Over the years the Sub Rosa label has brought us new releases and reissues from artists as diverse as William S. Burroughs, Mick Harris (Scorn), Bill Laswell, Charles Hayward, Eyeless In Gaza and Philip Jeck.
Its best known and arguably most culturally valuable contribution, though, has been its five-strong Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music series. These beautifully packaged and annotated double CD compilations celebrating electronic pioneers and individualists have helped a kind of canon of 20th century machine music. Originally released in 2004, the first volume in the series was finally issued on deluxe 3×12″ vinyl last year. It was a real moment.
Now we’re pleased to report that the second volume, An Anthology of Noise & Electronic Music / Second A-Chronology 1936-2003, is getting the vinyl treatment as well. It will be released on May 17 as a 3×12″ in triple gatefold sleeve. Its content cogently traverses early radiophonic and academic experiments, freaky jazz, industrial and rave-era electronica: that means Autechre’s ‘Bronchus One.1′ rubs shoulders with Sun Ra’s ‘Imagination’, Tod Dockstader’s ‘Aerial > Song’ with SPK’s ‘Slogun’ and Luc Ferrari’s ‘Visage V’ with Captain Beefheart’s ‘She’s too much for my mirror…’. Laibach, Scanner, Daphne Oram, Morton Subotnick, Alan R. Splet and Woody McBride also feature.
The admirably high-minded Sub Rosa summarise their mission with this compilation series as follows:
“The highly acclaimed anthology collection available as triple vinyl lp in a luxuous triple gatefold sleeve. Given the present system of production there are reasons, some of them identifiable, why only a few names emerge in each period. There may also be a preference for concentrating information rather than letting it pile up in disordered fashion. Over the past 40 years the same ten electronic music composers get mentioned again and again (including in music dictionaries and histories). Yet behind them are many other names. Who are they? Second-raters? Not necessarily. For we then need to define the concept of top-rate (rated by who, and on what criteria?) and second-rate or minor artist. Great pleasure can be derived from the works of minor artists. The case of Tod Dockstader is instructive: when “for lack of academic qualifications” he was denied access to the electronic music facilities he needed, was there not great beauty in the pieces he nevertheless created and in his determination to make music without those facilities? His name was never seen on the labels of top record companies. But he influenced quite a few people – Richard James quoted him, and others then referred to his work. Some of his records were reissued, and what one could call the rehabilitation process continues. The same applies to many other composers. All such stories spell a passion for music, and weave myth.”
This is a compilation that challenges a lot of common assumptions about electronic music, and showcases groundbreaking work that might otherwise have been lost to the churn of history. It’s not exactly easy listening, but you ought to check it out.
1. Wladimir Ussachevsky & Otto Luening – Incantation For Tape (1953)
2. Luc Ferrari – Visage V (1958-59)
3. Tod Dockstader – Aerial > Song (2002)
1. Johanna M. Beyer – Music of The Spheres (1938)
2. Morton Subotnick – Mandolin (1962)
3. Daphne Oram – Four Aspects (1960)
4. Johanna M. Beyer – Music Of The Spheres (1938)
1. Alan R. Splet – Space Travel w/ Changing Choral Textures (1983)
2. Robin Rambaud (Scanner) – Emily (2003)
3. Hugh Davies – Quintet (1967-68)
4. Kim Cascone – Zephirum Scan (2002)
1. Meira Asher – Torture/Bodyparts (2001)
2. Lasse Steen (Choose) – Purzuit ov Noise (1994)
3. Woody McBride – Pulp (1993)
4. SPK – Slogun (1979)
1. Yoshihiro Hanno – On-Off Edit (2001)
2. Autechre – Bronchus One.1 (1991)
3. Arcane Devices – Lathe (1988)
1. Sun Ra – Imagination (1965)
2. Captain Beefheart – She’s Too Much For Mu Mirror – My Human Gets Me Blues (1969)
3. Laibach – Industrial Ambients (1980-82)
4. Percy Grainger – Free Music 1 (for four theremins) (1936)