This list began as a prompt to identify '20 Most Influential Albums I Can Never Quite Get Rid Of'. Aside from being a tongue twister, I'm not entirely certain what's being requested. Should that be a list of albums that were once important to me but are no longer so? Trouble is, I have a collection of 1500 albums I can't get rid of, most of which have been influential to me. So instead I've compiled a list of 20 Albums That Have Been Influential To Me And I Shan't Get Rid Of.
Trouble is, such a list is bound to be arbitrary. Albums that are influential to me invariably come from artists who are influential to me. And artists influential to me invariably write multiple albums that are influential to me. Do I choose Bites or Last RIghts? Exai or Confield? Ricochet or Rubycon?
In the end I made a list, knowing it was arbitrary but nonetheless is more or less as accurate as the list I might have made yesterday or tomorrow. Without further waffling, here is the list, with further explanations about each entry.
Pink Floyd - Meddle - 1971
Of all the bands I listened to as a teenager, Pink Floyd has remained the most relevant and inspirational to me. I could just as well have listed Pipers or Dark Side or WYWH. Everything in their catalog up to WYWH still gets regular playtime, (post WYWH, not so much). One of these days I really need to get around to ripping the bootlegs I have on vinyl....
Yes - Yessongs - 1973
Unlike Pink Floyd, I can honestly say Yes hasn't stood up to the test of time quite so well. In fact, I sometimes cringe when I here Yes nowadays. But I still do listen to them on and off again, and _Yessongs_ is my most frequent choice. The album captures the band at near peak, just before they went completely navel gazed. The original vinyl issue is a gorgeous spectacle with its trifold layout; I would spend ours gazing at those Roger Dean paintings. All very cheesy 40 years on yet still very enjoyable.
Between 1973 and 1978, Eno released a flurry of albums that marked his transition from Art Rocker to the Godfather of Ambient Music. Many, (myself included), wish he might have lingered a little longer in this creative burst of self discovery. _Another Green World_ marks the apex of this period.
Tangerine Dream - Ricochet - 1975
Ostensibly a live album, though various accounts would suggest it is much more a studio album compiled from live recordings. Either way, it has all the glory of TD's Virgin years but with a feeling of energy and spontaneity sometimes lacking in their true studio compositions. In the end, _Ricochet_ showcases TD as masters of both the studio and the concert hall.
Rush - Moving Pictures - 1981
_2112_ was the first album I ever purchased with my own money. And I still really like 2112, but it does feel heavily dated now. _Moving Pictures_, though, still sounds as fresh as the day I first heard it on a school field trip in 1981. My interest in Rush petered out in the mid-80's but I still cherish their work from the late seventies and early eighties, with _Moving Pictures_ perhaps a favorite of all of them. Or maybe _Signals_...
Skinny Puppy - Bites - 1985
I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't discover Skinny Puppy until 1993. My excuse is that whenever I was in the record store and I flipped through the SP section, I had no idea where to start and so balked and moved on to something more familiar. There was also that uncertainty that it might be some cheesy horror rock nonsense. Fortunately, I braved the waters one day and bought _Last Rights_ and soon after acquired the rest of their catalog. _Bites_ or _Last Rights_? Early or Late? Raw and lo-fi or dense and intricate? Flip a coin, either qualifies for the list.
No other band on this list presents such a challenge in picking a single album to quantify their essence. NWW's back catalog of some 100ish albums is more diverse in style than many an entire label. To be honest, I've been heavily focused on more recent NWW albums of late, and if ever pressed into a corner to pick a favorite I would say _Shipwreck Radio Vol. 1_. But I did just recently give Sylvie and Babs a spin and was reminded of it's incredibly fun and frenetic nature. And so this album was on my mind when I typed up this list, which is just as good as a dozen or more NWW albums which might have qualified.
One of my biggest regrets, live musically speaking, is not seeing MBM in their initial incarnation, before Jack Dangers discovered cannabis, moved to the US and mellowed. All the more because I had the opportunity. I well remember making the responsible decision to not skip work to see the show. In hindsight, yes, I should have called in sick. _Storm The Studio_ is one of the most energizing albums I've ever heard. Dangers has created many great sounds, at times mellow, at times funky, but it is the fast and furious nature of _Storm the Studio_ that made me, and keeps me, a big fan of MBM.
Godflesh - Pure - 1991
In 1991 I found a promo copy of this album, on cassette, sitting in the freebie bin at a local record shop. This was metal, slow and heavy like I'd never heard metal before. It became a favorite listen on long road journeys. A few years later I would purchase the full CD version, which includes two amazing pieces not on the cassette. Today, I can't imagine the album without "Love, Hate (Slugbaiting)" and "Pure II". "Pure II", a twenty minute soundcheck of guitar feedback, is worth the price of admission on it's own, but coupled with an incredible core album, _Pure_ ranks up their amongst my favorite albums of all time.
I've seen Primus live more times than any other band. This has much to do with opportunity and the fact that Primus were touring heavily in the early '90's, but is also tribute to how good they are as a live band. My interest in Primus wained after _Pork Soda_, but I still give Seas a frequent listen.
I absolutely hated the Beastie Boys when I first heard them in the early '80's. At the time, they seemed such an affront against the AOR I had grown up on. But for six weeks in the Summer of 1992 I was confined to a bus with a dozen other students, three of whom were grooving to the newly released _Check Your Head_. By the end of the trip I was hooked and a confirmed Beastie's fan. I've connected with very little hip-hop and rap, but _Check Your Head_ is easily one of the best albums I've ever heard.
Andrew McKenzie, the elusive and reclusive, somewhat cranky, uber perfectionist behind The Hafler Trio, is the master of musical psychoanalysis. Early Nurse With Wound has often been described as Surrealist music, but The Hafler Trio equally deserve that fuzzy description. NWW is Ernst to H3O's Man Ray. _How To Reform Mankind_ is as inviting as it is chilling.
Organum - Veil of Tears - 1994
David Jackman, either under his own name or as Organum, has a few distinct personas. One is that of the exquisite drone. Another is that of the improvised piece compiled from the most unlikely of found objects. And another is that of the finely crafted studio piece. All have the unmistakable hallmark of hi-fidelity and dynamic range. _Veil of Tears_ features three drone pieces, bookended by two longer improv pieces. At first listen, these improv pieces may seem random and chaotic but careful attention shows them to be constructed of discreet elements and with purposeful intent. _Vacant Lights_ might be a better example of Jackman's improvised work, but I've known _Veil of Tears_ much longer, and it features one of my favorite album covers of all time.
Coil is another band hard to pin down to a particular style, though they do have very distinct phases over their career. In the mid '90's they were particularly active in a diverse range of projects and side projects, but all of these were tied together with what Jhon Balance described as Sidereal Sound, a bright, shimmering, metallic tinge that permeated these projects. ELpH was the moniker adopted for their equipment, which at times took on a life of it's own and produced sounds unexpected and from unknown sources. _Worship The Glitch_ represents Coil's embrace of this accidental creative force as valid a member of the band as any other.
Trans Am - Futureworld - 1999
For several years in the late '90's & early '00's, I would see the occasional Trans Am album in the used bins. Their album art always caught my eye and eventually I gave them a go. To my surprise, I discovered them to be, mostly, a rock band. A damn good rock band. And thus Trans Am pulled my ears back into contemporary instrumentation after a decade or so of listening to mostly electronic music. For a while I thought they had peaked with _Surrender To The Night_ and _Futureworld_ but their last few albums have been incredible.
In the early '90's I was almost singularly obsessed with the EBM strain of industrial music. Most of that is long, long forgotten, but Black Lung still piques my interest. Not surprising that Black Lung is much more than Yet Another EBM act, this is dystopia with a smirk and a nod towards the door of a brighter tomorrow. _The Great Architect_ is high on my list of elusive wants. Anyone have a copy they wanna sell?
Pan Sonic - Kesto - 2006
Shortly after I moved to Austin I discovered 33 Degrees Records, and shortly after I discovered 33, Dan Plunkett put a copy of _Osasto_ in my hand. And thus began a deep admiration for what I believe to be one of the most important bands of the past twenty years. Pure sine tones and minimal beats, all performed and mixed live. They are the sound of electrons being torn from an atom. _Kesto_, their magnum opus, showcases their work over four CDs. Each CD isolates a particular facet of the band's sound, (more or less). I was heartbroken when Pan Sonic called it quits as a duo in 2010, but in all honesty it is hard to imagine they would have ever exceeded this plateau. As an aside, I aspire to some day make an art piece that embodies the power and presence of Pan Sonic. Perhaps with light...
Darren Tate - Reveal - 2006
Darren Tate has been my favorite recording artist over the past 10 years. Incredibly productive yet largely unknown to the wider world, I am deeply delighted that random fortune should have landed a copy of Ora's _New Movements in G_ into my collection back in 1999. That album got misplaced but then rediscovered in 2005 and I've been actively collecting everything Tate has produced since. Tate's music is intimate, spontaneous, even naive at times. But it always has an honest, fresh, uniquely individual quality that is often lacking in more heavily polished works from other artists working in a similar vein.
_Harmony In Ultraviolet_ singlehandedly introduced me to the excellent Kranky label, and thus opened a door to yet another particular style of drone music; short pieces, typically heavily processed and very 'active'. This is very much foreground music, not background. This is also one of the few melancholic albums I've heard that I actually like, (Gavin Byers _The Sinking of the Titanic_, hate it). Strictly speaking, I like _Ravedeath, 1972_ and _Virgins_ much more, but _Harmony In Ultraviolet_ will always be an important album for me.
Autechre - Exai - 2013
If Darren Tate has been my favorite artist for the past 10 years, Autechre has been my favorite for the past 20. Yes, that means I currently have two favorites, excluding any favorite of the moment, (which is often whatever I'm currently listening to). All manner of description has been put forth to speak of the nuanced, alien, highly intricate electronica they produce. To my ears, this is the sound of the distant future, brought back to the present for all to enjoy now. From 1993 to 2001 they produced an amazing string of albums each building and growing on the previous. Then their navel gazing tendencies took over and a slew of very 'difficult' albums followed. 2010 saw them back to top form with _Oversteps_. _Exai_, their most recent work, is in my opinion their best album to date, something you rarely hear said for any band that's been around for 25 years.