EOY17: Alternative and Experimental Music

EOY17 Dec 02, 2017

EXThis final EOY17 list features a mix of alternative and experimental rock. Although, some of the releases are certainly a lot more alterntaive or experimental than others. One of my favourite weird(er) rock releases this year was Sub Pop's excellent 3xLP U-Men boxset, which was jam-packed with the band's "darkly absurd" garage rock. I didn't include that compilation on the list below though. Mainly because it featured decades-old music, rather than eccentric sounds circa '17.

I also enjoyed a few other unorthodox albums this year that aren't included below. Like Dälek's Endangered Philosophies and Ho99o9's United States of Horror, which I've been listening to a lot over the past week. I wish I'd gotten to both of those experimental hip-hop releases earlier in the year. But that's on me. My bad.

If I'd published this list at the end of December, I'm guessing Rainbow Mirror, the latest album from noise-maker Prurient, would have appeared below. However, Rainbow Mirror, which marks the 20th anniversary of Dominick Fernow's noise project, was only released this week, and it's a 7xLP or 4xCD monster that's 3 hours and 20 minutes long. So, understandably, it's going to take a significant amount of time to fully digest all the "doom electronics" therein.

There's a lot more unconventional music that I wanted to include, but I realised I'd have to cap this EOY madness at some point. I mean, let's be honest, it's probably only you and me here anyway, and I'm not even really sure that you're here, but I think 30 or so adventurous releases is enough music for anyone to mull over.

At this time of year, I haunt other EOY lists like a vampiric ghoul; busily joting down releases I missed in my trusty notebook. If you do the same, make sure to take a note of Merzbow's Torus EP and JH1.FS3's Loyalty. Neither of those 2017 noise releases are listed below, but only because I had to stop somewhere, and they're both well worth tracking down.

I found some of the releases below to be incredibly powerful in emotional terms, especially Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked at Me and Lingua Ignota's All Bitches Die. I hope you'll discover some music below that floors you too. There's strange, mysterious, and even a few dark and menacing releases included. As well as a lot of starkly beautiful work too.

Thanks for supporting Six Noises this year. Have a great festive break.

Ave Santa.

FYI: I know there's a fuck ton of unranked music here. Read the rationale behind my EOY17 list mayhem

Northumbria: Markland
Guitar and bass drones that are both intimate and immense. Northumbria highlight nature’s eternal majesty while painting a panoramic picture of ancient landscapes where fear and wonder are intertwined. Eerie and ethereal, Markland evokes a sense of exploration and isolation. Another stunning work from Northumbria.
Thalassa: Bonds of Prosperity
"Unforgivingly bleak, strung-out North American noisescapes, converging the visions of William Fowler Collins and Aaron B Turner... in four expansive parts they trudge from marshy distortion to hard gneiss and stunning synth panoramas..."
Harvestman: Music for Megaliths
Music for Megaliths is the best release from Steve Von Till's Harvestman project thus far: a "personal meditation and a tuning fork for the most ancient and enduring of resonances ... journeys along the sonic ley lines that run between folk, drone, psychedelia, the ‘kosmische’ outposts of krautrock and noise, giving voice to an underlying continuity that binds them all."
Deafkids: Configuração do Lamento
Technically, this is a 2017 LP re-issue of a 2016 release. But Configuração do Lamento is an incredible album, and - more importantly - this is my blog, so I cheated. An unhinged release featuring, "monolithic drone riffage", "frantic polyrhythmic detours", and a "guttural, scorched mutation of psychedelia, frying the listener's perception."
The Bug vs Earth: Concrete Desert
"Beautiful, chiming melodies... like shards of sonic light, glowing in currents of heavy bass darkness ... this is music that grips you entirely, and catches you in its lava-flow – an astonishing, primal album of vast depth."
Heinali and Matt Finney: How We Lived
How We Lived lets us know that we are not alone. It helps strengthen our resolve to fight on, until we step out of darkness. Misery has never sounded so uplifting. Or so emboldening.
Daniel Menche: Slumber
"A collection of dense drone work for slumber moods. Play it loud or quiet, whatever it takes to give you sweet dreams or sour nightmares."
Slomo: Transits
Slomo illuminate the awe we hold for what lies overhead while simultaneously highlighting our fears that lie within. Deep-space and inner-space voyaging with manifold rewards. Drone fans... set the controls for the heart the sun.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard: Murder of the Universe
With mind-boggling amounts of music released in 2017, it's King Gizzard's second album that hit home hardest for me. Murder of the Universe pushed the band towards, "new levels of raucousness and ridiculousness". An A-grade acid-fried masterwork from Aussie psychedelic punks.
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement: Ambient Black Magic
"By far the most ambitious and far-reaching Rainforest dispatch, taking that artificial, tropical humidity as a starting point before heading deep into a kind of textured ambience ... creating a kind of 'Fear Dub’ ... which is essentially the perfect encapsulation of the deep sense of paranoia contained within."
Ex Eye: S/T
"Ex Eye make high-volume symphonies of whatever they want, those are the values that they splice together so well. This is incredibly heavy music made light (joyful, even) by the zeal and power of its players."
Circle: Terminal
"Stooges-esque swagger, trance-inducing krautrock mantras, beautiful electronic ambience, psychedelic rock noodling, arena storming AOR weirdness, '70s prog rock extravagance, glam pop pomp, and of course heavy metal, not to mention other peculiar and daring sounds that simply cannot be pigeonholed."
Omahara: S/T
The self-titled album from Tasmanian instrumental dark ambient trio Omahara stood out as one of my favourite drone releases in 2017. The band's lengthy tracks have been accurately described as "hypnotic rituals" and "immense-sounding noisescapes... defined by enormity and space." Fans of Earth and Sunn O))) will find a lot to love here. Omahara comes highly recommended.
Wolf Eyes: Undertow
"A real ugly bastard of an album, with Nate Young, James Baljo and John Olson intent on shredding minds from the off, adopting a free jazz approach to mangling discordant guitar beyond all recognition..."
The Body & Full of Hell: Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light
"Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light casts aside the dogmas of heavy music ... The Body & Full of Hell have integrated a love for electronic noisescapes with abrasive, precise sonic assaults into a sound unlike anything either has produced before."
Ben Frost: The Centre Cannot Hold
"The music exists not in space, but in a space; it is a document of an event, of a room, and of the composer within it. It is music that is not fully controlled and appears to be anxiously, often violently competing against its creator."
"As comfortable as they are with tidal waves of sound, BIG|BRAVE is unafraid to experiment with silence, oscillating between sparse, gentle arrangements and deep swells of noise."
Lingua Ignota: All Bitches Die
"Tackles misogyny and abuse with brutal electronic music... not surprisingly, there’s very little that’s comfortable or comforting about All Bitches Die. Subsequently, it’s one of the most difficult albums I’ve heard this year, as well as one of the most compelling."
Aaron Dilloway: The Gag File
"The work of noise musician Aaron Dilloway, formerly of Wolf Eyes, exudes a raw vulnerability and needling playfulness. His new album strikes a balance between dread and curiosity."
Gravetemple: Impassable Fears
"A vivid representation of human suffering exposed through a crushingly oppressive sonic language. Gravetemple strive to make the anguish of human existence and the inevitable fear of death tangible, only to voyage beyond it."
Dhidalah: No Water
"Give yourself up to their cosmic jam, and feel yourself float around in space. Their sudden, crashing waves of sound will surely turn you to cosmic dust."
William Basinski: A Shadow in Time
"Basinski plunges deeper than ever for the plaintive, solitary eulogy to David Bowie... A Shadow in Time is a subtle, celestial escalation of melody and drone... one of the most truly transcendent pieces of music he has ever committed to – or wrung from – tape."
John Carpenter: Anthology: Movie Themes 1974-1998
"Anthology is a bold, often dazzling throwback, a grand suite rendered in crystalline keyboards and lavish synths."
Gnod: Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
"Fuelled by their militant drive and unyielding ardour... refracting Gnod’s harsh and repetitive riff-driven rancour through a psychotropic haze of dubbed-out abstraction... a monument of ire and iconoclasm."
Endon: Through the Mirror
"A caustic blend of power electronics, harsh noise, gale force hardcore, and dissonant metal implies a kind of violence even more foreboding than a stray punch or a whipped microphone."
Ulver: The Assassination of Julius Caesar and Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
"Ulver moves seamlessly through time and space, and manages, in their own strange ways, to create a coherent tableau with a deeply personal backdrop."
Unsane: Sterilize
"Sterilize showcases Unsane sounding as dense and damaging as ever, and sees them remaining as necessary as ever, nearly three decades since they began."
Drunk in Hell: S/T
"Sonically and socially, this record is an offence and an affront. It is an attack. A mauling. A kick in the egg sac just when you'd recovered from a previous rupture and thought you were safe."
Boris: Dear
"On Dear, the Japanese trio hones in on their most essential quality — the ability to wrest subtlety from thick layers of distortion and volume."
Pharmakon: Contact
"Each track can be heard as a violent scuffle between mind and body ... mining that primal contest for drama and catharsis. The music hammers with industrial heft, vibrates with nervous pulse, and envelops with tactile atmosphere."
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: Feed the Rats
"Feed the Rats is gloriously over the top, tipping towards the precipice of ridiculousness, yet the sheer brutality of it is what steadies the ship here."
Blanck Mass: World Eater
"As massive as the sonic world of the new record often feels, its greatest achievement is in its maximization of a limited set of tools..."
Godspeed You! Black Emperor: Luciferian Towers
"The sound of Godspeed’s radical fury takes a sideline on their impeccably composed sixth album. It contains their most melodic and powerfully positive-sounding music to date."
Couch Slut: Contempt
"Sporting brains and brawn, Couch Slut makes music that punches the gut and stimulates the mind. Contempt's harrowing version of rock reflects its hometown – dirty, dangerous, dazzling – and secures the band's place in the line of great NYC documentarians..."
Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me
"Phil Elverum lost his wife — an artist and the mother of his child — to cancer. His new album is a meditation on her memory, but also on what it means to keep living." Utterly devastating. Utterly beautiful.
Leyland Kirby: We, So Tired of All the Darkness in Our Lives
"However hazy this music might superficially be, there's a powerful undertow of emotion and integrity the likes of which one tends to hear these days only around the fringes. I can't think of another record that has moved me so quickly, and unexpectedly, this year."
Oxbow: Thin Black Duke
"By rights no group should be peaking after 30 years of making music together, yet that is the situation in which Oxbow find themselves."
Sleaford Mods: English Tapas
“There's a strange sense of 'we're all in this together' bubbling just under the language of self-destructive hedonism through which Williamson largely communicates. It's a pragmatic acknowledgement that we live on an island full of fuck-ups, leaning on our addictions in the face of a future that looks like a "flag pissed on in a full-sized bag of quavers"."The Caretaker: Everywhere at the End of Time Stage Two
"Continuing to mirror the progression of dementia, using nostalgia for ballroom as an allegory of the disease, The Caretaker’s musical flow in places becomes more disturbed, isolated, broken and distant." Necks: Unfold
"Australian improv trio the Necks have condensed their approach on this new double LP for Stephen O’Malley’s label. The experience feels like a ceaseless fever dream."

I haven't sorted any of my EOY picks into a specific order. That’s because I’m not really interested in who’s better or who's the best these days. I don't feel any compulsion to studiously rank the music that matters to me. And the last thing that music needs is to be pinned to a board and scrupulously arranged like a soon-to-be-forgotten museum exhibit.

That's just me though. If you’re interested in debating who deserves the most critical applause or underground acclaim, then have at it. And have fun while you're at it. I just don't have a dog in that fight anymore. I'm more interested in simply sharing all the thundering noise I adored in 2017. You can pick the winners or losers. Trust me, you'll do a better job than me.

Great! You've successfully subscribed.
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access.
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.