After something of a fallow period, we’re reviving our monthly rundown of the best reissues and archival releases doing the rounds.
Thanks to the toil of reissue labels and canny collectors, there’s an embarrassment of neglected, forgotten or misunderstood material being unearthed week by week – the volume of new-old music doesn’t outpace new-new music, of course, but it’s not too far behind either. On the schedules in March: naughty Tropicália, “naive new wave”, a maligned UK Techno classic and some Teutonic studio mischief. Prepare to greet some old acquaintances, and make a few new ones to boot.
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I HEAR A NEW WORLD
Studio boffin and notorious livewire Joe Meek had a hand in a slew of pop hits in the late 1950s/early 1960s, including chart fare from The Tornados, Lonnie Donegan and Mike Berry. I Hear A New World, though, is Meek’s great statement – a frazzled concept record full of forward-thinking electronic tinkering. Performed by (presumably bemused) skiffle combo Rod Freeman and The West Five, it’s a playpen of reel-to-reel experiments, tape echo larks and pie-eyed pop. Originally issued in truncated form as a stereo test recording in 1960, the record didn’t get a full release until 1991. PoppyDisc’s essential vinyl edition presents Meek’s “outer space musical fantasy” as it was initially conceived, with all 12 tracks remastered and ordered as Meek intended. A supplementary CD-ROM features a stilted Granada TV mini-documentary – and you can’t say that about that Fleetwood Mac mega-box, can you?
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ON AND ON
Saunders’ 1984 single ‘On And On’ is obviously a capital-I Important single – arguably the first House record ever made, unarguably a key blueprint for Chicago’s gestating House scene. Rush Hour’s reissue serves as a reminder of just how downright strange Saunders’ set text is: see Saunders’ priapic warble, the Radiophonic Workshop rumbles, or the abrupt jump-cuts between B-boy funtime and psychological meltdown. No supplementary fluff or bumpf – just a reverential 12″ repress for one of US dance music’s more potent spores.
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A.K. KLOSOWSKI & PYROLATOR
HOME TAPING IS KILLING MUSIC
Kurt Dahlke’s Pyrolator project is, quite rightly, being written back into dance music history. Bureau B’s 2012 Inland/Ausland reissues made quite an impression, and Dahlke is repped on Soul Jazz’s Krautrock…For Dummies disc Deutsche Elektornische Music 2. The flush of interest continues with Bureau B’s new edition of 1985’s mad-as-a-box-of-frogs Home Taping Is Killing Music, produced in collaboration with sound artist A.K. Klosowski. Originally issued on Dahkle’s Ata Tak label, it’s a gimcrack collection of sampling experiments and wonky Techno – a technicolour Severed Heads, or Who’s Afraid Of The Art Of Noise? with added swing.
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PIRATE! THE DARK SIDE OF X!
Hailing from Tours, France, electro-pop duo X-Ray Pop released a sizeable wodge of cassette releases throughout the late 1980s. Although there’s some shared DNA with mopey coldwave types, Doc Pilot and Zouka Dzaza’s self-styled “minimum naive new wave” fizzes with a spirit of play, Dadaist energy and some good old-fashioned French farce. Finders Keepers offshoot Cache Cache have snouted out super-rare cassette Pirate! The Dark Side Of The X!, recorded in a single day in 1985 and originally limited to 100 copies. The tape collects raw early versions of tracks that would appear on later releases, and scrappy space-funk is the order of the day – peep ‘Amazone”s drift-hither croon, or the skippy ‘Nana Electronique’.
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(AWESOME TAPES FROM AFRICA)
Blog-turned-label Awesome Tapes From Africa have dug up some interesting gems, including Bola’s Volume 7 and Nâ Hawa Doumbia’s La Grande Cantatrice Malienne. Best to date is their remastered edition of Dur-Dur Band’s Volume 5, recorded in 1985 at Somalia’s Radio Mogadishu. Led by Sahra Dawo, Dur-Dur Band offer a fusion of traditional Somali musics (dhaanto, kabeebey) and Western pop (Michael Jackson, Santana), left to stew in thick, soupy static – Carlos Lamartine’s quiet Angolan pop springs to mind. Optimistic to a fault, Volume 5 is an affecting transmission from the days before Somalia’s descent into civil war in the early 1990s – a sunbeam caught before the storm.
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FRENCH SWINGING MADEMOISELLE
Born to literary stock, Élisabeth ‘Clothilde’ Beauvais might not have the name recognition of 1960s chanteuses like Françoise Hardy or Christine Delaroche, but French Swinging Madameoiselle presents her as one of the better popstrels operating in yé-yé’s heydey. Her career, stage-managed by Disques Vogue director Germinal Tenas, was brief: her canon runs to 1967’s Fallait Pas Écraser La Queue Du Chat and Saperlipopette EPs and an Italian-only single. Still, the songs gathered here are winsome little treats – picaresque pop confections, full of the sort of charm and humour that characterised France’s take on les swinging sixties.
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TODD TERRY PRESENTS SAX
There were grins all round FACT HQ at the news that NY Gouse figurehead Todd Terry was thawing out his long dormant Freeze imprint. With assistance from Clone, Terry is primed to reissue a clutch of 12″s from the label archives. A House Of Gypsies re-release, bolstered by MK and Louis Vega remixes, is pretty exciting, but the Todd Terry Presents SAX disc is the keeper. The 12″ collects a selection of material from Terry’s 1991 This Will Be Mine collection, led by deep house classic ‘Jazz Anthem’. Gruff-as-fuck ‘House Is A Feeling’ and the comparatively cheery ‘Don’t You Want Some More’ round out the tracklisting, and a slick 2013 rework of the lead track gives the release some welcome polish.
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THE SIXTH FINGER
Formed in the late 1960s, Os Mutantes were Brazil’s great psychedelic hopes, and one of the weirdest offshoots of the Tropacalismo movement. Following their demented, electronics-heavy 1967 debut, the band gradually drifted away from psych towards muscular blues and rock. The Sixth Finger – the naughty title for the band’s 1969 LP Mutantes until their label got the jitters – is a grab-bag of studio offcuts, alternate versions, live jams and advertising jingles. The emphasis is on the band’s sparkier early days, and hums with invention. Dynamite cover art, too.
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APPLE AND THE THREE ORANGES
FREE AND EASY – THE COMPLETE WORKS 1970-1975
Tired of flitting between L.A. labels, soul singer Edward ‘Apple’ Nelson seized the day and set up his own private imprint, Sagittarius Records. Apple And The Three Oranges collects his output from the 1970-5 era, and it’s a frowzy counterpoint to comparable releases from Bobby Brown and David Ruffin. On the best material here (‘What Goes Around Comes Around’, ‘Free And Easy’), Nelson’s a master of controlled hullabaloo, his barks and scats a hair’s breadth away from collapsing into gobbledigook. The master tapes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, but we’re not fussed – these bruised, slight moldy recordings make for invigorating listening.
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DAWN OF A NEW AGE
Rush Hour’s second triumph of the month, and, like their 2012 Dream 2 Science reissue, an inspired curatorial call. Following zonked 1988 single ‘Play Her Way’ under the L.E. Bass moniker, UK Techno producer Mustafa Ali began trading as N.A.D. (New Age Dance). Cybotron pastiche ‘Distant Drums’ gave Ali a minor hit, but 1990’s Dawn Of A New Age snuck out comparatively unnoticed. Fingered as one of the earliest homegrown deep house albums, it’s got oodles of character, mostly thanks to Ali’s man-on-soapbox vocals and the wonderfully scruffy electro programming.
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