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 archival releases turning up on shelves, we’ve worked though the stacks to pick our 10 favourite reissues and retrospectives of the last month.
Among the August harvest: heartstopping girl-group delights from the house of Hazlewood; turn-of-the-1990s acid magic, courtesy of Thomas P. Heckmann; a dawn raid on the ECM archives; and, praise be, Robbie Basho’s impossibly wonderful Visions Of The Country. Prepare to greet some old acquaintances, and make a few new ones to boot.
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Bright as a burnished silver button, Echoes remains one of the great early Balearic records – a slap-happy set of irrepressibly gleeful electronic pop with a tropical bent. Benin-born, Paris-raised Badarou made his name (and, presumably, most of his bread) as a session musician, playing with Chris Blackwell’s Compass Point All Stars crack team (who also numbered Sly And Robbie and Barry Reynolds among their ranks), and providing parts for the likes of Herbie Hancock and Talking Heads. A close associate of Level 42, he also played on and produced much of their best material – but nothing comes within spitting distance of his 1983 sophomore solo album.
The highlights are numerous: the louche ‘Mambo’ (later raided by Massive Attack for Blue Lines‘ ‘Daydreaming’); ‘Endless Race’, the jam that launched a thousand Todd Terje 12″s; and, in the form of the shuffling ‘Chief Inspector’, an actual hit proper. If the album’s chirpiness sometimes leads it perilously close to ‘guilty pleasure’ territory, it’s worth noting that the house cognoscenti were all over Echoes – Larry Levan and Francois K were among those rinsing this album at the time. What with those coruscating synth washes and cockatoo chirrups, its hard to imagine chillwave’s mien being quite the same without it. Island’s limited vinyl reissue won’t last long – move quickly.
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ANDROIDS OF MU
A quick glance at Androids Of Mu’s personnel list (Suze The Blooz, Cozmic, Corinna, and Bess) should be enough to sell Blood Robots, but, should you need further persuading, Water Wing’s reissue is pretty much guaranteed to twist your arm. Released in 1980 on the winsomely titled Fuck Off Records, the four-piece’s first and only album is a giddy riot – punk skronk with one eye on The Slits, and the other on X-Ray Spex’s jalopy music.
For those who like their post-punk wonky and grubby, this is well worth a listen, lurching from feminist twee-pop (‘Bored Housewife’) to Sex Pistols sneer with added bomb noises (‘Atomic X’). As befits a band who moved in the same orbit as Hawkwind, there are some lovely psychedelic flourishes to boot. Killer band name, too. The 2013 rework has been freshly remastered from the original tapes, and comes with a special insert featuring photos and lyrics.
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KILL YOURSELF DANCING: THE STORY OF SUNSET RECORDS INC CHICAGO 1985-9
(PARADISE OF BACHELORS)
Jerome Derradji’s Still Music imprint is doing God’s work at the moment, bringing a glut of half-forgotten Chicago house classic back into public consideration. Last year’s 122BPM – The Birth Of House Music rifled through the super-early Mitchbal and Chicago Connection catalogues, and the forthcoming Bang The Box! compilation collects crucial work from Matt Warren, Nexus 6 and Miguel Garcia, amongst others.
Still’s most recent effort turns the spotlight on Sunset Records, the short-lived imprint helmed by Warren, Garcia, and Ralphi Rosario. There’s a lot of personnel crossover with Bang The Box!, but Kill Yourself Dancing feels like the more effervescent set: melody-led house in a New Order mould (Michaelangelo’s ‘You Can Do It’), maximal jack (White Knight’s ‘White Knight Jacks’) and hyper-sexed 4×4 fever dreams (Ben Mays’ ‘Jail Bait’) all feature.
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(MODERN CLASSICS RECORDINGS)
When Seefeel kicked off operations in the early 1990s, they were a proper band with proper instruments. Evidently not for long, though – 1993 studio debut Quique might sound more earthbound than subsequent albums, but this ethereal, synth heavy magic-musick is still the stuff of the faeries, with traces of the human far and few between. Heavily informed by Cocteau Twins, Quique is a delightful set of celestial shoegaze – rolling dub baselines, layered with ambrosial drones and wordless vocals.
Future albums would incorporate IDM clatter (1995’s Succour) and dark ambient (1996’s CH-VOX, released by regular supporter Aphex Twin on Rephlex), but Quique sees the four-piece at their most irresistible. Ignore the occasional flirtations dinner-party grooviness, and focus on the weirder moments; at its most elliptical, Quique is only a few degrees of separation from Astral Social Club and Emeralds’ sonic starburst. Six years after Too Pure’s expanded CD edition, Light In The Attic sub-label Modern Classic Recordings give the album its first wax reissue, complete with fresh liner notes and some tasty blue vinyl for good measure.
STALKER/THE MIRROR: MUSIC FROM ANDREY TARKOVSKY’S MOTION PICTURES
Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker has already made its mark on the history of electronic music, serving as the conceptual springboard for Robert Rich and Lustmord’s 1995 ambient classic of the same name. Garlands to Mirumir, then, for bringing Edward Artemiev’s beguiling original soundtrack – here compiled alongside his soundtrack for Tarkovsky’s 1975 collage film The Mirror – back onto vinyl.
The Stalker pieces make much hay with the film’s interest in spirituality, setting flutes, pan-pipes, choirs and processed Balalaika over undulating synth drones. The Mirror selections, meanwhile, are richer, denser and substantially more abrasive – a neat sonic counterpart to Tarkovsky’s impressionistic storyboarding. These days, OST reissues come in all sorts of splendid shapes and sizes – kitschy, urgent, nostalgic, schlocky – but this set proves just how immersive and transportive music for film can be when left to resonate on its own terms.
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VISIONS OF THE COUNTRY
Less celebrated than friend and associate John Fahey, Basho did much to reanimate and revivify the American blues tradition throughout the 1960s and 1970s before his untimely death. On 1978’s Visions Of The Country – which, inexplicably, has languished in out-of-print purgatory since the late 1980s – Basho sings from the pit of the gut and the bottom of the soul. He’s full-throated and strident one moment, dejected and exhausted the next, but his tremulous bellow is never anything other than spellbinding. Indeed, there are clear parallels with Arthur Russell’s World Of Echo – if not sonically (Russell deals in whispers, whereas Basho telegraphs his every urge and insecurity), then in the clear sense of bearing witness to a soul being put on public display.
Everything about Visions Of The Country is saturated with feeling – and it’s hard not to find the world that little bit more impressive having spent time with it. Gnome Life’s respectful reissue uses the original analogue tapes, with artwork painstakingly replicated and a limited edition poster included to boot.
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THOMAS P. HECKMANN
Heckmann’s early work hasn’t been collected since 2001’s Kopfgeister primer, meaning Forced Nostalgia’s cassette is the first exposure many bushy-tailed techno fans will have had with the man from Mainz’ excellent juvenilia. In contrast to his fairly yucky trance/hard house work, these early analogue-only exercises offer winningly pretty/precise techno that gets to the point and rarely outstays its welcome.
Laid down between 1991-1994, the set features a glut of material, previously released on the likes of Mille Plateaux, Labworks, and Heckmann’s own Trope and Acid Fuckers Unite imprints. A full survey of Heckmann’s aliases is one display: Age (eerie Zero-G techno, not light years away from contemporaries Basic Channel), Spectral Emotions (snarling bezerker acid), Drax (skittering neon electro) and Silent Breed (SID chip squelch) are all represented.
For rabid Heckmann completists (and, let’s be frank, there can’t be many of the poor souls), there’s also an unreleased Drax track dating back to 1992. Forced Nostalgia’s best-of arrives on limited edition cassette, draped in some silkscreened artwork from illustrator James R Moore.
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SELECTED SIGNS III-VIII
Active since 1969, Munich label ECM is a bona fide musical institution – and, like most institutions of its calibre and vintage, it can be pretty intimidating getting through the doors. With a discography that darts between avant-garde jazz, contemporary composition, world music, musique concrète and all manner of headscratching what-have-you, it’s difficult knowing where to begin. ECM – A Cultural Archaeology is far too elegant and cerebral to be called a Dummies Guide, but it’s still a marvellous primer to the label’s myriad interests.
Released in honour of an exhibition of the same name at Munich’s Haus Der Kunst museum, this 6xCD box set has been curated by Steve Lake and Markus Müller with the aim of summarising the label’s singular identity and achievements. Film music contests with long-form imrpov, and minimalism sits next to oblique electronic essays. Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt, Meredith Monk, Eleni Karaindrou, Wadada Leo Smith…the tracklist speaks for itself.
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THE COMPLETE LHI RECORDINGS
(LIGHT IN THE ATTIC)
Late-1960s Los Angeles was boom town for fledgling girl groups, with money flying around and punts being taken by the dozen. Long-forgotten Detroit girl group Honey LTD are a case in point: signed on the spot by Lee Hazlewood to his LHI roster, the rookie four-piece found themselves working with legendary engine room The Wrecking Crew, performing on The Ed Sullivan Show and, unbeknownst to the girls, working on a debut album (the band thought they were just recording demos and singles). A dismal commercial performance and subsequent personnel changes resulted in Honey LTD entering receivership before the decade was out.
45 years down the line, Light In The Attic’s reissue rescues Honey LTD’s output from the doldrums. This is lush, perfume scented stuff, carried by the four friends’ impressive harmonies and high-drama arrangements. A must for fans of swinging 60s soul and yé-yé, of course, but listeners who normally dodge this sort of thing shouldn’t be put off – The Complete LHI Recordings tickles the same erogenous spots as Mutya Keisha Siobhan’s manna-in-a-bottle.
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SOUNDS OF SILENCE
And finally…We’re not being impish (well, too impish) by plumping for Alga Marghen’s selection of famous caesura moments, even if the packaging (“THE MOST INTRIGUING SILENCES IN RECORDING HISTORY!”) suggests this might all be an elaborate leg-tugging exercise. Much like Cage’s endlessly cited 4’33”, the purpose of these stylised absences is to draw attention to the relative recording mediums at play – mechanical glitches, the hum of electricity, or infelicitous environmental noise.
The curators have veered all over the shop, pulling from punk (Crass), soul (Sly And The Family Stone), techno (Orbital) and power electronics (Whitehouse). Extensive notes are also provided to help fill in the (ahem) blanks, offering a guide to these “performative, political, critical, abstract, poetic, cynical, technical, absurd” offerings. Limited to 250 copies, and designed to “be played loud (or not).”
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