posted December 12th, 2022

Last minute gift time? What other time is there? So here’s a quick list of suggestions n blah blah blah!


That’s a good theme for the year, right – any year, every year? But one that feels more than ever like the KEY. And it was those lads from No Age that brought it to our attention by titling their new one exactly that. “People helping people” isn’t as simple a concept as we all expect it be, and the People Helping People album of rock and roll as played by No Age is SIMILARLY not simply one thing. Help, love and compassion are all kinds of passages and roads to travel, and there’s jolts and surrealism along the ride that leads to a feeling of oneness. Dean and Randy set out to achieve new No Age-ness by wiping the slate clean and scribbling anew – and the resulting LP/CD/CS is one of the most enervating sets of poptunes put out in 2022, or elsewhere!


You need your head to be open and accessible for everything you’re gonna pass through it, which is something we’re all realizing more and more all the time. At this point, it’s virtually a category of deep listening type music. And there’s something in the water in Chicago (no, not what you’re thinking) that seems to inspire the musicians around town! Like Matchess – her Sonescent release, with its intense presentation of music remembered and imploded, is a revelatory listen in which silence becomes a context for enhanced hearing – and memory, and the possibility therefore of tomorrow. Damn straight! It’s post-ambient music for the mind and body – and so very musical.

Also from Chi and well-established on this long and winding chem-trail is Bitchin Bajas, who hit with their long-awaited new release, the Bajascillators 2x12” release, as well as the also much-awaited Switched On Ra vinyl edition, which you may recall from last Christmas’s gift list as cassette-only. Boy! Both those releases are just SO FINE, and in two pretty definitively different ways. Bajascillators is an extension of the metamorphosis they’ve been on for years, as it grows more and more deep and discreet – a touch simultaneously lighter and heavier, like light that’s traveled farther through the universe but still represents with full-on beam-like energy. An enlivening sound-cycle of ultimate flow! 

With Switched On RaBajas tackle Sun Ra compositions in an all-keyboards arrangement, which makes a compulsive treat of an entirely different order, as the melodies represented by synths of all stripes hit us as music and sound in a much more aggressive manner. And yet still, the mellow soul of the Bajas creates a sense of stasis that is an ideal for listening. So if you got dreamweavers on your list and don’t know how to help ‘em fill that good sweet void, try Matchess and Bitchin Bajas!


Also comprised of similarly soothing elements this year: two incendiary drops from Oren Ambarchi! But since only one’s available, you’ll have to wait to buy the Ambarchi/Berthling/Werliin MASTERPIECE Ghosted for Valentine’s Day and just focus on Shebang this holiday season. And that in fact will more than suffice – because Shebang is an every-expanding piece of energy music that’s destined to fill and change the course of your days! Those who know Oren’s work will recognize the evolution of tactics first heard in works like Quixotism, Hubris, Similan Angel and Sagittarian Domain. Oren’s development of theme and variations within his guitar + triggers inventions is it’s own compelling delight, but by inviting improvs from an all-star cast (BJ Cole, Sam Dunscomb, Chris Abrhams, Jim O’Rourke and Julia Reidy), Oren allows the work to expand from a magnetically compulsive riff into something EPIC as well. A pure and total delight!


Also Also ALSO in the realm of the head-tripping, body moving amorphous mass of sound that’s so needed in this fraught times is a third outcrop of deep-listener style called NOISE, heard of it?

In the hands of Dean Spunt and John Wiese, it’s not just a physical challenge, but a more nuanced experience of sound that includes phases of reverie, tongue-in-cheek humor, alternative means of communication and high-fidelity sonics. The Echoing Shell was conceived and achieved with just a drumkit (Dean) and a digital vivisector (John). Fantastic stuff, on headphones or off (tell your mom!). Also in this depth of field is the new one from Bill Nace, entitled Through a Room, which is part two in his series of Drag City releases recorded with Cooper Crain. The looping and tweaking employed on part one (Both, now back in stock also!) has been built into a larger, more colorful process of sound, simultaneously harsh and hypnotic, and deeply indicative of this time of divergent narratives and the familiar strange.

And on Blue Chopsticks, David Grubbs meets Jan St. Werner. After years of exchanging ideas, Translation from Unspecified is their recorded debut. Evolving from a microscopically disordered set of sounds and words into a reconstituted monolith of sound, this deck-clearing collaboration manages to warp expectations of listening and thus reshape the process while in the midst of making it. Which is perhaps the finest thing you can ask of an LP, and the baseline for each one of these mind-blasting releases.


It was a quiet year for Ty Segall, which means it was a loud year on everyone else’s terms! In the spring came the bone-chilling soundtrack sounds of Whirlybird, which was Ty going beyond almost everything he’d ever done up til then. The emotions inherent in Matt Yoka’s doc and the emotions Ty encountered in the process of visiting LA 80s-90s (a place of youth in his memory) all led to an expansive set of instrumentals. Then in July came “Hello, Hi”, a new acoustic opus reaching deep into himself and music, through internal acoustic crevasses and past darkened cavities, seeking the lighthouse he's rowing towards, and finding the next best thing; its shades of golden-grey, the stuff of everyday. Light rock made heavy, in thought and intention – one of Ty’s most touching album expressions.

Then there’s the GOD? side of things, which is where Ty gets to be a label honcho – in 2022, GOD? Records put out two amazing new releases of entirely divergent kinds of musical entertainment! Oog Bogo’s debut album Plastic is virtual jukebox of singles and side flips that won’t unplug, and just keeps reeling and raging on instead. A bright metallurgy of guitar pop, psych, post-punk and apocalypse disco, a series of hook-pierced earworms on the march. Then Folding Cassettes Greatest Hits is a Mike Donovan-curated compilation of SF freak-scene tunes that bid farewell to the last golden era in the long century of bay area revolutionary underground. Mike hand-picked these items for cassette-only release way back in the mid-aughts. INSANE stuff OUT musiks from a motley parade of ol-school ingenuicists, many of whose names we still say today.

So, yeah – all quiet on the Ty-ent front! Nothing but amazing great music as far as the ear can see.


New youth music! It’s what we all live for and Kamikaze Palm Tree got it in spades: modern pop in a playful stereophonic vein, splitting your hemispheres cleanly apart with salmon-hued frenzy, coming in through the out door with deceptively chops-y decorum, cut-up lyric no(n)sense and a scintillating crosshatch of vocal melodies, changing your mind entirely in nothing (and everything) flat. This LA-via-SF duo-turned-quartet are one to watch – and Mint Chip is their flavor of the year. On multi-everything LP and CS.


Mick Turner is back! The once-and-future one-third of the Dirty Three, guitarist Mick is always on the hunt for new ways of forming music. His new duo with fellow Aussie Helen McKisko. Mess Esque coalesces from ripples of guitar and shudders of emotion into the bumps and grooves of songs with biological inevitability. Mick Turner’s aquatic guitar moods are met where they live and breathe by Helen’s vocals and dream imagery, causing moons, low tides and empty landscapes to simmer with raw passion. A lovely new DIY band that we can’t wait to hear more from! But you can buy their self-titled release on CD right now.


New stuff that came before! Nothing says ‘gift’ like retrospective stuff, like music, like these: Al Cisneros’ Dub Box (2012-2022) 7 7” records with his solo dub experiments, a whole party in a box, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Bill Callahan’s Blind Date Party (with a cast of thousands!), all previously released on the internet but now cased in 2xCD and 2xCS (2xLP currently OOP, sorry!). Non-stop fun! Anthony Moore’s Flying Doesn’t Help has been called back from the early post-punk days to serve as a great glitter-and-dark rock and roll record for these times.

On Million Dollar Performances, Faxed Head’s Exhumed at Birth delivers another HOT message for today from yesterday with a conceptual metal band from Coalinga made of satanic suicide survivors! Other blasts from the past are supplied by Wand with Spiders In the Rain, but the blasts were made in the present, but now the present is the past! That’s how live records work. Moments in time. They make a great gifts!

Try some, would ya?