Saturday, December 24, 2011


The latest issue of Burning Ambulance is out. It features a cover story on New York improvising funk/rock/jazz/hip-hop/other music ensemble Burnt Sugar; interviews with saxophonist Marcus Strickland, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, and Swans founder Michael Gira; a profile of improvising guitarist/composer and former Burnt Sugar member Morgan Craft; a black metal roundtable featuring members of Averse Sefira, Infernal Stronghold, Krallice, Krieg, Lightning Swords of Death, Panopticon, Xibalba, and Yaotl Mictlan; an essay on Cecil Taylor; an essay on the nature of time in music; and a look back at Monte Hellman's movie Two-Lane Blacktop, 40 years later.

As always, the print edition is $10 for a handsome perfect-bound paperback; the ebook version (compatible with Nook and just about every other e-reader on the market) is $5; and the Kindle version is a mere $3.

Why not pick one up today?

Friday, December 23, 2011


I submitted year-end album lists to three places: The Wire, my day job, and the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll. Each had different requirements and different emphases, so each list is slightly different, but they have titles in common. Here they are, with discussion to follow.

I sent The Wire a Top Ten albums list, and a Top Ten reissues list, as follows:

1. Miles Davis Quintet, Live in Europe 1967 (Sony, 3CD/1DVD)
2. Defeatist, Tyranny of Decay (Nerve Altar, LP)
3. JD Allen Trio, Victory! (Sunnyside, CD)
4. Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade, CD)
5. Wormrot, Dirge (Earache, CD)
6. Stacy Dillard, Good and Bad Memories (Criss Cross, CD)
7. Corrupted, Garten der Unbewusstheit (Nostalgia Blackrain, CD)
8. Vader, Welcome to the Morbid Reich (Nuclear Blast, CD)
9. Krisiun, The Great Execution (Century Media, CD)
10. Orthodox, Ba’al (Alone, CD)

1. Bill Dixon, Intents & Purposes (International Phonograph, CD)
2. Julius Hemphill, Dogon A.D. (International Phonograph, CD)
3. Alice Coltrane, Universal Consciousness/Lord of Lords (Impulse!/Verve, CD)
4. David Murray Octets, The Complete Remastered Recordings On Black Saint & Soul Note (CAM London, 5CD Box)
5. Pink Floyd, Ummagumma, Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals (Capitol, CD)
6. Stan Getz, Quintets: The Clef & Norgran Studio Albums (Verve, CD)
7. Wes Montgomery, Movin’: The Complete Verve Recordings (Hip-O Select, 5CD Box)
8. Sonora Ponceña, El Gigante Sureño (Fania, 2CD)
9. Howlin’ Wolf, The Howlin’ Wolf Album (Get On Down, CD)
10. Various Artists, Cartagena! Curro Fuentes & the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72 (Soundway, CD)

Those lists were submitted in early November; if I had it to do over again, I'd dump the Sonora Ponceña compilation and replace it with an Ismael Rivera comp, Maelo, on the same label. But everything else would remain the same.

Here's the list I published on Roadrunner Records' roundup of lists from staff and artists:

1. JD Allen Trio, Victory! (Sunnyside)
2. Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)
3. 2NE1, 2nd Mini Album (YG Entertainment)
4. Defeatist, Tyranny of Decay (Nerve Altar)
5. Vader, Welcome to the Morbid Reich (Nuclear Blast)
6. Girl in a Coma, Exits & All the Rest (Blackheart)
7. capsule, World of Fantasy (Contempode/Yamaha)
8. Corrupted, Garten der Unbewusstheit (Nostalgia Blackrain)
9. Wormrot, Dirge (Earache)
10. Boris, Attention Please (Sargent House)

That one was published in early December. Lots of overlap, but acts I'd discovered in the interim - 2NE1 and capsule - were fit in, and I had to make room for San Antonio-based trio Girl in a Coma, who I didn't think Wire readers would care about, and Boris, who on Attention Please let their female guitarist, Wata, sing and went in a generally J-pop direction.

Finally, here are the top 10 albums and - for the first time ever - top 10 singles lists I submitted to the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll:

1. Amon Amarth, Surtur Rising (Metal Blade)
2. Motörhead, The Wörld is Yours (Motörhead Music)
3. Perfume, JPN (Tokuma Japan)
4. capsule, World of Fantasy (Contemode/Yamaha)
5. Emmure, Speaker of the Dead (Victory)
6. Mastodon, The Hunter (Reprise)
7. Girl in a Coma, Exits & All the Rest (Blackheart)
8. Wormrot, Dirge (Earache)
9. Vader, Welcome to the Morbid Reich (Nuclear Blast)
10. Morbid Angel, Illud Divinum Insanus (Season of Mist)

1. 2NE1, “I Am the Best” (YG Entertainment)
2. Wonder Girls, “Be My Baby” (JYP Entertainment)
3. Brad Paisley, “A Man Don’t Have to Die” (Arista Nashville)
4. Ronnie Dunn, “Cost of Livin’” (Arista Nashville)
5. The Answer, “Rock ’n’ Roll Outlaw” (Albert)
6. Pitbull, “Bon, Bon” (Mr. 305 Inc./Sony Latino)
7. DJ Shadow feat. Afrikan Boy, “I'm Excited” (Verve)
8. Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, “Livin’ in the Jungle” (Lost Highway)
9. Wisin & Yandel, “Zun Zun Rompiendo Caderas” (Machete Music/Universal)
10. Britney Spears, “Till the World Ends” (Jive)

A lot of recurring album titles there, again. If you add up all the albums on my three lists (not including reissues), there's 19 - had I chosen a twentieth, it would have been Trivium's In Waves, but obviously there's a conflict of interest there. For similar reasons, I omitted Machine Head's Unto the Locust and Opeth's Heritage, which otherwise would have gotten honorable-mention status somewhere along the line.

If any pick is gonna stick out from my three lists, it's almost certainly gonna be the Morbid Angel album. (Not enough of my peers even know of Emmure's existence to give me crap for listing their album - but trust me, it's based on pure, raw listener pleasure. Speaker of the Dead is a gloriously boneheaded exercise in knuckle-dragging, chest-thumping hawd-kowah. If you liked Judge's Bringin' It Down, well, this is the 21st Century version. And if you didn't like Bringin' It Down, I don't even know why we're friends.) Here's the thing: I've never been a big Morbid Angel fan. Their early albums don't appeal to me nearly as much as contemporaneous work by Cannibal Corpse, Deicide, Napalm Death, etc., etc. But this new one...the death metal songs were pleasingly assaultive, and the industrial/gabber/Danny-Elfman songs were just weird and catchy enough to be fun. It's a fun album, and if you don't like it, that's probably because you weren't expecting to, and can't quite bring yourself to, crack a smile while listening to Morbid Angel.

That sort of attitude is a perfect encapsulation of my biggest problem with metal this year. Over and over, I found myself running up against a small crew of bloggers and (self-described, despite tons of evidence to the contrary) fans who I choose to call the Border Guards. Permanently two-faced from having to simultaneously keep potential fans outside and musicians inside the fences they built in their heads, when the Border Guards weren’t competing to see who could pile more opprobrium on the one guy who had a (slightly) new thought about uses to which black metal’s sonic tropes, long since hardened into laughable cliché, could be put, they were shrugging off the crimes of a racist murderer and the charges against an accused rapist, because then, it was the music and not the rhetoric around it (or the person making it) that mattered. Never willing to discuss a new album unless they were absolutely sure you hadn’t heard it, you fucking poser, the Border Guards did more this year to ensure metal’s continued irrelevance to the larger cultural discussion than anyone outside the genre ever could.

I like uncool metal—the kind you can headbang to, and sometimes even pump your fist and sing along to. I like guitar solos, and choruses. Arty, dissonant noise/sludge/funeral doom records in their black-on-black sleeves don't interest me. (Corrupted being the lone exception, because that record was just beautiful.) I want metal—hell, I want music, period—that's gonna make me say (even if it's just in my head), "Dude, that was awesome!" I want more awesomeness in 2012.