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Quietus Charts

Apollo's Bounteous Harvest: The Quietus Albums Of The Year 2012
Luke Turner , December 30th, 2012 13:35

Don't let the naysayers drag you down - we are currently living in a great age for music in myriad, fractured forms. Many of them can be found here, in our reductive and subjective list of the Quietus' favourite albums of 2012

As you read, listen to a Spotify playlist of our albums of the year here.

If the apocalyptic Mayans are proved to be correct, this is the final Quietus albums of the year before we all collectively shuffle off into the void. After this, any future civilisation will have to try and pick up what was going on in the final year of humanity's existence via bits of radio transmissions and perhaps the odd pixel splatted over a flying chunk of rock. If one of those clues happened to be from the Quietus HQ in Seven Sisters, what might they surmise? 

For those of you who have joined our parish in 2012, and missed past Quietus polls (this is our fifth - The Bug's London Zoo was the first 'victor' in 2008), these are profoundly undemocratic affairs, decided by what John Doran, Rory Gibb and myself have been listening to in the office at home, and on our perambulations. I can't speak for the others, but for me my personal albums of the year aren't dictated for by what ought to be in there, or for any consideration of expectation of my peers, but simply on what has excited, moved and thrilled me over the past 12 months. Music is subjective - we just take that to its logical extreme, and an attempt to deliberately engineer a more 'balanced' list would merely make it more bland, give us less room to point you in the way of the music that we love. And much as we love pop, we're not going to shoehorn some in when contemporary chart music is doing a decent impersonation of Orwell's boot smashing into a human face for all eternity. This year, we've decided to expand our list from 50 albums to 75 simply because there was so much that we wanted to include - our nerves are frayed and our systems overloaded enough without the prospect of calamitous infighting as to what ought to be dropped off in favour of what else. Frustratingly, I've just remembered two records (Malka Spigel's Everyday Is Like That First Day and Pegasvs' self-titled debut) that I am kicking myself for not including. There will be more.

2012 has certainly seen us with less shared albums than we've ever had before. This is in part to do with us not being in the same place all that much, what with John's work tutoring his infant son in the ways of righteousness and Rory engaging in medical experiments to see if he can absorb humus by osmosis. But divergent tastes are not all the story. Once again, despite the woe-era and the naysayers, and the tedious reprints of "is guitar music dead?" features, this has been yet another fantastic year for music. Every year when we look at our poll we don't pat ourselves on the back with how clever we've been (that's for the naysayers to do inversely when they post below how we must have made the bands up / call us hipsters) but more raise our arms to Apollo and praise him for another bounteous harvest. 

Back to the Mayans. Theirs was, like many highly religious societies, an eschatological approach to history, seeking to define all with a beginning, middle and end. Much is the same with music, the media, and music criticism, with most outlets continuing to chew over the dry old bone of the 60s to diminishing returns, or looking for artists who'll remind them of those glory days, of those of punk, or hip-hop, or, bizarrely, Britpop. To those complaining that music is in a period of terminal cultural decline I say listen to these records below, and come back next year - if you're still around. Music has already undergone a kind of apocalypse, and this fragmentation means there is no longer a dominant cultural narrative, but so what? 

This is a glorious muddle, where artistry, commitment and following odder paths increasingly win out and demand attention - hence Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti's two entries in our top ten, or Scott Walker's Bish Bosch which arguably should be in a category all of its own.  Carter Tutti Void's Transverse, winner of our Jovian Bow Shock non-Mercury Prize, is a record that for something the participants weren't even sure was being recorded (at Mute's Short Circuit Festival) yet has touched a real nerve, entering many end of year list as well as ours. While on the subject of Mute, they've had a great year with CTV, VCMG, Land Observations and Liars all making this list, and surely more to come in our reissues etc poll next week. But they're the prime example of how to run a label in this climate, by doing what you believe in rather than second guessing what the audience might want. It's riskier, but it brings so much greater reward - while handily stopping us from getting bored. Mute aren't the only ones, of course. I think this year we see the most labels ever represented in the poll, less than a one-handed finger count of which are majors - there might be a few frauds lurking in there  - which shows that it's those people operating on a wing and a prayer who are investing in the most forward-thinking new music. 

Now, last week we were amused to be included in Vice's ever entertaining albums of the year countdown, thus: "36. Album that everyone suddenly seems to be talking about like they've been into it for ages, despite the fact that you've never heard anyone other than the Quietus say a damned word about it, and never will again after 31 December." As comparing albums in an end of year poll is essentially as pointless as comparing surgical saws (see above), fantastical beasts (2011), mammals of old (2010), aircraft silhouettes (2009) or Finnish lighthouses (2008) we hope you see this list for what it is - a chance to chuck as much music as possible as possible in your direction. For remember, no matter what those cheeky folk at Vice might say, an LP is for life, not just to be read about on our site until just after Christmas.

2013 is the Quietus fifth anniversary as a website, and it already seems like this time next year we're going to be just as enthusiastic about what's gone before - who knows, Factory Floor might even have finished their record by then. But for now, if the Mayans are wrong and we are all still living breathing mortal humans on December 31st 2012, think of the present, refute the past, and deny the existence of any Golden Age. As music increasingly breaks apart and moves forward by reconfiguring into new forms, thankfully we can at last grind rose-tinted glasses into the stone under our heels. There is no such thing as a golden age, aside from the one you're living in. Here is the soundtrack to it... which can now be listened to as a Spotify playlist here.

75. Man Forever – Pansophical Cataract

"‘Ur Eternity’ features a nastier scratch of electronic noise hovering above the endless roll, like a Biblical plague where stampeding buffalo accompany a swarm of locusts toward your apocalypse. This is not listening for the faint eared: when, at 18:45 it ends with a click of stick on drum rim, the silence of The Void comes as blessed relief." Luke Turner

Read our review of Pansophical Cataract here

74. Six Organs Of Admittance - Ascent

"I think the key energy was just getting back together with a group of friends that hadn't all played music together in quite some time. The fact that we were all in Comets On Fire is sort of secondary to the fact that we have all played music for a long time and toured hard and knew each other pretty well sonically." Ben Chasny

Read our interview with Ben Chasny here

73. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

"His music is mercurial and personal, dancing away from genre and classicism. You can be a cult artist and have a million adherents to whom you are personal, elemental. This is what Leonard Cohen always was." Luke Turner

Read our review of Old Ideas here

72. Carlton Melton - Photos Of Photos

"Think Bardo Pond and the legendary jams they'd hold in a sealed garage with a block of hash cooking on the hibachi, think Funkadelic at their haziest and laziest - a steam bath of noise begging for your immersion." Stevie Chick

Read our review of Photos Of Photos here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

71. Guardian Alien - See The World Given To A One Love Entity

"Guardian Alien is concerned with opening the heart, healing, forgiveness, and visualizing and manifesting a new global compassion ... a single composition with a strong, singular vision." Guardian Alien

70. Goat – World Music

"The very fact that Goat have managed to reference the most readily identifiable audio outposts of 70s counterculture in one record without sounding camp, trite or silly is highly impressive ... The overall effect is seedy, funky, simply life affirming: and if it plays this vital on a drizzly Sunday night, lord knows what it'll sound like outdoors with a belly full of Guinness and shrooms." Harry Sword

Read our review of World Music here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

69. Motorpsycho And Ståle Storløkken – The Death Defying Unicorn

"'Through The Veil', taken from the first disc of this gargantuan double concept album, makes a bold grab for attention: finding Trondheim's Motorpsycho working with a series of classical and jazz musicians, including Supersilent's Ståle Storløkken, it chugs outwards through a majestic, mood-altering sixteen minutes of groove-driven psych rock. Elsewhere things get stranger still, passing through orchestral folk forms, brooding ambience, doomy riff-work and some truly preposterous prog-rock meltdowns. Great album title, too."

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

68. Devilman - Devilman

"How awesome would it be if all the kiddies with brostep slopping out of their car speakers replaced it with Devilman, and watched in amazement as their Volkswagens transformed into giant war mechs bristling with mind-pulping sonic weaponry?" Mat Colegate

Read our review of Devilman here

67. Mark Lanegan – Blues Funeral

"Though Lanegan baulks at the suggestion, he's always been a soul singer in the widest definition of the phrase. His is a voice that tells the tales of horrors and things that should not have been seen, much less done, and has lived to come out of the other side wizened, if not entirely unscarred." Julian Marzsalek

Read our review of Blues Funeral here

66. John Talabot – fIN

"Throughout, Talabot manages to audibly reference his dancefloor roots while avoiding sticking to a clubby music framework. Instead he takes a more impressionistic approach to his experiences as DJ and dancer, detaching melodies from the rhythm section, slowing them and allowing them to blur, seasick, into one another." Rory Gibb

Read our review of fIN here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

65. Bo Ningen – Line The Wall

"What's immediately apparent with this, their second album, is that Bo Ningen have built on the explosive calling card that was their eponymous debut with an almost indecent ease. This isn't to denigrate their efforts; this is a band with a sharp focus and a fertile imagination and one that is able to expand its sonic palette thanks to a greater mastery of their craft." Julian Marszalek

Read our review of Line The Wall here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

64. Sir Richard Bishop – Intermezzo

"On Intermezzo, Bishop leaves behind the Egyptian guitar lines of its Omar Khorshid-inspired predecessor [The Freak Of Araby] for warm six-string explorations in open tunings, folk, sun scorched raga, a bit of backwards tape experimentalism and plenty more besides." Richie Troughton

Read our interview with Sir Richard Bishop here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

63. Tim Burgess - Oh No I Love You

"Where Oh No I Love You is at, in a nutshell, is Lambchop circa their masterpiece, Nixon, but with that record's Mayfield soul stylings and Southern country twang transplanted, for the most part, to a small town English bedroom where a young man dreams of making records imbued with compassion, substance and romance." Wyndham Wallace

Read our review of Oh No I Love You here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

62. Rolo Tomassi – Astraea

"Rolo Tomassi are miles ahead of the game not just because they are constantly trying to break new ground but also because they have entered a nuclear arms race of progressiveness with their own back catalogue." John Doran

Read our review of Astraea here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

61. Angel Haze - Reservation

"On the chorus of 'New York', Angel Haze's signature cut from her recent EP Reservation, she intones "I run New York" over sparse loops and a skeletal beat. Unshakeable boastfulness may be a rapper's stock in trade, but the conviction with which the 21 year-old MC spits the line is borderline vitriolic, and she convinces." Laurie Tuffrey

Read our interview with Angel Haze here

60. New War - New War

"[Melissa Lock's] is the only guitar in the otherwise all-male four-piece, bred on punk and carried along a rhythm section that oscillates somewhere between the lowlife contortions of the Birthday Party and the jackhammer force of Erase Errata." Steph Kretowicz

Read our review of New War here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

59. Killing Joke – MMXII

"This record should silence any remaining doubters. It is as if a giant magnifying glass has been held shakily over the key elements of the band's time honoured sound, teasing them out of the delicious murk." Mick Middles

Read our review of MMXII here

58. Turbonegro - Sexual Harassment

"On 2007's Retox the band bore the distinct air of a party at around 7am, when only the heavyweights and the plain foolhardy are going the distance. Sexual Harassment has hammered back the clock ten hours chez Turbonegro, and the chink of ringpulls is heavy in the air." Jimmy Martin

Read our review of Sexual Harassment here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

57. Beak - >>

"'Yatton' sounds closer to Barrow's vision for the album of "trying to write some groove music". If that sounds like a naff 60s anachronism, don't worry – you'd be quite happy if the propulsive Neu!-isms worked up here were to go on for hours. The motorik rhythms continue on 'Spinning Top', adorned by Barrow's disembodied vocals, before it all dissolves in a satisfying blast of distorted guitars." Joe Clay

Read our review of >> here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

56. Forward Strategy Group - Labour Division

"As is so often the case with the finest British techno, there is a clam–fisted immediacy at play here, a palpable glee that permeates Labour Division." Harry Sword

Read our review of Labour Division here

55. The Pre New – Music For People Who Hate Themselves

"I feel sorry for people who are 30 something now. They had their whole Blur and Oasis thing in the mid 90s and now they've grown up and they're a bit lost really. These 30 somethings will never own houses, they'll never pay off their student loans and they'll never even have the magical musical moments in the same way as the rest of us." Jim Fry

Read our interview with Jim Fry here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

54. Black Breath – Sentenced To Life

"Do you know what? There just aren't enough bands like Black Breath. There aren't enough bands that make albums that are so full of crusty-as-fuck riffage that their sole purpose seems to be to make you want to crack open a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and headbang like a hillbilly in seizures from necking poisoned moonshine – and this is supposed to be their 'difficult second album'!" Toby Cook

Read Toby Cook's Columnus Metallicus here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

53. Burial - Kindred

"Why, when Kindred's opening title track flickers to life and those tiny slivers of human life immediately start to bob and weave in and out of frame, do Burial's productions still elicit such a powerful emotional response, despite operating within such an ostensibly familiar idiom?" Rory Gibb

Read our Kindred review here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

52. Hirsute Pursuit - Tighten That Muscle Ring

"No matter how many double "R"s R&B might like to add to dirty, Hirsute Pursuit's Tighten That Muscle Ring is hands down (stop sniggering at the back there) the most sexy and perverted album of 2012." Luke Turner

Read our review of Tighten That Muscle Ring here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

51. Melody's Echo Chamber - Melody's Echo Chamber

"Melody's Echo Chamber is a glorious album. Its success lies in the balance between Prochet's ability to break out of the (supposed) shackles of her structured classical composition education, while still delivering a suite of songs that are coherent, eminently listenable and blend lightness with dark foreboding." John Freeman

Read our review of Melody's Echo Chamber here

50. Robert Hood - Motor: Nighttime World 3

"The psychogeographical background to Robert Hood's new album is decline and regeneration in Detroit - and musically he rises to such grandiose themes. Motor: Nighttime World 3 is the most fully realised LP of his career, a truly epic journey that flows with beautiful poise. Track titles like 'The Exodos', 'Slow Motion Katrina', 'Drive (The Age Of Automation)' and 'Assembly' speak for themselves. Hood has put together here a triumphant and moving piece of motor city techno soul, boasting otherworldly production values that will have you shaking your head with wonder at its beautifully rendered intricacies." Harry Sword

Read our review of Motor: Nighttime World 3 here

49. Bee Mask - When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

"Of all the neo-kosmische/post-noise explorers whose balmy currents have lapped at our shores over the past few years, Chris Madak is among the few who seem hellbent on mapping out genuinely new territory. Like contemporaries on labels like PAN and Broken20, there's a rhythmic axis that beats - often near imperceptibly - beneath the vast floodplains and wandering paths of his music, ensuring that Bee Mask tracks tend to throb and seethe rather than aimlessly drifting. That kinetic energy also percolates upwards and bubbles out at the music's surface, where everything is in state of harried and erratic motion, like a still body of water shaken by a heavy shower of rain." Rory Gibb

Read our review of When We Were Eating Unripe Pears here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

48. John Foxx & The Maths - The Shape Of Things

"Foxx continues to deliver the best vocal form of his life, sounding like some kind of android with human lungs. Often, they sound like incantations or digital plainsong. The musician as cyborg was of course a popular trope of the synthpop era, but thirty years on Foxx is arguably one of the few artists to pull it off without sounding dated. No retro tour knackers yard for this beast. This vocal style is perfect for his thematic union of the personal and universal, giving a sense of both detachment and experience of unasked for pain." Luke Turner

Read our review of The Shape Of Things here

47. UFOmammut – ORO: Opus Primum/Alter

"There's a classic episode of The Simpsons in which Homer, after having lambasted every single entry in Springfield's annual chili cook-off, samples several of Chief Wiggum's 'Merciless Peppers of Quetzlzacatenango' and, as a result, proceeds to embark upon the most densely cosmic and hallucinatory journey imaginable. After encountering a giant snake, a psychedelic butterfly and accidentally breaking the sun, Homer's trip culminates in a deeply spiritual encounter with a space coyote who leads him to question the very foundations of his own existence. Now, in your minds, if you can replace the image of a space coyote with that of three imposing stoners with long hair and massive beards, you should be left with the visual equivalent to an ungodly slab of psychedelic doom metal that goes by the name of Opus Primum." Jack Pudwell

Read our review of ORO: Opus Primum here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

46. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city

"Even on a surface level, good kid, m.A.A.d city comes across as an ambitious beast: a massively hyped major label album whose tracks frequently exceed the five-minute mark, pockmarked by answering machine messages from Lamar's parents, and whose beats wheel in tone from brash and swaggering to expressive and downright romantic. Indeed, it doesn't simply encourage careful listening - it necessitates it, thanks to the shifting layers of identity and narrative, both personal and societal, that weave their way through his lyrics. There's plenty to appreciate on an immediate level - the flat sub-bass thwacks of 'Backseat Freestyle' make it near-absurdly catchy and compulsively danceable - but each successive listen reveals new idiosyncrasies and flashes of lyrical and compositional intrigue."

45. Vindicatrix – Mengamuk

"Like Scott Walker, David Aird seems inhabited by his music, conveying a visceral physicality that also draws comparisons with the likes of Antony Hegarty and Marc Almond. He shares little of their romanticism however, instead proposing a bleak and unsettling vision, like something out of Tarkovsky's Stalker." Joseph Burnett

Read our review of Mengamuk here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

44. Traxman – Da Mind Of Traxman

"Sumptuous, grand, straight up soulful? This is footwork, Jim, but not as we know it." John Calvert

Read our review of Da Mind Of Traxman here

43. Toy – Toy

""Psychedelic" is too obvious, too restrictive a shorthand to describe Toy. But the term - widely deployed by journalists to date in attempting to sum up the band - is accurate as far as it goes. Almost every track on this debut LP is underpinned by a churning, disorienting fog of processed guitars, buried organ work and echo that testifies to their commitment to sensual derangement, visual as well as aural." Ben Graham

Read our review of Toy here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

42. Hexvessel - No Holier Temple

"I was brought up a Catholic, so I know about organised religion. I've always been interested in the occult and magick. I don't know how much you can say about practising magick, because I think it's something that's very personal and very subjective and I think this album is about that. It's about "When does magick become objective? When does religion become an objective thing? What does it mean to be holy?" It's all connected with nature and how we see ourselves in relation to the world around us." Matthew McNerny

Read our interview with Mat McNerney here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

41. Chromatics - Kill For Love

"'Kill For Love' is about those little pieces of you that die when somebody you love isn't around anymore for whatever reason - death, distance or breaking up. Part of me that they held or that we shared is gone. I kind of keep that away from everybody and then slowly over time you build these walls and become detached. It's kind of like killing yourself. People don't understand that that's what the song is about. It's totally unhealthy and it's not the correct way to be but it's the way a lot of people react. In its own way it's a romantic notion for respect. They're not just catchy hipster lyrics! There's a lot of thought. Kill is a strong word." Johnny Jewel

Read our interview with Johnny Jewel here

40. Oren Ambarchi - Sagittarian Domain

"Using just guitars, a 70s analog synth for bass, and drums (Ambarchi's first instrument), he has forged an exquisitely balanced and powerful sound whose apparent simplicity belies a multi-layered exercise in displacement and resolution." Russell Cuzner

Read our review of Sagittarian Domain here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

39. Dope Body – Natural History

"On paper, the way that they have mangled several seemingly incompatible strains of music together should have consigned Dope Body to the big bin of bad ideas. Now on their fourth album Natural History, they have admittedly toned down their appreciation of frat rock like Red Hot Chili Peppers and RATM, but they still are the only people on the face of the planet combining the unlikely sounds of Killdozer, The Clash, early Mercury Rev, Killing Joke, Green Day, early Butthole Surfers and Jesus Lizard. More importantly, however, it seems like they have pulled off an exquisite balancing act, with the ugly, serrated, angular noise and the arena sized melodic sensibility actually complementing each other harmoniously." John Doran

Read our interview with Dope Body here

38. Daphni – Jiaolong

"Dan Snaith's forays into house music are astute, incisive and not remotely dilettantish - in fact, he seems to understand the skewed mechanics of groove, the beautiful paradox at the heart of the phrase "machine funk", far better than many of his more purist contemporaries. But where Kieran Hebden's recent Pink exploited structures that unfolded glacially, sculpting poised loops and quietly disjointed percussive patterns into a long-form, low-impact epic, Snaith clearly has instant gratification in mind. And as a result, where Hebden's sonic objects can be picked over, luxuriated in, meditated upon as they drift implacably in and out of focus, Snaith's rear up out of the murk like unchained beasts. Pink was danceable, yes, but in a subdued sort of way; Jialong is a full-on, sweat-dripping-off-the-ceiling basement banger of an album." Angus Finlayson

Read our review of Jiaolong here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

37. Richard Skelton - Verse Of Birds

"For this release, the West coast of Ireland has supplied inspiration. Yet aside from a spray wash of cymbal in 'Vearsa Ean', he chooses to lead the mind and imagination rather than proscribe. Although Skelton explores the natural world with his music, he never falls into twee, pastoral evocation. Instead, this is a grapple with the sublime. So the high treble of 'Promontory' brings to mind slopes of scree and sharp rocks, around which a wild sea thrashes itself into foam. 'A Kill' has the feel of a swell rolling in from the Atlantic, still powerful days after the storm." Luke Turner

Read our review of Verse Of Birds here

36. JK Flesh – Posthuman

"Justin Broadrick's vision for Posthuman is a Britain of 'alleys and shadows and cut-throats', and the horror of this is exacerbated by the way that rock's offer of hedonistic release keeps getting rescinded... Ultimately, this is a work possessed of 'windows', but none of them reveal anything uplifting. Such bleakness is Posthuman's triumph." Joe Kennedy

Read our review of Posthuman here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

35. Killer Mike – RAP Music

"Killer Mike has spent the last decade not getting the praise he deserves as an MC, though few would have predicted that his jump into the critical limelight would come via collaboration with El-P. But then, Mike's style and content has never been a snug fit for the big label system, and El-P too has found his career rejuvenated by association with some new faces outside of the Def Jux stable. Before this record's release, the coming together of these two was mooted as an unlikely collaboration, but for a record which can basically be viewed as a love letter to rap music, I’d struggle to think of a more logical pairing." Kyle Ellison

Read our review of RAP Music here

34. Shackleton - Music For The Quiet Hour/Drawbar Organ EPs

"Pockmarked with chimes and the striking of various instruments meant to aid meditation - calls to secular prayer and contemplation - these recordings ripple through the body via sub-bass, forcing physical submission and locking body rhythms directly to the surrounding earth and air. Far from the toxic lure of the church organ, this subtle, very British mysticism feels instead part of a far deeper and longer push to reclaim notions of spirituality back from organised religion, and ground them in earthly, bodily, biological reality." Rory Gibb

Read our review of Music For The Quiet Hour/Drawbar Organ EPs here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

33. Holly Herndon – Movement

"Movement is one of those lovely surprises that makes you think, "Of course that's how music should sound right now". It's a curious one: a trip through intimate electronica, acid-y techno and pure vocal composition, with a duration and musical arc somewhere between an EP and an LP (an MP?). But while Herndon is obviously literate in these forms, her configurations and tones are unique. Above all, you can hear how old distinctions – between the dancefloor and academia, physical and virtual life, public and private space – have deliquesced in recent years. Movement slips between situations without friction." Lee Arizuno

Read our review of Movement here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

32. Raime - Quarter Turns Over A Living Line

"Quarter Turns Over A Living Line is an album imbued with a sickly urgency, a slow journey inwards. Imagine awakening after fitful slumber at the last Tube stop, only to find yourself in a long abandoned station, the fetid winds of the hardcore continuum passing you by, leaving only palpable threat and lonely unease. Raime are past masters of sombre carnage, and this here is their moment." Harry Sword

Read our review of Quarter Turns Over A Living Line here

31. Thomas Köner - Novaya Zemlya

"Where Köner really excels here is in his imbuing of an ostensibly detached sound palette - consisting of field recordings, electronic interference and soft drones heard as if over great distance - with great emotional resonance, without resorting to tired cliche or obvious melodic manipulation. In this case, given the violence wreaked upon it, it's enough for him to simply describe the landscape and its inhabitants in the meticulous manner of a geographer or surveyor. There's nothing paranormal or psychogeographical about the sensations Novaya Zemlya stirs up: simply by placing the listener in the landscape it offers a searing critique of our species' casual disregard for the wellbeing of ourselves and our planet, and a reminder that when the damage is already this extensive, melodrama and hyperbole pale in comparison to harsh reality." Rory Gibb

Read our review of Novaya Zemlya here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

30. Fairhorns - Doki Doki Run

"When my cousin was babysitting me, he put on Metallica, and at the age of six I'd never heard anything quite like that. I just thought, fuck me, this is amazing! I didn't even know music could sound like this. I was so excited by this feeling of… this what the fuck feeling, but also this big joy that I felt in it, that I just thought, well I know I like music anyway, but I've got to seek more of this stuff out. And I've been doing that ever since." Matt Loveridge

Read our interview with Fairhorns' Matt Loveridge here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

29. Alexander Tucker – Third Mouth

"Third Mouth is an inward journey. It's not, as some have suggested, a folk album; it belongs to no tradition, and the lyrical references to place and nature are mostly imaginary and symbolic. The only landscape the songs reflect is that of the mind - a mind - and the only community a community of one. If it evokes a sense of mythology, then it's strictly personal, rooted in Tucker's own memories, associations and dreams." Ben Graham

Read our review of Third Mouth here

28. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

"Now, the sluggish sludge of [its predecessors] has been housed within a newfound cleansed and gleaming superstructure. Luxury Problems' sustained plods and delayed pulses are all the more reined in and restrained, its underwater asphyxiation colder, and calculated to a higher decimal place. Though it's still a used Benz, sonically speaking - ornament nicked, in need of a lick of paint, incapable of being properly scrubbed down - it's nonetheless resplendent, and growling meaner than hell." Ryan Alexander Diduck

Read our interview with Andy Stott here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

27. High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

"As well as boasting even crustier production courtesy of Kurt Ballou, there's a slightly chaotic urgency that hasn't been there before, and if the likes of 'Fertile Green', 'Madness Of An Architect' and the brutally compelling 'Romulus And Remus' don't move you, then fuck off home with a copy of Billy Joel's 'Innocent Man' because you're not as metal as you think you are. This is easily the best metal album of the year... so far!" Toby Cook

Read our review of De Vermis Mysteriis here

26. Emptyset – Medium

"Emptyset relocated to Woodchester Mansion, an unfinished Victorian Gothic building in the Cotswolds, and set up a soundsystem and microphone arrays throughout the house. As they pushed frequencies through the body of the house, the final recording captured an imprint of the building itself as it responded to the sound and shaped it. The mansion is a looming presence: sub-bass shudders through the walls and rumbles along dark corridors, and higher frequencies rattle staircases and ping-pong from surface to surface. Minimalist to the point of near-silence at times, it's a richly textured and subtle counterpart to the jarring assault of Collapsed, and a record that demands to be listened to closely and at high volume - either on headphones or speakers, the better to shake the foundations of your own environment." Rory Gibb

Read our interview with Emptyset here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

25. Necessary – Galgeberg/Gimle

"I think the genres covered are basically everything that we're interested in, which would include hip-hop, dub, goth, world music, drum & bass, ambient techno and industrial. I guess I should invent a catch-all term like Post-Dictatorial Troll-Hop, but I hope to still be making music in a year." Tony Wilson

Read our interview with Tony Wilson here

To download a free copy of Galgeberg/Gimle click here

24. Eccentronic Research Council ft. Maxine Peake – 1612 Underture

"Witches, with their cunning ways, were often thought capable of transforming their appearance to disguise their true nature themselves, so perhaps it's apt that this album is not at all what it seems. On first glance, the cover art of 1612 Underture, the preponderance of vintage synths – patched to sound as if they're being played by men in white lab coats - and the subject matter (the Pendle Witch Trials) all point towards one thing: hauntology. But this excellent record on Manchester's Bird label isn't some generic late adopter's attempt to take on the Moon Wiring Club, rather a genuinely unhinged, unique and deliciously weird pop album. (The name of the band kind of gives the game away really. Eccentronic? Oh do behave.)" John Doran

Read our review of 1612 Underture here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

23. Gravenhurst – The Ghost In Daylight

"We really should be thankful that we have people like Talbot still plugging away, honing their peculiar craft with artistic and moral compass still intact. Even if this may at times make them feel like one of the musicians on the deck of the Titanic solemnly performing 'Nearer My God To Thee', knee deep in icy water." John Doran

Read our review of The Ghost In Daylight here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

22. Silent Servant - Negative Fascination

"Above all, Mendez paints in a deformed urban palette, with the noises of industry and reiterative motion, electrical hum, jackhammers and pile-drivers and vehicles backing up, flirting with mechanical tones and temporalities: i.e. the beat stops when the train's gone past, or when construction is done; it doesn't really give a damn whether or not you work in the morning." Ryan Alexander Diduck

Read our review of Negative Fascination here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

21. White Hills – Frying On This Rock

"Where most bands struggle to come to terms with living in the real world following an intense bout of touring, White Hills simply head back into the studio to harness the power they've been generating over a concentrated period of time. Of course, there's a danger to such a tactic. A dearth of ideas could simply lead to noise for the sake of it, or the worst kind of noodly jamming that would undoubtedly create a black hole as they disappeared up their own arseholes. Rest easy, heads – planets may be destroyed in White Hills' sonic wake, but it won't be down to them sucking." Julian Marszalek

Read our review of Frying On This Rock here

20. Darren Hayman & The Long Parliament - The Violence

"The whole album is a lament, a tragedy taking place in 'impossible times', and to Hayman there are no real winners - excellent liner notes are included giving each song historical context, the last thing they note is that 'nobody went to heaven, or hell. They just died.' It's heartbreaking stuff, but Hayman's touch is astonishingly light - these are wonderful pop songs, each a compacted treasure of melody and heart." Marc Burrows

Read our review of The Violence here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

19. Actress – R.I.P

"If Splazsh and 2008 debut Hazyville were macro-level explorations of Detroit electro and techno and UK-rooted dance music, R.I.P. is more like electron microscopy. Here he's delved so deep between the beats that they're often difficult to discern clearly." Rory Gibb

Read our review of R.I.P here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

18. Sun Araw, M. Geddes Gengras & The Congos - Icon Give Thank

"Well, their [Sun Araw and M. Gedes Gengras] style is a kind of new style but I love it. It's creative. But the Congos are adaptive. We can adapt to any kind of rhythm, you know? The rhythms on them Sun songs and the sonic environment they create… it sounds very interesting!" Ashanti Roy

"Well, to be honest, their music is a new experience and a new vibe for me but music is still the one way. It is universal. If someone introduces you to something new and it's not going to hurt you, go along with it and see how far you can go." Cedric Myton

Read our interview with The Congos here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

17. Lee Gamble - Dutch Tvashar Plumes

"The tracks on Dutch Tvashar Plumes are strange and skeletal things that continually drift in and out of conscious awareness. They latch strongly onto particular rhythms and motifs for a while at a time - sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes mere bars - before the eyes roll into the skull and they dissolve back into a state of pure sensation, blissfully unaware of the physical activity they're still ostensibly engaged in. (We've all been there at least once, let's be honest.) Not for nothing is one of the album's highlights - a skittery rhythm accompanied by paper thin slivers of human voice-alike synth - titled 'Coma Skank'." Rory Gibb

Read our review of Dutch Tvashar Plumes here

16. Neneh Cherry & The Thing – Cherry Thing

"In a weird sort of way the project that ended up happening with The Thing ended up feeling like my ultimate comfort zone. But what's amazing about this project is that it had to be a collaboration to work. They're such power house musicians, we didn't really know what was going to happen when we got together, so it basically just took off." Neneh Cherry

Read our interview with Neneh Cherry here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

15. Liars – WIXIW

"[A] leap of faith and new range of instrumentation and writing techniques has created an album where vocal washes sit on top of skittish electronic beats, such as on opening track 'The Exact Colour Of Doubt'. The resulting sound invites comparisons with Radiohead, with whom the band toured and who similarly attempt to constantly push themselves forward. Yet for whatever reason Radiohead have become so insufferably dour and pompous that, aside from the increasingly anaemic wheedle of Thom Yorke's vocal, they sound joylessly inhuman. Liars, however, can never help but allow that rambunctious humanity shine through." Luke Turner

Read our review of WIXIW here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

14. Jam City - Classical Curves

"Classical Curves. The name puts me in mind of some Ballardian auto-erotic daydream, of polished chrome surfaces and spoilers streamlined for minimal resistance, of human design striving to mimic the efficiency and fluidity of nature, of bodies sliding smoothly across warm leatherette. But where Crash's protagonist was fixated on messy and organic unpredictabilities, Jack Latham's debut album as Jam City deals in hard physics, mathematics and fixed angles." Rory Gibb

Read our review of Classical Curves here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

13. Land Observations - Roman Roads IV - XI

"Kraftwerk's mighty Autobahn looms unavoidably over Roman Roads, but Brooks is comfortable, happy even, in its shadow. Recorded in Berlin, the eight tracks here pay easy homage to their European forebears, but are unmistakably British in their overall sound and feel, nodding melodically to the traditional folk music of these isles, and existing at a slower pace, on a smaller scale, than the cross-continental constructions of Kraftwerk and company." Ben Graham

Read our review of Roman Roads IV - XI here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

12. Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland - Black Is Beautiful

"Blunt and Copeland's work is like hearing rival stereos from adjacent apartments, thumping cars and treble-heavy earbuds, while finding our way within the labyrinthine metropolitan maze. Its erratic rhythmic and harmonic arrangements are akin to the upheaving asphalt that city folk walk on, through diversely inhabited neighbourhoods, over cobblestone streets, between graffitied walls of concrete and brick, around crumbling cloverleaf overpasses and into dead ends, above crooked rooftops, down diagonal fire escapes and spiral staircases, piloting the cleaved strata of competing and contested histories." Ryan Alexander Diduck

Read our review of Black Is Beautiful here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

11. Kassem Mosse & Mix Mup - MM/KM

"The overall impression here is of two producers unafraid to toy with their listeners, especially those used to house music whose beats land with near-metronomic precision. Wendel and Mix Mup are clearly highly skilled at taming the unpredictabilities and more turbulent tendencies of their equipment - much as the prevailing wisdom states that the use of analogue gear makes it easy to get a looser and more 'human' sound, it takes a dab hand to make tracks this abrasive so infectiously groovy." Rory Gibb

Read our review of KM/MM here

10. KTL - V

"V cements KTL as more than just a side-project of two of modern underground music's most celebrated figures, crystallising their vision and expanding it beyond everything that they - and other drone artists operating in the same field - have done before. It retains their sinister stamp, but takes the fear into new realms, like demons breaking out of the ground into muted sunlight." Joseph Burnett

Read our review of V here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

9. Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas

"Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! RIP MY FUCKING HEAD OFF AND USE IT AS A FUCKING KICK BALL, THEN STICK IT IN A FUCKING CANNON AND SHOOT IT INTO FUCKING OUTER FUCKING SPACE!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! MY HEAD WILL HIT AN ASTEROID AND REDIRECT IT TO THE EARTH!!!! RRRRRRRRRRRRR AAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MY FACE AND BRAINS AND FUCKING HAIR WILL MOLD AND MELT INTO THE FUCKING ASTEROID THAT IS NOW SPEEDING TOWARDS THE FUCKING MISERABLE PLANET FAIL FUCKING EARTH AND RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!!Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! SEND THIS FUCKING CD TO ME WITH A WARHEAD ATTACHED TO IT!!! FUCKING DIE!!! Anaal Nathrakh!!! FUCKING RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Anonymous Anaal Nathrakh fan ordering Vanitas over the internet

Read our review of Vanitas here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

8. Laurel Halo – Quarantine

"Mood is determined by topography: when the terrain is rough and craggy, as in many places during the album's second half, her voice responds in kind, varying in confidence or slipping into the background. Its smoother moments - pulsating opener 'Airsick', the hypnagogic vortex of 'Holoday' - have a Music For Airports vibe, evoking fast motion, polished surfaces and transit (appropriate - she's spoken about aeroplanes and recycled air in public spaces as reference points around the album)." Rory Gibb

Read our review of Quarantine here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

7. Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker

"Our message is the feeling in the music: a lot of isolation, a lot of misery, a lot of depression, a lot of anger. A general overtone of negativity. It stems from our personal experiences while writing music, and as a collective when we came together. We're all on the same wavelength, and we put out a release that is conceptually communicating a message of misery, depression, isolation and negativity." Dragged Into Sunlight statement

Read our interview with Dragged Into Sunlight here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

6. Vatican Shadow - Ghosts Of Chechnya

"In the guise of Vatican Shadow Fernow seeks to reunite the listener with the satanic realities of millennial western warfare; to make real the zoetrope of military images and fatality stats rendered unreal over the years; to plot an oozing beeline between our taxes and the bombs that kill children in desert nations." John Calvert

Read The Calvert Report on Vatican Shadow here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

5. VCMG - SSSS

"A reminder, if one were needed, that there is there no more gruesome a combination of three words in the language than 'funky uplifting house,' SSSS is both joyous and gothic – a Black Celebration, if you will. Nope, couldn't quite resist that." David Peschek

Read our review of SSSS here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

4. X-TG - Desertshore/The Final Report

"Desertshore is a monument to Peter Christopherson and Nico alike. In a way, the fact that this isn't coming out under the Throbbing Gristle moniker makes this even more pure. TG were an idea, not a mere band or group. By fulfilling their dear friend's wishes, on Desertshore Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti have paid him a glorious, beautiful tribute that, like Nico's original album, celebrates the glowing eddies of sex and life and death." Luke Turner

Read our review of Desertshore here

3. Carter Tutti Void - Transverse

"The four ten minute long pieces that were performed at the small space at the Roundhouse Theatre – known simply as 'V1' – 'V4' – were written and practiced at Carter and Tutti’s converted schoolhouse home/studio in Norfolk and then performed live on the night with all three members using electronics and Tutti and Void playing guitars. (Void also provided vocals that she manipulated with effects.) The way the trio faced the audience under minimal, unchanging white lights, heads down over tables of equipment was not combative but at the same time it didn’t even pay lip service to notions of showmanship or stagecraft. Yet had this tiny space been stage managed by Industrial Light & Magic the intensity of the performance could not have been any greater. (In fact, more to the point, the intensity would probably have been lessened.)" John Doran

Read our review of Transverse here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

2. Scott Walker - Bish Bosch

"Walker's achievement since Climate of Hunter has been less to do with a wholesale rejection of the past in favour of establishing a late style than with using music to locate, and arguably produce, increasingly complex forms of affect. Like its immediate predecessors, Bish Bosch retains a focus on feeling, even if the sensations it sketches aren't processed enough to resemble anything on the conventional palette of emotions. Although the songs are highly-wrought and palpably inorganic – these hints of disciplined conception and manufacture are a good thing, by the way – there's nothing distant or technocratic about the album. In fact, Walker's immersion in the turmoil of what he makes is powerful enough to make this a record which asserts a claim over the complete attention of the listener. It's a claim made so frequently as to sound banal, but in this instance there really is no chance of using the music as background listening. Bish Bosch demands, and rewards, time and deliberation." Joe Kennedy

Read our review of Bish Bosch here

1. Swans - The Seer

"Unlike countless of their younger noisenik peers, Swans know how to carve their jams into fluid, delicate birdseye shapes, so that even the most free-form moments on The Seer have a sense of context and place that rules out accusations of amorphousness. (Amongst other things, this is unified concept album of the highest order – though what that concept is remains shrouded in ambient smoke). Even better, the variety of registers on the album creates the powerful impression that this is a collective of people having delirious, exuberant fun as they hammer out their eclectic gothic experiments, hopping across genres and tones with drone acting as a suturing lingua franca." Alex Niven

Read our review of The Seer here

Click here to listen to and buy this album on eMusic

  1. Swans - The Seer

  2. Scott Walker - Bish Bosch

  3. Carter Tutti Void – Transverse

  4. XTG - Desertshore/The Final Report

  5. VCMG – SSSS

  6. Vatican Shadow - Ghosts Of Chechynya

  7. Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker

  8. Laurel Halo – Quarantine

  9. Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas

  10. KTL - V

  11. Kassem Mosse & Mix Mup - MM/KM

  12. Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland - Black Is Beautiful

  13. Land Observations - Roman Roads

  14. Jam City - Classical Curves

  15. Liars – WIXIW

  16. Neneh Cherry & The Thing – Cherry Thing

  17. Lee Gamble - Dutch Tvashar Plumes

  18. Sun Araw & The Congos - Icon Give Thank

  19. Actress – RIP

  20. Darren Hayman & The Long Parliament - The Violence

  21. White Hills – Frying On This Rock

  22. Silent Servant - Negative Fascination

  23. Gravenhurst – The Ghost In Daylight

  24. Eccentronic Research Council ft Maxine Peake – 1612 Underture

  25. Necessary – Galgeberg/Gimle

  26. Emptyset – Medium

  27. High On Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

  28. Andy Stott - Luxury Problems

  29. Alex Tucker – Third Mouth

  30. Fairhorns - Doki Doki Run

  31. Thomas Koner - Novaya Zemlya

  32. Raime - Quarter Turns Over A Living Line

  33. Holly Herndon – Movement

  34. Shackleton - Music For The Quiet Hour/Drawbar Organ EPs

  35. Killer Mike – RAP Music

  36. JK Flesh – Post Human

  37. Richard Skelton - Verse Of Birds

  38. Daphni – Jiaolong

  39. Dope Body – Natural History

  40. Oren Ambarchi - Sagittarian Domain

  41. Chromatics - Kill For Love

  42. Hexvessel - No Holier Vessel

  43. Toy – Toy

  44. Traxman – Da Mind Of Traxman

  45. Vindicatrix – Mengamuk

  46. Kendrick Lamaar – good kid m.A.A.d city

  47. UFOmammut – ORO Opus Primum/Alter

  48. John Foxx & The Maths - The Shape Of Things To Come

  49. Bee Mask - When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

  50. Robert Hood - Motor City: Nighttime World 3

  51. Melody's Echo Chamber - Melody's Echo Chamber

  52. Hirsute Pursuit - Tighten That Muscle Ring

  53. Burial - Kindred

  54. Black Breath – Sentenced To Life

  55. The Pre New – Music For People Who Hate Themselves

  56. Forward Strategy Group - Labour Division

  57. Beak - >>

  58. Turbonegro - Sexual Harassment

  59. Killing Joke – MMXII

  60. New War - New War

  61. Angel Haze - Reservation

  62. Rolo Tomassi – Astraea

  63. Tim Burgess - Oh No I Love You

  64. Sir Richard Bishop – Intermezzo

  65. Bo Ningen – Line The Wall

  66. John Talabot – fIN

  67. Mark Lannegan – Blues Funeral

  68. Devilman - Devilman

  69. Motorpsycho And Ståle Storløkken – The Death Defying Unicorn

  70. Goat – World Music

  71. Guardian Alien - See The World Given To A One Love Entity

  72. Carlton Melton - Photos Of Photos

  73. Leonard Cohen – Old Ideas

  74. Six Organs Of Admittance - Ascent

  75. Man Forever – Pansophical Cataract

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