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GutterBubbles Top 100 Songs of 2016 (part 5)


Jump to: Street Sects, SubRosa, Superjoint, Survive, Swans, The Black Queen, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Thollem McDonas, Tim Hecker, Time, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Troller, Ulver, Vampyre Anvil, Voight, Warpaint, Weval, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Wovenhand, Yann Tiersen

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Street Sects – “If This Is What Passes for Living” – End Position

This Street Sects song has the feel of aggressive breakcore and EBM but with the amped energy and attitude of vintage Atari Teenage Riot. Like if punks made industrial music without trying to sound punk. There is the aesthetic of noir-fiction we well, like Matthew Southwork’s art for the Greg Rucka-penned Stumptownseries. -Tom Murphy


SubRosa – “Despair is a Siren” – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

Does the title mean despair is a warning? A seductive peril of one’s own psyche drawing you to drown in your own misery? Both senses of the phrase and more exist in this song that slowly envelops you in its evolving spiral of hypnotic drones only to drag you into spaces of heightened emotions, whether a directed anger or frigid tranquility. SubRosa’s music would be nightmarish and terrifying if it didn’t also feel like it was a way to experience mythological power in a song. -TM


Superjoint – “Clickbait” – Caught Up in the Gears of Application

It may seem counter intuitive to release a song calling out internet commentary after making an extraordinarily stupid comment on stage which pretty much ignites an entire scene against you, but Phil Anselmo has never been one to shy away from controversy, self created or not. “Clickbait” sees Anselmo’s reunited hardcore unit Superjoint (sans the Ritual) whip up a frenzied, multi-dimensional track with flourishes of hardcore, black metal and a touch of Southern doom to boot. No matter your opinion on Anselmo, the power of the track is undeniable. -Ryan Brun


Survive – “Low Fog” – RR7349

Unfairly lost in all the hype surrounding the Stranger Things soundtrack was the stunning RR7349 from Survive. Like the Stranger Things soundtracks, this albums aesthetic focal point is inspired by the sound of vintage synthesizers, but does so without sounding outdated. “Low Fog” is one of the many highlights of the set, with layers of ambient drone washing over one another, creating a hypnotic effect that wouldn’t feel out of place coming from an early Brian Eno album. Its an ethereal but reflective piece that’s easy to loose yourself in. Repeated plays recommended. -RB


Swans – “Cloud of Forgetting” – The Glowing Man

This last phase of the current era of Swans begins with this song, an exercise in sustained transcendence. Orchestral and earthy, the song is like a waking giant. Gira’s vocalizations sound like he’s calling from the other side of sleep. Coupled with the music it’s like the opposite of a lullaby, the experience of going to sleep into a dream state in reverse. -TM


The Black Queen – “Secret Scream (2016 Mix)” – Fever Daydream

One of my absolute favorite records of the entire year was the stunning debut album from The Black Queen. Released in January, Fever Daydream delivered on the hype of the pre-release singles with a sound that recalls all the best parts of early Depeche Mode along with a menacing bite not often associated with synth pop music. This mix of “Secret Scream” finds the band at their danceable best with driving synths, guitar flourishes and singer Greg Puciato’s continued evolution from a metalhead icon to one of the most dynamic frontmen in all of music. -RB


The Dillinger Escape Plan – “Surrogate” – Dissociation

It would be disingenuous to extol the virtues of Greg Puciato’s vocal prowess with his work in The Black Queen without giving a nod to the band he built his name on. Dillinger Escape Plan’s final album Dissociation features all of the trademark elements the band is known for. Fucked up time signatures? Check. Schizophrenic dynamic shifts? Done. Absolutely punishing vocals? Yup. Really the only fault to be found with the album is knowing that it’s going to be their last. But songs like “Surrogate” take off the edge off of knowing this is the end. It’s a breakneck marathon of violence and endurance through soundscapes so different from one to the next, you won’t know what hit you until the brutalization reaches its climatic finale. -RB


Thollem McDonas – “Where Belongs Who” – Machine in the Ghost

Thollem McDonas has long been a musical innovator with keyboards and various other instruments, establishing new musical vocabulary with virtually every record in his extensive discography. With this song, McDonas makes a kind of lounge music that might have been made by Captain Beefheart if the latter had found time to trade ideas with Sun City Girls and Pere Ubu. -TM


Tim Hecker – “Black Phase” – Love Streams

Love Streams is supposedly Tim Hecker’s pop album. But “Black Phase” is as worthy as any of his groundbreaking ambient drone compositions. Employing Carmina Burana-esque vocals, the song comes across like a long lost John Boorman soundtrack and all the more wonderfully enigmatic because of it. -TM


Time – “Deer God” – Single

Time put out an outstanding collaborative with Ephelant this year called How to Sew Wounds with Words that probably eclipses this song in overall quality. But this song has a strikingly raw immediacy informed by tenderness and guilt that is impossible to deny and a rarity in music in general. -TM


Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – “8 Billion” – Before the Flood OST

In what may just be the most unexpected pairing of the year, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross teamed up with Mogwai and Gustavo Santaolalla to provide the soundtrack for Leonardo DiCaprio’s film about global warming titled Before the Flood. As bleak as the subject matter is (and it is really…really bleak), Reznor and company managed to produce a score that not only highlights the urgency of the climate crisis, but also one that offers glimmers of hope throughout. The pensive “8 Billion” is a nearly nine minute long soundscape dominated by a few simple piano chords and a flurry of swelling sounds which comes across as both mournful and optimistic at the same time. That same juxtaposition has followed Reznor throughout his career, but until now the contradictory element of his music has never sounded so vital and been so important. -RB


Troller – “They Body” – Graphic

Much of Troller’s recorded output is like a fascinatingly bizarre combination of industrial and experimental synth pop. This track sounds like IDM made by people who don’t know who Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin might be. Though the members of this band most certainly do. But it’s that sense of outsider art that gives this mixture of rising, distorted drones and echoing bell tone melodies such an entrancingly mysterious quality. -TM


Ulver – “Cromagnosis” – ATGCLVLSSCAP

Norway’s Ulver features one of the most dynamic and varied back catalogs in all of modern music. From black metal to neo-folk, electronic ambient to post-rock, Ulver have released music in more genres than most people even care to listen to. Their latest album ATGCLVLSSCAP is no exception. A quick spin through “Cromagnosis” showcases the bands proclivity for diversity. The sprawling, nearly ten minute long track evolves from an ambient intro to a slowly building post-rock dirge before finally exploding into a tribal-influenced jam session. Like much of the rest of their discography, the song can be challenging, but supremely rewarding for those that see it through. -RB


Vampyre Anvil – “Prune That Dirty Stamen” – Tetsuo

The latest project from Chicago’s Cracknation and Glitch Mode collectives is the punishing Vampyre Anvil. Jason Novak and Sean Payne teamed up for Tetsuo which features a sound not too dissimilar from either artists previous output, all without sounding like a rehash of past glories. In fact, in spite of all of the familiarity found throughout Tetsuo, it could be argued that it’s the most experimental music either musician have created. For example, “Prune That Dirty Stamen” with its skittering electro-embellishments, consuming sub-bass and pounding drums comes across like a acid-soaked page out of the Skinny Puppy playbook but with buried layers of melodic sensibility giving it a certain accessibility not usually associated with industrial music. -RB


Voight – “Perfect Eyes” – Malware

Although clearly inspired by the likes of A Place to Bury Strangers and Suicide, Voight has a drive, intensity and energy worthy of its influences. “Perfect Eyes” is perhaps the most focused and exhilarating of its oeuvre to date. It is urgent and blistering but takes time out to recovering from the rapid burn of its main melody rather wear you out through over stimulation. -TM


Warpaint – “New Song” – Heads Up

With every album, Warpaint has pretty much reinvented itself to some extent. But all along there has been a subtle but unmistakable blending of electronics and organic instruments. But with Heads Up that line between beat making and rock song craft has been essentially erased and “New Song” sounds like a new kind of R&B in a group that makes its own samples. -TM


Weval – “I Don’t Need It” – Weval

Weval absorbed all the great retro sounds for this song while pushing electronic dance music in an interesting direction. Live this stuff sounded like what you’d want the experience of going to the Hacienda in Manchester in the late 80s to be. It enveloped you and coaxed the dance with its sheer momentum and emotional highs. It did so not just with the beats beats but with vividly bright melodies that make expert use of evolving volumes that give the music another layer of dynamism. -TM


Wheelchair Sports Camp – “Honey Don’t Go” – No Big Deal

Arguably the magnum opus of a great experimental hip-hop record, “Honey Don’t Go” is also an homage to a Denver that seems to be gone both physically and emotionally. Yes, the jazz-inflected beat making that has made Wheelchair Sports Camp so interesting is there but the noisy soundscapes and free jazz flourishes brings to the song a grit and wildness that really solidifies the tenor of the song. -TM


Wovenhand – “Come Brave” – Star Treatment

All too often, bands have a tendency to fall into complacency in the latter stages of their careers, going through the motions rather than pushing their writing to new heights. But after fifteen years with Wovenhand (and nearly ten with 16 Horsepower prior to that), singer David Eugene Edwards sounds as inspired as he ever has. “Come Brave” from Wovenhand’s latest LP Star Treatment is a propulsive wall of cow-punk goodness, complete with relentless percussion cracking like a rifle and Edwards’ trademark howl punctuating the music with the intensity of a man possessed. Not many artists could pull off a song like this with Edwards’ conviction and luckily for us, Wovenhand shows no signs of slowing down. -RB


Yann Tiersen – “Porz Goret” – Eusa

Yann Tiersen’s introduction to a world wide audience came with his brilliant collection of songs compiled for the soundtrack to the film Amelie. In the years since Tiersen’s albums have become much denser affairs, employing the use of varied instrumentation resulting in a more complex, fuller sound. While these albums have been nothing short of brilliant (see 2014) they have left some longtime fans pining for the more simplistic approach found on his earlier albums. Tiersen’s latest album Eusa delivered just that. Comprised of solo piano pieces written with a corresponding geographic location in mind, Eusa takes the listener on a musical journey of the French island Ushant as seen (heard) through Tiersen’s mind. The gorgeous “Porz Goret” highlights the set and confirms that Tiersen is still one of the best modern composers in the world today. -RB

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