The amount of fantastic music that made 2018 makes creating a playlist an arduous task. Originally totaling 50+ songs, the painful, gut-wrenching process of elimination to just 25 songs demonstrated just how many tracks there were I loved. This is no objective best of, but a purely subjective collation of the songs that sound tracked my year.
Honourable mentions include the power pop indie of Flasher, MAGA frat boys eaten alive by Pleasure Venom, vomit in your turn ups and piss stinking tales of broken Britain by Hotel Lux, Jarada tearing your face off with their brand of blistering Israeli hardcore, the haunted candle lit flickers of dungeon synth mage Old Tower, and the great return of industrial juggernaut Ministry, with AmeriKKKant being their best record since Animositisomina.
Here’s to the heroes of 2018, and here’s the songs which wooed me, wowed me, moved me, and smashed me in the face like a sledgehammer. Merry Christmas! 🎄
Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo, is where the party is right now. Protest and post-punk soundtrack the streets of Lingwala, recalling the no-wave iconoclasm from the ruins of late 70s New York.
Spearheading the new Congolese agit-punk movement is KOKOKO!, fronted by ‘Zagué’ force of nature Makara Bianko and production from French synth explorer débruit. Backed by DIY musicians from the Ngwaka neighbourhood, political tension and urban decay are channeled into a twisted concoction of off-kilter rhythms, found-junk instrumentation and gritty grooves.
Liboso, their first release with Transgressive Records, is another slice of psych-funk with fire in it’s belly. Opener ‘Blvd Lumumba’ is a slow creeper, an auditory finger beckoning you into their world, enticing you hypnotically against an urban aural landscape of clanging pots and broken glass. The fattest synth bass you’ve ever heard warbles aggressively on ‘Azo Toke’, cymbal claps and Arabic flavoured guitar picking builds to a minimalist and primal frenzy. ESG funk sets the tone on ‘Affaire A Mbongo’, a percussive stomper holding up Bianko’s powerful vocals. Kinshasa partner in crime Rachel Nyangombe features on ‘L.O.V.E’ (first heard on 2017’s Tokoliana), synths squeak and squeal against a fuzzy thud of Nyangombe’s thumb on a live cable, with mysterious garbled voices instilling a touch of menace. Finale ‘Longola Ye Kupe’ ends on a punch of pure kinetics, a driving storm forcing you to dance into a fever.
Tearing down the old order needn’t be nihilistic. Art and music is a formidable asset in the revolutionaries arsenal, and with Liboso, KOKOKO! have delivered an EP that’s so exciting and full of ingenuity, it makes your soul dance, and challenges the consensus deeper than mere didactics ever could.
Plastic Ivy has one sole figure listed as her influence: Marcel Duchamp. Taking inspiration from Duchamp’s philosophy of art serving the mind over the eye, Philadelphia artist Lira Marie Landes has utilised this cerebral approach to explore her search for self-knowledge and actualisation, in the midst of a gender transition during the writing and recording of the album.
The Glass Horizon is six songs of exemplary minimal-synth pop, taking cues from the rich crop of contemporary icy synthesist’s (Xeno & Oaklander, Void Vision, Speaking Parts) and authentic electronic sonics being attributed to her primary use of analogue Roland keyboards. ‘Exit Strategy’ is a frenetic chiller, chunky arpreggiators drive against discordant sinewaves, echoing the aggression heard on Martial Canterel’s Gyors Lassú. Landes’s Residents-like vocals come to the fore on lead single (video shot by Liz Wendelbo) ‘Never Caught in Amber’, a jubilant BPM pop-banger espousing the liberation of embracing your true self. Epiphany turns to playful with instrumental ‘Sticky Fears of Inner Néant’, complete with melodica played by Landes herself, before the post-punk ‘Anaphora’ details the blank canvas our bodies are, backed by Frank (Just Frank) indie guitars and a glorious big synth lead right at home with The Cure’s Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me. Menace follows with the cavernous funk of ‘Usury’, then cinematic closer ‘Love on the Floor’ drops us into a sea of reverb and delay, held together by steady drum machines and bass throbs, culminating to a thrilling end to the atmospheric tundra.
Plastic Ivy’s sophomore effort is a dynamic first entry to a proposed series of thematic works, and her balancing of pop immediacy and the weighty quest to promote communication and questioning have been well and truly realised.