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by Ben Holden

Mike Oldfield – 
Hergest Ridge (1974)

I’m obviously a Tubular Bells fan thanks to my dad (and The Exorcist), but this, Mike’s first record, I stumbled upon whilst down a krautrock/progrock worm hole thanks to Spotify’s (yes, sorry) algorithms. There’s a breakdown and guitar interlude (Part One 7:30) that genuinely makes me weep like a massive soft lad every time I hear it. It conjures up images of Folklore, monolithic stone, and the bearded wizard that served me homemade Perry at the Yorkshire Show last week. 

PJ Harvey – Rid of Me (1993)

Another recent nostalgic pang of rediscovery that coerced similar feelings from when I first heard it, the cover (cassette, obvs), the Steve Albini production and drum sound that never fails to quicken the blood. Peej has an awesome body of work to get stuck into but this is where it all started for me. Highlights: ‘Me-Jane’, ‘Yuri-G’ and ‘Rub ‘Til It Bleeds’.

Richard Dawson & Circle – Henki (2021)

I love Dicky Dawson and I love Circle. Seeing them at Threadfest at The Playhouse in Bradford in 2015 blew my mind, the two together of course are utterly brilliant. They saved a hellish day at Primavera festival recently (along with Shellac) and put a smile back on everyone’s faces. Highlights for me are ‘Cooksonia’ and ‘Silphium’. Richard’s recent 2020 album is worth a pop too, particularly the That Fucking Tank-esque banger ‘Jogging’.

Arab Strap – 
As Days Get Dark (2021)

It’s worth pointing out that pretty much every artist on the Rock Action Records roster is bloody brilliant. In particular new signing Cloth, but with stalwarts Mogwai at the helm touting such talent as Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert, Twilight Sad, Part Chimp and Kathryn Joseph, you cannot lose having a delve into that pot of deliciousness. When ‘The Turning of Our Bones’ the new single from the latest Arab Strap record was released I couldn’t get enough of it. The B-Movie Romero-esque video is right up my street. That classic poetic darkness, looping drum machines, analog synth, inventive guitar, gore, bleakness and humour. Another lockdown love of mine. Highlights; ‘Here Comes Comus’, ‘Sleeper’ and ‘The Turning of Our Bones’. 

Cardiacs –
Sing to God (1996)

I was introduced to Cardiacs by old band members Gareth Pugh and Rick Bolton (the latter sadly no longer with us). Gaz made me a tape (remember them? Yes I’m old) of this album and a mixtape which quickly led to an obsession. Also in that band was fellow member Mark Cawthra, an Ex-Cardiac!) They are a band to be obsessed with. Tim Smith (also sadly no longer with us) was a genius songwriter, quirky, eccentric, pop, angular, mind-bending, awesome. I was lucky enough to see their last ever gig at TJ’s in Leeds in 2007, got a signed poster too! The last song ‘Dirty Boy’ with its epic ending that goes on forever, will stay with me forever.  Highlights for me are ‘Bellyeye’, ‘Dirty Boy’ and ‘Nurses Whispering Versus’. It’s a Masterpiece. 

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by Simon Glacken

Alice Coltrane Sextet – 
Live At The Berkeley Community Theater 1972 (2019)

While released on a label and picking up some great press coverage this live album is technically a bootleg and not part of the official Alice Coltrane catalogue however the quality of this previous unheard soundboard recording is immense. This is avant-garde, acid jazz music at it’s finest and a truly all engulfing one off piece of sonic exploration captured in 1972.

Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer – Recordings from the Åland Islands (2022)

Released this year on the forward thinking and ever reliable Chicago based label International Anthem, this a dreamy, ambient record. Warm modular synthesizers and viola intertwine with field recordings which help conjure up images of the peaceful islands which Jeremiah and Mara were inspired on their trip there. The perfect soundtrack to relax to.

King Woman –
Celestial Blues (2021)

Every few years an album comes along which really standout in the doom scene. 2021 was the turn of King Woman, fronted by Kristina Esfandiar whose soaring vocals and emotional delivery made for a captivating listen. The crushing, slow riffs only added to the listening experience merging with shoegaze and grudge to make an impactful doom-rock album that’s not all about wizards and getting stoned.

Moor Mother – 
Black Encyclopedia of the Air (2021)

One of the most prolific artists around at the moment, this is Moor Mother’s first album for Anti- which sees her sitting alongside label mates such as Tow Waits, Nick Cave and The Locust. Arguably this is her most accessible album to date but it is still packed with harsh noise, hop hop beats, jazz samples and incredibly powerful lyrics which make for a moving snd impactful listen.

Oren Ambarchi –
Hubris (2016)

This is a beast of an album and sees Oren Ambarchi collaborating with a whole host of artists including Jim O’Rourke, Konrad Sprenger and Cyrs Cole. Layers of pulsating electronics and shimmering guitars feature across these mammoth track especially on Hubris Part 1 and Hubris Part 3. The latter, which features two drummers, gradually builds and the hypnotic tension until it explodes into a psychedelic masterpiece.

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by Matt Reid

Liturgy –
H.A.Q.Q. (2019)

Liturgy are a band that continuously push the boundaries of “Black Metal” both sonically and culturally, dragging it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Released in 2019, this album was absolutely ground breaking for me and still continues to send shivers down my spine. Seamlessly blending black metal dirge with traditional folk and almost monk-like chanting that glitches and stutters throughout. Its unique, beautiful and dripping with desperation.

Wipers –
Youth of America (1981)

Possibly my favourite ‘driving’ record and still one of the strongest US punk bands of all time. Hugely influential and original for their time, this record has a special place in my heart. I remember seeing various pin badges and torn shirts adorned at gigs with their classic spikey logo and wondering what the hell it was until I managed to pick the record up for myself. Its minimal, no-frills, straight down the line punk with a twist of anarcho-misery thrown in (before anarcho existed) and its fucking glorious.

Gospel –
The Moon Is A Dead World (2005)

Having recently returned following a 20+ year hiatus (really), this record has almost mythical like status. Original vinyl copies go for silly money and are hard to come by. Its an onslaught of heavy, jazz infused noise-rock that leans hard on the shoulders of screamo (the good kind) and elements of prog-rock. A strange mix on paper but one that crosses over faultlessly and is a strong recommendation for anyone into any of those genres.

Warthog –
Prison 7” (2014)

This was the first Warthog record I managed to pick up a physical copy of and its still my personal favourite to date. Only comprised of four songs, its an absolute beast and perfectly executed. ‘Expiration’ has to be one of the greatest opening riffs to a record in all time and the musicianship is astounding. Its riddled with flesh eating riffs, blistering drum beats and vocals by what sounds to be the angriest man alive. Fun fact, the singer was once the bassist in The Men too. All hail Larry! Don’t overlook this.

Liars –
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned (2004)

The story goes this was recorded in an abandoned lodge, deep within a wood in the arse-end of nowhere. Prior to recording the album, each member would exchange ghost stories to freak one another out, creating an atmosphere that overshadows the entire record. Brimming with tales of witchcraft, sacrifices and cult rituals it sounds like the ramblings of a wild man from the 17th century. Each song teetering on the edge of failure but desperately managing to keep its shit together and crawl out of the lake. Bizarre yet totally gripping.

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by Drew Millward

Mount Eerie –
Clear Moon (2012)

Phil Elverum is a bloody genius, and this record is up there with some of his best work. Dense, dark and utterly beautiful. He manages to seamlessly combine cinematic soundtracks, folk and black metal, to create work that is incredibly atmospheric and multilayered, begging you to go back and relisten, to unearth gems from the sonic forest floor. 

Straw Man Army –
SOS (2022)

The most recent record from New York’s Straw Man Army is one of the best things I’ve heard in while. Bristling with anger, filled with the wiry guitar sounds and all profits from the album going to a charity seeking the abolition of prisons, this is social commentary and political music at its absolute finest. There’s a sparseness to the sound, bringing to mind Wire/Gang of Four/Joy Division, but through a lens of 40 years of history past that point and a healthy dose of NYHC. 

Leatherface –
Mush (1991)

Leatherface are the greatest British punk band. That’s just a fact and you can’t argue with facts. The speed and melody of mid-period Hüsker Dü, combined with an incredibly English (specifically Northern) sensibility. 

I’d have to hunt high and low to find fault with this album, so I won’t bother and we’ll just say it’s utterly perfect. From opening to closing, the abrasive guitars and melody would seem like a perfect fit for a time when the world’s eyes were fixated on Seattle, but perhaps more people should have been paying attention to Sunderland, as this record (along with pretty much everything the band ever did) stands head and shoulders above a vast amount of bilge peddled in the name of “grunge”. 

Townes Van Zandt –
The Late Great Townes Van Zandt (1972)

I’m not sure what to say about this, but everyone should listen to Townes Van Zandt. If you haven’t, this is a good starting point. ‘Snow Don’t Fall’ is one of the best songs ever written and Townes is one of history’s greatest songwriters.

All Structures Align –
Details & Drawings (2022)

Amongst a slew of incredible releases on Wrong Speed (Haress and Web of Lies in particular, but the label is in the habit of only putting out great stuff), you will find this utterly brilliant piece of work from ASA. There are reference points and labels that would indicate some of the sounds contained within, but it really is it’s own unique thing. There are echos of stuff that was spawned from Louisville or Chicago in the 90s along with the sprawling post-rock wave that hit around that time, but the delicate guitar work, sparse sounds and genuine melody, make this thing something I keep coming back to, time and time again.