FACT’s end-of-year musings and rankings begin in earnest with our pick of the 50 best reissues of 2011.
Encompassing not just straight-up reissues but also first editions and compilations of archival material, our 50 best reissues isn’t just a celebration of music from days gone by; it’s also an opportunity to draw links between past and present, to examine how the records of yore have impacted upon the records of now. We’d even go as far as to say that the choice reissues in any given year can tell you more about what’s going on musically than any run-down of contemporary offerings could – after all, if you want to cut to the quick of any culture, you look at its canon. The canon – ever-shifting, ever-evolving – tells you what the culture thinks it is, what it wants to be.
Many of the albums and singles we’ve chosen have long and rightly been regarded as classics; the 2011 editions simply affirm their status as such. Others were for us, as no doubt for you, completely new discoveries: had they not been reissued in the months gone by they might never have come to our attention at all. To the hard-working, insatiable folks responsible for dusting down these gems and bringing them to light: hats off, and thank you.
50: MICHAEL CHAPMAN
FULLY QUALIFIED SURVIVOR
(LIGHT IN THE ATTIC, ORIG. 1970)
A cult hero still producing work of great value – his most recent LP was released this year on Thurston Moore’s Ecstastic Peace label – Chapman will probably be most fondly remembered for his smouldering 1970 prog-folk epic Fully Qualified Survivor. Featuring a certain Mick Ronson on electric guitar, this is a prize relic of a time when men were men, the beards were long and the acid was unnecessarily strong.
(BUREAU B, ORIG. 1979)
Gorgeous solo music by Cluster’s Hans-Joachim Roedelius – much of which was actually recorded in the early-mid ’70s – released too late last December to make FACT’s 2010 reissues list.
48: ARCHERS OF LOAF
(MERGE, ORIG. 1993)
The early ‘90s is packed with classic indie albums, and this debut LP by Carolina group The Archers of Loaf is one of the very best, with ‘Web in Front’ a glorious missing link between the scratchy lo-fi of Sebadoh and Weezer’s chart-storming pop panache.
(PAN, ORIG. 2003)
PAN haven’t made Florian Hecker’s medically severe noise classic any more listenable, but they have pressed it on heavyweight vinyl and housed it in an exquisite screen-printed PVC sleeve. We’ll take it.
46: JEFF & JANE HUDSON
(CAPTURED TRACKS / DARK ENTRIES)
2011 was littered with unnecessary reissues of sub-par synth-wave albums. Flesh by Jeff & Jane Hudson – a trashier Chris & Cosey, if you like – wasn’t one of them.
45: VARIOUS ARTISTS
(DUG OUT, ORIG. 88)
Dug Out, the reissue imprint curated by Mark Ernestus (Rhythm & Sound / Hard Wax) and Honest Jon’s Mark Ainley, focussed this year on the 80s output of Black Victory Records. Cream of the crop was this collection of raucous, murdering versions on Tubby’s ‘Tempo’ riddim, led by the late Sugar Minott.
THE DECORATION OF THE DUMA CONTINUES
(FORCED NOSTALGIA, ORIG. 1987)
Minimal synth, industrial ambient and soft-edged EBM peregrinations from this little-known English duo, given a new lease of life thanks to Forced Nostalgia, a new reissue venture from Plague Recordings and Boomkat.
43: VARIOUS ARTISTS
THE HIDDEN TAPES
(MINIMAL WAVE, ORIG. 1979-85)
A couple of years ago, Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave was just about the only label releasing low-budget synth-pop oddities from the late 70s and 80s. Come 2011, the field is an absurdly crowded one (see: Dark Entries, Forced Nostalgia et al), but VV still has a singular touch when it comes to raiding the archive, and The Hidden Tapes – a richly rewarding and beautifully presented compilation of obcurities “from around the world” – suggests that the process of excavation and exploration has only just begun.
42: NICK CAVE
(MUTE, ORIG. 1996)
On the wrong day, the gothic hamminess of mid-90s Cave can really grate, but on the right day – well, the man’s a force of nature. Remarkably for a work so death-obsessed, this was the LP that made him viable as a mainstream(-ish) artist, and features those unforgettable duets with PJ Harvey and Kylie.
41: AFX / AUTECHRE
‘QUEX RD.’ / ‘SKIN UP YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD‘
Tasty bootleg of Richard D. James and Autechre’s remixes of Saint Etienne, which rank among each artist’s very finest productions.