1. Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides - All Cows are Sacred (House of Alchemy) / Spurious Animal split cassette w/ Fria Konsellationen (Rayon Recs) / Blew in the Face (Chironex) / Anus Carved into Wood (Chocolate Monk) / Memoirs of a Secret Metal Cave (Bug Incision)
The year of PWHMOBS, I just could not get enough of this zoned out post-Don Cherry flute/drums free ambling. And OK, these are maybe not all 2010 releases, but I just tracked them all down this year, so fleeting is the output, and on some of my favorite microlabels (Bug Incision, Chironex, Chocolate Monk). Hooked by PWHMOBS’s broken Taj Mahal Travelers-like ritual, the free jazz/Skillfullness hints, bizarre grunted vocalizations, rhythm-less drums, the flute floating eerily above it all, detached, headless. It gets into your bones. It’s lasting stuff. This music opens the door to a thousand question marks, a cemetery of lost punctuation for useless questions never worth asking in the first place.
2. Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Mary Halvorson extends her reach. Dazzling squiggly guitar playing aside, the tunes are fitted with vexing harmonies and unexpected dips that remind me of Out to Lunch and Point of Departure. Many listeners marvel at the rock inside these songs but what about the jazz: chocolate in my peanut butter.
3. Chora - split with Quivers (Ultramarine), Ruined Parabola (Chironex)
Similar territory as PWHMOBS, but Chora almost “rocks.” Clattery percussion devolves into a reverb-heavy drone, then merges with a tribal pounding, like some field recording of an ancient society. The side on Ultramarine is a slab of unrelenting instability, a game of high stakes Jenga.
4. Tom Rainey Trio - Pool School (Clean Feed)
No preening just three exceptional and distinctive players who coax the best out of each other. Tom Rainey is a jazz underdog and it suits him fine.
5. Zachery Cale - “Come Quietly” b/w “The Wedding Party” 7” (All Hands Electric)
Contemporary psych/folk anchored by amazing songwriting. “The Wedding Party” does that old folk trick: mournful and hopeful at the same time. Played on repeat in my head for 6 months.
6. Parting Gifts - Strychnine Dandelions (In the Red)
Reigning Sound + The Ettes = Total crush.
7. Ideal Bread - Transmit (Cuneiform)
Josh Sinton’s Steve Lacy tribute project is oh so much more, as he'll (irritatingly) explain in an interview with himself. Who cares. The music explodes with fervor and love and succeeds as the embodiment of Lacy’s music. "Like a baker makes his bread, I make music. If I make the same bread tomorrow, that bores me. I have to remake it; I have to do better. I'm always looking for... the ideal bread." —Steve Lacy, April 1976
8. Kevin Barker - You and Me (Gnomonsong)
'70s Dead-isms cloaked in well-crafted songs, restrained and beautiful. Must have been the roses.
9. The Hunter Gracchus - The Bolsheviks Shat in my Brain (Chocolate Monk) / Mujeres de la Boca (split with Kommissar Hjular und Frau) (Blackest Rainbow)
The Hunter Gracchus has a switch that allows them to forget everything they know about music and just play from some mainlined desperate space. It’s disconcerting. This quality is best showcased by “Mujeres de la Boca,” recorded on their DIY tour of Argentina in 2009, where, as I understand it, whole sets were improvised on instruments never before played. Not their best release by a long shot, but probably the one I’ve listened to most, such is the allure.
10. Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys - Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity)
A killer jazz band/brotherhood that drives the post-bop train (Trane?) but can do it all. Betweenwhile is full of knotty songs that radiate with soul.
11. Tiger Hatchery - “Sour Star” (split 7” with Wasteland Jazz Unit) (Gilgongo)
Blown out free jazz that channels the Rev. Frank Wright, et al. The kids are alright.
12. Dawn of Midi - First (Accretions)
This fully improvised piano trio plays music so restrained and deliberate it threatens to unravel and disappear completely.
Barn Owl - Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey)
Nymph - s/t (The Social Registry)
Love Cry Want - s/t (Weird Forest)
Hospitality - s/t (no label)
Ted Lucas - s/t (OM)
MV&EE - Muy Alto (Celestial Navigations)
Lester Bowie - All the Numbers (Nessa)
Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos (Columbia)
Chris Forsyth / Shawn Edward Hansen - Dirty Pool (Ultramarine)
Razen - split LP with Sheldon Siegel (Kraak)
Emergency! - Live in Copenhagen (Jutlandt)
Orange Juice - …Coals to Newcastle (Domino)
Moon Unit - Hell Horse and Heady Stratus (Blackest Rainbow)
Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley - Ailanthus / Altissima (Triple Point)
Hayvanlar Alemi - Guarana Superpower (Sublime Frequencies)
Vermillion Sands - s/t (Alien Snatch!)
The Hototogisu - Floating Japanese Oof! Gardens of the 21st Century (Important)
Luc Ferrari - Éphémère I & II (Alga Marghen)
Arthur Russell and the Flying Hearts featuring Allen Ginsberg - s/t (Presspop)