Jake Moran’s End of 2013 List

It was an odd year.

Going back through my collection, I realized that the albums that had the biggest effect on me this year were things I came to late from 2012. So I thought about making a End of 2012 in 2013 list. Then I realized that would be asinine. I also didn’t want a big, long, boring list of albums. Instead, a made a big, short, boring list of albums. There were a lot of other great albums this year, some of which I’ve already praised here, but in the interest of being concise, here are just a few that meant a lot to me.

Bölzer – Aura

The riffs on this EP could probably excite the sun into an early, planet devouring expansion. Bölzer sound possessed on Aura. Possessed by what? Some kind of cosmic Scythian horseman with an equally celestial thirst for conquest, wailing and growling across distant nebulae, comet-tail spear in hand, trampling dead stars beneath his feet. Reign! Reign! Reign! Solar imperator supreme

Kinit Her — The Cavern Stanzas, Storm of Radiance DLP, The Poet & The Blue Flower, Hyperion

Yes, I am including everything Kinit Her released (physically) this year. Troy Schafer and Nathaniel Ritter crafted some of the most unique, spiritual, strange, and excellent music of the past couple of years, and I won’t be responsible for choosing between the works from their collaborative effort. The sounds and structures emanating from this Wisconsin duo don’t just evade classification (anyone calling it neofolk can eat my fingernails and wash it down with porcupine quills), they’ve emigrated to whole other planes of reality—eerily similar to our own, but unmistakably outside the normal realm of experience. A Lovecraft quote comes to mind: “After that we cast off all allegiance to immediate, tangible, and time-touched things, and entered a fantastic world of hushed unreality in which the narrow, ribbon-like road rose and fell and curved with an almost sentient and purposeful caprice amidst the tenantless green peaks and half-deserted valleys.” That’s as close as you might get to the sound of Kinit Her in words, a world as feral as it is elegant, as familiar as it is alienating, as deeply ancient as it is unmistakably modern.

White Medal — Guthmers Hahl

Prior to hearing Guthmers Hahl, I always imagined George Proctor of White Medal as a somewhat quaint, obscure little Tollund Man. In my head he wandered the bogs and moors, shambling through the mists and causing the occasional scare with excellent but mostly unnoticed EPs, demos, and splits. I expected he would continue on this way, leaving an Agbrigg Beast LP here and a Yorkshire Steel cassette there, before finally retiring into the obscurity of another peat bed. I was very wrong. Guthmers Hahl sees Proctor returning with far greater ambition than I ever expected he had. It’s a monstorous, mountainous amalgamation of raw black metal, heavy metal, and industrial experimentation. Proctor has left the moor, he’s pounding on the city gates, and if he’s returning to the grave, he’s taking us with him.

Liz Harris (Grouper, Helen, Raum, Slow Walkers) – The Man Who Died In His Boat, Felt This Way / Dying All The Time, Event of Your Leaving, Slow Walkers

Liz Harris—most commonly known for her solo project, Grouper—is in the top two of my favorite sound creating artists, and whatever she happens to release in any given year tends to drift, wander, and whisper into being my favorite thing. This year saw her releasing four albums and each one of them saturated my brain and body like fog fills a valley. The Man Who Died In His Boat is composed of material drawn from Harris’ classic Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill, and it lives up to it’s heritage while maintaining a distinct identity—as distinct as anything can be in a Grouper song, anyway. It’s a music of blurred edges; Harris’ voice drifts over dozing guitar lines like dry snow dances through the air on a soundless winter day, and the feel of it all flutters between warmth and isolation, lingers between emptiness and bliss. Helen’s Felt This Way / Dying All The Time explores poppier territory with driving drums and pulsing bass washed in waves of ghostly vocals and a guitar distorted into blissful noise. Event of Your Leaving, in collaboration with Jefre Cantu Ledesma, sounds like the Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd played at 1/2 speed, i.e., floating through the night sky toward the moon on a river of cold honey. If most of Harris’ work exists in the liminal space between waking and sleeping, Slow Walkers, with Lawrence English, delves into deep and, to my ears, troubled sleep with it’s drones as cold and haunting as murmuring winds over a lifeless planet.

Seidr – Ginnungagap

Bearing all the weight, sadness, and heartrending beauty of a collapsing star, Ginnungagap was better than I could have imagined, even after the excellent For Winter Fire. Listening to this entire album for the first time (laying on the floor, headphones on), it was immediately apparent that Seidr have created a masterpiece of an album; it’s massive, brilliant, intricately layered but viscerally powerful. Choose your words and they’ll all be inadequate to the experience of hearing this work. It’s affected me emotionally more than any metal album this year, possibly more than any metal album ever (I don’t think I’ve made it through “Sweltering II” without crying yet, sad ass that I am). A vital, real exploration of what it means to be alive in this time and place.

Lee Noble – Ruiner

Lee Noble’s music most often sounds buried. Monotone vocals and hypnagogic chords buried beneath layers of static, cheap keyboards, warped melodies, and other less distinguishable sounds. It’s a bit like human perception buried under layers of media, memory, ideas, nostalgia, whatever you can imagine. It’s a fascinating, collage-like exploration of sound, like a dream that weaves all the disparate elements of your life into something new and unfamiliar, yet totally sensible in a way that they never were on their own. On Ruiner, Noble strips back (or further blurs together) some of these layers to reveal an enticing sense of catchy songwriting without losing that deep sense of sonic exploration. An aural dream worth descending into over and over again.

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~ by jakemoran on January 1, 2014.

One Response to “Jake Moran’s End of 2013 List”

  1. I’ve had some Kinit Her releases in an online shopping cart on multiple occasions this year but somehow never pulled the trigger, always other releases that came first… Thanks for reminding me.

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