Alibi V.19 No.52 • Dec 30-Jan 5, 2010 

Year in Review: Music

Drones, Dub, Kraut, Harp

Best releases of 2010 for weirdos and malcontents

Mad genius Whitman arms his modular synths with razor-sharp spurs and lets them fight each other to the death. Result: a tapestry of colliding sine waves beautiful in their autonomous complexity. This originally-cassette-only objet d’art is now available via iTunes.

Daniel Lopatin’s fourth release as OPN reveals the same chameleon-like emulation of the historical ambient/electronic pantheon, this time referencing more Frippertronics and less Rainbow in Curved Air-isms. The first track is there to wake you up, the rest to lull you back to sleep.

Sun Araw On Patrol (Not Not Fun, 2010)

Magic Lanterns guitarist Cameron Stallones releases blown-out, lo-fi, spaced-out dub as the mighty Sun Araw. If this sprawling double album of paranoid soundscapes fails to weird you out, you don’t have it turned up loud enough. As the title suggests, marvelous, blunted cruising music.

While all but 1/25,000 of Albuquerque residents missed the Expo ’70 show a few weeks ago, the other 24,999/25,000 can still make good by checking out this (again, double-slab) release of kosmische-style drone. Justin Wright and collaborator Matt Hill create four distinct atmospheres in four distinct side-long tracks.

This Krautrock compilation manages to yield a fresh perspective on the earth-shatteringly awesome German psychedelic music scene spawned in the ’70s. The usual suspects are well-represented—e.g., Can, Faust, Neu! and Tangerine Dream—but the genius of this release is in its healthy sampling of less canonical bands (Between, Kollektiv, Gila) as well as its stretching of the definition of Krautrock well into the early ’80s to include tracks by E.M.A.K. and Conrad Schnitzler. Highly recommended.

After her proggy and ambitious second album, Joanna Newsom returns with an even more epic release (a triple LP with more than two hours of music) that can easily fill up an entire afternoon. The arrangements are jazzier, looser and more accessible than the previous record, and while there are some killer songs (e.g., the complex and expressive title track, which brings tears to my eyes), the very hugeness of the album makes it a landscape to explore rather than a playlist to skip around in. So take the afternoon off.

Honorable Mention

High WolfShangri L.A. (Not Not Fun)

Pantha du PrinceBlack Noise (Rough Trade)

Lee “Scratch” Perry • Sound System Scratch—Lee Perry's Dub Plate Mixes 1973 to 1979 (Pressure Sounds)

Charanjit Singh • Ten Ragas To a Disco Beat (Bombay Connection)

Various Artists • Cloud Cuckooland: 20 Garish Quills Plucked From The Plumage Of Krautrock’s Lesser Spotted Flock (B-Music)