Unveiling the first in our trundling parade of end-of-year features – the best reissues of 2014.
FACT’s monthly reissue column has spent the last 12 months cherry-picking the best archival releases on the market in 2014, from luxuriant box sets to remastered club trax – and excavated all sorts of buried treasure in the process.
This year, we’ve decided to whittle our picks down to a manageable Top 20 – so, sadly, no room for Severed Heads, Pip Proud, Joel Van Droogenbroeck, Slint, Madrigal and plenty of other favourites (note: you can read our Top 50 reissues as a list at the end of the article). On your marks, gift-hunters – these are the reissues that did the business in 2014.
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(Blackest Ever Black)
Recorded in 1995 and inexplicably left to gather dust, Dead Unique is a lost album from Rock-In-Opposition affiliates Officer!, finally granted release by Blackest Ever Black. Headed by chief Tigger Mick Hobbs, the band – made up of a rotating cast of Hobbs’ chums and tourmates at the time – rattle through skewed jangle, loping dub, vaudeville and the sort of kooky racket you’d expect from a veteran of the early ’80s UK DIY movement. Take this alongside Ariel Pink’s excellent pom pom, and you’ve got enough spirited whimsy to see you through the cold snap.
(Cultures of Soul)
Subtlety, begone. Disco might have lost its lustre in the US in the 1980s, but the sound was simultaneously exploding in the East, and Cultures of Soul’s collection of Bollywood disco – much of it composed for the screen – shows a sound bursting with life and exuberance. The 13 tracks here, picked by DJ Brother Cleve, have a malarial lunacy that borders on the surreal: yes, there’s a disco thud throughout, but really, this is fraught, vibrant psychedelia, drawing from glam, Shadows-era rock’n’roll and classic silver-screen musicals. Can neutralise cynics from a distance of 30 yards.
18. BLACK ZONE MYTH CHANT
Elevator pitch: Black Zone Myth Chant – a one-off side project of French drone/psych producer High Wolf – uses DJ Screw’s toolkit and Vatican Shadow’s sound palette to produce occult music a la Ruth White’s The Flowers of Evil. Knocked out over three days, Straight Cassette got a no-profile CDr and tape release back in 2011 on BZMC’s own label, and it’s fallen to Bigg Jus’ Laitdbac imprint to give this a proper vinyl outing. Lurching, sluggish, chthonic mulch-music – the perfect stocking filler!
17. WILLIAM BASINSKI
The Disintegration Loops is Basinski’s received masterpiece, but certain plucky FACT staffers will lobby for Melancholia – available on vinyl for the first time – being his best record. As per The Disintegration Loops, this 2003 LP uses Basinski’s stash of decaying tape recordings from the 1980s as the basis for heavy-hearted ambient compositions, skirted with feedback and suspended in aspic. Less sprawling than its predecessor, it might be the best point of entry into Basinski’s catalogue – and the lovely new packaging is an extra incentive to part with your dosh.
16. CHARLES HAYWARD
Smell of Metal
2014 kicked off with two great reissues from the hard-to-type-easy-to-love ΚΕΜΑΛ, an offshoot of lo-fi house label Berceuse Heroique. Αναστενάρια, a collection of devotional fire-walking music from Greece, helped them hit their esoterica quota, but this slim collection of atmospheric drum pieces from This Heat/Camberwell Now figurehead Charles Hayward was their real triumph. Although it’s more of a ‘truncated reissue’ than an ‘expanded edition’ – it culls two standouts from Hayward’s 1990 Rothko-dedicated LP Skew Whiff – it brings two highly evocative pieces of awkward groove back to public notice, and sweetens the pill with two brilliant remixes from JD Twitch (cosmic melodrama) and Maxmillion Dunbar (head-nod).
15. RALPH JONES
Slumber Party Massacre
(Death Waltz Recording Company)
A high placer in our rundown of the 100 greatest horror OSTs ever made, Ralph Jones’ score for the 1982 co-ed carve-up is as grotty and snotty as the film it soundtracks. An ultra lo-fi take on the classic Carpenter sound, Slumber Party Massacre is an unusually tinny, catchy affair, broken up by lovely passages of analogue noodling that recall Charles Wuorinen’s Time’s Encomium, and arpeggios that buzz and squeal like the (conspicuously phallic) drill wielded as a weapon throughout the movie. This being Death Waltz, the package was a stunner – neon pink’n’green vinyl, with excellent new cover art.
14. STEPHEN DAVID HEITKOTTER
In 1971, a troubled young man from California put out a self-titled LP, Heitkotter, in a tiny run of 25 copies; junkyard blues rock, wreathed in fuzz and distortion, was the order of the day. This reissue – here renamed in honour of Heitkotter’s impish nom de plume – brings this private press gem back into the light, offering acid-frazzled outsider rock with a palpable sense of menace (the session drummer describes the experience as “trying to play five songs written by a man losing his mind”). Sadly, Heitkotter succumbed to schizophrenia, and has spent the bulk of his life in residential care; according to Now-Again, Heitkotter’s family have elected not to tell him about the record’s legend for fear of upsetting his mental state further. This reissue’s secret weapon is its stash of previously unreleased instrumental demos – scorched stoner grooves of the highest order.
Impasse is Luke Younger’s brightest, most luxuriant work – a gorgeous set of ascension music, and a stark contrast with the churning dysphoria of, say, Impossible Symmetry or Cryptography. Released on 2008 on limited CDr, Impasse shows the Bird of Delay producing spiritually charged drone – OPN’s Rifts with million-candle wattage. This first vinyl outing doubles the length of the original by adding two unreleased tracks from Helm’s archives – the throttled carnival music of ‘Impasse’, and the queasy, coruscating ‘Imperium’ – and turns a strong album into an exceptional one.
The Death of Rave (A Partial Flashback)
(History Always Favours the Winners)
Back when rave-as-nostalgia-dream wasn’t a cliché – before the dewy-eyed jungle revival, before Lee Gamble’s Diversions 94-96, before Keysound started putting out SMH press releases – Leyland Kirby was doing important work through his V/Vm Test website, ripping the innards out of big room rave tunes until only spectral sense impressions remained. The Death of Rave sees Kirby pull the best tracks from the project’s 200+ track archives, and the results – remastered by Matt Colton – are stygian affairs – doomy, evocative, freighted with threat.
11. DONATO DOZZY & NUEL
The Aquaplano Sessions
Although the tracks that make up The Aquaplano Sessions were unveiled in a (now pricey) 2xEP series back in 2008-9, this compilation feels like the definitive article – considered as a unified work, it’s easily one of the best dub techno albums of the last decade. Donato Dozzy – whose work is Never Knowingly Undersaturated® – and Nuel produce pieces that are molasses-rich but carefully detailed. Some have pitched 2014 as a golden year for the dance album, but this puts your KOCHs, Flatlands or Suzi Ectos to shame, and has secured more office play than just about any contemporary techno LP. Dubplates and Mastering’s Rashad Becker handles the remaster.
10. GRUPPO DI IMPROVVISAZIONE NUOVA CONSONANZA
‘The Group’, as AutoCorrect prefers us to call them, brought a gaggle of experimental European composers – Ennio Morricone among them – together under one roof to improvise and free-associate. Their output, masterminded by Franco Evangelisti, varies wildly from release to release, and they’ve had a busy reissues year: the ever-excellent Superior Viaduct put out their bugger-to-find 1973 self-titled LP, and their A Quiet Place in the Country OST also arrived on wax. Whereas Gruppo di… was an austere slow-burner, The Feed-Back splits the difference – the mechanics and sound palette of conventional jazz-funk, but the spirit and sonic detailing of free music and early electronics. It’s cerebral and fun in equal measure (rather like our No. 2 pick on this list, as it happens).
Suburban Base Records: The History Of Hardcore, Jungle, Drum & Bass: 1991-1997
As some of the best dance reissues of recent years (Rush Hour’s The Nu Groove Years: 1988-1992; Harmless’ Traxbox) have shown, a blow-by-blow account of a label’s output often tells a more interesting story than a grab-bag scene overview. So it proves on this excellent chronological account of the history of London breakbeat/hardcore/jungle imprint Suburban Base, whose entire back catalogue has been carefully remastered and box-setted. From Sonz of a Loop Da Loop Era and Phuture Assassins to the ruffage of DJ Hype, it’s a wonderful document of a febrile, fast-changing scene – a lightspeed shuttle ride through the hardcore continuum (although those wanting the standalone tunes should plump for the download version, rather than the mixed CD edition)
08. INGRAM MARSHALL
Fog Tropes // Gradual Requiem
(Arc Light Editions)
A former student of computer music pioneer Morton Subotnick, and a contemporary of key figures like Charlemagne Palestine and Rhys Chatham, Marshall has a long and storied history as a minimalist composer. His work typically elides real-world instrumentation with synthetic or found sound: previous compositions include diced’n’spliced spoken word, duets for cor anglais and tape loop, and gamelan works. Fog Tropes / Gradual Requiem, an early release on the young Arc Light Editions label, presents two stunning pieces: 1981’s Fog Tropes is built around recordings of ship foghorns, whereas 1980’s Gradual Requiem blend granular flute recordings with delicate solo piano. The remaster is gorgeous, the music profoundly moving.
The Opening of the Cerebral Gate
Drexciya have some great albums to their name, but they were always best consumed in 12” doses (hence why Clone’s recent Return of the Deep Sea Dweller compilations have served them better than Tresor’s recent LP reissue rollout). Both Stinson and Donald have put out better long-players as solo artists, and though The Opening… isn’t the best of Stinson’s “seven waves” releases (stand up, Lifestyles of the Laptop Cafe), it’s still totally seminal. The Opening… offers chattering, strobing electro, and it’s one of the steeliest releases Stinson put his name to prior to his early death in 2002. Previously only available after a Discogs shakedown, this reissue brings a classic back to wax.
Chasing the Shadow of Bryn Jones 1983-88
(Vinyl on Demand)
Not the first Muslimgauze compilation, and certainly not the last – but Vinyl-On-Demand’s 10xLP rundown of Bryn Jones’ early work is, without doubt, the best. Pulling together Jones’ albums from 1983’s Opaques through to 1988’s The Rape of Palestine, and tossing in a sprinkling of bonus tracks as well, the set plots the genesis of Jones’ singular, bizarre aesthetic: denuded rhythm tracks, with an industrial heart and an agitprop agenda. Jones’ 200+ album catalogue is more than a little intimidating, but this set, for all its gloss and pomp, is a perfect starting point for beginners – particularly those wondering where Dominick Fernow and Shackleton have been taking their cues from.
05. SOULS OF MISCHIEF
93 ’til Infinity
(Get on Down)
There were some mammoth rap reissues this year – Illmatic XX, which was stunted by having been pre-empted by a superior reissue a few years back; The Infamous, which was compromised by the underwhelming new album bundled with it; and a comprehensive but not-especially-exciting run of Public Enemy reissues. The crown, then, goes to psych-rap masterpiece 93 Til Infinity – the pick of the albums to emerge from Oakland’s trippy Hieroglyphics collective in the early 1990s, presented with Get On Down’s usual eye for detail. The reissue arrived a smidge too late to really qualify as a 20th anniversary release, but, what with the extra tracks and paraphernalia (T-shirt, LED box, singing CD case), the slip didn’t matter.
04. STEVE ROACH
Structures from Silence
Done deal, really: our 10th favourite album of the 1980s gets an impressive, careful, ambitious reissue. Recorded in a baking California back in 1983, Structures From Silence is a genuine ambient landmark – a collection of billowing synth figures, rolling like dry ice, with trembling overtones and shimmering harmonics. Aside from being one the best authentically New Age records ever made, it’s proven seriously influential – Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. II wouldn’t, and couldn’t, have happened without it.
Projekt reissued the record 10 years ago, but this version is definitely the complete article: newly remastered, and expanded twice over with new compositions from Roach, recorded over the last few years in the same style. Given how much ink has been sloshed about the 2014 ambient revival, it’s a perfect time to return to this classic album – still spellbinding, three decades on.
Visions of Dune
2013 brought us Jodorowsky’s Dune, and 2014’s bit of Herbert-inspired avant-art came from Bernard Szajner (sloppy journo tag of choice: “the French Brian Eno”). First released in 1979, Visions of Dune sounds like the mothership descending – chunky arpeggiator lines and proggy synth improvisations, underscored by rolling, loose-wristed live drumming. Szajner was formerly a lighting designer, and it shows in Visions of Dune – the musical equivalent of an Ufabulum eyebombing; obvious comparisons include Heldon or Magma (minus the frills, of course), both of whom contributed members for the recording process. The remaster, handled by mastering majordomo Rashad Becker, is fantastically vivid; the bundled bonus tracks are cracking; and InFiné’s version marks the record’s first vinyl outing in 35 years. Belter!
It was heartening to see Sheffield club minimalists snd get a proper career dust-down this year, with all of their self-released ‘90s albums getting a second crack at the whip (neophytes: a potted career profile is here) Like much of their output, debut album TPlay (which has been just about impossible to find since its 1998 release date) teeters precariously between weatherbeaten dancefloor fare and fussy sound art – glitch music with the shuffle and dazzle of UK garage. The reissue was manna for spotters – unreleased material from the original sessions, coloured transparent vinyl, and a Rashad Becker remaster stamp.
(Light in the Attic)
Old-fashioned mysteries reigned big in 2014: we thralled to Serial, rushed back to our Twin Peak box sets, and, closer to home, cast our eyes blimpwards. Fitting, then, that one of the biggest musical cults of the year centred around a big fat question mark: who was Lewis?
In 1983, “Lewis” rocked up at a California recording studio with a white Mercedes and a model on his arm, recorded an album of phantasmagoric synth balladry, paid for his cover shoot by cheque – which bounced – and then vanished into the ether. That record, L’Amour, has spent the last 30 years quietly being passed between collectors, with LITA’s reissue marking its first proper release. By August, we had our answer: Lewis (aka Randy Wulff) had been found sipping coffee in Canada, politely amused by his second career but done with music for good.
The music on L’Amour has easily withstood the big reveal – lovelorn compositions that hesitantly peek out of the speaker, gently nuzzle you, then slip back into their bolthole. Over lilting guitar and delicate pads, Lewis emotes in a quavering croon – half-whispered, half-sung. Few albums this year, of any vintage or genre, have proven more transportive – a bullet train to Heartbreaksville (business class, naturally).
FACT’s favourite reissues of 2014:
01. Lewis – L’Amour
02. snd – TPlay
03. Z – Visions of Dune
04. Steve Roach – Structures From Silence
05. Souls of Mischief – 93 Til Infinity
06. Muslimgauze – Chasing the Shadow of Bryn Jones
07. Transllusion – The Opening of the Cerebral Gate
08. Ingram Marshall – Fog Tropes / Gradual Requiem
09. Various – Suburban Base Records: The History Of Hardcore, Jungle, Drum & Bass: 1991-1997
10. Gruppo di Improvvisazione di Nuova Consonanza – The Feed-Back
11. Donato Dozzy & Nuel – The Aquaplano Sessions
12. V/VM – The Death of Rave
13. Helm – Impasse
14. Stephen David Heitkotter – Black Orckid
15. Ralph Jones – Slumber Party Massacre
16. Charles Hayward – Smell of Metal
17. William Basinski – Melancholia
18. Black Zone Myth Chant – Straight Cassette
19. Various – Bombay Disco
20. Officer! – Dead Unique
21. Caustic Window – Caustic Window
22. Nas – Illmatic XX
23. Slint – Spiderland
24. Crash Course In Science – Signal From Pier 13
25. Severed Heads – Since The Accident
26. Madrigal – Madrigal
27. Carl Craig – More Songs And Food…
28. Various – Science Fiction Park Bundesrepublik: German Home Recording Tape Music Of The 1980s
29. Swans – Filth
30. Pip Proud – Adrenaline and Richard
31. Joel Van Droogenbroeck – Biomechanoid
32. Various – The Tabu Records Box Set
33. Albert Ayler – Spiritual Unity
34. Mogwai – Come on Die Young
35. Monoton – Monotonprodukt 02
36. Various – BART Vol. 2
37. Cocteau Twins – Multiple remasters + reissues
38. Various Artists – The Official Guide to Scottish Minimal Synth 1979 – 1983
39. Rudimentary Peni – Death Church
40. Aby Ngana Diop – Liital
41. Brigitte Fontaine – Brigitte Fontaine
42. Various – Killed By Deathrock
43. Ariel Kalma – An Evolutionary Music
44. Pixies – Doolittle 25
45. Paul Rooney – Lucy over Lancashire
46. Various – Hardcore Traxxx: Dance Mania Records
47. Chuck Cirino – Chopping Mall
48. Crazy Bald Heads – First Born
49. Ramases – Complete Discography
50. Kenny Dope – Wild Style Breakbeats