Severed Heads! Black Hippies! Bernard Cribbins!: June’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.
June brings the goods: whipcrack Afro rock from 1970s Nigeria; cobwebby bedroom pop from the outskirts of Philly; delights from camp Emeralds; and surely the first compilation to feature both Pierre Henry and Bernard Cribbins.
Alternatively, check out our best reissues of 2013 rundown.
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Since The Accident
It’s a source of some personal rancour that Since The Accident didn’t make it past the longlist stage for FACT’s Best Albums of the 1980s. The Sydney outfit are one of the more adventurous units typically herded under the ‘industrial’ umbrella. Their early work skips between tape experiments, extreme noise, loop music and dub, and their 1983 high watermark gets the mix just right, variously recalling Coil’s weirdo pop and Negativland in full Over The Edge mode.
Since The Accident is a sort of sonic papier-mâché – a mish-mash of yellowing orchestra scores, technical manuals and occult literature. Sequencer patterns – ropey, but just about danceable – are periodically interrupted by bursts of thundering noise, and cut’n’stitch tape pieces sit next to lockstep rhythm tracks. Some of the work here pre-empts the band’s late-1980s electro-pop phase: the exhilarating ‘Dead Eyes Opened’ remains their first and only crossover hit, and is represented here, although it’s a shame Medical Records didn’t find some space for the track’s vastly superior extended edit.
This new version marks the album’s first outing on wax in over three decades, and has been specially remastered by head Head Tom Ellard. The label have also put out the band’s scattier 1986 LP City Slab Horror, which is worth a look for its cover alone.
THE BLACK HIPPIES
The Black Hippies
Nothing to do with Compton’s young guard – these Black Hippies were based out of Nigeria in the late 1970s, fronted by bandleader Joseph “Pazy” Etinagbedia. As with, say, the Zamrock scene, Nigeria’s pop culture was characterised by miscegenation, with local acts expected to have a handle on Western chart fare, Highlife, jazz and (perhaps to a lesser extent) homegrown sounds. Specialising in a creolised, funked-up version of US heavy rock, The Black Hippies were courted by EMI, with whom they recorded their one and only album – which, released at the height of the disco craze, sank without a trace.
As with so many other great African reissues in recent times (Hailu Mergia’s Hailu Mergia and his Classical Instrument; Mammane Sami’s La Musique Eectronique Du Niger) it’s the organ playing that sets The Black Hippies apart. Every track is dominated by that knackered organ sound, veering dangerously in and out of key and threatening to overwhelm everything around it. The playing is spirited throughout, with ‘Doing It In The Streets’ the clear standout – powerhouse funk drumming and soupy organ, with white-hot guitar soloing from Pazy over the top.
This new version from Academy LPs has been carefully remastered, and arrives with touched-up artwork and a fold-out poster.
Places I Know / The Machine Gun Co. With Mike Cooper
(Paradise of Bachelors)
Cooper’s music is rooted in the folk and blues scene of the late 1960s. Yet even his earliest, most conventional releases are suggestive of square-peg-round-hole syndrome (what po-faced folkie would call their debut album Oh Really!?). Not one to get too comfy – he received, and subsequently rejected, an offer to join The Rolling Stones – Cooper’s spent the subsequent four decades getting spacier and stranger; by the 1990s, he was making “ambient electronic exotica”.
Paradise of Bachelors have brought three Cooper LPs back to wax for the first time, all dating back to his early-‘70s artistic turning point. 1970’s exploratory Trout Steel, which added free jazz touches and psychedelic detailing to Cooper’s songwriting, is also available, but the more rewarding release is this double-set, yoking together 1971’s Places I Know and 1972’s The Machine Gun Co. with Mike Cooper (which is how Cooper first wanted them released).
Places I Know is a fine album of rollicking folk rock, but the real treats are buried on The Machine Gun Co. – lovely psych-pop constructions, which, without warning, deliquesce into discordance and free-form noodling (about what you’d expect for an album named in honour of a Peter Bröntzmann record.) Standouts include the fifteen-minute ‘So Glad (That I Found You)’ and the slow-burning ‘Abigail’s Song’.
The Path of Spectrolite
It’s strange to think that Emeralds packed up shop over a year ago. Still, John Elliott has been bringing us a raft – hell, a flotilla of rafts – of music for a while now, both as a label boss (he helms the excellent Editions Mego sub-label Spectrum Spools) and a musician (Mist and Outer Space, amongst others).
First issued in 2011 on Amethyst Sunset, The Path of Spectrolite is the third LP under Elliott’s Imaginary Softwoods alias, typically the preserve of his wooziest material. Like the first Imaginary Softwoods LP, which got a reissue of its own on Digitalis a few years back, The Path of Spectrolite is rooted in drone and ambient, reminiscent of Steve Roach’s Structures From Silence and Vangelis at his more expansive.
That said, The Path… is definitely the peppiest Imaginary Softwoods release. Some of the material at the front end of the album is only a shuffle away from the strobing sequences on Emeralds’ roughly contemporaneous Does It Look Like I’m Here?, and the closing moments are some of the stateliest Elliott’s committed to disc. To be honest, you’re probably never more than 50ft from some sort of Emeralds-affiliated reissue, but this is well worth a shifty.
The Kinbotes are named after the protagonist of Nabakov’s famously tricksy Pale Fire – a novel sneakily masquerading as an annotated poem. The Kinbotes isn’t anywhere near as ingenious, but you can see why these two art school kids plumped for the name: The Kinbotes is an album of no-fi bedroom pop with a lightly-played postmodern streak.
Formed at art college just outside of Philadelphia, The Kinbotes brought together a determined non-musician (Nat Hirsch) and a trained guitarist (David Cateforis). Recorded in a dorm room, The Kinbotes is unapologetically scrappy, full of bum notes and iffy tunings, but highly charming nonetheless. The presentation is sometimes wilfully cruddy – try ‘Gingerbread Man”s mangled jangle- but much of The Kinbotes’ charm comes down to its open-hearted songwriting: ‘Julie Don’t Care’ successfully mimics Transformer-era Lou Reed, and ‘Like A Movie’ is just adorable. The air of enthusiastic amateurism makes up for some of the ropier tracks, and the rough production – it’s essentially a glorified demo tape – works to its advantage.
Sadly, Hirsch suffered a head injury in a car accident in the mid-1990s, and eventually took his own life. This maiden reissue arrives through German label Slowboy, and is limited to 200 copies.
That cover art – part Russian orthodox priest, part RZA promo snap – says it all: Konrad’s solitary album is deeply self-serious, hugely ambitious, and more than a little ridiculous. This 1982 electropop-cum-space musical, now remastered on Ethereal Sequence, is madder than a keg of frogs, and all the better for it.
For much of the album, the mysterious Konrad comes across as a new wave Major Tom – see electropop fist-pumper ‘It’s Only A Matrix’, or the stargazing ‘Alien’. The Casio programming is great fun, but the real point of interest is Konrad’s vocal – an off-key bellow, with a clipped intonation and prim phrasing that brings Julie Andrews to mind.
The first 1000 copies of Evil come with a supplementary 45, featuring three non-album tracks; James Pants and John Maus fans are advised to get moving. Unlike last month’s standout, Lewis’ enigmatic L’Amour, this is one of those breadcrumb trails with an ending: after some online digging by chief investigator Jeff Hassett from Waxidermy, Konrad eventually outed himself as a chap called Barry Konarik from Idaho.
Active since the 1970s, Bergier plays in Atrium Musicae de Madrid, who were set up by a Spanish monk to play ancient devotional music. He’s a co-founder of 1980s outfit Finis Africae, who made a couple of albums of spirited Afro-electronica. He’s released music with the Ishinohana project. He’s recorded 13 solo albums. He’s composed for adverts and chamber music ensembles. He’s busy.
Eclipse is the first official retrospective of Bergier’s career, and it’s a lovely pic’n’mix selection, pulling from all over his scroll-like CV. The first four tracks set the tone: a jangling guitar instrumental; ambient loop music, like The Durutti Column with added tabla; low-lit new wave; and twinkly folk. It’s unremittingly gentle – nothing here is going to spook, or even slightly irritate, the horses – but if you’re looking for some lesser-heard loveliness, this’ll do the job.
Purge An Urge
French three-piece OTO (no relation to Dalston’s avant-garde Mecca, we presume) only released one album – 1986’s Purge An Urge, here revived by Desire, whose previous reissue form includes Ike Yard and //TENSE//. Despite first impressions (the hellfire splashed over the front cover; that stoic title), this is far from a puritan affair. Instead, Purge An Urge is a noisy, silly jalopy of an album, full of squawks, hooks and “arriba!” moments.
Recorded under the eye of Geinst Naït’s Vincent Hachet, Purge An Urge is a fine set of stomping electronic pop with an end-is-nigh aesthetic. ‘Evil Dance’ sounds like The Cramps doing NDW, ‘Estupefaction’ like The Ambitious Lovers with added schlock. There are some great interstitial mood pieces (‘Kong’, ‘Takoma’) too, and it’s commendably punchy too, calling it a day after six tracks. Desire’s version is the first ever wax reissue, and has been remastered from the original vinyl.
Funny Old Shit
God bless you, Jonny Trunk. His self-titled label is a Great British Institution, churning out forgotten soundtracks, early electronics, pop culture flotsam and vintage porno at an impressive lick. For the best part of the last two years, he’s also been running his #50PFRIDAY series, offering up a different curio every Friday as a 50p download (this week’s grubby gem? Les Baxter’s 1961 LP Jewels of the Sea – a collection of “titillating orchestrations for listening and loving”).
If you’re not au fait with Trunk’s ooh-vicar Weltanschauung, Funny Old Shit is an excellent place to start. The record collects telly music (Ray Cathode, John Addison), classical and jazz (Glenn Gould, The Double Six of Paris), ultra-English surrealism (Ogden Nash) and a couple of slightly embarrassing curveballs too (Robert Mitchum, Bernard Cribbins). Trunk claims it “took about five minutes to put together”, and that’s exactly how we’d want it.
I’m Burning, I’m Burning: Urban Greek Songs, 1933-37
To close proceedings, here’s one from well off the beaten track. Canary Records are affiliated with Mississippi Records, and they’ve put out a fine catalogue of otherwise forgotten world music. Previous releases have profiled “rocking music” for big bands and Eastern European folk dances; 2009’s globetrotting String of Pearls is probably the best jump-off point for the curious.
Like a number of Canary releases, I’m Burning, I’m Burning presents music from the urban folk music of the Greek diaspora around the 1930s, typically termed rebetiko. Abatzi was a sizeable fish in that particular pond, and these tracks, recorded in the years leading up to WWII, demonstrate why. Her voice – rich, elastic, and unusually sonorous in a lower register – is matched by keening fiddlework. Probably not everyone’s shot of ouzo, but highly evocative nonetheless. Liner notes from label boss Ian Nagoski help fill in the biographical gaps.