This year did not pull its punches. Musically and even more importantly artistically; it was the best year I have experienced in my painful existence. In 2014 artists arrived from every corner of this hell rock to showcase their creations. As a whole the music was more experimental than it has ever been. Ambient was an art-form that bled into just about everything we posted. And like its sustaining notes it just kept with us all year and as it echoes into the future we laugh at the mainstream as they still try to emulate what we were doing in 2012–2013.
Here is to the albums that were most memorably dark…the ones that made it to hell. I don’t claim to have heard every single album that came out during 2014, as there are many more hours of music published in a year then there are available hours to listen to it.
1. Svetlana Sins – She Lies For Me
The Capetown artist that brought us Sadhands, Crueler and Marxloh started 2014 off right with another fine dark incarnation “Svetlana Sins“. The 6-tracker was called “She Lies For Me” and it was holy dark.
2. Marxloh – A Thousand Times
Svetlana Sins metamorphosed into Marxloh on A thousand times. This one dropped mid-year. These truthfully dark tracks so wonderfully preserved on this album make for a special date with the devil. I am perplexed on how Senator Park the artist behind this is pushing the boundaries on every release. Chemically my mind is pushed to its limits while hearing shit this good especially back-to-back with Svetlana Sins. Both of these projects and albums are perfect.
3. Virgin Blood – Snow
What felt like it could be Virgin Blood’s very good final release (but will not be because another one is in the works), it also felt like she was barely scratching the surface artistically. The analog ambiance of Snow made it hauntingly timeless to the core. The field recording approach was a road less traveled to this underworld. You don’t end up here in hell, let alone on the best of 2014, unless you are the real deal. This is one of my favorites of the year because of its originality in its approach and implementation.
4. That Was Then This Is Now – Fables
2014 was also a year of finely knit collaborations and some of the best I have ever witnessed happened in the year of the horse. Moon Mirror and Blvck Ceiling teamed up on “Fables” and it just cut me to the core. The saddest song I have heard in a long time “Gone” had me invigorated with a certain somberness that lasted well into the present. Although this one was only limited to cassette, it was a culmination in the splendor of the dark arts.
5. Labyrinth Ear – The Orchid Room
Waited most of the year for Labyrinth Ear‘s full length to come out and when it did it felt orgasmic. The strange culmination of instrumentation and augmented vocals makes it a unique proposition worth investigating as well as one of the year’s best.
6. Pe† Ceme†ery – Time Tends to Wax and Wane
The title of this album really does put in perspective the interesting mood that was 2014. On “Time Tends to Wax and Wane” Pet Cemetary’s work and time paid off because this is one of the best from start to finish that I heard. No detail was spaced on here and I think you will agree this album has a certain luster to it that most don’t ever realize. Obsession can sometimes lead you to the some unique places. Take for example your life.
7. Neon Shudder – Omens
This one had the timeless ingredients I crave. It is synthy, dark with a touch of ambient. It doesn’t matter if it is 1984 or 2014 this shit is going to end up as a definite favorite.
8. Statiqbloom/ Zex Model Split
This was by far my favorite split of the year. Statiqbloom/ Zex Model partnered up on the distribution aspect and ended up making the kind of album that I had to respect. Hints of Skinny Puppy came through for me. In my book no one has nailed this sound quite as well since the masters themselves indulged in the black arts. If SP is not contacting Zex Model to produce their shit than the polar shift needs to happen right now.
9. River Bones – A Greater Love
A Greater Love courtesy of River Bones was a whirlpool of everything I wanted to hear in an EP. They just went for it and then went farther on each track till my eyeballs were in the back of my head. Ingenious moments like these don’t come often that is why you have to stop and enjoy the albums like these even if you have to tap the back of your head to dislodge your eyes.
10. LSTNGT – Sad Rave
Sad Rave by LSTNGT kept creeping back into my world over and over again. The infectious keys and grooves reminded me of the hopeful days ahead. The carefully placed samples reminded me of the past. All and all this was one of the best takeover strategies that indeed took me over. It’s carefully orchestrated maneuvers like this which got to me all year.
11. Sex and Violence: the Life of Edward de Vere – Derek Hunter the Chaos Riddler
What I like about “Sex and Violence” is that it pays tribute to the unsung hero. If you look at anyone famous, most likely they are taking credit for the labors of someone else. The spoken-word interjections along with all of the other crafts makes this a noteworthy album of 2014. If you didn’t download this album, the artist retracted it and replaced it with another album (see above). Maybe the artist needed to re-think his thesis. Whatever the case, this was one of my favorites of the year and the best I can do is point you to the artist so you can ask for the recordings yourselves.
12. Summer of Haze – Holy Heavenh∞d
Summer of Haze dropped a non aggressive album of trap that was void of drops and took witch-house to non-gothic experimentation via its creators. This was one of my favorite listeners all year. The moods it presented were fastened with unexpectedness that I didn’t ever expect. Holy Heavenhood was pretty much the mood of the year.
13. Unicorn Domination – Drala
Portland was all over my map this year. The city digs into your soul and makes you its bitch. There are all kinds of like-minded individuals like myself that have an opinion about something or another. There is a sea of artistry happening and then there is Unicorn Domination. The trio weaves a soundscape of fat electronic beats spliced with melodic hooks. Drala was a favorite of mine all throughout the year and it will be cherished for years to come.
14.Chubby Wolf – Envelope Petals
Envelope Petals was the last recordings ever of Chubby Wolf to be released. Chubby Wolf was Danielle Baquet-Long (1982-2009) as field recording artist that influenced modern ambient music long before it evolved into what it is today. This album was haunting in the sense that the remixes offered by Billy Gomberg, Yann Novak, and Maile Colbert made it a more complete offering suited for even the most casual listener.
15.Schonwald – Rays
There were many singles released throughout the year by Schonwald that there is easily an album’s worth of material when mining their cloud and their camp. To my ears this puts them at having an album, which by the way, is one of the best of the year. A strong catalog and my favorite traditional instrument playing artists of the year.
16.Sidewalks and Skeletons – Future Ghosts
My longing for the witch in 2014 took me to this record. In epic proportions Future Ghosts delivered. It zips down your pants and delivers hard. Shall I say anymore?
17. Signs – Bassface
With Signs, each release has been a steady improvement from a beginning born out of excellence where themed albums become a constant. I like the Bassface EP especially — because of the experimental nature of taking the listener to 15 places simultaneously. Some say drugs can do that for you. In this case Signs is my drug of choice.
18. Skinny Reptile Youth – Things Are What They Seem
Skinny Reptile Youth brought it in 2014 with their new wave witch on “Things Are Not What They Seem”. It was one of those albums in 2014 that just kept with you infectiously. The odd but pleasant vox and micro synth technology takes you to a world you want to return to over and over until you are gasping for more.
19. Mr.Kitty – Time
This colousal witch release by Mr Kitty deemed “Time” had me purring and spraying down my domain way too much. It was perhaps the full animal instinct and the addictive grooves that got to me. This album is not to be taken lightly. Grab it and let this shit prrrrrrr.
20. Sons of Magdalene – Move to Pain
Sons of Magdalene was my summertime high. The songs contained within “Move to Pain” were well preserved fragments of a lost art from a distant era. I was chasing the dragon on these bitches through the second half of 2014. I was chasing my past. I was chasing a lost dream. I was chased away.
21. V▲LH▲LL – Leaning on Shadows
This one hit the G-spot early December. Such well produced tracks but not over produced which had my rabbit radar ears in big motion on Leaning on Shadows. I like the classical melodies that come through that you don’t hear as much as one would like in the modern era of experimental music. Haunting and ominous, but also shines with an unexpected whiteness says the source. It is in fact, a thing of beauty. Not a lot can be said about the identities of the two behind this project, but their talent shines.
22. Paula Temple – Deathvox
Don’t underestimate every second of 2014. Make it count! It was down to the wire and I used every second I could to listen to the albums that lapsed my path the first round. Deathvox crept in and has been stabbing me deep with its musical thrust. Paula Temple has “it” and I look ever so forward to future releases as this artist is in pioneering territory pushing the outer limits.