Stalkers! Diggers! Moon Men!: February’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.
Ringing in a new year of old treats: a broken-beat touchstone, back on wax; Cold Cave at his chilliest; NDW with a smirk; and man-master Kenny Dope in full effect.
Alternatively, check out our best reissues of 2013 rundown.
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Much like trains and Michael Portillo, Wes Eisold has got gentler and smoother as he’s got older. By that token, anyone who’s only au fait with the hardcore-to-goth graduate’s 2010 LP Cherish The Light Years, – AKA the moment when he went all Brandon Flowers on us – is strongly encouraged to spend some time with Cremations, preferably in a windowless room with some tatty rosary beads.
First released on Dominick Fernow’s redoubtable noise imprint Hospital Productions in 2009, Cremations provides a proper resting place for three of Eisold’s early releases: 2008’s Painted Nails EP, 2008’s self-released Coma Potion, and 2009 cassette Electronic Dreams. We ride for this this one, basically: harrowed lullabies (‘E Dreams’, ‘Poison’), overdriven goth (‘Sex Ads’, ‘An Understanding’), and distortion (loads of it) are the main steers.
Arriving on Eisold’s own Heartworm Press, this new vinyl pressing arrives as a fancy picture disc, and is – or, we’re guessing, was – available in a tight run of 500 copies.
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This Ain’t No Tom & Jerry
Following Text’s well-brill reissue of Crazy Bald Heads’ ‘First Born‘, here’s another dispatch from that magmatic half-decade when dark garage and breakbeat were slowly morphing into something else entirely. Cousin Cockroach – better known as Dego of d’n’b/chillout dons 4Hero – released ‘This Ain’t Tom N Jerry’ in 2002 on Bitasweet, and if we may, we’ll defer to what we wrote about the track’s significance in our story of UK Dance Music 2000-9 in 100 records piece: “The rolling drums clearly point to the future-jazz scene; the abyssal bassline is pure Sino-grime; and the stuttering bricolage programming shares more with the meanie jungle of Tango & Ratty or Subnation. Dego plants his flag firmly on broken-beat territory around the 4.00 minute mark, but before then, ‘This Ain’t Tom N’ Jerry’ is as elusive as a mouse disappearing behind a skirting board.”
The excellent Berceuse Heroique – who, this time last month, were putting out recordings of Greek fire walking rituals – have brought the record back on extremely limited 12″, bundled with a new track in a similar vein from king of the good eggs, Max D.
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The Mirror / Stalker
Superior Viaduct’s reissue of Russian composer Eduard Artemiev’s soundtrack for Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris was an obvious Top 10 pick for our favourite reissues of 2013. This month has welcomed two more excellent Artemiev/Tarkovsky OSTs – 1975’s The Mirror, and 1979’s Stalker – marking their debut official release.
The Mirror is one of Tartovsky’s more oblique films, presenting a haphazard assemblage of found footage and dreamlike set pieces. Artemiev’s soundtrack is similarly collage-driven – the misty orchestral recordings and treated electronics of Solaris are there, but fragments of opera and folk music abruptly burst into view, and the churning percussion pieces are up there with Artemiev’s most disorientating work.
Stalker, meanwhile, is the headier of the two, burying coiling Indian instrumentation under viscous synths and wheezing hydraulics. The OST probably won’t be the first record to spring to mind when Stalker is mentioned – Lustmord and Robert Rich’s classic mid-1990s tribute rightly takes that honour – but this reissue should reinforce the importance and quality of the original.
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Hardcore Traxxx: Dance Mania Records 1986-1997
Farewell, inhibitions: Dance Mania are in the building. Since their reactivation last year, the pioneering Chicago label have been cropping up all over FACT: we’ve spoken to label figurehead Parris Mitchell, profiled their essential releases and this week saw us post a substantial first-hand account of the label’s genesis. And we’ve hardly been the only ones.
Still, Dance Mania have long been due a plush retrospective, and Strut have taken up the task with aplomb. Hardcore Traxxx collects both the label’s late-1980s house classics (‘7 Ways’, ‘House Nation’) and their ultra-grubby early 1990s output (stand up, Robert Armani). Most exciting, though, are the early ghettohouse selections – high-tempo, lowbrow 4×4, with a lyric sheet filthier than Trunk Records’ distribution list.
Strut always give good reissue, and the Hardcore Traxx set is no exception: the record arrives with extensive notes from footwork evangelist Chrissy Murderbot, track annotations, interviews and a clutch of rarely seen photos. Fantastic post-watershed listening.
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Between the likes of Palais Schaumberg and DAF, the Neue Deutsche Welle wasn’t exactly a quirk-free zone. That said, double-act Aloa – here wrenched back into the spotlight by minimal wave specialists Medical Records – were definitely some of the squarer pegs working at the time.
Released in 1982, Aloa is their first and only album, and offers a cheerily theatricalized version of the fraught synth-pop emanating from Continental bedrooms. The backing tracks, cobbled together on a Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and Roland 808 and 606 drum machines, offer wobbly New Age with tropical touches. The real gusto is reserved for the vox: strangulated, campy vocals, punctuated by squawks or weepy requests for “banana zitrone”. The results are sometimes daft, sometimes louche – see sleazeball highlight ‘Himbeereis’. The new remaster arrives on heavyweight green vinyl, and boasts liner notes from music scribe Dave Segal.
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Drained of Connotation
(Blackest Ever Black)
Since the turn of the 1980s, Stefan Jaworzyn has cut an intrepid path through the world of extreme music, recording with crotchety noise types Whitehouse and spending time with Matthew Bower’s punishing Skullflower project. Drained of Connotation presents a previously unheard cache of early recordings, laid down on Korg synthesiser and Boss DR-55 drum machine. There’s not a lot to these pieces, made up pretty much exclusively of gyres of feedback and stippled drum programming. History, however, in its grin-cracking way, has made these tracks seem eerily prescient – the more rhythmic efforts (‘The Nightclub Toilet’, ‘Crack City’) will be manna from Hades for Container and Perc enthusiasts. Whether you take them as proto-L.I.E.S genius or tossed-off jams, these seven tracks shock and knock.
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Kenny Dope’s a “needs little introduction” sort of feller – one half of garage house dons Masters of Work, and the man behind the Dope Beats 12″ – a major influence on the instrumental beat scene in the years that followed it – and the Unreleased Project alias. Classic Breakbeats does what it says on the box: six 7″ singles, all displaying his hip-hop (and, to a lesser extent, dancehall) chops. Amidst the tried-and-tested material (‘Get On Down’) are MoW cuts and unheard tracks, almost all of which bump with impunity.
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Madlib’s high-school clique, last heard on 1999’s Soundpieces: Da Antidote collection, might not encourage the same sort of critical slobbering as his later projects, but their work still has plenty going for it. Stones Throw’s Loopdigga EP dives into the archives, pulling together material from the group’s hard-to-find early 12″ singles. All three cuts are great, and show Madlib’s sound well under control: the title track is a typically twisted rewriting of early fusion and cartoon soundtracks, ‘Lost Art lays a beat over wayward Radiophonic Workshop signals, and the sprung funk of ‘Weededed’ (‘Remix’) is great too. A window into Mr. Otis Jackson Jr’s mid-1990s output, and one that shows the producer’s idiosyncrasies on display from Year Dot.
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The Somnambulist’s Tale
Salford oddball crew Gnod – trippy purveyors of bug-eyed psychedelia and saturnine space-rock – are always welcome around these parts. 2008’s The Somnambulist’s Tale doesn’t go in for the sort of electronic wizardry/wankery as later releases like InGnodWeTrust, but it’s still a hypnotic set, carried across its two 18-minute halves by an unbroken loop and some loping percussion work. Throw caution to the (hawk)wind, and take the trip.
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Lucky Star Ship
Boo Williams sits alongside the likes of Cajmere, Gemini and Glenn Underground in the VIP box of the Chicago Second Wavers lounge. Moon Man serves as his secondary production outlet, with releases stretching from 2003 back to 1996. Lucky Star Ship first sailed on that latter date, and Anotherday’s reissue shows that buoyant, bass-heavy boogie house tends not to date.
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