Monthly Spins

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Joe Surdna  |  Apr 03, 2018
I guess I could say this every month but there’s so much amazing stuff to share with you that it’s a little overwhelming. Many of these albums I’ve listened to several, even a dozen times already and can easily imagine them making the best of the 2018 list and it’s only April. A lot of intense and dark, mainly instrumental sounds with some rather light touches as well. Enjoy!
Joe Surdna  |  Mar 01, 2018
If you ask me “What sort of music do you like?” I’m faced with one of those ineffable conundrums that would come with a long pause before I answered, a sharp intake of breath, perhaps an aversion from your direct gaze--what we have here in this simple question is not an affirmation of taste per se but a moral equivalency toward “taste.” “What sort of music don’t you like?” might be the better question. Why do I feel physically ill whenever I hear a live bootleg of a Grateful Dead concert, or come away traumatized when subjected to most modern country? Why do I generally feel a sense of emptiness when I hear most classical jazz made in the last 35 years? Or, why do I go through long periods of wanting Chopin etudes and nothing else? Why does 95% of music described as “ambient” make me feel irritated and so thankful when I finally hit pause? And why does 95% of Vaporwave or Shoegaze so rarely move me? Ditto with what is called Folk or most variations of Metal? What is it about the 5% that transcends this mystery of banality and somehow manages to move me to recognize it as something unique and worthy of repeated listens? The easy answer is that I like all forms of music, but it has to move me in some way, actually alter my brainwaves--to elicit a response wherein I give back a part of myself, or open up a part of myself I never knew existed, that absolute sense of joy at recognizing that something wholly new has been born into the world, or that someone has taken a traditional form and somehow made it all their own. As Elvis said on The Sun Sessions: “Let’s get real, real gone.”
Joe Surdna  |  Feb 01, 2018
Luigi Russolo and his "Noise Machine" that he invented for his futurist symphonies

There seems to be a lull in January for new album releases after the exhausting and generally baffling Best Albums of 2017 lists and end of year wrap-ups that on occasion offer some real gems. Some stuff that came in late in November and December and a few January releases on the list. It's all downhill from here as we gain 30 minutes of daylight each month and the bitter cold will soon be a memory. Here's to Spring coming early. Some fine standout albums on this month's list. Enjoy and please leave comments if you like anything.

Joe Surdna  |  Jan 02, 2018
By its very nature this first list of 2018 is all 2017 releases and some I specifically left off the Best of 2017 list so that I would be sure and have some delicious offerings left over, not to mention the avalanche of stuff gleaned from The Quietus and Bandcamp lists.
Joe Surdna  |  Dec 18, 2017
What a year. We again have so many remarkable artists putting out such astounding work. There’s nothing that gives me more pleasure than sharing excellent tunes and man is there a lot to account for in 2017. As regular readers might know, I do not follow a strict policy of reviewing albums only of the moment. There is so much great music being published on a yearly basis that it’s hard to keep up with it and there is nothing more thrilling than discovering some real gem that you missed from a few years back because no one except a few obscure sites reviewed it so some are not from 2017. Way more than half come from 2017 releases. Those albums getting longer reviews are ones I have not already covered in the monthly column.
Joe Surdna  |  Dec 01, 2017
And I thought the big news this month was just going to be the release of some fine music and then the ECM going all in on digital downloads info dropped on November 17th. I don't even know where to begin to open that extraordinary can of worms so I'll just stick with what we've put together for December and leave the elephant to stumble around the room. I don't mean to be coy or ambiguous because it's a good and great thing that this immense catalog of music will be available in HIFI versions. I think that I easily listened to 80 albums this month, which was about 30 more than last month. And just so you know why you're getting this normal monthly column and not the yearly Best of 2017 wrap up is because it's in the works. I'm going to be busy in the next couple of weeks (with a hernia operation for one thing) but spending until mid to late December scanning everyone else's lists because I always, always discover a couple of gems (if not a dozen) parsing through Best of 2017 lists. Last year I think that I put three things on my year end list just from Henry Rollins' KCRW list. So, enjoy. There's some beautiful, invigorating and memorable stuff on this list and I'll be back with The Best of 2017 in two weeks.
Joe Surdna  |  Nov 14, 2017
What exactly is a ghost record? It’s a recording that remains elusive and has perhaps taken on an outsized place in your archivist’s brain. It’s the lost record that you’ve forgotten the name of and, perhaps searched for over the years to no avail. This is not any ordinary album that can be easily searched for on Google, cross-referenced and or found with easy emails and answers from forum posts. I think every music lover has a ghost record in their life and memory, a record that they heard once at someone’s house, maybe when they were stoned, or once owned but then lost in a basement flood or gave away, an album they can still hear in their head but somehow it’s slipped through the cracks and gone down the wormhole of memory.
Joe Surdna  |  Nov 01, 2017
What an extraordinary month October has been for the release and discovery of great new music. I had to make a new section entitled Honorable Mentions in order to include all the music that deserved to be reviewed. Not that any records on the 2nd tier list are of any less quality than those given longer reviews. Rather than review an artist (see St. Vincent) that every single other site has posted about I prefer to highlight less well known but quite worthy artists that may get short shift when the heavyweights are getting all the ink.
Joe Surdna  |  Oct 17, 2017
Are you dreaming when you listen? Is there a concomitant reflection of inherent desire manifesting itself within yourself when you go into this system of sound that you have meticulously created, or recreated? Perhaps, as Francois Bonnet suggests in his densely considered book The Order of Sounds there is a predilection when listening to accede to a form of conscious hallucination? What you are looking for is what you hear? A conjuring takes place on an antediluvian, reptilian part of your brain that simultaneously searches for and places music into a predetermined organization? The idea here was to navigate the supposedly passive act of listening and to consider how and when that began for me. When did music crawl out of its realm of being simply aural wallpaper and become something tactile and palpable in my life? Well, it happened when I was 11 and I remember exactly how I felt at the time.
Joe Surdna  |  Sep 13, 2017
Public Enemy: It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988)
File Under: old-school, mind-altering, radical hip-hop
It came caterwauling out the windows of passing Old's 98's, screeching and scratching with abstract samples of James Brown's funk and Coltrane sped up until he sounded like a siren wailing, Slayer's and Anthrax's buzzsaw guitars, with trunk bass booming enough to rattle the windows in my first floor apartment; it's vibe was aggressive, menacing and overtly political as it spread bespoke: passed hand-to-hand on bootleg cassettes, many recorded directly over something else, hitting the streets before it's official release date in June of 1988; it was a revolution that was not televised and, at least in the beginning, took place virtually outside the structure of the mainstream system of distribution of record stores, radio, television and magazines, or MTV, a radical collage of black sounds that was suddenly everywhere at once, a viral social-cultural and political experience spreading its message across the city where most white people like myself only felt it but didn't really get it.
Joe Surdna  |  Sep 01, 2017
It all happened so fast. Summer came and went and now some of the leaves are yellowing and beginning to fall. When I'm in town passing one of the high schools I can here the whistles of the football coaches putting the boys through their drills. It won't be long before it'll be time to wrap this year up and cogitate on what moved me the most in this column. But for the next three months there will be the usual avalanche of ear-worthy releases. Here are a few I discovered in August.
Joe Surdna  |  Aug 03, 2017
The dog days are upon us but there’s no rest here at Audiostream. For August we have quite a line up of eclectic and stunning tunes for you. Some Mississippi blues, minimalist classical, indie rock, ambient techno, ethiopiyawi electronic, feral rock, folkatronic, motorik kraut, hip hop, proto-post rock, experimental, afro-latin-world and perhaps controversially, plunderphonics. So let the sleeping dogs lie, make some cold-brew coffee, fire up the DAC, and get ready for some great music.
Joe Surdna  |  Jul 04, 2017
A lot of ink has been spilled over what is and what is not punk rock. We know what historical punk is: Iggy, Sex Pistols, Wire, Flipper, but do we know what it is now or have we succumbed to the realm of conservative self-parody and stylistic boredom? The Dadaists were the first proto punks. The punk rock I want is a utopian ideal, while the punk I got is more dystopian. How does punk rock make me feel? Generally just annoyed—it’s an aural irritant. It’s rude, crass, dissonant, noisy and usually assumes a guise of nihilism. NY’s Show Me The Body is the closest Americans have come recently as well as this month’s selection North Carolina’s ISS.
Joe Surdna  |  Jun 01, 2017
Last year at this time the cicadas crawled out of the earth and filled our ears with the cacophony of their singing. This is supposed to happen every seventeen years or so but for some reason the sonorous bugs are not staying asleep and dormant as they are supposed to and are back buzzing away again against all scientific facts and logic. Nothing is as it appears anymore, and as welcome as the buzzing might be there is an ominous sense that something is not right on the Ponderosa. Not to worry because we’ve discovered some wonderful new and sort-of-new music that will drown out all that unreal noise and hopefully soothe any sense of foreboding you might have from all the absurdity and buzzing going on.