Howdy, fellow travelers! As you may recall from years past, the Portable Shrines Collective isn’t huge on “best of” lists, which have the strange and paradoxical power of making even the fringiest music scenes seem like popularity contests. Nevertheless, there are plenty of local, national and international releases that we’ve been jamming on for the past year, and the end of the year seems as good a time as any to celebrate some of our favorites. Please be aware that this list is in no way conclusive, or intended to represent any sort of ranking.
Lumerians – Transmillenia [Knitting Factory]
Our longtime faves Lumerians from Oakland enjoyed a bit of breakout success this year with an outstanding release on Knitting Factory Records and some festival appearances, including Austin Psych Fest and the Capitol Hill Block Party. Transmillenia has been on nearly constant rotation since we got it, due to its slick, tight grooves and vintage production quality.
Eternal Tapestry – Beyond the 4th Door [Thrill Jockey]
Our PDX buddies Eternal Tapestry are back with a new record for Thrill Jockey. Beyond the 4th Door is a gentler outing than E-Tap’s last few records, with a mellow sound that evokes desert mirages and the endless jams of Ash Ra Tempel and their ilk. It’s one of our very favorite records to space out to!
Alvarius B. – Baroque Primitiva [Poon Village]
If you were one of the lucky few who got a copy of this extremely limited LP by ex-Sun City Girl Alan Bishop, with its gorgeous photo-collaged artwork, before it sold out, consider yourself awesome. This record is haunting and strange in all the right ways, culminating with a miraculous cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” God only knows, indeed.
The Psychic Paramount – II [No Quarter]
Raucous, choppy sounds twist and undulate around striking polyrhythms on this long-awaited followup to The Psychic Paramount’s 2005 debut.
Tjutjuna – S/T [Fire Talk]
Don’t judge this one by the “smiling, rainbow-bespectacled xenomorph” that earned it the Denver Westword‘s prize for best cover art of 2011. The music is synth-heavy space rock, and Tjutjuna was one of the very best bands we saw at Austin Psych Fest IV.
Daughters of the Sun – Ghost with Chains [Not Not Fun]
Minneapolis’s Daughters of the Sun also blew us away at Austin Psych Fest. Their relentless electro-tribal beats conjure dark, sweaty magic that is at once transcendental and duderific.
Cave – Neverendless [Drag City]
Chicago’s CAVE rocked our socks off at the Comet Tavern in November. Their aptly-titled debut record for Drag City tones down the explosive virtuosity of earlier releases for tranceworthy repeat-o-rock and relentless 14-minute krautrock jammers. Needless to say, we dig it.
Prince Rama – Trust Now [Paw Tracks]
When our Brooklyn buddies played the Portable Shrines Magic Sound Theatre Vol. I release party back in April, they were hard at work recording Trust Now, their second record for Paw Tracks, with Seattle-based producer Scott Colburn. Not only does the new record do a great job of developing on the sonic themes explored in last year’s Shadow Temple, it shows an intensification of the band’s metaphysical concepts, as laid out on now-age.org, Taraka Larson’s digital manifesto on art, performance and spirituality.
Bombino – Agadez [Cumbancha Discovery]
There were few local shows this year that got us more excited than Tuareg guitar phenom Bombino’s first ever appearance in Seattle last month at Nectar Lounge. Bombino and his band did not disappoint, offering a sublime celebration of psychedelic trance rock that performed the rare feat of getting hippies and hipsters dancing together.
Group Doueh – Beatte Harab [Sublime Frequencies]
We were also very fortunate this year to have a visit from Group Doueh from the Western Sahara. Group Doueh’s ecstatic style is immensely influential among many of the musicians that we know, and it was awesome to see Doueh and his band work their magic in person. Beatte Harab is the group’s 3rd LP for Sublime Frequencies and features a deluxe gatefold layout designed by Hisham Mayet and Robert Millis.
A Story of Rats – Thought Forms [Eiderdown]
Thought Forms is the debut record from Adam Svenson’s Eiderdown Records imprint, and it also represents the debut full-length from heavy-meditative multimedia wizard Garek Jon Druss, who also plays in Portland’s TECUMSEH and the new project STENSKOGEN with Aubrey Nehring and David Golightly. Features gorgeous hand-printed artwork by Garek and published by Broken Press.
Hypatia Lake – S/T [Self-Released]
The hand-screened artwork on the first proper full-length from Seattle psych heavyweights Hypatia Lake features an obvious homage to Hawkwind’s Space Ritual, however the band’s musical influences explore a wider cross-section of England’s occultural history, with sounds that seem culled from Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Comus.
V/A – Portable Shrines Magic Sound Theatre Vol. I [Translinguistic Other]
Record Store Day 2011 seems like a long time ago, but it marked the release of Portable Shrines Magic Sound Theatre Vol. I, a Northwest-centric snapshot of the current psych/garage/experimental scene that includes exclusive tracks from Prince Rama, Eternal Tapestry, and many other faves. 8 months later and we still love the album, and are super grateful to everyone who helped make this dream a reality!
Well, there you have it. There are many other things we would have loved to include, like Fungal Abyss’s Bardo Abgrund Temple [Translinguistic Other] and Karnak Temples’ The Din of Light [Debacle] and lots more, but we limited this list to stuff that came out this year on LP for the sake of time and space. Nevertheless, please feel free to let us know what else we missed in the comments section!