Wasted Wine’s sound has changed over the years and remains hard to classify. Much of their work shows the influence of frontman Robert Gowan’s classical background (especially his fondness for Bela Bartok and Kurt Weill) and co-founder Adam Murphy’s lifelong fascination with 1970s continental progressive rock obscurities (Ange, Alusa Fallax, Malicorne, Celeste), as well as a resolutely homemade, DIY approach to recording.
Elements of doom metal, mid-century country music, psychedelia, hip-hop, and film music have made regular appearances. Songs often feature Eastern European and Middle Eastern style melodies and harmonies, unpredictable arrangements, and cryptic lyrics delivered in theatrical style. Listeners have used terms like “gypsy” and “cabaret” to describe the sound, while some writers have invoked artists such as The Decemberists, Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, or even Gogol Bordello.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Murphy while the band were preparing to release Wasted Wine vs. The Hypnosis Center via Bear Kids Recordings on February 17, 2015 to ask about his favorite records from this year. This is what he was enjoying.
Swans, To Be Kind (Young God)
Michael Gira is both the shamanistic noisenik James Brown we need and the one we deserve. Seriously, though, I’m a sucker for old masters, and Gira is one of the most interesting we’ve got today, though really this was already true in his under-appreciated Angels of Light era. I love that his music suggests this whole complicated personal spiritual trajectory. Regardless of whether it’s really expressing anything particularly deeply felt, it’s great character- and world-building. The Seer and this record just make the music from his other periods even more interesting, which is a rare thing to say of anyone’s dad’s new record.
Nmesh, Dream Sequins (AMC Discs)
I’ll confess that I’m *still* kind of into the vaporwave thing. This transcends the genre, though. It’s probably a little less interesting as an ambivalent think piece about phase X of capitalism than some other examples of the style, but it’s a supremely enjoyable, dreamy listen that takes you right into this weird, hypnotic world at the edge of your memories.
The Body, I Shall Die Here (RVGN Intl.)
Doom isn’t usually my favorite branch of the metal tree (Yggdrasil, I suppose?), but this album made it into my hands at just the right time. I was temporarily displaced from my apartment in NYC and spent a week or so living out of a place that people technically weren’t supposed to be sleeping in. I had a pair of speakers there, so during the day I’d look at the huge “I Shall Die Here” poster that came with this record and blast this album from my phone. The more time I spent not-really-sleeping and worrying about whether I was going to get kicked out and become for-real homeless, the more this album felt like the perfect soundtrack.
V/A, Traces 3 (Editions Mego)
This is sort of cheating, but this *is* technically a new record, and I believe that some of the tracks are even being released for the first time ever. Which is insane because these pieces from the late ’70s really show that most of what passes for “experimental” music these days is as tradition-bound as, I donno, Irish folk groups (which isn’t a knock against either kind of music, of course). Anyway, this is undeniable musique concrete goodness. If you only listen to one piece of music that annoys your significant other this year, make it Charles Clapaud’s “Ruptures.”
Yves Malone, Three Movies (Field Hymns)
This a lovely “fake reissue,” supposedly resurrecting three would-be Carpenter-esque B-movie soundtracks. Far less radical than the the fascinating, noisy slice-and-dice collages put out on the Gutter Corpse label around the beginning of the year, which use sounds from actual ’80s B-movies—in fact I suspect that “Abysscoteque,” this set’s apocryphal slasher, is a nod to “Aerobicide,” the source for one of the Gutter Corpse tapes—these tapes are ultimately more fun to listen to if you have a taste for arty retro trash. I’d highly recommend tracking down the physical release, too—though I think it was released in a limited edition of like 75 copies, it really has the most beautiful packaging of anything I bought all year.
Andras Brandel, Hidden Rooms (Tranquility Tapes)
Until I basically ran out of money recently, I would buy every cassette that Tranquility Tapes put out. Don’t regret it either—even though I’m actually not super into ambient music in general, they always manage to come out with stuff that keeps my (semi-)attention. This is probably my personal favorite of all of their releases. It also hits that John Carpenter/Goblin sweet spot for me, though it’s more on the Goblin side with some actual guitars supplementing the synths. This is one of those albums with a kind of humility that wins you over—it’s probably not going to inaugurate any major new style and it certainly isn’t any kind of culminating moment that pushes a genre to the breaking point. But it’s also not remotely anonymous; it’s just this cool little album that does its own thing and doesn’t make a fuss about it.
Ben Frost, A U R O R A (Mute Records)
Uh, how do you even describe music like this??? This is the sound of cybermen punching your face with neon fists forever as you drift in and out of bliss. I lost track of Frost after the excellent “By the Throat” so I was excited to pick up the thread again here.
Actress, Ghettoville (Werk Discs)
Just awesome. I was even tempted to get the absurdly expensive for-rich-people-only vinyl box set during my local record store’s depressing going-out-of-business liquidation sale (still too expensive though). This album’s like a big musical slab of concrete that someone’s dragging very slowly down the middle of the street. But without *actually* being that, since that seems more like a Ben Bennett kinda thing. I love that it starts with this endless, lurching track that’s sort of like an obstacle but really functions as the perfect mood setter.
C L E A N E R S, Real Raga Shit Vol. 1 (Bootleg Tapes)
Bootleg Tapes has got this totally inspiring aesthetic that makes you feel like all you need to make great music is just a cracked copy of Photoshop, some half-broken tape recorder that fell off the back of a truck, and a stack of scratched CDs and old VHS tapes that have been scattered around the floor of your weird friend’s Honda Civic. This tape doesn’t really feel like an album or even a mixtape, but more like someone just clicking through pieces of a bunch of YouTube videos, except everything feels cheaper and more mechanical. Even the cover art looks like it’s some half-finished joke while simultaneously being legitimately hilarious. More of this please.
Madlib / Freddie Gibbs, Piñata (Madlib Invazion)
I’m just noticing that this and the Swans record are the only things on this list that really have lyrics—and this is coming from someone who writes some really wordy songs. Admittedly, outside of hip-hop we really don’t have many English-language musicians today who can write their way out of a paper bag lyrically, as far as I can tell. So even though this is far from a perfect album, I have to give Gibbs high praise for coming up with some of the only words that actually stuck with me this year. I mean “Harold’s” is maybe the greatest song ever about fried chicken, and almost certainly the most wistful. (On a related note—Southerners, step your game up.) And of course Madlib’s production is frequently excellent and surprisingly fresh. That dude’s going to have a career as long as… Michael Gira’s next album.
(Preorder the limited edition cassette via Bear Kids Recordings HERE.)