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.
SUBJECT TO CHANGE PLUS FIRST DEMO
(DISCHORD, ORIG. 1982-3)
Essential no-fi DC hardcore from Faith, who were led by Ian McKaye’s brother Alex. Fast, furious and – gulp – strangely poppy.
39: BELBURY POLY
(GHOST BOX, ORIG. 2004)
We never get tired of Belbury Poly’s The Willows, the sweetest and most sinister of all Ghost Box releases. Seven years after its original CD release, it finally landed on the format it was born for: vinyl.
38: THE SMITHS
THE COMPLETE SMITHS
(RHINO RECORDS, ORIG. 1984-7)
Does exactly what it says on the (massive) tin. In just three years. To put things in perspective: The Smiths recorded all of this in little more than half the time it took The Stone Roses to make Second Coming. Just saying.
37: ART OF NOISE
(WHO’S AFRAID OF?) THE ART OF NOISE!
(SALVO, ORIG. 1984)
Divine early ‘80s studio-pop collage; features ‘Moments in Love’. Say no more.
36: MARK McGUIRE
A YOUNG PERSON’S GUIDE TO MARK McGUIRE
(EDITIONS MEGO, ORIG. 2007-10 )
Invaluable 2xCD collection of solo material by the Emeralds guitarist, sourced from tiny-run cassette and CD-R editions. Cosmically-attuned US psychedelia doesn’t get much better.
LAZER GUIDED MELODIES
(PLAIN, ORIG. 1992)
Spiritualized’s debut album will always exist in the shadow of Jason Pierce’s previous and future achievements, but it’s a classic all the same. This plush double-vinyl reissue from the States affords you another opportunity to listen to the album as its maker intended – as four continuous side-long movements.
34: CONRAD SCHNITZLER
(M=MINIMAL, ORIG. 1978)
No-nonsense vinyl edition of a terrific album by the German visionary, who sadly passed away this year. Its title track is one of the most beautiful pieces of electronic music ever committed to tape.
33: THIS MORTAL COIL
THIS MORTAL COIL BOX SET
(4AD, ORIG. 1984-91)
TMC feel more relevant than they have in a long time, the influence of their symphonic, gothic-hued pop audible on everything from Zola Jesus’s Conatus to Florence + the Machine’s Ceremonials. This CD box set collects all the albums plus a few rarities.
32: MF DOOM
(STONES THROW, ORIG. 1999)
Yes, there seems to be a new DOOM reissue every year (anything to put off recording a new album, eh?), but you simply can’t argue with one of the greatest hip-hop albums of the ‘90s reissued in a Public Image style metal box (for vinyl) and a bespoke lunchbox (for CD), with two discs’ worth of bonus material and DOOM playing cards included. Well, you could argue with it. But you’d lose.
(RUSH HOUR, ORIG. 1984-1990)
Unreleased archive material from seminal Chicago group the Virgo Four, whose self-titled album proper (reissued last year, also by Rush Hour) is considered by many to be the all-time great house record.
(EDITIONS MEGO, ORIG. 1980-99)
Epic vinyl box set compiling five albums’ worth of austere yet richly textured electronic experiments from Wire’s Bruce Gilbert and Graham Lewis, created at Blackwing Studios with engineer John Fryer.
29: SWEET EXORCIST
(WARP, ORIG. 1990-91)
Long overdue compilation of tracks by Sweet Exorcist, the bleep techno project formed by Richard Barratt (later of The All Seeing I) and Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H. Kirk. Sheffield steel, through and through.
28: LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY
THE RETURN OF PIPECOCK JACKXON
Crazed but mind-bogglingly, formally inventive, Pipecock was the last album Perry crafted in the Black Ark studio before it burned down. Original vinyl copies are a bugger to track down in anything more than so-so condition, let alone at an affordable price, so Honest Jon’s typically authoritative 2011 edition is heaven-sent.
27: ASH RA TEMPEL
INVENTIONS FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR
(MG. ART, ORIG. 1975)
A good 70% of all music that came out of the US underground owed a clear and unarguable debt to Manuel Gottsching, who was creating earth-orbiting drift psychedelia even before he discovered synthesizers. He’s recently reissued his Ash Ra albums on his own MG.Art label, and for us Inventions For Electric Guitar is still the most engrossing and transporting of the lot.
(UNKNOWN, orig. circa 1979-80)
Bootleg 12″ of early recordings by Gray, the New York band that featured – among others – Jean-Michel Basquiat, Vincent Gallo and Shannon Dawson in its ranks. An essential no wave artifact.
25. THE NORMAL
‘WARM LEATHERETTE’/ ‘T.V.O.D’
(MUTE, ORIG. 1978)
Ballard-inspired synth-pop genius by Mute founder Daniel Miller. Independent music, and not just that of the electronic variety, would never be the same again thanks to this little 7″, now available in a pristine replica edition.
(MINUS, ORIG. 1993-2010)
Yes, these days it’s all cubes, unnecessary Ks (insert your own joke) and Traktor controls with built-in Twitter applications, but there was a time when Richie Hawtin focussed on fierce, future-rushing techno rather than social networking. Arkives, albeit with a decent helping of fluff, collects his best work.
(BIOPHON, ORIG. 1997)
Geir Jenssen’s extraordinary, time-stopping ambient odyssey, made available on the vinyl for the first time.
22: DISCO INFERNO
(ONE LITTLE INDIAN, ORIG. 1992-1995)
Originally available as a fan-made bootleg compilation (which was wider known than any of the individual releases it collected), One Little Indian this year made things official, awarding the unofficial retrospective of Essex’s finest, weirdest post-rock progenitors with a full release.
21: OL’ DIRTY BASTARD
RETURN TO THE 36 CHAMBERS
(GET ON DOWN, ORIG. 1995)
Not quite as cracked out as Nigga Please, ODB’s lunatic farewell, but overall his greatest album. Production is guided by the RZA, and as with all Wu albums, there’s numerous guest appearances from the crew, but really this is a record about one man, and one man only. Reissued as a double-CD with billfold wallet, laminated ODB food stamp and much, much more.
20: SPACEMEN 3
(FIRE RECORDS, ORIG. 1987)
Fire Records did us all a great favour this year by reissuing Spacemen 3’s early 12″ EPs – for us its the EPs, rather than the albums, where Kember and Pierce’s most inspired moments are documented. For the psychedelically inclined they’re all worth checking, but if you had to pick only one we’d recommend this one: it features their two-part version of The Red Krayola’s ‘Transparent Radiation’, the supremely monged-out ‘Ecstasy Symphony’ and a wonderfully ropey reimagining of Sun Ra’s ‘Starship’. Music to take drugs to, no less.
(WARP, ORIG. 1991)
One of only a handful of great albums to come out of the UK acid house explosion, this debut offering from Mark Bell and Gez Varley put Warp Records on the map and conclusively proved that when it comes to dance music, the more bleeps and bass you have, the better. The 20th anniversary reissue spreads its tracks across two slabs of vinyl.
18. PIERRE’S PFANTASY CLUB
(NUMBERS, ORIG. 1987)
This unstoppable ’87 vocal cut is surely DJ Pierre’s friskiest moment, reissued on 12″ for a new generation of jackers, in simple but effective packaging, courtesy of Numbers.
17: HOW TO DRESS WELL
(TRI ANGLE, ORIG. 2010)
Lefse Records originally released Tom Krell’s isolationist r’n’b odyssey last year; Tri Angle granted it a wider audience with a 2011 gatefold vinyl release.
16: GALAXY 2 GALAXY
GALAXY 2 GALAXY
(UNDERGROUND RESISTANCE, ORIG. 1993)
Four tracks from Underground Resistance’s ’93 Galaxy 2 Galaxy set, newly remastered. A good chunk of the original double-pack has been lost in the transition to single 12″, but hey, ‘Hi Tech Jazz’ and ‘Journey Of The Dragons’ – twin peaks of 90s Detroit techno – are present and correct.
15: CABARET VOLTAIRE / PETER CARE
JOHNNY YESNO REDUX
(MUTE, ORIG. 1983)
What you think of the new “redux” version is irrelevant. This box set from Mute represents the first DVD outing for Peter Care’s original Johnny YesNo, a supremely mucky and disquieting vision of Sheffield noir soundtracked by – and synonymous with – Cabaret Voltaire at the height of their powers.
14: TALK TALK
(BA DA BING, ORIG. 1991)
Talk Talk’s final album, a high watermark of visionary British chamber-pop, unique and untouchable 20 years after its release. There’s more artistic truth, beauty, bravery and skill in this record than the 10 best albums of 2011 combined; the only reason it’s not #1 in this list is because you should already know that.
13: ARTHUR RUSSELL
LET’S GO SWIMMING
(AUDIKA, ORIG. 1986)
At once impishly playful and dizzyingly complex, the original Let’s Go Swimming EP is one of Russell’s finest vinyl outings; acquiring this high quality reissue from Audika should be a no-brainer.
12: THROBBING GRISTLE
THE SECOND ANNUAL REPORT OF THROBBING GRISTLE
(INDUSTRIAL RECORDS, ORIG. 1977)
Rendering the last round of shitty bootlegs obsolete, all of TG’s main studio albums have been remastered by Chris Carter for reissue on CD, digital and vinyl. The Second Annual Report captures Gen, Sleazy (R.I.P.), Chris and Cosey’s transition from scatology-obsessed performance art troupe to progenitors of “industrial music for industrial people”. A landmark in 20th century underground music.
THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS 1994-2001
Lavish book-bound 3xCD set chronicling the first seven years of Karl O’Connor’s ferocious, hypnotic contributions to techno. Put aside the suave minimalism of Sandwell District for a moment, and reacquaint yourself with the original model: ugly, angry, implausibly funky.
10: HARALD GROSSKOPF
SYNTHESIST / RE-SYNTHESIST
(RVNG INTL., ORIG. 1979)
’79 synthesiser classic by former Ash Ra drummer, shot through with new age flourishes. Reissued by RVNG Intl. with a second disc of remixes and reinterpretations by James Ferraro, Oneohtrix Point Never and more. Bro, does it get any more 2011 than that?
09: THE BEACH BOYS
THE SMiLE SESSIONS
The most famous lost album of all time, found. Its historical significance can’t be overestimated, but don’t listen to The SMiLE Sessions for that: listen to delight all over again in the almost supernatural closeness, and richness, of the Boys’ harmonies.
08: KEVIN DRUMM
(HOSPITAL PRODUCTIONS, ORIG. 2008)
Good things do come to those who wait: Kevin Drumm’s tortured ambient masterpiece, Imperial Distortion, issued in a limited, triple white vinyl set by Hospital Productions.
07: CHRIS & COSEY
SONGS OF LOVE & LUST
(CONSPIRACY INTERNATIONAL, ORIG. 1984)
What with the continued resurgence of goth, minimal synth and cold wave styles, not since the mid-80s has the influence of Chris & Cosey on contemporary music been as keenly felt as it is now. With impeccable timing came official remastered reissues of the duo’s Exotika and Songs of Love & Lust LPs; the crisp, erotically-charged latter, originally released in ’84, is our favourite by a hair’s breadth.
06: MARK HOLLIS
(BA DA BING!, ORIG. 1998)
The one and only solo album from Talk Talk’s Mark Hollis, this has been virtually impossible to get hold of on vinyl since its first pressing in 1998. It continues the painterly, introspective chamber-pop trajectory that began with Laughing Stock, but is somehow even more fragile, even more haunting. It deserves to be much better known than it is.
05: THEO PARRISH
(SOUND SIGNATURE, ORIG. 2002-4)
No need to spend hundreds on the original spray-painted 12″s; no need to settle for direly pressed bootlegs. This invaluable limited edition double-CD handily compiled Theo’s seminal Ugly Edits, meaning we could finally hear all those re-rubs of Sylvester, Roger Troutman et al exactly as the master intended.
04: BRUCE GILBERT
THIS WAY WITH THE SHIVERING MAN
(EDITIONS MEGO, ORIG. 1984 / 86 )
Thanks almost entirely to Vienna’s Editions Mego, Bruce Gilbert’s post-Wire work in the 1980s has been getting renewed attention of late. The Shivering Man, reissued this year on CD and also compiled as a double-vinyl set with the previously unearthed This Way, inhabits the greyed-out zone between what we now call industrial, post-punk, drone and electronic minimalism, but these are not “genre” recordings: their sensuousness, mystery and musicality is completely sui generis.
(GET ON DOWN, ORIG. 1995)
Colder than ice and with more quotables than you could shake a hellz wind staff at, it’s the greatest Wu Tang solo album, reissued this year on double-vinyl.
JOURNEY OF THE DEEP SEA DWELLER I
(CLONE CLASSIC CUTS, ORIG. 1992-97)
The first volume of Clone’s projected series compiling Drexciya’s early work. Boldly, they’ve chosen to jumble up the tracklists of the aquatic techno godheads’ EPs and LPs, presenting a fresh and lovingly editorialised take on one of electronic music’s most influential catalogues.
01: ARIEL PINK
(PAW TRACKS, ORIG. 2004)
For the longest time, the party line on Ariel Pink was “imagine if he honed in all the weird shit, and made a real pop album. It’ll be the greatest thing ever.”
Last year, he did that, and it still wasn’t a patch on The Doldrums – Pink’s unashamedly difficult masterpiece, originally recorded in 1999, given its first full release in 2004, and then reissued on vinyl this year. It probably goes without saying how influential this record has been on independent music worldwide – everyone from the US chillwave sect to UK hauntologists, via the more eccentric corners of noise and dance music, have vouched for its genius – but what’s most striking about listening to The Doldrums today is how depressingly ahead of its time its sheer sense of resignation was.