I'm not going to rant about the state of music these days. I'm not going to rant about the state of music media these days. I'm not going to rant about these days. I'm going to rave about the releases I liked that came out this year. It's not easy, any of it, but I'm gonna do it, because I want to.
I didn't know what a task I was taking on.
I tried to listen to everything that seemed interesting. God knows why... More often than not I was fooled by some spoiled--- Sorry. Let me just go so far as to say, there were more albums than ever in 2011 I couldn't subject my mind to for more than 11 seconds.
These are the 31 plus releases from 2011 I'll never get enough of. This list is in no order. Pleasant reading...!
SMiLE by THE BEACH BOYS (Capitol/EMI 2xLP)
A bit less impactful for its delay, well worth the wait, yadda yadda yadda. I suppose true pop brilliance rarely gets this good? Ambitious three-sided song cycle about the heart of America being turned into a hat shop, or something like that, straight from the vaults of the boys with the baggies. Incredible opus, flawlessly construed. Fourth side with alternate takes and mixes of the best songs, or you could get the stupidly huge box set with the dangling cut-outs on springs, plus hours of studio direction and isolated takes for corporate tit-sucker prices you'd have to be as bat-shit as Lord Brian to pay for, let alone experience. The biggest head-fuck is that this tapestry was lying around so utterly complete, and seemingly only needed to be trimmed and sewn together, like the mental baskets Brian Wilson has been weaving ever since Van Dyke Parks attempted to invert the daydream world corporate America eventually caved in on poor Wilson like the mirrors inside a kaleidoscope. The lunatic laughter in those EMI hallways---from Wilson, and then from the suits when they heard the news---must have been just harrowing... Good vibrations, indeed.
ONE NATION by HYPE WILLIAMS (Hippos In Tanks LP)
These culture-mocking UK noise and psych heads turned new-world imaginers tailspin the best of the hybrid beats jerking out of every urban jungle from here to Kalamazoo, sprinkle in spicy pastiches from electronic movements past and present, add their own lo-fi aesthetic, plus biting and subversive political commentary, humorous touches, and knack for sweet melodies, all into a fuzzy soup that's as ethereal and seductive as it is deeply imaginative, and strikingly emotional. But you already fucking knew all of that, didn't you, blog eyes? It's a bit easy to say, but this time around it's OK to believe the Hype. This time around, the negative reactions aren't justified, and it's part and parcel of the media-worshipping world we've become, and how people tend to believe everything they're sold over everything they're told. This gets my hands down pick as Record of the Year---straight up. A bit idealistic, but at least Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland are thinking about improving our social climate instead of just cluttering it with more bullshit.
FOURTH WORLD MAGAZINE presents THE SPECTACLE OF LIGHT ABDUCTIONS (Pacific City Sound Visions LP)
The Skaters are one of my favourite music projects of the last ten years. Their smoke-bath of lo fi psychedelia and ritualistic prayer split sidelong into its two chiefs, Spencer Clark and James Ferraro, roughly three years ago. Ferraro has since been elevated to somewhat God-like status by the hipster blogster quotient, and for nothing short of what's usually pretty good reason (see below). If I had to choose a personal fave, though, like at gunpoint or something, I'd close my eyes and point at Spencer Clark's twisted rhythm experiments, which are undoubtedly inspiring his more selective cult following to new heights of spirituality, insight and foresight with this trance-inducing group hallucination of a synthesizer and tapes experience. Imagine Terry Riley circa Shri Camel, BBC Radiophonics lunacy and Teletubbies quibbering while you're on quaaludes and sizzurp. Truly bizarre third solo LP outing for Clark has me going really crazy over the book, story and concept as well. The dude is a sucker for Charles Berlitz's books, and that's right up my alley. I can confidently say Clark's 2010 sophomore solo album, Bamboo For Two by Monopoly Child Star Searchers, was my favourite album of that year. If you're still reading this and not searching out how to buy The Spectacle of Light Abductions, I'm a failure as a music writer. At least I could get by writing smut.
ON AIR by JIM FERRARO (Underwater Peoples 2xLP)
FAR SIDE VIRTUAL by JAMES FERRARO (Hippos In Tanks LP)
The virtual superstar and ex-Skater (see above) continues his epic run into post-everything mystique with these ever-indulgent quests to recycle new sounds amid the overloading junk-piles of commercial and so-called independent culture. Godspeed Ferraro, I admire his aesthetics and his tastes, and his sounds, if not always his tendencies to avoid arcs and reasons within his compositional voids. You've got to laugh at the state of things today, if you're going to cope with everything that's happened, happening and about to happen, and the ability to laugh at the world and ourselves is what gives humans a state of inner well being. James Ferraro makes me laugh at the world, and laugh at myself---and I like that. There are few things that go as good with lots of natural drugs as my complete row of James Ferraro records. It's positive music, in a time when most so-called positive music can cause unbearable waves of nausea within any listener who still has enough marbles left to roll a complete game.
BADLANDS by DIRTY BEACHES (Zoo Music LP)
Yeah, this dude's vocal stylings sound a whole lot like Alan Vega from Suicide, but the truth is Dirty Beaches is doing Alan Vega better than Alan Vega has done himself since Ric Ocasek pulled Saturn Strip out of Vega's vacuous space. Vega's not a musician, he needed Martin Rev to make it accelerate. This dude clearly is a musician. He knows how to spin a beat and loop a grimy sample so that it spins around in your head for days on end. This kid has got it, and this album delivers on the promise he's been giving us for the last three years. I think what it is that separates Dirty Beaches from a lot of the other wannabe weird whatever, is simply the emotion he channels. He has a voice, he has some things to say, and the way he sings them is really moving. Sometimes that's enough. "Horses" is the song that keeps running me over, again and again.
WARY THE MIND by HOBO SONN (Amen Absen LP)
Brighton, UK stalwarts Hobo Sonn subtly re-contextualize electronic ambience and electro acoustic alchemy into post-glitch hypnotism sessions and fleeting skitters of sound transmissions from other planets. That's right, it's fucking unique. There's only so many ways to say it. Experimental music at its finest, shadowiest and most personal. A little warmer than alienating, which is always nice, too.
OUTSIDE / INSIDE by CHARLIE NOTHING (De Stijl LP)
LOSE TODAY by STARE CASE (De Stijl LP)
Recorded in 1969 but not released until this year, legendary outsider jazz beatnik Charlie Nothing here treats the ears to a meditative woulda-been sophomore stroll through his peaceful rural environment. Nature sounds, spirit flute and soul percussion laying humble prayer to the saviour that is life. What more could you want from any true life experience? Meanwhile, on a similarly out-jazz tip (at times), on the same outstanding American label (De Stijl), Wolf Eyes' Nate Young and John Olson dirge on strongly together as Stare Case climbs new creative heights for the two, dipping into what's nearly outsider folk, with dark basement jazz lights courtesy of Olson's horn, skin-crawling lyrics and bass coming out of Young, and atmospheric mayhem flowing like contaminated rivers.
DALLAS' AMP by THE PISS SUPERSTITION (Medusa cassette)
ESOTERIC CYCLE by NOT THE WIND, NOT THE FLAG (Medusa cassette)
A couple of top spinners from the increasingly prolific Medusa label, courtesy of major Toronto head Ayal Senior. NTW, NTF is the free-spirit jazz and psych duo of percussion masters and multi-instrumentalists Colin Fisher (currently touring with Caribou's live band) and Brandon Valdivia (also of Picastro), and this is their most alluring and provocative release to date. Deeply laid down to analog tape by the storied Doc Dunn, it's one full-length for the ages that hopefully won't be lost in translation or crowded out by the poor-boys turned big-money-mongers who are monopolizing independent music with their watered-down tastes, puffed up prides and dollar signs where eyes once revolved. True freedom sounds for the spiritually inclined. On a far different tip, but equally as free from played-out trappings, The Piss Superstition is the shit storm of six strings noise nom de plume for shred visionary Julian Bradley, of Vibracathedral Orchestra obscure-o fame-o. Red cassette, red recordings, red, red, red. Insane acid prints by Matt King and Jacob Horwood only add to the hair-frying adventure. Julian Bradley and Bill Nace are the two guys earning my kudos on the noise guitar front these days. Listen up.
DOUBLE AMATEURS by GRAHAM LAMBKIN (Kye LP)
Perplexing and engrossing post-modern experience from the sonic mastermind of The Shadow Ring, not to mention a growing body of engaging intellectual sound studies in the solo department. Herein across an American landscape and an LP record Sir Lambkin buckles his kids into the cruiser and lets his devout wife Adris Hoyos take the wheel while he expertly documents the proceedings, a mostly quiet drive with a couple of favourite modern electronic CDs playing on the car stereo, and some mysterious sounds drifting about. I'm not kidding you, this is what you're hearing, a family playing someone else's music, and it's phenomenal. A true sound genius at play, and loving it, in his very singular, up front and slightly intimidating way.
WACO TACO COMBO by ERIC COPELAND (Escho LP)
Best Copeland solo outing yet, hands down. Big Black Dice beats beating down your hard dick while noise-level squelches shit-kick your ass. A couple real tweekers for the bass bins that you'll drop at your next party or DJ gig to really impress your drunk-ass friends, plus a side-long cut-up run through Copeland's hard drive jungles, and always wicked collage art to boot. Just when you thought all these solo LPs and 7-inches were starting to get a bit emailed in, Waco Taco Combo rolls along and restores your faith in all things Copeland. Keep it coming.
ELAVANA PLANEETALLA by TOMUTONTTU (New Images 12" EP)
TOMUUNTTUU by TOMUTONTTU (Beniffer Editions 12" one-sided picture LP)
ASTRAL SOCIAL CLUB / TOMUTONTTU (Tipped Bowler Plates split LP)
Tomutonttu is the solo project of Kemialliset Ystavat head Jan Anderzen and in 2011 the major Finnish psychedelic dude put out these 3 EP slabs of wax, upping his solo output considerably in comparison to recent years. In my opinion this material eclipses most of KY's maximal, digitally-obsessed two recent albums. Supremely puzzling electronic psychedelic headscapes sure to stimulate even the most overstimulated or jaded minds. Plus one of them is a split with Neil Campbell's outstanding world of psych fuckery project, Astral Social Club! Now there's a match made in heaven, man.
U. S. GIRLS ON KRAAK by U. S. GIRLS ((K-RAA-K)3 LP)
You can officially chock it up as a well-formed trilogy for the first three U.S. Girls joints. M. Remy's most unabashedly pop moments are right here in living colour, rising out of the shadowy regions of her previous albums and singles---snapshots like a Beyonce cover and the Ronettes loop which opens the album---but they don't contrast too highly with a lo-fi Bolero ballad like The Island Song, nor the noisy interludes and atmospheric stopgaps separating her most developed songs to date. Remy's voice is the kind that can move mountains of song, and they say there ain't no mountain high enough, so why shouldn't she shoot for the pop stars?
ETERNAL LANDSCAPES by L. R. J. MOANA and ADA VAN HOOREBEKE (Aguirre LP)
TWO ROMANTIC LANDSCAPES by DOLPHINS INTO THE FUTURE (Beniffer Editions cassette)
NEUTRAL BUOYANCY / ELECTRONIC MANTRA by DOLPHINS INTO THE FUTURE / FLORIS VANHOOF (Experimedia split 7")
Prolific magician of mellow Lieven Moana (aka Dolphins Into the Future) swims forward this year with no less than these three new offerings, each as fulfilling as the next to let roll up past the floats, the dock, and water fowls, past your feet, up your dock chair, past your smile, into your open ears, through your mind, and into your soul, where it stirs about incredibly evocative pictures of barges, cliffs, and lakes as wide as small towns. The Eternal Landscapes LP (inspired by the visual art of Ada Van Hoorebeke) especially evokes atmospherics in favour of much musical intervention, whereas the Two Romantic Landscapes North American tour cassette is among the finest of Dolphins' synth-trance excursions.
YOUR FIRST EVER RIVER by UNITED WATERS (Arbitrary Signs LP)
First full-length wax-work solo outing for Brian Sullivan of Mouthus notoriety not only ditches his old Eskimo King moniker for United Waters but seems to creatively pick up where Mouthus' most studio-fried monument, Saw A Halo, left off. Hushed, articulate, exploring... A distilling solo work that eclipses any noise trappings or current trends in favour of simply something new and unique from a voice that's true.
GANSRUD by ED YAZIJIAN (hp cycle LP)
Ed Yazijian offered the outside world the stellar basement freak-folk chalice Six Ways to Avoid the Evil Eye back in 2007 but has remained fairly off the map ever since, save for his ongoing collaborations with the highly respected Dredd Foole. Gansrud brings us up to date on what this deep spirit has been up to, and it's quite the feast for the well-lubricated third eye.
FUTURE ACCIDENTS by SIGHTINGS (Our Mouth 12" EP)
Sightings charge on as one of the past ten years' most important rock groups with this heavy slice of recordings, capturing their phenomenal and powerful live-room sound. Previous albums Through the Panama and City of Straw brought the band's raw aesthetic up to studio production standards, though not always to the benefit of the band's intense live chemistry, but Future Accidents takes it back to ground level, where you can feel the sounds this band throws about, stomping you in the chest and forcing you to move under their rhythms.
ON RUSTICATED SLANT by FLESHTONE AURA (Pleasence Records 45 RPM LP)
JOHN MILNER, YOU'RE SO BOSS (Pleasence Records 7")
DISCO PRISON / WORK STRESS by MAN MADE HILL / YOUNG TRUCK (Pleasence Records split LP)
GILDED FLOWERS by THE PINK NOISE (Pleasence Records EP)
EROTIC NIGHTMARE by THE SOUPCANS (Pleasence Records one-sided LP)
Just a healthy selection of all the goodies which came pouring out on the most encouraging label underground Toronto has ever witnessed, the vinyl salvation to local sounds both challenging and indie rock safe round these parts, Pleasence Records. I'm obviously sided with the challenging, and these recommendable feasts for the senses rip chords from a selection of the city's very finest groups these days. There's ferocious dog-off-the-leash noise-garage (The Soupcans), Melt-Banana-inspired spazz-punk kids (John Milner, You're So Boss), head scratching sound verite and humorous cut-up concrete (Fleshtone Aura), kaleidoscopic dance funk & post-punk (Man Made Hill & Young Truck) and, last but not least, the latest hot wax from Canada's most internationally adored lo-fi weird-punk navigators (The Pink Noise). Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg... 2012 is looking just as Pleasence as 2011. And that's spelled "as in Donald", by the way...
LEAVE HOME by THE MEN (Sacred Bones LP)
The Men would fit in nicely beside pissed-off violent hardcore acts like Total Abuse, Vile Gash, Cult Ritual and Drunkdriver (the latter two of which have already broken up) if they weren't so stoked on the art-rock heirlooms from Wire, Sonic Youth and even the Beach Boys that they're really channeling underneath their hardcore volume pedals and ringing amps. The Men would be just the latest in a long line of bandwagon riff re-hashers, playing into the hands of the lonely rock critics, if they didn't have that sweet knack for making other people's songs sound so much like their own. You can tell there's a few dudes writing songs in this band, and I hope it's enough to give The Men some staying power where others fade so quickly, but when I hear they've got a split LP with Diet Cokeheads coming out, or rumours that there's a country and western influence on their next record, I gotta shake my head and wonder. Let's hope The Men prove me wrong, because "Think" and "Lotus" are two of my favourite songs from 2011.
YT // ST by YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN (Psychic Handshake LP)
Genre and gender defying noh-wave titans from the future, spreading their J-pop vibes and sinister cuteness across all the ends of your emotional spectrum. There's some big buzz surrounding this Psychic Handshake record (with no small thanks to hometown boy Stuart Berman's encouraging words for Pitchfork) and the bloggers and reviewers are catching on like wildfire, so it's good to know all Yamantaka's hard work in fighting the odds to make this recording and album possible is turning into a dream come true of positive returns. Go get to know this band, they could be making serious waves down your roads...
SO UNREAL by L.A. VAMPIRES featuring MATRIX METALS (Not Not Fun LP)
L.A. Vampires is an enigma wrapped in a puzzle and served with a TV dinner. This album should be a complete wreck. I should hate it, but I don't. I love it. It consists of the long tranced out lo-fi loops of Matrix Metals / Punks on Mars / Outer Limits Recordings mastermind Sam Meringue seemingly emailed over to Ms. L.A. for her to drink champagne and croon over. Seems like a recipe for disaster, or some strange home cooking, but this perplexing affair manages to out hipster the hipsters with its ultra repetitive beats and deadpan deliveries, waxing unpoetic about wasted nights and days from behind dark sunglasses. Schmaltz for the post-everything set? I know it sounds like I don't like this record, but I really, really do. When L.A. purrs Berr-lin Ba-by, I can see the city, and sometimes that kind of feeling and sincerity is enough to create a transcendent slice of modern enticement like this one right here. (I realized after the fact, that this is the one 2010 release that slipped onto this list... Keep on slipping, system, keep on slipping... I could erase this, but fuck it.)
STUDIO JAMS by FRAK
CUSTODY by DENIM REPTILE
TWISTED & BENT by BAD BOY BUTCH BATSON
(all Beniffer Editions cassettes)
I love an oddball tape from yesteryear, and these three backwoods retro parties from Beniffer Editions' winter line-up of cassettes takes my cake and throws it out on the gravel driveway, just for the fuck of it! Come on, let's go get wasted and spin these things... Bad Boy Butch Batson's effort is the sloppiest seconds ever, following the still highly rotating Spare Parts LP Beniffer bestowed upon the world not too long ago. Imagine if Jandek was an adventurous kid, with funk in his soul and getting crazy in mind. A bit on the hard to handle side at times, but it's certainly got its spark. Frak ups the ante on the techno, still mining their treasure trove of early 90s melody-high AFX Kraftwerking. Hey, if the machines can do it, so can you. Nothing beats a timeless techno jam, and Frak fucking know it. Last up is a true mystery by Denim Reptile, something found by someone sometime that sounds like James Ferraro jamming with Ariel Pink in lo-fidelity heaven. Could the rumours be true? Says it's from Owen Sound... You never know with Beniffer, but you always know it's gonna be a weird time.
NAPA ASYLUM by SIC ALPS (Drag City 2xLP)
I've almost had enough of these guys, but I had just enough left for their Mickie Most meets Royal Trux sound to go buy this four-sider of new material for Drag City. Just as I suspected, it's wearing thin fast, but not before they could crank out this one or two session collection of off-the-cuff infectious sneers and jeers at jagged ditties. Sadly not as anti-music adventurous as their U.S.EZ album for Siltbreeze, but that's a statement you could apply to a lot of bands. There's a certain lackadaisical charm to Sic Alps, but more often than not they're treading water when they could be motoring away. It's when they get their shit together, on those certain songs, that Sic Alps sound like the best thing since the slacker 90s, but I have a feeling these guys are gonna lose it before they really cruise it. Let's hope they prove me wrong, but their quick to follow duo of 7"s weren't worth the price of admission in my books, so I held off. There's something about fulfill and demand, and a lot of bands are quick to shoot their loads and flood their markets these days. Buyer beware should be written on anything with shrink wrap. Napa Asylum almost tipped the scales in disfavor, but the Alps won my fandom for a little longer, though they'd probably want to kick my ass after reading this, like any band worth their spunk. Sic Alps are worth their spunk, so let's hope they don't let it dry up.
BLACK UP by SHABAZZ PALACES (Sub Pop LP)
I don't know what's happened to hip-hop, or what's happening to it, and I don't really care, because I'm content to spin my Gang Starr and Originoo Gunn Clappaz albums into dust while all the egos and money grabbers of today boast and toast themselves into history's oblivion. I find Odd Future about as interesting and inspiring as a urine stain. All of the lights be damned, it don't mean a natural thing if it ain't got that natural swing. Sounds like Shabazz Palaces are about as pissed off at the eroding state of hip-hop and culture as I am, and they've crafted as unique and challenging a hip-hop hallmark as you're likely to find in 2011, a year when most of who's strongest in pushing things forward in hip-hop took the year off to cash in some chips. Shabazz stepped through alive and fresh, after an extended hiatus from the limelight by group brainchild Mushroom, the wizard who was also behind Digable Planets, whose records still hold up marvelously. Expect challenging things to come.
CARDBOARD ORACLE by SIX HEADS (Wintage Records & Tapes LP)
Outsider noise from the sub basement set, courtesy of weathered and vital sonic sculptors Six Heads, a catch-all group of surrealist-minded musicians and composers condemned to Toronto's experimental ghetto. Find out their names, Google them--- they all have extensive discographies, and would appreciate your interest. I could do it for you, but you wouldn't learn anything. This is a real 4 am record for the post-noise heads. Local fave and a sure bet to be a worthy investment on the collector's market---nudge nudge, wink wink. Recently buzzed on The Wire blog for its tasty low budget cover art.
THROUGH DONKEY JAW by AMEN DUNES (Sacred Bones LP)
Contains some of my favourite songs from this year, namely "Lower Mind", "Baba Yaga" and "Good Bad Dreams". Reverb and delay drenched songwriting at its most articulate, off-kilter and inimitable. A new, unique voice, just when you thought those had all been silenced. Something like a weird fusion between Roky Erickson's acid-fried sense of purpose and the drifting morphine-soaked wondering of Slowdive, with rhythmic accents courtesy of early krautrock. Insert praise and admiration here. About half of their songs eclipse their other songs, but oh boy those good songs are good.
DOC DUNN (Inyrdisk CDr)
THE TRANSCENDENTAL RODEO plays and sings LE JARDIN MAGIQUE (Healing Power cassette)
Latest offerings from Doc Dunn and his Transcendental Rodeo troupe finds Toronto's best preserved psychedelic secret in full flourish, first with a solo electrified guitar sojourn (on my own Inyrdisk imprint--- oops! Guess I had to let just one slip onto this list...) and second to none, a full choir and ensemble document cassette for Healing Power, capturing the Rodeo in full gallantry, both in living room and public environment. A true troubadour of good vibes and deep jams, Dunn has raised the spirits of a lifetime's worth of alarming players and misfits, some of whom all gather when the moon reaches the right magnitude. Tell your neighbour.
ASYLUM LUNATICUM by MAMA BAER (Nihilist 45 RPM LP)
Mystifying fourth solo vinyl offering from Fensburg, Germany's Mama Baer suggests more sounds than it allows through. 45 RPM might only be optional, but is recommended. It's certainly the speed of the recordings, which aim to allude and confound any conventions you might still not have shed. Despite its arresting exercises in tension and restraint, Asylum Lunaticum only hints at the powers Mama Baer previously unfurled on her obliterating pair of Shamanic Trance LPs from 2010. Her art brut approach to hammering out haunted folk shanties, fractured banshee ballads and dadaist rituals will have to wait until next year's 2xLP for Inyrdisk to further reveal what the Shamanic Trance LPs first exposed on wax beyond the tiniest of art editions... Asylum Lunaticum is a very engaging teaser for the sonic spectacles Mama Baer (and her beloved sound-poet, performance artist and anti-musician husband Kommissar Hjuler) have in store for the future.
THAMES VOL XIV (She Sells Records cassette)
THE GIFT OF MONEY / THE NIGHT SHE BECAME ME by THAMES (American Tapes 7")
Montreal noise-core duo Thames stepped out stronger than ever this year---their sixth so far---with this ass-kicking duo of releases, each as sonically befuddling as the next. Warped song-manship, noise aesthetics and futuristic thinking blobbed out this mental bubble of thought-provoking new sounds. More loving details in another blog entry I wrote, for Weird Canada. Where are all the independent labels in Canada? Sniffing around for the next big shiny tunes, I'm sure. John Olson's American Tapes did these guys a solid by offering them their first slab of wax, let's hope the stateside support sends some more ears up our way in 2012.
DELUDED by VILE GASH (Youth Attack 7")
I wouldn't recommend ordering from this label, because chances are you'll get ripped off for your money and never sent what you ordered, but if you can snag it at your local shop or online distro, some of what they're putting out is some of the best releases so-called violent hardcore has to offer. This 7" features the latest three studio-fried tracks from these promising Ohio nihilists, and despite clocking in at a hair under 3 minutes, it packs enough punch to clear away the competition in a single blow. Punk as fuck, and pissed as hell.
MA VIE BANALE AVANT-GARDE by AIDS WOLF (Lovepump United 2xLP)
You know a group is at the top of their game when they spit out a double album and act like it was just business as usual. AIDS Wolf's new power trio lineup of Seripop + Alex Moskos has seen stages buckling under their pressure, and this hair-raising and unrelenting shred-rest of noise-rock aptitude marks the first annual report from these grimy lovvers. Suck it up and taste the sting, like when I had a bee in my Corona this summer.
ABSOLUTE II by ONEIDA (Jagjaguwar LP)
Weathered indie art-rockers Oneida spent their last few albums creatively pushing the boundaries of their respective sounds and abilities to extremes that have tested the patience and endurance levels of their listeners, with varying results. On Absolute II, it's as though they've artfully broken through their image of psychedelically fried rock n' roll into new lands of experimental drone fields and organic machinations. It's not always as sincere, vibrant, interesting or engaging (or just flat out musical) as some of the contemporaries and friends they're treading near (Mouthus, Sightings and the Dead C, for starters), but for sonic explorers clearly voyaging strange new worlds far beyond their usual depths, this is great, adventurous stuff by any stretch of the imagination. A few ideas take a bit long to develop, and some of the sounds are a little too naked where they could have benefitted from some clothing, but I can safely say this is my favourite Oneida album since Secret Wars, if not Anthem of the Moon. But what do I know? It's all a matter of opinion and taste, and everyone's entitled to their own.