20 Favorite Releases of 2016

In the spirit of the season, I wanted to share some of my favorite releases of the year. Obviously not exhaustive; just some personal highlights. Let me know if links are broken. Happy holidays!

Previously: 2015

Arthur Russell – World Of Echo, 1986
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Bill Nelson – Getting The Holy Ghost Across, 1986
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Cocteau Twins – Victorialand, 1986
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Cocteau Twins & Harold Budd – The Moon And The Melodies, 1986
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Coil – Horse Rotorvator, 1986
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David Hykes – Harmonic Meetings, 1986
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Double Fantasy – Universal Ave, 1986
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The Feelies – The Good Earth, 1986
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Felt – Forever Breathes The Lonely Word, 1986
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Geinoh Yamashirogumi – Ecophony Rinne, 1986
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Hiroshi Yoshimura – Soundscape 1: Surround, 1986
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Isabelle Antena – En Cavale, 1986
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Janet Jackson – Control, 1986
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Just-Ice – Back To The Old School, 1986
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Linda di Franco – Rise Of The Heart, 1986
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Nu Shooz – Poolside, 1986
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Riccardo Sinigaglia – Riflessi, 1986
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Toshifumi Hinata – Reality In Love, 1986
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Virginia Astley – Hope In A Darkened Heart, 1986
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Zavijava Orchestra – Rivers Of Light, 1986
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Michele Musser – Eye Chant, 1986

Celebrate Halloween this year with the strange surreality of Michele Musser’s Eye Chant. Recorded in the mid-eighties in Harrisburg, PA, the album takes you on a sample and synth-based odd-yssey where the only constant is freaky. Her sound palette includes synths, drum machines, a baby crying, animals, ship horns, waves, thunder, children laughing, bubbles, a clock ticking, plenty of vocal samples, and a spoken word passage. Experimental, with scattered elements of Berlin School (especially on the opening track) and new age synth.

Several tracks are cynical with regards to romance. “100% Bridal Illusion” discourages a prospective spouse, containing vocal samples communicating the triteness and misery of marriage. “Proteus and The Marlin” tells the story of a pathetically devoted woman who sleeps with a stuffed marlin for the rest of her life after her crazed, megalomaniac husband–who believed he was the Greek god Proteus–throws himself off the Golden Gate Bridge.
 
The album finishes with what is obviously the “hit” and the track that most makes this apropos for today. Check out the spook-funk groover “Too Much” below.

Michael Shrieve with Kevin Shrieve & Klaus Schulze – Transfer Station Blue, 1984

Classic. Michael Shrieve is a drummer who was one of the founding members of the original Santana band and is featured on their first eight records. I haven’t spent enough time with his other work to have a sense for it, but Klaus Schulze feels like the dominant force behind Transfer Station Blue–it sounds squarely like guitary Berlin school, using Shrieve’s insistent percussion as a vessel with which to drive Schulze’s pulsing, icy synth work (as well as guitar from Kevin Shrieve, who may or may not be Michael’s brother). The two long tracks (“Communique – ”Approach Spiral'” and the title track) are the centerpieces, both using long, tense build-ups and ominous arpeggiations to propel to a particularly anthemic release on the title track. The two shorter tracks, “Nucleotide” and “View From the Window,” explore more kosmische and new age territory, though they’re still plenty sinister. Good for fans of Double Fantasy (guys, that record is so good, go listen to it), and anything slick and shivery and German.

Tim Blake – Crystal Machine, 1977

The first in a total of 8 solo albums by Tim Blake. An influential synthesist and composer, Blake worked on all three albums in the Gong trilogy. He had a critical role in the formation of another formative space rock band, Hawkwind. Blake is also credited with being one of the first musicians to bring the synthesizer out of the studio and on to the stage on his 1972 tour with Gong. Interestingly, when he began touring as Crystal Machine with the release of this album, he became the first artist to introduce the use of lasers to live entertainment. 
Named after the moniker he assumed when playing live, Crystal Machine is a synthesizer tour de force. Newly emancipated from the collaborative confines of Gong at the time of this partially live recording, you can hear Blake’s youthful energy as he blasts off into space. Give a listen and if you close your eyes, he’ll take you along.

Double Fantasy – Universal Ave., 1986

For those who don’t mind a healthy smear of cosmic cheese. Molten guitar streaks, shivery synth grooves, and unhurried drum machines. Very sick and very slick. Makes me want to throw on some mirrored sunglasses and drive a silver convertible along winding cliffside vistas smoking an e-cig in front of a photoshopped sunset. Alternately meditative and searingly emotive, this thing is a few pan flutes shy of Pure Moods (a very high compliment). There’s not much decisive information about Double Fantasy available online, but it seems to have been the project of Klaus Schulze disciple Robert Schröder, who was only allowed to release two records under the Double Fantasy moniker because of legal clashes with his label, Innovative Communication. He went on to release many more records under a slew of different aliases, but both this and the other Double Fantasy release, 1994’s Food For Fantasy, are worth tracking down.

[RIP] Edgar Froese – Stuntman, 1979

Legendary synth pioneer and driving force behind German experimental band Tangerine Dream has passed away this week. In addition to Tangerine Dream, Froese recorded a number of solo records reaching across many different genres and sounds. Stuntman is a standout, as it incorporates several of these styles simultaneously. It has the beat oriented jammers, the classical bits, the ambient head trips, and of course, impeccably executed swirling synths. There are fun references too! In the track below it sounds as if he’s playing indigenous Andean flute melodies. Moods vary from light, playful, and warm to dark, brooding, and chilly. 
In honor of this Kraut / Berlin-school maestro and his massive body of work (Tangerine Dream has over 100 releases alone) we’ll be posting Edgar Froese stuff all week. Stay tuned!

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Michael Hoenig & Manuel Göttsching – Early Water, 1976

Guest post by Collin Crowe

Unearthed from their studio is a tape reel of perhaps the greatest jam of all time by Michael Hoenig and Manuel Göttsching. Highly recommended visual and meditative 48 minute improv by the cosmic masters. Take a dip and enjoy!