Tracks of 2014: Sheer Art Attack

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Doing it differently: our look back at the best tracks of the year continues with some prime experimentalists.

North Atlantic OscillationAugust Self-proclaimed purveyors of ‘progtronica’, NAO continue to bridge the gap between modern prog and Radiohead-esque experimentalism with insouciant expertise. Like most of their songs, August drifts majestically amid an invigoration blizzard of inspired sonic touches and gentle pomp: a new take on 21st century dream pop that glows with dark charm.

Goat - Talk To God Listening to Goat is like being transported to some imaginary quasi-70s hinterland where Osibisa and Guru Guru are lost in some endless celebration of groove and red-eyed rumble. Talk To God is a chunk of true psychedelia; a rarity in these superficial times, and all the more potent as a consequence.

Gong - Thank You Daevid Allen’s undying quest for psychedelic nirvana grew fresh legs in 2014, with ex-Cardiac and Knifeworld frontman Kavus Torabi taking centre stage in a rejuvenated lineup. The result, the fizzing I See You album, deftly propelled fans back to the glory days of Camembert Electrique and Flying Teapot. The pixies were at it again, with lashings of Gong’s trademark crackpot charisma.

Primus - The Candy Man Can Who else could record an album of songs from Gene Wilder’s heroically odd 1971 movie Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory without committing a terrible crime against music? Primus already belonged in Wonka’s whacked-out world. As The Candy Man Can proves, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s ageless songs had plenty of fresh weirdness to unearth.

Sunn 0))) & Scott Walker - Herod When the undisputed king of the avant-garde joined forces with the peerless masters of drone metal, fans of flat-out musical wrongness rejoiced. Predictably, Walker and Sunn 0))) defied logic and expectation on Soused, conjuring a warped world of surreal horror that sent brains spinning and music hacks scrabbling for fresh superlatives.

Alcest - Délivrance Having completely abandoned their former black metal affiliations, Alcest conquered 2014 with an album of pure and unapologetic shoegaze, evoking the glistening perfection of Cocteau Twins and Slowdive for a generation that, in general, had heard of neither. A sublime exercise in esoteric nostalgia that delighted everyone from shameless hipsters to diehard metalheads.

Blueneck - Counting Out Beauty in rock made a substantial comeback in 2014, partly due to the efforts of bands like Blueneck. Midway between ethereal alternative rock and twinkling freeform ambience, songs like Counting Out emerged to mesmerise audiences bored with one-dimensional, Neanderthal thudding. As a result, Blueneck are now among the UK’s brightest hopes.

Knifeworld - Destroy The World We Love Led by ex-Cardiac and current Gong alumnus Kavus Torabi, Knifeworld are simply the UK’s premier psychedelic rock band. Second album The Unravelling blew minds and buoyed hearts in 2014, with a sense of wonderment and mischief that made nearly everything else seem a little lacking in ambition. Bewildering and beguiling in equal measure.

Swans - Screen Shot Michael Gira’s legendary No Wave mavericks have really made their second crack at the art rock whip count. As with The Seer from 2012, last year’s To Be Kind was a towering creation, over two hours long and brimming with moments of mercurial splendour and experiential terror. The live shows were even more devastating.

Earth - The Zodiacal Light With Sunn 0))) disappearing into Scott Walker’s world of madness, the drone metal crown was newly available and, in truth, only Earth were capable of wearing it well. Primitive And Deadly’s slow-motion metal reconnected the band with their roots while devising new ways to induce bowel-rattling hypnosis among the pot-addled masses.