The reissue industry is currently in overdrive. You can’t move for all the lavish new editions of supposedly classic records you’ve never heard of before. They’re breeding like rats, or at least that’s how it feels.
It’s easy to be cynical about this rampant retromania, but today let’s focus on the positive. Now more than ever, music-lovers seem madly keen to discover the roots of things, to get to the bottom of the genres they’re interested in, but also to think laterally; to dig widely as well as deeply. People want the real thing. They don’t want to listen to pale contemporary imitations of post-punk bands when they could be working their way through an exhaustive Clock DVA box set. Why listen to a so-so deep house track made yesterday when you could be listening to say, Dream 2 Science?
Secondly, there seems to be a huge appetite for the odd and the undiscovered these days, and not just among your typically hirsute record collectors. Of course this carries with it a danger of obscurity for its own sake, or of privileging the eccentric over the good; and we certainly endeavoured to avoid that kind of tokenism when compiling our list of the 40 Best Reissues of 2012. All good reissues have a story behind them, certainly, but the story is worthless if the sounds themselves aren’t up to scratch. Over the following pages, we highlight 40 instances where the music proved equal to the mythology.
40: THE DURUTTI COLUMN
SHORT STORIES FOR PAULINE
Short Stories For Pauline was due to come out on Factory Benelux in 1983 before Tony Wilson, then acting as Vini Reilly’s manager, encouraged him to shelve it and release an album of instrumentals instead (Without You). This limited 2012 edition from Darla represents the first time that the LP has been released as originally intended, and it really is one of Reilly’s strongest offerings, his arabesque guitar parts and plaintive vocals framed by minimalist string parts and machine rhythms.
39: PHILIPPE D’ARAM
In a world where Dario Argento is revered as a cinematic visionary, it seems unfair that Jean Rollin still languishes in relative obscurity. The late French director’s vast oeuvre spans detective thrillers, gore-fests and pseudonymous sex films, but it’s really the erotically-charged, painfully slow-moving vampire movies into which he poured his heart and soul. The soundtrack for one such picture, 1979′s Fascination, was one of a brace of Rollin scores reissued on 10″ this year by Finders Keepers; composed by Philippe D’Aram, it’s a brief but spellbinding suite of pulsating electronics and elegantly arcing strings.
38: UNSPECIFIED ENEMIES
‘MULTI ORDINAL TRACKING UNIT’
In Numbers’ words, a “secret weapon and personal favourite of ours at the turn of the century”, this ‘99 techno track gets just the right balance between a gritty basic groove and more esoteric, experimental moments, but the previously unreleased B-sides, ‘Bellona: I Do Mind Dying’ and ‘Insurgency Soul’ come close to stealing the show.
37: JOHN CARPENTER & ALAN HOWARTH
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK / PRINCE OF DARKNESS / HALLOWEEN II / HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH
Death Waltz made a big splash this year, producing lavish, dare we say definitive, editions of several classic horror soundtracks. Given how often John Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s moody electronic scores are referenced in contemporary music, it was great to finally be able to own them on vinyl, particularly Prince Of Darkness – hitherto one of the duo’s hardest collaborations to find, on any format, and far more chilling than the more celebrated Halloween cues.
36: IKE YARD
The only album ever released on Factory’s ill-starred Factory America imprint, Ike Yard’s 1982 debut has long been held in high esteem by the heads who’ve heard it (Kode9 and Raime being two recent champions), but no one could hope to own it on vinyl without paying hundreds of pounds for an original copy. Desire’s near-replica edition solved that problem, opening up Ike’s minimalist art-rock – usually broadly classified as “no wave”, but rooted in dub and Kraftwerkian electro, and in many ways anticipating techno – to a wide audience for the very first time.
35: DAVID KILGOUR
HERE COME THE CARS
A solo album of perfectly crumpled psych-pop miniatures from Kilgour, best known for his role in Flying Nun regulars The Clean. Originally released in ’91, this year De Stijl gave it the vinyl pressing it always deserved; part of a welcome deluge of Nun and Nun-related reissues from various different labels that made us wonder afresh what the hell was in the water in New Zealand back then.
34: VARIOUS ARTISTS
122 BPM: THE BIRTH OF HOUSE MUSIC
A triple-CD / double-vinyl collection of vintage gear from Chicago’s Mitchbal and Chicago Connection labels, including a number of pretty obscure but absolutely slamming Jesse Saunders productions, 122 hit all the right spots for us in 2012.
IT’S COSY INSIDE
An absolute gem from 1989, It’s Cosy Inside was recorded in the late ’80s by brothers Clive and Mark Ives, and originally released on Savage Republic’s Independent Project label; it consists of 14 bucolic electronic miniatures that variously recall Eno, Robert Wyatt, The Incredible String Band and Cluster, but more cheerful and homespun.
32: VARIOUS ARTISTS / SLOW TO SPEAK
CLASSIC HOUSE GROOVES: DOPE JAMS NEW YORK CITY
(KING STREET SOUNDS)
Disappointed at how badly their beloved King Street Sounds label had been represented in previous compilations and mixes, Francis Englehardt and Paul Nickerson (proprietors of New York’s Dope Jams store) took matters into their own hands. The resulting disc has introduced a new generation of budding house connoisseurs to one of the nineties’ most killer catalogues of deep and soulful house.
31: R. STEVIE MOORE
LO FI HI FIVES… A KIND OF BEST OF
This compilation, released on Tim Burgess’s O Genesis label, can’t hold a candle to Ariel Pink’s more sprawling and eccentric Pink’s Picks, but it was very timely, coinciding with a sudden, widespread – and long overdue – recognition of the Nashville-hailing Santa lookalike’s extraordinary, ersatz pop vision.
30: VARIOUS ARTISTS
PERSONAL SPACE: ELECTRONIC SOUL 1974-1984
If the 2010 reissue of Jeff Phelps’ privately pressed Magnetic Eyes suggested that there was a wealth of DIY electronic soul, funk and boogie from the ’70s and ’80s still waiting to be discovered, then Personal Space comprehensively proved it. Sublime.
29: SENSATIONS’ FIX
MUSIC IS PAINTING IN THE AIR
2012 saw Italy’s Franco Falsini’s mid-1970s home recording project receive some much deserved attention from RVNG Intl. The (largely unheard) material on display blends groggy processed guitar with free-floating coos and mutters. The resulting record is pabulum for wistful souls – a wonderfully prescient bit of Cold War chillwave.
SOUNDPIECES: DA ANTIDOTE!
Released back in 1999, Soundpieces is underground hip-hop at its dumbest and dustiest: unadulterated fun, backed by a then little-known producer named Madlib. As Mr. Beatnick pointed out in his Essential… Madlib feature, the mission statement ‘Cratediggin’ (“diggin’ in these crates for a fat remix / even if it sounds wrong to thee”) offers a glimpse of the philosophy that would drive his later career.
SCORE: THE COMPLETE SEXTET WORKS 2002-2007
Curdled bebop, knotty instrumental rock and, most importantly, silly volume from the NYC skronk-jazz ensemble’s early years. Over four discs, Score shows the then-sextet on tetchy, adventurous form, and points the way towards noisier triumphs like 2010′s New Slaves.
BACK ON TIME
Sixteen years after the first Plug LP, Luke Vibert rides again. Back On Time collects ten unheard transmissions from Vibert’s ludic d’n'b alias, and these bubblers sound as fun, footloose and fancy-free as ever.
25: PORTER RICKS
Type could knock out this record annually, and it would probably still make the list every time. Thomas Köner and Andy Mellwig’s dub-techno touchstone remains a heady brew, full of startling sonic details and fascinating rhythmic tics, and it sounds even better etched onto plush double vinyl.
24: PETER ZUMMO
ZUMMO WITH AN X
Now that the Arthur Russell archive has come close to being exhausted, the work of his less well-known sidemen and associates is coming into focus. Peter Zummo – trombonist, composer and regular Russell collaborator – made this challenging but frequently beautiful set of avant-jazz and pulp minimalism in ’85, and in 2012 Optimo Music made it widely available on wax for the first time since then. The shimmering, Arab-accented ‘Song IV’ is an all-time favourite for Twitch, and it’s easy to hear why.
23: MY BLOODY VALENTINE
LOVELESS / ISN’T ANYTHING / EPS 1988-1991
After years of speculation, alleged leaks, label issues and earnest promises from MBV band leader Kevin Shields that they would be happening, honest, the My Bloody Valentine remasters were finally released. Their impact was hardly seismic – perhaps due to the fact that the real story remains the long-awaited Loveless follow-up, which let’s not forget, is coming out this December according to Shields – but a muted reception doesn’t take away from the music they contain. Yes, we all know the Loveless story at this point, but Isn’t Anything remains an ageless album, preserved in chalky water, and ‘You Made Me Realise’, from the EP of the same name, remains the connoisseurs’ choice, perhaps the group’s greatest individual song.
22: BRUCE LANGHORNE
THE HIRED HAND
Lonesomeness and the American landscape have never been evoked quite so vividly as they are by Bruce Langhorne’s score for Peter Fonda’s pensive 1971 western, The Hired Hand. Blast First Petite was the first label to rescue this extraordinary music – a minimalist but highly lyrical assemblage of guitar, sitar, fiddle and banjo parts – from obscurity, back in 2004, and this year Scissor Tail gave it a vinyl pressing with fantastic new artwork.
21: DREAM 2 SCIENCE
DREAM 2 SCIENCE
Cozmo D is highly regarded for his role in pioneering electro group Newcleus, and he enjoyed some international success with his jazzy, garage-inclined Sha-lor project. His work as Dream 2 Science, however, was little known outside of a hardcore of deep house enthusiasts until this year, when Rush Hour reissued his eponymous 1990 mini-album.
20: LAURIE SPIEGEL
THE EXPANDING UNIVERSE
Spiegel is the latest synth pioneer to be wrenched out of moderate obscurity, and her 1980 offering The Expanding Universe is a remarkable set of New Age excursions and astral essays. ‘Expanding’ is the operative word: Unseen Worlds’ revamped edition augments the four-track original with fifteen extra tracks – all welcome additions to a future-facing classic.
Kurt Dahkle’s 1979/1981 one-two showed two sides to the Der Plan musician/agitator. Inland is the introspective set, a collection of phantasmagoric synth experiments and crumpled proto-electro knocked together with a spartan keyboard/sequencer setup. Ausland, by contrast, is the extrovert brother – the sort of bright collaborative patchwork Felix Kubin would gleefully put his name to two decades later. Bolstered by a glut of extra tracks, Bureau B’s reissue gave both of Dahke’s Janus faces a well-deserved touch-up.
18: PARRIS MITCHELL
‘ALL NIGHT LONG’
Liberally sampled by Bakey USTL on quirky 10” ‘A Tender Places’, Winter 2012 sees Parris Mitchell’s smut-heavy piano house jam receive the full reissue treatment, complete with a pair of remixes by Night Slugs’ Bok Bok – a choice that makes perfect sense, given Slugs’ open debt to the track’s original label Dance Mania and recent excursions into the reissue market.
17: DAVID LYNCH & ALAN R. SPLET
The definitive version of David Lynch and Alan R. Splet’s score for Lynch’s debut feature arrived this year courtesy of Sacred Bones. The main body of the supremely atmospheric and unsettling score is unchanged from previous editions, but a bonus 7″ features ‘Pete’s Boogie’, which was only recently discovered on the original master tapes, b/w ‘In Heaven’.
JOURNEY OF THE DEEP SEA DWELLER II / JOURNEY OF THE DEEP SEA DWELLER III
(CLONE CLASSIC CUTS)
Launched last year, it’s easy to underestimate the work that goes into Clone’s continuing reissue of the Drexciya catalogue – much of which is now in the hands of Ebay and Discogs hawks. A group that simply couldn’t exist today, anthologised with respect.
15: VARIOUS ARTISTS
STRANGE PASSION: EXPLORATIONS IN IRISH POST-PUNK DIY AND ELECTRONIC MUSIC 1980-1983
(CACHE CACHE / FINDERS KEEPERS)
Just when we thought there was no decent post-punk music left to mine, along came Darren McCreesh with this expertly curated showcase. The several Gang Of Four-ish and Siouxsie-esque shredders are great, but the real surprise, and revelation, is the more electronic and strung-out synth-pop stuff. Who knew the cold wave galvanised so many kids on the Emerald Isle?
SECRET LIFE OF MACHINES: REMASTERED AND REMIXED
Steve Rachmad’s effulgent 1995 LP was one of the decade’s prettiest techno records, and 100% Pure’s remastered edition is, simply, unadulterated loveliness. Supplementary remixes from Ricardo Villalobos and Marc Romboy offer some after-the-fact readings, but it’s the Dutchman’s fluttering originals that still sparkle the brightest.
13: ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER
Daniel Lopatin’s breakthrough release (compiling tracks from early tapes, CD-Rs and LPs) is still his best – a sprawling capriccio of mournful synthscapes, arpeggiator etudes and hypothetical movie soundtracks. Expanded to a 5xLP set, Rifts redux might have been heftier – but, what with the wonderful bonus material and natty packaging, it remained as light as a CGI feather.
12: THE BURRELL BROTHERS
THE NU GROOVE YEARS: 1988-1992
We can’t believe it took this long for Nu Groove to come back into focus as a label of real import, but better later than never. Rush Hour’s superlative compilation focussed on the work of two of imprint’s most prolific produces, bothers Ronald and Rheji Burrell. From the deep and the soulful to the tough-as-nails and dubwise, this is house music at its brightest and best.
WHEN I SEE THE SUN
The Sub Pop output of one of the 1990’s most underrated groups – still – collected with demos, live recordings, Peel Sessions and more. When music’s too measured it can often seem sterile, but Codeine’s unhurried drug-rock hits with the impact of a comet.
ONLY BUILT 4 CUBAN LINX: THE PURPLE TAPE
(GET ON DOWN)
If Liquid Swords represented the Wu Tang solo album legacy at its most clinical and cold, then Cuban Linx is its heatsick, paranoid cousin – yes, it’s gangsta as fuck, but where the razor-sharp Liquid Swords doesn’t even acknowledge feelings, Cuban Linx often feels on the edge of falling apart – the brief period of success in every gangster film before everything and everyone goes spare. A healthy dose of Ghostface, the most overtly emotional Clan member helps, but there are also subtle differences in the production, and even the artwork. If ever one Wu album deserved to be listened to on cassette, it’s this one.
09: BOB CHANCE
It’s not hard to see why It’s Broken has caught the eye of crate-diggers – have you seen the cover? – but one listen makes it clear why Bob Chance’s self-distributed 1980 LP has garnered so much cult cache. Repped by the likes of Andrew Weatherall and DJ Shadow, It’s Broken is a fine collection of psychedelic pop and loose-limbed rock and roll. It’s the title track, however, that parachutes the record up this list – a labyrinthine, synth-heavy, nine-minute disco head-squidger from the stars.
08: KW GRIFF FEAT. PORKCHOP
‘BRING IN THE KATZ’
The UK underground may not appear to have the same focus as it did two years ago, but one of 2012’s most interesting developments has been the retrospective dialogues opened up between some of its leading labels and their more overlooked influences. 2011, of course, saw Numbers reissue DJ Pierre’s classic ‘Mystery Girl’, and in 2012 the Scottish label continued with a re-release of Unspecified Enemies’ ‘Multiordinal Tracking Unit’ (featured lower down this list, along with Wicked Bass’s reissue of ‘All Night Long’). Night Slugs seem to have taken the ball and run with it, with typically unparalleled vigour: L-Vis 1990’s recent Night Slugs mix suggests forthcoming reissues of DAT Oven’s ‘Icy Lake’ and Bobby Peru (Paul Woolford)’s ‘Erotic Discourse’, and giving KW Griff’s incredible ‘Bring in the Katz’ its first vinyl release is nothing short of an A&R masterstroke.
07: PAPERCLIP PEOPLE / PSYCHE/BFC
THE SECRET TAPES OF DR EICH / ELEMENTS
Two classic LP by Carl Craig were revived via his own Planet E label this year. The terrifically spaced-out Elements 1989-90, originally released in ’96, is one of C2′s strongest album-length statements, despite being effectively a collection of juvenilia – featured on it are timeless Detroit techno classics like the title track and ‘Chicken Noodle Soup’. The Secret Tapes Of Dr. Eich was also released in ’96 and its gritty dancefloor assault sounds even more evil and seductive now than it did back then.
06: CLEANERS FROM VENUS
BOX SET VOL. 1
For years, the only way you could hear any of Cleaners From Venus’s early albums was via nth generation cassette dub (and dodgy mp3 rips thereof) – the music certainly travelled far enough to earn a number of famous fans, including Ariel Pink, John Maus and MGMT. In what was clearly a long labour of love, Captured Tracks acquired the original master tapes for Blow Away Your Troubles (1981), On Any Normal Monday (1982) and Midnight Cleaners (1982) from chief Cleaner and self-professed “Greatest Living Englishman” Martin Newell, and this year released each of them on vinyl for the very first time, making them available to buy either separately or as part of handsome box set edition. The Brooklyn label did a great job of presentation, but the most important thing about this reissue was that it really introduced the Cleaners – and their impossible to pin down amalgams of psychedelia, punk, glam and dub – to a wider audience. More editions sourced from the Newell archive are promised for 2013.
05: LEGO FEET
Produced by Rob Brown and Sean Booth a.k.a. Autechre, Lego Feet was Skam Records’ first release, issued on 12″ vinyl back in ’91. Original vinyl copies are incredibly difficult to come by – last time we checked there was one on sale on Discogs for the princely sum of £300. Sonically it’s a close cousin to Autechre’s debut album, Incunabula, but with a crunchier sound, and one more obviously indebted to, and rooted in, acid house. Having reissued it on CD last year, Skam this year gave Lego Feet gave into the many “death threats, begging letters, and ransom notes” and dished out the vinyl re-press we’d all been craving.
Modern metal’s most towering, monolithic and weed-shackled text, remastered and reissued by Southern Lord with input from the band – who until this year, have never been satisfied with the way it’s been released. Originally recorded in the late ‘90s, Dopesmoker – then titled Jerusalem – has since been bootlegged, caused in-fighting, and seen Sleep leave two different record labels in acrimonious circumstances, and so this edition, the definitive Dopesmoker, carries a deep sense of both closure and reward.
03: RUFF SQWAD
WHITE LABEL CLASSICS
(NO HATS NO HOODS)
The best records by grime’s most starry-eyed production unit, collected together for the first time. OK, that’s a slight lie: ‘R U Double F’, perhaps the East London collective’s finest moment, couldn’t be recovered, and we’d have lobbied all day for the inclusion of the sun-kissed ‘U Make Me Wanna’, but White Label Classics is still one hell of a treasure trove, and does a fantastic job of showcasing the sheer range of Ruff Sqwad. Sure, everyone knows ‘Functions on the Low’ and ‘Lethal Injection’ at this point, but the rushing brass of ‘Anna’? The rollicking cityscapes of ‘Burial’? The alabaster ‘No Bass’, and the twilight drift of ‘I’m From a Place’? True to its title, WLC is simply classic after classic.
02: FRANCIS BEBEY
AFRICAN ELECTRONIC MUSIC 1975-1982
Cameroun polymath Francis Bebey was a resourceful fellow: educated in France and the US, salaried by UNESCO and lauded as a novelist, he was evidently alert to the demands of a changing world. Born Bad’s African Electronic Music 1975-1982 – a perfectly judged survey of the prodigious songwriter’s early work – shows his music also facing forwards and outwards. Working on early drum machines and synthesisers, and cribbing from chanson, funk and muzak, Bebey devised his own strange brand of Western / African fusion music. It’s thrillingly modern stuff – cosmopolitan global pop, piped through wires and gizmos.
For all its giddy fascination with the future, though, African Electronic Music 1975-1982 really triumphs as a piece of cheery outsider art. It’s on a par with Flaming Tunes, Loaded With Power or our favourite reissue of last year, The Doldrums – an eccentric, intimate collection strung together from modest materials. Bebey jumps from Raymond Scott-esque digital tomfoolery to moth-eaten loop music; he frequently stops singing to abruptly hector the listener in English or French; his synth tones wobble oddly and slip out of tune. African Electronic Music 1975-1982 offers a thrilling tussle between worldly and private impulses – an exuberant pan-global survey recorded in little rooms.
Successful reissues often triumph on account of scale – exhaustive labours of love stuffed with extras, or chunky artefacts with glitzy linings. Sometimes timing wins the day, with a forgotten gem gaining ur-text status depending on whichever noun is being cannily bolted before the word ‘-wave’ that year. On occasion, though, a reissue simply returns a neglected record of cultural significance to public view. Reissuing of this sort isn’t an exercise in repackaging or revisionism – it’s basic philanthropy.
Monoton’s Monotonprodukt07 isn’t just a case in point – casting an eye down this year’s reissue schedule, it’s the case in point. Originally issued in a limited run of 500, Konrad Becker’s 1982 LP has had currency in rarified electronic circles for decades. It took a series of CD reissues (in 2003 and 2009 respectively), plus the online efforts of bloggers and enthusiasts, to return the disc to a largely unwitting public. Desire’s long-awaited vinyl reissue completes Monotonprodukt07‘s long, slow crawl towards classic status.
The music itself still has the unmistakable aura of a classic. It’s a bleak, startling, solitary work, tilting from viscous dark ambient (‘Soundsequence’) to proto-dub-techno (‘Root Of 1 = 1′) to parallel-dimension krautrock (‘Fire’). Diverse without ever losing focus, it’s as rich and enveloping a record as you’ll hear all year. Thirty years on, Monotonprodukt07 doesn’t just stand up – it stands alone.