*Legion*'s 2009 "Golden Asterisks" Music Awards

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Golden Asterisks Awards Thread!

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Previous Years:
2008 Golden Asterisks
2007 Golden Asterisks

For more 2009 music discussion:
2009 GWJ Album of the Year Nominations

This year, I'm doing things a little differently. Rather than make one humongous post, I'm going to do individual posts on albums, one every day or two, until I run out of albums.

Also, I'm embedding YouTube vids into the posts where possible, to make it easier to sample the music.
Note: Because of the GWJ site's continued refusal to embed YouTube videos with underscores and hyphens in the ID, sometimes I have to pick videos other than the obvious choice - like "mash-up" videos with the song and some unrelated video sequence - in order to embed that song into the post.

My hope is that this will generate a neat thread of music to sample, and a conversation that goes with it, rather than one giant impenetrable post. Although it's quite likely that no one cares. I accept this.

I'll edit this post each time to show the running list of winners.

2009 Golden Asterisks List

Golden Asterisks for Achievement in Metal
Kylesa - Static Tensions (link)
Amorphis - Skyforger (link)
Pelican - Ephemeral [EP] (link)
Minsk - With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (link)

Golden Asterisks for Achievement in Electronic Music
Robert Logan - Inscape (link)
Boxcutter - Arecibo Message (link)
iTAL tEK - Massive Error [EP] (link)

Golden Asterisks for Achievement in Progressive Rock / Fusion
Forgas Band Phenomena - L'Axe du Fou (link)

Golden Asterisks for Achievement in Ambient / Drone
AUN - Motorsleep (link)

Golden Asterisks for Achievement in Soundtrack
Stingray Sam (link)


2009 Golden Certis "Awards of Dubious Honor" List

Golden Certis for "Best" Lyric
Venetian Snares - Horsey Noises (link)

Golden Certis for Best Boobs
Francine Boucher of Echoes of Eternity (link)

Dammit, now I've got to go buy this album. Thanks *Legion*, you damn, dirty enabler.

Edit: I love albums that are exactly 10 songs. It makes it so easy for me to use my Zune pass credits to buy the album.

Golden Asterisk for Achievement in Metal

Kylesa - Static Tensions [Prosthetic Records]

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This album simply rules! It's "experimental" psychedelic kick-ass Southern sludge/doom/hardcore metal. It's one of those albums where the ass-kicking groove masks the complexity underneath.

The group has dual drummers, and the album uses the neat trick of putting one at each end of the stereo mix. Interplay bounces back and forth between them, which really comes to life in headphone listening.

At first, the harshness of the tone can be difficult to penetrate. Upon further listens, however, you realize it's actually extremely tuneful underneath. Pitchfork says, "[p]ractically the whole record is hummable", and that's true, but not apparent at first glance. They start to peek out from underneath the sludgy psychedelic haze.

The album starts with more hardcore punk elements ("Scapegoat" and the first track below, "Insomnia for Months", kick things off at an aggressive pace), and opens up with slower, grander doom elements as it progresses.

Also, this album's closing track, "To Walk Alone", never failed to compel me to press "Play" on the album a second time. I listened to this album back-to-back more than any other release this year.

Very much for the Mastodon crowd. The two groups toured together this year, and quite frankly, despite how much I enjoyed this year's Mastodon album, I think Kylesa has become the better of that pairing.

Kylesa - Insomnia for Months:

Kylesa - Running Red:

Kylesa - To Walk Alone:

(MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/kylesa)

I really like Static Tensions. It's a solid album of nasty Southern sludge.

Maybe I'm spoiled by Thrak-era King Crimson, but I think that musically Kylesa's two drummer thing is mostly a pointless gimmick. It's clearly an arrangement with some potential, but I don't think these guys have the chops or the imagination to realize it. I imagine that it's fun to see those dudes bashing away live, though.

I think the Crimson double-trio is a lot to live up to.

I really enjoyed the percussion interplay when I listened with headphones. I couldn't hear it quite as clearly in the car. Of course, my truck's speakers suck and need to be replaced, so there's that.

Yeah, it's probably nonsense to compare these guys to Crimson.

Maybe I need to go back and listen again with headphones. When it comes to this kind of material I'm afraid my elitist jerk tendencies haven't mellowed that much with age.

Elitism and jerkitude are always welcome here.

Wow.
Never heard of these guys before. Thanks for the heads-up.

These awards are thinner than Legion's hairline!

boogle wrote:

These awards are thinner than Legion's hairline!

HEY! Hair in a bottle is preventative maintenance!

I hadn't heard of them before either. I clicked the link to their Myspace page and listened to a few more songs. It's good, but not good/different enough to make me buy.

To be honest with you, I liked the one ginormous post format. Took a while to scroll through it, but all the information was there. If you embed individual posts in a massive thread, it will be next to impossible to find the details later on.

blah, blah blah... I'm a silly little teapot who can't read properly. so n/m just about anything I said.

Except that I really enjoy these posts.

MoonDragon wrote:

To be honest with you, I liked the one ginormous post format. Took a while to scroll through it, but all the information was there. If you embed individual posts in a massive thread, it will be next to impossible to find the details later on.

blah, blah blah... I'm a silly little teapot who can't read properly. so n/m just about anything I said.

Except that I really enjoy these posts. :)

I think what he's planning (and if he's not, he should) is to link to each of the posts, so that little "link" link next to the album/artist name links to his comment that includes all the details and videos. That should make it a smaller original post but without having to sift through however many pages this becomes to find all the award winners.

MoonDragon wrote:

To be honest with you, I liked the one ginormous post format. Took a while to scroll through it, but all the information was there. If you embed individual posts in a massive thread, it will be next to impossible to find the details later on.

blah, blah blah... I'm a silly little teapot who can't read properly. so n/m just about anything I said.

Except that I really enjoy these posts. :)

He can update the OP to link to the individual posts. That may solve your issue.

I like what I'm hearing, though I'm not flattened by it. My buddy, however, will love the crap out of this.

Golden Asterisk for Achievement in Metal

Amorphis - Skyforger [Nuclear Blast]

IMAGE(http://www.nuclearblastusa.com/nb/images/album/649/medium/Amorphis_Skyforger_300.jpg)

I wonder why Amorphis has not had the crossover success that groups like Dream Theater and Mastodon have enjoyed. They've had quite a career arch, starting as a death metal band in the early '90s, transitioning into a melodic death/doom group a few years later, then into a (non-shreddy) progressive metal band by the end of the '90s. While they released some excellent albums during all that flux, it was when the group added new vocalist Tomi Jousten (starting with 2006's Eclipse) where the group went on a tear. The melodic prog-metal has been freshened up and infused with some of the death metal elements that were largely shed by 2001's Am Universum.

I didn't expect this album to be this good. I enjoyed the last one, 2007's Silent Waters, but they have really hit a new groove in this "second era" of the group. It's metal for people who like the complexity of prog-metal but hate the manic wankery and lack of actual songwriting; it's for people who like some death metal but don't necessarily want 60 minutes of non-stop brutal growling. It's a brilliant blend of a lot of elements, from prog and death to folk and power metal, carefully avoiding the extremes and excesses of each individual style. And it's very tuneful.

It's ripe for crossover attention. If they were an American-based band, it probably would already have happened for them.

Amorphis - Silver Bride

Amorphis - Sampo

(MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/amorphis)

Golden Asterisk for Achievement in Electronic Music

Robert Logan - Inscape [Slowfoot]

IMAGE(http://www.slowfoot.co.uk/files/CoverImage/CoverINSCAPE.png)

Some of the most interesting music going right now is at the convergence of modern classical composition and electronic/ambient. Near the forefront of that is this former teenage prodigy (now 21), a "classically-trained" composer who has quickly become one of the luminaries of the art form.

Logan draws not only from Hungarian modern classical and folk and '90s IDM, but reaches back to some of the best '70s spacey Krautrock like the work of Edgar Froese and Klaus Schultz. Inscape is gritty, dark but not doomy or foreboding. Apparently, this album was inspired by Logan's discovery of an abandoned factory in Hungary, fallen into decay and covered in wild growth.

Few artists blend the harsh electronics and field recordings with acoustic instruments so transparently. It's a seamless sound, with an incredible attention to detail that reminds me of Amon Tobin's work. Dense, textured pieces give way to softer, lusher tracks, all of which serve to further that "beauty found in destruction" mood Logan strives for.

Robert Logan - Angels and Insects (can't embed, stupid Drupal)

You'll have to hit up Logan's MySpace for more:

(MySpace: www.myspace.com/robertlogan)

Amorphis should get the Golden Asterisk for Bad-Ass Cover.

I've got to check out that Amorphis disc. I haven't heard any of their stuff since Tuonela, and I don't think I was quite ready for them back then.

Every year, I give awards beyond just those for excellence in music.

This year, they will have a name: the Golden Certises.

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This year's first Golden Certis winner:

Golden Certis for "Best" Lyric

Venetian Snares - Horsey Noises [Planet Mu]

This song, the first track from Venetian Snares' Horsey Noises EP, features a single vocal line, which is manipulated with different treatments throughout the 4 minute track.

The vocal line in question:

"Hey horseteeth girl, I want to make you make horsey noises"

Just picked up Kylesa - Static Tensions from the local record shop last night. Great stuff, dig your taste in music Legion. If I still worked with Tesco Distro I would have been glad to hook you up with some ambient/industrial stuff, but those days are long past. Saw your awards for 2008 and there were some great picks there. Lustmord, Ginormous, Nadja and Made Out of Babies are some of my favorite artists and get regular rotation on my online radio shows. I'll go through my 2009 albums and post some nominations later.

Sweet. I'd love to see your list. I'm extremely reliant on the Internet for directing me to the sort of music I enjoy. I've never lived near a real kick-ass record store, nor known anyone "IRL" with the same sort of tastes. It's all Internet. And though I like to pretend otherwise, I am no expert by any stretch.

Wow, these are all great so far. I've been feeling like my listening habits have been stagnating a bit lately (other than getting really into 8bit/chiptune type stuff) and these are really making me want to get back to listening to stuff from artists that are new to me. I guess I mean: thanks. Am going to see if I can pick up that Kylesa record tomorrow. Any of their older stuff worth getting too?

I hope Lady Gaga gets one!

For Post-Industrial/Noise I highly recommend Navicon Torture Technologies - Gospels of the Gash

Disclaimer: NTT artist Lee "Leech" Bartow has been a close friend of mine for a number of years, but even without that relationship I would uphold this as one of the pinnacles of the Post-Industrial/Noise genre. Unlike some other artists in that scene, Leech is not just a master of looping layers of distortion and samples, but an trained musician who strives to incorporate melodies, rhythm, and structure amongst the layers of noise and chaos.

An excerpt from his website:

Over a 12 year period, the name Navicon Torture Technologies has come to be known in the industrial music scene for combination of searingly vicious vocals, hypnotic loops and dark atmospheres, infused with an emotionally honest lyrical content not found within traditional Power Electronics.
Often collaborating with numerous like-minded artists to incorporate a variety of styles, illustrating his ability to take different forms of industrial music and apply his signature twist, Leech came to coin the term Power Romance to describe NTT, a phrase abstract enough to encapsulate the various concepts, styles, and sounds that encompass the project, yet descriptive enough to differentiate himself from his influences.

After ten years of baring his psychic wounds to the world at large, Leech announced plans for the death of the project in 2007, and performed under the NTT name for the final time in November of that year. The final releases are finally seeing the light of day in 2009, opening the way to new projects and a broader scope for his artistic endeavours.

Clip of Heathen Harvest review:

Musically speaking, which is what really matters here, this is an excellent, nay, amazing release. The first thing that comes to mind is that a massive amount of effort went into the creation of the music on this 2cd set that is housed in a DVD dual case. The cover artwork is suggestive of the Rorschach blot test, and as a centerpiece features a silhouette reflection of a tied up naked lady with her arms over her head. This flips out further into rather garish photo-manipulations of a human face that is mangled with Necronomicon-looking symbols pasted about. The artwork here kind of makes me think of seeing a human sacrifice from the viewpoint of one of David Icke's Reptoid shape-shifters, a soon to be eviscerated human being turned into an Alex Grey-style series of ley lines. In general, it has a sort of tribal/body-suspension aesthetic that is of the same high quality and style as much material by the California group Neurosis. The elaborate packaging is very slickly-designed, truly high-quality presentation considering that the package is actully quite affordable. Navicon Torture Technologies an alias of the noise artist Leech, and this release seems to be a part of a conceptual project with the themes of a torture factory. The sadistic and violent themes are overarching, as the theme of the record provides an intense catharsis for the performer. It is visited and fleshed out in a thought-provoking manner, and despite the massive volume of material featured on this release there is not much material, if any, that seems like filler.

I would add that the Neurosis comparison is on the mark, as Scott Kelly has been a great influence on Lee and NTT has performed with a number of Neurot Recordings artists.

Fan-made video loop for the track "Mind is a Prison"

"Self-Contempt As An Occupation"

Rexneron wrote:

Fan-made video loop for the track "Mind is a Prison"

"Self-Contempt As An Occupation"

Ok, honestly, why would anyone willingly listen to this unless you needed a soundtrack for a horror movie

Mex wrote:

Ok, honestly, why would anyone willingly listen to this unless you needed a soundtrack for a horror movie

Hah! That idea has been taken in consideration, but he's actually working on the soundtrack to porno featuring Sasha Grey.

So it`s right up to Mex`s alley after all

Digging the amphoris cuts.

That Robert Logan album is awesome -- I'm just listening now after picking it up on eMusic. Thanks for the tip!

boogle wrote:

Digging the amphoris cuts.

Excellent.

The one thing I was wary of with embedding YouTube clips is the audio quality. I'm reminded of Brendan Fraser's line from "Airheads" about why they brought the demo on open reel tape: "A cassette makes my background vocal sound like someone's stepping on my nuts". YouTube audio quality does a pretty strong disservice to the source material, but there's just no getting around the ease of sampling that embedding them allows.

My favorite online music reviews always have Flash players with a track or two from the album embedded into the page right alongside the review, which don't do the horrific downsampling YouTube does. But I don't think there's any way to embed stuff like that into these board posts.

*Legion* wrote:
boogle wrote:

Digging the amphoris cuts.

Excellent.

The one thing I was wary of with embedding YouTube clips is the audio quality. I'm reminded of Brendan Fraser's line from "Airheads" about why they brought the demo on open reel tape: "A cassette makes my background vocal sound like someone's stepping on my nuts". YouTube audio quality does a pretty strong disservice to the source material, but there's just no getting around the ease of sampling that embedding them allows.

My favorite online music reviews always have Flash players with a track or two from the album embedded into the page right alongside the review, which don't do the horrific downsampling YouTube does. But I don't think there's any way to embed stuff like that into these board posts.

You could add links for those who would dare to navigate away from GWJ and want a better-fidelity sample. The embedded YouTubes are great, but if there's a better way to get a sense for the music, I'd be interested in hearing that.