Starting with number 333 on our list, and until number 1, all albums have been reviewed! So, let’s start this second phase of our top 2019 of 2019, which will end with number 21, ushering in phase 3 and its ranked top 20! If you’ve somehow missed the previous parts, here are the links.
Part XVIII: 333-221
Montecharge – Demons or Someone Else (Wooaaargh)
Switzerland, as I’ve said many times before, is a hotbed for really good blackened music, and Montecharge is only the latest example of this. Demons or Someone Else is an aggressive blackened hardcore album exploring creative ideas on the genre and its usual tropes. An album that deserves your attention!
Monogamizer – Purgatory’s Hype Men
Monogamizer is a hard-to-define entity. It seems to me that “progressive death metal” carries too much of an Opethian vibe and longform propensity to correctly represent the band’s short and to-the-point compositions that are nonetheless rife with off-time signatures, modulations of all sorts, and unusual song structures on a death metal canvas. “Mathcore”, on the other hand, doesn’t qualify for the opposite reasons. So, imagine something between these two and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what they sound like. But, you know what’s better than that? Actually listening to them.
The Canyon Observer – Urn (Kapa)
“Urn”, the seventeen-minute avant-garde doom metal track presented here, is described as being a bridge between the more traditional material the band previously put out—like their album Nøll—and their future material. If I draw two points, with Nøll and Urn, and extrapolate to a third, I’m expecting some downright bizarre music (which I can’t help but anticipate eagerly). “Urn” is an astonishing, dissonant, apocalyptic masterpiece of what doom metal can be. I seriously cannot wait for further experiments to be unveiled!
Awes – Modern Love
Awes are awesome, Their 2018 demo already drew comparisons to Hella from me, and this one, their actual debut album, only goes further in all the things they were going for. Fans of aggressive math rock—not quite mathcore but close—this is a must!
Shipley Hollow – Infinite Zest
Toronto-based math rock band Shipley Hollow just released an incredible EP of catchy odd-timed songs that follows up from their 2017 Eating the Entertainment and improves on its formula! The title itself is brilliant on its own, but the various tracks on the record, alternating between instrumental and vocal tracks, are great and a lot of fun so don’t miss out on it!
Loplop – Loplop (Gotta Let It Out)
Loplop is a newly founded free improvisation trio from guitarist Jon Lipscomb, bassist Dan Peter Sundland, and drummer Ole Mofjell. Their self-titled debut is outright incredible! They perform hectic, spastic, pugnacious improvisations that never seem to take a break. This is something I crave! It’s an exhausting album to go through, challenging the listener and daring them to keep going, but the reward is intensely gratifying.
Staghorn – Wormwood Ⅲ
Chicago band Staghorn has been a really nice late surprise to me! On Wormwood Ⅲ, the band brings their finest crafts and exposes us their quasi-apocalyptic anti-capitalist concept story in spoken word with accompanied post-metal soundtrack. This is an amazing release, it’s only too short!
Kimura – Kimura
Argentine sludgy mathgrind? Sure! Whatever! Out of all the amazing things happening in their sound, Ismael Pérez’s drumming is the one that hit me the most. It’s intense and varied and creative and I’m just blown away by these snare rim shots, they’re just so nasty! Seriously one of the most bone-breaking releases of the year, and, at over twenty minutes, is quite a long album for the genre. That means you get a lot of chaotic stuff (the best stuff)!
Sasha Berliner – Azalea
New York-based vibraphonist and composer Sasha Berliner just released Azalea. First off, the vibraphone and nonchalant swing might give you a “dark jazz” feel, but the album gleefully explores various genres and headspaces, from the aforementioned soft, moody jazz to the modern, alternative one, there’s plenty to like on Azalea!
Gloss Coma – 002 (Black Mirror)
Jorge Elbrecht is an enigma. After releasing a brilliant progressive blackgaze record earlier this year as Coral Cross, here comes the second album under a different moniker: Gloss Coma. This project deals into astonishing darkwave, cold, industrial, and at times pure nostalgia (hear “Perish” for a prime example of this). Jorge is an incredible musician, eclectic and exploratory, and I’m really glad that his back catalogue gets such high-quality releases!
Silent Fires – Forests (Ambitious Mindful Projects)
Pianist and composer Alessandro Sgobbio just released Forests, a collection of compositions for contemporary classical and electroacoustic quartet, under the name Silent Fires. The inclusion of electroacoustic elements into what is, for the most part, a modern classical record highlights the strength of this technique—which is now a genre by and of itself—and really helps to create different textures, unattainable by the acoustic ensemble. It’s a really surprising and enjoyable record.
The Antistandard – All of Them! (Discordian)
The Antistandard is a Barcelona-based avant-garde jazz quintet conducted by saxophonist El Pricto and his graphic scores. Featuring established members of the contemporary music scene like guitarist Diego Caicedo, The Antistandard is a solid recording of new extreme music.
Ernesto Aurignac Orchestra – Uno (Moskito)
Spain-based Ernesto Aurignac just released Uno, his first recording of compositions for jazz orchestra. I have to say the album as a whole is just brilliant! Each track has that cinematic feeling; not like a movie score, as that would lessen the music, but like a movie in itself. The music is not merely a support for images and emotions, but rather it is their vessel and cradle; it speaks of and for itself.
Teeth – The Curse of Entropy (Translation Loss)
Teeth is a band merging together the unlikely worlds of doom metal, sludge, and grindcore, in a way similar to what Sloth Herder are doing, but in their own distinctive manner. The Curse of Entropy is the band’s sophomore album, the first one on a label, and it shows the band’s level in terms of understanding what makes their sound tick. Each track is purposeful and well-defined, and makes my neck hurt.
Politess – The Sound of Crowdfunding (No Funeral)
Montréal’s noisy mathcore band Politess is back at it again, this time with The Sound of Crowdfunding, their most recent odd-timed destructive EP. Angry and hopeless, it’s a masterpiece of aggression. Be sure to check it out!
The Silas Hedman Ensemble of Arts – Occam’s Razor
Percussionist Silas Hedman‘s work for eleven people ensemble is a project encompassing semi-improvised avant-garde jazz, noise, metal, and free improvisation. The range of genres and sounds that emanate from Occam’s Razor‘s recordings are vast and diversified, and often recontextualize the listener into a completely different setting. It’s an amazing album, brilliant and exploratory.
The Sound that Ends Creation – Music Designed to Give You Ideas… In Case You Should Run Out of Ideas
Texas one-man band The Sound that Ends Creation is back with a new mathgrind opus. Music Designed to Give You Ideas… In Case You Should Run Out of Ideas is a twenty-minute record of atomized riffs thrown in a state of quantum juxtaposition. This doesn’t make physical sense; it’s just a fancy way of saying this is a riff salad, a good one! If you’re looking for something in the sonic vicinity of Second Grade Knife Fight and The Cheeseburger Picnic and such, this is straight up that alley!
Monotrope – Immutable Future (New Atlantis)
I have written about Monotrope in the past; the instrumental progressive rock band has a truly distinct sound, thanks in great part to Edward Ricart’s guitar sound and use of open tunings. Their characteristic approach to composition is further explored on this album, and each track is thus unique and interesting in its own particular manner.
Diploid – Glorify (Art as Catharsis)
Australian experimental grindcore act Diploid is back with yet another hard-hitting subversive manifest: Glorify. The twenty-four minutes of abrasive, noisy, brutal grind is truly something to experience. If you’ve liked the band’s earlier recordings, I don’t see why you wouldn’t this one; if you’re new to their game, check them out and enjoy being crushed into a paste.
A Formal Horse – Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower
The new album from British progressive rock band A Formal Horse delivers. Here Comes a Man from the Council with a Flamethrower brings the band’s writing and execution to new heights and among the greats of modern pop-oriented prog. The album is filled with anthemic melodies and memorable lyrics, and is made up of many (16) absolute bangers. One of the best prog releases of the year!
You Big Ox – An Unkindness of Ravens
You Big Ox is a doomgaze band stemming from the progressive sludge weirdos in National Sunday Law. An Unkindness of Ravens is a brooding, melancholic album that’s beautifully melodic and atmospheric; a true sludgy shoegaze demonstration. The relatively long songs give ample time for the sustained chords to sink in and flood you with all of their weight.
Essen Jazz Orchestra – Road Works (Umland)
Contemporary jazz orchestrae can do truly wonderful things. It’s not the first such thing I write about here, and it surely won’t be the last! This time, German-based Essen Jazz Orchestra just unveiled their massive double album with, as main theme… Road Works! When I say “massive”, the title-bearing composition alone spans three tracks and over thirty minutes! All throughout the record, you’ll enjoy odd time signatures, competing and recurring themes, conflicting rhythms, and a general mastery over the building of mood, intent, and atmosphere. It’s a stellar release!
Trauma Triad – Visceral Defects
I’ve been waiting for this to come out for what seems like ages, now! Trauma Triad is the project of New Jersey multi-instrumentalist Timothy JS, and it’s a quarter-tonal math-infused progressive metal monument! The album comprises five main songs with four interstitial short pieces. While the latter are pretty nicely put together and add a bit of room to breathe between the heavier songs, the actual songs steal the show. I get vibes from all over the place, uSSSy, of course, but also non-microtonal bands like Family and even Down I Go. Timothy really succeeded in pulling different and engrossing scales from this quarter-tone guitar. It’s a stunning debut!
Jardim de flores – Defloraison (Nerve Altar)
Korean grindcore missive Jardim de flores just released their new powerfully violent album. In typical grindcore fashion, it’s only five minutes long, but it’s five minutes of pure abrasion and hatred. It’s short, it’s brutal, and it’s sick.
Eeeeeel – Piano-Polished, the Tranced Machine
Piano-Polished, the Tranced Machine is a Gargantuan tour de force of avant-garde noise rock. Eeeeeel is a trio made up of voice and synths, percussion, and guitar, and the idiosyncrasies of each chosen member of the band converge and merge into an absurdist reconstruction of rock, or music in general. Did I mention that this album is one hour and a half long? Yeah, so grab a snack and a barf bag, sit down, and get thrown into space!
Alex Fischer – Ones that Work
In the vein of Omni Optometrist and longtime favourite Cryptovolans comes Alex Fischer. It seems that the same strange, surreal artistic musings run through these three. On Ones that Work, Alex brings us some of his weirdest compositions in an all-out MIDI assault. The apparent randomness of the written notes clashes with the supposed order of the MIDI sounds into an antithetical catharsis!
The Night Watch – An Embarrassment of Riches
The Night Watch is a Canadian band that I have lauded in the past. It’s, at its core, a progressive rock band with strong folk music influences, which transpire a lot through violinist Evan Runge, but not only. While their previous release was a monolithic thirty-six-minute track, An Embarrassment of Riches features eight comparatively short pieces, but at around ten minutes each, they’re not what we can call “short”. The whole album itself barely fits on a single disc, so there’s a lot to like in there! I’d say this is perhaps the band at its most creative and mature. It comes out in November, watch out for it!
Mula – Matasesos (Sello In-correcto)
Hot off their split with French avant-prog masters Poil, Colombian jazzpunkish post-rockers release Matasesos. The album is an amazing mix of genres, from mathcore to noise rock, to post-rock, and much more. On top of that, they really use the three saxophones at their disposition efficiently to create something rather unique in sound!
Dave Malloy – Octet, a Chamber Choir Musical (Nonesuch)
Composer Dave Malloy wrote an a cappella musical, and it’s amazing. Once again, let me just quote: “inspired by internet comment boards, scientific debates, religious texts, and Sufi poetry, exploring addiction and nihilism within the messy context of 21st century technology.” Now, if that alone doesn’t compel you, let me just say that each song feels like a sketch, a little vignette, a short story; different yet bundled together into a coherent collection. Each one has its own soloist, providing the soliloquies supported by the rest of the choir, and sometimes even engaging a dialogue with it! It’s really fun, at times funny, at times philosophical, at times intimate, and at times just sensational!
Daniel Lippel – Mirrored Spaces (New Focus)
Classical guitar player and composer Daniel Lippel just released Mirrored Spaces via New Focus Recordings, and it’s a massive one, at over two hours long! The album regroups many composers, but the centrepiece is definitely Lippel’s eponymous hexaptych. “Mirrored Spaces” uses a quarter-tone tuning—microtonality is a very present theme throughout the album—and many extended techniques suitable for an avant-garde album such as this one. It’s a highly admirable and respectable double-album.
Sissy Spacek – Crypto-Termination
Sissy Spacek is a noise-grind band with a rather extremely harsh output. Crypto-Termination is their latest release and, although it’s only about eight minutes long, it’s a powerful and cathartic experience. Get ready for abrasive textures, guttural vocals, noise, noise, and noise.
Jon Bafus – Inflammation Superhighway
Jon Bafus, of super-awesome group Gentleman Surfer—which released our best progressive rock album of 2018!—just came out with a solo nineteen-minute piece called “Inflammation Superhighway”. Now, the inception of this track comes from pretty deep and heavy health issues experiences by Jon, which totally sucks, go read the description on Bandcamp to know more. If you can manage to throw in a few bucks in show of support, I urge you to do so, and in return you get an absolutely bombastic track!
Unit Wail – Egarés (Soleil mutant)
French avant-prog band Unit Wail, formerly on label Soleil Zeuhl, is back with Egarés on Zeuhl-adjacent label Soleil mutant. This new album will probably make you think back to prog greats like King Crimson and Magma, but there’s a well-defined modern edge to the band’s sound that isn’t accurately portrayed by mere, vague comparisons. You know what you’ll have to do, right? Get a seat and listen to this for yourself!
Liturgy – HAQQ
Who can really claim to know what Liturgy is about? Mastermind Hunter Hunt-Hendrix seems to have borrowed the art style of his own side-project Kel Valhaal for the newest release of his main band. Whatever it is, it seems to be a glimpse at a vast interconnected network of theosophical concepts brought together into HHH’s own vision of philosophy and spirituality. If that’s not your thing, perhaps the music alone will be. As per usual for Liturgy, we’re presented with what’s best called “experimental black metal”, but for a more precise stylistic description, please do yourself a favour: listen to it and come up with your own descriptors.
Gorilla Mask – Brain Drain (Clean Feed)
Peter Van Huffel’s Gorilla Mask is out with the outstanding sequel to Iron Lung. The concept of the band is “a mishmash of punk, metal, jazz, free improvisation and written avant-garde music”, which sounds like a winning recipe by my standards. Moreover, the group’s focus on rhythm as a musical device really hits a soft spot. Check it out!
Nüshu – Sexe étranger
Montréal mathy noise rock band Nüshu has quickly become one of the most interesting acts going around in the genre. With their new full-length, they definitely solidified this assertion. Sexe étranger is overflowing with incredible multi-layered polyrhythmic riffs giving the whole an odd feeling of groove and funk that is only more alienated by the various effects on nearly all instruments and the stellar playing of both guitars that shroud any certainty under a veil of dissonant chords. You’re going to love it!
Colin Hinton – Simulacra (New Focus)
Colin Hinton has already proved himself to be a spectacular percussionist and composer, but why stop there? Simulacra is his upcoming avant-garde jazz album via New Focus Recordings, which is somewhat surprising considering they usually focus on contemporary and avant-garde classical artists. But far from complaining, I admire this addition to their roster. Simulacra is an awesome collection of works, deeply confusing and labyrinthine. Wholly recommended.
Zeta – Mochima
Venezuelian mathy post-hardcore band Zeta just released Mochima. The band’s sound explores math and noise rock with a strong anchor in post-hardcore and a deep influence of Latin rhythms and music. This must draw comparisons to The Mars Volta regarding the riffs and rhythms, but they end right there. This is no TMV2.0, and it’s perfect this way. Zeta plays its own kind of punkish post-hardcore that must be appreciated on its own. Definitely check them out!
Shades of Scorpius – Dungeon Master
Shades of Scorpius is one of the many facets of Lee Hutzulak, who plays here keyboards and electronics alongside J. P. Carter on trumpet, Giorgio Magnanensi on keyboards and electronics too, and Kenton Loewen on percussion. Dungeon Master is a live-recorded improvised experimental jazz session, and it’s one hell of a ride! The two tracks lay down almost an hour of material that dive in different directions. It’s a brilliant performance, so be sure to give it a shot!
Moana – In the Allure (Mysteria Maxima)
Perth-based Moana is a harsh, psychedelic art rock group with great riffs and an amazing singer to front it all. As you can hear all throughout the album, Moana uses a wide range of vocals to great effect, and they always exist in symbiosis with the rest of the music, so that it exacerbates the intent and emotions delivered. Truly a magnificent album.
Acre – Different Constellation (Aut)
Acre is an improvising electro-acoustic trio—here joined by Ludovica Manzo on vocals—from Italy. Different Constellation is an album that stems from 2017 performances that are just now put to disc. In typical electro-acoustic free improvisation fashion—just like the Ensemble Iléa I mentioned last time—the band merges acoustic timbers with electronic sounds and effects in order to create totally novel sounds, that hopefully have never before been created. Well, I believe this has been achieved here thanks to the outstanding musicianship and creativity of all involved. Hop in and enjoy the sounds!
Shake Stew – Gris Gris (Traumton)
I recently became extremely excited when I read a bit about Austrian band Shake Stew‘s upcoming album. A mix of spiritual and intellectual jazz, a double album, a lineup that consists of two drummers, two bassists, two saxophonists, and a trumpetist (with more secondary instrumentation), influences that range from Gnawa music to modern jazz fusion… It’s just got everything I want! I highly recommend checking out this incredible album; if you just listen to a few moments of any of their songs, I’m sure you’ll find something to love about it.
Mamiffer – The Brilliant Tabernacle (Sige)
The collaboration of ambient artist Faith Coloccia and post-metal guitarist Aaron Turner under the moniker Mamiffer was a recipe for success. The band joins together ambient music, folk, and post-rock into a delicate interwoven fabric, simply beautiful to behold. The Brilliant Tabernacle is one of those albums that are evocative and cathartic through their calmness and candour. It’s a marvellous record!
Kucoshka – Women and Police Everywhere
I’ve been following the strange peregrinations of Atlanta band Kucoshka since their Rad Tantrum album, and their newest one is the epitomization of their endeavours. The almost fifty-minute effort gives plenty of banger riffs and trailblazing moments. Definitely a must for you mathcore addicts.
Black Pantone – Ni d’Eve ni d’Adam
Yet another crazy good jazz fusion project from France, Black Pantone just released an hour-long collection of compositions, which range from classical-influenced to experimental jazz, by way of fusion. Ni d’Eve ni d’Adam is lush and varied, and each track has something to bring for itself. It’s a very nice, little-known album.
Ensemble Improvisation libre électro-acoustique – Post. Variations (Cuchabata)