Graham Duff by Xavier Itter
We’re thrilled to present this ‘year end’ guest post from Graham Duff. Graham is the creator of Ideal, the cult hit dark comedy that ran for seven series on BBC Three. He is a well-known music fanatic and personally selected Ideal‘s eclectic soundtrack. Seen in a small role in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films as a “Death Eater,” he recently co-wrote the BBC sitcom Hebburn with comedian Jason Cook. In 1992, Duff’s one-man stage show “Burroughs,” based on the life of William S. Burroughs won him a Brighton Festival award.1. X-TG: ‘Desertshore’/’The Final Report’
When industrial music pioneers Throbbing Gristle reformed in 2004, it was never going to be just a case of regurgitating their back catalogue. Their ‘comeback’ albums Part Two: The Endless Not and the largely instrumental Third Mind Movements proved that TG were still ahead of the pack. But perhaps one of their most intriguing and unprecedented ideas was to rework Nico’s highly regarded 1970 album Desertshore in their own image.
However, in October 2010, bassist, violinist and vocalist Genesis P. Orridge quit the group at the start of series of European dates, leaving Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti – now operating as a reinvigorated trio under the name X-TG – to complete both the tour and the Desertshore project. Then, only a month later, Christopherson suddenly passed away. Tutti and Carter elected to continue with the album, incorporating both Sleazy’s initial recordings and an impressive array of guest vocalists.
Antony Hegerty, Marc Almond, Blixa Bargeld, visionary film director Gasper Noé and porn star turned actress and singer Sasha Grey all lend their vocal talents to this stunning collection. Hegerty’s unique voice is supremely suited to X-TG’s grand and spectral reimagining of “Janitor of Lunacy,” Marc Almond delivers a perfectly judged performance of “The Falconer,” one of Nico’s most beautiful songs. But it is Tutti herself, whose vocals - neutral yet achingly human - best capture Nico’s spirit. If her performance on “All That Is My Own,” with its opening squalls of guitar noise and pulsating electronic rhythm, is restrained and plaintive, then her interpretation of “My Only Child” is frankly heartbreaking.
With its stately packaging, sleeve notes and funereal aesthetic, this is clearly a commemoration of Christopherson’s life and work, as much as it’s a celebration of Nico’s legacy. Meanwhile, on The Final Report, what should have been a new beginning turns into a full stop. This is the music Christopherson was working on with Tutti and Carter after P.Orridge had fled. Highlights include the insistent brutalist throb of “In Accord” and the brief but detailed “Um Dum Dom” which pitches a heavily treated Christopherson spoken vocal into a chiming tick tock rhythm.
Either one of these releases could easily lay claim to being album of the year. But as a double album they are frankly unbeatable. No one could have predicted the story of one of modern music’s most innovative and influential groups would end like this. But then of course very little about TG was ever predictable. 2. PORCELAIN RAFT: ‘Strange Weekend’
3. JESCA HOOP: ‘The House That Jack Built’
Italian born, London based Mauro Remiddi delivers a flawless album of dreamy hauntological bedroom pop. Porcelain Raft’s debut is alive with subtle but insistent earworms. Remiddi’s vocals frequently sound genderless and on the fuzzy glide of “Unless You Speak From your Heart” or the gentle buzzing synth bubblebath of “Drifting In And Out,” Porcelain Raft come across like a more bleary and ragged Saint Etienne. There are some beautiful and subtle arrangements and the mood is often blissful. But there are moments of woozy self doubt and unease, which prevent this from descending into being just another postcoital soundtrack. In fact, there’s a real artfulness in the way Remiddi mixes gorgeous lulling melodies, with minute glitches and submerged dissonance.
4. CARTER TUTTI VOID: ‘Transverse’
Whilst recent releases have seen Hoop focussing on a more stripped back acoustic feel, The House That Jack Built sees an artist embracing the sonic possibilities of the studio. And it’s probably her most satisfying album thus far. Her ability to craft singular and unpredictable melodies remains undiminished and her world view is still pleasingly off kilter, yet the mood is often effortlessly uplifting. Neither overly polished nor overtly lo-fi, the album boasts some intricately structured arrangements which still retain some rough edges. Lyrically Hoop has always been keen to mix self examination with a wider range of topics than most, and the self-explanatory “Ode To Banksy” aside, these songs see her at her most enigmatic.
5. JAH WOBBLE & JULIE CAMPBELL: ‘Psychic Life’
As if completing and delivering the X-TG double header wasn’t enough, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti also released this understated masterpiece earlier in the year. A collaboration with kindred spirit Nik Colk Void - guitarist and vocalist with the exceptionally fine post-industrial outfit Factory Floor – this set was recorded at the London’s Roundhouse for the 2011 Mute Records festival. Carter’s unmistakable churning rhythms provide the pulsing bedrock for Tutti and Void to explore the textural and percussive possibilities of their electric guitars. A largely instrumental excursion, this is a deeply entrancing album which not only easily sits amongst Carter Tutti’s strongest work, but also harks back to the majesty of Heathen Earth era Throbbing Gristle.
6. MIRRORING: ‘Foreign Body’
Bass man Wobble is a genuine maverick spirit. Sadly, much of his output over the last decade has tended towards a thoughtfully produced but strangely anonymous world music lite. Even the much longed for reunion with early Clash guitarist and former PIL sidekick Keith Levene only produced a patchy and frequently uninspired album and EP. It would seem that Wobble was saving up his best tunes and ideas for this far superior collaboration. Manchester’s Julie Campbell (aka Lone Lady) also seems to have been inspired by the project, as all her vocal lines here show a strength and grace which is sometimes lacking in her solo work. Levene makes a couple of guest appearances, most noticeably on “Phantasms Rise…” With its perfect balance of groove and dissonance, it’s a song which could have sat very easily on PIL’s Metal Box. But this is an album of light and shade and there’s even a hint of Supernature era Goldfrapp about the disco throb and sensual moan of album stand-out “Feel.”
7. LAUREL HALO: ‘Quarantine’
This quiet, foggy, unassuming debut from a duo comprising Liz Harris of Grouper and Jesy Forentino of Tiny Vipers is way more than the sum of its parts. An expansive album (6 songs in 40 minutes), Foreign Body occasionally brings to mind Brian Eno and Robert Fripp’s early minimalist experiments on No Pussyfooting and Evening Star. Whilst its shimmering elegaic vocal lines suggest a female fronted Sigor Ros. This is definitely an album of one mood, and, with its gentle, contemplative drones, delicate ethereal guitar washes and half buried melodies this feels like modern devotional music. “Silent From Above” is as close as Mirroring get to a conventional song structure, but even here, a simple vocal and folk guitar figure is eventually submerged in spectral echoes and blissed out atmospherics. The perfect early morning record.
8. SCOTT WALKER: ‘BISH BOSCH’
One of the exciting things about Brooklyn based Laurel Halo is the way her music engages with the emotional, the physical and the intellectual aspects of sound. Previous releases under her King Felix alias have buried her vocals in the depths of the mix, but here they burst into the foreground. And it was clearly the right move. Her vocal lines are anything but route one and several melodies have a nicely warped feel. The range of structural approaches is deeply impressive too. “Carcass” has a minimal euro-techno pulse, where “Years” would not sound out of place on the Philip Glass opera Einstein on the Beach. Halo also understands the power of brevity. Where many electronic artists like to stretch out, she keeps things lean and concise. The music frequently floats free into beatless space where synths create great melodic clouds of sound, but it’s her dextrously programmed rhythmic flourishes which underpin the album.
Dissonant, histrionic, morbid and claustrophobic are all words you will hear applied to this collection. Admittedly, these are all apposite descriptions of the most difficult album on this list, however, it’s also one of the year’s most rewarding listens. Scott’s increasingly oblique but vivid lyrics would appear to focus on geopolitical struggles and abuse of human rights. Meanwhile, his dynamic and genuinely experimental musical compositions are, at times, truly frightening. The most easily digested track is “Epizootics!” which manages to blend beat poetics, a lopsided percussive shuffle and loud, near celebratory horn fanfares. This is undeniably a very dark album, but there’s also humour and wit here. Witness lines such as “Nothing clears a room like removing a brain” or “I’d like to forget you just the way you are.” Scott’s journey from 60’s hit parade heart throb to modern day avant garde soundsmith is a fascinating tale which has been told many times. But the story shouldn’t overshadow the man’s actual artistic achievements. After all, how many artists could be said to be producing music which genuinely sounds completely unlike anything else?
Read the rest of the list after the jump…