TOP 5 RECORDS Of 2017
GHOLD – Stoic
I’d been looking forward to hearing this ever since they announced they were recording back in March. I was not disappointed.
Those that are familiar with GHOLD will know this is their first record as a trio with guitarist Ollie joining to bring added texture, noise and psychedelia to the mix.
The single “Ruptured Earth (Head in the Sand)” blew me away and I played it on a loop for several days straight. Obliterating drums, noisy guitars, crushing riffs and amazing group vocals make this one of my favourites of the record.
Seeing them perform this live is an experience in of itself too. I want to see them play Skhul VI (the twelve minute psyched out riff fest jam closer) for a full one hour set.
Helpless – Debt
Label buddies Helpless deliver some of the most intense and diverse metal records of the year. With so much packed into a dense record of sheer ferocity, you will want to give this multiple spins to fully experience every twist, turn and head bang.
An incredible live act too who played several shows with my band Wren this year, as well as playing shows with some band called Nails…
Don’t miss out on this one.
Billy Woods – Known Unknowns
My favourite hip hop record of the year and one of the best artists in the game.
Riddles and cryptic intertwined lyrical nuances with a flow that sounds like someone ranting at you, but in the best way. Accompanied by expertly crafted instrumentals by Blockhead.
You will need to hear these tracks multiple times to really understand them and unlock their deeper meanings.
Billy Woods really is the master of alternative/outsider hip hop in the vein of someone like MF DOOM, but with a distinctive style and feel.
This record also has one of the best socially charged quotes/samples I’ve heard this year:
“You know that protests that are launched in this country, are not launched necessarily against the government. They’re launched in terms of the fact that this country has rarely lived up to it’s advanced publicity. This is supposed to be the land of justice, liberty and equality, and that’s what everybody over here is looking for”
The Body & Full of Hell – Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light
They are back with some seriously noisy, glitchy, abstract, aggressive, expansive, gnarly shit. I love it.
Even better that there is a definite hip hop, electronic influence and Brian Chippendale (of Lightning Bolt & Black Pus) appears on this record.
Their previous/debut record made my top five last year and I find myself loving this for similar reasons, but even more as this feels like a real cohesive listening experience.
Go experience this wild ride for yourself.
Pile – A Hairshirt of Purpose
I’ve dug this band for a long time. For their twiddly guitars, super expressive drums and idiosyncratic vocals that bend in and out of melody, tempo and expression.
This is by far their gloomiest and saddest records yet, with some glimmering moments of hope shining through.
So many beautiful and emotive moments, give it a spin.
Yowie – Synchromysticism
Quelle Chris – Being you is great, I wish I could be you more often
Chelsea Wolfe – Hiss Spun
Show Me The Body – Corpus
Primitive Man – Caustic
Emptyset – Borders
Barrows : Obsidion
Barrows have been one of my favourite bands for a while now. Obsidion marks their 3rd release and it’s their most impressive to date; mixing space rock, kraut-rhythms, minimal drones and shameless prog-diversions, the album rarely stops moving in different directions and the musical twists will keep you on the edge of your seat until its conclusion.
Boris : Dear
I absolutely love Boris but even I was growing weary of their recent offerings. Musical diversity is nothing to moan about, but their true power lies in their ability to flatten everything within 100 miles and with Dear, they do just that. The album is a densely layered washed out nightmare, full of crushing riffs, killer solo’s and haunting vocals.
Bell Witch : Mirror Reaper
What can be said that hasn’t already. If ever an album wore it’s heart on it’s sleeve, it’s Mirror Reaper.
This is funeral doom at its most melancholic and ambitious. A beautiful, gut-wrenching masterpiece.
Oxbow : The Thin Black Duke
Perhaps I’m being biased? I’m willing to take that risk and there’s no better argument against the accusation than the record itself, because it’s killer. You could never accuse Oxbow of predictability but even for the hardcore, The Thin Black Duke was a shock to the system, showcasing a band unafraid to stretch its arms far beyond the confines of its own sound.
Elder : Reflections of a Floating World
A band I struggled to fully understand in the past and this was an album I was willing to write off on release…. how foolish I was.
Reflections… is just a great rock record. It’s bold and ambitious in its songwriting, presenting long-form tracks that take in everything from stoner metal, to psych, post-rock, krautrock and prog without ever feeling forced.
Endless Floods – II
Memnon Sa – Lemurian Dawn
Sannhet – So Numb
Low Flying Hawks – Genkaku
Drunk in Hell – Drunk in Hell
Space Witch – Arcanum
Amenra – Mass VI
Monarch – Never Forever
1. Merkabah – Million Miles
2. Ex Eye – Ex Eye
3. BNNT – Multiverse
4. Innerwoud / Treha Sektori split
5. Gnod – Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine
These are at least the records that I’ve listened to the most this year, it’s always hard to nail down a top five.
GHOLD – Stoic
The most jawdropping release of the year for me, a culmination of everything this band have achieved over the years. Trudgey noise rock spliced with fraught heavy psychedelia, with cavernous vocal harmonies bellowing from deep within. A terrifying listen, filled with more surprises than any other this year for me.
Yowie – Synchromysticism
What an album. The perfect blend of frantic intensely complex math rock and bouncey, danceable rhythms and grooves. A tremendous achievement from three very busy people (including a full-time chef and a clinical psychologist).
samarobryn – Beringbooding
I was surprised myself when looking over what I’d been listening to most this year, but this sound art album from Australian soloist samarobryn has been on my playlists every week since its release in June. Real name Cissi Tsang, she created this spacious masterpiece from a combination of field recordings, histograms from a photo converted into frequencies, guitar, vocals and percussion. I discovered this from a sound art label called Dog Park Records, also based in Australia.
Dodecahedron – Kwintessens
I don’t know very much about black metal, but when my friend Kelvin played this band from his hometown Tilburg, it immediately hit all the right spots for me. Really jarring and brutal in parts, I find the whole album to be really dramatic but also really soothing, as it draws on a lot of influences from genres I’m more familiar with. I think it’s masterfully composed and well worth buying.
Britney – Welcome To Britney (Your Gateway To Pleasure)
I love these nuts from Scotland. Everything about this band is right up my street, their videos are ridiculous, their whole sound and aesthetic is pure nonsensical, yet strangely familiar, joy. This is technically a single, but it’s the thing I’ve listened to most over the year above everything else. The download also includes three bizarre keyboard and percussive versions of the tune. I’ve sneaked this into DJ sets all over London and I’m going to do it again.
Thumpermonkey – Electricity
Dystopian Future Movies – Time
Casual Nun – Psychometric Testing By…
Space Witch – Arcanum
Jarboe & Father Murphy
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – The Kid
Amenra – Mass VI
Common Eider, King Eider – Shrines For The Unwanted, Respite For The Cast Aside
TOP 5 LIVE GIGS OF 2017
Roadburn 2017 – Tilburg, Netherlands
This is one of the best festivals in the world, bringing together so many eclectic acts of the heavy persuasion, with a focus on many of the artists taking risks and trying new experiments for a live audience.
My favourites of the festival were Amenra, dalek, Sumac, GNOD, Zu & Emma Ruth Rundle to name but a few.
Yowie/MNHM/VASA – The Brewhouse, London Fields
One of Chaos Theory’s best of the year, out of an incredible year of shows.
I have always wanted to see Yowie when I introduced Kunal to them on the Chaos Theory Radio Show and then nudged him when I noticed they were booking a European tour. I never expected for this to actually happen… all credit to him for making this happen.
There’s a story or two that shows how logistically complex and difficult this show was to pull off for us but it happened. Kunal and all three bands are legends.
Big Lad/GHOLD/Torpor/Shrykull/Human Leather – The Unicorn, Camden
Not just GHOLD, not just Big Lad but also Torpor. The Unicorn (RIP) booked some of London’s finest and then made the event free? What a night.
Field Day 2017 – Victoria Park, Bethnal Green
Aphex Twin, Death Grips, Run the Jewels, Flying Lotus, King Gizzard, Thee Oh Sees, Slowdive… could you ask for more?
Well you could ask that all the best bands don’t clash with each other, but with a one day festival with this much goodness, it was bound to happen.
Pile – Corsica Studios, Elephant and Castle
I’ve been wanting to see these guys for years and of the back of their amazing new album, it finally happened.
They capture the essence of the record and take it to a new level live. The quirks, nuances and feel are amplified to new levels. I need to see them again.
Supersonic Festival – Birmingham
Bad Guys – Final Show – The Moth Club, Hackney
Wormrot – The Underworld, Camden
Smash it Out All Dayer – The Windmill, Brixton
Desertfest – Camden
1. Yowie – The Brewhouse, London Fields
See above for live vid.
2. Gnod – Roadburn Festival, Tilburg, The Netherlands
3. Zu – Roadburn Festival, Tilburg, The Netherlands
4. Oathbreaker – Scala, Kings Cross
5. Metalogue – St Pancras Old Church, Kings Cross
Mouse On The Keys/Mutiny On The Bounty/Strobes – Rich Mix, Shoreditch
This was such a fun night, a full house at a venue I’ve never seen any math rock in, and three world-class bands, amazing sound, lighting and personally, one of the biggest gigs I’ve ever been involved with. It was a landmark moment for Chaos Theory, but one we all would have been at and equally excited about even if we’d had nothing to do with the organisation of it. These bands stood out with their own sounds, but tied the whole night together as a treat for anyone who can appreciate music at any level. I have to give a special thanks to Small Pond for bringing the tour to us, none of this would have happened without their good work.
Roadburn Festival – Tilburg, The Netherlands
The fifth time I’ve been in seven years and it’s consistently the best festival I’ve been to anywhere in the world in my entire life. This year was jam-packed with wall-to-wall highlights, making it hard to pick out any favourites, which is a testament to Walter Hoeijmakers’ and team’s curation. However, this is where I discovered Kuro and their sets here were convincing enough for me to ask them to join Helen Money and A-Sun Amissa on stage at our gig at The Victoria in September. Gnod did a four-day residency with totally different sets each day, which exposed me to the sheer genius and diversity of this project. However, particularly special musical moments this year for me were provided by Gnod, Subrosa, Ortega with Gnaw Their Tongues, Oathbreaker, Amenra, Zu, Kuro, Zaum, Casual Nun, Aluk Todolo, Bear, Oxbow, Sumac, Sink, MNHM, Inter Arma, Telepathy and Gong.
A-Sun Amissa – The Black Heart, Camden & The Victoria, Dalston
I’m cheating here, but having seen two incarnations of this band twice this year, I was amazed at how much they grabbed me and sunk their hooks into me both times. Being stood in front of this project while they’re on stage is a powerful experience for me. With a varying lineup and semi-improvisational approach, it’s great that no two performances are ever exactly the same, even though you will recognise the initial pieces of music from their albums that they’re working with. For some reason, their sound, buildup, the force behind such ambience, the deliberation of placement of space and notes, the varied instrumentation, it has always resonated with me more than most. I believe that the members are going to focus more on their heavier project Shield Patterns next year, but I hope that I’ll be able to see A-Sun Amissa on stage at some point again.
Jambinai & Jo Quail – Islington Academy, Angel
A phenomenal, truly orginal band, who seem to have fallen into the math rock scene over here, but are so much more. Creating unpredictable, complex but engaging music on mainly traditional Korean and Japanese instruments, there is very little not to love about this band. If you want an exciting, dynamic and stimulating live experience, look no further. To add to this, Jo Quail was opening for them with her usual solo cello antics. For the first time in eight years of watching her, Jo actually managed to snap the C-string on her cello. After a brief attempt to change it, she gave up on that and performed a fully improvised set on the remaining three. It was awesome.
Oathbreaker – The Underworld, Camden
A band that consistently makes me feeeeeeeeel. Having seen these guys a few times now, I can hand-on-heart say that they will deliver a thunderpunch of emotions in any setting. No wonder they share members with Amenra, the only other equally consistent band I’ve ever seen.
Field Day – Flying Lotus, Death Grips, Kaitlyn
I don’t recommend Field Day to anyone who actually likes going to gigs and festivals, as this one’s all about getting the bougie hipsters to engage with new music a bit more, which is fair enough. That said, they always do have some banging acts on. For me, I discovered Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, whose composition and production is nothing short of lavish. I also got to see Flying Lotus perform his newest set, which was pristine. It’s the first time I managed to see him live in about seven years and he’s as good as ever. And of course, Death Grips. Yes. Abrasive and glorious. For me it was worth it alone just for those three.
Bong/Necro Deathmort/11 Paranoias/Ghold/Bodies On Everest at Kamio
DarkHer at The Lexington
Yowie/MNHM/Vasa at The Brewhouse
MoRkObOt/Big Lad/Warren Schoenbright at The Black Heart
Thor & Friends at The Lexington
Telepathy/ZAUM/Wren at The Black Heart