While we’re waiting and working on some (hopefully) awesome shows for you in 2014, we thought we’d take a moment to mention some excellent records from last year that we overlooked in our best of. While record reviews have taken a backseat to booking/promoting shows here at The Other Side of Life, there’s still some great stuff we’d like to tell you about. So here goes…
LETHA RODMAN MELCHIOR, Handbook for Mortals LP (Siltbreeze)
Way back in the 1990s, Letha was one of the guitarists in Ruby Falls, which was one of our favorite bands. Since their untimely demise, she’s explored other musical regions, sometimes without guitar, under the name Tretam. This year, under her own name, she released Handbook for Mortals, and it’s fantastic. Inspired by what I would call the “quotidian audio collage” style of Graham Lambkin (whose Salmon Run is a classic in the not-quite-genre), there’s everything from re-appropriated musics by other composers, spoken dialogue that at least seems vérité, video game interludes, you name it, all carefully constructed with a fine balance of pathos and bathos.
Over the past two years, Letha’s been dealing with health issues related to cancer treatment, and with every sale of Handbook for Mortals, a portion of proceeds will be donated to her. You can also buy the album direct — as well as make a donation — here: http://melchiorfund.blogspot.com.
Additionally, if you’re in New York City, there’s a BENEFIT FOR LETHA RODMAN MELCHIOR this Saturday, January 18th at Secret Project Robot. Endless Boogie, Crystal Stilts, Love as Laughter, The Rogers Sisters (wow!), and more will be appearing — more information here: https://www.facebook.com/events/721038087915201.
CHRIS FORSYTH, Solar Motel LP (Paradise of Bachelors)
We kinda slept on this one, not really sure why, but while it’s not our favorite “guitar band” record of the year (that’d probably be Time Off by Forsyth’s label mate Steve Gunn), it’s still really awesome. Imagine the members of Television trying to play alongside one of Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestra, attempting to steer the musical dialogue from sheer blistering-and-bludgeoning rock to delicate moments of melody. Something like that, yeah.
Chris Forsyth’s SOLAR MOTEL BAND will be in Louisville on Wednesday, February 19th — more details here soon as they become available!
HELADO NEGRO, Invisible Life 2LP (Asthmatic Kitty) —
One of our favorite electronic releases of the year, Helado Negro’s Invisible Life has been on constant rotation in our house since it came out last March. So why did we leave it off our best of? I have no idea. Stupid oversight, most likely. Sweet soul mixed with (almost) club bangers in a syrupy, sweaty stew. Hell, just the track “Dance Ghost” is worth the price of admission. Killer fun live show, too.
SIGHTINGS, Terribly Well LP (Dais) — We were with heavy heart when we heard that Sightings, one of our favorite New York bands of all time, called it quits in 2013. But if you’re gonna go out, might as well go out on top, and Sightings did with Terribly Well, their ninth album. Despite the many that try, there’s not many bands out there that really capture truly terrifying intensity — and in a post-Sightings world, we’re not sure anyone should even try.
COPPICE, Big Wad Excisions CD (Quakebasket) — The first release on Tim Barnes’ resurrected Quakebasket label (which you might remember from those incredible Angus MacLise reissues in the late 1990s) isn’t a reissue at all, but a new work by a Chicago electro-acoustic duo who put the whomp back in free improv. Highly recommended if you like early Merzbow, early Wolf Eyes, but not early mornings.
MDOU MOCTAR, Afelan LP (Sahel Sounds) — A late entry, because we slept on this July, 2013 release all the way until December, and we really wish we were tipped off earlier! Mdou Moctar’s Afelan has the heaviness we also heard in the debuts by Group Inerane and Bombino, recorded entirely live on location in Niger.
U.S. MAPLE, Long Hair in Three Stages LP (Skin Graft) — We’ll be honest: the first time we saw U.S. Maple play (at the Skin Graft “Irritational” in Chicago in January, 1995), we thought they were terrible. Couldn’t figure ’em out, honestly weren’t sure where they fit, even within the non-specific post-no wave aesthetic that Skin Graft was minin’ at the time. But then, a year or two later, it clicked and Long Hair in Three Stages was a must-have! The original 1995 LP was just about impossible to find, though, and even if you could find it, it had a pretty hefty price tag, since it came only in a sheet-metal sleeve. Thankfully, this past year the fine gentlemen at Skin Graft reissued the album, in multiple with-steel-or-without formats, so even if you weren’t there, you can pretend you were.
RODAN, Fifteen Quiet Years LP (Quarterstick)
LABRADFORD, Prazision LP 2LP (Kranky) — Two of the most important bands to me in the early 1990s were Louisville’s Rodan, and Richmond, VA’s Labradford, and their debut records (1994’s Rusty and 1993’s Prazision LP, respectively) both have had a profound influence on how I think about music to this day. Fifteen Quiet Years compiles Rodan’s odds-and-sods, which — while certainly gratifying — exudes a melancholy sense of longing for what they could’ve achieved had they stayed together. Meanwhile, the Prazision LP reissue is a perfect re-casting of what was, for me, a gateway to entirely new sonic palettes. Both of these releases are essential!