Sir BN's best of 2015 list . . .

edited January 2016 in whirling dervish
With my usual sense of modesty, I will ocupy a thread, exactly as I did Last year.

- Comments are ofcourse welcome.
However, as GP so wisely stated:
"Should command universal assent, I would think."

Sarah Kirkland Snider Unremembered album cover
- What can I say ? - All together wonderful performances, Padma Newsome's (Clogs) breathtaking voice, strong and very moving compositions . . . . . .



The Golden Communion album cover


Antigravity album cover


Leafcutter John - Resurrection

#8 (#3 on @Lowlife 's list)
Rocks  Straws album cover



Oren Ambarchi & Jim O'Rourke - Behold

- To be continued. . . .
(It's gonna be a tough job to keep it down to 20, but I'll try)


  • Continuing with #11
    Diaz de Leon The Soul Is the Arena album cover 

    What Lies in the Sea album cover

    Peter Gregson Touch album cover   


    # 15

    Five more (or so) to come . . .
  • Continuing with #16

    Turning Towards the Light album cover




    - Not finished yet . . .
  • Continuing with #21
    Di lontan album cover

    Dreamfall album cover

    I'm sure I have forgotten albums that really should have been listed, but this is it.
    - Except for 2 honorable mentions that I will post soon . . .
  • edited March 2016
    - And here they are:

    A rerelease of an album from 1977 by two former Henry Cow members:
    - Lisa Herman / vocals
    - John Greaves / piano, organ, bass, vocals, percussion (7)
    - Peter Blegvad / vocals, guitar, Tenor saxophone (5)

    Guest musiacinas:
    - Andrew Cyrille / drums, percussion
    - Mike Mantler / trumpet, trombone
    - Carla Bley / vocals, Tenor saxophone (1 & 7)
    - Michael Levine / violin, viola, vocals (9)
    - Vito Rendace / Alto & Tenor saxes, flute
    - April Lang / vocals (5 & 8)
    - Dana Johnson / vocals (2)
    - Boris Kinberg / clave (5) 

    - "The classic restored. No extra tracks, just this legendary release as it was originally conceived. Kew Rhone was made soon after Peter and John left Henry Cow, at Carla Bley and Mike Mantler’s Grog Kill studio in New York (they both appear on the CD). Fellow conspirators included singer Lisa Herman and drummer Andrew Cyrille. It’s one of those records which sums up a moment; a creative moment in which ideas have come into clear focus, and just need to be got down; an historical moment at which an innovative, collaborative run of cultural luck is about to run out. It couldn’t have been made earlier or later, we’re just lucky it got made at all."
    Peter Blegvad Reflects on His Confounding Masterpiece "Kew. Rhone." @ Wondering Sound

    And the second is mostly for WtB die hard fans and completists, but nevertheless an important document. The 20 years anniversary boxset:

    Volcano The Bear - Commencing

    - "Leicester, England – mid 1990's. Aaron Moore, Nick Mott, Clarence Manuelo & Daniel Padden create a free form group named Volcano The Bear out of their frustration with standard musical limitations. Now, after 20 years of experimenting with improvisation, folk, Dada, Post Punk, Krautrock, noise, surreal comedy, pure avant-garde and more, the group has obtained a cult following and high critical praise across the globe. Reknowned for their highly theatrical and obscure live performances, as well as their mind-blowing catalogue of releases, VTB truly is a one of a kind group, consistently pushing forward with their own unique, experimental approach to sound making.

    Commencing manages to be both a retrospective of the group's 20 year history as well as it ´s own unique release filled with vast amounts of material. The 5 albums, 64 tracks & over 4 hours in length, presented here has been carefully put together over the last couple of years to become an entity – working as much by itself as well as a whole. Expect an abundance of unreleased material, alt-versions, tracks from early cassette albums never released on vinyl, live recordings, pieces from forgotten compilation appearances and more, all mixed and compiled together to form 5 stand-alone albums."

    - Miasmah

    - "In the book that accompanies Commencing, Miasmah head Erik K. Skodvin recounts how he first discovered Volcano The Bear while flipping through records at Staalplaat on a school trip to Berlin back in 2004.  His eye was caught by the artwork for The Idea of Wood ("it looked like some bizarre nightmare dreamt up by a mental institution inmate"), so he decided to give the album a chance and was pleased to discover that the music within was every bit as unique and deranged as the cover.  After witnessing a few similarly bizarre and memorable performances by various incarnations of the band, Erik eventually struck up a friendship with Aaron Moore and half-jokingly suggested a VTB retrospective box set.  That quixotic idea became an earnest endeavor about six months later and the next two years or so were then devoted to the Herculean task of shifting through VTB's sprawling discography of cassettes and CD-Rs and distilling it into a coherent overview of one of the most uncategorizable and restlessly shape-shifting bands around.

    Amusingly, the Volcano The Bear story starts out almost exactly as I would have expected it to: Aaron Moore was frustrated with the band he was in and decided to start an anti-band with his flatmate Nick Mott.  There were drugs involved.  They enlisted a handful of their weirder friends.  One had a bunch of studio equipment that was set-up in their parents’ house, which also happened to be near an extremely cool record store.  That mixture of unlimited home studio time, a constant influx of strange new records, a disdain for anything conventional, and a willingness to try absolutely anything laid the perfect groundwork for a truly strange band.  Admittedly, they often sounded exactly like a bunch of stoners with too much free time and a singular zeal (and patience) for messing around with speeds on a dictaphone, but there were some moments of true inspiration early on as well, such as the slurred, melancholy sea-shanty "Yak Folks Y’Are" or the pummeling and obsessive tape experiment "Pretty Flower" (both from 1995).  Those early years are best (and most amusingly) summarized by a set list included in the book.  One song is described vaguely as "play guitar nick – I will play along – Loz says he’ll do something."  Yet another potential hit is broken down as "toothbrush/thumb piano solo?  out of which Dan starts a fight with…6+ minutes??"  In short, Volcano The Bear started off sounding a lot like art students that I would want to hurl a bottle at.

    Somehow along the way, however, they alchemically transformed into something much, much better.  Apparently, a policy of "everything we do is art and therefore of value" starts to yield significant dividends if it is adhered to long enough and with a rigorous enough aversion to the mundane.  While it is not chronologically arranged, Commencing reaches its zenith on the fourth LP, which is culled primarily from material spanning from 2004 to 2010, albeit with a few wonderful outliers thrown in (the tenderly warped piano interlude of 2001's "Curly Robot" is especially sublime).  Aside from the quality, the other most striking aspect of the later material is how effortlessly (yet distinctively) the band was able to transform from song to song.  For example, "Baltic" sounds like an avant-garde classical take on traditional folk music, while elsewhere VTB make nods to jazz, Faust, Zappa, Nurse With Wound, and probably like ten other cool bands that I have never heard of.  On the other hand, there is also some material from the same era included on the fifth LP that just sounds like someone shouting about biscuits while pounding a floor tom.  The bizarre and amazing thing is that it all sounds equally at home somehow.  No matter what Volcano did, they did it with a very endearingly ramshackle, organic, and anything-goes charm; an unwavering humanity; and an unrelentingly perverse (if sometimes impenetrable) sense of humor.

    Commencing's lack of chronological order was an inspired move sequence-wise, as there are plenty of wonderful early songs seamlessly mixed in with the later pieces.  That nicely serves to illustrate that Volcano The Bear were fitfully always a great band–they just happened to be a wildly over-documented great band, cheerfully releasing every inside joke and misstep with the same importance as their genuine moments of great inspiration.  I am glad that some of the less-than-amazing material is included though, as it combines with the book to tell quite an inspiring and unlikely story: Volcano basically came from nowhere and devoted themselves wholeheartedly to amusing themselves and tirelessly pushing forward into new fringes of outsider expression and fresh vistas of lunacy.  They did not waste time worrying about whether something would find an audience or whether it was good enough, they just set about to do something different, unwaveringly stuck to that path for two decades, and it all worked out just fine: they found a discerning audience that values them and they are unlike any other band on the planet.  That is an improbably great legacy for a band this uncompromising, prickly, and fundamentally difificult to like.  I guess the lesson here is that you should wholeheartedly devote yourself to following your muse to whatever bizarre places it takes you and that if you do it long enough, someone will eventually realize that you are brilliant and heroically attempt to shape your messy, unwieldy oeuvre into something people can actually wrap their heads around.  Volcano The Bear were certainly hit-or-miss as a band, but their hits are essential listening and Commencing is the best overview of them that anyone could possible hope for."

    - Brainwashed.

    - Not from the album:

    Brainwaves Festival: Volcano the Bear

Sign In or Register to comment.