadences of a year or two later, as he used a double-armed turntable to draw elliptical rhythms out of the grooves of records by Wolfgang Voigt and Richie Hawtin. And while we're talking about precedents, the leaden dirge of "Biokinetics 2" lays the groundwork for the bleak, trudging techno of Andy Stott and his Modern Love labelmates.

That Biokinetics is an album about currents is reflected in its seafaring titles, such as "Nautical Dub", "Nautical Zone", "Port of Call", etc., and also in the way that the record's energies feed back into itself. What Porter Ricks learned from dub was less about particular rhythms or stylistic tropes than about the path that a sound travels as it wends its way through the mixing desk, and how it comes out transformed on the other side. Dub's hall-of-mirrors approach to versioning, meanwhile, informs the way that many tracks here are variations upon one another: "Port Gentil" and "Nautical Zone" bookend the album with nearly identical chords, while "Nautical Nuba" and "Port of Nuba" recycle the same drum patterns, using filters and delays to achieve very different results. Spontaneity is woven into the fiber of every track; it's easy to hear how some of them may have begun with the same sounds and patterns before the musicians' hands worked their magic on the filters, EQ, and delay, rendering each take unique and unrepeatable.

Like Detroit's Drexciya, Porter Ricks (who took their name from a character from Flipper, the 1960s film and television series) used aquatic metaphors to get at larger ideas, both musical and otherwise. Ocean currents, electrical currents, sound waves, feedback; dub, techno, minimalism, noise; exchange as a fluid back-and-forth but also, as Drexciya pointed out, as a loaded dynamic, fraught, unequal-- they all swirl together, rippling in time and veering out of sync, as though pulled by complicated gravitational forces. Biokinetics is above all a music of tides, suggesting rhythm as both celestial stroke and as a vibration deep in the body, bubbling at the molecular level.

FACT magazine:

Between 1990 and 1993 Thomas Köner composed a trio of astonishing albums that represented the peak of ambient exploration alongside fellow travellers and collaborators like Paul Schütze and David Toop. Sonically traveling though arctic landscapes that were inaccessible to most life, the music that was birthed on Nunatak Gongamur, Teimo and Permafrost was created through a radical reinvention. Mic’ing up the not-so-humble gong and then treating to it a range of experiments like scraping, brushing, recording underwater and then heavily treating with effects, Köner developed a completely unique sonic language that could only be appreciated through focussed deep-listening. These epic wraith-like hallucination-inducing drones may have laid the benchmark for dark ambient but that is something of a misnomer, with Köner developing an emotional state of wide-eyed astonishment upon glancing upon terrain that was as beautiful as it was forbidding. This was by no means music of doom though. The triptych was later gathered together by Deleuzian-inspired German label Mille Plateau only to drift straight out of print before last year receiving a full and proper reissue treatment by Type, the same label who now bring us this essential tablet from the skies. Or should that be seas?

1996 saw Köner unexpectedly shift this singular aesthetic towards the dancefloor in partnership with Andy Mellwig as Porter Ricks (named after the dad from 60’s dolphin soap-opera Flipper). Mellwig has released occasional work but is primarily associated with – and still very much present at – the legendary Dubplates Mastering studios in Berlin. Biokinetics was released in 1996 and compiles Porter Ricks first three 12″s for Chain Reaction with three new tunes, housed in that label’s signature metal tin, and has since become the stuff of legend. Deservedly so: Biokinetics may have been assessed on dub-techno terms, which is perfectly reasonable given its relationship to Basic Channel, and in a sense this was the template with which the duo chose to work, but the Porter Ricks project is a lot more versatile than this one genre and really represents the peak of a period of experimentation in underground music where such classifications had become extremely fluid and the boundaries between producer, musician and engineer were at a non-existent high.

Bookends ‘Port Gentil’ and ‘Nautical Zone’ both push the 12 minute mark and perhaps fit closest to the Basic Channel template whilst simultaneously pushing that mode to its most illogical and gorgeous end. Both tracks are monolithically huge, ocean-expansive meditations on sound, surreally submerged and completely relentless 4/4 buried under the subtlest of melodic flourishes with entirely vague whispers of noise and texture enveloping you in some kind of underwater, universal womb. There is something strangely loving about this music, with tension tempered by a very occasional chord at the slowest of repetitions, a benevolent hand leading you through this weird wilderness. In the thawing of ice to water (possibly aided by the drugs du jour), Köner and Mellwig seem to have located the urge to move from godforsaken to guide. ‘Biokinetics 2’ pushes this to the absolute limit, a complete reduction of texture to nothing but a sinister whisper of breath, an unrealised threat of melody and a distant cavernous machinic heartbeat. ‘Nautical Dub’ is slightly more forbidding and faster, with clapping chugging rhythms and gloopy gamelan rapidly encroaching from a distance. Over its six minute course, a menacing bassline that locks you properly in to a zombie groove slowly synthesises to become a truly evil hook. I once heard this lost in some warehouse at 3am many years ago and all semblance of normal existence seemed to vanish in a micro-minimal second. It still has that effect today.

Things get truly weird at points. ‘Biokinetics 1’ is, quite frankly, fucking nuts, taking what sounds like a vociferous sequenced sealion and watching it shimmy out of time to a muted gong. ‘Port of Nuba’ and ‘Nautical Nuba’ take this chattering out-of control abstraction and incorporate the beat around it, making for some of the most paradoxically strange dance music you are ever likely to hear – the accelerated pulse rate playing havoc with your internal rhythm as blocks of noise get pushed round the edges of your senses.

Biokinetics was the start of a truly fertile period of experimentation for the duo and maybe the last truly great experimental period for techno; perhaps even a watershed moment for whatever post-rock actually was. The combination of Köner’s avant-garde background and Mellwig’s studio and techno-savvy ended up mirroring an approach to sound comparable to My Bloody Valentine on Loveless (which dropped between Köner’s first two albums); the long-term impact of ecstasy having an inverse effect on music production and removing all its physical edges. Köner and Mellwig actually went on to complete a truly stunning collaboration with Sonic Boom’s E.A.R. project, which at the time included MBV’s Kevin Shields as well as luminaries like Kevin ‘The Bug” Martin and legendary improv percussionist Eddie Prévost, as well as an equally brilliant and bizarre follow-up Porter Ricks album for Mille Plateau and a full-blown collaboration with the aforementioned Martin and Justin Broadrick (in Techno Animal mode) on Symbiotics.

16 years down the line and the passing of time has done absolutely nothing to diminish the radical and immersive power of this record or any of Porter Ricks’ later forays. Combined with Köner’s solo work, Biokinetics is a pivotal moment in electronic music and a decisive moment in one of the most important and brilliant oeuvres in contemporary music.

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Wednesday, 12 October 2016 20:26 (two years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I heard Biokenetics a bit as well, and it's really really good. I'm not sure it sounds that out there, though, isn't it a template for dubtechno that was followed quite a lot afterwards?

I've also heard Shleep. That's... ok?

Frederik B, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 21:32 (two years ago) Permalink

is is amazing IMO but I'm not gonna work to convince you if you aren't a Wyatt fan

sleeve, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 21:50 (two years ago) Permalink

is = it

sleeve, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 21:50 (two years ago) Permalink

I like Rock Bottom, but no, I'm not a particularly big fan.

I feel like I'm getting the hang of this list now. So many of the albums are hard to find, but I've heard quite a lot. I've begun checking out the lists from this decade, am discovering a lot of good music I've known about but never checked out.

Frederik B, Wednesday, 12 October 2016 22:48 (two years ago) Permalink

Frederik B, do you have the Internet subscription to The Wire? I think I need to get it

same as it e'er was (Drugs A. Money), Thursday, 13 October 2016 20:32 (two years ago) Permalink

No, but their lists are freely online.

Frederik B, Thursday, 13 October 2016 20:42 (two years ago) Permalink

four weeks pass...

I'm still doing this, I just hit a slow patch. I am kind of struggling to find stuff to say about Porter Ricks or Maurizio, but I legit like both

I gotta stop (Drugs A. Money), Saturday, 12 November 2016 09:37 (one year ago) Permalink

I will say this: I'm taking a real shine to the Porter Ricks self-titled. Feels like the greatest seapunk album ever recorded

I gotta stop (Drugs A. Money), Monday, 14 November 2016 08:33 (one year ago) Permalink

eight months pass...

Anyone up for doing a second year of this?

Frederik B, Tuesday, 25 July 2017 14:21 (one year ago) Permalink

If you want to, that's fine. I def have plans to return to this thread in the next month or so to finish off 97

the underground is pass-agg (Drugs A. Money), Saturday, 29 July 2017 06:32 (one year ago) Permalink

five months pass...

Hey Fred B, if you want to take over this thread, that's 100% fine by me. I'm sorry I headed your last attempt off. I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to start listening through the Wire lists again, but there's no point in letting this sit in mothballs if there's interest from other posters.

the man from P.O.R.L.O.C.K. (Drugs A. Money), Saturday, 6 January 2018 10:18 (nine months ago) Permalink

Oh, actually I was thinking of returning to 97 and checking out the ECM albums on it now that they're on spotify. Anyone else up for spending a week more or so on this list?

Frederik B, Saturday, 6 January 2018 12:46 (nine months ago) Permalink

i'm interested

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 18:06 (nine months ago) Permalink

Cool! The ECM albums I'm going to delve into are these three:

6.Tomasz Stanko Septet - Litania: Music Of Krzysztof Komeda
29. Joe Maneri Quartet - In Full Cry
45. Giya Kancheli- Caris Mere

Frederik B, Sunday, 7 January 2018 18:29 (nine months ago) Permalink


budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 18:36 (nine months ago) Permalink

this stanko record is sounding really nice. komeda is really worth exploring. i particularly like his "astigmatic" from '66

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 22:23 (nine months ago) Permalink

...which, as the cover art now reminds me, tomasz stanko played on. duh

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 22:30 (nine months ago) Permalink

wow, i guess this komeda album is really well-known and very highly regarded! my friend, who lived in poland for about a decade, once showed it to me and he gave me the impression that he was letting me in on this secret obscure underground avant-jazz polish thing but the internet tells me otherwise.

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 22:56 (nine months ago) Permalink

anyway, back to "litania" and stanko. the record is so sparse and breathy and completely beautiful. there's this moment in "night time, daytime requiem" around 11m after a longish piano interlude and stanko starts playing, it sounds like he's wincing, it's this strange, fragile, hesitant, raspy sound. and then as the band comes together it has this feeling of a primordial moment, a kind of re-discovery, as if the musicians are all remembering that they play jazz, that jazz is this beautiful thing for which they are living, breathing conduits, and the realization makes them convulse in this spasm of noise around 14m40s and then the serene, post-natal textures at 15m giving way to further reflections alternating between tranquility and these slow, increasingly ecstatic crescendoes and then collapse and re-set. what a pleasure.

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:32 (nine months ago) Permalink

great post

kolakube (Ross), Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:33 (nine months ago) Permalink

and maybe this is hackneyed but i feel like the music definitely evokes post-war poland in a big way. i mean, this is what stanko's hometown looked like in the '60s:

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:37 (nine months ago) Permalink

the whole "we gotta start over" sentiment maybe

(thanks ross)

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:38 (nine months ago) Permalink

and yeah okay so this is stanko talking w/ npr in 2006:

HANSEN: The music critic Geoffrey Himes wrote that you pioneered a distinctly Polish brand of jazz. What does that mean? What's Polish jazz?

Mr. STANKO: This is question not for myself. I don't know exactly, because I play this music. I think it's kind of melancholic, what maybe it's coming from our climate, our light in our country, and this melancholy may be a little bit also in the Chopin music, this kind of romantic, melancholic atmosphere, mood.

HANSEN: So it does reflect sort of the culture. Politically, however, how difficult was it to play jazz? Because Poland has gone through so much in the last 50 years.

Mr. STANKO: Yeah. It was - in the '50s, it was quite difficult, even was illegal. But in my times, '60s, it was quite possible, even fashionable and every film director, actors, Polanski and this society, was really into the jazz music, and we were kind of kings in the arts society.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: Do you think there's a difference between the way jazz is developing here in the United States and the direction it's going in Europe?

Mr. STANKO: Probably yes, because had war, you know, and jazz was much shorter period in Europe, because war destroyed completely everything. Like you remember, you said Django Reinhart was in France before the war, but after that, you know, everything start from the beginning.

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:39 (nine months ago) Permalink

Polish Jazz makes me think of Ida. Kinda holy, kinda modernistic chic.

Frederik B, Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:44 (nine months ago) Permalink

lol of ALL the polish films!

budo jeru, Sunday, 7 January 2018 23:48 (nine months ago) Permalink

or wait did you mean the band?

budo jeru, Monday, 8 January 2018 00:09 (nine months ago) Permalink

No, the film :)

Frederik B, Monday, 8 January 2018 00:12 (nine months ago) Permalink

Looking through his discography, Komeda apparantly made several scores for Danish director Henning Carlsen as well, including his international breakthrough Hunger. Never knew that. One of the tracks on Astigmatic is from a Carlsen film as well.

Frederik B, Monday, 8 January 2018 00:13 (nine months ago) Permalink

i like stanko's '70s stuff. particularly "purple sun" (with zbigniew seifert on violin) and "twet". they've got a sound to them i find amenable.

bob lefse (rushomancy), Monday, 8 January 2018 00:47 (nine months ago) Permalink

although the notion of "polish jazz" has me listening to this record called "winobranie" by zbigniew namyslowski that rym rates highly - any of y'all heard this one? good shit!

bob lefse (rushomancy), Monday, 8 January 2018 00:53 (nine months ago) Permalink

never heard it, just put it on. thanks for the rec!

somebody made a list on discogs of the whole "polish jazz" series, which was done by the state-run label i guess. the first one is "new orleans stompers" by the warsaw stompers lol

budo jeru, Monday, 8 January 2018 00:57 (nine months ago) Permalink

also this is a really nice overview of stanko's career

budo jeru, Monday, 8 January 2018 01:43 (nine months ago) Permalink

I'm not sure I'm entirely convinced by the Giya Kancheli album. It's very intensely religious classical music, but both a little too kitchy and a little too proper. It doesn't have the austerity of an Arvo Pärt at his best, but on the other hand isn't as straightforwardly emotionally manipulative as something like Gorecki's third. I love the final vocal passage of the first track. But there are a couple of moments, as when there's a quote of Jewish music, or some of Jan Garbarek's saxophone passages, where it's a bit of a stylistic mishmash. Holy Polystylism? Holystylism?

Frederik B, Thursday, 11 January 2018 13:58 (nine months ago) Permalink

hi Frederik. sorry i let this lapse. i listened to the kancheli album twice (last week) and didn't have much to say, except that i wasn't very into it. i was planning to listen a couple of more times, and perhaps be more specific in my criticism. but then i listened again and decided against trying to formulate my feelings into words.

so onto joe maneri, then. (tomorrow.)

budo jeru, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 10:03 (eight months ago) Permalink

Lol, that seems like a pretty legit response to Kancheli to me. Joe Maneri, and then, anyone who has a suggestion for another year?

Frederik B, Wednesday, 24 January 2018 11:49 (eight months ago) Permalink

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.