Deeper within the dimly lit valleys of the online underground, Mishka’s okkulty siblings have compiled a cavalcade of releases from the year past. This gathering represents some of the dark electronic music which has inspired and held a special place for our caliginous family. Inputs from Nove Mura, Bram E Geiben, Mike Textbeak, Press Gang and SINS have helped us to assemble what we believe is a deserving listing in Mishka’s most loved darkness for the year. It is simply 20 of the finest in their craft, put in mystical order – neither ascending nor descending.
If you’ve been following any of our other lists, you already know that anything we released, we’ve excluded from this list. It’s only fair! NO reason patting ourselves on the back instead of shining some light on some truly deserving releases from this past year. Also if a release made it to our master Top 50 albums of 2012 list, well then it was excluded from mention here. If you’re looking for any of the following… Men In Brurka (46), White Car (42), Vatican Shadow (39), Mushy (28) and Outlands (22), head over there.
This list was contributed to by Nove Mura, Theeway Peoplestare, Press Gang, SINS, and Texture. and Mike Textbeak. It was put together by Nove MUra and Theeway Peoplestare.
Best of 2012: Our 20 Fave Dark & Otherworldy Releases
The best album of the year. Maniacal, sonic lobotomy from Ivy and Susan. After touring virtually non-stop all over the planet for nearly a year, I was beginning to think these two had serious OCD when it came to not wanting to stay put in any one place for very long. Live they always amazed and frequently even terrified us.
We all knew they had serious musical chops (Susan’s meticulous synth skills coupled with Ivy’s pathological, demonic yodeling was the perfect match), and many of us die hard BRANES fans longed for an actual full length album. Well, they didn’t disappoint. Every bit as wild and off-the-wall as their live shows, Perfection Condition is the most exciting, hilarious, clever, and inventive release by any band this year, period. It also gets the “Album Cover of the Year” award. BRANES forever!
Only four songs and a few live shows so far on the West Coast, Youth Code came out of nowhere only a few months ago and stunned us all. Angry as hell, tough as nails with enough explosive energy to start a revolution, Youth Code’s Ryan George and Sara Taylor stripped away all the garbage, all the nonsense, all the fussiness usually associated with your typical synth waifs, and threw a Molotov cocktail of sound in all of our faces.
Yes we dance our arses off to Youth Code’s onslaught, but we’re also sweating and yelling joyously as their unrelenting fury purifies our hearts and minds. Youth Code are the kind of band that wake you up and make you want to start your own band… or your own revolution (both those things are pretty much the same thing, if you think about it.)
Some of the most beautiful synth music I heard all year came from this quasi-neo-minimal synth band from the UK. Linea Aspera (Alison Lewis on vocals and Ryan Ambridge on the synths) remind me in some ways of Berlin’s Sixth June.
Not that they sound like them at all, necessarily. It’s just that both bands have a real knack for crafting swooning, melancholy, highly polished and darkly melodic synth mini-masterpieces that give us chills because they sound so achingly beautiful. I really can’t wait to hear more from them. Their debut EP on Dark Entries is a masterpiece.
Sultry vocals, spidery guitar textures, raunchy synth lines, thick beats, Seattle’s Nightmare Fortress released one of the most original records of the year. Along with Alison Lewis, Nightmare Fortress’s Alicia Amiri has one of the most gorgeous voices in the whole “New Darkness” scene. She can really sing, and she doesn’t bury her vocals in all kinds of deceptive effects.
What’s also remarkable about Nightmare Fortress is that they are a fully functional band, which seems to be as rare these days as spotting a unicorn in its natural habitat. Until The Air Runs Out is a great debut from a band that we can expect to hear a lot more from in the future.
Brooklyn’s Goita Deitz are a loving tribute in many ways to the good old days of the sequencer based synth sound of the 70s Berlin School of electronics. Their music could just as easily be used in some new documentary about the solar with high tech computer graphics as much as it is private “bedroom music” we listen to as we contemplate existence while staring into our lava lamp with the black light on.
Helicopter/Forever is a continuation of the type of sound we heard on their debut record Romance/Coma. Wandering, nebulous, but always intensely structured, Helicopter/Forever is (like their debut) a tease. Sounds this wonderful, this evocative and loaded with imagination deserve a full fledged LP. Still wishing and waiting…
One of the biggest surprises I stumbled upon this year was Drab Majesty (the androgynous alien alter ego of Andrew Clinco.) His sound struck me as really weird and unusual; sort of shoegazy (in the best sense of the horribly overused term), but with driving drum machines and synths amidst the wall of ethereal guitars.
Drab Majesty is as much a conceptual performance art piece as it is a music project. But the songwriting and composing on Unarian Dances is so strong, so compelling, the “Ziggy Stardust meets Gen P-Orridge” theatrics seem almost unnecessary. Look for Drab Majesty to be performing live and releasing more material very soon. 2013 is going to be his/her year.
We’ve been watching Os Ovni mutate out of their space pods into full fledged DIY space-synth nomads for a couple of years now. Wildly prolific, insanely dedicated, and always moving forward, Logan Owlbeemoth and Omebi Valouria created something truly magical on their split EP with Atlanta’s Twins. The meandering and joyfully formless exuberance that characterized their earlier releases has now given way to true, honest to gods songwriting and compositional structure.
Like many of the bands on this list who find it amusing to torture and tease us by only releasing a handful of songs at a time, we’re now ready for Os Ovni’s magnum opus: a real album! And on the flip side of the record, was an equally impressive and totally different sounding band called Twins that’s every bit as sophisticated as Os Ovni’s new found disciplined sound. Twins have a really bizarre sound too: moody synths intermingled with surreal crooning vocals. In a weird way, Twins sound like some sort of freakish hybrid of Suicide and The Teardrop Explodes (if you can imagine that.) Another awesome release from Clandestine Records, a label apparently hell bent on being as eclectic and consistently high quality as humanly (or inhumanly) possible.
Much like Goitia Deitz and Philadelphia’s Zombi, SURVIVE make expansive instrumental sonic vistas for your mind to get lost in. These are soundtracks for the greatest, most visionary science fiction films that were never made (or have yet to be made.) I loved this album.
In a music scene where instrumental music is common place, it’s really wonderful to hear something as exceptional and well realized SURVIVE. And when they perform live, they literally have the synth set up of your wildest wet dreams.
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh God… Another band with triangles and funny symbols in their name.” But if you write ∆AIMON off as another dirgey, murky, lo fi band whose members are hilariously obsessed with magick, morbidly fascinated by serial killers, and tragically self-aware of their own ironic lowbrow taste, then you’d be missing out because ∆AIMON are pretty awesome.
They’re dark as hell, their wall of sound is so opaque it gives us a true feeling of dread, and the beats lurch along, stalking us like that deformed maniac that’s creeping down the hall toward us as we sleep. Brant and Nancy Showers are the real deal and their music continues to develop, creating new disturbing atmospheres. Whatever you do, don’t look under the bed.
Along with Youth Code, Sam Witherspoon’s stunning industrial synth project By Any Means Necessary is a revelation. Totally hardware based, what initially started as a tribute of sorts to the glorious oldschool sound of bands like Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly, BAMN is now evolving into something else.
No less dark and atmospheric as his older material, but what’s different now is an emphasis on spacier, almost soundtrack like sounds. Witherspoon’s composing is what’s really noticeable on Thousandth Door. There’s a demon inside Witherspoon’s arpeggiator, I’m convinced of it.
Ever wonder what it would sound like if Giorgio Moroder produced D.A.F.? Well I do all time, and Inhalt are one of the greatest bands to come out of San Francisco in years. Kinda discoish, undeniably catchy, synthy as all hell, infectiously dancey, Inhalt span the spectrum of German electronic music from Kraftwerk to the aforementioned D.A.F. to the Dada synth of Felix Kubin, even combining a heavy Italo influence into their sound.
Inhalt are absolutely perfect. The Vehicle EP is essential for anyone who claims they are a synth aficionado. They’re the sorta band that leaves me stunned and speechless. I’m never speechless.
Then there’s Deathday, a band that is poised to be the next big neo-post punk band from Los Angeles. These guys are going places. Each time I see them perform live, they just get better and better, their songwriting gets tighter and tighter.
Though this cassette was released this year and it was the first studio document of their music that many people got a hold of, it’s comprised mainly of older material. But they are hard at work on a new album which should be out in the coming months. We can’t wait to hear it.
This mixtape style cd is an hour-ish of true sickness down the truest street of the word. Music and art obsessed Ceremonial Dagger moves dreamlike within creativity as a latitude and parallel. I hope by now you have at least checked out the animated videos he does through Kemikore Mediaworks (the ones that take about an hour per second to produce). They are insane.
Listening to Ghost Triangulations reflects macchinazioni/ dell’arte/ oscurità and is much like walking through a highly complex labyrinth of an otherworld gone so wrong it has flipped itself into utopia out of pure shock. This album is not for those who need to be pampered through their listening experience. It’s as bad-ass as it gets.
Stunning, stunning, stunning. When this album came out it received mixed outcry from the url community. People either love it or hate it. I (and others from Mishka) are so swept away, there is no choice but to to be a lover. This is the album I keep going back to in those times I need a serious fix of passion and depth.
I crave Emi’s vocal resonance and am drawn to it. The track ‘Caged Dreams’ features Martin Savale of Asian Dub Foundation dishing out formidable verse. Mater Suspiria Vision gave this album an elevated level of personal attention.
Whenever I post anything simply mentioning Tash Willmore’s name, the post combusts from an onslaught of attention. One of the most loved people in the community; intelligent, funny, meticulous and talented. The album sold out quickly, even by Bvs standards – its quality fully enjoyed and appreciated.
Tash’s album measures out all of his human values in heavy doses and puts all of him right out there. It is one of the most honest albums I have ever heard. This album saw the beginning of re-experimentation with his vocal instrument after a looong pre-witch break. Broken Bloodline is a statement of perfection and sweat. It will sweep you up and place you somewhere eternally beautiful.
I do still and always will adore the Mater Suspiria mindfuck. One of the most schooled in (audio sensory stuff that I prey one day I will properly understand) the art of opening doors to the universe via the listener. This project is the pinnacle of Witch and has a prolific back catalogue to prove it. Highly experimental psychedelic mind trips.
In my record collection, the Inverted Triangle trilogy is a serious contender as far as collectability is concerned. I also have to throw in for good measure: Pwin Teaks Children of New H ‘Kosmiche Puppen’ absolutely blew my mind.
This highly anticipated album delivered a much needed quench, fans were left in a Crossover yearning for a couple of years after the powerful Space Death broke many a mind. This album is softer and laps seduction, romance and renewal upon our weary faces. Crossover really brought a force unrestrained in 2012.
The LP deluxe edition had so many ritual artifacts included you could start a cvlt. Or anti cvlt for that matter. Desire is home to it and will also release the remix album riding up on the horizon. Collaborating artists are all the quality favs from the okkulty scenes worldwide.
Finding its way onto many a top xx list for 2012 Mike Textbeak says about the release: Trust’s ‘TRST’ hits you from so many polished angles it could be the electronic album of the year.
Those unworldly yet sentimental vocals and obscure referencing synths and beats meets club friendly witchy electr-oh bangers make this a mighty slab of neo-romanticism and ultra-distraction.
Mike Textbeak picked this one for album of the year. A personal favorite of many homed on the outstanding sacred Bones. Textbeak says Led Er Est’s skyscraping extreme album The Diver pushed the band into new boundaries without abandoning their synth vox roots.
Flavors of experimental and synth punk blast all over this beast.
Black ceiling is just clever. Unrelenting, cascading pure witch. I Vacation In Your Hell described it as “Just front to back, fucking insane, love this shit so much I could eat this bitch.” And I just love that so much.
Of course some honorary mentions have to go out to a number of bands for outstanding releases. Those are Slow Head – Fire is the Mouth of the Snake [Disaro], Andras – Invincible [Aural Sects], VS// Youthclub – Tide Out [Aural Sects], Banana Clip – Signs [Aural Sects], Spellhound – S/T [Aural Sects], Ela Orleans – Ela and Thee Prophets [Clan Destine], Dark Mother – Anda [Baku Shad-Do], Daterape – Machaevol [Self-Released], and Bathaus – Arcane Cut [Haute Magie].
- Theway Peoplestare