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FAVOURITE ALBUMS OF 2018

DS albums 2018

Another year done and dusted in the world of music and as always there were some exceptional records released. These lists always do our head in so this time around we’ve shaken things up a bit. Instead of just doing a ranked top 50 list we’ve narrowed down our top ten and then listed the 40 other albums that we highly rate and recommend you checking out if you haven’t heard them. As always, we’d love to hear what your favourite records of the year.

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Top Ten

1. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
“A record that shakes off any restrictive genre shackles, shakes shimmies and grooves with garage rock, baggy dance and an enviable level of cool.”

2. Suicide Swans – La Jungla
Suicide Swans are seemingly a band on a mission. The dust has barely settled on the release cycle for their excellent Augusta album of last year and they’re already releasing it’s followup – the sprawling, psych, rock and cosmic country double album that is La Jungla.”

3. Marlon Williams – Make Way For Love
“‘Make Way For Love’ is a heavy album at times but it leaves you with a feeling of stepping out of the darkness and into the light, optimism replacing despair and with the desire to explore the mysteries of love still tantalisingly intact.”

4. Halfway – Rain Lover
“Halfway are a modern treasure on the Australian musical landscape, always cutting to the heart and soul of their music with each record they produce. On ‘Rain Lover’ they’ve topped even their own lofty standards.”

5. Low Double – Negative
“‘Double Negative’ is bold and powerful music, fusing the avant-garde and traditional song with both friction and harmony. It’s unnerving, visceral and wholly compelling.”

6. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs
“Effortless and endless melodies that are both melancholic and enervating at the same time. A songwriting collective in perfect unison and right on top of their game”

7. Cash Savage & The Last Drinks – Good Citizens
“‘Good Citizens’ is a bold and astute album that thrives on its balance and range. It pulls on heartstrings as effectively as it raises questions and it thrillingly blends musicality with Savage’s emotionally and intellectually-based commentary.”

8. Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death In Meatspace
“Tropical Fuck Storm are a glorious detour into deconstructed rock music, reflective of societal malaise and unafraid to tell it like it is. Qualities desperately needed in the current musical climate.”

9. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
“Soulful, funky, tripped-out pan-global grooves that hit you in the head and the hips”

10. Nils Frahm – All Melody
“The result of disciplined, studied genius, a wildly creative mind and open musical borders. This is ambient electronic music for the headphones and the heart.”

11-50 unranked, in alphabetical order:

Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels + Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
Choir Boy – Passive With Desire
Colter Wall – Songs Of The Plains
Damien Jurado – The Horizon Just Laughed
Eleanor Friedberger – Rebound
Darren Cross – Peacer
Davey Craddock – One Punch
Avantdale Bowling Club – Avantdale Bowling Club
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How You Really Feel
Earthless – Black Heaven
East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Teddywaddy
Field Music – Open Here
GAS – Rausch
Gouge Away – Burnt Sugar
Harmony – Double Negative
Harmony Rockets – Lachesis / Clotho / Atropos
Jack Ladder – Blue Poles
Jamie Hutchings – Bedsit
John Prine – Tree Of Forgiveness
Kurt Vile – Bottle It In
Kyle Craft – Full Circle Nightmare
Moaning – Moaning
Okkervil River – In The Rainbow Rain
Phosphorescent – C’est La Vie
Richmond Fontaine – Don’t Skip Out On Me
Roadhouses – Roadhouses
Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It
Ry Cooder – The Prodigal Son
Ryley Walker – Deafman Glance
Sarah Blasko – Depth Of Field
Space Afrika – Somewhere Decent To Live
Stuart A. Staples – Arrhythmia
The Breeders – All Nerve
The Caretaker Everywhere at the end of time – Stage 4 & 5
The Goon Sax – We’re Not Talking
The Messthetics – The Messthetics
The Necks – Body
Windhand – Eternal Return
Wooden Shjips – V

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INTERVIEW: Nils Frahm

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photo by Alexander Schneider

WHEN MUSIC & ELECTRICITY COLLIDE

The last decade has seen a rise in the popularity of modern classical music and its influence on other genres, particularly electronic music. One of the leading lights in the scene is German composer Nils Frahm and in a revealing conversation with Chris Familton he discusses his musical beginnings, his future and the constant flux of his live shows.

It’s 1:30am on an autumn morning in Berlin and Nils Frahm is ensconced in Saal 3, his studio in the iconic, Funkhaus, a 1950s building that previously housed world-class recording facilities and was home to GDR state radio. “I’m always a professional, always working when I’m not sleeping,” he laughs. “I like the night, it’s perfect for musicians. It’s quiet and inspiring. I’ve been in the studio for four hours and I’ve already unlearned how to speak and so it is civilising to talk a little bit.”

It’s been a big year for Frahm, with a heavy touring schedule on the back of his acclaimed All Melody album, He’s about to return to Australia for the first time in four years but don’t expect to immediately recognise songs from the album when he plays them on stage. “All the songs have changed already. I can’t go back to where I started them,” he says, with a note of satisfaction in his voice. “I deconstruct the compositions all the time and build them in a different way. I feel like the songs are ongoing compositions and when the task is to play them again, no-one could ask me to play them the same every time. I need to destroy what I did yesterday and redo it today. It needs to be a little bit different each time,” Frahm emphasises.

A hallmark of Frahm’s music is his ability to seamlessly blend electronic and acoustic instruments and still retain an organic, tactile and emotionally resonant quality in his work. “It doesn’t matter how something is played, just listen to the music,” Frahm responds, before tracing his fascination with both musical worlds back to the lounge room of his childhood home. “For me it was a natural connection to electronic music because it was always connected to my father’s hi-fi system. It was highly electronic so that connection between music and electricity was always there for me and wasn’t a separate thing. I was aware that a piano didn’t have a plug and other things did, but I thought a vinyl record player was as exciting as a piano. I liked anything that played music to my ears and made me feel amazing,” says Frahm.

“I was always curious about music and I like when I don’t really know how something is made. It can be made by an orchestra, it can be made by a synthesiser or even an algorithm. If it sounds good to my ears, and it all comes out of speakers in the end, I don’t worry. Here in my studio I’m looking at my patch bay and cables one to eight are all microphones and nine to 16 are all synthesisers. They are all the same cables. Even the acoustic piano goes through the same cable as my synthesiser and they come out of the same speakers,” explains Frahm, surveying the array of keyboards, pianos and synthesisers around him.

The conversation leads to where Frahm first had a strong emotional response to music. Not just hearing it as background music on the radio or in the endless hours of practising scales in piano lessons. “There were some songs that amazed me. ECM released John Surman, the saxophone player who played along to synthesisers and loops. It was something that burnt into my heart,” he recalls passionately. “I was crying to that song when I was a kid, and it had no lyrics or anything. It was just a harmonic motif and the timbre of the synthesiser, together with the saxophone. A truly amazing combination of a real instrument and something alien that I couldn’t understand. I heard many good examples of tasteful blends of those two worlds, even before I recorded anything, so I was very confident that it could be done and I was standing on the shoulders of heroes.”

Frahm still has All Melody tour dates stretching into 2019, but what then? He recently released Encores 1 – additional music from the same album sessions, and he hints at but doesn’t confirm that there will be more in that series. For Frahm it seems like his future is something of a mystery at the moment. “I don’t tend to plan too far ahead. I just want to survive next year and then in 2020 who knows what I’m feeling like doing then. It’s a crazy time in life and I’m meeting a lot of people around me who talk about inspiration and what they want to do in life. I hope by 2020 I’ll be smarter and can imagine something a little wiser than what I’m doing now – being the pop icon who is traveling around the world with tons of equipment and lots of people and playing these silly festivals around each corner.” 

It’s a revealing and remarkably candid insight into the decisions an artist has to make – the form, timing and responsibility of presenting their art. “I’m totally open for all of this to end, to be honest. I don’t want to be the person who just stops and takes something away from people. I can’t say I’m excited to just finish a tour in two years and then do the next album and then do a huge tour. I don’t know how many years we can go on like this. It’s really crazy man. I’m not dark about the future, I’m excited… but I’m absolutely puzzled.” says Frahm, before returning to the solitude of the early hours, the empty Funkhaus hallways and the cables and synths of his studio.

ALBUM REVIEW: Grand Salvo | Slay Me in My Sleep

by Chris Familton

On 2009’s Soil Creatures, Melbourne singer-songwriter Paddy Mann (aka Grand Salvo) impressively blended poetry, folk and classical music into a delicate work about life’s intricacies. Three years and a short-lived relocation to Berlin later, and he’s returned with his finest work to date.

Slay Me in My Sleep is an ambitious concept album about an old lady and a young boy who breaks into her house and falls in love with a photo of her as a child. Themes of love, memory and the passage of time abound and Mann has cleverly woven the storyline into the long descriptive song titles that lead the listener into the album’s narrative (‘Two cups sit on the table, the kettle is on and the bread is toasting. As the sky lightens she falls for a third time’ is one of many wordy examples). Musically, Slay Me in My Sleep is rich and ornate. These are songs in the traditional sense yet they feel linear in form by often eschewing repeated choruses. A multitude of instruments – recorders, piano, horns and celeste – only add to the album’s organic feel.

Delicately crafted, and with a depth of emotion and beauty, Slay Me in My Sleep is surely one of the most unique albums to come out of Australia this year.

Slay Me in My Sleep is out now on Preservation

this review was first published on Drum Media