Friday, 27 December 2013

Brendan Masala's Review of 2013

What a year, huh? Not a great one in many ways, but thank the sonic overlords that musically it was a heavy hitter - one of the strongest in years. So how did we view 2013?


A slow month due to my being out of the country then in hospital, thus not really need a computer and on a lot of meds. Still managed to catch some tail-of-2012 brilliance from the likes of Blank Realm (the excellent Go Easy), Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing (Eeling)and The Spinning Rooms (self-titled), all albums of which would have lined my top five of 2012, as well as a surprise EP from Death Cassettes. Whilst I was unable to attend due to being in hospital, the first Sonic Masala live show went ahead also, with Secret Birds, Naked Maja, Brainbeau and Kids Cryptic killing it.


Planet Masala got back on an even keel, and the fine releases started to rear their heads. Favourite albums included Girls Names' The New Life, Ensemble Economique's The Vastness Is Bearable Only Through Love, Woken Trees' NONN, Lower Plenty's Hard Rubbish, Rational Academy's Winter Haunts, Black Pus' All My Relations, Plankton Wat's Mirror Lake, Ex-Cult's Ex-Cult, Psy Ants' Bit Tongue Prik and Games' Games. The standout album of the month though was Bed Wettin' Bad Boys' Ready For Boredom, one of the best slices of Australian ramshackle drunken rock put to tape in a long, long time. There were some shorter form triumphs from Harmony and Ex-Con, some surprises from Mogwai (the TV soundtrack to French horror The Returned/Les Revenents), some great reissues for Mission of Burma and Bardo Pond, and a slight disappointment with the sophomore record from Iceage. What with the flurry of shows from the likes of The Wedding Present, My Bloody Valentine, Swans and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as killer shows from The Drones, The Stickmen, Civil Civic, The Dead C and Thee Oh Sees, and an 8-bit Sonic Masala Presents featuring the awesome Boss Fight, February didn't know how to quit.


This month was just as tumultuous, in no small part to the tragic death of personal hero Jason Molina. Also one of my most anticipated records of the year, The Men's New Moon, didn't really live up to their already-sliding reputation. That said, Australia had some amazing releases from the likes of Exhaustion, Cobwebbs, Bad Dreems, Lower Spectrum and Primitive Motion, whilst further afield efforts from Young Adults, School Knights and Psychic Ills appealed. However the best releases came in the form of the self-titled records from Ooga Boogas and Spray Paint. Sonic Masala's show with Black Vacation, Gazar Strips, Roku Music and Barbiturates was one of the best of the year, and I got to see Neil Young play with Crazy Horse. Another life goal ticked.


More changes afoot, with Nathan (AKA Fred Savage Beasts) joining me in the engine room at Sonic Masala. Sonic Masala also got involved in Ladyfest, with a show featuring avant-garde turns from Shooga, Ultra Material and X In O, and good friends Dreamtime fulfilled their dream of playing Austin Psych Fest. We had some great albums hit us in the face too - Goat, Stalin Gardens, Die On Planes, Andre, Angel Eyes, Super Wild Horses, Double Dagger, Beach Fossils, Eat Skull... April saw the biggest glut of stellar releases though - Wonderfuls' Salty Town, Running's Vaguely Ethnic, Yes I'm Leaving's Mission Bulb, the split LP between Ensemble Economique and Heroin In Tahiti, Thee Oh Sees' Floating Coffin, James X Boyd and the Boydoids' self-titled debut, Barn Owl's V. I also got to interview Damon & Naomi, bought the reissue of Mountains' Centralia, and fell hard in love with Marnie Stern...say what you will, but I think The Chronicles of Marnia killed it.


May saw our lowest-performing live show (featuring No-Way Sweden, Feet Teeth and Blank Realm side-project Financiers - it was incredible by the way) bookend the month with our best selling live show (No Anchor, O, Vassals). We also interviewed Melbourne noise-dwellers White Walls, saw some great shows that weren't our own (...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Om and Dollar Bar's shows in particular), and won a pub quiz. Releases were thick and fast from Australian shores - TV Colours, Lace Curtain, Scott & Charlene's Wedding, Stress Waves, Cuntz and Gravel Samwidge all gave their all. Personal favourites were the Multiple Man cassette that came out on Major Crimes, Deep Heat's 10" (although it came out a few months previously), and Stress Waves. Across the pond, and the likes of Creative Adult, Mincer Ray, WTCHS, Surf City and Robedoor were pushing all the right buttons...but the best three releases for the month for me were Batpiss' Nuclear Winter, Kwaidan's Make All The Hell Of Dark Metal Bright and Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo from Hey Colossus.


We moved the live show out of the living room and into a pub with fantastic results - Dreamtime, Multiple Man and Gazar slayed, and pints were relatively cheap. Messiness ensued. Back at the Waiting Room, Sadglint, You and St Augustus were magisterial; whilst the first Campfire Tales kicked off at The End with the newly minted Andrew Tuttle (having cast off his decade-long Anonymeye moniker) and Cedie Jansen. I travelled to Europe to see Pissed Jeans, whose Honeys album from a couple months ago continues to rise in stature, and float around Amsterdam. I also saw the Black Angels - again - and fell in love with Stephanie Bailey all over again. Albums of the month - Lantern's Rock n Roll Rorschach, Fuck Buttons' Slow Focus, Scout Niblett's It's Up To Emma, Lee Noble's Ruiner, Milk Music's Cruise Your Illusion


Another pub show at Trainspotters with Black Vacation, Cobwebbs, Brainbeau and Dag was excellent. So many artists blindsided me this month - Adam Cadell, Kal Marks, Matthew Collings, Cough Cool, Lurve, Barge With An Antenna On It... Favourite albums for July were Bone's For Want Of Feeling, Merchandise's Totale Nite, Shocked Minds' self-titled release, and Ovlov's AM. Special mention to the release of songs by Ides, Porches, Per Purpose, and Violent Soho - some real brain burrs there.


We went a bit silly in August, putting on FOUR separate shows. It was the start of an overload of live music from us in the bottom end of the year. Our second Campfire Tales featured three stellar solo acts - Kitchens Floor's Matt Kennedy, Primitive Motion's Leighton Craig, and an all-too-rare performance from Small World Experience frontman Pat Ridgewell! We also had a duo night with Kellie Lloyd (backed by Tape/Off's Branko Cosic) Tiny Spiders and Brainbeau; Silver Screens launched their album with the help of Charles Buddy Daaboul, Multiple Man and Kigo; and one of the most fun shows of the year with The Stress of Leisure, Sleepwalks and Barge With An Antenna On It. Not Not Fun continued to pour out great releases from the likes of Russian Tsarlag, Xander Harris and Octa Octo; Sacred Bones with Pop 1280 and Destruction Unit; and Slumberland brought forth Weekend and The Mantles. Favourite releases - Ensemble Economique (again!) with Fever Logic; Ghost Notes' Hidden Horizons; Sewers with Hoisted; Thee Hugs' Drug Use & Alcohol Abuse and Soda Eaves' Like Drapes Either Side. Special mention to a brace of smaller releases from Pale Earth, White Reaper, Barbiturates, Eagulls, Charles Buddy Daaboul and Parquet Courts - 7-10 splits.


Another heady month what with BigSound and all - plus we had three more shows to eat through! We took over Greenslopes Bowls Club so that Velcro could rip the place politely apart, with able support from an in-darkness Hot Palms, the Creases, Dag, Thigh Master and Fred Savage Beasts; Pale Earth took on our third Campfire Tales, with Kahl Monticone and Marisa Allen rounding out the triptych; and the brilliant Yes I'm Leaving finally came to Brisbane, with an incendiary support from Roku Music and a somewhat bemusing one from Thomas Covenant. I published the excellent interview I did with Heinz Riegler too, one of the highlights of my year by far. Favourite LPs of the month came from Yuppies, Joanna Gruesome, Courtney Barnett, Warm Soda (belated, I know), Michael Beach, Wild Moth and Holograms. Notable month for short releases too - EPs from Dolfinz, Expo 70, Cannon, Courtney Barnett and Turnip King were great, as were 7"s from Zig Zags and a split between No Anchor and Dead.


The witching month. Two years' worth of live shows, and to celebrate we put on my favourite gig of the year - The Spinning Rooms, Big Richard Insect and Turnpike completely ruled, whilst "new" band Landing In The Presence Of Enemy Jaguars Advanced were a motorik hiccup that threatened to become the best thing I had ever seen. The Spinning Rooms also released my favourite album of the month in terms of Complicating Things, alongside albums from Primitive Motion (Worlds Floating By), White Poppy (White Poppy), Cuntz (Solid Mates), Amateur Childbirth (Pripyat) and Angie (Turning). I got to see Lightning Bolt, standing directly in front of Brian Chippendale, without earplugs - it's the third time, and I can still hear, so it's a 2013 miracle. I also got to interview him - bliss. I also interviewed Batpiss - bloody hilarious. Neon Windbreaker threatened Pissed Jeans' mantle with their New Sky 7", whilst other 7"s from Angry Seas and Big Richard Insect were in high rotation. Then the month ended with the tragic passing away of Lou Reed, another of music's - nay, life's - true icons. RIP.


Ah, November. Four more live shows - Perfume Garden and These Guy dominated Campfire Tales; Michael Beach killed the Beetle Bar amidst some torrential Brisbane rain, alongside Tape/Off, Tiny Migrants and Soda Eaves; The Ocean Party launched their Split LP alongside Nathan Roche (whose own album was pretty rad), Thigh Master, Dag and Blonde Tongues; and NZ deviants Girls Pissing On Girls Pissing tore the roof off The Waiting Room, with the rascal Orlando Furious, the blipping Blank Realm side Huge Nudes, and the squalling eloquence of Adam Cadell & Tony Irving closing out a mind-melter of a show. Also closing out the year - interviews with Keep On Dancins and Angie (AKA Angie Bermuda of Circle Pit/Straight Arrows/et al), and excellent records from Narrow Lands, Unity Floors, Dollar Bar, Nonagon, Astro Children, Greenhouse and David Evans. 


The year ends as it began - sporadically, with me in the Northern Hemisphere once more. This month has been impressive still - an incendiary show from Cave, a solid performance from Wooden Shjips, and the announcement that Sonic Masala is now also a record label, releasing Gazar Strips' second EP and Roku Music's debut LP on vinyl in the New Year. Favourite albums - Primitive Calculators' The World Is Fucked and James X Boyd's second LP in the year, Super Low. Plus listening to albums I missed, such as the excellent Wolf Eyes and Oneohtrix Point Never releases.

What a year, huh? So what are my favourite things, in a list? Check it out over the next few days as we count down to the death of 2013, bringing in a new year and all it promises...

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