405 columnist Ben Martin explores the best of 2012 through the distorted eyes of 'Black Vase'. Consider it a companion piece to our staff-voted list, just filthier (though no less important).
Track Of The Year
Fieldhead - 'Neon, Ugly'
Back in October I said of this track: "'neon, ugly' especially captures that Selected Ambient Works… era Aphex Twin vibe to a tee, with the most understated drop that'll make you shiver your goosebumps off." A few months later and it still does exactly that. It's a song that, if you allow yourself to submerge into it, feels like a plunge into liquid velvet, with lights a-popping all around your face and limbs swaying in weightlessness.
Set Of The Year
QUEER'D SCIENCE, Supernormal Festival
I'm trying to think of a better way to describe QUEER'D SCIENCE's set than I did at the time - "like Marnie Stern goes Mindflayer and banshee (not Siouxsie) wails from Vandela on the mic" - but I'm not sure I can think of one. There are so many factors that make a set memorable for the punter other than the music, and this had the vibe of an excellent festival with excellent people and an excellent vibe all piled on top of a band that were as playful as they were abrasive. Fuck Buttons meets Funkadelic. I think.
Collaboration Of The Year
Mirrorring (Grouper+Tiny Vipers) - Foreign Body
Underground music is full of collaborations, and this year has been no exception, making it extremely hard to pick one that to me, rose above all the others. Yes, Carter Tutti Void's Transverse is incredible and getting all the plaudits it deserves, but for me, this meeting of softer, less glitchy minds from the Pacific Northwest deserves higher praise. And that's because, at once it is obviously the work of two artists entwining their sound, and at the same time it is also the work of a complete who – something that becomes apparent over the course of its six tracks. The clue is in the title – working with someone else can feel like having a foreign body in your creative space. Fortunately for us listeners, that is something that completely works here. Stunning.
Festival Of The Year
Supernormal Festival, Brazier's Park
"A small community of artistically minded people intent on being thoroughly excellent to each other. With riffs." – I need add nothing to this.
Tape Of The Year
Content Nullity - Scorn of Totality b/w Witness My Decay
One of the most interesting acts in the UK power electronics scene, Tommuel Reynolds aka Content Nullity released this lovely bit of C16 back in the summer on Audial Decimation Records. 'Scorn of Totality's grim Taxi Driver sample is made even grimmer by the squelch and sludge coursing underneath it like a river of shit. 'Witness My Decay' takes the leitmotif of a blaring horn (in my mind it's in an abattoir) and bears it along on top of a 40bpm pounding drum and vocals so heavily affected they stray into Seventies sci-fi chic, but are rescued by the fact that it's just plain rotten to the core. Really quite pretty stuff.
Album Of The Year
Scott Walker - Bish Bosch
Not having properly reviewed this album, I will try to do a précis of sorts in this short space. Making somewhat of a trio with previous two releases The Drift and Tilt, Bish Bosch... Christ this is hard. It's hard to have a thought about the album that's as original as anything on the album – but then that's business as usual for a man who irregularly releases the most uncompromising compositional work around. Walker's quasi-operatic tenor is on more puncturing form, especially hurling court jester insults to no one on 'SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)'. The instrumentation is as imaginative as always, with producer Peter Walsh managing to procure the means by which they can record the noises going on in Walker's head, as per.
The extremities being machetes and a human sphincter. Nowhere but on 'Epizootics!' is the absolute bredth of ideas so apparent. Over the course of its nine minutes it turns at acute angles through so many phrases, running off on sonic tangents that always seem to find their way back to the root of the song. If it is indeed influenced by the beat era, as he has alluded to in interviews, then there's something awfully wrong with that Benzedrine strip. Bish Bosch does to you what the last couple of Scott Walker albums manage to do. Make you reevaluate exactly how you think about music. Whatever benchmarks you were leaning on before this, they're going to look pretty pathetic and useless afterwards.
Swans - The Seer
Best rock band in the world finally make the album that makes them the best rock band in the world.
Grimes - Visions
Because haters gonna hate. Then they're gonna look really stupid when they realise it's the best electronic album of the decade so far.