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40 best: Reissues / Compilations of 2009

Written by FACT Team on Wednesday, December 23 2009

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Brand new second hand: the best re-issues and compilations of the year gone by.

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40: PYLON
CHOMP
(DFA)

Pylon came from the same Athens, Georgia post-punk scene as REM and The B52s, but favoured a sound more salty and anarchic sound than their peers. New York’s DFA crew are big fans – Hercules & Love Affair’s Andy Butler famously has a Pylon tattoo – and having previously reissued the band’s 1980 debut Gyrate, this the label rescued 1983’s Chomp from thrift-store obscurity.


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39: LERON CARSON
RED LIGHTBULB THEORY ’87-’88
(SOUND SIGNATURE)

Not strictly speaking a reissue, but rather a 2×12” collection of archive recordings made in the late 80s by teenage acid house prodigy Leron Carson; remastered from cassette by Omar-S and released on Theo Parrish’s Sound Signature label. For all their obvious primitivism, the tracks here sound more soulful and future-proof than 99% of all the “new” house and techno released in 2010.


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38: EDWARD WILLIAMS
LIFE ON EARTH: MUSIC FROM THE 1979 BBC TV SERIES
(TRUNK)

Jonny Trunk had to purchase a man’s entire record collection in order to get his hands on this strange masterpiece of eerie English chamber music. Composed by Edward Williams for David Attenborough’s groundbreaking wildlife series Life On Earth, it’s quite magnificently evocative of nature’s rhythms and sudden magical flourishes; however, it had never before been properly released, merely privately pressed in a tiny run so that the musicians who played on the record could each take home a copy. The style is impish modern classical, nicely enriched by Williams’ 1973 VCS3 synthesizer; the resulting album – replete with track titles like ‘The Giant Clam – Slow Dance For Nudibranchs – Glaucus And Valella’ – is a must for followers of Britain’s unique parochial-experimental tradition. Trunk’s knighthood meanwhile, is long overdue.


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37: LLOYD MILLER
A LIFETIME IN ORIENTAL JAZZ
(JAZZMAN)

Ultra-rare archive recordings of the French composer and musicologist in action, combining eastern instrumentation and melody with a western modal aesthetic. A ravishing and totally unique listen; if you buy only one jazz record this year – and let’s face it, you’ll buy probably none – make sure it’s A Lifetime in Oriental Jazz.


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36: VARIOUS ARTISTS
FACTORY RECORDS: COMMUNICATIONS 1978-92
(RHINO)

If the importance of Factory Records, home to New Order, Joy Division, A Certain Ratio and more needs explaining to you then you should probably be reading another magazine. Or, better still, buy yourself this box set, have a listen, and then come back to us.


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35: THE VASELINES
ENTER THE VASELINES
(SUB POP)

Eternally beautiful and whimsical fare from the greatest indie-pop band ever to come out of the US [easy now – Ed].


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34: MAX RICHTER
MEMORYHOUSE
(FATCAT)

Originally released on the BBC’s Late Junction imprint in 2003, Memoryhouse is the first full-length album by Max Richter, the acclaimed “post-classical” composer best known for his album The Blue Notebooks and scoring Waltz With Bashir.

It’s a collection of intense, extravagantly romantic orchestral pieces obviously influenced by Philip Glass and Zbigniew Preisner, and while there are intimations of the electronic textures Richter will bring to bear on his subsequent work, really this is about the extravagant, unashamedly filmic melodies: in Richter’s world you’re always sprinting through Paris to catch the last train that will take you to Prague and save your one true love from the concentration camps. If you like a bit of high-drama in your music, then Memoryhouse is for you.


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33: RUFIGE CRU
REINFORCED PRESENTS RUFIGE CRU: THE EARLY PLATES
(REINFORCED)

Early productions from Goldie which revolutionalised hardcore and precipitated jungle, but remain a world unto themselves. Listening to ‘Darkrider’ now is sending shivers up the collective FACT spine; had this comp not been digital-only it would’ve been a serious contender for #1 spot in this list.


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32: RADIOHEAD
PABLO HONEY, THE BENDS, OK COMPUTER, KID A, AMNESIAC, HAIL TO THE THIEF
(EMI)

Radiohead flew the EMI coup last year in order to pursue their much-vaunted pay-what-you-want strategy for In Rainbows. EMI responded by this year milking the band’s back catalogue, pumping out a series of reissues which were pretty much wholly unnecessary but affirmed, if it needed affirming, that Radiohead have no equals when it comes to making stadium-filling yet experimental rock.


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31: RICK WADE
HARMONIE PARK REVISITED
(RUSH HOUR)

Michigan deep house producer Wade’s Harmonie Park series has proved a consistent delight since its launch in 1994, proffering a pumping post-Moodymann sound with a big disco influence and a broad smile. Unfortunately latecomers had to be prepared to part with obscene amounts of cash to lay their hands on best 12″s in the catalogue; everyone had finally got wise to the fact that Wade was good, but no one could heard the fricking music. In step Amsterdam’s Rush Hour, who repressed the 12″s and slung ‘em in handsome limited edition box set, then delivered an affordable CD edition too. Nice one!

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30: SERGE GAINSBOURG
HISTOIRE DE MELODY NELSON
(LIGHT IN THE ATTIC)

Serge’s psychedelic magnum opus. A total joy, still.


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29: SAINT ETIENNE
FOXBASE ALPHA
(HEAVENLY)

Irksome totem of the bad ol’ 90s, or one of the great English pop groups? We reckon the latter. On Foxbase Alpha, their best and most bittersweet album, Sarah Cracknell and the boys portray their homeland with a humour and acuity somewhere between Morrissey and Mike Skinner (in a good way).


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28: BIZZY B
RETROSPECTIVE
(PLANET MU)

Planet Mu pay their respects to hardcore ragamuffin Bizzy B, whose twisted Amen variations ran the road back in the day. B also unwittingly influenced legion breakcore tosspots to make an ‘orrible, worthless racket for years to come, but don’t hold that against him.


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27: PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED
METAL BOX
(VIRGIN)

It’s hard to believe that the goon off those butter ads actually made one of the sickest, most influential avant-pop albums of all time, Metal Box. He was also in some band called the Sex Pistols, but musically speaking their achievements pale in comparison.


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26: THE FEELIES
CRAZY RHYTHMS
(DOMINO)

A really welcome reissue of an album oft-rated by the US college rock community but scarcely known outside of it. Based out of New Jersey and adoring devotees of Eno and Kraftwerk, The Feelies only really made one good album, the aptly titled Crazy Rhythms. On the face of it’s just workaday new wave pop, but it doesn’t take long before you note the prominence, the dominance even, of the drums. They represent a logical but totally weird extrapolation of Klaus Dinger’s motorik, made all the more weird by the plaintive, folk-tinged guitar parts that they frame and at times threaten to crush.


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25: MONOTON
MONOTONPRODUKT MCMLXXXIX 20Y++
(ORAL)

Konrad Becker has his ardent followers, that’s for sure, but we’ve long been nonplussed as to why he’s not better known. His work is best described as post-krautrock, pre-techno minimalism, and in its eternally hypnotic grooves you’ll find fore-whispers of Rhythm & Sound, Kompakt, Carl Craig and much else besides. The highly collectible Monotonprodukt MCMLXXXXIX only ever came out on 12”, so this 20th anniversary edition, including rare bonus tracks, marked its debut on CD. It’s much more frenetic and rhythmically jarring than the unspeakably cool, pulsating Monotonprodukt 07 (reissued last year by Oral), but still a fascinating collection from one of electronic music’s last true cult figures.


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24: CARL CRAIG
69: THE LEGENDARY ADVENTURES OF A FILTER KING
(PLANET E)

OK, so the box itself was a bit of a rip-off, but there’s no arguing with the music remastered and repressed within: Carl Craig’s work as 69 is arguably his most vital, unbeatable for its raw rhythmic crunch and forthright emotionality. Worth it just to own the pristine new pressing of ‘Desire’, a track rightfully considered by many to be the greatest techno track of all time.


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23: DEATH
FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE
(DRAG CITY)

Drag City have been doing some sterling work on the reissue front of late – check the bunch of Bert Jansch albums they dusted down this year, and which unfortunately didn’t make it into this rundown. Here they finally gave a proper release to the “lost” album by 70s Detroit’s seminal black punks, Death – whose story is interesting enough for you to take time out and read in full.


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22: THE STONES ROSES
THE STONE ROSES
(SILVERTONE / SONY)

The Stone Roses’ debut album sounds a little quaint however many years it is down the line, but then a certain naivety is part of its enduring charm. Common ‘Roses discourse makes so much – too much – of the band’s connection to rave that you could forgive a newcomer for being surprised at how far away from dance music The Stone Roses actually is. Indeeed, its timeless, psychedelic pop sound has more to do with the first summer of love than the second.


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21: DANIEL WANG / VARIOUS ARTISTS
DANIEL WANG PRESENTS BALIHU 1993-2008
(RUSH HOUR)

One of the first “nu-disco” labels, the early records of Balihu were loop-based re-edits of the most rudimentary but loving kind, and in the liner notes of this fantastic retrospective Daniel Wang descibes the label as being more like a fanzine to the classic disco sounds he loved. As time went on, Wang and his stable, a close-knit circkle of friends including Brennan Green and Ilya Santana, became more composerly in their approach – but that’s arguably when the magic was lost. Listening back it’s the early tracks like Wang’s acid-disco burner ‘Warped’ and ‘(Like Some Dream) I Can’t Stop Dreaming’ that still command the attention. Balihu proved to be a big influence on people like DFA, Prins Thomas and Rub ‘N Tug, and this lovingly assembled compilation is an essential lesson in modern dancefloor history.

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20: THE UNITS
HISTORY OF THE UNITS: THE EARLY YEARS 1977-83
(COMMUNITY LIBRARY)

The Units, who we confess we’d never heard of until this brilliant complication from Strategy’s Community Library label landed on our lap, emerged from San Francisco’s healthy performance art scene in the 1970s and their imaginative synth-based experiments summon Talking Heads, Eno, Suicide, The Human League and contemporary drone and new-New York bands like LCD and !!!. A must-have for post-punk-lovers and students of electronic music’s chaotic family tree.


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19: JIM O’ROURKE
I’M HAPPY, AND I’M SINGING, AND A 1,2,3,4
(EDITIONS MEGO)

First released in 2001, this record is often billed as Jim O’Rourke’s “laptop” album – which is not inaccurate, but does a disservice to its very organic beauty and depth, and to just how different it is from contemporaneous European fare that’s similarly tagged. I’m Happy… is a startling rejoinder to his own pop-symphonic masterpiece of two years previous, Eureka, being a heavily processed, vocalless work of abstract folk-tronica, with the emphasis on the –tronica. But this is O’Rourke we’re dealing with, and what could’ve ended up a dry, academic exercise is actually incredibly moving, revealing new layers of tenderness with each successive listen.


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18: DJ KOZE
REINCARNATIONS: THE REMIX CHAPTER 2001-2009
(GET PHYSICAL)

We all know that DJ Koze is good, but it’s easy to forget how good. Reincarnations features the German producer’s inspired reworkings of Noze, Matias Aguayo, Heiko Voss and many more; we were particularly captivated by his sensitive interpretations of Hildegard Knef and Wechsel Garland. Koze doesn’t just remix tracks in his own style, he enters into a dialogue with what he’s remixing, and with each successive project endeavours not only to reinvent the track but also himself.


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17: BEASTIE BOYS
PAUL’S BOUTIQUE, CHECK YOUR HEAD, ILL COMMUNICATION, HELLO NASTY
(CAPITOL)

In their prime, the Beastie Boys are as wildly innovative as they were silly. And they were really fucking silly. This year their four finest albums got reissued: Check You Head, Ill Communication, Paul’s Boutique and Hello Nasty. All of them deserve pride of place in your collection.

Check Your Head was the 90s hipster’s choice, being the album where MCA, Adrock and Mike D picked up their instruments and got funky. Hello Nasty was a late and unexpected triumph, with a broad electro influence and a welcome return to absurdity and horseplay. Paul’s Boutique, of course, with its groundbreaking and still dazzling sample-stitched production from The Dust Brothers, still sounds sweet as a nut, and will doubtless be remembered as this band’s most important musical contribution. Ill Communication will always be a poor cousin to Check Your Head, but the fact that this poor cousin includes ‘Sure Shot’, ‘Root Down’ and ‘Sabotage’ tells you how on-it the Beasties were in the day. Just to listen to this record is to be transported back to a childhood of skateboards, ripped baggy jeans and MTV. Now it’s all butt-chafing drainpipes and Spotify, and we travel by bus. Take us back!


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16: BERNARD SZAJNER
SOME DEATHS TAKE FOREVER
(BOUTIQUE)

Once described by Carl Craig as his favourite album of all time, we never thought Bernard Szajner’s self-proclaimed “electronic death-rock” suite of 1980, Some Deaths Take Forever, would live up to its formidable reputation. We were wrong.


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15: THE MONKS
BLACK MONK TIME
(LIGHT IN THE ATTIC)

The greatest garage rock album of all time, and, barring The Velvet Underground & Nico and Forever Changes, the most exciting American album to come out of the 1960s, Black Monk Time still sounds prophetic of punk to come, and, above all, cool as fuck. If ever you wonder why we’re a little jaded at the world of contemporary guitar music, it’s because pretty much none of it is as good as this. And this is 44 years old.


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14: STUDIO 1
STUDIO EINS
(KOMPAKT)

Another chance to own Studio Eins, the 1997 compilation of tracks made by Wolfgang Voigt under his Studio 1 alias; sternly funky stuff that established the blueprint for modern-day minimal house. Voigt just lets his grooves run and run, building a compelling narrative through subtle modulations and dub effects (hence, we presume, the project’s name). Though not as obviously miraculous as the Kompakt impresario’s grand, richly textured work as GAS, the Studio 1 material – in its own opaque, uncompromising way – is certainly just as radical and accomplished. Let’s hope Voigt continues his programme of self-reissuing; we’ve had Studio 1 and GAS, now, how’s about a Mike Ink singles collection?


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13: PEPE BRADOCK
CONFIOTE DE BITS
(BBE)

An essential double-disc remix collection from one of house music’s true auteurs. Why, though, have BBE excluded what is – without doubt – Bradock’s finest moment? His re-work of Candi Staton’s ‘Do Your Duty’, which was released on Honest Jon’s 2004, is a truly remarkable piece of music, and it really, really should have been on this otherwise wonderful set.


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12: HARMONIA & ENO ’76
TRACKS AND TRACES
(GRONLAND)

2009 found the FACT office feeling a little krauted out, after two years spent gorging on anything with even the faintest whiff of the kosmische about it. Nonetheless, we found space in our hearts for two reissues from the golden era of German electronic rock: Wolfgang Reichmann’s Wunderbar (an unfortunate ommission from this list) and, of course, Tracks and Traces. The work of Herrs Roedelius, Moebius and Rother in collaboration with their inscrutable pal Mr Eno, this hook-up isn’t quite the sum of its parts, but it’s still a high watermark of 70s pastoral futurism.


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11: ROLL DEEP
STREET ANTHEMS
(ROLL DEEP RECORDINGS)

Roll Deep, the grime group once spearheaded by Dizzee Rascal and Wiley – though the pair are now an ex-member and fringe member respectively – have never made an album truly representative of their talent. Their highest profile LP, In At The Deep End featured classic tracks but was made with a firm eye on the mainstream, while ‘mixtape album’ Rules and Regulations featured too much filler to hold up over time. It’s generally best to pretend 2008’s Return of the Big Money Sound never happened. Street Anthems is a Greatest Hits collection rather than an album of new material, and predictably is the best Roll Deep full length by miles, even featuring the great lost vocal version of Wiley’s seminal ‘Eskimo’ riddim.

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10: PATRICK COWLEY / JORGE SOCARRAS
CATHOLIC
(MACRO PROTOTYPES)

Catholic is what happened in the late 70s when visionary disco producer Patrick Cowley teamed up with Indoor Life vocalist Jorge Socarras and a couple of refugees from Sylvester’s band. The group’s tracks had never been made public before, and would’ve remained the stuff of anecdote had it not been for German techno producer Stefan Goldmann. On a trip to San Francisco a couple of years back, Goldmann was handed a CD-R by local DJ Ken Vulsion (what a name) comprising tracks that he’d sourced from reels of unreleased Cowley material when helping Megatone owner John Hedges move house. Going crazy over what he heard on the CD, Goldmann tracked down Jorge and convinced him to let him release an album’s worth of the material on Prototypes, the reissue arm of his Macro label.

“I think it will be a shock for Patrick Cowley’s fans,” Goldmann explained prior to the album’s release. “It’s way beyond his Hi NRG Disco stuff – a post-punk, new wave, experimental Cowley. The range of styles is pretty wide, but it totally makes sense. There are very sparse, almost Basic Channel style tracks with stripped down electronic percussion grooves. Then there are some tracks that sound like the blueprint to Metro Area. And then there is stuff that sounds like punk with sequencer bass lines. It’s all still very synthesizer-based, yet very adventurous.”


09: VARIOUS ARTISTS
5: FIVE YEARS OF HYPERDUB
(HYPERDUB)

There’s something particularly special about a catalogue with a distinct aura that emerges, piecemeal yet cohesively, a few minutes’ worth of black wax at a time. Another recent example is Digital Mystikz and Loefah’s DMZ label; an older one is Warp Records’ early output of Northern ‘bleep’ (considering Warp, by its fifth birthday, had already moved on to release over 20 albums, it’s briefly tempting to wonder where Kode 9’s Hyperdub would be now given the same economic climate for music).

The retrospective component of 5, a two-CD package, does a perfectly good job of illuminating the thematic strands that make Hyperdub’s identity so recognisable. Prominent among these is an apparent fascination with the synthetic and the virtual: electronically generated sound by default tends to give the impression of situation in an unreal space, but rather than glossing over this, producers such as Burial intensify its boxed-in, disorientating effect; meanwhile Zomby or Samiyam’s lurid sonic is what results from stripping away the tonal shaping that allows synthesisers to approximate anything in the natural acoustic world.


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08: VARIOUS ARTISTS
WARP20
(WARP)

It’s pretty mad to think that Warp is now 20 years old. Twenty years since Forgemasters’ ‘Track With No Name’ emerged and proved in one fell swoop that Britain could take the US techno sound and make it its own. This lavish boxset shows how just far the label has come, and attends to all its various tributaries and preoccupations, from the early (and still incendiary) bleep ‘n bass gear through the “electronic listening music” era, the post-trip-hop “beat” years and its latter day incarnation as a broad-minded major-independent akin to Rough Trade or a Domino – indeed, a stable that can comfortably play host to both Autechre and Grizzly Bear.

What we love about this anniversary release is the amount of music there is: so many of these expensive box set things are all design and no content, but Warp20 remembers that its buyers are music-lovers first and foremost. We’re still trawling through its wealth of unreleased material, special locked grooves, greatest hits and a disc of in-house cover versions ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous.


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07: SPIRITUALIZED
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN WE ARE FLOATING IN SPACE: THE BLACK EDITION
(SONY)

Simple, really: the greatest rock album of the 90s reissued with a ton of bonus material and housed by Farrow Design in a sexy black update of their original medical-style packaging, blisterpack n’all.


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06: TERROR DANJAH
GREMLINZ: THE INSTRUMENTALS 2003-2009
(PLANET MU)

Gremlinz, a triple-vinyl compilation of key instrumentals by Terror Danjah, one of grime’s most talented and fanciful producers, is great – how could it not be? You get Terror at his most pitch-bent and twisted (‘Haunted’ and ‘Code Morse’, with the amazing and underrated DOK), his most jagged and pummeling (‘Stiff’ and ‘Radar’), and his most iconic (‘Frontline’). He dabbles in 80s electro (‘Planet Shock’), jungle (‘Reloadz’) and spaced-out funk (‘Limbo’), all the while sounding like a perverse genius who never should’ve been let out the asylum, let alone onto national radio.


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05: ROBERT HOOD
MINIMAL NATION
(M-PLANT)

The etching on the original Axis pressing of Minimal Nation reads ‘Music for the progressive’. Fifteen years after its release and those words hold true: reissued on Robert Hood’s own M-Plant label, replete with bonus tracks, Minimal Nation still sounds as forward-thinking as ever.

This EP-cum-album wrestled Detroit techno from its expansive future-soul origins and remodelled it as a kind of fast, ultra-streamlined and Teutonic-influenced systems music; it paved the way for some of the most interesting records of all time, and – it must be admitted – some of the most tedious. For Hood, minimalism wasn’t just a gesture, it had a personal and a political meaning: “It’s a direct reflection of the way the world is going. We’re stripping down and realizing that we need to focus on what’s essential in our lives.”

True saying. But still, as any Hood devotee will tell you, ultimately Minimal Nation is about one thing and one thing only: funk. Never before or since has techno grooved so hard.


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04: YURA YURA TEIKOKU
HOLLOW ME / BEAUTIFUL
(DEATH FROM ABROAD)

Yura Yura Teikoku are apparently huge in their native Japan, but have virtually no profile in the West. Big up Death From Abroad, then, for their canny licensing of the band’s brilliant Hollow Me album, with the Beautiful EP tacked on as a nice addendum. The music is just gorgeous, stripped-down and rhythmic pop that summons Roxy Music, Pavement, The Beatles and Guided By Voices. You’ll want to check it out.


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03: ANTHONY ‘SHAKE’ SHAKIR
FRICTIONALISM: 1994-2009
(RUSH HOUR)

Shake has been making music since 1981, and worked with Derrick May and Carl Craig as producer, writer or engineer on several early Metroplex tracks, as well as performing management, A&R and – he’s often joked – janitorial duties for the label.

Alas, the Detroit native to date hasn’t achieved the fame or commercial success of his peers, partly due to persistent health issues preventing him from DJing as regularly and widely as he would have liked. Nonetheless, over the past two decades his inimitably tough, swinging grooves have proved to be a profound influence on house, techno, electro and dubstep producers around the world; this lavish compilation from Rush Hour is a timely tribute to a cult hero who continues to evolve and inspire.


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02: EL-B
THE ROOTS OF EL-B
(TEMPA)

Burial’s hero, engineer behind Groove Chronicles’ sickest moves, principal of the Ghost crew and peerless evolver of the 2-step rhythm: Lewis Beadle’s reputation precedes him. He entered 2009 commonly repped and namechecked by the dubsteppers and future-garage types he so obviously influenced, but with his best recordings difficult to track down and own. Tempa and Martin Clark soon sorted that out, putting together a handsome, exhaustive CD retrospective and a limited vinyl sampler that no DJ on Earth should be without.


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01: KRAFTWERK
12345678: THE CATALOGUE
(EMI / KLING KLANG)

This remastered and repackaged anthology of the Dusseldorf dudes’ “catalogue” regrettably skips over the formative manoeuvres of Kraftwerk, Kraftwerk 2 and Ralf und Florian, and begins instead with 1974’s effervescent Autobahn, taking us through the subesequent full-lengths – Trans-Europe Express, Radioactivity and The Man Machine – that redefined pop and made possible pretty much all the music you know and love. Hell, even the oft-maligned Techno-Pop sounds terrific now. If you don’t own these records, do yourself a favour and buy 12345678 right now; unlike so many things you spend £60 on, you won’t regret it. Ever.

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