Best Albums of 2010 …

Yes it’s what we do. We moan about how it’s not a competition, but secretly we love getting out all the music that touched us, and playing it again, trying to work out if it touched us enough. This music here left welts.

Various Artists
Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers
– This album is a science experiment. New species of music is forming. Eye mixing Konono No 1 is one of those rare joys in music. But everything here without exception is amazing.
http://www.cyclicdefrost.com/blog/2010/12/21/various-artists-tradi-mods-vs-rockers-crammed-discs-planet-company/

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Before Today

– after years of fondling his 8 track, Ariel finally launches his big band AM radio opus. I still want to bash him, but I’ll dance with him and do some singalongs first.

Puta Madre Brothers
Queso Y Cojones

-our dirty mexicans come from Melbourne and sound like they recorded their album in their sweaty socks. It’s raw and transcendent and fun. Cheese and balls indeed.
https://bobbakerfish.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/puta-madre-brothers-queso-y-cojones-baboso-recording-company/

Gil Scott-Heron
I’m New Here
– Gil you’re so cheeky. Go on sample Kayne. It’s true, he owes you.

High Places
Vs Mankind

– surely it’s white man (and woman) funk. But it’s also scattered folk with a jig. Write it down on paper it can’t work.
http://www.cyclicdefrost.com/blog/2010/07/12/high-places-high-places-vs-mankind-popfrenzy/

Mystery Twin
Self Titled

– take as long as you like Cailan, 8 years is nothing if you’re going to make albums this classy.
http://www.cyclicdefrost.com/blog/2010/11/03/mystery-twin-self-titled-sensory-projects/

Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate
Ali and Tounami

– beautiful lyrical, yet sad because we know it’s over. An album to say goodbye to an amazing musician.
http://www.cyclicdefrost.com/blog/2010/03/03/ali-farka-toure-tounami-diabate-ali-and-tounami-world-circuit-fuse/

Various Artists
The Roots of Chicha 2:Psychedelic Cumbias From Peru

-Everything about this is great. It’s named after alcohol, there’s a bus on the cover and it’s jaunty funky folky genius from Peru. Drink up.
http://www.cyclicdefrost.com/blog/2010/10/28/various-artists-roots-of-chica-2-psychedelic-cumbias-from-peru-crammedplanet-company/

Neil Young
Le Noise

– Something in Neil’s brain snapped and he thought, fuck it I’ll make another great record. Daniel Lanois mucky fingerprints are all over this baby.
https://bobbakerfish.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/neil-young-le-noise-reprise/

Cumbia Cosmonauts
Self titled

– A mixtape on steroids.
http://www.cyclicdefrost.com/blog/2010/09/10/various-artists-cumbia-cosmonauts-scatter-music/

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Meredith Music Festival 2010 Review

Meredith Music Festival is held on a farm somewhere between Geelong and Ballarat. for years it’s been beckoning but the lineup has never been quite right. This year it celebrates its 20th anniversary which means that by now it should have worked out all its kinks and once you add the kindness of Rat Vs Possum who’ve offered me a pass, well it’s all too good to pass up.

Rat Vs Possum

Puta Madre Brothers kicked off proceedings with their scuzzy Mexi maelstrom of dirty rock and roll. We knew it was dirty because their faces were all blackened, like they’d already been at Meredith for a week. Ever since catching their debut album Queso Y Cojones I’d been needing to see this trio of one man bands, each with his own kick drum, and either guitar or bass. They began by showering the audience with corn chips and yelping in their dodgy Mexican accents. “They’re not Mexican they’re from bloody Colac,” screams a guy next to me, but it doesn’t matter, Meredith has begun and Puta Madre Brothers brought the party. No one could have done it better. Or with more flair. Next up were my hosts Rat Vs Possum, a local five piece capping off a great year that’s seen them release their debut album. tour with Regurgitator and now slot into their favourite festival. Overcoming some initial sound difficulties and perhaps some nerves they conjured up these immense faux tribal almost krautrock jams heavy on the percussion, big on the noise that had the crowd really jumping early, dedicating their song Pills to the festival and welcoming everyone to ‘the best fucking festival in the world.’ I’ve seen these guys play a few times and today it was like they were possessed, at home on the big stage and taking no prisoners.

Kimbra is a pop chick who really didn’t do much for me so I ended up back at the campsite to get more beer and check in with Rat Vs Possum who were still coming down from their Meredith debut.

Broadcast

We made it back in time for Broadcast who began in amazing style, this UK duo weaving synth soundscapes with loose loops and textures of voice that were nothing short of incredible. It was really psychedelic stuff the sounds just enveloping each other becoming one evolving textural drone. The visual too really built upon this aesthetic, tripped out patterns and swirls. Unfortunately it was when they did away with the synth and picked up conventional instruments that they lost their magic and appeal. In this sense it was a really uneven set. Equally touching genius and averageness within 40 odd minutes.

The remainder of the bands for the evening really didn’t seem that interesting, in fact I was warned off by people in the know. From a distance Reverend Horton Heat was almost intolerable, it’s possible I would have poked out my own ears if I had’ve been closer. We did the Pink Flamingo bar, even drank one. But then something magical happened. We discovered the cinema. It’s just like going to the drive ins, except you can just sit down on a log and watch sans vehicle. It was a place I would return to repeatedly throughout the weekend when the music hurt me. It was programmed by Jim Knox, a man who delighted in the bizarre and wrong, so much so that you could be assured that no matter what time you dropped in your mind would be blown. Tonight it was a doco on Vali Myers and later a film starring perennial weirdo Crispin Glover who travels to the desert to bury his cat in the perfect spot where he is joined by an annoying salesman in Rubin and Ed. The film manages to marry existential drama with terrible dialogue over the top acting and kitsch wrongness in equal measure and is a dead set classic. Providing you think inept movies are classic.

Valerie Myers

I managed to tear myself from this opus in time to catch The Field who were the highlight of the first day, with a big audio visual show, electronics, drums and guitar that moved between these epic locked grooves, building almost intolerable crescendos and getting everyone crazy. I’d never heard these guys before but they were really something special. They reminded me a little bit of Trans Am before they lost their minds. It was like the music had been synthesized down to the most important elements and everything else just excluded. Genius.

Day 2

gun

I woke to the sound of a brass band and a certain expected seediness. Even still I managed to drag myself down to see KYU a sweet duo who marry electronics with a little bit of percussion, who had provided some extra backing vocals to Rat Vs Possum the day before. Their vocals are quite angelic, at times Bjork like and they provided a really nice entrance back into the music for the weary, somewhat struggling audience member. Washed Out were hyper cheese, they played like a session band, smooth yet soulless. They were the epitome of yacht rock, the kind of band you’d expect on a cruise ship. Once you start to understand what they’re going for you start to hate them less and enjoy their bland inoffensive music. CW Stoneking however was amazing. Not just because he was so different from the remainder of the acts, but with larger than normal horn section he really seemed to relishing his time on the stage. When they got out the tuba all hell broke loose. This is the first time I’ve seen him with a full band and he was incredible. You can’t help but love his old time troubadour schtick. Girls offered a noisy sort of pop, a little like the Posies but without the melodic gifts and after a while became grating causing me to return to camp in search of further inebrients. Then came El Guincho playing waaaaaay too early. But it didn’t seem to bother him or his cohort on guitar. This spaniard really started the party. His set was hyper, his tunes catchy and everyone just went crazy. It ended with a one shoe salute from the majority of the audience. And in the dirt this definitely means something.

Next up were the Fall. The legendary UK group who I had never heard before. The band kicked in and out wandered Mark E Smith, almost falling over his microphone before releasing a crazy howl. He appeared to be speaking/ singing in English but it was impossible to decipher. “He apparently fell out of his tour bus,” offered to person next to me when I turned to her incredulously. I had figured that he was just retarded after years of alcohol abuse. In fact it seemed like he sang the same lyrics for the first four songs. I wondered if he even knew he was fronting a band. He sounded like William S Burroughs after downing a bottle of Red wine, all sneer and slur. It was crazy. He missed cues, knocked over microphone stands, fiddled with EQ’s and attempted to grab a stick and play along to the drummer. Throughout I didn’t understand a word he said. In fact the band wouldn’t let him speak. Whenever he started a tirade they just kicked into the next song. It was hilarious. Their taut post punk tunes contrasting with the blurry inebriated singer. It was amazing. I kept waiting for him to mug an audience member for their drink but I don’t think he even realised there was an audience. He definitely missed the paramedics working on the guy who passed out in the front. And the band, their faces told of being trapped in their own private hell, waiting for their paychecks and told not to interact with the pissed idiot. Absolute genius. One of the best performances of the festival.

The Hill

Given Custard make me angry and the films hadn’t started yet I decided to check out this farm. I moved up the hill and found an amazing grassy plain to right of the stage. The clouds were huge the wind gusting and it just felt beautiful to be out in nature. The problem however was that I could still hear Custard. So I went to the other side of the property, through the thousands of tents and cars that just seemed endless until I was able to walk through the bush, down the steep gorge and stick my feet in the water, This was a Custard free zone and the property is nothing short of gorgeous. As I moved around I heard the sounds of Combo La Revelacion who are total cheesballs, super kitsch but at least they’re having fun pumping out their Latin grooves. Neil Finn was also tedious bringing the crowd singalongs, but it was during his set that I worked out Meredith. The landscape is incredible and where you decide to stand changes everything. You could stand in front with the masses or find somewhere infinitely more interesting, so I walked out into the field on the side of a hill and listened. There was something incredibly powerful about the whole of the hill singing along to Neil’s hits and when he did a bit of Cortez the Killer type guitar it really worked with the way the wind was hitting the grass and trees. Despite this his set seemed to go for three years. When he brought Warren Ellis on for one of his hits it was one of the sappiest musical moments of my life. I was embarrassed for both of them.

At the river

Despite the classiest opening of the festival Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings earnest soul just didn’t work in the rural environment, though the Dirty 3, subject to the most anticipation after their near mythical performance some years ago really did deliver. I’d last seen them play over ten years ago and whilst they haven’t changed too much they are all amazing instrumentalists and Warren Ellis is a showman without peer. They seemed to delight into getting into near atonal noisy improvised spaces tonight and after a few patented Ellis kicks I figured I’d seen everything I needed to and returned to my field to sit, ponder and listen in the night. Dirty Three are parts of my youth and hearing tunes like Sue Last Ride or Everything’s Fucked just erupt into space was something quite special. The wind would grab the music, twist and distort it while I stared up at the stars. This was how music should be outdoors.

Appalled by the lameness of the ‘special’ light show I returned to the cinema where I was greeted with a truly bizarre and nonsensical stoner movie called Smiley Face that was unbelievably wrong in a myriad of ways. A girl mistakenly swallows a bunch of hash cookies and all kinds of silly shenanigans happen. It sounds terrible. And it is. But very very funny and very very wrong.

The Heatwave did some DJing and some dancehall vocals but the real highlight of the day/night/ festival was Pantha Du Prince. By 3am all the substances had kicked in and everyone wanted the doof. But the Pantha refused to provide it, offering these crisp minimal sublime beats, evolving slowly, he played with a subtlety and grace that was missing in most of his cohorts. “Worst DJ ever!” Pronounced the guy next to me before slipping on the carpet of crushed cans underfoot and landing at my feet. Even his friend didn’t help him up. But the Pantha just continued onwards slowly building, a kick drum only appeared about 3/4 through his set and by this stage everyone was really moving as if in a trance. When he finished another DJ kicked in and I returned to the cinema. When I finally made it to bed as the sun was coming up, the doof had arrived and I heard Magic by Olivia Newton John put to big beats and I realised that these were not my people. I left early the next day.

Fragmented Frequencies Dec 10

Oh man the music is terrible. It’s the kind of bland countrified power ballad that makes you want to stab your mp3 device. But that’s not enough, then you feel the need to burn it and drive a truck over it just to make sure it’s definitely dead and you’ll never have to hear those horrible sounds again. But all the same there’s something familiar about it, something that taps into your painfully naive past, a history that you’ve tried to block out while pursuing your newfound love of Dubstep or Turkish psych rock from the 70’s. Suddenly it hits you. You know these words! They’re dead set 80’s Aussie classics. It was the American accent that had you fooled.

You see Dual Plover, a label with one of the sickest senses of humour in Australia (if you don’t believe me check out their catalogue – I recommend Suicidal Rap Orgy as a good place to start) have outdone themselves this time. They’ve tapped into the Nashville song/poem companies, cynical businesses that prey on the dreams of aspiring songwriters. The deal is that you send over your heartfelt words along with a wad of cash, and they’ll put your creativity to music. There’s something quietly devastating about the process, it’s like two souls with one stone. Firstly there’s the sap who pens the words thinking these insipid cliched tunes could launch them into stardom, then there’s the musicians themselves who’s own dreams of conquering the industry on their own terms have been shattered long ago, leaving them with the cold hard economic reality of a paying gig.

While the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s were the heyday for these companies, the ever curious Dual Plover not only discovered that they still exist, but decided to send over some lyrics from some of Australia’s most iconic tunes that failed to chart in the US, pretending of course that they were their own lyrics. The tunes are Chisel’s Cheap Wine, The Boys Light Up from Australian Crawl, Rose Tattoo’s We can’t be Beaten and the Divinyls Boys In Town. What’s so incredible is how these companies are able to expertly, almost clinically remove any power, emotion or spirit of the originals, and replace it with this kind of cliched countrified swagger that simultaneously sounds like nothing and everything else. You can imagine bedroom songwriters getting excited by their package in the mail, thinking they’ve finally arrived in the business, now they sound like the rest of the spittle on the country music charts. You can download the results for free if you’re curious from http://dualplover.com/ozrock.php. Since it cost them a bit to do this if you appreciate the irony and artistic despair at the heart of the project there’s also a tab where you can donate to Dual Plover.

There’s a dark misshapen underbelly to Melbourne experimental music, where guitars, noise, field recordings and brooding atmospheres collide and there’s a feeling that anything can happen. It’s a place that new label Iceage Productions has positioned itself, displaying a commitment to the progressive, loud, strange and difficult. Their most recent offering is The Shape of Sound Vol.1, a collection of weird and wonderful tunes from experimental Melbourne. Guitarist Zac Keiller offers a really gorgeous near ambient piece, whilst Mystic Eyes work with density of tone, texture, repetition and a feeling of stasis on their piece La Cicatrice Interieure and Constant Light buzz and whir over a huge sludge beat, the kind that can cause avalanches. There’s tunes from legendary post punk outfit Primitive Calculators, hypnotic improv duo Infinite Decimals, a bit of bluster and squeal from the Paul Kidney Experience, and Wolf 359 whose LP Primitive Assembly has also been released by the label. They’re launching this disc with performances from many of the artists at Bar Open on the 22nd of December at Bar Open and best of all it’s free.

Though if you’re after the really strange stuff you need to look backwards. The Artefacts Of Australian Experimental Music Vol.2 1974 – 1983 (Shamefile Music) is the step before, where tape machine and early synths provided the catalyst for all kinds of sonic manipulations. It’s a 2 cd set of some truly bizarre sounds that trace the development of experimental movements and collectives in this country, some of whom are still active today. Primitive Calculators who appear on the previous compilation offer up their debut single from 1979 whilst there’s also tunes from Essendon Airport, Arthur Cantrill, Severed Heads, the Loop Orchestra alongside all manner of forward thinking musical iconoclasts and some great liner notes.

Fragmented Fish Dec 10

It’s not when Eric proudly tells Tim that he’s gone out and got himself a third testicle to give himself some extra pezazz. Nor is it when he fondles it to the sound of clinking billiard balls. It’s not when Eric complains of feeling sick and Tim diagnoses the third ball as having been sucked up into his stomach. Nor is it when Tim operates on Eric, trawling through his entrails, eventually diving into the wound in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the missing ball. It’s not when the duo go to Lamaze Class, so Eric can force the teste out of his rear. Nor is it when with Tim’s earnest coaching Eric successfully ejects it from himself, the force of the pressure bouncing it off the instructors forehead before ricocheting into the open mouth of Tim. It’s when they both shrug and say “okay let’s switch up,” that you realise how unbelievably wrong Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job Season 4 (Adult Swim/Madman) is.

It sounds like it should be cartoon, but it’s not. It’s live action acting like a cartoon. It’s the kind of stilted confused uncomfortable work that you’d expect on a community television show staffed by passionate but inept volunteers. It’s overacted, edited strangely with a reliance on cheesy fx and nonsensical gestures, possessing a kind of morally ambiguous weirdness that will just leave you hanging. Previous scenes get scrunched down and zing around the screen like a pinball before flying into the nose of a character from the next scene or at the wrongest moment they freeze the screen and the words ‘great job’ appear. It’s the ultimate stamp of approval. This means that it’s even gone too far for them, extending into a darker uncontrolled place where something might truly be wrong. Either that or it’s an admission that even they have no idea what’s going on. It’s a sketch comedy show with links to the surreal humour of Chris Morris’ Jam, but with the z grade gross out Americana slapstick of the American Pie franchise, then there’s these violently awkward absurdist moments that are really all their own.

Tim and Eric is also a soup kitchen for an asylum of randoms, outsider artists, or perhaps outsider people who’s eccentricities have made them cult figures on the show. Perhaps Werner Herzog is the only person who has come close in his desire to utilise real life weirdos in his films. Yet where Herzog to some extent has always felt a little exploitative Tim & Eric feel like a family. A family where the two daddies love smearing brown stuff over their faces, shoot testicles out of their arses and sing heartfelt songs about yearning for a women’s touch whilst staring deeply into each others eyes. But yes a family nonetheless. The kind of family where everyone is the weird uncle.

There’s also a gaggle of celebrity guests, again a bizarre assortment of the kitsch and cult, recent Australian visiter crooner Frank Stallone, Alan Thicke (Family Ties), Jonah Hill (the fat kid from Take him to the Greek), one of the guys from Flight of the Concords and of course series regulars like Zach Galifianakis (the bearded dude from the Hangover) as the nutty acting coach for kids, and John C Reilly who apparently has a spinoff series based on his Dr Brule character, a television MD dispensing quite questionable medical advice .

They’ve also used one of the episodes to get behind one of the most bizarre, deluded and unconventional filmmakers around Tommy Wiseau (The Room – currently playing the lateshow at the Nova), inviting him in to direct an episode. This in particular is one of the more ambiguous episodes. Throughout the series the freaks have to some extent felt in on the joke, hell most of the time they seem to be driving it themselves. But Tommy is so immersed in his own mad world that his presence feels somewhat exploitative, yet with Tommy you can never really tell. Once you’ve seen The Room you realise that his version of what’s normal and acceptable is very different to most. His presence on the show actually makes Tim and Eric seem, well, normal.