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.
Chief among November’s litter: the most famous house album in South African history; psychosexual synth tapestries from Soft Machine’s Mike Ratledge; a smorgasbord of stunning material from the house of Hazlewood; and some long-lost Trinidadian disco.
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Riddles Of The Sphinx
Like Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers, Mike Ratledge is a graduate of Canterbury psych institution Soft Machine. By the second half of the 1970s, Wyatt was riding high off the Rock Bottom/Ruth Is Stranger… one-two, Ayers was wading through a less-than-purple patch – and Ratledge was crafting this stunning score for Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s feminocentric Riddles Of The Sphinx (1977). It’s a fragmented, difficult film, full of abrupt formal twists, but Ratledge’s soundtrack is an endlessly inviting and hypnotic listen.
Composed on Moog, ARP and VCS-AKS synthesisers, Ratledge’s ten “Sequences” are firmly rooted in late 1960s minimalism – closer in spirit to Terry Riley’s soupy works for organ than the staff-wielding pomp of the New Age and prog brigade. The results sound like an album-length collage of Geogaddi‘s spookier nooks – a fever dream of trilling synth motifs, playground chatter, sex poetry and automatic writing. Genuinely essential listening for enthusiasts of Delia Derbyshire’s The Dreams experiments and the Ghost Box aesthetic, and highly, highly recommended for everyone else too.
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LEE HAZLEWOOD INDUSTRIES
There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving, 1966-71
(Light In The Attic)
A figure as colourful – and, often, downright weird – as 1960s megastar Lee Hazlewood deserves a properly orotund set, and that’s exactly what super-fans Light in The Attic have delivered. Seven years in the making, There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving collects work released during Hazlewood’s tenure as bossman of Lee Hazlewood Industries – the Oz he served as dictatorial wizard over in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving touts four CDs of lush, heavily orchestrated pop, featuring all of Hazlewood’s LHI albums and singles, plus a broad selection of work by his lesser-known charges (Honey Ltd, Lynn Castle, Sanford Clark, etc.) The Deluxe edition is a proper bundle of wonders: a stunning 172-page LP-sized hardcover book, full of rare photos, timelines and essays; a debut DVD release of Hazlewood’s 1970 TV film Cowboy In Sweden; a flexi-disc of studio chatter; high-quality DVD versions of the music; and a replica business card and Hazlewood Airlines ticket. Pour some neat whiskey, stroke your wispy Movember botch-job, and enjoy.
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Alice In Acidland
Swedish analogue techno trio Frak have enjoyed something of a second wind in the last few years – after a quarter century of releases, they’ve only recently graduated onto upper-tier labels like Digitalis and Sex Tags Mania. First given a limited vinyl/cassette release back in 1993 on Borft, Alice In Acidland catches them half a decade into their career, and offers bug-eyed 145bpm techno that barely pauses for breath. The title track is a mucky little fucker, whereas ‘Don’t Break The Beat’ toys with breakbeat in the same way a toddler might toy with a gramophone.
iDEAL – helmed by Borft founder Joachim Nordwall – have given Alice In Acidland another crack at the whip, putting out 500 vinyl copies; those with high-blood pressure or a weak heart are advised to keep a safe distance. Makes a great soundtrack to the whacked-out skin flick of the same name, too.
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Assault On Precinct 13
After a breakthrough 2012, Death Waltz’ recent activities have kept up the momentum, with reissues of John Carpenter’s They Live and The Fog soundtracks leaping out from a busy and impressive 2013 release sheet. Their most recent dispatch is a lush version of Carpenter’s stately Assault On Precinct 13 soundtrack, first heard by cinema-goers back in 1976. After taking some learning steps on 1974’s Dark Star, Carpenter hit his compositional stride during recording sessions for his siege classic, deploying curdled synth leads and haptic percussion that keeps an icy distance between auteur and listener.
The Death Waltz edition, produced with Carpenter’s input, arrives on red and vanilla swirl vinyl. It also boasts new artwork from Jay Shaw, a fold-out booklet with sleeve notes from Carpenter and Assault… actor Austin Stoker, a bonus poster, and two essays from Black Swan composer Clint Mansell. Well worth copping Death Waltz’s accompanying reissue of giallo stonker New York Ripper, too – and, if you’re far from flush, checking out Death Waltz’s 2013 Halloween FACT mix is pretty much mandatory.
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Nothin To Look At Just A Record
Reissue label of the year? There’s no real contest. Thus far, Superior Viaduct have given Craig Leon’s essential Nommos the banner release it always deserved, done wonderful stuff with their spruced-up version of Artemiev’s Solaris OST, and impressed with some great Devo and Sensation’s Fix reissues too. Unsurprisingly, they’ve closed the year with another coup – the first ever vinyl repress of minimalist torchbearer Phill Niblock’s Nothin To Look At Just A Record.
Nothin To Look At Just A Record might have an understated title, but it’s not a record to be trifled with. Released on India Navigation in 1982, Nothin To Look At Just A Record marks Niblock’s recorded debut – a fairly astonishing fact, considering his first musical efforts date back to the 1960s. Recorded in the mid 1970s, ‘A Trombone Piece’ is a monolithic composition, consisting of two sustained trombone notes (with pauses for breath edited out after the fact) gently bending in and out of concert, and accompanying composition ‘A Third Trombone’ is a direct blueprint for Stars Of The Lids’ pastoral drone. It’s deep, forbidding music, and sows the seeds for the dark ambient experiments that would start to emerge later in the decade (Nurse With Wound’s Soliloquy For Lilith springs to mind). Niblock’s a towering figure in the development of late 20th century drone music – and, in, a more oblique but no less important fashion, noise music – and Nothin To Look At Just A Record makes that case with remarkable force.
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(Invisible City Editions)
Here’s a yarn: ‘Disco Illusion’ was laid down in Trinidad & Tobago by a crew of local musicians at the tail-end of the 1970s. Issued on the little-known Kalinda label, it zoomed well under the radar of even the most committed disco DJs, only to be rediscovered in a Trinidadian warehouse in 2012. Unlike other fool’s gold finds, this is a proper burnished gem – deep, sun-blitzed disco, as likely to appeal to Larry Heard disciples as speccy disco anoraks. The title track is warm and fuzzy, spotted with kooky synth swoops and curves. The flip, meanwhile, brings Tantra’s centaurs’n’waterfalls disco to mind, albeit with a jazz-funk streak. Store in the coolbox for Summer 2014.
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Irene And Mavis
Issued when the pair had just left art school, Blancmange’s Irene & Mavis offers six tracks of Oliver Postgate electronics – homespun, gently quirky, distinctly British. By ‘Living On The Ceiling’, they’d gone all-out New Wave, but 1980’s Irene And Mavis sees them turning their imaginations to freakier ends – a cheekier counterpart to Cab Vol’s contemporaneous Mix-Up, if you like. It’s a concise, brilliant set – try wobbly 16-bar blues ‘Disco-A-Bomb Bomb’, or the gorgeous coldwave of ‘Holiday Camp’, a moth-eaten facsimile of ‘Autobahn’-era Kraftwerk. Minimal Wave’s edition arrives as a numbered limited edition 10″ EP, with a digital release also on the way for the reckless or the deckless.
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(Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Awesome Tapes From Africa follow some top-dollar 2013 releases – Hailu Mergia And His Classical Instrument, Dur-Dur Band Volume 5 – with something altogether livelier. Released in 1994, Shaka Bundu is the debut full-length from South African house star-turned-ANC congressman Penny Penny. Released in his mid 30s, Shaka Bundu proved a colossal hit, selling over 250,000 copies in his native country despite being sung in the marginalised Xitsgona language.
We’ve prosthelytized about this album before, describing it as a “Inner City with some added springbok flavour”, and it still sounds fantastic – exuberant Tsonga house clocking in at a sludgy 100bpm pace. It’s definitely not polished – the record was boshed out on Korg M1, Atari and reel-to-reel tape in a week – but the roughness gives it a lovely, languid feel; just check those heavily overdriven hi-hats and sunbaked honky-tonks. The stuff of SA legend, and rightly so. AFTA’s reissue marks Shaka Bundu‘s first official global outing on CD and vinyl.
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Camino Del Sol
(Les Disques Du Crepuscule)
Another well-worn FACT favourite, Camino Del Sol has had a fair few reissues in its time: in the last decade, we’ve had a 2004 outing on Numero Group, an expanded, remix-enhanced version on Permanent Vacation in 2007, and a second foray on Numero Group in 2010. Still, we’re not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, even if said mouth has already been prised open and examined more than once in recent years.
The latest edition, courtesy of original home Les Disques Du Crepuscule, boasts a brand new remaster job. A clutch of bonus cuts, familiar from previous reissues, are included, but this set also includes two rare live concert recordings, recorded during the band’s October 1982 tour alongside Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo, Tuxedomoon and Pale Fountains. And the music? Gorgeous downtempo bossanova with an indie sensibility, and still a faultless soundtrack to squiffy summer afternoons.
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#8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985)
We can’t mention the Cabs twice in this article and not give a nod to Mute’s recent reissue drive, which has been very welcome indeed throughout 2012. Arriving on the heels of 1980’s downbeat Red Mecca, Mute’s set collects the band’s work after the departure of founder member Chris Watson. Without Watson’s sonic trickery, Cabaret Voltaire found themselves making noticeably less disorientating music – battered and progressive, naturally, but with glossier textures and a renewed emphasis on melody. #8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985) compiles gently scrubbed-up LP The Crackdown (1983), the orderly Micro-phonies (1984), the increasingly dancefloor-facing The Covenant, The Sword, And The Arm Of The Lord (1985 ) and the Drinking Gasolene EP (1985).
None of the above popularly qualify as the band’s best work, for sure, but Mute have done right by the material, remastering all four records, tossing in a CD of unreleased tracks (Earthshaker), a DVD of live shows, and a DVD release of “experimental video showcase” Gasoline in Your Eye, plus a 40-page booklet. There’s more to follow in 2014, with the #7885 (Electro Punk to Techno Pop 1978-1985) set to offer a broader survey of the Sheffield titans’ output.
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