Top Tracks 2013: November

The major releases for the year began to slow down in November, but that didn’t mean there was any difficulty finding great new music. I gave myself the challenge of attempting to make this playlist entirely instrumental. However, that would have meant discarding the Primitive Calculators… which would have been criminal.

Andrew Bird
“Ethio Invention No. 1”

From: I Want to See Pulaski at Night
Genre: Chamber Folk
Time: 6:46
Listen: SoundCloud | Spotify
birdyThis half-hour EP from singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and one-man orchestra extraordinaire Andrew Bird offers six instrumentals of multi-tracked violins built around the charming centrepiece “Pulaski at Night“, which begs a return to Bird’s hometown of Chicago. While it may not be the most essential entry to his discography, it remains well worth a listen.

“Blood Moon”

From: The Event of Your Leaving
Genre: Space Ambient
Time: 5:58
Listen: SoundCloud | Spotify
raumAmbient musicians Liz Harris (a.k.a. Grouper) and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma collaborated under the name of Raum to aurally interpret the work of Latvian-American visual artist Vija Celmins. Apparently “Raum” translates to “space/room/chamber” in German, making it an appropriate name for the cavernous soundscapes produced by the duo.

“Moth and Moon”

From: meadow:watt
Genre: Ambient Techno
Time: 4:55
Listen: Bandcamp | SoundCloud | Spotify
kilnMichigan-based trio Kiln have been quietly making ambient music together since around 1994. The band aptly describes the music presented on meadow:watt as “mech-natura panoramics”, although perhaps a more practical frame of reference could be the Tomorrow’s Harvest released by Boards of Canada earlier this year. Both albums share a similar atmosphere and they taste equally like a frosty spring morning dripping with crystalline dew.

Mick Turner
“Gone Dreaming”

From: Don’t Tell the Driver
Genre: Post-Rock
Time: 4:43
Listen: Spotify
micky-tDon’t Tell the Driver is the fourth full-length solo record released by Mick Turner, best known as the unassuming guitarist of Australia’s Dirty Three. Adorned by a gorgeous beachside painting by Turner himself, the album features his inimitable guitar playing complemented by a sonically diverse full band. I’m not entirely convinced by the vocals which show up on a few songs, yet they never distract from the overall beauty sculpted by Turner on this release.


From: Hinterland
Genre: Microhouse
Time: 5:12
Listen: Bandcamp | SoundCloud | Spotify
reconditeGerman electronic producer/personal trainer Lorenz Brunner (a.k.a. Recondite) takes a subdued journey through the Bavarian hinterland of his youth on his sophomore album. Using sparse field recordings to add a layer of warmth to the electronics, Brunner’s music is a patient cascade with its delicate beats idly advancing the tracks onwards. See Resident Advisor’s interview with Brunner for a much more in-depth glimpse of both the artist and album.

The Thing

From: BOOT!
Genre: Free Jazz
Time: 9:50
Listen: Bandcamp | Spotify
thingbootScandinavian trio The Thing gained a decent level of exposure for their collaboration with singer/songwriter Neneh Cherry last year as The Cherry Thing. They have followed that success with their sixth studio album BOOT! which continues their free (and often quite heavy) jazz tradition. Equally split between covers and originals, this six-track album probably isn’t the kind of the jazz you are likely to hear at the local dinner dance.


From: Through a Pre-Memory
Genre: Dark Ambient
Time: 21:17
Listen: Bandcamp | Spotify
aanipaaStephen O’Malley from drone metal band Sunn O))) joins forces with Mika Vainio of experimental electronic duo Pan Sonic to produce what must be the darkest album of the year (Excavation by The Haxan Cloak included). Each of the four tracks on this album are deeply atmospheric excursions into the depths of the pre-memories of these two musicians, yet the duo never loses focus of creating a memorable song in itself. “Toward All Thresholds” is even almost danceable with its throbbing beat which eventually emerges after about seven minutes. However, it is the screeched vocals of Alan Dubin reading Anna Akhmatova‘s 1924 poem “Muse” on the track of the same name which remain truly unforgettable and could be the scariest thing I’ve heard since Current 93‘s recording of “I Have a Special Plan for This World” by horror author Thomas Ligotti.

Primitive Calculators

From: The World is Fucked
Genre: Post-Punk
Time: 5:02
Listen: Bandcamp | Spotify
primitoI had already decided long ago that I’m not going to declare an ‘Album of the Year’ for 2013. However, that’s not going to stop me from naming my favourite album of the year: The World is Fucked by the Primitive Calculators. Formed in Melbourne’s heady punk rock scene in 1977 and disbanding shortly thereafter in around 1980, the Primitive Calculators never found the same success as their contemporaries such as Nick Cave and friends. The band unexpectedly reformed for the first Australian All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival curated by Cave himself and we now finally have a proper studio album produced by the band. I was lucky enough to catch them at ATP in 2009 and their performance of “Nothing” was easily one of the highlights of the weekend. The song itself hasn’t translated overly well into the studio, but there are just too many brilliant lyrics and bottled up anger spilling out elsewhere on the record for The World is Fucked to be anything less than an instant Australian rock classic.

Other notable releases from the month include Matangi by M.I.A. which includes the infectious “Bad Girls“. Experimental hip hop terrorists Death Grips also released Government Plates to much fanfare and it is freely available by the band here.

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