Kris Thompson plays in quite a few music groups, including: Bobb Trimble’s Flying Spiders, Concord Ballet Orchestra, and Byrd/Thompson. After many, many this is quite possibly the Hassle’s last 2011 year end list, maybe.

although he kinda hates making lists – too much gets left out…

alpha order by artiste name

Crystal Stilts – In Love With Oblivion

When I first saw Crystal Stilts about 4 years ago, I really liked them but for some reason assumed that they wouldn’t last too long. They were a buzz band of some reknown, sure — and singer Brad Hargett struck a fascinating Lou Reed-meets-Napoleon Dynamite figure — but their bucket-of-bolts dark organ pop sound felt like it could break at any time and that nobody would know how to fix it. But they massed their group will and dug in, and flash-forward to Now: new meat on their rock bones feels pretty mighty, and their original uniqueness has only been enhanced for it. In “Prometheus at Large”, they take a ripping romp thru fields of Velvetsy “Run Run Run” clover and “European Son” daisies. Their show at Great Scott a few months ago gave witness to their new powers and had me dizzily jazzed for the whole set.


Brooklyn-based FORMA features former Bostonian Mark Dwinell (ex-BRIGHT, Nonloc) in a new analog synth/percussion configuration with Sophie Lam and George Bennett. Heavy on the 70s synth inspiration, they hold court at their residence/performance-space The Schoolhouse in Bushwick. Last year they beamed up to The Lilypad in Cambridge to make absolute believers out of us all with their rolling waves of warm snuggly sequencer-bliss.

Herbcraft – Ashram to the Stars

Electric spirit warriors from Portland ME. They’re in town every few months or so, and I try to catch them every time. They’ve tapped a rich vein of improv-psych ore, and they even remember where they’ve left it each time! Non-musical observation: Guitar wand-wielder Matt Lajoie cuts the image of a cherubic young Bob Weir. Musical observation: their sun-baked krauty flights often recall some dizzying marriage of Popol Vuh and Country Joe & the Fish. If you haven’t seen them yet, you have your assignment: be present in mind and body when next they convene their arcane onstage Sound-Ritual.

Lumerians – Transmalinnia

Dark exotic keyboard-laden psych that’s been taken apart and re-assembled in refreshing dimensions. Just what the doctors of space madness ordered. Breathe in the strange atmospheres on their brave new world of sound.

Magdalena Solis – Hesperia

Perhaps my hottest tip here, I was very tempted to sneak them to the top of this “alphabetical” list. You may not have seen Magdalena Solis on that many round-ups — YET. They’re a Belgian outfit with Euro-only releases thus far, and I predict great things for them. The aesthetics are there in spades, and experimental-ambient-psych heads should be all over this. Taking a wide-angle filmic perspective in their music-making, they roll out continuously intoxicating textures that do indeed seem to translate Jodorowsky scenes into hallucinatory sound-layers. They can be your new favorite too; I’ll share.

Maria Minerva – Cabaret Cixous

Estonian lo-fi avant-bliss artist Maria Minerva is currently living in London, and last year popped this one out on the highly trustworthy Not Not Fun label. Lovely, strange, and hazed sounds pierce the dust of night, somehow making their way to your eternal twilight afterparty.

Jonas Reinhardt – Music for the Tactile Dome
Jonas Reinhardt -“Hander Zader”

Kosmische kraut sounds from the California coast. Jonas has obviously taken in more than his share of Tangerine Dream records, but his neo-take on the sound is always refreshing — whether it’s lilting (“Eos, The Dawn”) or goosed and chugging (“Hander Zader”).

Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream

Praise the basement gods, their scrappy neo-garage mania was still shooting sparks in 2011. Check this live version of “The Dream”, courtesy KEXP. Go ‘Sees!

Bobb Trimble – The Crippled Dog Band

OK, sure — I’m Bobb’s mgr., now — but I had nothing to do with the original making of this great ’84 album, now lovingly reissued by Yoga Records. Although I’d popped up on Bobb’s previous album (Harvest of Dreams), I was off at school when this chapter went down. I remember seeing the Crippled Dog Band several times, though…Bobb was in his mid-20s, and the rest of the band was in junior high school (except for occasional appearances by Captain PJ, also in his 20s). They were a scruffy, hard-rock loving bunch, but under Bobb’s gentle rein they had a wild/weird free-spirited post-pub-rock(?) thing happening. Bobb himself described them as “high-energy psychedelia” at the time. His first two albums are well-loved for their intricate, carefully-woven dream-pop tapestries, and this album came in stark contrast to that. About half of it was recorded live at E.M. Loew’s Theater (now The Palladium), like the video shown here. The rest was recorded fairly live in the studio, so there was a raw immediacy to the proceedings.

Woodsman – Rare Forms

One of the best sets I caught last year was Woodsman’s at The Lilypad in Cambridge. It was with Quilt and The New Highway Hymnal, who both played great as well — so it was a top-shelf night to be sure. Woodsman has now moved from Denver to Brooklyn, leaving a gaping hole in the West but bringing nothing but good news out this way. They wove an abstract mix of sounds into a trippy tapestry, with firm underpinning by two great intuitive drummists who locked in really well together. It was raw psych-rock alchemy unfolding before our very third eyes.

Not included above because I played on them:
Byrd/Thompson – Twilight Tipi (cd/mp3)
Concord Ballet Orchestra Players – First Annual North Falmouth Organ Slaughter (double-cassette/mp3)
The Prefab Messiahs – Peace Love & Alienation (12″)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * History is a big lumpy bag that gets stuffed fuller all the time — which is to say that I listened to lots of both 2011 and non-2011 stuff from (among others): Gary War, MMOSS, 13th Floor Elevators, Swell Maps, Indian Jewelry, Sun Araw, Faust, Hayvanlar Alemi (modern Turkish band), Prince Rama, Fedavees, Quilt, Abunai!, La Big Vic, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Ghost Box Orchestra, Brother JT, Lead Stones, Moon Duo, Plasticland, The Necks, Ulaan Khol (Steven R. Smith), Echo & the Bunnymen (first 2 albums), The Happy Dragon Band, etc. etc.

see you at a place of sonic worship soon!


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