Best Record of 2014:
Vanessa Rossetto, Whole Stories
On her third release for Kye Records, Vanessa Rossetto has broken through with a fascinating tapestry of interwoven, abstracted field recordings. To name an album of field recordings Whole Stories is certainly a paradox, since the nature of using this fractured technique contradicts the idea that fully formed narratives can be told through this medium. Rossetto, however, turns this idea on its head with a full exploration of the paradox, presenting it in an assuredly self-aware manner. The album is broken up into two pieces, the first of which is called “This is a Recorder” and contains vignettes from a trip to New Orleans spliced together with electronics and violin and ends with a humorous meta-monologue. The found sounds range from the mundane to the personal to present a sound collage that is at times both detached and immersive. The second side of the album is called “Whole Stories,” which mostly follows a conversation between the person recording (presumably Rossetto) and an old woman embedded in the background of what sounds like a casino. At the end, the person recording says to the old woman, “People need to hear whole stories,” and you’ll be left pondering what exactly she means by that in the context of this brilliant, impressionistic record.
Best Track of 2014:
“Drinking Tea and Bloody Marys” by Ignatz & De Stervende Honden
Ignatz has been making left field experimental blues music for about the last 10 years, just under most people’s radar. The Belgian’s music at times sounds like the anguished, ruined blues of mid-period Jandek, but at other moments resembles the campfire folk feel of No Neck Blues Band. In his 2014 release with De Stervende Honden titled Teenage Boys, Ignatz mellows out substantially and adds a cosmic twinkle to his jams. The centerpiece of Teenage Boys is the toe-tapping, blissed-out number “Drinking Tea and Bloody Marys,” a paean to a lazy summer day. The guitar line in the song hits all the right spots, venturing into a territory that you could easily associate with a well-traveled cosmic voyager like Matt Valentine. The whole thing has such a relaxed—maybe stoned is the better word—vibe to it that it comes off as an effortless, carefree psychedelic journey. You’ll wish it was longer than seven minutes, but the rest of the record isn’t bad either.
Best Set of 2014:
Pedestrian Deposit at Ende Tymes Festival
DIY venues all over North Brooklyn are in their death throes as they prepare to be transformed into VICE Magazine offices—it’s a sad story. However, it’s comforting to know that the Ende Tymes festival at the Silent Barn is still thriving in its fourth year, and one can only hope that it will live to see a fifth iteration. The no-frills setting and communal atmosphere of the Silent Barn set the stage for a May weekend full of debauched noise, and one act stood above the rest. L.A.-based harsh noise duo Pedestrian Deposit completely obliterated the packed, sweaty room with an 18-minute set of pulverizing electronics and bondage role play. The power actually went out briefly, about two minutes into their set, just as Shannon Kennedy was wrapping herself in a metal chain and flailing about wildly while Jonathan Borges manipulated his densely layered electronics to a fever pitch. After the initial eruption of noise and frenetic energy, the duo settled in and spent the remainder of the set building sublime orbs of tension and release, with Kennedy on her worse-for-wear cello. After the set, as the crowd emptied out into the courtyard to smoke their cigarettes, the all-too-familiar dazed look had sunk into each person’s face—nobody knew what had just hit them.
Best Reissue of 2014:
The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper
This past summer, North Carolina-based label Paradise of Bachelors reissued the holy trinity of Mike Cooper’s long out-of-print early-’70s output: Trout Steel (1970), Places I Know (1971), and The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (1972). The last of these albums is the most interesting of the trio as it confidently strays from the slightly off-center folk rock of Cooper’s earliest albums towards a sound that equally embraces both convention and playful experimentation. Cooper dabbles in free jazz elements; the song “So Glad (That I Found You)” pushes the 15-minute barrier. Paradise of Bachelors spent two years tracking down the masters for these reissues, and the time was indeed well spent. In the crowded reissue market, novelty is often overvalued—but these are essential records.
CHRISTOPHER NELSON lives and works in Brooklyn.