Some post-WWII avant-garde milestones in music and sound art.
An orchestra of 61 players with no two performers playing the same part--need I say more?
Gesang der Junglinge
13-minute electroacoustic serialist masterpiece. Stockhausen's magnum opus.
The Shape of Jazz to Come
One of the very first avant-garde jazz albums ever. Highly influential. As you might assume, it was largely
misunderstood at the time of its release.
The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
One of the (if not the) first minimalist compositions. Far from the sprawling abstract serialism avant-garde
composers were expected to be doing at the time. Influenced the style of later, more popular composers
such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
Out to Lunch
John Coltrane at his freest and most avant-garde.
St. Luke Passion
Almost entirely atonal choral/orchestral work. Powerfully, darkly spiritual.
This mindblowing piece was used in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Sun Ra's works (especially this and his Heliocentric Worlds volumes) influenced the New Weird America improv
bands lauded by hipsters today. Their tribal, dynamically broad sounds were beyond jazz; otherworldly, surely.
|13||The Red Krayola|
The Parable of Arable Land
Not their best (God Bless The Red Krayola And All Who Sail With It might take the cake) but their most
innovative statement. Its richness in noisy psychedelic free form freak-outs still sounds innovative today.
|14||The Velvet Underground|
White Light/White Heat
Seminal protopunk work which toyed with lo-fi recording, large amounts of feedback, and improvisational
It sounds like post-punk but it came before it and even before krautrock. Employs electronics, a technique
largely unheard of within the rock realm.
|16||Nihilist Spasm Band|
Truly one of the craziest records out there. Homemade instruments, total improvisation, noisy clanging so
heavy it makes Beefheart's oeuvre look tame.
|17|| ||Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention|
We're Only In It For The Money
Wildly satirical. Its tightly constructed production predated Trout Mask Replica (which of course Zappa
I Am Sitting in a Room
"I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking
voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the
room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is
destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by
speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to
smooth out any irregularities my speech might have."
Improvisational, insanely rhythmic jazz fusion. In a Silent Way was Davis's first fusion recording; Bitches Brew
was his complete refinement of it, one where he pushed music to its outermost limits.
Trout Mask Replica
Probably the most significant album of the 20th century. Beefheart creates a very precise universe very
different from our own with maniacal outsider lyricism, meticulously arranged compositions meant to sound
improvised (but weren't) and growling, rambling vocals sung off-time. Few, if any, albums come close to its
The Marble Index
An ominous work Similar in style to Scott Walker's Tilt and The Drift (which would come later) in its not quite
pop, not quite folk, not quite chamber avant-gardeness.
Yoko Ono/Plastic Ono Band
Rothko Chapel + Why Patterns?
Featuring long quiet choral and orchestral drones of slightly indeterminate notation, Rothko Chapel is one of
the most beautiful works, ever.
Can's (and possibly all of krautrock's) wildest record. The aural equivalent of witchcraft.
Delusion of the Fury
Mekanïk Destruktiw Kommandoh
The definitive zeuhl record.
|30|| ||John Fahey|
Fare Forward Voyagers (Soldier's Choice)
This band singlehandedly began the RIO (Rock in Opposition) movement, calling for innovation in a genre
seemingly doomed to become record labels' mainstream pop puppets.
Metal Machine Music
Pure feedback. A noise album the world just wasn't ready for. (Well, that may be because Lou Reed was too
famous to experiment this much and get away with it.)
Music for 18 Musicians
Reich's most beautiful and perfect composition.
The Modern Dance
It'd be difficult to pin down what the first post-punk album is, but Pere Ubu's music was bursting with more
boldness and originality than the music of bands like Joy Division or Talking Heads.
Ready for the House
Atonal, beyond creepy outsider folk.
|40|| ||Sofia Gubaidulina|
'Introitus': Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orc.
Einstein on the Beach
An exceptionally ambitious minimalist opera.
20 Jazz Funk Greats
|43||Nurse with Wound|
Chance Meeting on a Dissecting Table...
|45|| ||Aksak Maboul|
Un peu de l'ame des bandits
Essential no wave record.
Dreams Less Sweet
Boulez himself compared this to Joyce's writing, so that alone should give you a clue as to how richly complex
La Création du monde
Great White Death
Rise of the Common Woodpile
The term "industrial bluegrass" should clue you in as to how strange Caroliner is.
You Must Be Certain of the Devil
Haus Der Lüge
The Girl Who Was... Death
May not be his most experimental, but it remains his most acclaimed. Still an electrifying avant-garde record.
Tokyo Anal Dynamite
Noise rock, too, had a flourishing avant-garde underground in the '90s. This album was one of the scene's
Book of Days
Voice is an instrument too! It's never been quite like this though.
|67||The Dead C|
Trapdoor Fucking Exit
|68|| ||Thinking Fellers Local 282|
Thinking Fellers were pop melody virtuosos in albums such as I Hope It Lands, but Lovelyville and Mother of
All Saints were their challenging masterpieces.
Feels like vocal exercises rather than noise at times. And it never feels like music.
What Was Music?
|77||Sun City Girls|
330,003 Crossdressers from Beyond the Rig Veda
Their most ambitious album, Dense world-fusion psychedelia with some moments that were melodic albeit
strange and other moments that were simply strange.
|78||The Shadow Ring|
Hold onto I.D.
Their sound is easily identifiable as being their own sound: dry spoken word atop sparse noisy folk. You
know you're avant-garde when the universe you create with your art sounds like nobody else's. And freaks
everyone else out.
Economy of Motion
Manages to fall under the classification of "noise rock" without having any guitar distortion: it's all clean
|80||Storm and Stress|
Under Thunder and Fluorescent Light
Beaches and Canyons
One of the most beautiful, ambitious and unique records of the 21st century so far.
The ever-changing timbres this jazz guitarist explores are simply breathtaking.
Here Comes the Indian
No New Weird America album comes close to reaching the transcendent heights of this album. The percussion
and twisted electronics are magical and the emotion is primal to the core.
Choirs of the Eye
Metalheads experiment to a point where their music can no longer be considered metal. A haunting,
Bastion of Itchy Preeves
|88|| ||No-Neck Blues Band|
Sticks & Stones May Break My Bones But Names Will
They Were Wrong, So We Drowned
|90||Sleepytime Gorilla Museum|
Of Natural History
|91||Secret Chiefs 3|
Book of Horizons
|92||Time of Orchids|
In the L..L..Library Loft
|94|| ||Gang Gang Dance|
Graham Lambkin of The Shadow Ring created a bizarre tape music masterpiece with his solo album Salmon
Run. Highly underrated and highly recommended.
Tomorrow, in a Year
It's a real shame when popular bands create masterpieces which polarize their audience, alienate fans of the
band's previous work, and subsequently go unappreciated. There should be a memo stapled to the album
crying out to everyone who expects catchy hooks and infectious beats to stay away from this.