Photo by Mariah Karson.
Mark Solotroff is solo noise musician and a member of BLOODYMINDED, The Fortieth Day, Anatomy of Habit, and many other projects. He has collaborated with the likes of Locrian and The Atlas Moth. He also runs BloodLust!, a Chicago-based record label specializing in power electronics, noise, and experimental electronic music. For more information, visit http://bloodlust.blogspot.com.
I think that the mid-November timing of the request to submit this playlist gave me license to make this all about my favorite and most-played recordings of 2011, so here we go, in my best attempt at alphabetical order:
Amebix “Sonic Mass”
My god, what a rebirth! As if their Chicago show in 2009 was not enough of an unexpected triumph, this album utterly blew my mind. Yes, being a big Killing Joke fan makes this even easier for me to love, but the epic and bombastic nature of this collection of songs probably puts it at the top of my 2011 list in more than just an alphabetical way. “Sonic Mass Part 2” totally destroys me.
A Storm Of Light “As The Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade”
This band’s albums work for me on many levels, both as foreground and background music and as a potent live force. They simply fit my taste extremely well.
The Atlas Moth “An Ache For The Distance”
I do not really think that pride is an appealing attribute to announce in public, but it is inevitable in this case. Second only to the gratification that I continue to experience from the debut release by my band Anatomy of Habit, I am extremely proud to have been a small part of the new album by The Atlas Moth. This would already be one of my favorite records in ages, without my participation, without Andrew Ragin working so closely with AoH on our LP, and without just liking these guys as guys. I remember not being totally into them the very first time that I saw them. Something rubbed me the wrong way. But over a short time I changed my tune and I really started to get into the band. And then things took a cool, weird turn, and now I am proud to be a part of the same amazing Chicago scene as them.
This album simply crushes. And it translates extremely well in a live setting. Essential 2011 listening.
Bee Mask/Envenomist (split) LP
A work of art. David Russell’s attention to detail as the curator of this release makes him an equal partner. The two artists are so well matched on this release. And then Daniel G. Baird’s artwork puts it over the top. A stunning release of dark electronics and minimalism.
Belong “Common Era” A contender for most-played… Ultra-romantic, dark music. A beautifully hazy, psychedelic, shoe-gaze-influenced soundtrack to hours spent in bed or on a couch.
Okay, more local scene pride here. I think these folks are kindred spirits to what my band Anatomy of Habit is all about. Bloodiest are such a live force to be reckoned with and their translation to the recorded format absolutely does them justice. Heavy. Dark. Epic. Monumental. And good, good people.
Dark Castle “Surrender To All Life Beyond Form”
Their new album upped the ante so much from their growing catalog. Doom meets sludge metal with guitars that suggest the best moments of Siouxsie And The Banshees, layered with analogue synth that takes this album to really otherworldly places. Stevie’s vocals are haunting, in the sense that I hear echoes of the ghost of Dawn Crosby from Fear Of God’s “Within the Veil” album, and to me that is like reaching the godhead, if such a thing exists.
Dead Times/TRTRKMMR (split) LP
Someone called this a game-changer. But I do not think that anyone involved with this LP is playing games. Rather, they are expanding the boundaries of heavy, dark music from directions not previously known to exist. Pitch black.
Envenomist “Bound Dominions”
If I do not get at least one new Envenomist album a year then I am not a happy or complete person. This year, I also got half an LP, a great cassette, and the opportunity to see Mr. Reed on stage twice, not to mention, having him perform twice as a part of BLOODYMINDED…and… he and I also got to collaborate together, live, with the mighty Plague Bringer. This was a good year!
Frank Alpine “Frank Alpine”
Caustic, yelping, dark and lecherous minimal synth from an emerging master.
The Horrors “Skying”
I still listen to their last album, “Primary Colours,” so often, and rare for me these days with musical inner dialogue, I was worried about how their new album would stack up. After about ten listens, I knew this was a major 2011 release for me. Halfway through the album, “Still Life” raises the romantic mood to a new level. This is all about whom you are with when you listen to it or when you see the band and so few bands provide me with that thrill anymore.
Iceage “New Brigade”
For a band so heavily written about and hyped-up during the first half of the year, you would have thought that these guys reinvented music, or punk, at least. What I thought they did was write and record one of the most urgent and compelling albums of the year. They did not “save” anything. They just caught a lot of people off-guard. And, thankfully, at least a bit of (their) blood was shed, the two consecutive (and very different) nights that I saw them in Chicago. I was pleased to share a stage with them at The Empty Bottle, too.
Indian “Guiltless” My last insert of Chicago pride. Scorched earth policy. Blistering. This album contains what is easily my ultimate downer anthem for 2011, the utterly nihilistic track, “Banality.” And for me, their live shows are really unparalleled.
Lifelover “Sjukdom” I like every album by this group. This new one is no exception. No surprise, really, how things turned out this year for them.
Martial Canterel “You Today”
It is as if Sean is honing the blade of a military bayonet to the point of being instantly deadly upon the slightest contact… Where am I going with this? Each new M.C. release attains a higher level of urgency and perfection. “You Today” is like being driven in a sleek European coupe at recklessly dangerous speeds on a snaking, narrow mountain road. And those of us in the Midwest had some very rare chances to see the master in action this year. Another privilege to share a stage with him…
Necro Deathmort “Music Of Bleak Origin” Should Massive Attack have been listening to nothing but dark doom metal when they recorded “Mezzanine,” it might have sounded like this. Great for late, late nights.
Not much commentary here but I have listened to it a ton. For fans of early Swans, a more abstracted version of Godflesh, and those shamefully overlooked French sewer-dwellers, Slushy.
Seidr “For Winter Fire”
Another album that I listened to a lot but did not formulate many thoughts about. Dark and heavy, for sure.
Tindersticks “Claire Denis Film Scores 1996-2009”
I cannot imagine how many times I have played the disc with the score to “L’Intrus”…it is so, so fucking dark. This is an inspired collaboration that continues to deliver outstanding results.
Tombs “Path Of Totality”
Raw power. Brutality. Even more so live. And they are even really catchy, to boot.
True Widow “As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth”
I feel like my metabolism changes when I listen to this album. It is a beautiful record and it is among my very top favorites of this year.
This album really delivered for me, much more than their live date in Chicago did, for some reason. It is a pretty weird record and it begs for repeat listens.
Technically this year’s release in the USA, I guess. More otherworldly post-shoegaze lo-fi cinematic ambiance. Pretty romantic stuff, too. Among my most played records all year long.
Also: It will not be out for a few months but I have been listening to the breathtaking forthcoming Vaura album, “Selenelion” quite a lot for the past two months, or so, and I just had the privilege of sharing the stage with them at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn. The release of the new HTRK “Work (Work, Work)” album did not exactly blow my mind, and I was disappointed that they only toured the coasts, but among my most listened to albums of the year were their earlier efforts, “Nostalgia” and “Marry Me Tonight,” both of which ooze with sex, late nights, and lascivious intentions. The Soft Moon put out a self-titled album late last year and I may have spun that this year more than just about anything. Seeing them live was a real treat, too. Shame on me for not rushing to the store the exact minute that their new EP, “Total Decay,” was released. And one other older release that got a lot of airplay was The Beatles-esque psychedelic “Innerspeaker” album from Tame Impala. Maybe because I listened to The Rolling Stones so fucking much this year, I needed this for a modicum of balance.