Aural Innovations Staff Picks for Best of 2012


Jerry Kranitz (in NO particular order)

Saturnia – AlphaOmegaAlpha
Vibravoid – Zero Gravity
Darxtar – Aged to Perfection
Ohead – Visitor
Can – The Lost Tapes
Sendelica – The Satori in Elegance of the Majestic Stonegazer
Various Artists – Head Music (contemporary bands doing covers of early 70s Krautrock songs)
Space Mirrors – In Darkness They Whisper
Sula Bassana – Dark Days
Floorian – Cosmosaic
Various Artists – For Lee Jackson In Space
Litmus – Slaughterbahn
Vespero – Subkraut: U-Boats Willkommen Hier
The Linus Pauling Quartet – Bag Of Hammers
EYE – Center Of The Sun
EYE – 7″ single on Lost Weekend Records
Chickencage Experience – An Eggspoiltation Movie
Mantric Muse – self-titled
Earthling Society – ZodiaK
Nick Riff – Escape Velocity
Jay Tausig/Ed Unitsky – The entire “Trip Around The Sun” series
Hal McGee live performance in Columbus, Ohio

Jeff Fitzgerald

20) Astra – The Black Chord
San Diego psych/proggers return for their sophomore effort. Not as strong as the epic double album The Weirding, but still a fine album nonetheless.

19) Mechanik – Inner Temple Outer Temple/You Yourself Are the Teacher and the Guru (EPs)
These spacerockers from Spain have a very original and exciting sound. Looking forward to hearing a full-length from them sometime soon (hopefully).

18) Roy and the Devil’s Motorcycle – Tell It To the People
Swiss band returns after a long hiatus, but this time minus the cowpunk attitude, for a more laidback, wasted hippie psych/country/rock album. If you like your psych with some twang, this is the perfect album for you.

17) Hawkwind – Onward
Sure, I liked it, it’s Hawkwind, and it did make my Top 20 list. But it’s not one of their best albums. Some good tunes on it, but it’s a bit overproduced and doesn’t quite have the energy I expect from the band.

16) White Manna – s/t
Earthy, mantric and very absorbing heavy psychedelia from these California freaksters. A great, acid drenched debut.

15) Sula Bassana – Dark Days
Epic album from Dave Schmidt, has some really great tracks on it like Underground and Surrealistic Journey, but also a little lesser stuff too. Still a fine effort from our man in Austria.

14) The Future Kings of England – Who Is This Who Is Coming
Haunting and chilling prog/psych based on a creepy ghost story by M. R. James. Some really evocative stuff on this album. Dark, gothic and moody…perfect for listening to with the lights out.

13) Saturnia – AlphaOmegaAlpha
Sprawling double CD from Portugal’s Saturnia is maybe a bit TOO much. It might have worked better as a single CD. But there are some fantastic tracks on the album nonetheless, especially the awesome opener I Am Utopia.

12) Earthling Society – ZodiaK
I liked the latter half of this album a bit more than the first half, but it was all good. A rawer, more immediate sound from Fred and the boys in two lengthy tracks (and one tiny little one in between them).

11) Moonwagon – Foyers of the Future
An excellent follow up to this Swedish band’s stunning debut. There’s a bit of a Yes vibe in some of these instrumental tracks, but it’s more spacier than Yes tended to get.

10) Cranium Pie – Geometry of Thistles
I know, these were older recordings from a previous line-up of Cranium Pie to the line-up that recorded last year’s stunning Mechanisms Part 1, but these beautiful, strange psychedelic folk songs have a mystery and magic all their own.

09) Space Mushroom Fuzz – Something Weird’s Going On
One of two great albums this Boston duo released this year. Kick-ass psych and spacerock draws on Hawkwind as an influence, but only partially. They give it their own distinct feel.

08) Motion Sickness of Time Travel – s/t
I really loved this double album from electronic musician Rachel Evans. Just 4 long tracks, rekindling the spirit of the 70’s analogue synth explorers, but giving it a modern (and feminine) twist as well.

07) MV & EE – Space Homestead
More great wasted psychedelic folk music from these modern day hippies. Possibly their best album since 2006’s Green Blues!

06) Hawklords – We Are One
This album from former Hawksters had all the raw energy and creativeness that seemed lacking in Hawkwind’s Onward. Some terrific, punky spacerock, picking up where 25 Years On left off.

05) Moon of Ostara – The Star Child
Fred Laird of Earthling Society’s debut solo album finds him exploring more rhythmic ambient sounds with synth and guitar in a similar vein to Krautrock explorers Harmonia and Ashra. Mesmerizing!

04) The Cosmic Dead – The Exalted King
Killer improvised spacerock from these Scottish rockers. Some great, long explorations to the fringes of the universe!

03) Seid – Magic Handshake
I wasn’t sure we were going to hear from these guys again. What a welcome surpise to hear them return with possibly their best album yet. Everything on here from Hawkwind-style spacerock to Eastern psychedelia and everything in between.

02) Lumerians – Transmissions From Telos Vol. IV
The San Francisco weirdoes stretch out for some longer, instrumental jams. Highly original and innovative stuff that’s sure to please spacefreaks everywhere!

01) Black Science – An Echo Through the Eyes of Forever
The second and sadly final album from Black Science, full of melodic, hooky spacerock and wild, disorienting psychedelia, complete with tripped out lyrics and concepts. An amazing album from its catchy start, to its stretched out 15-minute epic finish.

Pat Albertson

01) White Hills – “Live At Roadburn 2011″
Stunning live album that the band have already followed up on with a new studio release entitled “Frying On This Rock”;

02) Poseidotica – “Cronicas Del Futuro”
First class instrumental progressive metal. If only it was so damn short! Nice cover art, though;

03) Astra – “The Black Chord”
A worthy follow-up to 2009’s “The Weirding” debut; best of the new generation of progressive rockers;

04) Six Organs Of Admittance – “Ascent”
A Comets On Fire reunion in all but name, this adds Comets-style feedback psych to the creepy folk sounds of Six Organs;

05) Farflung/Black Rainbows – “Split CD”
Just half an album of new material from Farflung this time around, but it is great to know they are back in the game (and re-releasing some of their stellar back catalogue to boot). The stoner rock of Black Rainbows is worth a listen too, if a little ill-matched with Farflung;

06) Topati Bertiga – “Riot”
Technically amazing fusion debut from this Indonesian guitar trio;

07) Vibravoid – “Zero Gravity”
Another far out space rockin’ trip from this prolific German neo-psych outfit;

08) Hawkwind – Onward (2CD edition)
Dave Brock shows he has still got the music in him after all these years, finding time to release three new albums in 2012 (the other two being credited to Hawkwind Light Orchestra (pretty good) and a solo release of fans-only home demo recordings). The late and lamented Huw Lloyd-Langton guests on one track;

09) Acid Mother Temple And The Melting Paraiso UFO – “Son Of A Bitches Brew”
If you let your imagination run wild, this really does sound like Miles Davis playing psychedelic acid rock!

10) Oresund Space Collective – “Give Your Brain A Rest From the Matrix”
A little more laid back than their usual material, this release has a distinct (other-)world feel to it;

11) Causa Sui – “The Pewt’r Sessions 1-2″
Arriving in CD format in 2012, after a limited-edition vinyl release late last year, Causa Sui have mercifully turned down the overbearing saxophone heard on parts of “The Summer Sessions”, and delivered some guitar-heavy space jams;

12) Rush – “Clockwork Angels”
A little mainstream perhaps, but the fact that this concept album has since been novelised in book form proves that Rush have not turned their back entirely on progressive rock;

13) Howlin Rain – “Russian Wilds”
Perhaps not quite as satisfying as “Magnificent Fiend”, Howlin Rain’s third CD release still holds much to enjoy;

14) Hawklords – “We Are One”
A Hawklords reunion without Brock or Calvert?! No way! Politics aside, “We Are One” is worthy of inclusion in the (ex-)Hawkwind canon, with most of the material written by 1990 former Hawks Jerry Richards and Ron Tree, with help from former Hawklords Harvey Bainbridge and Steve Swindells. Hawkwind followers should also check out Harvey’s hilarious and thinly-veiled novel “The Light From Dead Stars”, indicating that a reconciliation with Dave ain’t gonna happen any time soon;

15) Litmus – “Slaughterbahn”
A welcome release from Litmus, this fourth album appears to indicate that their tank is in danger of running dry. Time to have another listen to “Warrior On The Edge Of Time”, guys!

Keith Henderson

01) Brainticket – Space Rock Invasion DVD (also featuring Huw Lloyd-Langton & Nektar)

02) Mantric Muse – S/T

03) White Manna – S/T

04) Parastatic – Lost Highway; plus “Far Beyond” (single)

05) Hidria Spacefolk – Astronautica

06) Eternal Tapestry – Dawn In 2 Dimensions

07) Hawkwind – Onward

08) Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Third

09) Øresund Space Collective – West, Space & Love

10) Ancestors – In Dreams & Time

11) V/A – Hope & Dreams compilation (Indonesian post-rock including Little Space Donkey, Under The Big Bright Yellow Sun, others)

12) Earthless/Premonition 13/Radio Moscow (US) – Split LP

13) Monkey3 – Beyond The Black Sky

14) Pharaoh Overlord – Lunar Jetman

15) Black Mountain – Year Zero

16) Sula Bassana – Dark Days

17) Linus Pauling Quartet – Bag Of Hammers

18) Sylvester Anfang II – S/T (Latitudes)

19) Vibravoid – Gravity Zero

20) The Spyrals – S/T

Christian Mumford

My Top 30 in no particalar order, it’s generally been a good year for Hawkwind & related releases, yet we also remember the passing of our dear Huw Lloyd Langton… so here I go:

Hawkwind – Onward 2CD
The band most of “us” at AI, love and associate with “our” genre returned in 2012 with a friendly, likeable, “by numbers” Hawk-album that divided fans quite abit. What the hell, I liked it! Onward we go! Let grumpy people be grumpy, f*ck em!

Lastwind – The Return Of A Sonic Assassin CD
Paul Hayles, former Sonic Assassins/Hawkwind keysman delivered this monster of a stoned trip out Hawkwind style album last summer, with a band consisting of members of The Groundhogs. It’s totally Ace stuff! Especially the track “Winds Of Time”. Out on Flicknife, just grab it!

Alan Davey – Cybertooth CD
Hawkwind’s stalwart long standing ex-bassist/vocalist has cut his teeth with many solo releases and with bands like Pre-Med and Gunslinger. But this is Messianic Cyber Punky thematic Hawkwindness that has an extra added unreal futuristic electronic sound to it. Get it, it’s fantastic!

Hawklords – We Are One CD
At first I hated this… I thought it was quickly tossed together, tuneless drivel, unpalpable and a disgrace to the name’s legacy being Bob & Dave, and just being a sleazy cash-in. Granted, Hawklords like Harvey B. and Steve Swindells are here, it grew on me, not because it was Hawklords at all, it isn’t, it’s just pretty intense rockin’, head-on, heavy spacerock!

Steve Swindells – The Lost Albums 2CD
Hawklords member Swindells two early 80’s unreleased LP’s on a double CD set, called “The Invisible Man” and “Treachery” follow the same straightforward punky keyboard rock of his debut from 1980. Outstanding track here is “Metro-Gnome”, but both albums are stayers all the way through. Out on the resurrected Flicknife label, 2011 release but i did not hear until early this year so I’ll include it here.

Steven Wilson – Get All You Deserve (live) 2CD/DVD/Blu-Ray box
Porcupine Blonde & bespectacled intellectual prog-prodigy Wilson. Here he really shines, i like his solo work far more than the harder sounding Porcupine Tree of late, this and the RSD LP are both essential.

Porcupine Tree – Octane Twisted (live) 2CD+DVD
All of “The Incident” + older tracks performed live, its quality one can expect from a solid musician team of Steven Wilson & band.

Sun Dial – Mind Control 12″
Gary Ramon sounds like a rough vocalist these days, seeing as the previous SD effort from 2010 was an angry heavy metal album with snarling vocals “mettle-dood” style i hated at first, but on further listen after lingering on my CD shelf, i liked it second time around. The Mind Control LP has still the metal vocals from Ramon ala Layne Staley or James Hetfield at their angriest. I have been a fan of SD through thick and thin since seeing the “Fireball” video on MTV in the early 90s and subsequent frantic obsession. On this album Gary Ramon is still abit of a mystic lyric wise, but songs like the title track is pure Krautrock while the final song on the album is a cover of Roxy Music’s “In Every Dream Home A Heartache”- i only recommend this LP to those who are familiar with SD from way back like me ’cause its not their best one by far, but still a pretty good effort.

Psychic TV/PTV3 – Silver Sundown Machine VS. Alien Lightning Meat Machine 12″
Genesis P-Orridge returns to straight up rock music since the last few years have been rock orientated – here PTV do an 18 minute mash up of 2 early Hawkwind songs with some spoken bits, and it’s not bad at all. The B-side is not Hawkwind, but a spoken word psych jam of sorts that is a bit nonsensical, lasting for another 18 minutes.

Peter Hammill – Consequences CD
For his umpfourtieth solo album Hammill gets weirder, with stuff like “Constantly Overheard” and “That Wasn’t What I Said” and other personal semi-psychotic Hammillism that only Hammill can do.

Van Der Graaf Generator – ALT CD
Unlike the 2011 effort from the trio that now is VdGG this is all odd instrumental jams, raw and low fi. I like it alot, a departure it is still undoubtly VdGG.

Savage Republic – Varvakios CD
With the going ons in Greece and other EU disaster zones it seems only fitting that post-punk desert droners motorik sounding, always politico observations of SR should be where the heat is, as it was recorded over a few days in Greece. Underrated band that has an over 30 year history.

Magma – Félicité Thösz CD
More goodness and godlike Zeuhl from Vander & Co, it’s an excellent effort that shows no trite retread or over aging from this band.

Smoke Mohawk – Viva El Heavy Man CD
Norwegian We/Gluecifer spinoff band’s second album, this is more psychedelic than their last CD. The track “Jump Out of Tyme” really grabbed my LSD processing unit upstairs…

Ulver – Childhood’s End CD
From dreamy arctic blackmetal via industrial-electronica and progressive metal forms, Norway’s Ulver never cease to change. Here they basically covered the “Nuggets” of the 60’s without straying too far from the originals and it’s excellent and lovingly produced.

Turbonegro – Sexual Harassment CD
With the departure of Hank and the arrival of british singer Tony Sylvester, Turbonegro hit the nail on the head for excessive glam-punk. Very much in style with any previous releases with outrageous themes etc, if you like this sort of stuff, punk – buy it!

Hawkwind Light Orchestra – Stellar Variations CD
This is most of Hawkwind putting out a damn fine album as HLO. Some tracks have a very classy feel ala 80s lineups and 90s as well. Get it if you like Hawkwind even remotely!

Dave Brock – Looking For Love In The Lost Land Of Dreams CD
Some of Dave’s finest lyrical accomplishments to date, a worthy album overall.

Marillion – Sounds That Can’t Be Made CD
I think Steve Hogarth’s long tenure with this band has been a sprawling, confusing, at times nondescript watered down pop version of the heady Fish era daze in the 80’s (though the 2 first ones with SH are distinct good albums with some memorable hard rock moments that did not pale against Fish ‘s tenure, namely “Season’s End” and “Holidays In Eden” albums), it lacks ‘rocking out’ like on the early stuff, but still is a worthwhile listen for old and new fans.

Burzum – Umskiptar CD
Not as good lyrically as last year’s mature work from an aging Odinist like Vikernes, the album “Fallen”, this year sees him adapting Icelandic text as theme. Not easy, it is a bit sprawling compared to last year’s truly epic “Fallen”.

Litmus – Slaughterbahn CD
Rollicking straight ahead Hawkwind style spacerock, it’s the fourth Litmus album! Its got some very good numbers here, the most recommended track here is “Streamers”.

Cradle of Filth – Midnight In The Labyrinth 2CD
I’m not including the latest CoF CD “The Manticore And Other Horrors”, because the previous double CD of orchestral reworkings of the band’s best songs really shines, especially the epic version of “Funeral In Carpathia”, the band’s symfo-wargasm #1!

Änglagård – Viljans Öga CD
Progressive symphonic rock, traditional elements of Genesis, VdGG and ELP as always, its mystical, something from the deep forests of Sweden.

Nick Riff – Escape Velocity CD
Barrett-esque psychedelia for all Seekers out there. The last in the Riffdisc series, yet a return to the early Freak Element sound from the early days. Wondrous songs from the heart and the psychedelicized mind of Mr. Riff.

The Stranglers – Giants CD
Black dressed forefathers of gritty old punk tricks have survived 4 decades and still deliver no matter how old and tired some members look. Hugh Cornwell was fired 20 years ago for those who dropped out of Stranglersville, have gone through 2 singers since, and so here they are again!

Øresund Space Collective – West, Space & Love 12″
Sounding like Popol Vuh and other krautrock for an album, this vinyl only release surprised me totally. It’s Art, it’s Great and you can Buy it for your Home!

Candlemass – Psalms For The Dead CD
Being the final album for the band, it has some nuggets on there, like the closer “Black As Time”, the song i always end up jumping to on my iPod.

Witchcraft – Legend CD
Strange that these occultists should get political and have such meanings to convey, under the name Witchcraft, but as a rocking doom record it still delivers some great heavy and tuneful songs.

Space Mirrors – In Darkness They Whisper CD
Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, Russian-based international metal ensemble churns out metal riffs really fast with weird spoken vocals and flute from Nik Turner and Alan Davey guesting as well.

Omenopus – The Plague/Scars 2CD
Bridget Wishart of Hawkwind returned to the music world several years ago via the Spirits Burning collective. Here her airy yet dark poetry finds its niche with tinkery industrial dark rock music. Well worth it.

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