Complex Distractions Presents Top 30 Albums Of 2021 : 20-11

Okay we’re back. Been a week, so the posts were delayed a bit. The 9 to 5 did its best to take me out at the knees this week, and nearly did. Thankfully they did’t succeed, but I did have a time trying to post my lists this week. Next week will be better, I’m sure of it. Until then, give 20-11 a look why don’t you.

20. Louis Vasquez : A Body Of Errors

If you’re familiar with Louis Vasquez’ main project The Soft Moon, then you should have a good idea of what his first solo LP is going to be like. A Body Of Errors is an instrumental record that is very much grounded in the post-punk and dark wave vibes of The Soft Moon’s sonic world. But with this album Vasquez decided to deep dive even further into his own psyche and explore the ideas of living in the human body. It’s a compelling and deeply visceral record, one that sits in a far more intimate world while being as stark, jagged, and industrial in spirit as his previous work. I’ve been a big fan of The Soft Moon and Louis Vasquez for nearly ten years now and while I love his vocal work this mostly instrumental record is one of his best.

19. Floating Points and Pharoah Sanders : Promises

This collaborative record between electronic producer/musician Sam Shepherd(aka Floating Points) and free jazz legend Pharoah Sanders is engaging, enlightening, and a tour-de-force of musical worlds. The coming together of these two musical minds is revelatory and locks into both Sanders’ free-form, avante garde jazz world and Shepherd’s expertly produced sonic compositions. And with the orchestrations it only adds to the album’s magic and majesty.

18. Salvatore Mercatante : Tre Sfere

New York-based electronic composer/producer Salvatore Mercatante seems to constantly be working on new music, delving into both beat-driven work and heavy synth/ambient textural music. On his Woodford Halse release Tre Sfere Mercatante melds both the click-clack beat world, as well as the hazy ambient synth world. Mercatante puts me in mind of contemporaries like Entrancer(formerly Thug Entrancer), Rival Consoles, and the roster of Software Recording Company(R.I.P.), in that he layers his music in heady sound textures and gives the proceedings a vast and widescreen feel.

17. Dressel Amorosi : DeathMetha

This slab of heavy, dark bass and synth dropped this past October over at the always amazing Spun Out Of Control. I was floored to say the least by this Goblin-by-the-way-of-Tangerine Dream album. Valerio Lombardozzi and Federico Amoros create a dark and lush sound world that locks into vibes as diverse as John Carpenter, Mike Oldfield, Goblin, and early 70s German electronic pioneers. The vintage synths and propulsive Rickenbacker bass add a retro feel here that gives the impression Alan Parsons could’ve score the hell out of a Fulci film. DeathMetha has all the vibes. All of them.

16. Polypores : Shpongos

Who knew the life of the fungi could sound so exhilarating? Well, Stephen J Buckley did. So much so that he released one of his best albums this year as Polypores dedicated to the life of fungi. Shpongos is a sound world lit up with the buzzing, circuital world of modular synth. Buckley approaches his work like a scientist on one side(research and theory in a concept) while also creating musically in an improvised and free-form way. His work is always engaging and stunning, and with Shpongos he delivered a gorgeous record filled with movement and optimism.

15. Steve Moore : Gone World

Steve Moore released another stunner this year called Gone World. His first release on new-ish label Pittsburgh Tracks, Gone World is a propulsive, futuristic slab of heady techno and brilliant electronic music. Locking into the dance vibes of his Kompakt releases while still retaining some of the headier sounds of his film score work and Zombi canon. Moore has kept pretty busy this year with score work, a Zombi release, his Zombi and Friends covers series, as well as his collab album with Bluetech. Gone World is another slice of electronic brilliance from one of the best.

14. Lisa Bella Donna : Moogmentum

Lisa Bella Donna has had a bit of a prolific year for releases, and Moogmentum might be my favorite. Released in partnership and as a fundraiser for The Bob Moog Foundation, Moogmentum easily demonstrates the power and singular ability of Lisa Bella Donna behind the modular and analog synth. She builds these amazing sound worlds with easily one of the greatest electronic music creations of the 20th century. This is the kind of album you throw on some old school Koss headphones, indulge in whatever chemical of your liking, and let the sonic wizard Lisa Bella Donna take you on a journey. One of the greatest existential road trips you’ll take this year.

13. Deafheaven : Infinite Granite

Deafheaven’s Infinite Granite is one of those albums that takes you aback at first, merely for the sonic shift the band takes on it. While the California death/gaze, dream/metal band hinted at lighter moods on all of their albums, with Infinite Granite they all but left the tortured howls and blasts of thrash metal behind in favor of more jangly dream pop fare. It’s like the Slayer albums were shelved for The Smiths and Cocteau Twins, except drummer Daniel Tracy didn’t get the memo and continued writing moving and powerful rhythms. The result is an immensely enjoyable and dramatic work of musical art that I find is as visceral as Roads To Judah or Sunbather.

12. Camp Of Wolves : Granite Creek

David Salisbury’s first album of the year as Camp Of Wolves was Granite Creek. A beautifully melancholy and mournful album that had the feel of a slow-moving dark cloud making its way between us and blue sky. While that may sound morose, there’s something quite beautiful about a grey, overcast day. It brings to the surface long gestating thoughts and feelings; contemplative and overwhelming at the same time. The songs morph from the melancholy to the eerie, painting the mood with a kind of ambient dread that stays with you long after the song ends.

This album was very moving to me as it took me to a specific place and time. I imagined standing on the end of the pier in front of my grandma’s lake house on Lake Manitou. One time in-particular being 9 or 10, and watching a thunderstorm roll in as if it were a silent film. This record puts me there with its mysterious nature, calm dread, and airy musical ghosts.

11. Missionary Work : The Ash Tree

I absolutely loved Missionary Work’s The Ash Tree. It’s baroque melancholy and haunted melodies kind of feel revelatory to me. I found myself feeling truly transported from my surroundings and landing in some ghostly realm. A haunted cobblestone cabin, or a burnt out sanctuary that once held Sunday Service in front of hundreds of parishioners. Renato Montenegro creates a Gothic world where Wendy Carlos fell hard for 70s horror films and made horror scores just for the sheer love of both film and music. Keys and voice make for an album of subtle beauty and restrained unease.

Next week will see the conclusion of the top 30 of 2021 over here at Complex Distractions. Thanks for sticking with me throughout the year. I appreciate the patronage and the comments. We’ll keep it going next year, too. As far as next week goes, great albums keep dropping so look for some end-of-year new reviews as well as a Long Story Short post, too. And of course, my top 10 of the year. Hope you can stop by and check it out. . Okay, see you next week.

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