2017 has been colossal in terms of underground music releases. Nearly all of the bands who we had expected to release new music this year did so and we also had some immense new arrivals to the scene, pushing boundaries and making waves all on their own. With the vast amount of submissions that we get to the blog on a daily basis it was very difficult to review all of them, we tried our best and we endeavoured to condense who we deem top contenders for our best releases of 2017 list down to a reasonable bunch of candidates. End of year lists generate conversations about bands who deserve support from small online publications like ours. So, from the veritable Fuzz Club Records to Edinburgh's 'Morningside Young Team', Sweden's VÅRØ Records to 'Blackspin Records' over in Greece and on into 'Wrong Way Records' over in the UK, Ireland's own Penske Recordings and straight through to the awesome American based Saint Marie Records we've tripped the sonic fantastic with this years 'End Of Year List' bringing you some blistering psych, sublime shoegaze, dreamy dream pop & atmospheric post-rock for your listening pleasure and you didn't even have to vote for one single entry!
Happy Christmas one and all and we'll see you all in 2018 for more fun and frolics!
Primal Music & Radio
Holy Monitor - Holy Monitor
Holy Monitor by Holy Monitor
2017 kicked off with a bang and we were introduced to a band back in January who absolutely blew our minds. Stunning Athens based experimental psych/kraut rock collective 'Holy Monitor' released their debut self-titled full length release filled to the brim with luscious soundscapes that skip through a multiple of different sonic disciplines with blistering aplomb. Released via 'Primitive Music Records' in collaboration with 'Blackspin Records' , this album is a total trip!
Dead Gurus - Acid Bench
ACID BENCH (On Sale 50% Off) by Dead Gurus
Dark and foreboding, menacing and hypnotic, Minnesota based psych aficionados 'Dead Gurus' are no strangers to this modern underground psych scene. The band are made up of Jason Edmonds (Magic Castles), Bennett Johnson, Collin Gorman Weiland (Daughters of the Sun and Dreamweapon) & Ryan Garbes (Wet Hair) and what they collectively create is a no holds barred, deeply entrancing thrill ride through the darker side of the psychedelic spectrum. Their seven track opus entitled 'Acid Bench' was unleashed on February 17th 2017 via the exciting UK based independent record label 'Wrong Way Records'.
Percolator - Sestra
Sestra LP by Percolator
Dublin based three piece 'Percolator' have been creating electronically charged experimental standards drenched in poly-rhythmic kraut rock connotations underscored with subtle flourishes of shoegaze, prog rock & resonating noise since 2012 with the bands core lineup of Ian Chestnutt - guitar/vocal, Eleanor Myler - drums/vocal & John Murphy - bass staying true to the project since its conception. They popped up on our radar back in 2013 with the immense 'Little Demon' EP (which we played tracks from religiously over on our sister radio station Primal Radio) and they returned this year with a staggering collection of eight tracks packaged as 'Sestra', released via Cork based independent record label Penske Recordings.
Wozniak - Courage Reels
Courage Reels by Wozniak
Having wowed us all with their musical presence over previous EP releases, the sonic force that is Edinburgh's noisemakers 'Wozniak' unleashed a stunning collection of tracks in the guise of their highly anticipated debut album deftly titled 'Courage Reels'. This album tumbles through a plethora of immense genres generating enough power through each endearing track to continuously turn industrial strength turbines! Stand out tracks on this release are 'Crush, Shader, Perihelion and Super Panther', but the whole album is immense from start to finish. It was released back in April via the Edinburgh based independent record label 'Morningside Young Team' and worthy of your ears. Recommended!
Todavía - Shyness
Shyness by todavía
Los Angeles based dream pop aficionado Todavía aka self-releasing multi instrumentalist Rhyan Riesgo unleashed a highly anticipated brand new eight track album entitled 'Shyness' via the bands bandcamp page back in April. Todavía's sound is distinctly dreamy, with hushed synth swells, sequenced percussion, swirling guitars and shimmering reverberation that all circumnavigates that almost ethereal vocal tone. This album is luscious, addictive and a very early contender for our year end list.
Has A Shadow - Sorrow Tomorrow
Sorrow Tomorrow by Has A Shadow
Mexico natives 'Has A Shadow' released their sophomore album (their first via Fuzz Club Records) entitled 'Sorrow Tomorrow' back on January 18th 2017. The band create a brand of dark and ritualistic modern day psych gaze that heaves and undulates through swathes of unabashed reverberation and driving instrumentation tinged with menacing gothic tones. This album was so good we gave it 5/5 after just one listen!
Jellyskin - Jellyskin
jellyskin by jellyskin
Leeds based 'Jellyskin' correlated all of their previously released singles, added a splattering of newer material and packaged it all up on what was their very first self-titled physical release. Formed in 2016, 'Jellyskin' exploded onto the underground psych/gaze scene with four consecutive single releases, each one absolutely sublime. Unless you've been hiding under a rock over the past year you would have read about the band on Primal Music's web pages & listened to them over on Primal Radio daily; they are seriously that good. 'Jellyskin' create stunning musical soundscapes that gracefully meander through experimental shoegaze, dream pop, psych rock and it's many, many sub genres. The availability of Jellyskin's singles in one release is a big bonus and we had earmarked these guys very early on as contenders for our best of year end list. Highly recommended!
JuJu - Our Mother Was A Plant
Our Mother Was A Plant by JuJu
JuJu teamed up with one of the best underground independent record labels currently plying it's trade in this ever evolving scene, the immense 'Fuzz Club Records' and announced his sophomore release aptly titled 'Our Mother Was A Plant'. This time around Gioele Valenti dipped his sonic tendrils into a plethora of genres that includes afrobeat, krautrock, glam, post-punk, art rock, shoegaze & drone and it also featured guest appearances from 'Capra Informis', the masked djembe player of Swedish based psych aficionados 'Goat', making this album one of the most anticipated releases of 2017. It got it's full release back in September on 180g vinyl via www.fuzzclub.com and every single one of you needs this album in your collection. It is immense.
Tuath - Things I Don't Know
Things I don't know by Tuath
‘Tuath’ exploded onto the Irish underground scene back in March 2015 with their intensely addictive & deeply experimental debut EP ‘An Taobh Tuath(Ail)’ closely followed by their immense spaced out single ‘Amhairc Thart Ort Fein’ in September of the same year. Last year the band returned with a blistering four track EP entitled ‘Existence Is Futile’ packed full of experimental dreamscapes that skipped from serine psych-rock into blissfully dreamy shoegaze and on into expressive jazz fusion coupled with swirling hypnotically progressive rhythms and sullen space rock hues. Back in January the band created what is their most interesting release to date. 'Things I Don't Know' pulses through four tracks of soaring reverb laced progressions, deeply filled with haunting vocalisations that are collectively underpinned by heavier grunge filled moments, swirling instrumentation and massive swathes of melody. It cemented a place in our minds back then and was always going to appear on our end of year list.
Miniatures - Jessamines
Jessamines by Miniatures
The debut album from 'Miniatures' is a dense and lush affair. Its textures are tightly woven to create velvety soundscapes that envelope and endear. Formed in 2012 and currently based in Melbourne, the trio seem to be a further example of the strength of the Southern hemisphere's creative scene right now – especially when it comes to the dreamier side of the spectrum. The band worked with renowned Melbourne based producer Matthew Hosking to fine tweak the sounds on this album and the finished product is spectacular. 'Jessamines' floats and flickers. It had it's full release on the 6th October 2017 via the ever reliable Saint Marie Records.
Helicon - Helicon
Helicon by Helicon
When Glasgow based experimental psych outfit 'Helicon' announced their highly anticipated self-titled debut album we got really excited. With eight EP's under their belts, 'Helicon' have taken the live scene by storm, touring Europe and sharing the stage with some serious heavy hitters including Wooden Shjips, The Warlocks and Dead Skeletons. Helicon's sound is addictive, engagingly dynamic and at times all consuming or otherworldly with melodic eastern tinged psych, swirling drones, mantra like vocalisations and intricately intense guitar work that collectively merges into one almighty sonic attack. Their debut album is officially released on the 8th of December via those good folks over at fuzzclub.com and it is sublime!
Bolywool - From Void To Matter Vol.3
From Void to Matter Volume 3 by Bolywool
Hailing from the wind swept isle of Öland in Sweden, Calle Thor and Oskar Karlström aka 'Bolywool' have been fascinating us lot here at Primal Music for quite some time with their shimmering, cinematic, frost laden soundscapes filled to the brim with flourishes of atmospheric post-rock and scintillating shoegaze collectively underscored by stunning electronic progressions. They started out on a sonic journey back in May 2017 with the first of a planned trilogy of EP's entitled 'From Void To Matter' via VÅRØ Records . Throughout the three EP's 'Bolywool' went from strength to strength culminating in what we think is their best release to date and a worthy entrant to our end of year tally. 'From Void To Matter Vol. 3' was officially released back on December 1st 2017 and is available to buy/download right now via varorecords.bandcamp.com
Holy Monitor : holymonitor.bandcamp.com
Dead Gurus: wrongwayrecords.bandcamp.com
Has A Shadow: fuzzclub.bandcamp.com
by Primal Music
ARTIST: Pretty Lightning
RELEASE: The Rhythm Of Ooze
RELEASE DATE: 1oth November 2017
RECORD COMPANY: Fuzz Club Records
From Saarbrucken in Germany comes the loud and wild crunch of Pretty Lightning: a band whose influences include drone rock, krautrock, stoner rock, blues, alternative rock and most importantly psychedelia. Here they present their third album 'The Rhythm of Ooze', drenched in the structure of hard-stompin’ blues but with the alternative sound of thick psychedelia. Songs are epic journeys of steady rhythm, percussive backings and rolling guitar and bass sections, all amounting to something that steps well above the rest in terms of genre and contemporaries. 'The Rhythm Of Ooze' had it's official release back on the 10th November 2017 via those ever reliable folks over at 'Fuzz Club Records' with digital copies available through bandcamp and vinyl copies through fuzzclub.com
The Rhythm Of Ooze by Pretty Lightning
‘Thunder Mountain Return’ opens the showcase with its percussively sequenced opening of bangs and clattering, following by the slow introduction of other instruments. Over the seven minute long opener Pretty Lightning carve a neat mental picture of rolling through the desert: the greatest addition to the track is the winding organ and guitar combo that keeps the sound primarily focused on the a kind of neon blues music. The drums back everything up tightly and intricately: an engaging opener. ‘Willow Valley Blues’ features the first vocal performance of the album, which is drowned out beneath a kind of fuzz-centric tone, reminiscent of other contemporaries (most notably any band Dan Auerbach features within). The instrumentation is fun and almost borderline pop-infused, while simultaneously featuring a kind of krautrock, motorway rhythm. ‘Tangerine Stream’ turns things down to a more mellow level, still featuring the same vocal FX, but conjures up something interesting for the listener in relation to song writing. Guitars churn, the rhythm section cooley follows, and altogether a catchy melody is established between the players. ‘Loops’ features some interesting timing, hisses and noises, buzzes. The vocals, which come in after the second part of the song suit the tempo and sound; making it one of the most straightforward yet rewarding vocal contributions on the album.
The title track is an album highlight: the psychedelic tempo and beats of the drums along with the less drowned out vocals and the fuzz-induced bass line make for a great mixture and texturing. A similar feel follows on the straightforward rock of ‘This Machine is Running’, which captures the bands more rock-tinged practices. A drum break in the middle of the song also adds a twist of something different as well. One of the most enjoyable tracks on the albums second half is ‘Rainbow Fantasies’ which melds around a laidback guitar riff and some very pleasant humming. The drum kit is absent, in its place is a collection of bells and a tambourine, making the song even more low down and humble in its appearance. The best song on the whole album is ‘Pale Yellow’ a slow burn, spaghetti western shootout soundtrack that features jangling guitar and brilliantly hazy vocals and lyrics. The track rolls along, the percussion loosely jiggering behind the brilliant fuzz and rays of guitar noise vibrating from the instrument. ‘Born to Snooze’, another seven minute feature, doesn’t add up to the rewards of the equal length opener ‘Thunder Mountain Return’, instead become background music that one would happily classify as generic psych rock music.
Thanks to their influences and a true knack of song writing, Pretty Lightning climb well above the generic, average pysch bands that seem to have begun sweltering around the current music climate. My only true criticism would be for the Black Keys style vocal FX, that for the most part sound copied, bland and actually quite irritating. Besides that, the production and song writing is truly strong and as mentioned before, Pretty Lightning successfully rise above the wave of mediocrity that has formed around their chosen genre: a rewarding journey through imaginative sound.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cam Phillips is a writer and above all, a music lover, who seeks to gain experience through writing and listening. He is also an avid film viewer and art and literature junkie who enjoys creative writing. His most recent published work was featured on Baeble Music and Culture (USA), Sounds and Colours Magazine (Latin America, London), Easterndaze (Latvia) and the Australian based heavy music blog, I Probably Hate Your Band.
RELEASE: Like A Dog
RELEASE DATE: 15th November 2107
RECORD COMPANY: Unsigned
Auckland based shoegaze/dream pop quartet 'Scarp' released their debut four track EP entitled 'Like A Dog' to the masses back on the 15th November 2017 via bandcamp. Their collective sound swirls effortlessly around some intense summery vibes as woozy shoegaze and beautifully entrancing dream pop hued vocal lines permeate noisy passages of layered reverberations. The band are made up of Pia - vocals/bass, Andrew - guitar, Adam - guitar & Howl - drums with EP available to buy/download right now via scarp.bandcamp.com
Like A Dog by Scarp
The EP opens with gentle guitar strums and a warbling lead line that intertwines with the plod of bass and steady percussion as those beautiful vocalisations wash over the listener. 'Youth Large, Size Small' builds slowly as it's instrumentation swoops through reverb hued atmospheric breaks underpinned with simple yet effective drum patterns and brilliantly executed chorus progressions. Up next, 'Air Max' shimmers on a wave of jangling guitars and intense reverb. Melancholic summer vibes explode into a cacophony of colour as this track unfurls it's sonic tendrils and instrumentally envelops another stunning vocal performance. It builds and builds gracefully into a wonderful crescendo driven dream pop standard echoing layers of subtle fuzz, captivating lead lines and rocking steadily on a pin point percussive pattern. 'Air Max' is simply beautiful and probably my favourite track on the entire release.
The slow moving 'Old Age' tip toes along it's steady drum pattern as it's bass line hums beneath a layer of hazy guitar drenched in swathes of reverb. Catchy hook laden chorus changes drag that vocal skywards, hoisting the repetitive verse progressions with it into new territory. 'Old Age' dips into the pop side of alternative rock at times and that's not a bad thing at all. It adds to the overall atmospherics of the piece and hit's home the tracks subject matter brilliantly. The EP closes out with 'Wasps', another slow moving slab of dreamy dream-gaze. Vocally sublime this track has a marvellous ambient hued break that builds brilliantly alongside pounding drums, throbbing bass and soaring lead guitar collectively guided by hazy rhythmic guitar progressions. It's a fantastic ending to a wonderful EP and I can't wait to hear what comes next for this band.
Del Chaney has spent the last five years dedicating his time to uncovering the best artists in the unsigned or small independent label based shoegaze, ethereal dream pop, post punk & modern psych rock from all over the globe & reviewing them for this blog - The Primal Music Blog. He is also a contributing writer for The Sound Of Confusion (Now On Hiatus). His other arm - Primal Radio - has gained considerable respect from bands and promoters alike since its conception in 2013 & has helped him in actively promoting a genre of music that he is passionate about. Hailing from Dublin, Ireland, he is a keen Vinyl Collector, Tattoo Fan & all round good guy! He is a self confessed music freak & is never far away from a studio console or a turntable.
ARTIST: E Gone
RELEASE: Brilliant Apparatus
RELEASE DATE: 24th November
RECORD COMPANY: Self Released
'Brilliant Apparatus' is the latest five track release from the immense Swedish based experimental psych aficionado 'E Gone' aka Daniel Westerlund. 'E Gone' has been wowing us lot here at Primal Music for some time with the way he melds together various musical stylings including electronica, psych, post rock, oriental, dub, raga, ambient and folk to create a stunning cacophony of mesmerising soundscapes that float and permeate layers of impressive sonic production with relative ease. 'Brilliant Apparatus' is self-released and it follows on from Februarys full length LP 'The Third Is A Mountain Which Holds A Dagger'. It's available to buy/download right now via egone.bandcamp.com
Brilliant Apparatus EP by E GONE
In a fizzing haze of twinkling drones and shimmering electronics 'Ectoplasm', the EP's opening salvo ignites and burns sporadically for a short time spilling ambient clouds of reverberating frequencies out into the ether before announcing 'Liber Null Tango', an ambient infused dub electro outing doused in melody and accompanied by deep resonating bass notes that coalesce brilliantly with sequenced synth lines and the constant pitter patter of hi-hats. Sequenced drums pound the senses pulling into the mix cascading synth and low frequency atmospheric drones that sit just below the mix adding weight and depth to the piece. Up next, 'Brilliant Apparatus' bullies its way into audible range bouncing alongside sampled vocalisations and deeply resonating synth lines. Sequenced percussion travels along in breakbeat style dragging angry electronics and film soundtrack accompaniments with it as it meanders brilliantly through ambient breaks, huge sonic builds with screaming crescendos filled with maliciously dark electronics. 'Brilliant Apparatus' is an absolutely fantastic track and possibly my favourite on the entire release.
'Hökarängen' the EP's penultimate piece opens with plinking synth riding dub reggae stylings albeit in an electronic fashion. Off kilter percussion concentrates the sound as panned instrumentation ebbs and flows underneath, jumping in and out of ambient tinged breaks filled with guitar stabs and lines of undulating lead that intertwines effortlessly with layers of synth, sequenced electronics and the heady pull of reverberation. The 'Brilliant Apparatus' EP closes out with 'The Autumn Equinox of 1993'. Floating instrumental drones glimmer and dance on top of pulsating electronics and celestial reverberations as intense melodic psychedelia greets this listener, rising and falling brilliantly through magnificent production and stunning organ swells as sporadic percussive hits permeate the ether from far below the mix. It's a fascinating ending to what is an interesting EP.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
RELEASE: From Void To Matter Vol.3
RELEASE DATE: 1st December 2017
RECORD COMPANY: VÅRØ
Having the ability to tell stories through the medium of sound is a skill that is sometimes overlooked. When listening to music the listener needs to connect with every single facet of what a band or artist are trying to convey to truly understand the mindset of the songwriter. 'Bolywool' have that ability. They suck you into their sonic world and introduce to intense melancholic transitions through post-rock, shoegaze and ambient stylings steeped in deeply resonating atmosphere. Each track tells a story and is backed up with immense songwriting and sublime production values. Hailing from the wind swept isle of Öland in Sweden, Calle Thor and Oskar Karlström aka 'Bolywool' have been fascinating us lot here at Primal Music for quite some time with their shimmering, cinematic, frost laden soundscapes filled to the brim with flourishes of atmospheric post-rock and scintillating shoegaze collectively underscored by stunning electronic progressions. They started out on a sonic journey back in May 2017 with the first of a planned trilogy of EP's entitled 'From Void To Matter' via VÅRØ Records . The second instalment blew us away back September and now they have returned with it's masterful bookend, closing the door on what is a fascinating musical journey. 'From Void To Matter Volume 3' was officially released on December 1st 2017 and is available to buy/download right now via varorecords.bandcamp.com
'Nowhere' glides into the ether fizzing majestically on a whirlwind of noise, fretboard theatrics and undefined vocal samples before exploding into a kaleidoscope of beautiful atmospheric instrumentation. Swirling guitar progressions meander brilliantly through the delectable hum of bass frequencies and repetitive percussion that bounds effortlessly through walls of shimmering reverberations amalgamating at times with whispered vocalisations and huge soaring barrages of beautiful melody. It's a triumphant opening track and it only hardens my already firm belief that 'Bolywool' are masters of their craft and have that unique ability to paint sonic pictures with their music. As 'Nowhere' dissolves into the sonic ether we're instantly brought back down to earth with the deep resonating opening salvos of 'Okkara' and it's not long before I'm drifting into a massive melting pot of blissful sounds. Huge cymbal crashes and slow percussive hits splash into layers of reverberation and delay as sonic incantations undulate through rippling organ swells and drawn out guitar strums collectively held in a kind of continuous sonic stasis. There are hidden patches of simmering melody here that bob up and down in a post-rock strewn landscape peppered at times with hazy shoegaze highlights and enchanting layers of ambient abandonment. 'Okkara' is deeply enchanting and beautifully crafted.
'The Age Of Entitlement' begins life bubbling on some sequenced electronics before unfurling into a mesmerising shoegaze standard. Repetitive percussion carves out a fast paced backbeat as swirling synths and driving bass frequencies act as a kind of sonic chariot for that fragile vocal line to ride as all around it is battered by melodic lead lines drenched in immersive reverberation. Thoroughly addictive and probably my favourite track on the entire release 'The Age Of Entitlement' is an unsung gem. The EP's penultimate track entitled 'Moin-Moin (Interlude)' is a noisy atmospheric behemoth with cyclonic instrumentation trapped in a whirlwind of reverberation. Resonating sound waves buffer and blast the senses as we're treated to just under two minutes of hypnotically intense ambient noise before the EP unleashes it's closing piece. 'You Are Not Alone In The Universe, I Am Here' begins with beautifully entrancing sampled vocalisations that swoop and arc through layers of droning synth, sequenced percussion and fizzing electronics. This track builds brilliantly, carefully adding each layer of instrumentation before the arrival of that melodic vocal track until eventually cascading into a blistering cacophony of resonating sound. It's a marvellous finale to a collection of tracks that I cannot fault. 'Bolywool' continuously amaze me. Their attention to detail on this trilogy of EP's alone has been second to none. It has been a wonderful journey reviewing them all and I can't wait to hear what comes next from this band.