2014 Favorites

What a year, blah, blah, blah, let’s add the qualifying disclaimer now, where we  say that year-end lists are bullshit click-bait and gross and sad. But here’s why we do it: it’s an opportunity to give a final shout out to a lot of material we think deserves the extra attention. 2014 was unfortunately a slow year for the site, content-wise, as we’ve lost a good deal of our contributors and have become preoccupied with a lot of our own creative endeavors. We’re hoping to see 2015 turn into a better, more industrious year, and having said that, if you would like to contribute to the site, please contact us! So the list is now more important than ever, since we previously haven’t given a lot of this wonderful art the proper coverage it so rightly deserves. And as we always state, these are not ranked as some sort of graded contest, however, this is just a review of what we loved this year. It is 100% likely we have regrettably forgotten something. Here’s to a better year; see all of you more soon!

BOOKS

Blake Butler – 300,000,000

Butler elevated his signature dark and twisted style of experimental language with his latest novel, which has been repeatedly reviewed as “not for the faint of heart.” It’s a feat in its own right, both for the author and for the reader.

 

 

 

 

Mike Young – Sprezzatura

Why can’t modern poetry have a sharp wit and be ultimately entertaining? Young’s poems carry their own poignancy without visible complication. Seemingly effortless lines perfectly descend in easy nonchalance.

 

 

Dorothea Lasky – Rome

Lasky is not short any amount of praise lately, and all her attention is justified with her latest collection of frank sincerity. Lasky’s poems are fearless, unique, and unmatched.

 

 

 

 

Mathias Svalina – Wastoid

To call it all nonsensical would make you seem like a dad, a paternalistic, didactic enemy of the avant-garde. Stuffy fuck. Illogical? Okay, the writing is illogical. But nothing here is accidental. Calvino? Yeah, maybe, maybe some true emotion that wanders into surrealism. But Wastoid is its own beast, and one of the best of 2014.

 

 

Sam Pink – Witch Piss

Pink’s latest continues his notorious style of bizarre minimalism. Beautiful, gross, and at times cruelly ironic, this anti-story still beats with a giant, fucked heart. This is perhaps Pink’s most earnest work to date.

 

 

 

 

Brian Allen Carr – The Shape of Every Monster Yet to Come

This novel is easily engrossing and simultaneously disturbing. One takes a quick trip through the ringer with Carr’s novel. Carr paints resonant and effecting moments with subtle detail that lends itself to richer atmospheres.

 

 

 

Michael J. Seidlinger – The Fun We’ve Had

A girl atop a coffin hosting a man, in the sea. The novelty of the concept alone should afford the writing plenty of fun spaces to work within, and it does, and Seidlinger takes full advantage and even surprises with the places and emotions he draws out of it.

 

 

 

Joanna Ruocco – Dan

Ruocco has the unique gift of being able to balance an obsession with language and an the urge to tell a story. This novel is not merely well-crafted sentences, but meticulously designed language that conjures even greater images and places wherein her story unfolds.

 

 

Shane Jones – Crystal Eaters

The author of the celebrated novel Light Boxes returns with yet another enthralling work of mixed perspectives and unreliable physics with even deeper character development than his previous publications.

 

 

 

Hilda Hilst – With My Dog Eyes

This book received its first English translation in 2014, letting us experience the brilliance that is the experimental wordplay of Hilda Hilst.

 

 

 

Michael Earl Craig – Talkativeness

Craig’s latest collection of poems continue his style of a seeming stream-of-consciousness that traps you in its surreal logic. Always a pleasurable read.

 

 

 

Kim Hyesoon – Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream

This new translation of the unsettling, theatrical, and bold poetry of Kim Hyesoon is not one to be missed. Avant-feminism laid fearlessly on a lopsided table. Vitamin D emanates from the pages.

 

 

 

 

MUSIC

Fumaça Preta – Fumaça Preta

This band is a rare delight, a melting pot of elaborate influence and music connoisseurism. It’s music you can tell was made by music academics, with elite taste in sounds from all of the world and most definitely in psychedelic fuzz. Fronted by the insanely charismatic Brazilian Joel Stone (owner of the historic Tropicalia in Furs), this international ensemble brings together the cerebral and the sexy, with 60s groove paired with lyrical language poetry. A must.

Gang Wizard – Important Picnic

Composed but seemingly improvised lo-fi punk goodness from the long-survived but still-obscure (by choice) Gang Wizard. Both chaotic and toe-tap-inducing, this record is so, so highly recommended if you missed it.

 

Sissy Spacek – Horned Beast

John Wiese’s gritty monster, Sissy Spacek, had a full year of rare performances and 7-inches that, needless to say, melted faces. This particular one we found the most satisfyingly cathartic and brutal.

 

 

Scott Walker + sunn o))) – Soused

The unforeseen collaboration that broke the internet actually delivered beyond the novelty of Scott Walker’s words over the thick sludge of sunn o)))’s grim, down-tuned guitars. Despite what Dinosaur Jr. may say, we recommend it.

 

 

Negativland – It’s All in Your Head

Electo-experimental de-activists Negativland returned in 2014 with a concept not too unfamiliar with their material: God and all that sort of bullshit. This round of spliced-up audio reviewed people’s motivations and reasoning to their belief in a higher power. As always, the record is hilarious, iconoclastic, and tearing up conventions from the roots.

Watery Love – Decorative Feeling

Fuzzed-out garage rockers Watery Love bring a certain avant element back to the sort of grungy rock that has long been without its former “artsy” ingredients.

 

 

Bill Orcutt – Live at Various / Gerty Loves Pussy / Two Weeks in Another Town / My Friends When I’m Not There

Bill Ocutt released multiple cassettes in 2014, many sold at performances only, all very brilliant. Each cassette features live recordings of the Harry Pussy alum’s mindbending guitar work, with Live at Various featuring duet improvisations with percussionist Chris Corsano, a perfect pairing many are familiar with, including last year’s The Raw and the Cooked. Our suggestion it to hunt down every single one of these perfect tapes.

 

Ben Frost – A U R O R A

Which one is more obvious to include in our year-end list, Ben Frost’s critically-acclaimed LP or yet another Swans masterpiece? Neither is necessarily unique pics for 2014, but that’s all for good reason. Both have consistently wowed listeners with each release and done so with timeless sound art that occupies spaces outside of fashionable trends. A reliable breath of fresh air.

 

Swans – To Be Kind

Please see praise above.

 

 

 

 

Improvisi – Live at the Hope and Anchor

London-based free jazz ensemble Improvisi released a live recording this year that delivers all the style, inventiveness, happy accidents, and even catharsis you would want and hope for from a free, open jam. We hope to see much more from this promising collective.

 

URNA – Cauchemar

Yerevan Tapes released this solo project by Italian painter and sound artist Gianluca Martucci, who delivers a classic heap of ambient, dark atmospheres rich with texture and moodiness.

 

 

 

Hau – Hau

Hau is fucking great. This duo from Greece bring the noise and maneuver throughout sound and space effortlessly like one of those tree-based anteaters (saw it at a zoo once, two halves of its body seemingly moving separately but cooperatively as it ascended an assortment of branches). So smart, so cool.

Henderson/Metler/Foisy/Lachance – Built Like A Brick Shithouse

Small Scale Music alert! This new label put out three of our favorites this year (and that’s just what we got a chance to hear, we likely would love everything). This particular free jazz quartet starts their tape easy, if not traditionally, and gradually the thing grows wings, and then takes off, and then comes back and pecks and claws at your face.

Illusion of Safety – Surrender

Illusion of Safety’s limited cassette release of electro-acoustic noise took us by surprise. The project was new to us, but since 1983,  Illusion Of Safety has been the ongoing project of Daniel Burke, working alone and with various collaborators. This would explain the mastery present in this recording, combining the conventional and unconventional, the composed and the improvised.

Bord à Bord – Bord à Bord

More from Small Scale Music! And what a doozy! Electro-acoustic free jazz freak outs clattering in the eye of an ambient tornado of disharmonic drone meditations. A perfect juxtaposition of both cerebral and cathartic improvisation. Hot damn.

 

Bryan Counter Satchel Forrester – Twice Stopped

Okay, last Small Scale Music release, but this label really wowed us this year. This drum and sax duet differs from the other SSM releases in the inherent grooviness of the improvisations, paying homage to the true sources of their influences while simultaneously bending the rules.

 

Dead Neanderthals – Prime

Holland’s Dead Neanderthals is a group we’ve been following for some time now, and with Prime, their latest recording, the group has stripped away any hesitation or timidness that could have been heard on previous efforts. This collective has found their bravery, found their voice, and they unabashedly let it ring throughout Prime. Highly recommended.

 

AHAFAS – Ad Astra

Pure gristle walls of unadulterated harsh noise comes straight out, unfaltering, from the get go on this latest effort by AHAFAS. Iamgine yourself in metallic coffin as the heaviest, blackest rain begins to beat down, slowly flooding you. Dense, thick, and just good noise.

 

Duane Pitre and Cory Allen – The Seeker & the Healer

This collection of improvisations is the first collaborative work by Texas-based sound artist Cory Allen and Louisiana minimalist composer Duane Pitre. The two sides move us through beautiful sonic landscapes and into what can only be called dramatic atmospheres. But there is no aggravating self-seriousness to this serious work: there is play, there is childlike awe, there is discovery and mystery.

CRAESHER – CRAESHER

CRAESHER’s experimental noise moves and bends with a fluidity not too common in the work of many noise artists. This is not the wall of noise onslaught many have come accustomed to, but instead it’s as dispatterned and unpredictable as a violent wind, sometimes whipping at you with sharp gusts, other times gently passing through you, which at times is soothing, at times unnerving.

VNTS Aleph LP

This is best described in their own words: “the first edition of the independent Swiss art and audio publishing company VNTS, where the medium vinyl is used as a neutral stage, a white cube, where the artist can present his work. VNTS Aleph combines six different, over the last two years carefully selected, compositions of fifteen artists from four continents (Asia, Australia, Europe and North America) to a collage of experimental electro–acoustic music. The six pieces are followed by six individually crafted artist’s statements, which allow a deeper insight of the idea of the artist’s work. Together the auditive and the visual medium shall motivate its listeners to re–experience sound and to rethink and re–contextualize the meaning of the term music itself.” Featured artists include Rudolf Eb.er, Claudio Rocchetti remixed by Anom Vitruv, XO4 with Bill Nace, Mohel, British Weather and James Rushford together with Joe Talia. What an ambitious project! What an experience.

Jason Kahn/Tim Olive – Two Sunrise

Another installment of Olive’s series of collaborations, Two Sunrise is quite the achievement. Electric gargles and scratches give to low growls as percussion rapidly pit-er-pats into what could only be a menacing force to come, but that sustainment continues instead. A tension develops. And brilliant minimalism stretches onward.

Droneclone – Illusions, Ideas, and Drafts

Great ambient, trance-inducing electronics from visual and sound artist Droneclone.

 

 

 

Machinefabriek – Attention: the Doors Are Closing!

Holland’s Machinefabriek composed this music for choreographer Iván Pérezcreates for his work Attention: the Doors Are Closing!. The piece was made for Ballet Moscow, as part of their collaboration with Korzo (The Hague), for the Rusland-Netherlands year 2013. Within his wide spectrum of movement, Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek) has created  a minimalist noise that barely squeezes through. Everything is breaking through tiny cracks at a time. Sophisticated, articulate, and engaging.

 

FILM

Paul Thomas Anderson – Inherent Vice

Not quite the grand climax one would expect of the director of Magnolia, nor the subtle minimalistic beauty of The Master. This one is more weirdo-slapstick-noir that only comes close to comparing to Punch Drunk Love, if at all. But at the end of the day, it’s PTA, and that’s better than most.

 

 

 

Jonathan Glazer – Under the Skin

We came to Glazer’s sci-fi art film with skepticism, mostly on the casting of Scarlett Johansson and how she could ruin it. It was an inevitably polarizing work, but we were amazed with the results.

 

 

 

Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez – Manakamana

High above Nepal, cable cars transport visitors to an ancient Hindu temple, the site of a shrine to the wish-fulfilling goddess Manakamana. That’s the film, and it’s exceptional.

 

 

 

 

Lars von Trier – Nymphomaniac

There has always been something that makes me want to hate von Trier, and I know this isn’t an absurd or unexpected thing to say. We all want to hate him. We especially want to hate his helpless female characters and his easily avoidable situations laid out for purely nihilistic reasons. But there is an untouchable and undeniable value to his craft, and so we tolerate him and continue to praise/criticize his work instead of ignoring it all together. And for that reason we, like von Trier, are horrible people.

Jean-Luc Godard – Goodbye to Language

3-D is a feature of a film that normally doesn’t win over the elite film snobs, but when Godard experiments with it, oh how they salivate. Godard’s last decade of film has been remarkable.

 

 

 

 

 

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