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.
March’s children: Donato Dozzy on killer form; Iranian folk, recorded almost 100 years ago; undeniable Hieroglyphics camp hip-hop; and Prurient behaving very badly indeed.
Alternatively, check out our best reissues of 2013 rundown.
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SOULS OF MISCHIEF
93 Til Infinity
(Get On Down)
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Back in the early 1990s, Oakland’s starry-eyed Hieroglyphics collective spawned a string of great albums – Del Tha Funkee Homosapien’s I Wish My Brother George Was Here, Casual’s Fear Itself and Extra Prolific’s Like It Should Be among them. The daddy, though, is the 1993 debut from Souls of Mischief – a perfect showcase for their trippy, jazz-indebted knock music.
The spirited crew performances still sound great, but the production (from Del Tha Funkee Homosapien and member A-Plus, amongst others) is the star: rooted in jazz, but with tough, muscular arrangements offsetting the kitschier moments. The real highlights are the groggier cuts: heavy-lidded Stetsasonic-a-like ‘Never No More’; the knotty, angular licks of ‘Make Your Mind Up’; and, of course, the deeper-than-deep ’93 ‘Til Infinity’, which still sounds all sorts of perfect.
We’ve been waiting for Get On Down’s sort-of-20th anniversary edition for a while, and the results match expectations. The ‘Super Bundle’ boasts: an expanded CD edition, with 11 supplementary remix and instrumental tracks; a 2xCD “music book” stacked with images and new writing about the record; a 2xLP edition; and some chunky gimmickry (a glowing LED-lit box, a singing CD case, lucky T-shirt, etc, etc.)
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Let No One Judge You: Early Recordings from Iran 1906-1933
(Honest Jon’s Records)
The wiser among you will have already studiously bookmarked Jonathan Ward’s excellent Excavated Shellac blog, which presents long-forgotten 78rpm discs from across the world. If so, Honest Jon’s koanlike compilation of early Iranian folk recordings should be right up your street.
Carefully ripped from 78s at Abbey Road studio, these 34 selections are culled from a range of sources: Royal Court Orchestra performances from 1906; a 300+ cache of 1909 discs, recorded in London; ad hoc recordings taken in the South Caucasus; and mid 1930s on-location recordings, amongst others. The vocal performances are full-throated, sometimes savage – hearing these century-old voices bellowing through the mist is a unique experience. Everything is buried in crackle, of course, but the shabbiest recordings tend to be the most exquisite.
Let No One Judge You is maybe too low-key for some, but crane into these quiet little pieces, and the results are often captivating. Honest Jon’s 2xCD package comes with a lavish 26-page booklet to fill in the contextual gaps. Oh, and let no one judge us, but this actually slunk out at tail-end of February.
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DONATO DOZZY & NUEL
The Aquaplano Sessions
Whether he’s making ambient records or Berghain-friendly techno, Donato Dozzy’s music is fantastically – and sometimes cloyingly – rich; see the varnish-dunked soundtrack music collected on last year’s wonderful …Plays Bee Mask. So it proves on The Aquaplano Sessions – a techno full-length with the mesmeric pull of a swinging pocket watch.
The Aquaplano Sessions, produced in collaboration with Nuel, first emerged as a two-part EP series in 2008-9 on the flash-in-the-pan label of the same name. Spectrum Spools’ new edition has been stunningly remastered by the big man Rashad Becker, and presents these two influential records as one coherent piece.
The Aquaplano Sessions is a triumph of mood over groove – although the record oscillates between quicksilver acid (‘Aqua 1’, ‘Aqua 3’) and languid 4×4 chug (‘Aqua 2’, ‘Aqua 7’), everything shares a cryptic, penumbral quality. ‘Aqua 8’ even sounds like a long-abandoned SAW Vol. 1 outtake, which should take the sting out of our Selected Ambient Works Vol. 3 April Fool’s leg-pull. Emphatically not to be slept on.
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CRASH COURSE IN SCIENCE
Signals From Pier Thirteen
Dark Entries scored one of the reissues of last year with Patrick Cowley’s porno soundtrack collection School Daze, and Signals From Pier Thirteen has proved the highlight of a busy 2014 schedule. Low-key Philadelphia industrial outfit Crash Course in Science began their whizz-bang electronic experiments in 1979, with their first EP proper Signals From Pier Thirteen arriving in 1981.
The four-track set offers short, sharp shocks: the industrial churn of ‘Crashing Song’ and ‘Factory Forehead’; the Black & Decker electro of ‘Flying Turns’; and the excellent ‘Cardboard Lamb’, a precursor to ADULT’s square-eyed pornomusik. Throbbing Gristle are an obvious – and noted – influence, but Signals From Pier Thirteen is beefier and dancer than any of the COUM crew’s transmission.
Dark Entries’ new edition has been freshly remastered for vinyl at Berkeley’s Fantasy Studios, and comes in a replica jacket, complete with a two-sided insert.
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It’s not unfeasible that listeners of a certain age might know noise veteran Dominick Fernow exclusively as a techno producer – or, at the very least, someone standing at the shady edges of the dance music tent. Over the last three years, most of Fernow’s time has been ploughed into his rattling, loop-based Vatican Shadow project, and his long-standing Prurient alias has become a vehicle for snotty dance fare (see last year’s Through The Window). The Cocaine Death reissue – a brutal transmission from the tail-end of Fernow’s out-and-out noise days – should redress the balance.
First released in 2008, Cocaine Death compiles three Fernow cassette releases: Tylenol Murders, Caribbean Overdose and Cocaine Death. Unlike earlier works, it’s not full-on noise tantrum stuff; rather, Cocaine Death offers discernible song-forms buried deep under a slurry of static (see the billowing dirt clouds of ‘Garden of Tranquility’, or oddly tranquil opener ‘Pretext’).
The new edition, available on Fernow’s own hyper-prolific Hospital Productions label, has been specially remastered for vinyl. Best considered alongside last month’s best-in-show, Cold Cave’s Cremations.
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(Cultures of Soul)
Pulled together by DJ Brother Cleve, Bombay Disco collects an assortment of late-1970s attempts to reconfigure disco for a hungry Bollywood market (the sleeve notes recount Bollywood composer and Indian “Disco King” Bappi Lahiri demanding he “have music like Saturday Night Fever“). As per your average Bollywood spectacular, these pieces have a malarial lunacy that borders on the surreal: histrionic performances, backed by arrangements (or, rather, derangements) for synth, brass and sitar.
Particular props go to the genuine weirdo picks: the lo-fi, Meek-grade ‘Discotheque Music’ and glam rock wig-out ‘Mausam Hai Gaane Ka’ – which genuinely sounds like it something Avalanches might have stitched together – both spring to mind. Slap on a curry western, prepare to suspend all disbelief, and give this a spin.
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The Sleeping Beauties
(Into The Light)
Poor Vangelis Katsoulis must be tired of reviews opening with some variation on the “no, not that one” theme, but it’s worth stressing to the skim-reader that this has nothing to do with the Chariots of Fire feller. Instead, The Sleeping Beauties collects a range of sparkling work from Greek producer Katsoulis, whose compositional work dates back to the late 1980s. Picks come from Katsoulis’ 1988 LP The Slipping Beauty and 1990 follow-up Through The Door Into A Dream, with supplementary tracks taken from Katsoulis’ archives and TV advertising portfolio.
For the most part, the works here are gentle and featherlight. The best (‘Touch The Sun’, the Steve Reich-inspired ‘The Slipping Beauty’) are rhythmically driving, yet delicate as a butterfly wing. Into The Light suggest Klaus Schulze (a decent call) and Larry Heard (a better one) as points of comparison, but we reckon fans of Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven will lap this up in particular.
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Give Love To Your Children
If your only exposure to Zamrock has come through one of Madlib’s occasional soapbox moments, Give Love To Your Children is a brilliant place to start. Based out of Zambia in the late 1970s, Zamrock offered a magmatic fusion of Afrobeat’s rhythmic attack and psych-rock’s rough edge. Musi-O-Tunya were leading lights on the scene, and Now-Again follow up their Dark Sunrise reissue platter with this lovely edition of the band’s second album.
It’s proper fusion material – the bluesy strut of Clapton, skeletal xylophone-led works, and big, brassy boogie all contend for attention. For all the variety, the constants are sturdy musicianship and overabundant enthusiasm. The release comes with a chunky booklet, featuring input from band lynchpin Rikki Ililonga and other members. Highly infectious.
Note: it’s also worth checking out Now-Again’s recent WITCH reissue, which strikes a similar note.
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MIXED BAND PHILANTHROPIST
The Impossible Humane
Remember some choice words from the Musi-O-Tunya write-up? “Sturdy musicianship”, “infectious”, “boogie”? Welcome to the absolute inverse – a 30-minute collage-cum-headfuck strung together by some seriously diseased minds.
Pieced together between 1984 and 1986, The Impossible Humane is the only LP from this side project of two-fingers-up noise pioneers The New Blockaders. Very much conceived in the spirit of musique concrete, the album herds together industrial grind, tape-shredded voices, chant music, advertising jingles, static, growling car engines, Tom Jones, skanking music, doo-wop and plenty more. Think Negativland meets NON.
A rotating cast of the 1980s experimental elite contribute material, including Nurse With Wound, Merzbow, Smegma and Asmus Tietchens, making it something of an (ahem) all-star collection. Staubgold’s reissue contains two bonus tracks, previously released as a 7″ single.
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My Love Is Underground
Still in his mid-twenties, Jeremy Underground Paris has built quite a reputation as a house music digger with a particularly sharp nose (Slow to Speak would disagree, mind). Since 2010, his My Love Is Underground label have been putting out vinyl-only reissues dating back from the halcyon days when New York and New Jersey ruled the roost. Favorite’s My Love is Underground is his first crack at a compilation, and does what it says on the tin – dredges up a clutch of rarely-spotted house records from the late 1980s onwards. A few tracks are here on reputation rather than merit – there’s definitely some Bedroom Bar filler – but My Love is Underground is still worth a punt, particularly for highlights from Aaron Arce, Caucasian Boy and Vissal.
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