Super selections, and wonderful words, from the ever erudite Adam Turner, of the brilliant Bagging Area blog.
Rob asked me if I’d like to put together an end of year list / article. Obviously I said yes. List making is all part of the December experience, as much part of the run up to Christmas as advent calendars, queues and boozy works dos. I’ve also written one for Bagging Area, so in order to make them different I decided to tilt this one towards the Ban Ban Ton Ton aesthetic, the dance / electronic and – dare I say it – Balearic end of things. So, let the list making commence…
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
2022 had a wealth of albums that stuck around near my listening devices – Daniel Avery’s Ultra Truth, Andy Bell’s Flicker, Decius Vol. 1, Rheinzand’s Atlantis Atlantis, Boxheater Jackson’s We Are One, Gabe Gurnsey’s Diablo, Pearls Of the Baltic Sea by Jazxing and Tableau by The Orielles among them – but the one that hit me the deepest this year and that still rewards repeated plays later is A Mountain of One’s Stars Planet Dust Me. Deep, sun-baked Balearic / dance pop / yacht rock, a cosmic existential fever dream with melody and groove, analogue synths, acoustic guitars, warm wide bass and sumptuous production. From the first notes of Custard’s Last Stand to the final ones of Soft Landing, the album is coated in a dazzling kaleidoscopic energy.
SINGLE OF THE YEAR
I’m not even sure what constitutes a single anymore – does it have to be released physically? Does it have to have a B-side? Is a song released on its own still a single? Maybe it’s not important – the bottom line is always the song, and the song that’s been there all year for me, played daily for much of that time, since its release on Valentine’s Day is It’s Over, If We Run Out Of Love, by David Holmes. From the moment the huge two note synth riff introduction hits it’s a rush of exhilaration and perfect dance-pop. Raven Violet’s cool vocal – ‘I remember back when we were young / They said the people’s day would surely come’- celebrates youth movements from punk to acid house – and all points in between – and the love and devotion they inspire. The remixes were on point too, with Hardway Bros, Working Men’s Club, Lovefingers & Heidi, and Darren Emerson all delivering the goods.
Over at his Unloved project, David struck gold again. The single / song, Turn Of The Screw – again with vocals from Raven Violet – was a highlight and also came with some very good remixes, Erol Alkan’s being the pick of the bunch. It really hit the spot at the Golden Lion, in Todmorden, when David DJed there in October.
If all that weren’t enough Holmes put out an actual, physical, 7” single on Hoga Nord, the krauty instrumental of No One Is Smarter Than History, and the noisy Joy Division-esque thrum of Clouds Of Resistance. There was a limited edition “Fail We May Sail We Must” sew on patch included too – just in case you needed reminding that Andrew Weatherall is never very far away from proceedings.
E.P. OF THE YEAR
There were many E.P.s that soundtracked this year – Matt Gunn’s Disko Drohne, Anatolian Weapon’s Selected Acid Tracks, Jezebell’s Jezebellerica Volume 1, and Rude Audio’s Big Heat have all stood out – but the vinyl release of four Andy Bell covers in November pulled together as Untitled Film Stills on 10” just edges it. Andy’s embracing of ambient, synths, folk, “cosmic dance pop” and whatever else crossed his path, found their way into his recent records – both under his own name and as Glok – and these four covers are signposts as well as songs. The four covers – Yoko Ono’s Listen, the Snow Is Falling, Pentangle’s Light Flight, The Kink’s The Way Love Used To Be, and especially the forlorn, small hours, broken beauty of Arthur Russell’s Our Last Night Together – are both well chosen and beautifully played, the songs clearly seeping into Andy and his music.
His four track remixes E.P. was right up there too, not least with Richard Norris’ remix of Something Like Love and – him again – David Holmes’ remix of The Sky Without You.
REMIX OF THE YEAR
There are countless contenders for this one but I keep going back to the stunning Balearic reworking of The Summerisle Six’s This Is Something by Rico Conning. The Summerisle Six are a Sean Johnston / Hardway Bros offshoot, at least partly inspired by Todmorden’s legendary portal / pub The Golden Lion. This Is Something is a terrific record – driving indie dance with folk and dub influences. Rico Conning’s remix is ten minutes of drawn out bliss, deep bass, pattering pads, whispered vocals and a massive sax solo halfway through, that sounds like the exact moment the sun dips into the sea. Rico was in Torch Song with William Orbit so has considerable form with this kind of thing.
MIX OF THE YEAR
Jesse Fahnestock’s Higher Love 059: 10:40 Promo Mix
Timed to celebrate the launch of Jesse’s Kissed Again E.P. on Brighton’s Higher Love, his mix for the Balearic Ultras starts with Margo Timmins and the instantly recognisable sound of the space of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto as she sings, ever- so- softly, Lou Reed’s Sweet Jane over Rich Lane’s slide guitar Balearic sunrise track Coyote. After that it’s an hour of quality chug, with Matt Gunn’s drohnes, several unreleased 10: 40 tracks, the lysergic squiggle of MAKs and Cosmikuro, a re-edit of some early `90s swampy groove by The Charlatans and a divine segue into Hugh Masakela’s Strawberries. If there was a better way to spend an hour in 2022, it hasn’t appeared yet.
COMPILATION OF THE YEAR
Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs / Fell From The Sun
Four sides of vinyl, fourteen 98bpm chuggers from that golden period of our youth, 1990- 1991, when the sun shone and everything was good. Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs, of Saint Etienne, have pulled together the sound of summer, and a moment in time when music was infused with the sense of possibility, the Soul II Soul drumbeat, technology that opened up doors, and a certain pill.
From the blissed out Shoomer – Sacha Souter – on the sleeve to the songs contained within, every beat, bar, sample and word is where you want it to be. The album opens with Primal Scream and Bobby Gillespie singing about the ecstasy experience on Higher Than The Sun and finishes with Martin Luther King talking about freedom on Moodswings’ Spiritual High. In between it takes in – amongst others – One Dove’s Fallen, Saint Etienne’s deeply spacey Speedwell, The Grid’s Floatation – with said Sacha on vocals, Sheer Taft’s wonderful underground anthem Cascades, The Aloof and Never Get Out Of The Boat, Snappiness, Soul Family Sensation, Transglobal Underground’s Temple Head, and lesser played / known delights from Elsi Curry and Massonix. This is a return ticket straight back to the summer of Spike Island, Italia 90, the Happy Mondays at Glastonbury, wherever you happened to be high at that time…
You can find more quality musical picks and prose from Adam Turner over at his own brilliant blog, The Bagging Area.