Legowelt! Estonian funk! Children!: September’s ten must-hear reissues and retrospectives
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.
September’s haul: strung-out hard rock from the depths of the Japanese underground; the collected bangers/tantrums of Robert Armani; early work from the House Of Legowelt; and Madlib-approved libary music from the turn of the Seventies. Prepare to greet some old acquaintances, and make a few new ones to boot.
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(Hot Season Records)
According to Julian Cope, supreme arbiter of all things noisy and psychedelic , Mainliner are “never reduced to chordless pedestrian pseudo-jazz like so many Noise bands”. Indeed, Mellow Out, the Tokyo trio’s 1996 high-watermark, has a healthy contempt for noodling – and an altogether more fierce disdain for politesse.
Mainliner briefly brought together Asahito Nanjo (of 1980s noisemongers High Rise), Acid Mothers Temple high-priest Kawabata Makoto, and free-jazz drummer Hajime Koizumi. Debut album Mellow Out enjoyed a brief CD run on the Charnel imprint, but swiftly tumbled off manufacturing lists and, consequently, into Japrock lore. UK imprint Riot Season have rolled up their sleeves and dragged Mellow Out from the depths, and their CD/vinyl reissue marks the record’s debut on wax.
Essentially two extended jams with a miniature prologue bolted on the front, Mellow Out offers a hysterical, extremely noisy reading of Led Zep rifferama – classic 1960s blues-rock, dressed in black rime. Later players spring to mind: Mellow Out recalls Sleep’s scuzz or Sunn O)))’s sheer gravity, but sounds substantially beefier than either. Highly influential, and heavy as an armoured rhino.
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Gotta Have The Pokey
As DJ TLR’s winningly mischievous FACT primer demonstrated, Crème Organization isn’t an imprint that treats itself with Octavian levels of seriousness. Crème’s latest venture is the Crème Classics series, designed to rescue motheaten favourite from the archives, give them a remastering dust-down, then present them to a (presumably greatly expanded) audience of lo-fi house enthusiasts. As it happens, the sub-label’s first finding is a joyful set from Legowelt, one of Crème’s most idiosyncratic graduates.
Originally released in 2003, Gotta Have The Pokey presents eight tracks from ‘Raheem Herschel’, aka Legowelt’s Dance Mania tribute act. The EP sees the Dutchman in committed Chicago House mode, convincingly borrowing from Rush, Funk, Slugo et al. Legowelt would go on to have other Chicago-facing aliases (Jackmaster Corky, Trackman Lafonte), but Gotta Have The Pokey is one of his most convincing turns to date.
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Operational since 2008, Claremont 56’s Originals compilation series has cast light on a broad spread of lesser-to-little-known disco, funk and downbeat pop. With a string of accredited diggers (Rong Music, Alex From Tokyo, Felix Dickinson, Mark Seven) at the controls, the results have been consistently impressive, and it’s a great shame to see it come to an end.
To mark the project’s tenth and final instalment, the label have pulled together best-of collection Originals 2008-2013. The 5xLP set gathers 20 essential tracks from the run – a tough gig, considering how many gems are scattered across the series, but also a guarantee that this is a chaff-neutral zone. Stand-outs amidst the stand-outs: Flayer’s starry-eyed cosmic jam ‘Wanna Get Back To Your Love’; the self-sabotaging boogie of Nicky Robson’s ‘Stars’; and North South East West’s kosmiche/disco/pastoral head-spinner ‘Anxiety’.
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Searching for the library music answer to Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? Lay down your divining rods, pilgrim! For sure, Accadde A fits the criteria of your garden variety stock music reissue (fiendishly rare? Tick! Achingly whimsical? Tick!), but it gets hard-earned bonus points for its rare breadth and general air of accomplishment.
Arawak was one of a number of aliases used by film composer Luciano Simoncini, whose output ranges from B-movie OSTs to little-heard bossanova albums. Accadde A arrived on his own Squirrel Records imprint back in 1970, and has a charming round-the-world-in-60-minutes feel, with each track carried by some sort of geographical gimmick: proto G-funk with Indonesian flutes on ‘Bali’; dusky desert rock on ‘Las Vegas’; and – in a moment that suggests Simoncini was a keener composer than he was a researcher – bagpipes on ‘Belfast’.
Thanks to a neat ‘Harlem’ sample on Quasimoto’s ‘Real Eyes’, Accadde A has seen its cult cache grow in the last ten years. Golden Pavillion’s first-time reissue is respectful to a fault, featuring replica artwork, comprehensive sleeve notes, and, as you’d expect, a full remastering job. Limited to 100 copies.
Experimental label Root Strata are an easy proposition to get behind: with a catalogue including releases from Grouper, My Cat Is An Alien, Keith Fullerton Whitman and Barn Owl, a weekend spent trawling their Discogs page is a weekend greatly enhanced. Their most recent disc is one of their gentler releases: a live-in-concert piano release from ambient legend Harold Budd, and a guaranteed demon-dispeller to get you through this dismal Autumn.
Originally available as a download on David Sylvian’s Samadhisound label, Perhaps was recorded on December 8, 2006 at the California Institute of the Arts. Although a live document, it’s a forceful and concise example of Budd’s music practice – patient, tremulous, judiciously paced. That the piece was performed in honour of Budd’s late friend Jim Tenney only adds extra levels of poignancy.
Root Strata have done right by the record, turning the masters over to Berlin mastering grotto Dubplates & Mastering and producing a lovely 2xLP package in the process (note: CD and digital copies are also available.) No doubt All Saints’ mammoth Buddbox will get more attention this year, but Perhaps isn’t to be missed.
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Peoples Potential Unlimited do a roaring trade in off-kilter soul and boogie – recent highlights from their archive include Dwight Sykes’ wonderfully dishevelled Songs Volume One and a beginner’s guide to sassy funk unit Dazzle. Their in-house star, however, is Estonian boogie producer Uku Kuut, whose work has already been commemorated by the label on the Vision Of Estonia LP and a string of 12″ releases. Maxmillion Dunbar’s a paid-up fan, and, listening to these charmingly homespun funk cuts, it’s not hard to see why.
Like its predecessor, Grand Hotel offers a hodge-podge of early demos, complete recordings and assorted juvenilia. The record includes both Kuut’s first ever home recording, plus a track recorded in Herbie Hancock’s personal studio. Pleasingly groggy electronic funk, soft as felt and slinky as fuck.
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If Legowelt playing make-believe isn’t your bag, September also brought a fine opportunity to reacquaint yourself with the master of through-a-hedge-backwards Chicago House. As our The Essential…Dance Mania rundown pointed out, Robert Armani’s work sits on the threshold between Dance Mania’s classic 1980s acid period and the upstart ghetto-house sound. Collection brings tougher a clutch of overdriven body-jackers from the producer, including perky calling-card ‘Ambulance’ to the EBM-indebted ‘Muzik Man’ .The curio slot, meanwhile, is filled by a mash-up of one of Armani’s classic ‘Circle Bells’ with Alternative Reality’s ‘You Got Me Jackin’.
Much of this material has been collected before – see 1994’s Trancematik best-of set – but it’s a delight to have these tracks back on Dance Mania vinyl. Chalk it up as another win for the label’s ongoing reissue programme.
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MASTER PLAN INC
Master Plan Inc
The Willis Tower continues to cast a shadow over this month’s reissue rundown, this time thanks to Chicago native Fred Shorts and his Master Plan Inc ensemble. Shorts only made the smallest of pock-marks on the 1970s funk scene, releasing one official single and picking up minimal press. Hats off to rare groove label Jazzman, then, for some good old-fashioned po’lice work: having scrabbled through studio archives and plundered Shorts’ private archives, they’ve unearthed a bunch of previously unheard West Coast funk originals. The loose-limbed ‘Something To Be Done’ – which, in 7″ form, has been changing hands for $2000 among collectors – is the obvious highlight, but Master Plan Inc is a strong set of robust, unfussy jazz-funk. Welcome to the canon, gents.
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Classroom Projects – Incredible Music by Children in Schools
Trunk releases tend to fall into either the ‘arcane British whimsy’ or the ‘vintage porn’ camp, and Classroom Projects, your browser history will be relieved to hear, belongs firmly in the former camp. The 20-track LP/24-track CD collection pulls together a grab-bag assortment of music made by children in schools between 1959 and 1981. It’s an aesthetic that’s been explored before – see Jon Brooks’ faux-classroom experiments under the DD Denham alias – but it’s rare to hear authentic recordings such as these.
Trunk’s Classroom Projects picks are sourced from private press releases put out by schools, and make for diverse listening: folk rounds, cautionary morality songs, choir performances and experimental tape freakouts all feature. Artwork arrives courtesy of Ghost Box’s Julian House, and the record comes with extensive sleeve notes, images of the original albums and a full-colour 8 page booklet. One to file alongside your Eeliks:en and Synthex records.
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(Arc Light Editions)
Multiverse offshoot Arc Light Editions whirred into action this month, promising to “make available on vinyl some releases which have been out of print for too long, are extortinately priced second hand, or which had have never been graced with a vinyl release.”As such, their first release is a no-nonsense vinyl pressing of Arthur Russell’s 1994 odds’n’sods collection Another Thought.
Released by Point Records two years after Russell’s death, Another Thought assembles sketches, songs and off-cuts by the visionary producer. The emphasis is firmly on Russell’s spartan songs for voice and cello, with less attention given to his dubbier and disco-leaning works – something we’re 100% okay with that. Another Thought got another crack at the whip in 2006, but Arc Light Editions’ version marks the album’s debut vinyl pressing.
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