2012 Favorites

2012, what a year!  Amiright?  Even though Jill Stein didn’t get elected, there were plenty of blessings bestowed on us throughout the year (in between the devastation of mass shootings and natural disasters, of course) that deserve celebration.  And so looking back on a long and often difficult year, we recognize some of our personal favorites here at The Esoterrorist.

As per usual, we’d like to add a disclaimer noting that we do not consider this list an authority on the best art of the year, nor are our selections ranked in any particular order.  That entire process is arbitrary and actually rather gross.  This blog has only ever been about sharing, not rating or grading, but we love to make year-end lists nonetheless.  Did we forget something or miss something entirely this year?  You can count on it.  Nonetheless, enjoy.


Authors and poets of the independent/chapbook scene had an incredible year in 2012, with small presses like Wave, Blue Square, and Lazy Fascist putting out numerous memorable works and becoming household names (my mom was all like, “Jack Daniels should leave Lazy Fascist alone”).

Jean-Philippe Toussaint – Reticence

In his ninth novel, Toussaint creates his take on the detective novel with his witty signature style of minimal prose and absurd circumstances.  As usual, the short book only leaves you craving more Toussaint.



Dan Magers – Partyknife

Dan Magers decorates his room like a C train car by peeing on the floor.  Dan Magers writes a love letter in code and then translates it for you.  Dan Magers started the Kris Kross Foundation and pockets the money.


Ben Spivey – Black God

Spivey’s latest is full of well-crafted phrases and a narrative that seems both caged and simultaneously limitless.



Amelia Gray – Threats

Amelia Gray’s debut novel incorporated the quick and bizarre fixes of her short fiction into an arching, provocative concept that hit on so many subtle brillianes that you would forgive the inevitable dead-end of the books pseudo-plot.



Sean Kilpatrick – fuckscapes

Is it absurd?  Is it surreal?  Is it part of some movement?  Do these words mean anything?  Fuck you for asking, says Kilpatrick, in his debut of outrageous and utterly bad ass poetry.



Dorothea Lasky – Thunderbird

Being a female poet in the wake of the “new sincerity,” fans of Lasky like to emphasize, if not dwell upon, the earnestness in her voice, and blah blah blah.  Misogynistic heuristics tend to group all strong female writers in the confessional/Plath category, too.  But Lasky is not the new sincerity, not a female cliche, not adorable, not what you want to pin on her chest.  And Thunderbird confirms this assertion with vivacious life.


Patrick Wensink & True Neutral – Broken Piano for President

Wensink’s new novel first came with limited release as an audio book with a featured score by True Neutral, which needless to say were both pretty kick-ass.  The ass kicking only escalated after Jack Daniels issued a cease and desist letter regarding the book’s cover art.  This scandal of sorts brought the novel to a temporary best-selling position on Amazon.


Eliene Myles – Snowflake/different streets

Myles’s newest book of poems combines two collections that maintain her consistent style of an honest voice with a remarkably strong, beating heart.


CACONRAD – A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon

CACONRAD’s followup to Book of Frank exhibits his (soma)tic exercises, creating poetry from an interesting array of subjects and procedures.



Blake Butler – Sky Saw

Butler writes surreal nightmares in the most enjoyable sense of scatological ecstacy, and Sky Saw is certainly one to get off to.  Pure and fucked.



Scott McClanahan – The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. I

McClanahan’s first two collections of stories, now out of print, are recollected in this volume that is now a year’s favorite on many lists.  Here you have some of the firsts of McClanahan’s unique short storytelling covered with a Penguin Classics parody.  Love this guy.





Well, this year our list for music actually includes some records with pop-structures and vocals!  But not too many, as 2012 was an exceptional year for the improvisors, the nosie-makers, and the spoken word.

Bill Nace and Jooklo Duo – Scratch

The collaboration between Nace and Jooklo Duo knocked us off of our feet.  This is the violence that we always crave in free-jazz, and it is inexplicably perfected in this rare disc.  If you missed, we suggest you start digging for copies immediately.


Hecker / Lopatin – Instrumental Tourist

This collaboration was the first installment of the SSTUDIOS series curated by Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) and C. Spencer Yeh on Software Recording Co., and it’s goddamned perfect.  Be on the look out for two new installments in 2013.


CS Yeh – Transitions

C. Spener Yeh can do whatever he wants, and in this pop follow-up to his De Stijl 7-inch and cassette reissue, Yeh proved just that, with pop sensibilities that put the full time poppers to shame.


Bill Orcutt – Why Does Everybody Love Free Music But Nobody Loves Free People?

Orcutt made our list last year with his remarkable How the Thing Sings, and this cassette takes that show on the road.  Brilliant acoustic work in live atmospheres.  We cannot praise this enough.


Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gang – En Yay Sah

Seemingly inspired by Afrobeat, Nabay’s bubu music seems miles ahead of what a lot of American groups aspire to in their failed attempts to incorporate world music into indie pop structures.  In En Yay Sah, Nabay allows his music to breathe with the intricate and rich  expanses of the genre’s origins, and settles for no less than elaborate and hyperactive perfection.


Chris Corsano – Cut

Corsano is one of those percussionists that require no accompaniment.  This isn’t a supply of rhythm, this is the music, this is the song, and it rings with more complexity and imagination than most full bands.


Mike Shiflet – Merciless

Mike Shiflet’s followup to last year’s Sufferers is said to be a “seismic companion piece” to the former.  And while it does continue the grit, grind, and grumble of Sufferers, it most importantly solidifies the two companion pieces as the Ohio-based noise artist’s most solid effort to date.


Franck Vigroux – We (Nous Autres)

The most important factor of the music that comes to immediate attention within the first listen of We is Vigroux’s fantastic appropriation of space.  With the sound manipulations by Vigroux, the air is never too crowded, too dense, or too sparse or minimal.  In between climaxes of brilliant synth swells and noise sizzle there are constant whispers and murmurs of electroacoustic goodness that never leave the listener abandoned, though perhaps haunted by its ghostly echoes.  In summation, the overall sound is best described as a breathing expansion, one that inhales into tightly-packed anti-matter and exhales outward, infinitely.


Bérangère Maximin – No one is an island

French electroacoustic composer Bérangère Maximin’s latest LP serves as the eleventh installment for Sub Rosa’s New Series Framework series and collects contributions from living legends Rhys Chatham, Christian Fennesz, Frédéric D. Oberland, and Richard Pinhas.  The record sounds undeniably thoughtful and complex, but one can’t help but prefer to think of it all coming together unconsciously, clustered by some central magnetism that caused these separate elements to join into an unlikely success.


Wastelanders – Cosmic Despair

Costello’s elaborate yet concise range of affection and instrumental elements set Cosmic Despair apart from the overwhelming depths of drone and noise genres’ libraries.  This is definitely a significant work that should not be missed.



Nate Wooley / Peter Evans – Instrumentals Vol. 1

Instrumentals Vol. 1 is the first collaborative recording effort between trumpeters Nate Wooley and Peter Evans since their duo record High Society.  This time the two are featured on a split LP, one side belonging to each performer, neither of whom had heard the other’s contribution until the record was complete.  Needless to say both trumpeters have outdone themselves with this effort, and perhaps they have each other to thank for that.


Daniel Menche – Guts

Menche returns with a destructive beauty from the inside-out, torn apart and opened to gawk at.  One of our favorites by this prolific artist.




Aaron Dilloway – Modern Jester

Dilloway’s expansion of a previously minor cassette release became the surprise hit this year for all noise fans.  Intricate, diverse, and oddly musical, Modern Jester has set Dilloway apart from his history with Wolf Eyes and onto the title of amazing solo artist.


Philip Corner – Piano Work’d

Corner’s Tapeworm release was unique to the batch but memorable for many more reasons.  This short cassette was filled with remarkable sound.




Diamond Terrifier – Shrine Flu / Kill the Self that Wants to Kill the Self

Sam Hilmer’s solo outfit gave us its first full length record and even a cassette precursor this year, both of which expanded the avant-free-jazz saxophonist’s wicked fits into stranger, meditative atmospheres, and sometimes just into the purely BIZARRE!  We love you, Hilmer.


Mika Vainio / Kevin Drumm / Axel Dörner / Lucio Capece – Venexia

This record as a whole acts as the perfect soundtrack to stretching your face in the bathroom mirror or performing incorrect yoga poses and is ultimately brilliant and just plain solid.  Highly recommended.


Olivier Dumont / Rodolphe Loubatiere – Nervure

Fascinating.  The other-worldly sounds emanating from this duet improvisation are mesmerizing and inducing of out-of-body experiences.




Ken Vandermark / Paal Nilssen – Love Letter to a Stranger

Hyperactive with positive energy, this duet betweentwo of  jazz’s strongest musicians, saxophonist/clarinetist Ken Vandermark and drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, is immediate, fleeting, and free.



Dolphins into the Future – Canto Arquipe´lago

“Drifting” doesn’t aptly describe the effect of the space created by Dolphins into the Future.  Nor does “hypnotic” or any other cliche.  These sounds are all too present, too forward to be described as such whispiness.  Sometimes delicate, but always grounded, this record is a stand-out.


Weasel Walter/Chris Pitsiokos – Unplanned Obsolescence

An amazing sax/synth and drum live set that can only be explained as enormous and explosive catharsis.



Brandon Locher – Conversations

Locher’s internet release of a sound/social psychology experiment made us laugh and then made us go all “hmmmm.”  An effort definitely worthy of our shitty year-end list.



Gang Wizard – Spirit vs Soul

This is the first recorded material to be released by the band since 2008, and it was limited to 20 copies.  Ain’t that some shit.  In summation of this record, as we stated in our review, Spirit vs Soul is Kathy Lee Gifford.


Jason Lescalleet – Songs About Nothing

As stated before, Songs About Nothing most definitely seems like it is, in fact, about something.  Densely layered and long as fuck, this record had everything nothing can bring you.



Keith Fullerton Whitman – Generators

Creating new sounds with equipment of yesteryear, Whitman never ceases to amaze with the new texture and timbre he continually invents and reinvents.


Kevin Drumm – Relief

Intense, thick, and smothering, just like we like ol’ Drumm.  And this single track disc is unrelenting.  Jesus Christ.




Merzbow / Marhaug – Mer Mar

Harsh, abrasive, clanking, shattering, buzzing, everything a noise record should sound like.  A highly successful collaboration.




Prurient – Oxidation

More of that classic noise grit from the noise scene’s daddy, Fernow.  Sure, we love Vatican Shadow, but we’re giddy when new Prurient material hits the ultra-limited shelves.



Tom Recchion – Proscenium

Tom Recchion is fucking nuts.  And the haunting sounds of Proscenium, his first solo album in six years, is no exception.  With sounds like that of a field recording from the belly button of outer space, this record proves that it is worth the wait.





Andrew Thomas Huang – Solipsist

This avant-garde short is simply alive and beautiful.  Total eye candy that, not unlike the work of Matthew Barney, is dense with meaning but can easily be adored on a strictly superficial level.

Paul Thomas Anderson – The Master

PTA is known and loved for his rich dialog, sweeping cinematography, and ensemble casts a-la Robert Altman that are placed in realist environments that border on the surreal and majestic with everything climaxing in beautiful grandiosity.  The Master, to those wanting their PTA fix, was a surprise, seemingly caged and minimal, perhaps directionless.  And this physical poem of the film is what makes The Master so masterful.  Brilliantly acted in sparse, fragmented moments of vain outreaches toward meaning, this may very well be Anderson’s magnum opus, which like many before it, will likely be misunderstood for some time until rightfully appreciated.

Marie Losier – The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye

Filmmaker Marie Losier debuts her first full-length feature with a documentary on the odd and experimental nature of the relationship between iconic artist Genesis P-Orridge and the now deceased Lady Jaye.  Utilizing her experimental stylings, Losier decorates the story of Genesis and Lady Jaye in a whimsical and lighthearted fashion that stumbles upon some resonant emotional truth in the process.


Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky – The Turin Horse

No controversy here over this film being a remarkable achievement.  Bleak, stunning, and unforgettable.




Leos Carax – Holy Motors

Love it or hate it, this film struck a nerve with it’s highly conceptual, original, and genre-bending moments of cinematic life.  Still don’t know if we like it, but here it is on the list.






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