I’m not entirely sure how to describe the pool of albums below. It’s somewhat of a mishmash of the avant-garde and alternative albums that I enjoyed the most in 2016. Although, avant-garde always sounds so pretentious, doesn’t it? I don’t think I’m a music snob, but I guess we all are to a degree. I’m just as happy listening to trashy 80s hair metal as I am heavily conceptual sound art. But I do like a lot of unorthodox or left-of-centre music, and there’s no point denying a lot of that music is well, affected.
Mind you, that same pool of unorthodox or alternative music is often creatively innovative, invigorating, and daring, and those are all artistic characteristics to be applauded. I think we can forgive a little pretension if it’s integral to a performance that’s ultimately inventive or electrifying, right?
The list below is filled with music made by outliers, experimentalists, and psychedelic voyagers who are fairly free of affectations. Although, a heavily theatrical aura certainly plays a crucial role in releases from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and David Bowie (RIP) , and many others are darkly dramatic too. Some of the releases below are not necessarily unconventional, but those releases still remain very distinctive works — see New Model Army’s strongest release in decades.
I think the one overriding characteristic that these ambient, drone, hip-hop, noise, electronic, and alt-rock musicians share is that they’re idiosyncratic. (Or, with the Cryo Chamber collaboration, it’s a group of outré artists working together for the greater good; or evil, in this case.)
The main point I take away from this list is that no single release sounds like any other, yet they’re all bound together by their challenging, adventurous, and sometimes even confounding nature.
Fingers crossed there are a couple releases below you’ve not heard before. As always, a huge thanks for stopping by Six Noises this year.
33. Dälek: Asphalt For Eden
32. Clipping: Splendor & Misery
31. Sissy Spacek: Disfathom
30. KHÜNNT: Failures
29. Be: One
28. It Only Gets Worse: Angels
27. Goat: Requiem
26. Tim Hecker: Love Streams
25. The Caretaker: Everywhere At The End Of Time
24. David Bowie: Blackstar
23. Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch
22. Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement: Green Graves
21. S U R V I V E: RR7349
20. Wrekmeister Harmonies: Light Falls
19. Merzbow: Kakapo
18. Blood Bears: S/T
17. Horseback: Dead Ringers
16. Bastard Noise & Sickness: Death’s Door
15. Hexvessel: When We Are Death
14. Pye Corner Audio: Statis
13. The Poisoned Glass: 10 Swords
12. Blown Out: New Cruiser
11. Gnod: Mirror
10. Ian William Craig: Centres
9. Ulver: ATGCLVLSSCAP
8. Puce Mary: The Spiral
7. Johann Johannsson: Orphee
6. Sunn O))): НЕЖИТЬ: живьём в России
5. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree
4. Cryo Chamber Collaboration: Nyarlathotep
3. Lustmord: Dark Matter
2. Worm Ouroboros: What Graceless Dawn
1 (equal). Årabrot: The Gospel + New Model Army: Winter