Here’s an open secret: this festive season, the smart money’s on the reissue lists.
Not a surprise when you’ve got the annals of recording history to rifle through, but for all the kerfuffle about best-of-2013 lists – that annual ritual when we deck passing mutton into whatever lamb hide is lying to hand – you’ll need to turn to the reissue rundowns to find a properly worthwhile strike ratio.
2013 brought us stacks of excellent archival releases – many clocked by our monthly reissues column, some missed at the time of release but discovered down the line. The following 50 could happily have been a dud-free 100: for every entry here, there’s another quality record that didn’t quite edge the cut – a testament to the efforts of an increasingly industrious reissue circuit.
Our rundown includes scene surveys, excavated classics, wax debuts, forgotten triumphs, anniversary editions and aureate box sets. Selections date from the 1950s to recent memory, and run the gamut from Chi-town house to Swedish drone. With many of the Top 20 releases, we’ve also taken the time to track down the artists or labels behind the releases for a few words about each record. Sit back, take an hour, and enjoy – remember, you’ve only got a week or so before everyone starts telling you that Trap Lord is the new Fear Of A Black Planet.
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50. DON MURO
Muro’s self-released 1977 LP is a great malarial delirium of a record, quick-changing between lamé-shirted tweecore, trucker rock, Tangerine Dream knock-offs and supercharged Syclops electro. Frequently disorientating, and definitely too jazzed to navigate in a single sitting, It’s Time‘s devil-may-care daftness is enough to secure its place as one of the year’s juiciest guilty pleasures (whatever that term means these days, anyway).
Spencer Kincy’s second full-length, released in 1997, isn’t quite the equal of the coterminous In And Out Of Fog And Lights, but it’s still a fine testament to Kincy’s wildcard variation on second wave Chicago house. In Neutral is rarely that – the bouncy boogie cuts (‘De Bass’, the title track) crank up into third gear, whereas the more psychedelic efforts (see the unhinged ‘On This Planet’) see Kincy operating in fifth.
48. FOUR TET
Welcome to the canon, Rounds. Now that Four Tet holds svengali status – to his credit, a position his packhorse workload suggests he doesn’t take lightly – the 10th anniversary reissue of his best-loved album cemented its status as a default go-to for those who like their electronica with a big old soft spot. Domino’s reissue could have been handled more tenderly – are some live cuts all we get? – but as Jon Hopkins’ wimpy Immunity has a (sort-of) mainstream moment, it’s worth remembering exactly how good this sort of beat-music-for-pansies can sound.
Dragging A Dead Dear Up A Hill
Mark our words – if Kranky had pulled out some extra goodies for their re-spin of Liz Harris’ stunning 2008 breakthrough, this would have dragged its deer all the way up to the upper echelons of this chart. As it happens, we got a faithful prepress of the heavy-hearted Oregon shoegazer’s finest album on vinyl and CD – still harrowed, still gorgeous.
46. JOE MEEK
I Hear A New World
Originally conceived as a stereo test for hi-fi shops, I Hear A New World has, through a mixture of happy accident and retroactive critical lobbying, been pegged as a key record in the development of studio-led pop experimentation. At its best, it’s proper mad genius stuff, most notably on the goo-goo doo-wop of the title track. Freshly remastered, PoppyDisc’s edition contains a supplementary 35-minute interview with Meek, including a tour of his Holloway Road cave of wonders.
Celestial Music 1978-2011
Our favourite stand-up turned zither technician turned laughter coach raids the vaults as part of All Saints’ welcome Laraaji reissue drive. Odds’n’sods collection Celestial Music 1978-2011 boasts plenty of material cut from the same tie-dyed cloth as 1980’s seminal Day Of Radiance LP, released as part of Brian Eno’s Ambient series. Alongside the coruscating ambient works, though, Celestial Music also presents the many sides of this often inspired (if sometimes confounding) artist – synth pieces, proper songs, collabs (Bill Laswell and Blues Control), and other cosmically aligned ephemera.
44. A.K. KLOSOWSKI & PYROLATOR
Home Taping Is Killing Music
With a title bootlegged from the BPI’s anti-piracy adverts, Home Taping Is Killing Music is a great exercise in sampledelic free play and cheeky compositional thumb-biting. D.A.F/Der Plan member and NDW player Pyrolator provides the same sort of brittle, colourful beats as last years Inland/Ausland reissues, but it’s the loony interventions from sound collagist Klosowski that gives this proper oddball oomph.
Irene And Mavis
From 1982-85, Blancmange rubbed padded shoulders with the likes of Soft Cell, The Human League and Depeche Mode, churning out gently kooky New Wave that, for a few years at least, got a free pass into the Top 20. Before they discovered pop gloss, though, they did a neat line in quirky coldwave, as exemplified by Minimal Wave’s lovely reissue of their rare-as-hell 1980 EP Irene And Mavis. Cracked and charming, it’s arguably the best thing they ever did.
42. FOLKE RABE
Crafted by Swedish composer Folke Rabe in 1967, electroacoustic piece What?? has long been canonised as one of minimalism’s great early touchstones. Much is made of its static quality – petrified drones, made up of layered harmonics, endlessly sustained – but, once you alight on What??’s frequency, Rabe’s subtle modulations start to feel like grand, moving gestures. First reissued on Cigar in 1997, Important’s definitive 2013 edition arrives with extra biographical materials from Rabe’s archives. Fathoms-deep listening.
For once, a rock reissue worth a fan’s pocket money. Where most repackaged/remastered/regurgitated “classic” albums come with little more than a wodge of never-to-be-read liner notes and a dash of fairydust over the master tapes, this bumper box set includes a refurbished ‘2013 Mix’ by In Utero’s intended producer Steve Albini, whose visceral plug-in-and-play approach triggered an emergency response (drafting in R.E.M. producer Scott Litt) from label bosses crabbing for radio friendly unit shifters.
The differences in Albini’s new mix are minor (dissonant cello moans in ‘Serve The Servants’; Cobain’s voice stripped back to an eerily macabre wisp of the plumped-up, double-tracked rawk vocal of the original) but it feels like justice has been done. Additionally, the vinyl set comes as a double 12” to be played at 45rpm, which as Albini explained to The Chicagoist in September, “is as good as records can be made. You literally can’t do anything more to ensure fidelity on a record than all the steps that we took for that record.” The 20th Anniversary edition also includes more than 40 tracks of unreleased demos, rehearsals, B-sides, live performances and a recently discovered Nirvana instrumental, plus an essay by comedian Bobcat Goldthwait. Tuck in.
Music For Dancefloors: The KPM Music Library
Plundered by the likes of Madlib, DOOM and Dangermouse, then re-plundered by people who want to sound like Madlib, DOOM and Dangermouse, this 2000 compilation of library music hothouse KPM Records finally returns to print. As a particular sort of digger will tell you, Music For Dancefloors is one of the best regarded collections of its ilk, with Keith Mansfield, Alan Parker and John Cameron among the incidental music titans called to arms. The supplementary live disc is a wheeze, too.
39. PARRIS MITCHELL / ROBERT ARMANI
Project / Collection
Chicago’s home for down-and-dirty dance tracks spent the last 10 years-plus defunct, even as the ghetto house sound it pioneered influenced a whole new generation of producers. Thankfully, the recent interest spurred original owner Ray Barney and producer Parris Mitchell to relaunch the label. Along with remastered favorites by label mainstay Robert Armani is the seminal Parris Mitchell Project EP — yes, the one with raunchfest ‘All Night Long’ on it. Not too shabby for a first slate, and from the sound of it, they’re just getting started.
38. WILLIAM ONYEABOR
World Psychedelic Classic 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?
Five years in the making, Who Is William Onyeabor? is the first official release by the veteran Nigerian funk musician, Moog-fancier and all-round mystery man, who may have owned a semolina factory, studied in Russia and built a film studio in his 70-plus years – or he may not. When Luaka Bop finally tracked Onyeabor down a few years ago, he offered no tidy answers – hence the question mark hanging off this reissue, which compiles nine tracks that originally appeared across his self-released eight-album run between 1977 and 1985. Exuberant, political and funky as hell, with many tracks touching the 10-minute mark, Who Is… frames Onyeabor as a forgotten hero of electronic music, a rarity among African musicians of his generation in his preference for crunchy, analogue synthesisers above traditional instruments or electric guitar. The sheer steamrollering ebullience of ‘Good Name’ and ‘Let’s Fall In Love’ (Nigeria’s answer to minimal wave) are worth the entrance fee alone.
37. VARIOUS ARTISTS
I Am The Center – Private Issue New Age In America, 1950-1990
(Light In The Attic)
New age isn’t the pejorative term it once was – Emeralds, OPN, Nils Frahm et al have long seen to that – but it’s still a very narrow one, gesturing towards a particular brand of airy-fairy, cotton-cosseted cosmowhimsy. Light In The Attic’s compilation does a stand-up job of reflecting the diversity of the sound – from resonant guitar picking (Wilburn Burchette) to synth drone (Daniel Emmanuel) to ecstatic arpeggiator music (Michael Stearns). Not for everyone, but will soothe hearts and minds even if it doesn’t win them.
36. MARTIN REV
The first of a number of stellar 2013 reissues from San Fran archival label Superior Viaduct, the 1980 solo debut of Suicide arch-freak Martin Rev still delivers in spades. Released hot on the heels of Suicide’s comparatively brutal Second Album, Martin Rev is an album for gluttons – full of rich synths, flamingo-pink synth trills, gorgeous melodies and lovely synth fuzz. The 2013 edition marks its first return to vinyl in over three decades, and comes with an interview with supreme authority on these things, Alan Licht.
35. GHERKIN JERKS
Alleviated Records Presents Gherkin Jerks
Anonymously released in the late 1980s through the short-lived (and fondly remembered) Gherkin Record imprint, the Gherkin Jerks’ two LPs show Larry Heard on some of the weirdest form of his career: sci-fi pedlar on ‘Saturn V’, acid oddbod on ‘Acid Indigestion’, trembling neurasthenic on ‘Din Sync’. Issued by Heard’s Alleviated Records in collaboration with Clone, Alleviated Presents The Gherkin Jerks gives the originals a scrub-up, and bungs in some unheard (and, this being Gherkin Jerks, unhinged) material too.
Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller IV
We’ve repped Clone’s ongoing Drexciya compilation series time and time again in our reissue rundowns, but the final instalment deserves special commendation for diving a few leagues deeper, sticking to rarer tracks and throwing five unheard ones in for good measure. Given Drexciya’s – whisper it – slightly patchy album record, Clone’s series remains the best way of dunking oneself in their slippery aqua-techno.
33. MAURICE DEEBANK
Inner Thought Zone
Deebank performed with cult indie sect Felt when their music was at its most, well, felt-like – colourful, alluring, soft to the touch. That same spirit is present in abundance on 1984’s Inner Thought Zone, a stunning set of ornate guitar filigree, all acciaccaturas and tangled arpeggios. Although broadly reissued in line with 1972 Records’ general reissue policy – slap it on wax, call it a day – this issue comes with new liner notes, and still gets mondo credit for providing the album’s first outing in two decades, and its first vinyl pressing in quite a bit longer.
Alice In Acidland
Berserker techno, flung directly from the epicentre of the acid house movement like a deckchair spat out by a cyclone. It’s taken recent releases for the likes of Sex Tags Mania and Digitalis to really bring the veteran Swedish all-analogue trio to prominence, but this 1993 early work – released in a limited run of 500 by iDEAL – serves as a punchy reminder that they’ve been causing trouble at 145bpm since Hector was a pup.
31. ROBBIE BASHO
Visions Of The Country
Quavering troubleman music sung straight from the gut. Part of the same axis as John Fahey, Basho’s whale-throated take on the American blues tradition still has the power to shake listeners to the core. Out-of-print since the late 1980s, Visions Of The Country is beautifully played and performed with the sort of zeal few contemporaries could muster. Gnome Life treats holy materials with due reverence, producing a fine remaster from the original master tapes.
Dawn Of A New Age
Vintage UK vocal techno with a cosmic bent? If it’s going. Where contemporaries like 808 State were wreaking exuberant havoc, Mustafa Ali’s LP is locked into the darker corners of the Detroit and Chicago traditions, sharing malformed DNA with Cybotron and Final Cut. Moderately well-read techno scholars will have encountered the ‘Distant Drums’ 12″ on BPM, but this 1990 album frequently matches it – and, sometimes, surpasses – it.
29. CABARET VOLTAIRE
#8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985)
Had Mute fixed their attention on the group’s superior work prior to Chris Watson’s departure in 1981, their recent Cabaret Voltaire reissue run would have been been a shoo-in for one of the very top spots on this chart. As it happens, we got a reissue of 1981’s politically charged Red Mecca, and this sprawling collection of the band’s post-Watson second phase. Although not the band’s finest chapter, the records grouped here – The Crackdown, Micro-Phonies, Drinking Gasoline and The Covenant, The Sword And The Arm Of The Lord, plus unreleased material disc Earthshaker – testify to the Sheffield legends’ polyglot sensibilities, and have been assembled with care and flair. Next year’s 1978-85 survey should redress the balance.
28. HALF JAPANESE
1/2 Gentlemen / Not Beasts
If any album didn’t require an expanded reissue, it’s Half Japanese’s fantastically reckless 1980 3xLP debut – but here’s this shelf-compromising box set from Fire Records anyway. The Fair brothers’ lo-fi epic is still as picaresque as ever, meandering from Springsteen covers to between-take mutterings to No Wave tantrums to pretty miniatures. Also bundled: stacks of unheard material, 1977’s Calling All Girls EP, a 32-page book, new annotations and a poster. Greedy as a gannet, but totally in keeping with the free-associating excess of the original.
Great Dose of Monotonous Techno
Though this record’s five-word title provides a pretty accurate description of its contents, we might throw a few more adjectives in the pot to conjure the crepuscular magic of the late Joel Brindefalk’s 40-minute bludgeoner, lovingly exhumed by Digitalis from a 1992 cassette issued by Börft Records. How about dingy, muculent and rabid, for starters? But though it’d be easy to file this alongside the burgeoning subgenre of rave nostalgia (“ee, the beans were better in my day”), A Great Dose… transcends all that retro fetishism to stand as a brain-boggling monolith of ur-techno; utterly primitive yet built to last beyond us all.
26. RICHARD BAND
Richard Band is undoubtedly one of the unsung heroes of American horror cinema, and while he might have snatched more than a liberal helping of Bernard Herrmann’s influential Psycho score while making it, Re-Animator stands as his crowning achievement. Using our own memories of Psycho to hint at the mental state of the film’s anti-hero Herbert West, Band melts the themes into a suite of quick, tense cues and creates an unforgettable mood. It’s Band’s ability to inject humour into the blackest horror that is most incredible, and we can hope that as the years go on, his legacy will finally be more widely understood. Until then, it’s our secret.
25. MAJA RATKJE
Cribbing from sound poetry, noise and musqiue concrete, this 2002 Rune Grammofon LP – now reissued on vinyl for the first time – is the stuff of wonderful nightmares – a churning, terrifying suite of merciless vocal processing. Ratkje’s an ex-punk, and it shows in the vigour with which she tortures her voice; Kurt Schwitters’ Dadaist cant and Ghedalia Tarzates’ feral mulch-music are good points of comparison, but, at its best, Voice is properly sui generis. Pure stunning horror, and essential second-step listening for anyone gassed/repelled by Karin Dreijer’s vocal fuckery.
Celluloid: The Celluloid Records Story 1979-1987
Eclectic? You young pups don’t know the meaning of the word. From 1980-1987, Jean Karakos’ label was a proper Noah’s Ark, welcoming in all manner of apparently incompatible species, with Bill Laswell acting as chief herdsman. Although best known for its involvement in hip-hop’s salad days – Time Zone, Fab 5 Freddy and Futura 2000 all appeared on the label – Celluloid flung its money behind world music (Tour Kunda), coldwave (Nina Raviolette), jazz (John McLaughlin), and eccentric pop (Thomas Leer). It’s a confusing story, but Strut’s collection tells it brilliantly.
23. DATA 70
Space Loops: The Complete Sessions
The Kitsch Konducta, anyone? Bob Bharma, aka West Norwood Cassette Library, and Jon Chambers have been putting out radiophonic tidbits on 7″ vinyl as Data70 since 2004, and The Complete Sessions collects all 50 previously released micro-loops, most barely a minute long, in one place. It’s an ideal way to consume them – little bits of space debris that drift into view, catch the light, then quietly tumble out of sight. Ambient music for raging metabolisms.
22. PALM HIGHWAY CHASE
Escape From New York
Released for free in 2009, and this year granted a full release by Spectrum Spools, Escape from New York has proved to have more lasting value than the majority of music grouped in with the “hypnagogic pop” quasi-scene of the time, coupling subtly tense synthesiser work with surreal atmospherics and the sort of climaxes that could feel stadium-sized, were the edges not smudged beyond recognition.
21. PHILL NIBLOCK
Nothin To Look At Just A Record
Niblock – still at it today, despite being in his 80s – was already a sizeable figure in minimalism by the time he released his 1982 debut LP Nothin To Look At Just A Record. These two pieces, each running to over 20 minutes, present laminar trombone drones (Niblock retroactively edited out pauses for breath to create the illusion of sustained legato tones). There are differences in character – the first track is forbidding, the second gentler in tone – but both pieces are marvels of scale – great granite anchors to steady the mind. The means are minimal, the title self-effacing – but the impact is seismic. Reissued on vinyl for the first time in 30 years.
20. NATURAL SNOW BUILDINGS
Daughters Of Darkness
(Ba Da Bing!)
On the surface, French duo Natural Snow Buildings make harsh music, but it’s a worldly sort of noise: lush exotica, Sun Kil Moon’s quiet acoustic guitars, Morricone, Loren Conners’ nachtmusik, Stars Of The Lids’ dawn-lit sound sculptures…they’re all there under the layers of distortion. Running to well over six hours, Daughters Of Darkness presents their rattled drone-folk at its grandest. It’s elevated by Ba Da Bing!’s immaculate package – an 8xLP set in a bespoke hand-painted box, a supplementary CD with a cache of extra material, and some stickers. Considered alongside reissues of the slimmer Night Coercion in the Company of Witches and The Snowbringer Cult, this should help make a marginal act, well, marginally less marginal.
(Unknown To The Unknown)
Crunchy garage house from 1992, with some lovely soupy organs, disjointed bongy bits and a general vibe of having been repeatedly strongarmed through a hedge backwards. Alongside the amped-up Ruffneck Mix that accompanied the original, UTTU chuck on a convulsive 2-step edit from Marquis Hawkes and a giddy sax-led take from Capracara. Still eminently rinseworthy.
DJ Haus: I came across this record on the FEELMYBICEP blog (which i’m OBSESSED with, haha), I also heard it numerous times before, but that’s when I found it available as digital. Anyway, it turns out that Jim at SOTU, a friend of a friend, DJs with Yogi (OHM) these days, and also my distro Rubadub knew him over the years, as he’s kinda a Scottish dance legend. I basically got his number off Jim, gave him a call, and hey presto, he was up for it! Sometimes it really is that easy. I later found out this was the first UK record to EVER use the M1 organ sound, so again it just kept giving…
18. DWIGHT SYKES
Songs Vol. 1
Bless PPU for digging up this set of shoestring boogie – Dam-Funk dazzle on a Hype Williams budget. The short-but-delightful compilation collects choice works from Michigan eccentric Dwight Sykes, recorded around the early 1980s on four-track cassette following stints with a number of local soul combos. On highlights like ‘In The Life Zone’, the super-rickety production and songwriting work in perfect synthesis – granular slow-jams, underscored by deep existential ache.
Dwight Sykes: My name is Dwight Sykes A.k.A (Sportycat). The album Songs Volume One on PPU Records, compiled by Andrew Morgan, represents a great time in my life, dealing with players like James Fields on (keys) on the song (After Midnight), vocalist Bobby Lewis on the song (In The Life Zone), and Paula Smith on the song (That’s The Way Love Is). To all of you (Where Ever You Are), we had some of the (Good Times) and the way I feel, about you all, I hate that I have to say good (BYE). You are the best of friends, in my life I want the world to know, (‘You That I Need’). Dwight Sykes A.K.A SPORTYCAT
Kill Yourself Dancing: The Story of Sunset Records Inc Chicago 1985-89
Chicago house reissues ruled the roost in 2013, and Still – bods behind last year’s essential 122 BPM: The Birth Of House Music compilation – led the charge, commemorating neglected first-wave label Sunset Records (and, on a separate collection, spin-off imprint AKA Music). Kill Yourself Dancing captures house in its formative years, and there’s an anything-goes quality that reflects the music’s plasticine-like capacity to mould to different ideas – see Razz’s take on deep-freeze European electro-pop, Modern Mechanical Music’s arty concrete, White Knight’s twitchy acid variations, and abyssal psychosexual freakout ‘Jailbait’.
Jerome Derradji, Still Music: Compiling Sunset Records was a dream come true for me. I’ve been a fan of the label for ages. Getting to work with Alex Rojo, Matt Warren, Miguel Garcia, The White Knight and all the other cats was amazing. These guys are a tight crew of super-talented producers and DJs that encompass the true sound of Chicago. Jacob Arnold was also key in getting their story together. I’ve learned a lot about house, and I am even more a fan of the label than when I started this comp. Finally, I’ve got the chance to see Matt Warren and Miguel Garcia perform their original tracks live in Chicago with their old gear, and that alone is worth gold. I hope some of you get to see this soon! Thank you all for supporting the real pioneers!
Matt Warren, Sunset Records: Wow!! We’re extremely excited about making the Fact mag top 20 comps. All of us at Sunset Records appreciate all the love that we’ve been shown for this incredible comp that Jerome @ Still Music put together.
16. JOHN CARPENTER
Assault On Precinct 13
It’s hard to argue with John Carpenter’s early scores, and his accompaniment to low-budget thriller Assault on Precinct 13 (only his second movie) is hard to argue with. It’s the stark simplicity that’s the key, and Carpenter smartly uses his limited palette to mirror the film’s terrifying, ominous isolation. It’s not only a classic for mere soundtrack bods either; countless electro records would end up ripping off (or even sampling) the theme and its unmistakable rattling rhythm, and it’s still being recycled today. It’s encouraging to see the hard working folks over at Death Waltz giving Assault on Precinct 13 the royal treatment it’s always deserved.
John Carpenter: “The soundtrack for Assault On Precinct 13 was recorded in one day (if my memory serves me), so by necessity it was the model of simplicity. Dan Wyman was the electronic music instructor at USC and provided all the gear. Tube amps. Each had to be tuned. One high note was a semitone off, unfortunately, but it seems to add a bit of unease. This score is minimalism, to be sure, something that really doesn’t exist in cinema these days.”
15. LEVEN SIGNS
Hemp Is Here
The problem with ‘lost’ albums is that sometimes they were lost for a reason. Not so Leven Signs’ confounding and brilliant Hemp is Here – an album that sounds as if it was lost simply because people didn’t know what to make of it. We still don’t really know what to make of it now, to be honest: it’s a bizarre fusion of ethnic instrumentation, electronics and peculiar folk, and it doesn’t sound anything else out there. At a time when it’s commonplace to assume everything’s been done before, to learn that something so singular was put together in 1985 and everyone ignored it is astounding. Rarified and near perfect.
Peter Karkut, Leven Signs: Hemp is Here was made on a four track reel to reel tape deck without the luxury of a sampler, and mixed down to cassette tape. The whole process was borne out of the financial restraints of Thatcher’s dole culture. We didn’t realise at the time that these limitations were allowing our creativity to find a very original path. We had a rehearsal studio in a cellar in Shad Thames before the London docklands were developed. Upstairs a friend had a huge ethnic record collection with Gamelan, African and Middle Eastern LPs. While playing a Turkish LPs, the record got stuck in a groove. I used this lockgroove on the track ‘Our Position Vanishes’. The record employed many tape loops and a single wasp synthesiser. A microphone was put down a large plastic drainpipe in an attempt to make it sound like a bassoon – listen to the track ‘Prague Spring’ for the results. I feel the record belongs to a very different culture, that of London before it celebrated the multicultural heritage it now has.
14. BERNARD PARMEGIANI
De Natura Sonorum
Electroacoustic giant Bernard Parmegiani sadly passed away earlier this year, and it’s heartening to know that the uninitiated will have this reissue from Mego’s Recollection GRM unit as a first port of call. 1975’s De Natura Sonorum is his greatest triumph – an otherworldly collage work blending natural and synthesized sound, full of wonder and teeming with life. If you’re yet to dabble in musique concrete, there’s not a better place to start – and as the cataract of artist tributes gushing in following his death suggested, you’ll be following a path previously trod by good company. Recollection GRM’s edition marks the vinyl debut of Parmegiani’s full, unedited composition. The most radical record on this list, bar none.
Christian Zanési, Peter Rehberg & François Bonnet: De Natura Sonorum is Bernard Parmegiani’s masterpiece. De Natura, as we call it at GRM, has been very important to several generation of musicians involved in the electroacoustic, electronic and experimental fields. As this piece has been composed in an exclusively analog studio, it seemed obvious for us to repress it as a vinyl, and for the first time in its full version. It’s a key release in the Recollection GRM series and we are truly happy that Bernard has been able to witness the great enthusiasm his music triggers to a new generation of listeners, before he left us.
13. X-RAY POP
Pirate! The Dark Side of X!
None of the kohl-eyed posturing and wheedling despair of your next 1980s coldwave crew – this ultra-rare 1985 collection from French larkers X-Ray Pop offers strutting peacock pop, tossed out at speed on primitive synths and drum machines. The nugacities (‘Nana Electronique’, ‘Funky Cat’) make no apologies for their daftness; the gloomier cuts (‘L’Eurasienne’, ‘Amazone’ ) are spotted with breakbeats and abrupt tempo changes. The whole thing chugs along at a breakneck pace, and it takes a heart of slate not to be swept along in the excitement. Consider alongside Finders Keepers’ three-part Ding Dong… reissue series.
12. JORGE VELEZ
MMT Tape Series: Home Recordings 1996-1999
There couldn’t have been a better year for Professor Genius to plumb the depths of his studio vaults and dig out his crustiest early productions. Dubbed to tape in the mid-90s, this collection of early techno and deep house experiments sounds completely in line with L.I.E.S. and The Trilogy Tapes’ mussed-up funk, and trumps many of the newcomers too. The real deal, basically.
Jorge Velez: When people tell me how much they like the MMT Tapes I am humbled. When I made this music – as I do with my current music – I was purely involved in the process of creating and exploring with no expectations of anyone being interested in it. To know that it’s appreciated is always an honour and surprise.
11. POPOL VUH
Affenstunde / In den Gärten Pharaos / Hosianna Mantra / Seligpreisung / Einsjäger und Siebenjäger
Florian Fricke’s back catalogue has been begging for the deluxe treatment for some time, and Popol Vuh’s early run of albums is the ripest for the picking. From Affenstunde’s eerie, transcendental electronics to Hosianna Mantra’s impossibly beautiful devotional songs, there’s the sense that Fricke was working slightly outside of our world, and that’s exactly what has been the key to Popol Vuh’s longevity and resounding influence. Essential doesn’t even come close.
The Wah Wah Team: We have been reissuing a lot of German LPs from the period. The original records are not cheap, plus they are difficult to find, and since we love the vinyl format, we think it is important to offer affordable versions. We make all efforts to make them look and sound as close to the originals as possible – quality sound, quality laminated sleeves – and we always try to add a few bonuses: inserts with notes, bonus 7″ like in the case of Hosianna Mantra, posters…
For the Popol Vuh reissues we were able to contact Johannes Fricke, Florian Fricke’s son, who fancied the idea of making the albums available in LP format again, and has been very helpful in all the process. He is specially interested in making his father’s recordings available to new generations, which is something you can do through reissues (young people usually have a harder time gathering the money for the original copies). And he is right in looking for that: Popol Vuh weere ahead of their time, and many of the paths they opened are followed by many young artists today, plus many youngsters are going back to vinyl these days – it made a lot of sense to reissue these great works now and in that format.
We started with an initial limited edition of 500 copies. It’s generally the way we work – we are a small label and have little warehouse space here, so we go for limited editions. In the case of Popol Vuh, though, they have been very sucessful and we are now offering a new run of 500 extra copies on each album. Which we are seeing will also run out fast: there is no doubt that people was waiting for these to be available on LP again and that their music still keeps all the original charm and sense of innovation as it did when it was originally released.
Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong
Pastoral jolliness, spooky dub interludes, lilting folk in the Vashti Bunyan mould, guitar hero kosmische, waltz-time proto-folktronica…Woo’s cult 1982 LP certainly goes a lot of ways, although it does so quietly and without excess fuss. Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong wears its Englishness on its sleeve, but opens up occasional pockets of strangeness and unease – the termites tunnelling under the bowling green. Emotional Rescue’s remaster marks the first ever reissue of the Ives brothers’ debut album, and the increased exposure should hopefully secure Whichever Way…‘s place alongside better-remembered records like Penguin Cafe Orchestra or Rimarimba’s Below The Horizon.
Clive & Mark Ives: The thirteen tracks on Whichever Way… were selected from five years of home recording from 1976 -1981. When I listen to the album now, I still feel a great satisfaction in how the music creates an unpredictable flow, combining these diverse musical styles.
Much of the album is based around a Roland System 100 synthesizer, from which Mark was able to input his guitars and clarinet, sending his audio signal through the synth and sequencer! With this possibility, we entered a whole new dimension. We experimented with many different variations with this set-up. For example, Mark playing the chords on the guitar and using the sequencer to create the rhythm. Or Mark could play and I could shape and phrase his playing via the keyboard and the oscillators within the synth.
Organic, unpredictable, mysterious things would happen when we allowed the technology to be set free. Sometimes 1 and 1 made 3, and we were in creative heaven. From there, the mind enters into the equation, and starts to envisage endless sounds upon sounds, combining musical influences and making them into something new.
09. MIKE RATLEDGE
Riddles Of The Sphinx
Curatorial brownie points to Mordant Music for unearthing Soft Machine man Mike Ratledge’s soundtrack to Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen’s feminocentric Riddles Of The Sphinx (1977). Composed on Moog, ARP and VCS-AKS synthesisers, Ratledge’s ten “Sequences” are firmly rooted in late 1960s minimalism – closer in spirit to Terry Riley’s soupy works for organ than the staff-wielding pomp of the New Age and prog brigade. The results sound like an album-length collage of Geogaddi‘s spookier nooks – a fever dream of trilling synth motifs, playground chatter, sex poetry and automatic writing. Genuinely essential listening for enthusiasts of Delia Derbyshire’s The Dreams experiments and the Ghost Box aesthetic, and highly, highly recommended for everyone else too.
Rob Young (The Wire): The film was made in the year immediately following Ratledge’s departure from Soft Machine, which over the decade since 1966 had mutated from a psychedelic pop band to a whimsical yet diamond-sharp progressive rock act, and – following the exit of Robert Wyatt – a dedicated jazz rock/fusion ensemble providing a decidedly British take on the electric haze of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. In its final mid-seventies phase Soft Machine – ‘a load of sociopaths in a petri dish’, as Ratledge puts it – had foundered under the twin pressures of trying to remain challenging yet seeking larger audiences, and were put under further pressure by the advent of punk rock. The commission from Mulvey and Wollen came at this moment of transition for the group, and allowed the newly solo Ratledge to explore a more formal style, influenced in part by the tape loop work of West Coast composer Terry Riley, such as Reed Streams and A Rainbow in Curved Air. These provided a respite from the more fluid and freewheeling keyboard extemporisations demanded by Soft Machine. ‘You don’t want to do that kind of stuff when you’ve got four great improvising musicians with you – you don’t want to lock them into patterns,’ Ratledge says, adding that the main challenge of creating the Sphinx soundtrack was ‘finding the right kind of support for the image and the story. You didn’t really want any development in the music because there was no development in the picture, nor any illusory emotional content that wasn’t there, so stasis fitted perfectly.’
08. LEE HAZLEWOOD INDUSTRIES
There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving, 1966-71
(Light In The Attic)
A figure as colourful – and, often, downright weird – as 1960s megastar Lee Hazlewood deserves a properly orotund set, and that’s exactly what super-fans Light in The Attic have delivered. Seven years in the making, There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving touts four CDs of lush, heavily orchestrated pop, featuring all of Hazlewood’s LHI albums and singles, plus a broad selection of work by his lesser-known charges (Honey Ltd, Lynn Castle, Sanford Clark, etc.) The Deluxe edition is a proper bundle of wonders: a stunning 172-page LP-sized hardcover book, full of rare photos, timelines and essays; a debut DVD release of Hazlewood’s 1970 TV film Cowboy In Sweden; a flexi-disc of studio chatter; high-quality DVD versions of the music; and a replica business card and Hazlewood Airlines ticket. Pour some neat whiskey, mourn your wispy Movember botch-job, and enjoy.
07. EDUARD ARTEMIEV
Eduard Artemiev’s chilling score to Solaris is almost as moving as Andrei Tarkovsky’s peerless icy visuals. Artemiev mirrors Tarkovsky’s exploration of memory and piety with lilting drones and tones from his towering ANS modular synthesizer, effortlessly drifting into apostolic organ renditions of Bach’s ‘Chorale Prelude in F-Minor’. Frightening and occasionally revelatory, Solaris demands close, solitary listening.
Superior Viaduct: What one always remembers about Tarkovsky’s films are how amazing his images are. That was the primary inspiration for the Solaris soundtrack artwork. Three different cover designs with hand-applied photographs and debossing. A booklet of beautiful film stills. We sincerely appreciate the help and support of Andrei Tarkovsky Jr. for opening up his archive to us. We will be working on The Mirror and Stalker soundtracks in early 2014.
06. VOX POPULI!
Half Dead Ganja Music
Another recently-unearthed ’80s underground gem, Vox Populi!’s Half Dead Ganja Music is as confusing and rewarding as the title might suggest. Disembodied, ghostly trails of songs are clouded with arching analogue synthesizer tones and hummed vocals – think Grouper and Popol Vuh dubbed to a TDK D90 by The Skaters, and you’ll be on the right track.
Charles, Pacific City Sound Visions: I secretly put Half Dead on in 1996 while my new hippy friends were in the forest on mushrooms, when they came back they all thought the world was ending. They were screaming and looking for their Ani DiFranco tapes. The music on this record breathes like an organism, and lives like a secret. It’s no surprise that Axel from VP!’s mother worked for P. Schaeffer and his father wrote a famous book on Bunuel. This is a GEM (as are so many other of their records) that one must experience for themselves; there is inherent magic in Half Dead Ganja Music that allows one to have an experience, as though it were something you had already experienced in the dreamworld.
05. HAILU MERGIA
Hailu Mergia and his Classical Instrument
(Awesome Tapes From Africa)
Blog-turned label Awesome Tapes From Africa had a top-drawer 2013, releasing Penny Penny’s legendary 1994 South African deep house album Shaka Bundu, plus the muggy grooves of Dur-Dur Band’s 1985 Volume 5 LP. Standout by a league, though, was this enchanting one-man-band collection from 1985. Anyone who’s fallen for Mulatu Astaqué’s languid Ethio-jazz simply has to hear this, stet. Using multi-tracked electric piano, accordion and analogue synth, Mergia makes serpentine Ethiopian jazz, but trades in the usual folk instruments for big fat beefy synth leads. Comfort food, prime for scoffing.
Brian Shimkovitz (Awesome Tapes From Africa): After I brought this tape back from Ethiopia, I found myself quickly obsessed with the different kind of sound you can hear in Hailu’s music. I looked for him immediately, and surprisingly found his cell number online. I told him the intention was to get him playing shows if possible, and that has been the most important thing for him, to make this music alive again. Listening to the record a lot the last few weeks, I’m not yet getting sick of this vibe he creates.
(Riot Season Records)
1996’s Mellow Out has long been one of the great dark grails for Japrock enthusiasts. Originally released in a small-scale pressing by Charnel, the album has been a fierce bugger to snout out since. Which is a bitch, because this debut from Mainliner – Asahito Nanjo (of 1980s noisemongers High Rise), Acid Mothers Temple high-priest Kawabata Makoto, and free-jazz drummer Hajime Koizumi – is well up there with the best heavy rock records of the 1990s. Brawny, fuzzed-out stoner rock with moments of blinding noise, it’s schooled in First Wave blues, but more than happy to set fire to the rulebook when required.
Riot Season: When I started the label back in the mid ’00s, the sole purpose was to reissue this classic. It had been out of print for years and it badly needed doing. Fast forward to 2013 and the need struck again. Both the original CD (on Charnel Music) and my own subsequent CD and vinyl reissues had long been out of print so a second re-re-issue was needed.To my ears it remains THE defining noise-rock (or whatever you wish to call it) album
It’s hard to believe that Vangelis’ seminal score for Ridley Scott’s influential ’80s sci-fi flick Blade Runner took this long to see a vinyl release. It’s worth the wait, though, and sounds just as good now as it no doubt did when it first graced cinema screens back in 1982. There’s something simply awe-inspiring about the Greek composer’s use of electronics as he fuses gorgeous synth washes with traditional folk melodies to create soundscapes that are at once both futuristic and awkwardly human. If there’s a better soundtrack to dystopia, we’ve yet to hear it.
Marshall Blonstein (Audio Fidelity): Every once in a while a music collection completely surprises you – that’s the case with Vangelis’ Blade Runner. We chose the album because the strong consumer following of the motion picture and because upon listening to what was available in the marketplace we knew we could vastly improve the sound. When I heard the album remastered by our Engineers, I was blown away by the sound, and then we added the red translucent 180g vinyl. The sound along with unique look of the collection now made our Blade Runner something very special. We even did a video of the Engineer, Kevin Gray, mastering the album. The response was immediate. The acceptance from the marketplace exceeded all of our expectations. Vangelis’ Blade Runner continues to sell and is by far our best-selling album.
Some reissues succeed by letting you on a secret you never knew; for others, its their sheer beauty that captivates. For Traxbox, the appeal is pretty simple – it’s bloody huge, and it features some of the best music ever made. Sixteen CDs worth of foundation house and techno – from Phuture’s groundbreaking ‘Acid Tracks’ to the Virgo Four’s wide-eyed ‘Do You Know Who You Are?’; Ron Hardy’s mythologised ‘Sensation’ to Marshall Jefferson’s few-more-belting ‘Ride the Rhythm’. What more do you want? Royalties?
Ian Dewhirst (Harmless Records): The idea to do a complete top-of-the-range deluxe box set of the Trax Records early output was as a direct reaction against the historical image of the label, which, traditionally, has always been cheap and nasty. For instance, the original 12” releases were generally pressed on recycled vinyl, the sleeves were from recycled cardboard, and there was obviously zero artistic creativity in both the label and 12” sleeve designs. It’s fair to say that the complete Trax operation was designed to claw every last nickel of value from every release, and that ethos was always associated with the label from day one. Plus there’d been numerous Trax compilations over the years, which further compounded the image, which I thought was a shame considering how influential the label was and how many careers it ultimately nurtured. In short, I thought it was time that the label got presented properly, if only so that people could get beyond the cheap/low budget mentality of the label.
The execution of the process was pretty expensive. We re-mastered everything from scratch again from a variety of sources in order to get a uniformity of sound throughout the package, which I deemed necessary due to the audio disappointments of the past. We had to hunt down masters from across the globe and sometimes went through half a dozen sources before we found the best one. The re-mastering process alone probably took 4 months and I’m eternally indebted to Arjan Rietvink in Holland who mastered both the Acid Rain and Traxbox packages with great success. Veteran collector Jonathan Woodliffe was essentially the co-compiler and my hands-on Trax detective for tracking down decent masters. Jonathan has always been a music hound over the last 40 years I’ve known him, so I knew I could rely on him to dig out stuff that would have eluded most people. Bill Brewster is another consummate professional and I knew I could rely on Bill to edit the 100-page booklet to the highest degree. Photos were a bugger to locate but eventually those two stalwarts Dave Swindells and John Stoddart came through, as did Marshall Jefferson with some handy pics from his archive. I still wanted the blunt brutality of the Trax image to come through, so who better than Aidan Hughes, founder of Brute magazine, who came up with the cover illustration. Finally the crack teams of Jaffa @ the Unknown and Jools at Eastbourne Design & Print managed to get all the artwork and booklet together and harness it all into what I believe to be a pretty comprehensive package.
I’m really happy with the end result. I think we’ve produced something which will hopefully stand the test of time and serve as a touchstone to anyone who wants the full picture of how influential this label has been to Dance Music history and culture.
01. CRAIG LEON
As a producer, Craig Leon dines at the same high table as Martin Hannett and Conny Plank, having sat at the controls for the first Ramones singles, Suicide’s Suicide, early Blondie releases, Richard Hell’s Blank Generation and Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s Flamingo, among others. When not cultivating New York’s seedy underside, Leon grubbed away on his own solo work – and, in our universe at least, his 1981 solo debut Nommos easily contends with the best of the above.
Originally released on John Fahey’s Takoma imprint, Nommos is a multi-lingual record, with something to say to everyone – the geometric rhythm patterns bring NEU!’s endless highways to mind; the eerie, pranging filters give the album a precision familiar from Oval; and the general spirit of reduction has plenty to offer to minimal(ism) heads. The easiest way to describe Nommos, though, is to come back to the drums – processed electronic tattoos that rebound around the inside of one’s skull like a ping pong ball in a tumble dryer.
At its best – the stuttering ‘Four Eyes To See The Afterlife’; tricksy riddim piece ‘She Wears A Hemispherical Skull Cap’ – Nommos manages to reference the churn of industrial and NDW, whilst capturing the fleet-footedness of electro and proto-house club music. Following a short pressing of bootlegs a few years back, Superior Viaduct’s remastered edition is the first proper reissue since the record’s release. Hypnotic but rarely balmy, off-kilter but never barmy, it’s simply an easy album to fall in love with – and we suggest you make a date promptly.
Superior Viaduct: Typically, we would have liner notes, photos, etc. to give some historical or visual context for the music. However, Nommos was our first reissue where we could not collaborate with the artist. It is such an obscure and musically unique record. We decided to do an exact reproduction of the original artwork, which is pretty mysterious in itself.
The List in Full (Plain Text):
01. Craig Leon – Nommos (Superior Viaduct)
02. Various – Traxbox (Harmless)
03. Vangelis – Blade Runner (Audio Fidelity)
04. Mainliner – Mellow Out (Riot Season Records)
05. Hailu Mergia – Hailu Mergia And His Classical Instrument (Awesome Tapes From Africa)
06. Vox Populi! – Half Dead Ganja Music (Pacific City)
07. Eduard Artemiev – Solaris (Superior Viaduct)
08. Lee Hazlewood Industries – There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving, 1966-71 (Light In The Attic)
09. Mike Ratledge – Riddles Of The Sphinx (Mordant Music)
10. Woo – Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong (Emotional Rescue)
11. Popol Vuh – Affenstunde / In den Gärten Pharaos / Hosianna Mantra / Seligpreisung / Einsjäger und Siebenjäger (Wah Wah)
12. Jorge Velez – MMT Tape Series: Home Recordings 1996-1999 (Rush Hour)
13. X-Ray Pop – Pirate! The Dark Side Of X! (Finders Keepers)
14. Bernard Parmegiani – De Natura Sonorum (Recollection Grm)
15. Leven Signs – Hemp Is Here (Digitalis)
16. John Carpenter – Assault On Precinct 13 (Death Waltz)
17. Various – Kill Yourself Dancing: The Story Of Sunset Records Inc Chicago 1985-89 (Still Music)
18. Dwight Sykes – Songs Vol. 1 (PPU)
19. Ohm – Tribal Tone (Unknown To The Unknown)
20. Natural Snow Buildings – Daughters Of Darkness (Ba Da Bing!)
21. Phill Niblock – Nothin To Look At Just A Record (Superior Viaduct)
22. Palm Highway Chase – Escape From New York (Spectrum Spools)
23. Data – 70 Space Loops: The Complete Sessions (Enraptured)
24. Various – Celluloid: The Celluloid Records Story 1979-1987 (Strut)
25. Maja Ratkje – Voice (Rune Grammofon)
26. Richard Band – Re-Animator (Waxwork)
27. Ü – Great Dose Of Monotonous Techno (Digitalis)
28. Half Japanese – 1/2 Gentlemen / Not Beasts (Fire Records)
29. Cabaret Voltaire – #8385 (Collected Works 1983-1985) (Mute)
30. N.A.D. – Dawn Of A New Age (Rush Hour)
31. Robbie Basho – Visions Of The Country (Gnome Life)
32. Frak – Alice In Acidland (Ideal)
33. Maurice Deebank – Inner Thought Zone (1972 Records)
34. Drexciya – Journey Of The Deep Sea Dweller IV (Clone)
35. Gherkin Jerks – Alleviated Records Presents Gherkin Jerks (Alleviated)
36. Martin Rev – Martin Rev (Superior Viaduct)
37. Various – I Am The Center – Private Issue New Age In America, 1950-1990 (Light In The Attic)
38. William Onyeabor – World Psychedelic Classic 5: Who Is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop)
39. Parris Mitchell / Robert Armani – Project / Collection (Dance Mania)
40. Various – Music For Dancefloors:The Kpm Music Library (Strut)
41. Nirvana – In Utero (Universal)
42. Folke Rabe – What?? (Important)
43. Blancmange – Irene And Mavis (Minimal Wave)
44. A.K. Klosowski & Pyrolator – Home Taping Is Killing Music (Bureau B)
45. Laraaji – Celestial Music 1978-2011 (All Saints)
46. Joe Meek – I Hear A New World (Poppydisc)
47. Grouper – Dragging A Dead Dear Up A Hill (Kranky)
48. Four Tet – Rounds (Domino)
49. Gemini – In Neutral (Chiwax)
50. Don Muro – It’s Time (Flannelgraph Records)