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.
Say hello to October’s children: one of great LPs from Chicago House’s second wave; 50 years of private press New Age records, tastefully compiled; the album that launched Kranky; and some odds and (ahem) sods from COUM Transmissions. Prepare to greet some old acquaintances, and make a few new ones to boot.
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NATURAL SNOW BUILDINGS
Daughters Of Darkness
(Ba Da Bing!)
Natural Snow Buildings have plenty of strengths, but business nous isn’t one of them. 2009’s Daughter Of Darkness collection for Blackest Rainbow saw the French duo cram six hours of original material into a 5 x cassette package – then release only 150 of the plastic wee blighters. On Daughter Or Darkness, Mehdi Ameziane and Solange Gularte’s refine their discordant, heavily orchestrated drone pieces, but substantially broaden the scale and scope of their work. The aesthetic and instrumentation are rooted in noise and alt.folk, but the results often fall closer to GAS and Fennesz at their mardiest. It’s a long, inscrutable, and extremely involving listen, and an inviting gateway into their extensive discography.
Ba Da Bing!’s reissue certainly does right by the original. Daughter Of Darkness arrives in two forms – an 8xLP mail order set, limited to 300 copies, and a 6xCD box set, available in a run of 500. The CD version is augmented with two extra bonus tracks from supplementary tape Daughter Of Darkness V, released around the same time as Natural Snow Buildings’ original version. Both arrive in a hand painted box, no two of which are the same.
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It’s Time! For what? 1977’s finest boogie-cum-AM rock-cum-ambient-cum-showtunes full-length, obviously.
Muro’s an accomplished backroom boy – he’s written demonstration compositions for the Korg M1 synthesiser, and made numerous industry in-roads as an award-winning programmer and teacher. His debut album isn’t, however, the dull exercise in technical finesse you might expect. Rather, it’s a veritable imaginative explosion – the rapidfire thudding of everything being thrown at the wall in the hope of adhesion.
A good two-thirds of It’s Time consists of outrageously camp computer funk that that makes Random Access Memories look like a Eugene Carchesio record. Elsewhere, though, Muro sounds like The Eagles (‘Sweet Little Thing’), Popol Vuh (‘Current Events’) and, er, Sesame Street (‘It’s Time’). If Rustie’s high-energy freakout music appeals to your sweet tooth, you’ll find plenty to hit the spot here. Totally ridiculous, for sure, but a damn good wheeze nonetheless.
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Second-wave Chicago house genius. Spencer Kincy had three years of dutiful service under his belt before 1997, releasing an avalanche of deep/ weird house 12″s on Cajual and Relief. His first full-length effort, the wonderfully tricksy In And Out Of Fog And Lights 1997 LP for Peacefrog, is hard to fault, and the follow-up is also an high-watermark for the period.
In Neutral – also released in 1997, but this time on on Substance – has been resurrected by Chiwax, the Chicago-facing arm of Berlin’s Rawax label, and follows a pair of reissues of classic Kincy material on 12″. Like In And Out…, In Neutral counterpoints woozy, purposefully awkward material (‘Memory’, ‘On This Planet’) with twitchy boogie house (‘In Neutral’, ‘De Bass’); like In And Out…, it’s strong from end to end, and suggested multiple new routes of enquiry for contemporary producers. Given what we now know about Kincy’s unfortunate post-2000 story, it’s a joy to be able to spend time once again with such characterful club music.
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(Music On Vinyl)
1983’s Antarctica was the third in a trilogy of exceptional Vangelis OSTs, following on from Chariots of Fire and Blade Runner. Although comparatively diminutive in stature, it’s arguably on a similar artistic plane to its more famous siblings, if not quite in the same rarified echelon. Antarctica was written to soundtrack Kurahara’s to-the-Pole-and-back movie Nankyoku Monogatari. Originally a Japan-only release, the album proved a sought-after export, and finally got a global outing through Polydor in 1998.
Unlike other musical tributes to the tundra (Chris Watson’s work for BBC’s The Frozen Planet; Bedroom Community’s frosted output; the whole eski sub-genre), Antarctica doesn’t opt for chilly minimalism or the field recording route. Instead, it’s a rich, brocaded collection – less swoonsome than the Blade Runner soundtrack, and occasionally a touch overwrought, but still stacked with moments of synthetic rapture. Music On Vinyl’s 180g vinyl version is the record’s first expedition onto wax since the late 1980s.
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I Am The Center – Private Issue New Age In America, 1950-1990
(Light In The Attic)
New Age isn’t typically a badge worn with pride; indeed, in the last few months, both Robert Rich and Manuel Gottsching have repudiated the term around these parts – and with press photos like this doing the rounds, who can blame them? Light In The Attic, though, have made a spirited bid to reclaim the word, tracing the development of the sound from the middle of the 20th century onwards. Some names (Laraaji, Iasos, JD Emmanuel) will be familiar to enthusiasts; others (Aeolia, Gail Laughton) will likely draw blanks.
I Am The Centre is impressionistically sequenced, and, despite darting between the decades, makes for an impressively coherent listen. Just about everything is a cut above the usual $1 bargain bin chaff, with Larkin’s quivering ‘Two Souls Dance’ and Peter Davison’s swampy ‘Glide V’ proving particularly hypnotic. It’s not all incense and steam treatments, either: Master Wilburn Burchette’s might market his work as “psychic meditations music”, but there’s something deeply unsettling about these twitchy, strobing studies for processed guitar.
I Am The Center features two previously unheard tracks, plus seven others making their debut on CD and wax. The 2xCD version comes with a supplementary book featuring notes an interviews; the vinyl, meanwhile, arrives split across three discs. Deep breath…and release.
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Music for a French Elevator and Other Oddities
(Temporary Residence Ltd)
Fey plunderphonics types The Books called it a day in 2012, and waved goodbye with the hefty A Dot In Time. box set, one of our favourite special editions of the year. As well as bundling remastered vinyl versions of the duo’s four studio albums, the package also included an expanded version of 2006 rarities disc Music for a French Elevator and Other Short Format Oddities by the Books.
Temporary Residence Ltd have now given the redux version of Music for a French Elevator a limited edition release. The first four tracks are the titular elevator music, composed for a sound installation at the French Ministry of Culture in Paris. The 41 remaining pieces, meanwhile, veer all over the shop: Nick Drake covers, live fan-favourites, concrète tidbits and electroacoustic miniatures all feature. It’s a varied platter, and also includes the pair’s unreleased score for the Biosphere 2 documentary. Limited to 2000 copies; if kooky ephemera is your bag, don’t dally.
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Kompakt and Downwards are getting the lion’s share of the attention, but another seasoned label are celebrating their 20th birthday this year. Since 1993, Chicago imprint Kranky have been a happy home for all manner of alternative indie and ambient acts; Tim Hecker, Stars Of The Lid, Deerhunter and Jessica Bailiff have all passed through their (presumably luxury knotty pinewood) doors.
With the milestone in mind, the label are giving KRANK001 a second crack of the whip. Virginia trio Labradford’s debut album Prazision is an auspicious first effort – a churning set of Robert Hampson-inspired drone-rock, with the grace and poise of classic Cocteau Twins. The instrumental pieces still sound most commanding, but Mark Nelson’s vocals bring an incantatory quality redolent of the original 1960s psych cadets. Kranky’s reissue comes with some remastering polish, a new cover and plenty of goodwill.
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Song Of A Gypsy
Oft-written-about private press gem, now trading for silly money online, gets its reissue dues, courtesy of Now-Again. Los Angeles troubadour Damon put out Song Of A Gypsy on his own ANKH label on 1969, and it’s still a compelling little creature – an accomplished (and occasionally barking) spread of psych-rock and twisted blues in the manner of The Doors and Arthur Lee.
Now-Again’s deluxe reissue goes to town, offering a freshly remastered, pitch-corrected version of the LP. The record also comes bundled with a second disc, featuring all of Damon’s 1960s output and an assortment of previously unheard demos. Interested parties will also be able to peruse a supplementary booklet, featuring a new interview with Damon, an extensive essay plotting Damon’s life story, and a collection of unpublished photos.
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Home Aged & The 18 Month Hope
Before Throbbing Gristle inaugurated their macabre mission, there was COUM Transmissions – the provocative performance project overseen by Genesis P-Orridge. Operational from 1969 until 1976, the Hull group borrowed ideas from the Dada and Fluxus movements, but set their sights firmly on boundary-testing provocation – sexual subversion and occult postures were their signature moves, and 1976’s infamous ICA show Prostitution attracted the ire of red tops and true blue politicians.
Dais’ collection features a range of little-heard material recorded between 1971 and 1975. Included in the set: a recording of the band’s controversial opening spot for Hawkwind in 1971, under the pseudonym Edna and The Great Surfers; numerous radio interview fragments; gritty spoken word pieces; and an unpleasant cello freakout. Not novice-friendly, for sure, but for paid-up Dead Souls, these are fascinating additions to the TG mythology.
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MANNEQUIN / TOMMY DE CHIRICO / MUSICMECI
Age / Close Your Eyes / Schwarz Morgan/Zusammen
Italy’s Sheffield is in the spotlight on this excellent trio of releases from Mannequin, celebrating the thriving New Wave scene of Turin. First up is a reissue of Age, the 1984 debut LP from well-kept duo Monuments – a stylish set of poseur electro-pop, here improved by two extra bonus tracks. Second: Tommy De Chirico’s Close Your Eyes 12″, also from 1984, and expanded by an extra three tracks. Last of all is a tribute to Musicmeci, a thoroughly under-the-radar Minimal Wave outfit in hock to the NDW and developments in the European industrial sound. Schwarz Morgan/Zusammen plucks a selection tracks from their two self-produced demos. Benissimo!
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