Best Albums of 2016
selected by Sandro Tskitishvili

Dielo <BR>Dielo 55″

Dielo 55″

Dielo is THE history. Coming together in 1962, before The Beatles released their first album, this jazz band had a prolific career spanning 8 vinyl albums before ceasing recording activity somewhere in 80s and only occasionally performing ever since.

So in 2016, they reconvened back again and dropped a double album to commemorate 55 (!) years since the band’s inception. The album’s music is unpretentious, but very cleverly done, with first disc featuring the songs they used to sing throughout years but hadn’t recorded for various reasons, and the second disc is comprised of foreign covers.

The band’s trademark 4-part vocal harmony is still top-notch and featured throughout the record and it will inevitably awaken the tea-table nostalgia of the yesteryear.

♪♫ Listen: “Sizmari

Dielo on Facebook.

Girshel Javakhishvili <BR>“Midnight Breakfast In Chinatown”

Girshel Javakhishvili
“Midnight Breakfast In Chinatown”

Girshel Javakhishvili was a talented piano player who sadly left us too soon after succumbing to cancer at the age of 35. He was born and raised in Georgia, but spent the last years of his life in the New York City.

Shortly after his death, his solo piano music was compiled and released by the family. The album titled “Midnight Breakfast In Chinatown” features Girshel at his most mellow and intimate, with his improvisations expressing romantic, beautiful new age music sensibility.

So it’s a lovely tribute to a musician who would do much more if destiny allowed.

♪♫ Listen: “Improvisation #10” + album stream

Girshel Javakhishvili on Bandcamp, YouTube.

Bedford Falls <BR>“Winter Chill”

Bedford Falls
“Winter Chill”

The self-professed title of “masterpiece-makers” shows that guys from Bedford Falls can take themselves lightly, but they sure love what they are doing in music, hence they have already released more than 40 songs during only a couple of years of their existence.

“Winter Chill”, the first full-time release by the band, employs the free songwriting approach that characterizes the band, sometimes stretching out instrumental passages in the free-floating directions or, sometimes, employing lyrics just as fragmentary embellishments.

The resulting work, even if a bit uneven, has some really classy indie rock at its peak, especially the beautiful title track.

♪♫ Listen: “Winter Chill” + album stream

Bedford Falls on Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud.

Omophor <BR>“War Prayer”

“War Prayer”

Founded in Rustavi in south-eastern Georgia, Omophor is a young and promising melodic death / folk metal band that presents power and intensity on their debut.

On “War Prayer”, two guitars often engage in dual riffing and dual soloing and melodic aspect of their death metal is very bright and impressive.

Also there’s a measure of Georgian folk thrown in (“Khevsuruli” and “Heroes Feast”, notably) that gives the album welcome versatility besides its relentlessness.

♪♫ Listen: “Khevsuruli” + album stream

Omophor on Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud.

Fall Gruc <BR>“Holy Creatures Of St. Patrick’s Town”

Fall Gruc
“Holy Creatures Of St. Patrick’s Town”

Fall Gruc is a band that was formed in 2014. Their debut album is full of driving garage rock songs augmented by electronic elements, occasionally crossing over to alt. rock and pop punk territories.

They sing about lesbian ghosts, baby eaters, zombie dreams and still manage to entertain you on repeated listening – and that’s a sign of inventiveness.

♪♫ Listen: “Twins” + album stream

Fall Gruc on Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube.

Nikakoi <BR>“Raise Your Head And Smell The Air” EP

“Raise Your Head And Smell The Air” EP

Nika Machaidze, aka Nikakoi, has been on the forefront of Georgian electronic music since early 00s.

After taking a several-year break from recording, he returns with “Raise Up And Smell The Air”, released on Transfigured Time, newly opened Georgian electronic music label.

It contains half an hour of relaxing, ambient music with some touch of minimalism. Hopefully this album heralds more forthcoming activity from the musician.

♪♫ Listen: “How Is She There In The Fog” + album stream

Nikakoi on Facebook.

Irma Agiashvili <BR>“Behind Space”

Irma Agiashvili
“Behind Space”

Irma Agiashvili, based in Finland, debuted in 2013 with a wonderful debut album called “Sing The Unspoken” in 2013. To many, she recalled a calmer and just as introspective sister of Patti Smith.

Three years later, “Behind Space” keeps the melancholic qualities of her music, but broadening it with bits of blues and reggae. So it’s a reflective record that is a credible follow up to an excellent debut.

♪♫ Listen: “In Vain” + album stream

Irma Agiashvili on Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube, www.

Nino Katamadze & Insight <BR>“Yellow”

Nino Katamadze & Insight

Stepping back from King Crimson-ish ambitions on their previous album “Green”, Nino Katamadze & co. opt for more laid-back approach here, mostly relying on ethno-jazz balladry.

Minor-scale, chilly syncopating grooves form the basis of the music, at times punctuated by top-class fusion workouts.

So if Nino Katamadze & Insight’s previous records featured fire as the primary elements, “Yellow” consists mostly of late-evening seaside breeze.

♪♫ Listen: “Feels Like Never Before” + album stream

Nino Katamadze & Insight on Facebook, YouTube, www.

Trebunie-Tutki & Quintet Urmuli <BR>“Spirit Of The Mountains”

Trebunie-Tutki & Quintet Urmuli
“Spirit Of The Mountains”

This album is one of the most interesting international musical projects of the previous year featuring Georgia.

A Polish and a Georgian folk band decided to directly juxtapose the music of their respective homelands and the listener gets a very original view of two different folklores through each other’s prism. Every song presented is bilingual and commonly a medley of two songs from different folklores.

Although this record can show well how different cultures are able to influence each other in the very same song, or answer the question whether Georgian folk music is able to become more European, it is most importantly a very lovely monument to the brotherhood of nations who live and breathe music.

♪♫ Listen: “Rise Forefathers” + album stream

Quintet Urmuli on Facebook. Trebunie-Tutki on Facebook.

Anana Kaye <BR>“Sentient” EP

Anana Kaye
“Sentient” EP

Anana Kaye is a Georgian duo currently based in USA, featuring Anana Kaye (real name: Anana Katsadze) and Irakli Gabriel (real name: Irakli Gaprindashvili).

Last year, they presented an EP full of beautiful music that explores a versatile sonic palette from country and blues-influenced alternative rock to reverb-filled post-rock.

The closing number of this 5-song record, a song titled “Marie”, is nothing short of breathtaking, drowning a listener in a slow avalanche of sentiments.

♪♫ Listen: “Marie” + album stream

Anana Kaye on Facebook, Soundcloud, YouTube + beehype.

Mirror Illusion <BR>“My Cover”

Mirror Illusion
“My Cover”

Georgian all-girl grunge bands are very interesting phenomena. In the last 15 years, there’ve been at least three of them – Embryon, followed by Mirror Illusion and yet later by Vanilla Cage. And in any case, grunge they performed was really what the doctor ordered – uncompromising, raw and yet skillfully performed.

Mirror Illusion have been around for more than 7 years already, so their debut album was long due. But once delivered, it features everything this band’s music should be loved for: high-energy cuts like “Dirty Rain” and “Rise”, Nirvana-influenced songs such as the title track and “Deep In High” and many slower tempo songs with pounding drums and ominous riffs.

The lo-fi production values and dirty playing lets things be exciting throughout and one listened in the right mood, it has a big replay value. Grunge music lovers should definitely not miss it.

♪♫ Listen: “Dirty Rain” + more

Mirror Illusion on Facebook, Soundcloud.

Sexy Bicycle <BR>“Bit Kong”

Sexy Bicycle
“Bit Kong”

After two great EPs, “The River” from 2012 and “AHÁ” recorded two years later, Barcelona-based Nika Kvaratskhelia finally presents us his full-length debut album.

“Bit Kong” is a well-composed indie pop LP full of versatility, arrangement experiments and a broad sonic palette ranging absorbing the influences of The xx-type dream pop, a darker kind of 80s synthpop and psychedelic indietronica.

There are 14 songs on the album and yet nothing here can be called filler – even the shortest songs serve as the essential part of this pop-origami. Recommended.

♪♫ Listen: “Sheyla” + album stream

Sexy Bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Soundcloud + beehype.

Rezo Glonti <BR>“Budapest”

Rezo Glonti

With “Budapest”, Rezo Glonti’s musical idiom takes a small, but interesting side-step. Prior to this, his music mostly centered on serene ambient closely associated with the sea. His new work reservedly, but still quite definitely instills a certain urban element into his marine world.

Some song titles allude to Tbilisi (“Typ & Lis”) or its streets (“Arpfield Budapest” – Budapest street being one of the streets in central part of Tbilisi), some reciting vocal samples are used (“Sul Dges”). But “Pulse Added Two” should perhaps be the loudest statement of this expanding idiom: rainy, chilly ambient with hypnotic church-bell suddenly develops a techno beat underneath and Berlin School sequences on top.

This is the best moment of the album alongside “Shuttle”, that is beautifully constructed drone piece. Despite the changes, music still feels unmistakably like Glonti and is a solid next step to his last year’s masterpiece under Aux Field alias.

♪♫ Listen: “Pulse Added Two” + album stream

Rezo Glonti on Soundcloud, Facebook, YouTube.

MokuMoku <BR>“Black Heaven”

“Black Heaven”

MokuMoku’s new album builds on the foundations laid in their previous cassette release, but opting for a tighter format really did their music much right.

Fillers are gone and songwriting is much more focused. This even allows the eclectic sampling (they even find place for a Dielo snippet here) and mix of styles serve their own special atmosphere.

And what is very important, it’s not the samples that build the pieces, but the compositional thought that incorporates the different musical snippets however needed. There’s hip-hop, trip-hop, some ambient dub, but the way these influences are processed gives rise to identity that is unmistakably theirs.

So if you’re searching for music that will chill, hypnotize and yet inevitably get your head moving to the rhythm, look no further. Dope.

♪♫ Listen: “Sun Kill Moon” + album stream

MokuMoku on Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud.

Natalie Beridze <BR>“Guliagava”

Natalie Beridze

Natalie (Tusia) Beridze, with her multiple aliases (including TBA, TBA Empty, Nate Fisher), has been creatively active for already more than a decade and can be considered as one of the veterans of Georgian electronic music.

A year after piano-based album “Between The Naps”, which you might know from our Best of 2015, Beridze returns with a new record called “Guliagava” that explores more conventional songwriting possibilities of her experimental sound.

Situated somewhere in the middle of IDM and ambient pop, results turn out versatile, interesting and excellent throughout this 10-track release.

This work is a definite improvement over “Forgetfulness”, where rudiments of this approach were first laid and it signals the deeper incursion to the musical ground that could prove especially fertile for Beridze’s no-nonsense compositional skills.

♪♫ Listen: “For Love” + album stream

Natalie Beridze on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, www.

Adilei <BR>“Georgian Traditional Polyphonic Songs”

“Georgian Traditional Polyphonic Songs”

The earliest known Georgian recordings are of folk songs. Most of the ensembles put to vinyl in Soviet period were folk ensembles. When you look at pre-Soviet recordings, as a rule they feature wild charisma combined with improvising spirit and non-standard variations, yet retaining the high skill sufficient to pull the demanding task of a Georgian folk song off.

Soviet-time recordings are refined to the full – these perfected presentations ensured that Georgian folk could be presentable throughout the world to an instant success, but mostly, to a local citizen, to the ones who have heard all these songs in their natural settings, a certain magic was missing. After the fall of that empire, major Soviet-time folk choirs continued functioning, but it was clear that most of them were rehashing the much-trodden material with diminishing returns.

So that is why ensembles like Adilei matter very much. They can refer to both aforementioned types of recordings, but yet be directly untied to any of them. They can learn, but they don’t have to directly copy. Plus, because they mostly are and perform songs from Guria, a region that has one of the most complex types of Georgian folk song, they have had more natural access to rural originals, just like it used to be in olden times.

Even to a person who hasn’t deeply specialized in the Georgian folklore, Adilei sounds fresh, energetic and different. They perform concerts in prisons and small bars alongside big halls, they sing their hearts out, but foremost, they serve the noble task of carrying the torch of Gurian (mostly, but not exclusively) folk song.

So what you’ll find here is the trademark Gurian yodeling, relentless improvising and complex harmonies (the quality’s that made American researchers liken it to free jazz decades ago) and plenty of fun, sun and beauty. Enjoy.

♪♫ Listen: “Khasanbegura” + album stream

Adilei on Facebook, YouTube, Soundcloud, www.

Psychonaut 4 <BR>“Neurasthenia”

Psychonaut 4

This depressive black metal band follows their previous “Dipsomnia” with at least just as (if not more) interesting work, with even more refined and complexly structured songcraft.

The music on “Neurasthenia” is once again enriched with multiple influences, in some moments reminding Anathema from their “The Silent Enigma” period.

This band is one of the few Georgian outfits that regularly tour Europe and with a couple of more albums of this quality they have every chance of making it big into the top leagues of Western extreme metal-scene.

♪♫ Listen: “Death Is A Form Of Art” + album stream

Psychonaut 4 on Facebook, Bandcamp.

David Datunashvili / Irakli Abramishvili <BR>“არჩევანი / არადანი”

David Datunashvili / Irakli Abramishvili
“არჩევანი / არადანი”

With the exception of a 55-second lo-fi indie song, the second album by this experimental duo has a strong focus on ultra-psychedelic industrial / drone music.

It mostly features massive, atonal noise symphonies that create shadowy, oppressive, horror atmosphere (similar to what Peter Frohmader, a German cult experimenter, does with his Nekropolis project), but cleverly placed lighter moments let the listener take a breath before a new crushing wave.

The second half of the album is especially impressive, where the film noir atmosphere reaches its peak. This music fills silently fills you with such an emotion that leaves you wanting more and more. To sum it up, this is a very short but a great album.

♪♫ Listen: “Jvris Ugeltekhili” + album stream

David Datunashvili on Facebook, Twitter, www. Irakli Abramishvil on www.

Sinoptik Music <BR>“Voices In My Head” EP

Sinoptik Music
“Voices In My Head” EP

Under this moniker, Zurab Chkhartishvili hits a new high with this EP released on Apollo Records, a recently refounded label that had been at the very center of ambient techno in the 90s.

Coming a year after Eric Satie-inspired “The Days”, this 3-track record cleverly synthesizes multiple innocuous influences (ambient dub, drum’n’bass, garage, ambient house) to serve the chilly, cosmic atmosphere.

The music is repetitive and very expansive, with slowly evolving grooves reinforced by lots and lots of echo and delay. Drumming is another great aspect of this record: it feels it can dramatize the atmosphere (that’s what makes the title track a thrilling experience) or hypnotize at will.

For example, “Messages From Jupiter” is 90% beat and it gets even more minimalistic with time, but I’d be lying if I told that this 10+ minutes piece needs anything else.

So these three, almost perfectly crafted pieces shine light on Sinoptik Music’s musical capabilities from a new angle and make up one of the most satisfying records from Georgia this year.

♪♫ Listen: “Voices In My Head” + album stream

Sinoptik Music on Soundcloud, Facebook, Twitter, www + beehype.

The Light Year <BR>“Steps To Life”

The Light Year
“Steps To Life”

Every new recorded work by Sinatlis Tselitsadi (or The Light Year, in Anglicized way) feels like a feast to their loyal fan-base. They’ve been around for more than 12 years now, struggling on and on to push their demanding brand of progressive rock for years and years and their number of supporters only continues to grow.

That said, surprisingly, “Steps To Life” is their debut full studio work, with other recordings, however seminal, being live ones. So pressure was great on the band making this album. The recordings must have taken a couple of years, because most of the material was first performed live in 2012; but after all, it doesn’t disappoint.

Here, the band has switched from their native tongue to English and took a clever decision not to overload songs with lyrics whilst keeping enough to fully follow the conceptual narrative. This way, instrumental aspect of music comes to the fore and that’s where the album truly shines – everything’s firing on all cylinders, with keyboards and guitar running wild, interplaying in complexly arranged harmonies, and when violin and orchestral sections are added to the arsenal, it feels nothing short of aural bombardment.

With all this relentless energy, album is quite versatile – it goes back and forth from 24-carat symphonic prog to the bursts that throw it over to prog metal territory; some avant-prog dissonant moments can also be found and this engaging atmosphere is diluted by balladry in a very welcome way – with Damskerland being a gem of that lighter kind.

It’s almost impossible to choose the highlights from heavier material – but “My Lord”, “Tornado pts I & II” and “Dark Times” seem especially accomplished.

To sum it up, while “Steps To Life” has it’s human imperfections, it’s sheer intensity and level of excitement that is pretty much irresistible, makes it my pick for a Georgian album of the year 2016.

♪♫ Listen: “Dark Times” + album stream

The Light Year on Facebook, YouTube.