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Nic's Best Of 2015

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Hi,
welcome to my list. Sorry that’s it’s taken so long and that I’ve recycled some other stuff I’ve written. Also sorry I couldn’t muster up something more interesting to write about some of these great releases. Generally these lists are in no order, I’m sure I’ve missed something important but 2015 was a blur that has continued into 2016. Still, it’s an exciting blur. I’ve now been working at Repressed Records for 10 years. I hope I can continue doing the same thing for another 10.
 
LOCAL LPs
 
  
Howling Gruel - Jolly Jape LP (Wormwood Grasshopper) 
Another winning release for Wormwood Grasshopper, a label run by Ben of Drunk Elk. Features members of the excellent Hammering The Cramps. Like other Tasmanian music from the same crew this LP is shambolic and damaged but a strong presence of song that brings to mind bits of UK D-I-Y, Flying Nun/Xpressway Records or even private press 60 garage. It’s tuneless, but full of tunes and played nihilistically but still with sentimental undertones.
 
Ghastly Spats - Spinozism Exorcism (RIP Society)
Cured Pink - As A Four Piece Band  (RIP Society)
I’ve never included any releases on my own label but what the heck. I guess a lot of this list is not so much what I think was the best but what were personally challenging or an epiphany, as opposed to the comfortable and more expected enjoyment I found in new records from say Dead Farmers, Royal Headache or Blank Realm. I had high expectations but these LPs exceeded them. Both are monstrous, fully formed/deformed mutant post-post-punk records. Do yourself a solid (wink). 
 
Hour House - Chiltern (Penultimate Press) 
It was a really pleasant surprise to hear the vinyl debut from two folks formerly of the much loved Newcastle group Castings. Hour House fit perfectly between the post-industrial, eerie-ambient, avant-garde-via-DIY stylings of Half High, Call Back The Giants and their label mates on the excellent Penultimate Press. Strange and beautiful. These guys (along with the other members of Castings) really nurtured and inspired a lot of great music in Sydney around 10 years ago, it’s nice to hear them continue to make music. 
 
Russell St Bombing (Smart Guy)
Russell st Bombing is Al and Zephyr from Total Control and Eastlink. There’s inklings of both members previous recorded output, such as the moments where Lower Plenty enters into murky Xpressway/early Dead C territory, Zephyr’s clever-yet-subtle guitar deviations in Eastlink and a similar mystic vibe to Al’s fantastic SNAKE cassette, but really this album is a different kettle of fish to their most celebrated records.  The outsider folk of Skip Spence and Roy Harper collide with collaged field recordings, wonky keyboards and unhinged string plonking I’d associate with the Alberts Basement label or even The Shadow Ring. Add some one chord Velvet Underground chooglin’, a song that sounds like an egoless Spacemen 3 amplified through sea shells, parts that obviously have something to say paired with some great “aimless” sections.  Maybe my favourite LP these two have been involved in.    
 
Soma Coma - S/T (Cool Death)
Another winner from melbourne's Cool death label and honestly I’m a bit disappointed in the world that this wasn’t more of an event on the hardcore calendar. No real template for this band but if you enjoy Die Kreuzen, Straightjacket Nation, Gauze, Italian and Cleveland Hardcore this is a must. This music sounds physically, emotionally & spiritually exhausting. Excellent balance between powerful yet raw in the recording, great stuff. Hardcore lives.    
 
LST - Th duo LP (Another Dark Age)
I don’t even know where to start with this one. LST is the solo project of Tarquin Manek (Bum Creek, Tarcar, Finger Pty Ltd). It is head scratching stuff. Imagine Eno/Cluster-y synth movements played on moldy, unfashionable 80/90s FM synthesizers, recorded to even moldier tape with the remnants of the previous recording partially present. Pleasantly disorienting. 
 
Primitive Motion - Pulsating Time Fibre LP (Bedroom Suck)
Is this what Stereolab sound like? Surely they’re not as good as this. 
 
Nicky Crane - Nicky Crane CD (Rhythm Works)
The solo project of Total Control’s James Vinciguerra. A very unique mind behind the drum kit, on Adobe Design Suite CS5 and with his rhythmic electronic programming. I ran into James at Maggotfest and wanted to firstly tell him I loved the CD and also ask if he was a fan of Hieroglyphic Being. He said HB was the reason he wanted to make electronic music. This makes a lot of sense as even though I don’t think they sound very similar both have a bent, free, wonky approach to the usually sculpted and rigid word of dance music. Maybe a reason I think this release sounds so of-its-own is that it’s a rhythmic electronic record from the perspective of someone who has spent most of their musical life as a drummer? 
 
Angie - Free Agent  (Rice Is Nice)
While these records are generally in no order this is my favourite rock n roll record of 2015. Actually I think it’s the only Australian rock ‘n’ roll record listed here. Angie has played in Circle Pit, Straight Arrows, Ruined Fortune and Southern Comfort. I have a complicated relationship with Angie’s music as she one of my first music-related friends in Sydney, bandmate in Ruined Fortune and someone whose music I’ve released on R.I.P. Society. I think it makes me overly critical of her music but saying that I think that this is the best record she’s ever been involved in. While I enjoyed her first solo LP Turning it’s a very sad and difficult listen. Free Agent retains the vulnerability of her previous LP but there’s more hope in the mix. There’s more of a narrative, more highs and lows, the quiet and reflective moments are balanced with unrestrained rocking. It’s a real winner. 
 
INTERNATIONAL LPs
   
 
Home Blitz - Foremost & Fair LP (Richie)
I can’t think of another band that manages to be merge this power pop sensibility, an almost textbook ability to write guitar pop, with elements that feel very odd and unfamiliar. Daniel Dimaggio has an incredibly unique musical vision and is the type of person I wish was on the cover of magazines. 
 
75 Dollar Bill - Wooden Bag LP (Other Music)
75 Dollar Bill are a duo using electric guitar, hand percussion & homemade horns to create music that loosely fits into the "New Weird America" free folk tradition while also evoking some of the wonkier bits of post-John Coltrane East-meets-West free jazz. For fans of Ex-Cocaine (check their underrated LP for Siltbreeze 10 years or so back), Bill Orcutt, Sonny Sharrock and Subliminal Frequencies/Omar Souleyman. Ethereal but also gloriously groovy. Good shit!
 
Aye Aye - Aye Aye LP (Richie)
Like Neil Young & Crazy Horse at their most ragged or the excellent Hunchback 12” Kurt Vile (released on the same record label before he was sponsored by Converse) Aye Aye play spacious, slow motion, psychedelic rock. Members of Bardo Pond and Watery Love plus the infamous Harmonica Dan. Feels good. 
 
Dawn Of Humans - Slurping At The Cosmos Spine (La Vida Es Un Mus / Toxic State)
The Primus of 2010’s Hardcore? Not really, but fun to write. The live show and hanging out with some of these guys on their Australian tour only solidified that there’s a lot more to this band than a ‘mutant punk’ gimmick.  Vocalist Emil’s appetite and enthusiasm music/art when in Australia was inspiring.  A wild ride, I feel I’ll still be blown away by this record for years to come. 
 
Astor - Lina In Nida LP (Penultimate Press)
Upon first listening to Lina In Lida I thought of writing to Mark Harwood (aka Astor, and head of Penultimate Press) to tell him how much I enjoyed the record, but also to ask “is everything ok?” It’s quite a stylistic change from his first two albums under the Astor moniker, which revolved around field recordings of unfamiliar places and amplified and manipulated small sounds. Comparatively this is almost a Power Electronics LP, sans the harsher-than-thou ego.  Could this be a gateway record into experimental music for the angst ridden teen in fingerless leather gloves? Here’s a review on Cyclic Defrost that says more than I can... http://www.cyclicdefrost.com/2016/02/astor-lina-in-nida-penultimate-press/
 
Helm - Olympic Mess 2xLP (Pan)
It’s been a weird phenomenon to obserb, the crossover success of Helm and Pan Records. While local punk/indie/DIY circles seem to be getting a little more compartmentalised, with less and less opportunities for visibility outside of their community, in the UK/EU it seems a label like Pan seems to be able to penetrate both the museum and the nightclub. Olympic Mess is an relatively accessible yet challenging experimental record that fits into a new tradition that’s in the space between the D-I-Y basement noise act and sound artist. The idea that this record garnered the attention that it did gives me hope for the music media. 
 
Dan Melchior's Broke Revue - Lords Of the Manor LP (In the Red)
I don't there's many people who've made more records worth hearing/owning than Dan Melchior. Whether he's making rock 'n' roll that encapsulates the best qualities of British guitar music (from The Fall to The Move) or working on the fringes-of-music with more experimental releases of labels like Kye, Siltbreeze, Chocolate Monk it's always great. On this record he’s rocking, a blown-out blues-y power trio with the addition of keyboards. Great songs and incredible guitar playing without being some UK 70s white bluesman wanker. Dan Melchoir is touring Australia for the first time, don’t miss it! 
Syd: Dan Melchior (US? UK?) - Sydney Shows Feb 19 & 22. 
 
Container - LP (Spectrum Spools) 
Critics/electronic music purists could chastise punk or noise people moving into rhythmic electronic music for having a very basic knowledge or understanding of the music, ya know johnny-come-lately’s. I guess fair enough but in the case of Containers ‘noise techno’
(other people’s labeling of Containers music, I don’t think he’d place his music in the lineage of techno), that disregard of how things are supposed to go in electronic music is it’s strength. Sounds like a 808 drum machine through a Boss Metal Zone fx pedal. If it feels good do it. 
 
RP Boo - Fingers, Bank Pads, And Shoe Prints 2xLP (Planet Mu)
I love seeing the crossover success of Chicago Footwork, it just makes me feel good. RP BOO is such an infectious, positive force. “Bangin’ On King Drive, Bang-Bangin’ On King Drive…”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKFIGJHXU-0  
 
7”s / 12”s
 
  
 
Drunk Elk - Constellations 2 x 7” (Black Petal)
Tasmanian three piece return with 6 new tracks of dark and beautiful wintery outsider folk. Released on Anthony Guerra's Black Petal label. While Drunk Elk have a certain bottom-of-the-Earth mystique/charm at the core of things they write incredible, melancholy song. Would appeal to those into the darker side of the New Zealand underground such at Peter Jefferies, or imagine New Order songs played by a Vibing Up The Senile Man era Alternative TV. Their best yet! 
 
Sick People - In My Nightmare 7” (Urban Rage)
Great hardcore record that might actually be from 2014. Vocalist Sick Rick may be a savage on the stage but he’s a responsible small business owner behind the counter of NRM Records in Brisbane. 
 
Thigh Master - Songs To Wipe Your Mouth To 7” (Tenth Court)
Maybe not as immediately enjoyable as their debut 7” but upon further listens a great record. From the material on their two 7”s I know, without a doubt Thigh Master have got what it takes to make a great indie rock full length, maybe it’ll be the best one since The Stevens - History Of Hygiene? 
 
Red Red Krovvy - 2nd 7” (Helta Skelta)
Nepotism, (the guitarist is my brother) and hometown pride aside (all 3 members originate from Cairns) this is one of the most enjoyable punk 7”s I’ve heard in a good while. ‘Classic’ attitude ridden punk riffs a la The Victims or even New Bomb Turks are followed by paranoid, slightly wrong anti-riffs and an excellent use of the “let’s play this one chord for way longer than we should” technique to create tension and annoy. Being annoying is very punk. Australia’s best smart-dumb/more-less answer to The Homostupids.
 
Greymouth - Greymouth 12” (Quemada)
Sacred Product -  $ A Ride 12” (Quemada)
Quemada is a US based label that didn’t set out to almost exclusively document some of the best acts on the fringe-of-rock from the Southern Hemisphere but has done just that. A discography that includes The Garbage & The Flowers, Kitchen’s Floor, Mad Nanna, Lakes and more. Both these bands have their origins in New Zealand. Greymouth is two NZ expats in Japan, while Sacred Product is Lynton from Satanic Rockers. Greymouth remind me of when The Dead C were mostly concerned with turning the 4min rock song inside out, with the violent free rock energy of Harry Pussy. Bits of what I dare to call ‘sound art’ collide with minimalist hard rock riffage. What a ride! Whereas on $ A Ride Lynton continues his run of unearthing the best riffs (most songs only need one) and head-scratching mundanely twisted lyrics. While the instruments are that of your standard power trio (guitar, bass, drums, vocals) it sounds like rock ‘n’ roll from a strange parallel universe. If you think the first four Black Sabbath LPs are on par with the first four Butthole Surfers LPs this record has your name on it. 
 
Howling Hex - Butterfly 7” (Drag City) 
My favourite living guitarist Neil Michael Hagerty (Royal Trux, Harry Pussy) continues his explorations into pulsing, repetitive… ummm poly-rock? My only complaint, not long enough.
 
RE-ISSUES 
 
The Sunday Painters - Something To Do LP
The Sunday Painter - Fourth Annual Report LP
 
The Sunday Painters are the group I listened to most this year, I cannot get over them. Their discography is everything I’ve ever wanted punk/post-punk to be. The compilation of singles and EPs recorded before these LPs are satisfying and amazing in an ‘it-was-easy-twas-cheap-go-and-do-it' post punk manner but their two LPs are what’s really captivated me. Like their post-punk peers across the globe they’re charmingly earnest and ambitious amateurs liberated creatively by punk, but maybe it’s the vacuum of Wollongong 79-84 that freed them to cast the ideas net a little bit further than most? No budget takes on Low era Bowie, dub-punk attempts at Barrett era-Pink Floyd, pre-dating the menace of Big Black by at least half a decade, the wildest and most complex drum machine programming I’ve ever heard in a guitar band. It’s all there. The closest comparison I can think of would have to be Alternative TV in terms of how they manage to operate in a pretty ‘art-y’ and progressive manner while still being earnest and relatable. Not the typically, smarter-than-thou art-school snobs. Anyway that’s my top pick for old music in 2015. 
 
Ilitch - Periodik Mindtrouble LP (Superior Viaduct) 
Ilitch - 10 Suicides LP (Superior Viaduct) 
Vincent Over The Sink -22 Coloured Bull Terriers 2xLP (Another Dark Age)
Martin Rev - Clouds Of Glory LP (Permanent)
X - X-Spurts LP (Ugly Pop)
 
TAPES
 
Aloha Units (Trackside / Paradise Daily)
Sex Tourist (Trackside / Paradise Daily)
Hope these guys and gal don’t mind being grouped together, yes they share members but are separate entities. Aloha Units are my single favourite new-ish band to watch play in Sydney.  They play a brand of “lo-fi scrappy d-i-y guitar pop” that my not be the most exciting thing on paper but it’s played forcefully with plenty of inventive musical ideas. Sex Tourists made my favourite pop anthem of 2015, Guts. 
 
Papaphilia - Defeating the Animal (Future Archaic) 
Squelchy electronics and almost soothing new age sounds are disfigured via some process of gristlization (fk’d if I know how these sounds come to be) to create a psychedelic, post-industrial murk. I see visions of oceanic cyborgian blobs invading land. Fjorn rules. 
 
Overmen (Ochre Beat)
New Canberra punk group that bring to mind Cleveland’s HOMOSTUPIDS, or MURDERER’s (NYC) fantastic demo from last year but is a bit more in shrill, trebly zone as to Murderer’s low end rumble. I was going to say they’re The Vacant Lot (great Canberra punk 7”) of the 21st century but the Vacant Lot are playing shows again. Anyway this is an aesthetically and musically pleasing punk tape.
 
Blue Chemise (Greedy Ventilator)
Ross Manning (Greedy Ventilator)
Calamari Girls (self released?)
Men With Chips - Double Definition (Dedication Loop)
Cooper Bowman / Roman Nails / Altered States Tapes in general
 
OLD STUFF THAT MEANT A LOT TO ME… 
 
Eightball & MJG - Comin’ Out Hard Cassette.
Genesis - Nursery Cryme LP, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway 2xLP.
Grateful Dead: I’ve dived further into their discography and first 5 studio albums are essential to me. 
More jazz: Archie Shepp, Albert Ayler, John & Alice Coltrance on repeat forever.  
Underground Resistance / Drexciya: another Guided By Voices addict discovers the wonders of Detroit techno. 
Hieroglyphic Being: everything I’ve wanted Club Music to be although I can’t imagine it ever being played in a nightclub. 
V/A - NYHC Where the Wild Things Are LP: Especially Life’s Blood into Breakdown on side 1. 
Moniek Darge - Sounds Of Sacred Places CD
Saccharine Trust - Paganicons LP