With 2,175 posts in 16 months, you're bound to miss something. We've gone ahead and gathered some of our favorite tracks from now and yesteryear that didn't get much play, but deserved it.
Hubble: “Nude Ghost”
Ital: “Only For Tonight (Dubout/Saviour’s Love Megamix)”
The Rebel: “Prove It”
After his recent collaborations with Trouble Books and with Julian Gulyas, Mark McGuire announced his next solo album for Editions Mego, Get Lost. Fans of last year's zoned in LP, Living With Yourself, will be treated to the trademark atmospheric guitar loops they know and love, and will also get a little extra guitar synth and vocals to boot. The album's been in the making for over a year, and while Get Lost won't drop until the end of September, McGuire also posted a two-part mix on his blog, which is streaming below. Exquisite summer jams. --Matt Sullivan, Altered Zones
Get Lost comes out September 27th on Editions Mego, and keep your eyes on Mark's McGuire Music Communications
Amazing Births is AZ favorite Mark McGuire and drone king Julian Gulyas’ attempt to spread the good word that bright, gently picked guitar arrangements and micro-modulating synth need not be enemies. Clocking in at 11 minutes, "Eclipsed by the Younger Moon" is a blissful exploration that lends itself to cinematic flights of imagination and transcendental meditation, making your brain waves a little more delta shaped. While the melodic guitars call to mind the gentler work of Reilly or Wong, the synths are flitting between the stereo channels; preoccupied with creating a dynamic context for themselves. Don’t let the dissonant patches, hints of binaural beats, and lack of traditional percussion intimidate you: this could be your smooth AM Gold gateway to drone music. --Luke Carrell, International Tapes
The Younger Moon EP is now available from Cylindrical Habitat Modules
Between Emeralds' Does It Look Like I'm Here and Mark McGuire's Living With Yourself, 2010 was quite a prolific year for the Cleveland trio. But the band have no shortage of tricks up their sleeves, from synth player John Elliot's new Spectrum Spools label to a recent Outer Space tour, and now, a double LP retrospective from guitarist Mark McGuire. Faithful to its name, A Young Person's Guide compiles the best of McGuire's solo material from 2007-2010, handpicked from impossible-to-find cassettes and CD-Rs like Patterns of Development and A Pocket Full of Rain, originally issued in runs as low as 60 copies. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
A Young Person's Guide is out May 10th on Editions Mego. Complete liner notes after the jump.
A lot of great mixtapes are flowing out of the Emeralds camp lately and it's nice to see how much these Cleveland cosmos zoners enjoy a good pop song. On Tuesday, we posted about synth jammer Steve Hauschildt's guest mix for No Conclusion (featuring such baby-making delights as RuPaul's "House of Love" and El DeBarge and Faith Evans' "Lay With You"). And, just hours before the calendar flipped to 2011, we posted guitarist Mark McGuire's killer contribution to the Altered Zones 2010 Mixtravaganza (working title), which you can still download right over here. Well, today, McGuire's followed it up with a Lebron James-fucking 2k11 mix, via our upstanding colleagues at Rose Quartz, which you can grab here:
FUCK LEBRON JAMES
Yarbrough & Peoples: "Don't Waste Your Time"
Kym: "Give Me The Dance"
Dam-Funk: "10 West"
Portrait: "Lovin' U is Ah-ight"
Michael Wilson: "Groove It To Your Body" (instrumental)
One Way: "Can I?"
Roger: "I Want To Be Your Man"
Vaughn Mason & Butch Dayo: "Party on the Corner"
Pineapples feat. Douglas Roop: "Come on Closer"
Mono Band: "Ghost Town"
Advance: "Take Me To The Top"
Mariah Carey: "We Belong Together"
Koto: "Cosmic Connection"
Continuing with our year-end mix series, Mark McGuire's playfully autobiographical Living With Yourself was one of our favorite albums released this year, and continuing with so he sent us a mix of songs that he listened to, DJ'ed, and dug the most in 2010. Not gonna lie, we were expecting to see a bunch of tape rips from guitar noise brethren, or maybe some high brow and cerebral early electronic composers. But instead of trying to blow our minds with tracklist of the most painfully obscure songs to the common man, McGuire packed more punch by submitting an hour and a half of sequenced '80s-'90s Top 40 R&B that's too hot and scandalous for us to list on this website. --Ric Leichtung, Altered Zones
As 2010 draws to an close, Altered Zones brings you its collective year-end recap. Today, we list our favorite albums of the year. Check our list of tracks here, our list of videos there, and don't forget to stay tuned through the holiday break for daily year-end mixtapes from our favorite artists.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today [4AD]
When attempting to blurb Ariel Pink's ambitious masterpiece Before Today for my own year-end list, it occurred to me that literally every dialogue about this record and its brilliant, transcendent pop songs had been exhausted elsewhere: Ariel emerges from his bedroom, abandons lo-fi, records in a real studio with real musicians for a real label, drops his breakout record, some irrelevant shit about chillwave, etc. So I enlisted the opinion of chillwave inventor Carles of popular weblog Hipster Runoff fame, a longtime Ariel Pink fan himself, who summed it up like this: “It seems as if perhaps the world has finally caught up with Ariel Rosenberg, and our ears are finally ready for his textures. Before Today is history, while the future is a mystery but today is a gift which belongs to Ariel Pink." --Chris Cantalini
Autre Ne Veut: Autre Ne Veut [Olde English Spelling Bee/Upstairs CDR]
Of the many R&B-nodding white guys making conceptual pop music this year, Autre Ne Veut's debut on Olde English Spelling Bee/Upstairs was one of few that had a completely unique spin. While HTDW had a darker, more pained take, ANV was minimal, clubby, filled with strange effects and unusual instrumentation. And, unlike HTDW, his live show was amazing, with him squirming on the floor and flailing his limbs like a wounded lamb. What that lamb proved was that Toni Braxton-loving white guys can have their cake and eat it too, and not in some W'burg 2006-era ironic way. This is the pop music everyone makes in their shower or in front of the mirror, only it's real. --Michael P. McGregor
Big Troubles: Worry [Olde English Spelling Bee]
Big Troubles' LP dreams finally came to fruition in the third quarter of 2010, when Olde English Spelling Bee released their debut full-length, Worry. The 14-track record bristles with buzzing grit and downright catchy vocal parts, penned by Big Troubles co-masterminds/songwriters Alex Craig and Ian Drennan. Their sound is often touted as a perfect marriage of searing shoe-gaze distortion and early '90s radio rock, but the sum of the descriptors proves greater than its parts. Big Troubles truly champion an exciting and relentlessly loud form of rock and roll. --Ian Nelson
Clive Tanaka y su orquesta: Jet Set Siempre 1° [Tall Corn]
Clive Tanaka is a mysterious figure. Signs point to him being from Japan, Chicago, Brazil, and other far-flung locales, but no one's been able to pin him down yet. It's almost as if he's attemping to throw you off his path by giving false clues. But the international hook works: His Jet Set Siempre 1° tape melts down sounds from all over the globe into vintage synth bangers. How many people can make a robotic voice sound so damn passionate? In futuristic utopias, Clive Tanaka definitely owns the night. --Jheri Evans
Cloudland Canyon: Fin Eaves [Holy Mountain]
Kip Ulhorn's euphoric plunge into synth-driven psych hides an underlying swell of sadness beneath its gauzy pop structures. With the addition of his wife Kelly to the fray, Ulhorn steers Cloudland Canyon away from its Krautrock roots and into a gloriously lush shoegaze present. The result is some of Cloudland Canyon’s catchiest songwriting yet, ensconced in shimmery pop foam and radiant noise, spiraling ever closer to bliss. --Andy French
Earl Sweatshirt: EARL [OFWFKTA]
OFWGKTA: soon to become a household acronym striking fear into the hearts of parents nationwide. These adolescent Los Angeles natives don't just produce their own warped beats; they spit rhymes that even Ted Bundy would find kinda fucked up. Their now missing member, Earl Sweatshirt, isn't any less twisted than the rest of his crew; he's just able to make some of the most vile verses sound eloquent. On "Assmilk", a track from OFWG founder Tyler's Bastard LP, Earl calls himself the "reincarnation of '98 Eminem", a pronouncement that rings true in both content and delivery. His eponymous LP was self-released earlier this year, and the kid leaves no rock unturned. With themes ranging to threesomes with Pam Anderson and Miley Cyrus to stabbing cops and cannibalism, he's definitely not tackling your everyday high school problems. Unfortunately, his parents failed to see anything creative about this and shipped him off to boot camp (or so we think). Hopefully, he'll take this as a learning experience and come back even more ferocious than before. #freeEARL --Nathan Smith
Games: That We Can Play [Hippos In Tanks]
It's interesting to watch our perception of the '80s evolve from a kitschy, "what was I thinking?" decade into an endearing, "those were the days" one. Once upon a time, the era was the butt of as many jokes as Steven Seagal, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Chuck Norris combined. Despite flashbacks of gaudy clothing, nowadays the '80s would seem to have some lasting value after all. With their That We Can Play EP, the Brooklyn electronic duo of Joel Ford and OPN's Daniel Lopatin sums it up in a phantasmagoria of lithe synths, robotic melodies, and stiff drum-machine beats. Their songs bring back childhood memories of lying on the living room floor watching Airwolf and MacGyver, or wishing you had more Atari games to play. It's precisely this sort of nostalgia that makes for GAMES' best instrument. That We Can Play soundtracks our memories with sounds as familiar as they are fresh. --Will Abramson
Gatekeeper: Giza [Merok]
Gatekeeper’s Giza EP is an immaculate sound wave designed to paralyse unexplored areas of the human psyche with fear and delight. "Look in the mirror", say Gatekeeper three times. The only valid boarding pass for this voyage is your soul, so please have it open and ready. Upon launch, "Serpent" burrows its way down to the spinal column, where it takes control of your body with an injection of Front 242 serum straight to the nervous system. The rest is a feverish hallucination of wild contortions and glimpses from horror films that were never made. This EP is literally a killer. --J
How To Dress Well: Love Remains [Lefse/Tri Angle]
How To Dress Well has had an amazing year, and much of that centers around Love Remains. The songs are inspired by R&B from the late '80s and '90s , but they have a distinct bedroom sound that elevates their emotional resonance. The entire album holds together seamlessly, but each track stands just as strong on its own. Love Remains grabs you by the heartstrings and allows you to experience How To Dress Well's most impassioned emotions, and that's no small feat. --Jheri Evans
James Blake: CMYK [R&S]
On this his third EP, released through legendary label R&S, London's unspeakably prolific James Blake came into the collective consciousness and established himself as one of the most forward-thinking, genre-defying, and exciting producer/songwriters of the year. Whilst all four songs on the release continue to hold their own, its status as landmark of the last 12 months is won by the title track's chopped, haunting R&B sample, and its seamless transition from a sparse and subtle, atmospheric arrangement to a heart exploding, sub-bass tour de force. --Sahil Varma
Julian Lynch: Mare [Olde English Spelling Bee]
Sound-shaper Julian Lynch composed the low-key, non-traditional psychedelia of Mare in his home states of New Jersey and Wisconsin. With its eclectic instrumental palette, ranging from Eastern to Western and Native American spiritual, the LP boasts more influences than the ear can absorb in one sitting. Like lots of '60s and '70s psych-folk songs, Lynch's have a carefree and endearing yogic leisure about them. --Ryan Ellis
Mark McGuire: Living With Yourself [Editions Mego]
Guitarist Mark McGuire is perhaps best known as one-third of Cleveland Kosmiche revivalists Emeralds, but he has released no less than 30 solo albums in his 23 years on Earth. His Living With Yourself LP on Editions Mego is not only one his most accessible works to date (read: physically available), but also his most technically accomplished. Across eight loop-based sound collages, McGuire whisks through a psychic landscape as vast and minutely textured as America seen from 10,000 feet above. But Living With Yourself is less an exploration of space than an excavation of time, setting McGuire’s processed guitar reveries alongside sound-fragments from the musician’s own childhood. Hard not to feel a little bit like a voyeur when we hear a five-year-old McGuire introducing himself as “Mark”, but who are we to say that pop music hasn’t always been the highest form of autobiography? --Emilie Friedlander
oOoOO: oOoOO EP [Tri Angle]
"NoSummer4u", the track that put San Francisco-based bedroom recorder oOoOO on the map, is an enchanting, gothic-tinged synth-pop ballad, underpinned by foreboding atmospherics and a clinical, hip-hop-inflected beat. His debut self-titled EP presents a darker, more confused vision; oOoOO's skewed take on commercial electro-pop celebrates its decadent glamour while going out if its way to expose its rotten core. From the stuttering, fractured R&B wasteland of "Mumbai" to the barren faux-funk of "Hearts", oOoOO is a beautiful still of urban yearning and mindlessness captured through the stained glasses of a romantic outsider, a guttural fairy tale orchestrated by delayed vamps and diseased synth tones. --Noam Klar
Oneohtrix Point Never: Returnal [Editions Mego]
Returnal sees psychedelic-drone linchpin Daniel Lopatin's amorphous, ambient landscapes mapped with more definition than ever before. Attached to OPN's ever-so-slightly rigid structures, the sad, far-out sprawl and bottomless celestial drip of "Drifts" render a consistently beautiful, frequently devastating effect. OPN draws sadness and redemption out of distinctly alien textures with the deftest of touches. --Jack Shankly
Rangers: Suburban Tours [Olde English Spelling Bee]
Every time I put on the debut full-length from fellow former-DFW-suburb-dweller Rangers, I find myself moved by all the woozy, warped filmstrip vibes, inextricably tied to murky memories of a time and place in my youth. I think this is the kind of (possibly manufactured) nostalgia Nick Sylvester was talking about in his piece about Ariel Pink and hypnagogic pop, where he jokingly describes "half-sung melodies refracted through the quarter-remembered chopper blades of the opening sequence of Airwolf as I fell asleep in my basement." Okay, good point; but Suburban Tours emanates an affectingly real, often melancholic warmth that transcends any of these increasingly derogatory, of-the-moment genre tags.--Chris Cantalini
The Samps: The Samps [Mexican Summer]
On their self-titled debut EP, Haunted Graffiti member/new Nite Jewel full-timer Cole MGN and his side-project the Samps take deconstructed, sample-based pop to a whole new level. Their chopped-and-flipped retro-futuristic electro-funk is never anything less than exhilarating, elevated as much by the crew's obvious affinity for pioneers like the Bomb Squad and Dilla as their desire to create "glorious compressed FM gold." The whole thing's a blast; more than anything else, this shit gets us psyched to see where the Samps and like-minded dudes like Games are going to take this steez next. --Chris Cantalini
Sun Araw: On Patrol [Not Not Fun]
On his fourth LP, Sun Araw, aka Cameron Stallones, delves deeper into the heavy-psych he's been maneuvering in for a few years. On Patrol was not only a manifesto, but a coming out party for this deepest of zoners. His work with Magic Lantern and releases on Not Not Fun and Woodsist have been extremely influential on kids tempering in mystic psych explosions. On Patrol, a 2xLP featuring some of the most vibe-encompassing album art I've seen in a long while (also by Stallones), is the culmination of the exotic psych-dub sound he has been chipping away at for ages-- one that is uniquely Sun Araw, while harking where the diesel rumblings are headed. --Michael P. McGregor
Ty Segall: Melted [Goner]
Whether you pump Dead Moon full of steroids or blast The Stooges through a megaphone, you'll probably get something equally as robust as Ty Segall's third album Melted. It's a throwback album, treading retro ground as far back as The Sonics, and taking a flame to the oil stains that dripped on the floors of garage rock for so many years. Simultaneously, Ty manages to ignite the same fire in the current, gaseous cloud of seemingly omnipotent, hazy, nostalgic rock. Melted is a step forward from the snarky days of his debut Lemons, with Ty letting go of the defiant angst he once harbored. He still keeps that punk rock sword in hand, but rather than flail around wildly, he dishes out calculated thrusts and slices. --Will Abramson
Yellow Swans: Going Places [Type]
The Portland drone duo of Peter Swanson and Gabriel Saloman recorded the majority of Going Places after deciding to part ways in 2008. With a backstory like that, it’s hard not to feel touched by these six wooly excursions into the void. Relying more on tape loops and field recordings than their previous efforts, Going Places piles fuzz, hiss, bells, and aborted melodic lines into mile-long vistas of undulating, overtone-speckled squall. It's as dense as a brillo-pad, as tender as a beating heart, and as devastating as the sound of a distant werewolf howling past the point of exhaustion. --Emilie Friedlander
Zola Jesus: Stridulum [Sacred Bones]
Between Stridulum and Valusia and collaborations with LA Vampires and Former Ghosts, 2010 has been a busy year for Zola Jesus. She cast her biggest stride early in the year with Stridulum, a departure from '09's considerably lower-fidelity, "diamond in the rough" album, The Spoils. Stridulum paved the way for a clearer, more sonically refined and diverse Zola, exchanging 15 crunchy, overly saturated noise pop tracks for 6 fully developed, silky smooth synth pad and drum-machine driven songs. Zola's voice is undeniably among the most unique and arresting around. But it would fall flat if the atmosphere that fostered it weren't as lush and subtly nuanced as its counterpart. Swelling crescendos, doom, and gloom in all the right places. --Ric Leichtung
Mark McGuire's been kicking around since mid-2006 as guitarist for Cleveland heroes Emeralds. He's also put out about 30 solo records, in batches sometimes as limited as 20 copies per pressing. With his new solo LP on Austrian label Editions Mego, who released Oneohtrix Point Never's Returnal and Emeralds' Does It Look Like I'm Here? earlier this year, McGuire is finally getting the distribution he deserves. Living With Yourself is a deeply personal album, but not in the sense of, say, an Elliott Smith release. McGuire doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, bare his soul, or poetically expose his innermost desires and tragic flaws. In fact, he hardly says a word. He doesn't have to.
Instead, Mcguire uses "field recordings" that his father, Mark McGuire Sr., took when Mark Jr. was just 5-years old, filling us with a sense of nostalgia, authenticity, and character as we bear witness to intimate moments in McGuire's life. My favorite two seconds of the album occur 1:35 into its closing track, "Brothers (For Matt)", when McGuire Sn. can be heard playfully inquiring about his sons' girlfriends. Jr. points out his father has told them to stay away from girls. Sn. agrees, and instructs his kids to be nice to the ladies, but "just... keep away." In that moment, hearing his voice fade away in resignation and longing, I become wildly speculative. I think about why McGuire Sn. swallowed his words. I wonder why his mother isn't in this recording. I begin to picture Mark hanging out with his family at the house on the cover, and realize how much it reminds me of a home I lived in when I was younger.
It occurs to me that Mark and I are both the same age, that we were both born in Cleveland, and that we were both total ladykillers at the age of 5. Sure, these are superficial commonalities, but in them we can see what makes McGuire's work on Living With Yourself so special. His songs, minimal and impressionistic, are like mirrors. The echoing guitar weavings, ambient and melodic, evoke a wide array of emotions and situations. In standout "Brain Storm (For Erin)", I hear memories of tragedy. In opening track "The Vast Structure of Recollection", I hear a carefree summertime. Living With Yourself is an exploration of remembrance, allowing us to relish in the nostalgia of what once was, and in some cases, forcing us to confront the past in the name of a better today and tomorrow.
Living With Yourself is available now via Editions Mego
Deception Island, a curatorial label project led by Cleveland's Chris Madak, aka Bee Mask, has released some excellent limited-run releases by Telecult Powers, J Guy Laughlin of Puffy Areolas, and multiple Emeralds-related endeavors. "Nothing Personal" is the b-side of one of Mark McGuire's latest releases, Misunderstandings, a 30-minute tape composed of two guitar pieces. If you're a newly inducted Emeralds fan, and you're wondering whether what I said before about hawks snatching entire runs of this stuff was true, beware: it is. --Ric Leichtung, International Tapes
Misunderstandings is sold out, though Deception Island is entertaining reissuing select releases
Emeralds guitarist Mark McGuire, also known for his work in Sun Watcher, Skyramps, People's Parties, and various other projects, gives us a peek at what might be his most personal effort yet. Living With Yourself samples ambient guitar works by him and his father, Mark McGuire Sr., between 1991 and 1998. Vienna-based label Editions Mego, which has put out Oneohtrix Point Never, Fennesz, and Tujiko Noriko, is releasing it, exposing Mcguire's beautiful guitar work to more than the usual 500 hawks who snatch up entire limited editions before anybody else even hears about them. Appearing in the eye of Living With Yourself, "Brain Storm (For Erin)" is a 6.5-minute romp of delayed ambient guitar pickings that envelop you in an ethereal, alternate reality. --Ric Leichtung, International Tapes
Living With Yourself is out now on Editions Mego