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Psychic Paramount

Origins and Primitives Vol. 1 + 2

(No Quarter)

Broken carburetor basslines. Bricks-in-a-spin-cycle beats. Psychic Paramount was a giant hit of acid-noise post-rock claustrophobia on its debut Gamelan Into the Mink Supernatural. But what followed is a subtle calming of the New York power-trio tempest. Origins and Primitives Vol. 1 + 2 compliments its predecessor's fierce gales with a focus on minimal repetition, tribal rhythms, and electro-acoustic experimentation. This is a more delicate smother, slowly draining resistance to float towards the Psychic abyss.

SunnO)))

Any live show

I'll admit I don't throw on the old SunnO))) disc when I'm heading out for a jog, or to pick up the pace at a house party (although I have found it pleasurably soundtracks a subway ride at rush hour). But still the group makes it into my '06 mix for the sheer physicality of its live performances. From the stage, these black-robed metal druids penetrate places earplugs cannot protect. The foggy bog drones deliver this power-ambient act to areas of your body you'd never otherwise know responded to music. Nerve endings in your mouth feel pinched, the back left corner of your skull gets violated, and that dormant kink in your joint is tickled as a phlegmy gurgle approximating vocals oozes out of this enjoyably punishing brew.

Danava

Danava

(Kemado Records)

Kemado Records' metal acts sure get the purists' boxer briefs in a bunch, don't they? Whaddya want anyway, more clean-cut slop that fits easily into ye olde Metallica/Judas Priest paradigm? I'm telling you, purity is as overrated as a $200 vintage Iron Maiden T-shirt. Let's embrace artists who get creative with the rock concoctions. This act from Portland takes its apprenticeship Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, and unleashes the eyeliner-occult on its self-titled opening salvo to the world. The first track on Danava, "By the Mark," spirals you through time, space, and the outer reaches of the glam/prog/metal spectrum.

Mammatus

Mammatus

(Holy Mountain)

A 22-minute rock song ain't gonna rocket you to the top of alternative radio. Then again, Mammatus exists in a stratosphere so far from the FM dial that you'd need satellite photos to read the numbers. Not every song on the Corralitos, California, group's four-song debut clocks in at the length of your average nightly news broadcast, but these guys named themselves after some heavy clouds for good reason. Your usual stoner metal influences show up in bong-bellied obesity on Mammatus— early Ozzy and Lemmy setting the course for extended headbanging hypnotism — but this trip takes a couple detours with Middle Eastern-ish freakouts and subliminal drones.

Various Artists

Invaders

(Kemado Records)

This comp is a sweet collection of sonic concrete from all across the country. The final cut includes picks from other bands on this list (Comets, Danava), some squirrelly psychedelia from Dungen, Big Business' Harley-rumbling bass 'n' drums assault, and slightly more straightforward fare from talented Bay Area metal mavens High on Fire and Saviours. Bonus: not one but two references to black magic — J. Mascis' Witch and Sweden's Witchcraft.

Citay

Citay

(Important Records)

This S.F. act is perhaps the gentlest of the bunch, its percussion a mix of bongos and bigger beats; its intertwined, grandiose guitars bringing out trickles of Thin Lizzy; and its enchanted Zeppelin vibe setting the group's eponymous debut on fire. The mostly instrumental songs are heavily contemplative and full of mandolins — Citay forges trails through a brave new world of music that can only be called "chamber metal." A quiet storm brews elegantly here, although the overall feeling is still very paganistic.

Boris

Pink

(Southern Lord)

For an album with a title on the lighter end of the color chart, Pink is cement gray from start to finish. This Japanese power trio makes an atomic amount of noise, and the closest it comes to a chorus is still subterranean sludge by most standards. Press "play" and you're instantly inside a voluminous dustbowl, howling Stooges-fueled vocals resonating from within all that distortion. Then, just like that, the clutter clears for one bright moment, and two minutes of serene space-rock float by before the next anvil-to-the-ol'-skull drops from the Boris heavens. — Jennifer Maerz

Gold Needles in the Pop-Rock Haystack

In 2006, the pop singles market continued to dominate, in no small part because the pick-to-click-driven mentality of online music stores and ringtone sites gave consumers unparalleled freedom to Choose Their Own Musical Adventure. What suffered in the meantime, though, was the quality of pop/rock albums. These platters frequently spawned great singles — Justin Timberlake, KT Tunstall, the Rapture, Pearl Jam, My Chemical Romance, etc. — but didn't hold together as cohesive statements. Still, a few artists managed to churn out catchy and innovative long-players that held up over repeated listens. In alphabetical order:

AFI

Decemberunderground

(Interscope)

Unlike many of its dark-punk peers, AFI managed to slick up its sound without losing its batcave-and-fishnets cachet on Decemberunderground. Chalk this up to undeniable pop sensibilities and the band's knack for hooks — whether the guys are crafting screamo speedballs ("Kill Caustic"), space-age synthpop ("The Missing Frame"), or tundra-chilled gothic landscapes indebted to the Cure and Damned ("Summer Shudder").

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