Friday, 28 January 2011

Addendum to 2010

Greetings one and all! Or one and one, depending on how many people end up reading this. Could be loads, could just be me and my mum (you'd better, mother!).

2010 turned out to be quite a stonking musical year for me, really. I was recently going over my much-lauded (if I do say so myself) list of "Obscure alternatives" (it's here, if you wanna check it out: and was rather startled at how many albums from 2010 (and 2009 and 2008, it must be said) feature on it.  So, blessed with too much spare time and a limited imagination, I've been pondering this matter at some length...

 Of course, it's possible that, as I'm a bit richer now than in 2002 (when I was a cash-strapped and booze-drenched student), 1995 (when I was twelve) or 1978 (when I was a basically just a dirty thought at the back of my Dad's mind), I can buy more music, so it makes sense that I would uncover more things I love by virtue of mass spending. But, thanks to internet downloading (of the legal kind!), and the mass-consumption of music that is par-for-the-course in this day and age, I think the sum total of 2010 albums I have bought of late is pretty emphatically eclipsed by those of just about any seventies' year. So, I don't think I buy more albums now than in previous years, and if I do, they're unlikely to all be recent ones, with acquisitions of the last few months ranging from albums released in 1959 to a wealth of sixities, seventies, eighties and nineties records.

What does seem more likely is that this wealth of great "obscure" albums in 2010 is a reflection of the state of the music industry these days. The market these days is saturated with, essentially, three types of rather generic music. There are established pop genres that have become so narrow as to blend into one another, namely dance-pop (Spears, Rihanna, Madonna, Gaga, etc) and r'n'b/hip-hop (take your pic of any mouthy, mysoginistic rapper duetting with a scantily-clad female croonerette). Then there are supposed "indie" "rock" bands who actually are picked out and formatted to look and sound exactly like one another by record execs (occasionally, a VERY well-established "mainstream" rock veteran, such as U2, Bon Jovi, Clapton or Blur gets an airing if the label thinks they've stumbled onto a hit). Finally, we have the tinny, mass-produced arse gravy spewed out by reality TV, usually involving a bit of the above or, if the "artist" (quotation marks very much necessary) is ugly, syrupy slow-paced piano-and-strings ballads in the showtunes style (see Boyle, Susan).

A freaking out Neil Young in 1976. Hard to picture Alex Turner going this mental
 The net result is that real creativity is pretty much stifled. The odd out-of-leftfield emergence (such as Sigur Ros or Arcade Fire) hardly papers over the fact that the extreme majority of modern musical output is samey, formulaic and unadventurous, geared towards sales and audience ratings rather than quality. Luckily, thanks to the internet, and the remarkable persistence of proper independent record labels, exciting and creative music continues to exist and, just maybe, flourish. But the fact is that this happens essentially on the fringes. Occasionally, a new and innovative musical genre, like dubstep, gets a lot of mainstream press inches, but rarely does this convert into real sales unless the music is watered down to its most inoffensive level (although, oddly, "inoffensive" in pop can involve gross attitudes to women and gay people, but that's another debate). So, as the noughties make way for the twenty-tens, the simple fact is that the best music, whilst eminently accessible, is set to remain on the margins of musical culture for quite some time.

So, what's my point, other than what a fucking mess the music industry is? Simply that, if I look at the above list, had some or most of those 2010 albums been released in the seventies, I'm pretty sure they would have been big news. Probably released on major labels. Someone like Toro Y Moi even has "hit-maker" written all over his music. Nineties audiences would have lapped up Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's dreamy haze-pop (or hazy dream-pop), and I'm pretty sure Sun Araw and Rangers would have delighted post-punk Britain (they get quite a few of their influences from there after all). But in 2010, bereft of auto-tune and banal lyrics about mobile phones, shagging or fast cars, their ripples are restricted to those who can be bothered to let their ears drift a bit further from what MTV/Channel 4/Sky/ITV/BBC1 long enough to pick up on what wonders are being dreamt up in the shadows. 

In the seventies, even meone as currently fatuous as Santana cooked up wondrous records of inventive, forward-thinking rock music (as I mention in the latest edition of my radio show, "Noise in the Ether"). Neil Young drifted into seriously dark areas whilst still being released by Warner/Reprise, Lou Reed was a superstar exploring harsh noise and awkward proto-punk, even Bowie delved into oddball Krautrockian funk on Station to Station. Again on a major label. Some of the stuff released to big sales and/or mass acclaim in the sevenries and eighties (Joy Division, The Stooges, MC5, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, Television, Japan, Gang of Four...) was easily as weird and eclectic as anything I've put on the above list from 2010 (ok, maybe not Vomir).

Of course, even then there was fluff (Bay City Rollers, anyone?), and Metal Machine Music got slaughtered. But the fact remains that until the complete commercialisation of the music industry sometime in the mid-eighties, record labels and artists were still taking risks and engaging in something loftier than churning out temporary money-spinners. And to be honest, even a lot of the lightweight pop back then was more memorable and creative than it's current equivalent (T.Rex and The Human League would wipe the floor with Bieber and Susan fucking Boyle - and we're talking number one hit bands here!). I'm grateful that great and innovative music is still getting made against the odds, but when the most exploratory popstar out there in the world is Kanye West, you know there is something fucking wrong with said fucking world. 

So a massive shout out to Failing Lights, Flying Lotus, Sex Worker, The North Sea, Richard Skelton, Nadja, Leyland Kirby, Burial, The Field, Demons, Hair Police, Philip Jeck, Kayo Dot, Boris, Kevin Drumm, Ilyas Ahmed, Benga, Kevin Drumm, Ben Frost, SUNN O))), and all the other geniuses of the last 5-10 years who have been operating in the shadows of the masses, creating great music just for music's sake. Hey, maybe it's better this way (Crosby, Stills and Nash showed in 1974 the detrimental effect of massive wealth on creativity) - the music remains the focus, not the payola. Fuck the masses, I guess. If anyone, even a teenager, is fucking retarded enough to slobber over Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers or Katy Perry or Alexandra Burke, they really don't deserve to have their ears serenaded by beautiful music. 'Twould be a waste. And yes, I know we're supposed to give more leniency to teenagers, and I was a musical catastrophe aged 14, but I swear it gets worse with every passing generation; at least I also like the Who, as well as Scatman John! And don't get me started on the massive offence that is failed X Factor contestants filling up gay clubs like Motorhead would a biker bar - sometimes we are our own worst enemies.

I urge anyone reading this to ignore the fact that I sound like a prig and race to iTunes, or Amazon or your local -preferably independent- record store to pick up anything by any or all of the above-mentioned acts. I swear that whatever you choose will be infinitely more rewarding than whatever MTV or Radio 1 are currently spinning. Of course, if you actually DO read this blog, you probably know all these bands already. Still, I can hope a retarded 14-year-old has stumbled onto this page by mistake... 

Peace - JPhimister x

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


 Just to give my ego an airing, the second edition of the radio show I do with my friend and guitarist Chris, 'Noise in the Ether', is up on Samurai FM's website:

We're not very fluid with the talking (although we're better than on the first one, I swear!), but I think the music (which is all that really matters, really) is cracking, and nicely varied, from jazz courtesy of Henry Threadgill, to heavy drone and doom in the form of Gate and Burial Hex, via the avant-pop of Broadcast and the experimental drones of Stimmhorn and Tony Conrad. Plus proto-punk from Yoko Ono, Pat Metheny freaking out on guitar, The Durutti Column's post-punk bliss and psychedelic rock from Santana.

Our first show should also still be up there, with tracks by Derek Bailey, Frank Zappa, Inca Ore, Fred Frith, The Caretaker, The Grateful Dead, Burial, Skullflower, Phil Kline, John Tchicai and Hair Police.

Hope you enjoy!

- JPhimister, January 2011

Friday, 7 January 2011


Well, fuck me, another year is done and dusted.

Having recovered from a suitably stressful, alcohol-drenched and exhaustingly delirious New Year's Eve bash, I guess the time has come to look back an eventful and interesting year, the first in a brand new decade. I believe there was a time when new decades heralded great excitement and anticipation at wonders to come. Not anymore, as the world appears to lurch from one crisis to another and panic grips the inhabitants of just about every country (in the UK, it would appear that snow is the primary cause of said panic, for some reason). Woo fucking hoo! I mean, it's a sad year when the announcement of a Royal wedding, some shite about X Factor and the arrival of Tron in 3D cinema are deemed the most exciting bits of news worth passing around.

There were some things worth smiling about. America's vile discriminatory law "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", which banned LGBT people from serving openly in the military, was finally repealed. Those Chilean miners got rescued in what looked like a vertical equivalent of the Central Line at rush hour (of course, this is only good news if you ignore that the reason they got stuck miles underground in the first place was because of the gross safety violations of their millionaire employers, but hey, let's be jolly!). Oh, Jeremy Hunt got called something more deserving on morning radio via the hilarity of his name. And, um, er, Jedward's first album tanked pretty much everywhere outside Ireland. Tanked being a relative term of course, sadly...

No, let's face it, 2010 was a stinker. Notwithstanding the never-ending parade of earthquakes, floods, storms, terrorism,, loony dictators (the indefatigable trio of loopers Kim Jong-Il, Robert Mugabe and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, plus some creep in Belarus), wars and gormless celebrities (the "Cunt of the Year" award will be split, I think, between Jordan, Ann Widdecombe, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and Simon Cowell) that filled our screens with despair, terror and disgust, there was also the underwhelming British election, which delivered no definite result before the country was handed over to a bunch of Thatcherite rich kids hell-bent on ripping apart our public services for ideological reasons whilst mewling the words "we're all in this together" before slithering back to their multi-million pound homes. I don't think anyone thinks the deficit shouldn't be tackled, but the bloody-minded way the coalition (hello? are you there, LibDems??) are going after the poorer and weakest members of society, whilst ignoring -nah, sucking the arses of- tax dodgers and the bankers who got us into this mess in the first place, borders on the insane.

Guardian cartoonist Martin Rowson on the coalition
And of course, when some students and school kids rightly took to the streets to protest the excessive hike in tuition fees (coming from France, the idea of loading kids with debt to get through uni is baffling to me), they were first unceremoniously kettled and bashed by the police and then duly demonised and sneered at by the right-wing media, whilst spineless Nick Clegg tried to pretend he hadn't sold them out during the election. Still, the whole sorry mess had the unexpected effect of making me less nostalgic for my bygone early-twenties, so keep up the good fight, youth of today!

Could be worse, though - we could be in America, where big business has strong-armed even St Obama into a corner, causing him  to whittle his stimulus package to the point of pointlessness and crippling his attempt at giving all Americans the chance to get something as basic as health care. This lunacy has seen the rise of a particularly un-grassroots grassroots movement (the Tea Party), whose Fox News-fed absurd rhetoric would be laughable were it not for the fact that idiots like Glen Beck, Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin are actually protecting the interests of a few very rich people whilst pretending to defend the numerous poor. But the Democrats' ineffectiveness and spinelessness (not to mention the fact they themselves are in the pockets of bankers and billionaires) have allowed this craziness to spiral, leading to the Republicans -some of them downright bonkers- winning back the House.

At the centre of much of this bogus far-right shift, in both countries, lies the slime-ball Rupert Murdoch, whose media stranglehold in Britain is set to increase thanks to Jeremy (C)Hunt, our gormless twat of a culture secretary. 

But culture remains, and, for all Hunt's slashing of a sector that actually makes £2 for every £1 it spends, it's been pretty amazing in 2010. Susan Philipsz became the first sound artist to win the Turner Prize. Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for the much-lauded Unclie Boonmee Who Remembers His Past Lives, bringing the under-appreciated world of Thai cinema to the global stage, and, perhaps most-hilariously, this year's attempts at preventing the Cowell-backed X Factor song to be Christmas number one was a brilliant take on John Cage's seminal "silent" piece 4'33". Predictably, it failed to do the job, but at least it got a bit of mainstream light to shine on avant-garde music. I was also pleased with The xx's triumph at The Mercury Prize.

I also got the chance to see some wonderful exhibitions in 2010, from Sophie Mann's ghostly photographs at The Photographer's Gallery, to the Hell's Half Acre exhibition in the tunnels under The Old Vic, via the Tate Modern's wondrous show on surveillance and voyeurism and Florian Hecker's "sound sculptures" at the Chisenholm. Modern art is still alive and well, and there are loads of great works to be (re-)discovered. 

Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson
It wasn't all joy, of course. Beyond the spending cuts and end to the UK Film Council, we also saw the deaths of Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson, Ben Keith, Pete Postlethwaite, Mick Karn, Captain Beefheart, Ari Up, Howard Zinn and J.D. Salinger, among quite a few others. The passage of time remains so very cruel. 

Emeralds at ATP, December 2010
But there were also great concerts, such as Keiji Haino, Emeralds, Cluster, Charlemagne Palestine, Philip Jeck, The Dead C and John Butcher all illuminating the Godspeed You! Black Emperor-curated All Tomorrow's Parties festival at Butlin's in December. The Canadian post-rockers displayed marvelous taste with their line-up, as did Matt Groening six months earlier, when he brought Toumani Diabate, James Chance, Deerhunter, Konono No1, Boredoms and The Residents to the venerable holiday destination.
I was also hugely fortunate to see the last-ever Throbbing Gristle gig, at London's Village Underground, before Genesis P-Orridge quit the band and 'Sleazy' this mortal coil. They were truly astounding, having continued to evolve since their provocative early days, delivering a set that was expansive, forward-thinking and impossibly loud. Speaking of loud, the Second Layer-organised noise extravaganza at The Grosvenor in Stockwell, featuring Vomir, Voltigeurs, Filthy Turd and The Rita was an experience in volume, aggression and sonic transcendence I am unlikely ever to forget. Other great gigs included Ben Frost at The Luminaire (RIP to a great venue) and a wonderful show by Merzbow at XOYO. All these shows actually demonstrate the number of great concert venues in the capital, and it's worrying that the economic conditions are starting to take their toll.

But the music endures, and 2010 saw genres like hypnagogic pop (H-pop) come of age and breach the mainstream, whilst noise, dubstep and electronica seemed to be in a state of flux, as artists and labels questioned how to innovate, develop and branch out in new directions.

So, without further ado, here's my list of the top 30 albums of 2010:

1. Philip Jeck - An Ark For the Listener (Touch)

Predictably, having been one of the highlights of ATP, and a consistently excellent composer and artist, Philip Jeck delivered an absolute masterpiece, perhaps his greatest work yet on CD. Inspired by poet Gerald Manley Hopkins' work The Wreck of the Deutschland, an ode to 5 nuns who perished at sea, An Ark for the Listener is a dense, wistful album, where Jeck's broken down turntable explorations and avant-garde, droning synth melodies create a rich, mysterious and oblique tapestry.
2. Ensemble Economique - Psychical (Not Not Fun)

Dark and cinematic, Ensemble Economique's exercise in giallo-style horror soundtrack mixed with dub, hip-hop and avant-rock, was one of the most ambitious, challenging and atmospheric H-pop releases of the year. Perhaps it's the dire economic and socio-political climate, but the influence of horror movies loomed large in 2010, and this was a great example of an intelligent, musical use of this influence.

3. Eleh - Location Momentum (Touch)

Deep listening in the Pauline Oliveros sense of the word, the music of mysterious drone artist Eleh is as hard to pin down, assess and comprehend (in the traditional sense) as the individual who creates it. Anonymity is key to Eleh's aesthetic, but the core beauty resides in the dense, minimalist and hypnotic nature of the music, as listless wave generators and stripped-down synth lines contort, fill and caress the ether.

4. Demdike Stare - Liberation Through Hearing (Modern Love)

The excellent Mancunian duo continued their exploration of arcane and sinister textures and references through hypnotic synth patterns, warped dub and wispy electronica. Liberation Through Hearing is the second installment in a bewitching (the word is apt) trilogy that has cemented Demdike Stare's position at the forefront of British hauntological music.

5. Yellow Swans - Going Places (Type)

Tragically, this is Yellow Swans' swansong, but it may be their best album to date. Reining in their harshest tendencies, they delivered an expansive, cinematographic masterpiece of noisy drone, its mournful synth lines adding depth to the crunch and grind. The result? An elegiac and haunting addition to the noise canon.
6. Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal (Editions Mego)

Much more consistent and unified than previous releases, Returnal is Oneohtrix Point Never, aka Daniel Lopatin's arrival on the big stage and he delivers big time. As well as his new-age-tinted excursions into synth-heavy electro-drone, with hints of Tangerine Dream and even Vangelis, which on Returnal are even more compact, yet emotionally-charged, than before, he also opens with a blistering noise-drone freak out that was as astounding as it was unexpected.

7. Hype Williams - Untitled (Carnivals)

Blurring the lines emphatically between hip-hop, art-pop, dance, dubstep and even disco, Hype Williams are a mysterious London-based duo whose eclectic debut is like a weird, half-dreamlike, half-nightmarish trawl through nocturnal streets with the iPod set to shuffle. Hysterically over-the-top, it nonetheless preserves H-pop's initial spirit of ambiguity and nostalgia, whilst remaining resolutely forward-thinking.

8. Vomir - Renonce (Crucial Blaze)

After a decade of genre cross-pollination and soul-searching, noise was returned to its harshest, most abstract form with the emergence of Harsh Noise Walls, and French artist Vomir's Renonce is the perfect, hour-long demonstration of the sub-genre's capacity for sonic assault and sensory deprivation. As much a sound/art experiment as it is an album, Renonce is overwhelming, terrifying and, ultimately, hypnotic.

9. Forest Swords - Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)

Olde English Spelling Bee emerged in 2010 as one of the record labels for hypnagogic pop, and Dagger Paths was probably the company's stand-out release. Though short, it perfectly encapsulated Forest Swords' oblique combination of brittle, nocturnal dub and haunting post-noise atmospherics.

10. The Dead C - Patience (Ba Da Bing!)

The New Zealanders are veterans of the noise/avant-rock scene, and each release of theirs is an event in itself. Patience sees them pushing out into free-form, improvised drone-rock, with extended guitar workouts and monolithic rhythm patterns evoking krautock giants like Ash Ra Tempel, or the unrelenting sub-metal of Skullflower and Les Rallizes Denudes. Pure rock at its best!

11. The Black Dog - Music for Real Airports (Soma)

It may be a rather unfair rebuke to Brian Eno's seminal Music for Airports, but this remains an essential album, a troubling concept album about the soullessness and emotional alienation of airports. The synth melodies are dark, the sound effects cold and subtly jarring. A nightmarish sonic trawl through an airport, between endless queues, unhelpful staff and deserted waiting lounges, its claustrophobic atmosphere was almost unrivaled in UK electronic music last year.

12. Rangers - Suburban Tours (Olde English Spelling Bee)

Highly praised, Rangers' debut is a seminal piece of hypnagogic pop-rock, a reverie depicting sun-bleached suburban eighties' neighbourhoods, portrayed with a mixture of nostalgia and disgust. Latter day power pop of the Black Star variety is refracted through wobbly vocal effects and subtle inflections of jarring post-noise to create a beguiling and ultimately catchy gem of an album.

13. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love Is a Stream (Type)

Shoegaze music is pretty much dead these days, weighted down by the shadow of My Bloody Valentine and the unjustified savaging by critics back in the day. By California-based musician Cantu-Ledesma has updated the genre almost single-handedly here, stripping back the excesses of those 90s bands to focus on the emotions and the drone. Blissful and hazy, Love Is A Stream takes the spirit of shoegaze, but blasts it into the post-noise age.

14. Sun Araw - On Patrol (Not Not Fun)

Sun Araw (Cameron Stallones) has long been at the forefront of the H-Pop scene, and here takes his awkward, wobbly neo-psychedelia into darker territories with On Patrol, with its futuristic neon cover and Blade Runner ambiance. Dense and peculiar, the music on On Patrol features acid-drenched guitars alongside clunky synth patterns and distorted, mashed-up vocals. Dub and psych never sounded this great together.

15. Neil Young - Le Noise (Reprise)

In the midst of all these youthful explorers of noise and fucked-up pop, Neil Young stood like a statue to the old guard... and delivered an album of noise and fucked-up pop! With help from producer Daniel Lanois, Young created a brief solo album where his aged voice and grungy guitar were double-tracked and looped over themselves to create a ghostly folk-metal orchestra. He still refuses to fade away, but has a way to go before he burns out, by the sound of things.

16. The North Sea - Bloodlines (Type)

Who would have thought power electronics would be back in 2010? Actually, with noise music getting more and more coverage, even on the Pitchfork website, over the last decade, maybe it shouldn't be much of a surprise. Whatever the case, Bloodlines is a dark, frightening and enveloping canvas of sound, steeped in arcane lore and heathen noise. 

17. Rene Hell - Porcelain Opera (Type)

Modernising old-fashioned analogue synth drones was not just the domain of Oneohtrix Point Never, as former noisician Jeff Witscher, aka Rene Hell unleashed his paranoid, icy vision on this fabulous debut. Any of Daniel Lopatin's warmth and nostalgia are stripped away on Porcelain Opera, replaced by crackling, minimalist drones and shuddering percussion.

18. Indignant Senility - Plays Wagner (Type)

Evidently inspired by The Caretaker's approach to deconstructing old vinyl, Indignant Senility nonetheless created a singular, haunting (and haunted) work, using ancient recordings of works by Richard Wagner and ladling on the effects and the haze to deliver an album of dense, nocturnal drone.

19. Pan sonic - Gravitoni (Blast First (petite))

2010 was a good year for veteran electronic duos, with Autechre and The Chemical Brothers also releasing new (and, in Autechre's case, well-received) albums. Pan Sonic trumped the lot though with this brilliantly unceremonious swansong album, in which thundering club beats were allied to vicious power electronics, proving that whilst time may have dampened their desire to continue the Pan sonic brand, it did nothing to halt their creative spark.

20. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp Records)

His Los Angeles album was among the top records of 2008, and Cosmogramma will always pale by comparison. But, despite its boundless ambition that takes in just about any genre imaginable, from free jazz to freak rock to dubstep, it still maintains that typically Flying Lotus talent for scattered, ruthlessly infectious beats and tunes.

21. Toro Y Moi - Causers of This (Carpark)

"Chillwave" may be one of the dafter genre names I've heard of late (alongside "glo-fi"), but for all of acts like Toro Y Moi's taste for cheesy MOR influences and disco-inflected soft rock, there's no denying Chaz Bundick's knack for catchy pop tunes, glorious post-Beach Boys melodic hooks and lush vocal performances.

22. Scuba - Triangulation (Hotflush)

Dubstep is, if I admit it, somewhat on the wane, as new acts embrace garish funk and glow-in-the-dark bleeps and bloops to try and come up with something new. But Scuba reminded all of the glory of vintage garage/dub, effortlessly evoking Burial or Kode 9 whilst retaining a unique new voice with his darkly urban electronica and thumping beats.

23. Darkstar - North (Hyperdub)

If dubstep was struggling to maintain its voice in a constantly-evolving world, Hyperdub once again showed the way by signing artists that explored fresh and innovative ground. Darkstar are the perfect example, their synth/programming-heavy electronic pop bearing hints of eighties synth-pop, but above all carrying a post-modern, despondent vibe of romantic urban alienation, somewhere between Burial's nocturnal haze and the bright lights of Human League-esque dance.

24. Salem - King Night (IAMSOUND)

Another new genre reared its head in 2010, "witch house", but, unlike "chillwave", this is actually remarkably tricky to define, as walls of glorious synth noise (a la M83) are offset by jerky dubstep beats and murky sub-sub-Spaceape vocal murmuring. The mix is uneven at times, but with King Night, Salem announced themselves as a band to watch this decade.

25. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today (4AD)

The H-pop craze propelled maverick Californian hippy Ariel Pink straight into the limelight, and he responded with his best album, and his first on a major label and with a backing band. Rather than water down his oddball sound, it enhances it, as glorious pop tunes are jostled and jarred by unusual tempo shifts and bizarre nonsense poetry lyrics.

26. Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here? (Editions Mego)

They were much better live but Does It Look Like I'm Here is a cracking album, more concise and focused than 2009's What Happened?, and featuring several breathtaking melodies and passages of lush electronic drone.

27. Excepter - Presidence (Paw Tracks)

 Excepter are probably unique, and their music is suitably undefinable. They may be friends of indy faves Animal Collective, but there is something darker and more troubling about Excepter's sprawling, heavily-improvised post-noise electronica. Presidence is overlong, but worth persisting with.

28. Actress - Splazsh (Honest Jon's)

 Splazsh was The Wire's album of the year and, whilst I (evidently) won't go that far, I still think Actress displays here that he is one of Britain's most forward-thinking, adventurous and inventive producers, his intelligent mixture of just about every post-drum'n'bass dance music pointing the way for the coming years.

29. Ikonika - Contact, Love, Want, Have (Hyperdub)

Hyperdub continued to push into new fields of post-dub-inflected music and, like Darkstar's North, Contact Love Want Hate was a much less sepulchral effort than previous Hyperdub classics like Waiting for You or Untrue. But Ikonika's infectious, dancefloor-tailored dub-like tunes, with their flashy video game influences and ramshackle beats, demonstrated that the London-based label are still forerunners when it comes to following the pulse of UK dance.

30. Automelodi - Automelodi (Wierd)

Unabashedly retro, Automelodi's debut harks back to a time when analogue synths and self-consciously romantic lyrics dominated the airwaves, but does so with a verve and zest that are remarkably fresh and exciting. "Buanderie Jazz" remains one of the song's I listened to most in 2010.

So there you have it: 30 excellent -in some cases phenomenal- albums that contributed massively to making 2010 a year worth experiencing. In addition, I've picked out 5 compilations/reissues that all came out last year, and are, in each case, nothing short of wondrous. From the experimental noise and glitch of Kevin Drumm to Thomas Koener's minimalist dark ambient soundscapes, via Charlemagne Palestine and Catherine Christer Hennix's inventive and delicately minimal avant-garde compositions, and the mind-melting, psychedelic noise-rock of the best Rallizes Denudes album, these are all fundamental, marvelous and heart-stirring releases, and quite literally essential.

1. Kevin Drumm - Necro Acoustic (Pica Disk)
2. Charlemagne Palestine - Strumming Music (Sub Rosa)
3. Les Rallizes Denudes - Blind Baby Has Its Mother's Eyes (Phoenix)
4. Catherine Christer Hennix - The Electric Harpsichord (Die Schachtel)
5. Thomas Koener - Nunatak/Teimo/Permafrost (Type)

Special mention has to go to Type Records, who really were the dominant label for me in 2010. Not only did they release a plethora of great albums last year, but I also discovered past gems, such as then-teenage wunderkind Khonnor's proto-hypnagogic pop gem Handwriting, the masterpiece Landings by drone/field music composer Richard Skelton and label founder Xela's In Bocca Al Lupo. If their output is anything as exciting in 2011, then Type will be the record label to follow.

So, for all my grievances, 2010 will ultimately be marked by a sense of musical hope, as great albums and gigs lifted me above the murk and the despondency. To crown it all, I finally started making my own forays into the world of music creation and appreciation. This blog continues to take up much of my time, and I'm hoping to promote it to magazines and journalists in the hope of developing it further. Better still, my good -and brilliant- guitarist friend Chris Gehlen and I recorded the first (and hopefully not the last) edition of a new radio show, called Noise in the Ether, which went out on Samurai FM. Here's the link, and I hope you like what we have to say and the music we present:

Finally, Chris and I recorded our first session of free improv/post-punk and are hoping to develop our ideas further this year, hopefully with gigs and an album. And I have even made my own forays into solo noise music creation, with some rough recordings to my name.

So fuck it! We can stick it to those c*nts who think art, music and culture are luxuries fit to be chopped and dismembered to satisfy anti-liberal, lowbrow, corporate ideologies. The art and music worlds took some hefty hits in 2010, yet still delivered several moments of beauty and genius that all could benefit from. Even when it starts eating itself, society will always need serenading to sleep at night. To paraphrase Neil Young, long may we run.

Bring on the new year...

- J.Phimister, still lost, Jan. 2011