ARAB STRAP – Monday at the Hug and Pint (Chemikal Underground)
For me, the Falkirk miserabilists most rounded and consistent record, ranging from the near hysterical grumpiness of “Fucking Little Bastards” to the tender “Who Named the Days”.
WILLIAM BASINSKI – The Disintegration Loops II (2062)
Simply speaking, the four albums in the Disintegration Loops series were old tape loops that Basinski found that were beginning to decay. He played them and recorded the process as they literally fell apart. What sounds an interesting, but essentially dry experiment, can be astonishing. The 42 minute “DLP3” that closes volume two is one of the most haunting, melancholic pieces of music you’re ever likely to hear, and to listen to it in full is to hear the sound of music, and a little bit of the past, dying.
JOHN FAHEY – Red Cross (Revenant)
I think these were Fahey’s last recordings, but I may be wrong. There is a stripped down primitivism to the guitar playing here where all that’s left is the naked sound of wood and wire. Ragged, primal music that snags the senses like barbed wire.
JAGA JAZZIST – The Stix (Ninja Tune)
Fantastic electronic jazz from the Norwegian collective who epitomise the Scandinavian attitude of giving two fingers to the purists by fusing electronica, crunching rock and horns into something wonderful.
LAIBACH – WAT (Mute)
The Slovenian satirists’ finest album for a while. All the usual hallmarks are there – the military drumbeats, the Wagnerian sturm und drang, and the ludicrous pomposity. Thing is, they both ridicule and celebrate European nationalism by making it seem both rousing and yet at the same time very silly.
MIDNIGHT CHOIR – Waiting for the Bricks to Fall (Glitterhouse)
This was the final album by an underrated Norwegian trio who operated in the same kind of territory as Tindersticks and the Walkabouts. Most of the songs are slow, and most are infused by an aching, irreparable sadness.
MIRA CALIX – Skimskatta (Warp)
Chantal Passamonte is one of the few remaining artists on Warp who still explores the untapped possibilities of electronic music. Recently she’s been lauded for her installation work. It was her second album from 2003 where she really found her feet – a 21 track collection that spanned a wide variety of scale and style.
RACHEL’S – Systems / Layers (Quarterstick)
I Don’t know if this will prove to be the last Rachel’s album, but I reckon it’s their best. Generally, the tracks are shorter and more concise than on any of their previous records, and there is a greater variation of material. My album of 2003.
SET FIRE TO FLAMES – Telegraphs In Negative / Mouths Trapped In Static (130701)
SILVER MT ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA & TRA-LA-LA BAND WITH CHOIR – This Is Our Punk Rock (Constellation)
Finally, two Montreal collectives with their roots at the Hotel2Tango. The first is a sprawling double album that takes Godspeed You Black Emperor’s apocalyptic soundscapes down a more experimental and less bombastic route. The second is the first SMZ record that establishes the choral vocals as an element that’s as important as the instrumentals.