Another year, another list – when will it all end?! Well, hopefully never, as long as my ears continue to be amazed, beguiled and bludgeoned by sounds marvellous, alluring and uncanny. Through the aJN filter, the picks of 2022 include free jazz, psychedelia, eerie soundscapes, ceramic drums, drone experiments and outright instrument abuse. Now that’s what I call a good year…

Konjur Collective
“Blood In My Eye (A Soul Insurgent Guide)”
(cow: Music / Astral Spirits)

Pulsing synth-driven free(dom) jazz, beaming in from the 1970s and yet absolutely ‘now’ – tapping a rich vein of unstoppable energy.

Valentina Magaletti
“Batterie Fragile”

Despite the porcelain drumkit, this was never going to be a mere novelty. Magaletti uses the unique sonority (with to-be-expected delicacy) and creates something utterly spell-binding.

IO Audio Recordings
Awaiting The Elliptical Drift / VVK
(Ramble Records)

In amongst all the excellent experimental/avant/improv releases on Ramble this year (seriously, check out their catalogue) is this psychedelic kosmiche beauty. Churning along, with a wealth of subtle details, it also (weirdly?) hints at 90s Underworld. Don’t think, just listen.

John Pope & John Garner
“Water Music”
(New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings)

Just to prove there’s still some jazz in aJazzNoise! This set of mostly classic jazz tunes (though definitely not the so-called American Songbook) are arranged for double bass and violin and have proven to be absolutely addictive – warm and uplifting.

“Pink Dolphins”
(International Anthem Recording Co.)

The much-missed jaimie branch left the planet this year, leaving behind a second dose of Anteloper with Jason Nazary and Jeff Parker – a dazzling slice of futuristic freak-jazz. Bloody sublime.

(Musica Insolita)

Just bass – stuttering, droning, roaring, eroding – about as immersive (possibly even a little transgressive) as four strings, electronic manipulation, and white noise gets…

Nickolas Mohanna
“Sight Drawings”

An intricate and subtly-layered soundworld in which real life (?!) is rubbed up against electronics and cello (and more) to utterly compelling effect.

Antoine Chessex, Francisco Meirino, Jérôme Noetinger
(Cave 12)

A journey, an hallucination… to quote the notes: “Swirling field recordings, urban/mechanical sounds, ghostly radio, cannibal revoxian magnetic tape, unrecognizable saxophone chants from hell, synthesizer manipulations…”

Kali Malone
“Living Torch”
(Portraits GRM)

Gripping, melancholic, somehow elevating – the slow pace and sense of an enormous world imagined beyond – soundtrack to the tranced-out final days of civilisation.

Old Believers

“…doomy, eerie, anxious, defiant, joyous and ultimately spiritual… conjured via the screams and howls of tortured instruments [amplified trumpet and cello, plus drums], propelled beyond their commonly-accepted sounds…” Full review here.

Cyrus Pireh
(Shinkoyo / Artist Pool)

Described as “transcendental shred”, Pireh’s solo guitar is above all emotional – the opening track in particular is a blast of pure, twitchy joy.

Oort Smog
“Every Motherfucker Is Your Brother”
(AKP Recordings)

Mesmerising – to go from such precise and delicate subtlety to a free place of raw, channelled power…

Jasmine Morris

String quartet, electronic process, and traditional Viking instruments? Count me in. Not so much another world as another time, albeit imagined and mythically refracted. Reverie-inducing, often heavy on the drone, boldly mournful.

Felipe Vaz
“The Well-Frozen Piano”
(Difficult Art and Music)

Longform drone inspired by / engaging with La Monte Young’s “The Well-Tuned Piano” – glacial, blissful, and available with an app that produces an ‘endless’ version of the piece; what’s not to love? (UPDATE: the app appears to be iOS/Apple only).

“Metal Zone”

Koshiro Hino and Yuki Nakagawa combine drum machines, electronics and cello to jawdropping effect – experimental and club music converge to produce the unexpected.

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