VINAL EDGE RECORDS BEST OF 2017 (IN NO ORDER):
Feral Ohms - "Feral Ohms"
Feral Ohms is the new project from Ethan Miller, the man behin Comets On Fire & Howlin' Rain. They released their first self titled album this year and I can honestly say its the first good "heavy rock" album I have heard in I don't know how long. A reminder that if played really well with lots of energy, rock & roll music is still GOOD! I am a huge fan of Comets on Fire & the first two Howlin' Rain albums but feel Ethan Miller's output has been pretty lackluster over the last few years. Then out of nowhere, comes this absolute crusher of a record bringing back the fuzz drenched, multi layered, whammy bar soaked guitar rock he did so well all those years ago. Reminds me that rock can still be great without odd time signatures, off kilter parts & unexpected chord changes. None of that here. Basic chord changes played with a shitload of energy, ripping vocals, and guitar solos; fucking guitar solos that smack you in the face, peel back your skin & inject adrenaline straight into your veins. I needed this record. Also Ethan drew the cover art himself and did an outstanding job. Couldn't be happier to blast this shit in my car with the windows down & a fat joint in my mouth. -- Charlie
Arve Henriksen - "Towards Language"
Ethereal. Blissful. Delicate. A few words that come to mind mind upon closing my eyes and taking in this record. Henriksen is a Norwegian trumpet player who has recorded with many ensembles over the years, most notably with experimental jazz group Supersilent, and this is his ninth solo record. Never upbeat & never too loud, the album floats along like a leaf on a frigid creek bed right before a freeze. Muted trumpet lines meld with high pitched barely audible vocals that squeak & hum creating beautiful melodies that intertwine and unfold over the course of the all too short thirty eight minutes. Almost impossible to tell when one track ends and the other begins, the album maintains a consistent atmosphere that draws you in, takes hold, and only lets go only when the needle lifts at the end of side two; snapping you back into the world in which we live in. A much needed auditory vacation into a relaxing paradise that begs for many visits. -- Charlie
Holy Money - "The Language Machine"
Houston's own Holy Money is the current project of Alex Hughes (Hatred Surge, Iron Age, Insect Warfare, Mammoth Grinder, just to name a few). They have released a couple of tapes & EP's but this is their first full length released on Norfolk, VA's Anthems of The Undesirable. Holy Money takes the genre of "Death Doom Metal" to new psychedelic heights combining sound samples, swirling echoplexes & screeching noise with earth shattering riffs and thunderous vocals that aren't commonly heard in the genre. Hughes' deep guttural vocals layer with Hirth's higher pitched almost black metal vocals to create an otherworldly blend of dystopian chaos. Clocking in a just over forty minutes, the album takes you on a unsettling ride through the horrors of the human world evoking urban decay, political unrest & geological uncertainty. A very appropriate album for 2017 & one of my favorite metal releases of the last several years. -- Charlie
Spectral Voice - "Eroded Corridors of Unbeing"
With "Eroded Corridors of Unbeing" Denver, CO's Spectral Voice deliver one of the freshest well crafted slabs of death metal I have heard in some time. This band has done their homework. They clearly wear the influences of bands such as Incantation, Decomposed & diSEMBOWELMENT on their sleeves but this is not a bad thing. Over the course of five tracks Spectral Voice explore the cavernous depths of metal employing clean echoed out guitar lines with thick sludgy chords, pummeling drums, and deep guttural vocals that sound as if they are being summoned from the depths of ancient ruins. I mean, sonically, this record sounds great. They move flawlessly from slow trudging passages to faster headbanging riffs, all the while keeping it interesting & unrepetitive. There are no flashy guitar solos here, just simple lines well placed over an ominous backdrop to create a satisfying atmosphere one craves from a great death metal record. I'm also a sucker for metal logos, artwork & packaging and this band hit the nail on the head. Everything from their impressive (and legible!) logo, to the color & font choices on the packaging recall class death metal aesthetics while incorporating a fresh modern twist. -- Charlie
D.A.F. - “Das ist Daf”
It’s about damn time they reissued Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft’s trilogy of EBM classics, Alles Ist Gut, Gold und Liebe, and Fur Immer - this box set also features their earlier LP of true blue synth-punk, Die Kleinen und die Bösen along with a remix album, 7”, slipmat, booklet, and a large poster of the babes themselves. D.A.F. has, by far, one of the most unique sounds I’ve ever heard, and it’s incredible what these two did with a synthesizer and percussion. The combination of Robert Gorl’s synth technique and drumming, and Gabi Delgado’s demanding, mechanical voice were a match made in German new-wave heaven. Their albums are some of my favorite ever made, occupying repetitive erotic overtones riding basic and sometimes wacky, electro-industrial melodies. Simplicity has never been sexier. --Sunshine
Bill Converse - “The Shape of Things to Come”
Look, I’m not trying to convince anyone to listen to techno and enjoy it, because I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea - BUT Bill Converse is an absolute master at the art of creation and the GRAND MAGICIAN of DJ’ing. He is truly the best to do it here in Texas, and for that reason, he is getting my top pick of 2017. This record is a bit of a throwback to the pioneering sounds of acid techno from the late 80’s and early 90’s, all the while incorporating phenomenally pretty tones that could have been created by the one and only Bill Converse. ‘The Shape of Things to Come’ is a groovy, intelligent and acidic journey through techno, created with an amalgamation of synths and delays I could only dream of breathing next to. Bless Dark Entries for releasing his creative output on a physical format, and if you ever get the opportunity to see Bill play records, you’d better fucking take it - it’s a mind warping experience that you will cherish forever, and if you don’t - then I feel real sorry for you, bud. -- Sunshine
Boy Harsher - "Country Girl"
I’m almost a little hesitant to put this on my best-of list because it seems like it will be difficult to acquire a physical copy (only 633 were pressed on vinyl), but it is definitely a record that darkwave/synthpop fans should hear, at the very least. This duo has the formula for precise, danceable tracks with soft whispers draped on top, down to a T in this EP. They set themselves apart from other goth and industrial acts out, removing the gimmicky aesthetic that many others employ - only offering up straight-forward bass, synth-waves, and brooding vocals. This is exactly what I would want playing in the darkest neon nightclub in my dreams. It’s quite enchanting, but all too short; the last track left me wanting more. Catch them at the Barracuda in Austin with The Soft Moon next April - it will not be a show to miss! -- Sunshine
Bjork - “Utopia"
As a massive Bjork devotee, I was excited to read she was putting out a new record this year! She did an excellent job teasing her fans with the slow release of singles throughout the past few months. As a whole, ‘Utopia’ has UK bass and post-industrial influences, which can assumingly be attributed to fellow glitch-pop artist, Arca, helping her create this literal utopia of an album. It is encompassed with many beautiful sounds, strings, digital basslines and glitches and most epically, passion in her voice and lyrics. It’s a hopeful, love-filled album, while including small moments of heartbreak, she still manages to uplift the listener with her strong vocal prowess. The packaging of this album is equally gorgeous as the record it holds, with a lovely note written by Bjork, describing the “bliss” it was creating it and crediting all that contributed. This album is a MUST-listen for 2017 and a must-own for any Bjork fan. –Sunshine
PJ Harvey- “Hope Six Demolition Project”
My feelings for this album are no doubt boosted by the AMAZING concert she and her band brought to Houston early in 2017. This album seems to be a possible conclusion of a darker direction for her or perhaps this is where she is going to continue to delve. One never knows as she has mined many different styles over her career. This album is similar to “Let England Shake” in its delving into history. It’s a musical study of 3 areas of the world that have had to deal in different ways with war: Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Washington DC. It’s a dark, un-pretty picture. –chucK
Charlotte Gainsbourg- “Rest”
It feels like I must be in a rut as her releases almost always end up on my best of lists. This hits on at least 3 cylinders for me; Female Vocals, French, and Dark. This floats by my ears seamlessly due to some beautiful production work. Don’t confuse her work with the female French pop artists of the 60’s who might have sung light and airy fluff (which I also like), for her path is a more lush and dense kind of lounge-pop. Collaborators on this release are members of Daft Punk, and Paul McCartney! –cHuck
Bitchin Bahas- “Bahas Fresh”
From drippy analogue sounds to speed warped gongs this is a wonderfully pleasing avant garde improv mesh of many sounds and styles. I’m guessing there is a room chock full of cool instruments at these guys practice/record space. –chuck
V/A: Outro Tempo: Electronic & Contemporary Music From Brazil 1978-1992
Brazil is home of some beloved music genres such as tropicalia and bossa nova. With Outro Tempo DJ John Gomez, record digger and curator of the comp, takes it much deeper. Apparently Gomez had to jump through hoops to find some of these gems, discovering much of the material just before a heightened interest in electronic Brazilian records began. While there’s a baseline of MPB and contemporary folk sounds across much of the compilation, you’ll also find jazz-fusion, minimal synth, new age and fourth world sounds. The comp does a fantastic job of giving you an even amount of everything it offers. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys fun samba jazz all the way to relaxing new age soundscapes. -Justin
Deerhoof “Mountain Moves”
Deerhoof has been a favorite around the shop for a long, long time. It’s possible I’ve heard more hoof in the shop than any other group and that’s fine by me! With “Mountain Moves”, their 14th long player, the band takes a little bit of a backseat (though not much) and instates guest vocalists on 10 of the 15 tracks, giving the album a slightly more diverse feel than some of their previous records. While possibly not the band’s strongest effort, it’s all in all one of their most listenable and fun releases to date. -Justin
Impalers “Cellar Dweller”
16 minutes of crushing, relentless D-Beat from Texas natives Victor Gutierrez, Mike Sharp, Chris Ulsh, Juan Carlos, and Cody Cox (Mammoth Grinder, Power Trip, Glue, Hatred Surge to name a few) Their previous release “Psychedelic Snutskaller” which included 5 tracks (one of them consisting of half of the run time of the EP) had a more hypnotic approach with minimal changes. With “Cellar Dweller” we get 10 pummeling blasts of hardcore punk tunes in just over 16 – the flurry never letting up and eventually riding out with a full 3 minute slammer with blistering electric guitar soloing. D-beat heaven! –Justin
Shinichi Atobe “From the Heart, It’s A Start, A Work Of Art”
This may very well be the last you hear of Japanese house and techno producer Shinichi Atobe. He remains a mystery and very little is known about the elusive artist even after Demdike Stare's DDS label tracked Atobe down and started releasing his music more than 3 years ago. The material on "From the Heart, It's A Start, A Work Of Art" comes from music that was made before his debut on Chain Reaction in 2001. The 40 minutes featured on this album showcase why he is so revered. The title track 'Regret' is lingering, bare bones atmospheric techno at its finest that would feel appropriate in a rundown Berlin nightclub at 4am. Atobe has never given an interview and video of his alleged only live performance, a sold out show this past June in Tokyo, is non-existent. If this is indeed the last of his recorded music he is going out on a high note. –David