I’ve written so many words about The Ocean this year and I regret none of them. I still remember the first time I spun Pelagial, my introduction to the band (to my shame, I discovered them super late), its massive waves of sound echoing around my apartment. This discovery sparked a fascination with their earlier work, finally landing me at Precambrian‘s feet where I lay, dazed and perplexed. I think it’s this album which first fully sold me on the band as musicians, as artists; the first time I really fell in love with their vision, although today I probably prefer other albums to it. It was just so unique and captivating that it opened my eyes a bit to what the band were about and what their intentions were.
That’s why receiving Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic was one of the absolute highlights of my year. It was everything I loved about Precambrian and more (its spiritual, if not chronological, predecessor), melancholic synths, bottomless riffs, and soaring vocals galore. It even had the fabled Jonas Renske (Katatonia) vocal spot on it and boy is it glorious! Over the weeks after receiving it and leading up to my review of it I lost myself in it like I had in the band’s discography when I first embarked on it. It was a great feeling, one which I had missed in the years after I had “grown used” to how good The Ocean really are.
Which is all to explain why I’m so thrilled and proud to be able to host their Top 10 Albums of 2018! Contributing below are two members of the band, Paul Seidel and Robin Staps but the spirit of the band as a whole surely shines through them. Their lists represent the true meld of genres that The Ocean is, moving from heavy, doom-y stuff like Ancestors (one of my all time favorite bands) through obscure (to us) electronics and dreamy sojourns in foreign lands to heavy, abrasive, downright nihilistic at times, experimentations in music. It also includes some of the finest music of the year and plenty of surprises, even for people who might consider themselves knowledgeable in the great, sprawling, many-tentacled thing that is the global world of music. So, without further ado, head on below to check out what The Ocean have been jamming this year and don’t forget to listen to their own album; it’s one of the best released this year!
Paul Seidel (Drums)
Lorn – REMNANT
One of the most sophisticated and elaborate productions I have ever heard. Sucks you in and spits you out, channeling a feeling of being completely lost in this volatile world. Almost alien-like! The future has arrived.
Listen to: The whole album (420 recommended)
Joan as Police Woman – Damned Devotion
Imagine St. Vincent teaming up with PJ Harvey and trying to write a gloomy album in the vein of David Bowie. Add a little “don’t give a fuck” and this is what you get!
Listen to: “Warning Bell”
Emilie Nicolas – Tranquille Emile
Very intimate yet modern electronic pop / RnB with a slight melancholic and fragile vibe to it. Another insane production, perfectly blending traditional elements with synthetic soundscapes.
Listen to: “Naive”
Bearcubs – Ultraviolet
My personal soundtrack for the dystopian future I imagine us to be rapidly moving into. No more highs, just lows. Numbed, ruffian and narcotic. I see wet floors, halogen-lid eyes and dull faces.
Listen to: “Vapourised”
Son Lux – Brigher Wounds
A prime example of what’s possible in 2018. The 3-piece band orbiting around prodigy Ryan Lott is smoothly doing the splits between familiar yet lunatic songwriting, subtle yet catchy beats and molding it into unique soundscapes that fit into no earthly category.
Listen to: “Labor” or “The Fool You Need”
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Robin Staps (pretty much all instruments)
SCRAPS OF TAPE – The Will To Burn
An album that explores the entire spectrum of rock music from post rock to 90’s grunge and post hardcore, in a way which sometimes sounds like Thrice jamming with Russian Circles. Strangely, that makes perfect sense for me. Outstanding drumming, careful use of vocals and simply great songs make this all-killer no-filler record a serious album of the year contender. Nice rough production to top it off.
Listen to “Experiments in Shame” and “Hands on Stone”.
SCHMECKEFUCHS – Bucht der Träumer set / Fusion 2018 set
One of the leaders of the current Berlin downtempo electronic music scene that emerged around a party collective (now also label) called “Rebellion der Träumer” (rebellion of the dreamers), Schmeckefuchs has blown me away every single time I’ve seen him live, with sets ranging from slow chill oriental-infused Sunday afternoon vibes to 120 bpm total annihilation of the human race. If you’re into this, check out other artists like Baba The Knife, Nixe, Moji, Elias Doré or Leon Kostner, as well as Rey & Kjavik’s amazing album Rkadash (2017) and Ipek Ipecoglu, some of my favorite contemporary DJs. None of these guys are releasing albums as we are used to from the rock and metal world, but you can find great sets on Soundcloud or Beatport, not on Spotify (and this is where Spotify seriously loses…)
ANCESTORS – Suspended In Reflections
Ancestors returned after 6 years with a new album that really sees them create a niche of their own. The LA-based band is fuzzing slow, heavy riffs with elements of post rock, doom, gloom, church organ euphoria and a dual-vocal delivery oozing a great sense of melancholy.
Listen to “Gone” and “The Warm Glow”
LOW – Double Negative
After watching their 2 and a half hours set in Berlin, which was a thorough cut through their 15-or-so album discography and did not get boring for a moment, I found myself listening to their latest album on repeat, as well as revisiting Things We Lost in The Fire and The Great Destroyer. The married Mormon couple have a strange otherworldly allure on stage and the minimalism of the instrumentation leaves plenty of space for the stunning vocal harmonies to shine, with drummer/singer Mimi Parker’s high tremolo always lingering in the room a tad longer than guitarist/vocalist Alan Sparhawk’s voice.
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FUTURE USSES – The Existential Haunting
Shamelessly continuing to promote my own label’s releases, here’s Sacha Dunable from Intronaut delivering slow and heavy instrumental music with his new band, which merges elements of doom metal with post-rock/shoegaze and eery samples. It’s a really unique and eclectic mix of a lot of very different things that I like, and it’s truly heavy in a way that makes you smile, rather than grind your teeth.
Listen to “What Is Anything” and “Heavenly Superperson”.