The best of 2016 (according to Art As Catharsis artists) — Part 2

We asked Art As Catharsis artists for their top 3 releases of year. Miss Part 1? Read it here.

Kegan Daley of Space Bong

Kegan Daly (Space Bong)

Cobalt — Slow Forever

Some bands defy stylistic definition. Not because they attempt a cynical combination of musical styles to cash in on multiple metal audiences. Nor because their song writing includes fresh hooks or tricks not yet attempted by other song writers. A band like Cobalt defy definition because you can’t run a continual thread through their work to say it sounds like any one particular genre or band at any point. In this sense it’s truly original. I get a similar feeling from American band, Today Is The Today, but not because they share a style. Only a very loose vibe of frontier originality. Of not being beholden to styles because their is no style. It is what it is. For this reason Slow Forever stands out from other releases in 2016.

Cult Of Luna and Julie Christmas — Mariner

This album is a work of urgency, romance and sorrow. A seamless collaboration that makes complete sense from beginning to end. Of course Cult Of Luna would sound perfect with a feminine voice.

Forn — Ambitions Toward Nothingness

Forn released this single track earlier in the year as a digital download with 50% of all proceeds going to Black Lives Matter. That’s not really the point though. The point is that Forn are the current standard bearers of the American funeral doom movement. Bleak, crusty, harsh and generally a little upsetting. A step up from what bands like Cough are doing. More interesting musicianship and song writing.

Matthew Ottignon of Mister Ott © Shane Rozano

Matthew Ottignon (Mister Ott)

Shabaka and the Ancestors — Wisdom of the Elders

London tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings put together this band after travelling to South Africa. A classically trained clarinetist, he is of Caribbean descent and his compositions are a great mixture of free jazz, African and Caribbean rhythms. The octet is made up of South African jazz musicians. The recording is excellent and has surprising touches of electronics and productions every now and again. Shabaka has been performing with the still active Sun Ra Arkestra, and this recording shows it.

Ukandanz — Awo

French Ethiopian outfit Ukandanz really surprised me with this album. It’s much heavier and crunchier than I thought it would be. The vocalist is at his melismatic best, and the rhythm section have really stepped it up a notch. Ukandanz have made a bold move from Ethio Jazz to Ethio Metal.

BadBadNotGood — IV

BadBadNotGood are a Canadian jazz band that are now sort after as producers and backing bands for the Hip Hop and Pop elite. The sound they pull in the studio is top notch, in particular the warm bass and the keys player has a vast array of beautiful analogue sounds he’s pulling from. Experimental bass sax player Colin Stetson makes a welcome guest on one track. There’s a couple of jazzier tracks in the middle of the album that go astray, but it’s their great blend of 70’s soul and future funk that get’s me. The drumming on Hyssop of Love is awesome.

I’ve chosen 3 albums that while might not be my favourite albums of the year, are my favourite featuring saxophone, and all have strong ties to jazz and the improvised world. Bon Iver, De La Soul, Tribe Called Quest, Michael Kiwakuna, Leonard Cohen, D.D. Dumbo DJ Shadow, Radiohead, Anderson. Paak, James Blake, Ngaiire and Jordan Rakei have released excellent albums this year.

Andrew Mortensen of Kurushimi and Serious Beak

Andrew Mortensen (Kurushimi, Serious Beak)

Meshuggah — The Violent Sleep of Reason

Essentially, Meshuggah have their usual format here, but for their 2016 new album, I feel they’ve recaptured vibes of when they first started to meld their unique genre back in the Chaosphere days. I love ALL their albums, but the last few did lack a spark or something… This year’s release reignites that spark! Haake goes OFF on this album and majority of the songs were written by bassist Dick, so maybe that’s what was needed; a new composer to freshen their song formulas? Some killer riffs, warped grooves and (importantly) a human vibe! Plus, the lovely return of Fred’s solos!

Hashshashin — nihsahshsaH

Yeah, so they’re pals, label-mates and band-mates…. But forget that — this album is top shelf! Lachlan’s writing on the bouzouki is unorthodox, which I feel makes for great songs. Evan is one of my favourite drummers, and his style suits this perfectly. With Five Star Prison Cell on indefinite-hiatus, I was so happy to hear that when Cam moved to Sydney, there was a spot for him is Hashshashin — his style, tone and ideas fit in perfectly. And the field recordings — so good! The atmosphere of this album is trance-inducing, as well as being heavy, dark, enlightening and beautiful. Can’t wait to hear more from them.

öOoOoOoOoOo — Samen

A little gem I found via Heavy Blog Is Heavy’s Dave Tremblay, who is a great supporter of Art As Catharsis. This album is excellent, but it’s really hard to describe. It’s metal, it’s pop, it’s weird, it’s gorgeous, it’s ugly… I guess it reminded me a little of Melbourne prog-band (who are sadly now more), A Lonely Crowd who I caught at NICEFEST a few days prior to spinning this album. Great stuff, really unique.

Jochen Gutsch of Hinterlandt (centre)

Jochen Gutsch (Hinterlandt)

Black Mountain — IV

Every generation deserves at least one Good Rock Band, and I think this group fits the bill these days. The 1970s, 80s and 90s were jam packed with Good Rock Bands, but after that things seemed to thin out considerably, leaving those same old bands no choice but to reunite in order to fill the gaps. Black Mountain’s 2016 record IV is psychedelic, atmospheric, mysterious, heavy, light, loud, quiet, and slightly-but-not-overly progressive. It’s the perfect dinner-cooking music. Besides, they’re a great live band and they recently had their gear stolen, so buy their album.

Lou Barlow — Apocalypse Fetish

This man needs to be mentioned as a representative of long-forgotten indie values. In a time when musicians tend to talk mostly about likes and plays, effectively marketing their product in the digital age, the opportunity to present their projects at industry summits, and exploring new revenue streams amid dwindling sales, we need someone who just pushes the record button and starts so sing. Lou’s 2016 release Apocalypse Fetish may not be his strongest work, however it oozes the four 4s every proper slacker needs: intimacy, imperfection, individuality and insecurity. Besides, his Spiegeltent gig radiated so much honesty he nearly had me in tears.

Free Salamander Exhibit — Undestroyed

Basically these are the guys from Idiot Flesh which later became Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Sadly, über-genius Carla Kihlstedt is not present in this line-up which means the band visually leans towards medieval sausage fest. At the time when I write this only one song from Undestroyed has been released, which doesn’t leave me super-impressed. Anyway I’m sure the full album will be great. I mention this band as an example for brainy music. I’ve always enjoyed listening to complex music across all genres, with an emphasis on contemporary classical music, modern jazz and math rock. Besides, I saw Idiot Flesh performing as a puppet theatre group in San Francisco 180 years before you all were born, so there’s that.

Nick Andrews of Dumbsaint

Nick Andrews (Dumbsaint)

Vermin Womb — Decline

The record is pure hatred. Exactly what I need commuting to work at 5am every morning. Visceral, unrelenting and concise.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — Skeleton Tree

This is about as intimate and as authentic as you can get merging such heartbreaking themes with electronic and live arrangements. Cave and Ellis exist on their own level.

Ulcerate — Spires of Paralysis

One of the best bands on the planet. Their best compositions, but not their strongest recordings. Despite this, this pushes extreme metal about as far as it can go while still maintaining some sense of feeling. Peerless.

Dan Young of Siberian Hell Sounds © Shane Quill

Dan Young (Siberian Hell Sounds)

Belgrado — Obraz

All purpose post punk. Simultaneously wistful, grimy, summery, bleak, dense and sparse, pretty much just perfect music. Somehow managed to be touring at the same time as they were and missed all the shows because they were 2 cities behind us. Spewing.

The Steady As She Goes — Cryptzoology

Under-heard desert funeral on a dark night apocalypse blues from shitty old Brisbane. Haunting baritone melodies, brutal drum machine, droning guitar. More people need to hear this.

Altarage — Nihl

It’s like they read my mind and found out everything I like about blackened death metal and specifically tailored the album to my tastes. Sounds like it was recorded in a fetid, dripping cavern by The Dark Prince himself. I defy anyone to show me a heavier song than ‘Cultus’.

Very special mentions: Lord Mantis, Oranssi Pazuzu, Oathbreaker, Vermin Womb, UNRU, Syndrome, Neurosis, Meshuggah, Okkultokrati, Nick Cave, Wormrot, Jaye Jayle, Death Fetishist, Hashshashin.

Reece Prain of Diploid (right)

Reece Prain (Diploid)

The Body — No One Deserves Happiness

This album is mind blowing, it’s harsh and heavy.

Diecut — Self Titled

Amazing Melbourne band. This EP has some epic tracks.

Sunshine Ward — Order EP

Great d-beat/hardcore punk. Raw, fast and aggressive with surprising catchy riffs.

Scott Mclatchie of Diploid © Mikhaila Jurkiewicz

Scott Mclatchie (Diploid)

Stockades — Open

We’ve known Stockades for years and they are one of my favourite local bands. I had literally waited for years for them to drop this album, I couldn’t contain my excitement when it came out, such powerful music that really hits me hard every time i hear it. A perfect culmination of post-rock and emo influence.

The Dillinger Escape Plan — Dissociation

I was really really disappointed with all of TDEP releases after Ire Works, but this release was so perfect. It was as if they took samples from every album that made them great and just pushed it to absolute breaking point, very hectic!

Zao — The Well Intentioned Virus

I’ve been digging Zao a lot more than I used to, I was super stoked they have decided to start releasing albums again. This album is quite different to most of their stuff. But like Dillinger, its a completed puzzle in development of sound!

Natalya Bing of Hinterlandt and Hashshashin © Rhiannon Hopley

Natalya Bing (Hinterlandt, Hashshashin)

David Bowie — Blackstar

He lived a life of non — stop creation, and the energy in his music is always inspiring. The album is eerie and beautiful, and the reptilian part of my brain can’t help but emotionally respond to primal pulse driving it throughout. Whenever I listen to this album I literally feel like I’m being propelled forward through time and space. I’m also a sucker for juicy harmonies, and this album is layered with his perfected craftsmanship of it and tonal nuance.

Beyonce — Lemonade

I’ve enjoyed Beyonce’s music for a long time, mostly for dancing, and especially to “All the single ladies”. This album had so much publicity and ‘scandal’ surrounding it that it actually took me quite a while to sit down and listen but it is so good. She’s so sassy and powerful. The thing is I probably wouldn’t enjoy this album’s soundscape if it was playing in the background- I might even find it a bit irritating at times, but it’s an album that forces me to listen to her and what she has to say and I think that is pretty special.

Esperanza Spalding — Emily’s D+Evolution

When I first discovered her a few years back I was totally blown away by her. What an incredible musician and artist. I love all the music and sounds she creates. Every. Single. One. Again, took me a while to actually listen to this album, mainly from being time poor and not wanting to absorb it via ‘osmosis’. When I finally listened to it my brain exploded in the best way possible. I experience extremely detailed imagery and colours when I hear it. It is funky to the next level and it makes me happy.

Special mention to:

Hinterlandt –Ensemble

Released through Art as Catharsis this year. I feel very lucky to be able to be part of this unique chamber ensemble led and composed by über cool (he’s German) and magnificent person Jochen Gutsch. The imagery and story-telling he conveys in these completely instrumental works is truly amazing.

Olympia — Self Talk

This Aussie female is incredible - vocally, in her story telling, songwriting, musicality, expression etc.

Hashshahin — NihahshsaH

Gee, I feel pretty lucky I get to play with so many musicians I love. The experience is a primal, hypnotic trance that is emotive and raw. It is sensual and technical in essence at the same time. How do you do that?

Amy Vee — “Ten Years” single

She has the most beautiful voice in the world, and can literally do anything with it, and with her hands. All round she is such a talented musician and songwriter/ glorious human being. This Aussie female deserves much more musical attention.

Jack Colwell — When the World Explodes EP, “Seek the Wilde” single and “No Mercy” single released in honour of Tyrone Unsworth to raise funds for Qlife.

Jack is another person I feel so lucky to perform and make music with. He is such a talent and one of the most expressive musicians I have ever come across. His songwriting is unique and powerful and brave. He wears his heart on his sleeve and has a heart of gold, and it shows through everything he creates.

Lonely speck — “All My Skin On The Air” single

One of the most beautiful tracks I have ever heard. He is an angel, from Adelaide. There is just infinite beauty in his music.

Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt — Accord/Dance

One of my all time favourite bands and lads FGWMWS released their Accord/Dance EP. It’s their 4th release and I honestly think they just keep getting greater and greater. That trio have something super special — their music and sound is such a standout amongst everything else. This year I was lucky enough to grace the album playing completely random insane shit that I wouldn’t know how to reproduce. I love them so much ❤

Art As Catharsis is an underground Australian record label focusing on music that is progressive, psychedelic or different.

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