Feature: Top Five Records of 2011


5. Radiohead – The King of Limbs

After the overblown – and overlong – Hail to the Thief in
2004, it’s strange to think that Radiohead would be mastering the art of understatement just two albums later. The eight tracks of The King of Limbs are built on fragile frames of light, jittering beats and meandering guitars notes that are barely plucked into life; a stark contrast to assertive, funkier jams like “A Punch Up at a Wedding” or the scratchy rock-out of “2+2=5”. The album is without the band’s trademark cathartic climaxes and thus devoid with a sense of closure, trailing off mid-sentence with the sparse and spacey “Separator”. A frustrating and half-baked offering
for some, but personally I think this stands as one of their
most cleverly judged and compelling records to date.

 

4. Robert Stillman – Machine’s Song

From the jubilant march of rural music to nightmare
soundscapes and back again: Stillman builds up gorgeous images of village life and lush countrysides before deconstructing them in warped stretches of drone and noise. Big band percussion gallops before slowing into lumbering, steam train lurches, while piano, organ and brass bend from homely melodies into an unsettling dissonance. It’s as though Machine’s Song presents two contrasting recollections of the past: one which is vivid and rich in optimism, and another that has been bent and rendered
ugly by trauma.

 

 3. Ghédalia Tazartès – Repas Froid

Repas Froid is a collage of conversation, birdsong,
religious singing, electronic percussion and various clattering noises, plucked out of hours of recordings and carefully arranged into “compositions”. Head-on collisions between culture, location and origin occur throughout, with an overriding sense of insignificance arising out of their combination and saturation – the album strips sound of its context and lets its identity reside in waveform shapes and sonic colours, producing some beautiful and inspired juxtapositions that only Musique Concrete could produce.

 

2. Earth – Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light Part I

Harking back to the sparseness of 2005’s HEX while furthering the sombre Americana twang of 2008’s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, this record arguably stands as the moment that the band’s post-millennium resurgence finally eclipsed the guitar drone upon which they were initially famed for. A stripped back setup (guitar, bass, cello and drums) and minimal overdubs put Dylan Carlson’s lumbering chord progressions at the forefront; his songwriting is fluid and effortless, oozing the confidence of a band that have truly triumphed in their redefinition.

 

1. Enablers – Blown Realms and Stalled Explosions

While the band are still a well-kept secret to most, Blown Realms…is a modest nudge towards Enablers receiving the recognition and fanbase they undoubtedly deserve. The energy Enablers exude (which makes for a compelling spectacle during live shows) is never wastefully expended; it galvanises the cross-instrument communication, surges into blistering song climaxes and bellows through Peter Simonelli’s enigmatic spoken word verses. A real triumph, which has also deservedly shed light on the band’s stellar back catalogue too.

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