Thanks to the graft 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. With so many more archive releases turning up on shelves, we’ve worked though the stacks to pick our 10 favourite reissues and retrospectives of the last month. In the running in May: essential Schnitzler, Romanian freak-funk, some forgotten Roman Flügel goodies and “weirdo punk in excelsis’. Prepare to greet some old acquaintances, and make a few new ones to boot.
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I’M THE ONE
(LIGHT IN THE ATTIC)
As befits her name, Annette Peacock’s story is as colourful as they come. Married to Miles Davis/Herbie Hancock sideman Gary Peacock, the multi-instrumentalist became smitten with the possibilities of emerging synthesiser technologies, and started experimenting with altering her voice through electronic kit. Her recorded output earned her friends in, er, high places: LSD guru Timothy Leary was a close associate, and she collaborated with Salvador Dali (as well as snubbing an invitation into the studio from David Bowie).
Widely and rightly adored, I’m The One (1972) is Peacock’s definitive statement – a giddy psychedelic trip that sounds like Georgia Ann Muldrow cutting loose with Bruce Haack. The points of reference are legion – Neil Young on ‘7 Days’, The Doors on decadent showpiece ‘One Way’ – but nothing’s every really sounded like Peacock in full frenzy.
The album got a long overdue, if limited, CD reissue back in 2011 through Peacock’s website, but excellent reissue fiends Light In The Attic have done the commonweal a service with their new artist-approved CD/LP reissue, remastered from the original tapes with new liner notes and Peacock paraphernalia. Real talk: if you’ve not already been beguiled by its charms, this’ll be the best thing you’ve heard all month.
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Originally issued on electronica label Intr_version (R.I.P), Montreal producer Scott Monteith’s debut LP – a beautiful elaboration on the guttering grooves otherwise explored by GAS, Vladislav Delay and DeepChord – hasn’t dated a whit, and still summons goosebumps on demand. Although a large part of its longevity is down to its technical prowess – Monteith was moonlighting as a software engineer for Applied Acoustics Systems during its production – Primordia use of drone and austere beauty bespeak a compelling vision as well as a well-crafted one. Later albums for Wagon Repair and Echocord would show Monteith assimilating basement toasting and chamber instrumentation into his productions, but Primordia sees him at his most isolated – collar-up, stumbling through a heavy blizzard. BLKRTZ’s CD/2xLP vinyl sees Stefan Betke (aka glitch nonesuch Pole) handles the remaster to great effect.
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With classic Teutonic efficiency, Hamburg label Bureau B continues to churn out classic, lost and neglected works from the Krautrock and German electronic elite : Pyrolator, Asmus Tietchens, Kluster and Palais Schaumburg have all been carefully dusted down and reissued in recent years. The Bureau has honoured Conrad Schnitzler before, reissuing his oneiric Rot and Blau albums in 2012, and their latest releases see them returning to Ricardo Villalobos’ favourite electronic trailblazer.
One of seven LPs privately distributed by Schnitzler in 1981, Contemporara is a pick’n’mix collection of sketches, scraps and electronic detritus, composed on EMS Synthi A and Korg MS10 synthesisers. Like Trunk”s recent Jeff Keen retrospective Noise Art, it’s a gratifyingly scattershot congeries – messy, counfounding, and ruddy good fun. Bureau B’s version arrives with nine extra tracks and helpful notes from Tietchens. Interested parties, take note: the label have also snuck out an expanded version of 1981’s Conrad and Sohn, which, heartwarmingly, sees Schnitzler split the disc with his son Gregor.
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The official account suggests that Bruce Anderson and his merry travellers hail from Indiana, but screw facts: Hard Attack makes it abundantly clear that MX-80 Sound tumbled to Earth from Alpha Centuri. The art rock outfit ploughed on from the late 1970s onwards, releasing LPs for the likes of Ralph Records, Atavistic and (on 2005’s We’re An American Band) classy US indie Family Vineyard, but they’ve rarely sounded more spirited that on their 1977 debut. A charged collection of slanted garage rock and freaky jams, Hard Attack shares Pere Ubu and Half Japanese’s sense of mischief, plus the same sort of goggle-eyed wordblurt being explored across the pond by Mark E Smith. Superior Viaduct’s edition, remastered from the original analogue tapes for the first time since its release, marks the album’s first Stateside vinyl release. Weirdo punk in excelsis.
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EIGHT MILES HIGH
As plotted in our recent The Essential… primer, there’s an approximate )although by no means inviolable) logic underpinning German electronic veteran Roman Flügel’s vast network of aliases. House release appear under the Soylent Green moniker; hard techno 12″s emerge with the Tracks On Delivery seal; and his strangest – and, for the most part, best – work is released under the Eight Miles High banner. Lost Tracks, released on Gerd Janson’s Running Back imprint, is a new Flügelspective collecting five unreleased tracks from the vaults. It’s a steely selection: see the thudding techno of ‘Outtake’, or the pranging 4×4 of ‘Loop 01’. Best of all are ‘Loop 02’ and ‘Loop 04’, which sound like they might have been illicitly cribbed from DJ Spoko’s portable hard drive.
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THE LOST TAPES
In the history of European electronic music, Romanian boffin Rodion Ladislau Roșca is an addendum to an annotation to a footnote – aside from two tracks on a compilation by state-controlled Romanian label, he’s left practically zero official releases behind. Roșca came of age in the short window of relaxed state control from 1965-72 and its shows – his work with his band Rodion GA is a delicious gumbo of Western and Eastern influences.
Active from 1975-1987, Rodion GA made music blending Goblin’s set-chewing histrionics, Turkish funk and stargazing warlock prog. Assembled with assistance from Romanian production team Future Nuggets, Strut’s The Lost Tapes gives the band’s work its first proper commercial airing. Almost all the material here was self-recorded on a haphazard reel-to-reel setup using a Tesla, a Casio VL Tone a Soviet-manufactured Faemi organ; the results are fantastically rough’n’ready. Having recently played their first gig in 25 years, it looks like Roșca and his affiliates contribution is getting some much-merited recognition.
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(HUMAN EAR MUSIC)
Ekkehard Ehlers’s 2001 debut falls into a similar bracket to another recently released work, Oval’s 94Diskont: both found a home on academic electronic imprint Mille Plateaux; both have an academic bent (Ehlers started out in a group called – deep breath – Autopoiesis); and both are unfairly labelled with the ‘glitch’ docket. More than anything else, though, Betrieb and 94Diskont make music of unnerving beauty – exercises in mechanical perversity than end up singing straight to the heart.
Betrieb is constructed almost exclusively from treated samples of Austrian expressionist Charles Schönberg and totemic experimental composer Charles Ives; Philip Jeck and Leyland Kirby are clear reference points for these haunted, windswept pieces. Human Ear Music have subjected the album to a tortuous remastering process, transferring the record onto 1/2″ tape and exposing it to all manner of analogue jiggery-pokery. In contrast to swish spit’n’shine remaster jobs, Betrieb 2.0 sounds warmer, rougher and fuller than its source text.
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CARING AND KILLING
Converge’s technically impressive strand of US hardcore – noisy but knotty, gut-busting but precise – laid a path for the late 1990s mathrock brigade. Caring And Killing has been through the reissue wringer before: originally released as a Europe-only compilation, Hydra Head gave the record a second crack of the whip in 1997 at the band’s request. Caring And Killing collects material from the Salem band’s 1994 debut album Halo In A Haystack, plus a bevy of unreleased and live tracks from their salad days. In the time-honoured tradition of Hatful Of Hollow, it’s a grab-bag compilation that trumps most of the band’s “proper” albums. Hydra Head’s new vinyl reissue has been remastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music, and comes with freshly designed packaging (oddly redolent of a Kid Koala drawing, incidentally).
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JEDDA BY THE SEA/CAPTURED IN ICE
Formed in the early 1980s and sharing personnel with art-punk outfit Savage Republic, L.A. combo 17 Pygmies plough a parallel furrow to the similarly named 23 Skidoo. The amorphous collective bolt African, Arabic and Celtic sounds onto to familiar pop-rock templates – in this case, languid psych-rock and guitar pop. Each of their records takes a different swerve: 1984’s Jedda By The Sea offers hypnotic, scented psych-pop, like a zonked Talking Heads working with Julian Lynch; 1985’s Captured In Heads is, primarily, a jaunty folk-pop set; and 1988’s baton-twirling Welcome offers art-pop framed as a carnival variety show, ringmaster skits and all.
LTM’s bumper 2xCD set yokes together Jedda By The Sea and Captured In Ice, both freshly remastered and available on vinyl for the first time. The set also includes outtakes from both LPs, plus debut EP Hatikva, archive images, and a biographical essay featuring contributions from the band.
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What to say? Four Tet’s decade-long journey from gifted tyro to elder statesman began with Rounds – not his first album, but (certainly) his breakthough record and (arguably) his greatest recorded achievement. Domino’s 10th anniversary edition isn’t the comprehensive reissue it could have been – all you get is an enjoyable, if perfunctory, live recording – but it still succeeds as a reintroduction to Kieran Hebden’s 2003 landmark. An ürtext for the likes of Gold Panda et al, Rounds uses an exotic sample palette (gamelan, chimes, metallophones) to craft an immaculately judged selection of head-nod, ambient and shoegaze. A string of triumphs – the Plastic People phase; collaborations with Burial and Steve Reid; the cataract of remix commissions – followed, but nothing quite touches Rounds‘ delicate balance of elegance and effervescence.
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