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.
July’s offerings are just about the best we’ve seen all year: remarkable albums from Woo and Palm Highway Chase, plus Johnny Cash’s lunatic bezzie, electroshocked Ethio-jazz, cosmic miniatures from the West Norwood Cassette Library camp, and avant la lettre Swedish techno all make an appearance. Prepare to greet some old acquaintances, and make a few new ones to boot.
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WHICHEVER WAY YOU ARE GOING, YOU ARE GOING WRONG
In the early 1980s, fraternal duo Clive and Mark Ives devised their own brand of proto-folktronica – a gorgeous marriage of chamber-pop instrumentation (Mark) and layered synthesiser programming (Clive). Their 1982 debut as Woo, Whichever Way Your Are Going, You Are Going Wrong, lays down its picnic blanket on the middle ground between Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s breezy pastoral and Leven Signs’ swampy dub. Remastered and reissued for the first time, it’s the sound of tipsy July afternoons spent lounging in fields – by turns delicate (‘C.H. Revisited’), trippy (‘The Cleaner’) and ravishing (‘The English Style Of Rowing’). Two more Woo reissues are due on Emotional Rescue before the year is out, and on the basis of this stunner, we’ll be first in line.
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SPACE LOOPS: THE COMPLETE SESSIONS
Childhood chums Bob Bhamra (West Norwood Cassette Library) and Jon Chambers (Sunray) have been intermittently dripfeeding out Space Loops releases for the best part of a decade, and Elemental’s limited box-set collects all of their micro-epics in one extremely satisfying package. The Complete Sessions collects 50 petite drone sequences, each barely grazing the 1:00 mark. The results make for gorgeous pic’n’mix listening, and a great corrective to the scores of synthesised yawnscapes clogging up the schedules. If the Beat Kondukta signed to Ghost Box…
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(PARADISE OF BACHELORS)
It’s country, Jim, but not as we know it. Chance Martin spent the 1970s working as Johnny Cash’s stage manager, lighting designer and general dogsbody, but 1981’s privately circulated In Search saw the Nashville scenester go it alone. In Search is no wimpy weed-carrier homage to the Man In Black; instead, it’s a rip-roaring tumble through 50 years of roots music, variously speaking the languages of boogie-woogie, psych-rock, P-funk and prog. Only 1000 copies saw the light of day first time round, and Paradise Of Bachelors’ expanded “vintage edition” has done a commendable service bring The Stoned Ranger’s psychedelic opus back into public view.
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HAILU MERGIA AND HIS CLASSICAL INSTRUMENT
(AWESOME TAPES FROM AFRICA)
Following this year’s enjoyable Dur-Dur Band LP, Awesome Tapes From Africa promptly put everything in their back catalogue to shame with this absolute beaut. Mergia’s 1985 album presents traditional Ethiopian songs rendered with electric piano, analogue synth and accordion, all played and layered by the artist. Which, in practice, means a record that sounds like Mulatu Astaqué with some delicious synth leads plonked on top, Ethio-jazz by way of Suzanne Ciani . Steer clear of anyone who isn’t charmed by this – they’re not to be trusted.
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GREAT DOSE OF MONOTONOUS TECHNO
One word: oof. Originally release on cassette in 1992, A Great Dose Of Monotonous Techno sees Swedish producer Joel Brindefalk make early advances into the same overgrown territory colonized by L.I.E.S and Sex Tags Mania two decades down the line. Digitalis’ vinyl and digital reissue arrives mastered by fellow Swede Andreas Tilliander, who takes great care not to prune back Brindefalk’s thickets of static any further than necessary. Brindefalk, unfortunately, is no longer with us – but this platter of ragged-as-fuck 4×4 should bring his name back into the conversation.
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FLOOR ET SATIE
Saboten were an all-girl outfit from Tokyo, making pert post-punk with shades of Wire and Massacre. Besotted with Erik Satie and championed by Fred Frith, their work is another blinking light on the global matrix of fascinating early 1980s art-rock experiments. Em’s Floor Et Satie selection conflates material from their 1981 self-titled debut and their 1992 Satie covers collection, Let’s Satie, making for an enjoyable set of spindly little filigrees.
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THE SAD MAC
The Village Orchestra turned us onto this, describing it as one of his favourite albums ever, and it’s definitely an easy one to rally behind. Originally released in late 2004 on Tokyo’s Headz label, The Sad Mac sees the German sound artist accessing new heights of gorgeousness. Pealing digital drones are the order of the day, but Mathieu finds some wonderful variations on his theme: crystalline churn on ‘Theme for Oud Amelisweerd’; Endless Summer shimmer on ‘Smile; wax-cylinder rattle on ‘Tinfoil Star’. Top marks for the oddly titled interstitial skits, too (‘Portrait of the Composer as Turbonegro’, anyone?). Schwebung’s edition marks its first high-quality digital release, and comes accompanied by an explanatory PDF booklet.
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PALM HIGHWAY CHASE
ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
The last thing anyone at FACT Manor wants to deal with is yet another cod-Carpenter faux-ST, so it’s a mark of Escape From New York‘s sheer quality that we’ve fallen for it quite so hard. Quietly bunged onto the web back in 2009 and subsequently snaffled by Spectrum Spools, Palm Highway Chase’s solitary LP both pre-empts and trumps the hordes of bedroom producers who’ve steered their rickety hover-cars down similar streets over the last three years. Propelled by Motorik drum tattoos and some seriously tasty hooks, it’s a bold collision of Italo disco, boogie and synth-led Krautrock – and at 26 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
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We’ll always have time for Stuart Gordon’s 1985 grisly/goofy flick about a murderous swot tampering with the dead. Fledgling reissue imprint Waxwork have pulled a similar act of necromancy with this beautifully packaged edition of Richard Band’s bombastic score. Committed to green wax from the original reel-to-reel tapes, it’s one of the stronger horror OST’s to get a second crack at the whip in recent months – and a few lucky buyers will get a glow-in-the-dark pressing, too.
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THE SOFT ROOM 1980-5
(VINYL ON DEMAND)
Holed up on his parents’ farm in the late 1970s, Paul Nagle began tinkering with a Korg Micro-Preset, an organ and a delay machine. The results were a collection of thrumming electronic soundscapes, too muted to be called electro, too metronomic to qualify as kosmische. Vinyl On Demand’s reissue collects an assortment of early 1980s Nagle material, much of it released through his own The Soft Room tape imprint, and commutes it onto vinyl for the first time.
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