This year at OBLADADA, our list quickly gathered into a few stories rather than a list. As 2022 draws to a close, we present an extended spotlight of our favourite listening experiences in another messed up year.

The sprawling world of Bill Baird

Just part of our Bill Baird haul

One little adventure we’ve been enjoying for years is picking through musicians that create a particular form of psychedelic rock. It’s a specific strain of the genre that’s probably more bedroom studio as an instrument than anything that’s enjoyed major label support. Music where a nerdy fascination with product techniques, details and often endless ideas collide into vast and gnarly discographies.

Projects like The Paperhead (please reissue “Focus In On…” The Looking Glass!), the work and many hats of Curtis Godino, and the fractal prog of Nolan Potter, are all hugely recommended wormholes to get sucked through.

Collectively, smashing together all the sounds from late 60’s onwards, and fireballs into something that balances on that razor blade between reminiscence and reinvention. Often, stunningly beautiful albums sit in a state of undiscovery, at bargain prices, overshadowed by way more celebrated stuff with so much less to offer…

One name that came up in these random searches was the huge messy discography of Texas based Bill Baird. A recent Bandcamp Friday deal offered up his entire discography for $5, we decided to overwhelm ourselves, and our downloads folder with 57 of his releases!

Clearly this isn’t the calmest way to ingest this many ideas, but we’ve had fun slowly picking our way through 100’s of tracks. The propulsive groves of SOUND team, looped samples of Heavy Meddo, the lo fi mess of {{{SUNSET}}} and just about every variation and approach to lysergic pop have all been bewilderingly superb.

Right away, albums like Flower Children’s Children’s Children, Into The Lens, Diamond Eyepatch, Silence! and Owl (Arthur King Presents) all pan out in wildly detailed adventurous listens.

Baird’s story is a hugely relatable one, having had initial positivity and support from the music business’ big players before turning unfairly sour, and subsequently decided only to ever do things on his terms. This sizeable chunk of music fully embracing the idea of simply trying things out and having fun making music that genuinely goes places.

Anyone with the faintest curiosity in slightly baked rock or modern day outsiders, should jump in wherever they fancy – it’s absolutely guaranteed that you’ll quickly find something to get totally caught up in.

Explore Bill Baird on Bandcamp

UkrainIan sunflowers

Just as it finally felt that we may start to look beyond C-19, the hideous actions of Russia against Ukraine seemed to immediately plunge everything into yet more darkness. Seeing the brutality and needless death, and that rumble of a larger nuclear threat was the stuff of pure nightmares.

One small thing, which felt like a tiny piece of conceptual solidarity, was spending a lot of time exploring the Odessa based label Shukai. The low key dubby grooves of contemporary group Chillera (on their sister label Muscut), and archival releases like the woozy dreamlike psychedelics of Volodymyr Bystriakov, the avant funking jazz of Shapoval Quartet was all rendered even more incredible.

But more than these, the two volumes of Valentina Goncharova’s recordings from 1987–1991 work remains an absolute revelation. A beautifully odd and timeless marriage of violin, electronics and voice.

Several times this year, even where music was background, her music had the power to cut through and grab your attention. Despite dustings of new ageism and somewhat ambient forms, tracks like Insight or Passageway to Eternity became stupendous clouds of energy, surging into view. The music has its own unique gravity.

Whilst these recordings clearly aren’t directly borne out of this conflict or necessarily politically motivated, it feels like a valuable and timely opportunity to explore these weird uniquely Ukrainian sonic gems.

Slava Ukraíni!

Shukai/Muscat on Bamdcamp

We Love You Junzo

Although Twitter’s new Musk phase now seems like it’s being repopulated by arseholes, the platform was the first and for now, we use the most. It’s (been?) great to feel part of a community of artists, labels, and avid listeners.

Despite being based in rural Scotland, on any given day we’d be more likely to have spoken to friends in Japan, the US and Canada than friends in Edinburgh, only 30 minutes away.

Undoubtedly one of the most thrilling of these friendships was with Junzo Suzuki. Despite the time zone miss match we’d connect over everything from the Incredible String Band to Toshi Ichiyanagi. Any late night enquiry about some weird psych underground gem would, moments later, be met with a selfie of him standing grinning with the album in his hand.

Junzo getting a tour of OBLADADA’s part of the world

We’d even spent time together when he was touring northern Europe meaning Junzo got to spend time at OBLADADA headquarters and no surprise – we got on like a house on fire.

Then last February, post gig, Junzo had a bad fall at a railway station in Tokyo. The news initially was grim, that perhaps any recovery would be unlikely. However, I decided to keep messaging as I would normally, in the hope these random babblings from Scotland may help his brain heal. Lots of other friends both locally and dotted around the globe did similar…

Whilst things have taken time, it seems that a genuine outpouring of love and music has helped Junzo to make steps back to health. Part of this love quickly gathered around the formation of We Love You Junzo, a bandcamp page set up by his dear friend and serial collaborator Tabata Mituru and Ned Netherwood, to help support him.

Before the accident, Junzo had worked on new material with Bart De Paepe and Jan D’Hooghe whilst touring in March 2020, and handed the tape to Mitsuru to add some bass. So when Macula Kuru was released in May this year, it was with tears and awe, we tuned in LOUD. A triumphant howling mess of an album, finally peaking in the fizzy gloriousness of the final track Troubadour

Quickly afterwards, a vast compilation was released, over 4 hours of the most twisted tracks all donated from collaborators and friends. We Love Junzo has since, continued to release albums, all to help support his recovery.

Progress for Junzo’s type of injuries are notoriously slow to recover from but whilst he’s not back to his old self yet, our notification pings from time to time with tiny snatches of his amazing energy and humour.

Junzo is a walking encylopedia of music, film and literature, he’s an absolute treasure. We all continue to will the great man onwards and upwards, WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

WE LOVE JUNZO on Bandcamp

Ubiquitous Oren

It’s a point we’ve made before, but worth repeating – if you want the easiest possible way to plug into next level music, simply follow Oren Ambarchi’s activity, including everything released via his label Black Truffle.

It’s richly deserved that Ambarchi’s Shebang and Ghosted (with Johan Berthling / Andreas Werliin) are both littered across almost every end of year list we’ve seen so far. Music brimming with clarity and creativity, dusted in avant garde forms but still somehow friendly enough to form into beautifully aligning grooves and rhythms. Difficult music made delicious.

But for us, one recording somehow cut even deeper, was one that could easily be considered as a lesser release. Ambarchi’s live perform with Julia Reidy at Café OTO is little more than a live capture of two friends improvising together.

1.7.22 is two guitars and electronics growing in one 30 minute track from gently punctuated ambience into a sumptuous broth of droning edges and sonic helix. The hushed north London air and somehow redraws Jim O’Rourkes Happy Days to spectacular effect.

The fact that this beautiful set was performed as part of a 3-day event in tribute to the still stinging void left by Peter Rehberg just makes it even more gorgeous.

Another essential release from two artists that seem incapable of average…

Purchase Oren Ambarchi and Julia Reidy – 1.7.22

Black Truffle Records on Bandcamp

Sotto on the sofa

One surprisingly overlooked aspect in music is that sense of hearing new sounds. Despite submerging in music that’s regularly attempting to do strange things, the sounds themselves are often relatively understandable or ‘normal’.

I remember reading an article years ago (I can’t remember who or where) that discussed how listening to a piano means you have an understanding of what made the sound. There is a process to how the sound is made, how it is controlled and whilst there is a huge range on offer, we are all able to imagine a broadly piano shaped origination in that sound.

Now apply that to an electronic sound. What do you imagine is making the sound? A motherboard, a box of flashing lights and dials? A wireframe or stream of code on a screen? A lab technician or some nerd huddled behind a laptop? Any kind of visualisation seems a lot harder to pin down.

Andrew Oda’s work was a new discovery this year. His remarkable new album Back To The Body, quickly had us heading for his earlier releases SOTTO and Cocoon. Whilst Cocoon is great, it’s clearly a work of Oda as he finds his feet.

However, in our view, SOTTO remains his an absolute masterpiece.

The 27-minute opener Sotto / Spirit is packed with staggering invention. A tapestry of elements, textures and moods that flits between gorgeousness and abrasiveness. It’s like a collection of numerous configurations that shares everything and nothing with each other. Electronic manipulation and sound design that drags you off into completely new zones hundreds of times.

Even on that first listen, stretched out on the sofa, headphones on, and eyes closed, the music formed into impossible geometries, outrageously complex computations, flying by at impossible speeds, and sounds grouped together that feel completely unheard before. Making any sense of this, results in the type of response that may need a drawing or diagram more than words…

Our review stated that Oda’s Back To The Body reminds us of David Tudor’s Rainforest, or Iannis Xenakis attempting mutant pop, but this also applies here.

Whilst here at OBLADADA we listen to lots of electronic abstraction, with Sotto/Voice the sense that sound has strayed so far from any recognisable or immediately understood form means it’s still a revelation.

By the time your reach the celestial smudges of the last few minutes, the feeling is that you’ve travelled somehow much further than any normal earth based 27-minute time span would normally allow.

Purchase SOTTO on Bandcamp

Adventures in Sonikoland

In some respects, creating mixes has become a fun extension of writing reviews.

For all of 2022, we’ve made monthly mixes for CAMP Radio – an opportunity to create a standalone 2-hour long adventure. For us, that space is time to bring together all the fragments of disparate music we’ve enjoyed in the few week gaps between each broadcast.

Drawing from a broad swathe of experimental music, our style of short edits marrying together music that’s more than likely never been spliced before seems to yield some interesting twists and turns.

Our approach is actually based on a half-remembered statement by the English painter Walter Sickert, back at art school. ‘put a little touch of your last colour into your next colour, to create harmony’.

So here, taking something from a piece of weird electronics, and finding something similar in a piece of psych rock or avant garde composition. Textures, instrumentation and momentum, a thread of continuity out of hugely different bits and pieces.

We are also pretty sure Roland Kayn has previously never been mixed with The Strawbs (halfway through Pt:3), or the sounds to the last train home from Edinburgh blended with Tamad Shud (the start of Pt: 1) but hopefully they are all interesting blends to listen to, as much as they are to compile and construct. Oh, and Mary Amacher’s (the end of Pt:4) work does truly wild things with your speakers when you try mix it with anything!

These mixes and sleeves are all a listening diary of sorts but what’s unexpected is that even with our brutal and clumsy Garageband copy and pasting antics, the music we love seems to open up in new ways. It’s not all navel gazing though, we’ve had some great feedback from artists and labels, and simply from folk using these mixes as an enjoyable way of discovering wild new sounds.

Find all our SONIKO mixes here

strange POLYGONS in strange places

This inky black box of weirdness landed here in late June as we enjoyed a lovely spell of sunny and warm days. Despite the suggestion that this 333-minute-long, 5CD monolith of infinite polygoned what-the fuckery is best consumed when played loud on speakers and with minimal visual distractions, we ended up meandering the local fields and woodland as this throbbed and fizzed through our headphones.

The conceptual and alien voids navigated through Canadian artist JH’s latest work, quite possibly sat at odds with a colour saturated Scottish summer landscape. But somehow, it being combined made the single most staggering listen of the year even more powerful. A recording that clearly owes much of its creation to Roland Kayn, but despite that boat anchor of a reference, APEIROZOAN still manages to fearlessly go somewhere brain ticklingly new.

Standing on top of a storm drain cover in the middle of a field as the sun dipped over the Pentland Hills, brain deep fried to this album, was a very specific form of perfection.

Months later and the fact remains, we still can’t quite believe that APEIROZOAN hit quite so hard whilst seemingly not making many ripples elsewhere. A vast grouping of music, maths, geometry, noise and chaos, pulverised and layered into a unique form of total amazement…

APEIROZOAN by JH is our album of 2022.

Read out full review here

APEIROZOAN is only available as a 5CD Boxset – enter the void here

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