The 25 Best Reissues of 2015

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2015 was a dizzying, damn near overwhelming year for quality archival releases, perhaps even more so than in recent memory.

In compiling this year’s list of the cream of the crop, it was more difficult than I’d anticipated to whittle it down to just 25 releases. While there weren’t any strict criteria involved, there is one glaring omission, but for good reason: I made a somewhat controversial decision not to include any of Warp’s long-overdue Broadcast reissues, simply because I’d already covered their legacy and history about as in-depth as I could manage elsewhere on the site earlier this year.

Consider the Broadcast catalogue as deserving a special award of its own, and then read my guide to the group’s essential recordings if you’re so inclined. While many of the titles that did make the cut were covered in past editions of the column this year, there are in fact a few surprises, so dig in and enjoy.

Read next: the 10 best record labels of 2015.


25. Mount Vernon Arts Lab
The Seance At Hobs Lane
(Ghost Box)

The fifth and final album from Drew Mulholland’s psychogeographic electronic sound laboratory was his most focused and sonically diverse offering, and proved to be a huge influence on the aesthetic foundations of the Ghost Box organization, who celebrated 10 years in 2015 by issuing one of the unequivocal highlights in their catalogue (not to mention one of the key documents of influence in the label’s overall modus) as a beautiful vinyl edition for the first time ever.

The Séance At Hobs Lane was originally given a reissue on CD in 2007, and this vinyl release slots nicely beside your Radiophonic witchcraft records and doom-laden soundtracks. Collusions of radioactive drone, free jazz saxophone workouts, manhandled cello études and electronic lullabies combine to make for one of the most intense and unforgettable records in the Ghost Box universe, teetering on the razor’s edge of electronic abstraction and psychotropic navigation.


24. Doug Hream Blunt
My Name Is Doug Hream Blunt
(Luaka Bop)

Doug Hream Blunt took up music lessons in the 80s at the age of 35 after years of obsessive record collecting, formed a band with his fellow students and his girlfriend, and self-released a series of EPs and singles featuring his take on breezy-but-serrated dilettante funk. Recognized in recent years as a favorite of the likes of Ariel Pink, his biggest champion has been Dean Blunt of Hype Williams, who went so far as to brand himself in Doug Hream’s honor and then recorded a sluggish, mesmerizing cover of his “hit”, ‘Gentle Persuasion’.

The elder Blunt’s tropical bedroom boogie was properly anthologized this year by Luaka Bop, fresh off their success hyping William Onyeabor to the masses, and My Name Is… comes anchored by slurred, warbling keyboards and skittering breaks. Blunt’s voice delivers a soft, stoned croon, and he manages to mutate Balearic beach pop, Northern soul stompers, and even a bit of Arthur Lee’s Haight-Ashbury rock fuzz into charming and disorienting head-trips quite unlike anything else you’ll hear this year.


23. Joe Harriott & Amancio D’Silva
Hum Dono

UK jazz cornerstone Vocalion deserves mountains of praise for reissuing this impossibly rare holy grail of British jazz excellence. Hum Dono stands as one of the crowning achievements in the respective discographies of alto saxophonist Joe Harriott and guitarist Amancio D’Silva, two of the era’s most talented and influential yet under-recorded musicians. They joined forces on this heavy 1969 session to document what has become one of the most stunning, focused, and soulful releases of the UK jazz scene.

This is absolutely essential listening for anyone who considers themselves a fan of spiritual jazz, soul jazz, whatever you care to call it — there were other worthy albums of a similar ilk reissued this year (Alice Coltrane’s Universal Consciousness and Charles Mingus’s Black Saint And The Sinner Lady among them), but between the unreal rarity of Hum Dono original pressings and the sheer moving beauty of its powerful grooves, this was the album that won out in the end.


22. Michel Redolfi
Pacific Tubular Waves / Immersion
(Recollection GRM)

Recollection GRM, the Editions Mego sub-label dedicated to reissuing key documents from France’s invaluable INA/GRM musique concrète studio, has delivered numerous albums of electroacoustic experiments already, but this Michel Redolfi double-pack collected two heavy and literally aquatic works into one of Recollection’s catalogue highpoints thus far. 1979’s Pacific Tubular Waves was an aural tribute to the San Diego coast, while 1980’s Immersion sees Redolfi piping compositions through water (including, funnily enough, Pacific Tubular Waves), and then tinkering with the results.

It’s considerably more accessible than many other Recollection GRM releases, save for perhaps Luc Ferrari’s essential Presque Rien set, which serves as an elemental elder cousin of sorts to Redolfi’s work. Both utilize recordings of the natural world and blend them with synthetic processes to create wholly artificial and imagined realities. Pacific Tubular Waves/Immersion also nods aesthetically toward new age tropes without succumbing to the politeness most commonly associated with the genre; these are considerably more dangerous recordings, even at their most soothing and relaxed.


21. Various Artists
Trevor Jackson Presents: Science Fiction Dancehall Classics
(On-U Sound)

Adrian Sherwood’s highly influential On-U Sound label — a label that helped push dub’s importance outside of Jamaican sound system culture — celebrated a banner year, finally regaining control of its masters and offering up a continuing series of high-quality digital and LP reissues. While nearly any individual LP released during the label’s early to mid-1980s halcyon days could be considered a solid introduction to Sherwood’s universe, the rotating cast of players and vocalists who orbited the On-U axis makes for an intimidatingly eclectic discography, so Trevor Jackson did listeners and neophytes a service with his Science Fiction Dancehall Classics compilation.

It highlights the increasing use of synthesizers and drum machines, copious layers of heavy electronic processing, and a more avant-garde aesthetic which serrates and strengthens the dub DNA of the On-U Sound — one which proved a significant influence on the likes of Kevin Martin, among many others. All bases are covered here, from heavy roots lamentations and industrial smackdowns to world music collusions and post-punk poetry.

The compilation also unearthed a number of rare and previously unheard cuts, including a wicked and damn near essential electro-rap banger by a teenage Neneh Cherry. Science Fiction Dancehall Classics is essential listening for just about anyone who reads FACT, its sound trickling down to just about everything we cover here, rap music included.


20. Coil
(Cold Spring)

The recordings initiated by Coil in 1992 to follow up their classic Love’s Secret Domain LP had become the stuff of legend in the decades since their subsequent shelving, becoming to the group’s discography what SMiLE had been for The Beach Boys: a glimpse of what could have been, surrounded by an ever-increasing number of myths and hushed mistruths. Though considerable portions of the music from these sessions were later reshaped by Peter Christopherson as The Ape Of Naples and The New Backwards in 2005 and 2008 respectively, these original versions had only ever been available as bootlegs of varying degrees of quality until Cold Spring pressed the sessions up for proper release.

An important bridge between the ragged glory of Coil’s early “industrial” years and the elemental majestic mysticism of their later period, these songs (first recorded as demos for Torso but then expanded in Trent Reznor’s Nothing Studios for prospective release via Reznor’s imprint) see the group flexing newly toned muscle via Christopherson and Drew McDowall’s electronic firestorms and the strengthened prowess of Jhon Balance’s vocals.

Weaving together a tapestry of liminal hymns and shuddering techno pulsations, Backwards remains entangled in controversy surrounding its release, but nevertheless provides a fascinating time capsule of a period of important transition for a group who’ve seen their fanbase grow exponentially in recent years.


19. Gigi Masin
(Bear On The Moon)

Italian composer and synthesist Gigi Masin had a long-deserved renaissance last year thanks to Music From Memory’s stunning Talk To The Sea compilation. It included excerpts from his 1986 classic Wind, which was finally given a fresh repress by Masin himself this year, via his own Bear On The Moon label.

Constructed from quietly throbbing synths, pensive piano, melancholic brass and the occasional vocal lamentation, it remains a high-water mark in the ambient genre, at times sharing aesthetic company with the likes of David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto, but offering up a perspective that’s less melodramatic and instead bleeds pure heartbreak, like Chet Baker recording an album for Eno’s Ambient series with Tim Friese-Green of Talk Talk. Consider this one of the greatest ambient breakup albums ever recorded.


18. Lena Platanos
(Dark Entries)

Originally released in 1985, Gallop is avant-pop synthesist Lena Platonos’ second solo album -– written, produced and sung by the Athens native, and hyped by Dark Entries as a record that “paved the way for Greek electronica in the 1990s”. Whether that’s a fair claim or a heap of horseshit is debatable, but Platonos’ work is undoubtedly ripe for reassessment, full of ideas and heavy on the TR-808, offering a feminine, intellectual variation on the neon haze of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score.

The record is threaded together by a breathy spoken word narrative, delivered in Platonos’ Greek purr, echoing the work of influential American synthesist Annette Peacock, but taken into more robotic directions. Gallop provides an easy entry point into Platonos’ frustratingly difficult to obtain discography.


17. Milan Knížák
Broken Music
(Sub Rosa)

In 1979, Czech performance artist and sound designer Milan Knížák privately released Broken Music, a startling and brutal re-contextualization of literal fragments of prerecorded musics. Constructed on Frankensteined platters of faulty vinyl, taking broken fragments of different albums and assembling them haphazardly, he created new locked grooves, punched holes into the wax, and even painted on his albums until new sounds were created.

These experiments form the basis of an aggressive yet hypnotic fever dream of proto-sampling techniques which predate similar experiments by noted figures like Philip Jeck and Christian Marclay, creating unintentional spirals of broken vocal chatter, flitters of discordant harmony, and improbable chord changes. There’s a heavy physicality to the bulk of these pieces, at times creating unintentional grooves and soundscapes that sound shockingly modern even today. This is sampling at its most raw and extreme, and for such a primitive and early document of the practice, Broken Music’s energy ensures it remains a vital and essential platter, reissued on vinyl for the first time since 1979.


16. Savant
Artificial Dance
(RVNG Intl.)

Seattle-based ambient dilettante Kerry Leimer’s sonic environments first saw retrospective recognition via the RVNG label’s excellent A Period Of Review compilation, focusing on his various solo recordings and self-releases from the mid 1970s to early 80s. RVNG followed that up with the excellent Artificial Dance, compiling the complete discography of Leimer’s Savant project, and it provides a startling contrast to A Period Of Review.

Constructed by Leimer in the studio with disparate recorded contributions sent to him by friends and colleagues rooted in rock music, he treats the guitars, bass bumps and drum patterns just as he does his synth and sequencer-based pieces, eschewing a “live band” vibe in favor of plunderphonic loop-based compositions, where he creates the illusion of a band rather than actually forming one.

The results are aesthetic relatives to David Cunningham’s brilliant rock concrète constructions with both This Heat’s discography and The Flying Lizards’ sophomore LP Fourth Wall, not to mention Eno & Byrne’s epochal My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.


15. Serge Gainsbourg
Le Cinema De Serge Gainsbourg
(Universal France)

One of the more unexpected news items this year in the FACT offices was the discovery of Serge Gainsbourg’s collaborative holy grail with noted composer/arranger Jean-Claude Vannier: the master tapes for their 1969 film score Les Chemins de Katmandou. Long thought to be lost for good, they were finally mastered and released officially as part of a five CD box set compiling the many highlights and rare cues from Gainsbourg’s lengthy career as a film composer.

Le Cinema De Serge Gainsbourg details an alternate yet equally important history of the artist as he explores the sounds of small-combo instrumental jazz, Eastern modal psychedelic freakouts, orchestral teen pop grooves, acid-fried hard rock, and mutated strains of reggae, African folk musics, and trashy synthwave.


14. Alessandro Alessandroni
(Dead-Cert Home Entertainment)

Italian maestro Alessandro Alessandroni is renowned as the composer of more than 40 TV and film scores, from giallo to splatter (his lush, lurid score for Jean Brismée’s La Terrificante Notte Del Demonio clocked in at number nine in our top 100 greatest horror OSTs). He’s perhaps best known, though, for the iconic whistle that haunts Ennio Morricone’s themes for Sergio Leone westerns.

Dead Cert’s excavation of this previously unreleased library music album shines light on an industrial side of his work many hadn’t heard. Recorded in the Rome workshop of composer Piero Umiliani in 1976, Industrial sees Alessandroni experimenting with tape loops, jangling percussion, treated honky-tonks and modular synths. The results range from electrified proto-techno (‘Stozzatrice’) to insinuating finger-picked rhythms (‘Viabilita’). Impossible to ignore, this was one of Dead Cert’s best releases among a bevy of solid candidates.


13. Francis The Great
Ravissante, Baby
(Hot Casa)

This blistering 1977 French-Cameroonian kinderfunk classic was one of my personal favorite DJ wildcards this year. Ravissante, Baby offers up two Afro-funk jams recorded by a crack team of Cameroonian musicians who heat up a sizzling side of hypnotic, intricate soukous highlife on Side A, but it’s the beguiling funk banger of Side B that really steals the show here.

‘Look Up In The Sky’ features a bumping, horn-led Afrobeat funk groove that pairs a buzzing synth arpeggiation with the confident strut of seven year old (yes, you read that correctly) frontman Francis Mbarga’s vocals. It’s one of those tracks that gets everyone on the floor and has them scratching their heads as their asses wiggle. There have been plenty of records over the years that utilize child musicians to varying degrees of novelty, but by having one front a band of tough, tightly seasoned heavyweights, Ravissante, Baby eschews that novelty and delivers joyous, playful, and absurdly groovy delights.


12. Sun City Girls
Torch Of The Mystics

American psychedelic trash-rockers Sun City Girls have, both directly and indirectly, had a hand in helping the western underground discover all manner of esoteric sounds from the far reaches of the globe via their own unwieldy discography and their work co-running the controversial yet influential Sublime Frequencies label. But no other album comes as close to single-handedly defining the group’s modus operandi in both global genre-hopping fluidity and perverse surrealist fuckery as their 1990 opus Torch Of The Mystics. The trio throw buckets of surf rock, spaghetti western soundtracks, psychedelic meanderings, Middle Eastern opium balladry, free jazz, and desert blues (of both the Arizona and Tuareg varieties) against their cave walls, and quite surprisingly, nearly all of it sticks.

In 2015, the album still sounds untethered to any particular era, and astonishingly sounds more vital and open to appreciation now than it did upon its original 1990 release, thanks to a more globally-minded hunger for fresh sounds and new textures and harmonies. This is an essential, powerful document of American underground multiculturalism, a recording of a band of wildmen trying with all of their might to break the judgmental shackles of punk/DIY Americana, all the while having one hell of a party.


11. Veronique Vincent & Aksak Maboul
Ex-Futur Album
(Crammed Discs)

Belgian musician Marc Hollander’s Aksak Maboul project (with multi-instrumentalist and producer Vincent Kenis) remains one of the most beguiling projects of the post-punk/new wave era, taking an anything-goes DIY mindset and skewing it with explorations of quiet and stately classical études, Mediterranean and Balearic folk musics, primitive drum machine skitter, electronic organ and synth experiments, and a bit of post-Zappa jazz rock orchestration shrunk down into bedroom-sized confines.

Over the course of two excellent albums, the duo explored a form of “unrock” music, even collaborating with members of prog/Rock-In-Opposition heavyweights Henry Cow and Art Zoyd for a time. It was an unlikely alliance with fellow Belgian art-punks The Honeymoon Killers — a group who took James Chance’s James Brown saxophone-d snarl and replaced it with the leering chanson charms of Charles Trenet — that opened doors for each group to move into new territories of pop experimentalism.

The groups joined forces in 1983 to record an album which remained unreleased until early this year, featuring lead vocals by Killers chanteuse Véronique Vincent and exploring a sound that spelunks the mines of dub, synthpop, French chanson, and unsettling robo-tropicalism. Vincent’s vocals are far more confident than anything she’d managed with the Killers, and she displays a surprising breadth of emotions throughout, while always keeping things somewhat in the secretive pocket.

This was an album that seemed deceptively slight initially but whose multilayered details slowly unravel with attentive subsequent listens. Perhaps a bit too ahead of its time contextually, it plays now like a sun-faded photo of an ancestor to the curious neon-pop dreams of the likes of Grimes, Saint Etienne, and Stereolab. Ex-Futur indeed, this one sounds both of its time and entirely divorced from it.


10. Else Marie Pade
Electronic Works

It’s always heartening when the reissue churn leads to proper critical rehabilitation for those who deserve it, and, after a series of compilation nods and collaborations, Danish electronic music pioneer Else Marie Pade finally received a long-delayed retrospective. Electronic Works 1958-1995 offers up glowering weightless drones, distorted sine tones, and gaseous discordance, often heavily reminiscent of Delia Debyshire’s classic Dreams recordings.

Pade’s work aesthetically ties her to figures as heavy as musique concrète forefather Pierre Schaeffer (with whom she studied), Dutch tape master Dick Raaijmakers, and Radiophonic matron Daphne Oram, but her story and catalogue deserve closer inspection. Thanks to this hefty overview by Important Records, curious tapeheads and eager ambient explorers were finally given ample opportunity.


9. Cassie
(Be With)

Cassie’s eponymous 2006 debut album was a relatively slept-on pop record that rode a wave of critical and chart attention thanks to the single ‘Me & U’. Bafflingly, it had never seen a vinyl release until fledgling UK label Be With Records offered up a legitimate 2LP edition properly reasserting the album’s pleasures and continuing influence (frequently noted by producers like Four Tet, Jamie xx, and many of the Tri Angle Records crew).

While Ryan Leslie’s shimmering, minimal production emphasizes slinky machine beats and whirring neon synth textures, many of the songs are supplemented by subtle flourishes like droplets of harp, Spanish guitar, and handclaps and fingersnaps, while the songs dance between the borders of R&B, sugary pop confection, and subtle space-age exotica. It was that inability to forcefully assert an identity that perhaps led it to slip through the cracks, but time has proved kind to the album, and its playful, modernist beauty was ripe for reassertion in 2015.


8. Jean Guerin
(Souffle Continu)

Souffle Continu got off to one hell of a good start by reissuing a series of legit remasters of avant-garde classics from the infamous Futura label, and this singular 1971 LP by French composer Jean Guérin is arguably the single finest album in the influential Futura catalogue.

The music of Tacet is one of the most beguiling and mind-expanding trips on the Nurse With Wound list, which is really saying something considering everything that Steve Stapleton included. Restoring its rightful place among cult musique concrète masterworks, Souffle managed to deliver one of 2015’s most unlikely reissues in a stunning and high-quality package.


7. Fingers Inc
Another Side
(alleviated Records)

Honestly, if you’re reading FACT and don’t at least know of this record’s importance, we’ve probably done something wrong. Another Side takes the stratospheric instrumental solo voyages of Chicago house maestro Larry Heard’s Mr Fingers project and brings them back down to Earth via the deep, soulful vocal lamentations and ululations of vocalists Robert Owens and Ron Wilson.

Collecting all of the project’s 12″ singles on labels like Trax, DJ International, and Alleviated, Another Side stands to this day as one of the key Chicago house documents, and arguably one of the greatest (and first) long playing albums in the genre, collecting a treasure trove of key tracks and heavyweight anthems into one tidy, convenient package. It ably balances the rough with the smooth, the vibe with the groove, and this new edition via a resurrected Alleviated is one of the first legit editions after decades of dubious bootlegs. Care about house music? You straight-up NEED this record, period, plain and simple.


6. Nuno Canavarro
Plux Quba
(Drag City)

Portuguese composer Nuno Canavarro’s epochal 1988 Plux Quba LP has long held mythic status among avid listeners, foreshadowing Fennesz circa Endless Summer, Boards Of Canada’s Music Has The Right to Children, and Aphex’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II, while also nodding backwards to the pioneering work of stalwart Lovely Music composers Robert Ashley and Blue Gene Tyranny.

The closest thing to a physical manifestation of dreams that you’re likely to hear on vinyl, Plux Quba is a masterpiece that stands truly in a class all its own.


5. Mariah
うたかたの日々 [Utakata No Hibi]
(Palto Flats)

Mariah have long been revered in the Japanese underground rock and new wave scene via five albums which brought hefty jazz chops, avant-rock muscle, and atmospheric synthetic textures together in ways that very few of their peers managed in the 1980s with such consistency. It’s the group’s 1983 swansong, うたかたの日々 (Utakata No Hibi), that holds the most myth and magic, though; a slow-rolling yet celebratory album blending kinetic polyrhythms and fourth world dreamscapes which take traditional matsuri (or shrine festival) song structures and fuse the ancient with the modern to dazzling effect.

Long a secret weapon among DJs and producers like Lexx, Prins Thomas, and Chee Shimizu of Crue-L Records’ Balearic supergroup Discosession, fledgling NYC label Palto Flats managed to license this truly special album for the first time on vinyl in a lovely and impressive repro edition, easily appealing to fans of leftfield new age, worldly experimental rock and ambient music, and even those who rotate on a heavy axis of Hayao Miyazaki’s spectral cinematic dreamworlds.


4. The Automatics Group
Summer Mix
(The Death of Rave)

The Death of Rave has established an impressive discography of sound art documents from the likes of Mark Leckey, Wold, Merzbow, and Mark Fell, amongst others, but one of their crowning achievements was this year’s long-needed excavation of Summer Mix, Theo Burt’s masterwork as The Automatics Group originally issued on CD via Entr’acte in 2011 and given its first vinyl release this year.

Originally released at the dawn of EDM’s “salad days,” Summer Mix is essentially a mixtape of bridge-and-tunnel-friendly trance nonsense, summoning the souls of Swedish House Mafia, Eric Prydz, and DeadMau5 in a flickering exorcism that utilizes audio processing software to strip away and discard half the audio information of each piece of music in the mix.

When applied to the rigid 4/4 pummels of the trance-pop subjects conjured here, listeners are left with little more than ghosts of the original track, turning these beefy club hits into frail, taciturn ambience. Snares become discreet clicks, breakdowns lose their punch, and rush-inducing synth swells are reconfigured as wafting white noise. It’s a fascinating, disorienting trick: one that makes Paul Van Dyk sound like GAS, or Tiesto shimmer and crinkle up like Oval.


3. Gloria Ann Taylor
Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing
(Luv’N’Haight / Ubiquity)

Having been bootlegged a number of times over the years by dubious prospectors (no joke – Discogs seem to have an auto-reject button tailor-made to ban sales of this record if it ain’t legit), the folks at Ubiquity/Luv’N’Haight have finally managed to unearth a full album’s worth of material from the mythical soul spectre Gloria Ann Taylor, whose ‘Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing’ 12″ has become a ludicrous white whale of a holy grail record, fetching four-figure sums on the secondhand market for original copies.

Bearing the same title as the elusive dancefloor banger, Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing is an open wound of heartbroken psychedelic soul that handily compiles the epic bombast of Taylor’s scant discography of ultra-rare single releases. It hews closely to the widescreen orchestral psych-soul vistas perfected by Charles Stepney’s Rotary Connection, leaning toward the heavy heartbeat of baroque gospel, but augmenting it with the searing fuzz guitar sounds of Westbound-era Funkadelic. This was a godsend not only for the staggering quality of the songs contained within, but for the sheer insanity of how fucking long it actually took for this record to see the light of day legitimately.


2. Spectre
Ruff Kutz

Spectre is the alias of Brooklyn beatmaker Skiz Fernando Jr. – founder of experimental label WordSound (whose alumni includes The Bug and Prince Paul) and regular beatmaker for Sensational. Fernando and Wordsound often get thrown into discussions of the short-lived “Illbient” movement (which is explored in Laurent Fintoni’s history of Asphodel Records), but Spectre’s grubby, groggy mixtape Ruff Kutz simultaneously diverts from and wholly exemplifies the (often literally warped) Illbient sensibility.

A freeform hotbox hit-parade of dirty Bowery beats, chopped and screwed breaks, and hefty helpings of echo-chamber dub mixology, Spectre’s self-narrated journey was first released as a limited cassette in 1998, and was given a new lease on life via PAN’s surprising 2LP vinyl remaster and reissue, finally bringing the tape’s vitality to a new generation of heads who’d likely never have known otherwise.

Ruff Kutz blends odds’n’sods produced over the previous half-decade – alternate mixes, productions for Sensational, unreleased material from the likes of co-conspirators Techno Animal and Bill Laswell, and scattered instrumentals. In terms of pace and space, it’s closer to Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry circa Blackboard Jungle Dub than a conventional rap mixtape, but it still stands as one of the most vitally accurate documents of underground NYC in the 1990s, just before the onset of heavy gentrification and boutique hotel culture changed the city’s multiculti creative landscape undeniably.


1. Ata Kak
Obaa Sima
(Awesome Tapes For Africa)

The inaugural post on Brian Shimkovitz’s fledgling Awesome Tapes From Africa blog was short, sweet, and right to the point: “This is it. The song is called ‘Moma Yendodo’. You may never hear anything like this elsewhere. I bought this on the street from a guy selling tapes displayed on one of those big, vertical wooden racks in Cape Coast, Ghana. No one I know in Ghana listens to this frenetic leftfield rap madness.”

When Shimkovitz moved from bloglife to launching Awesome Tapes as a legitimate record label in 2011, he began tracking down and working directly with the musicians and producers responsible for his favorite tapes, but Ata Kak remained mysteriously absent from the label’s release roster. After years hunting down a man who seemed to have left no trace of an existence aside from this bizarre cassette, traveling from Los Angeles to Ghana, then Dusseldorf to Canada and back to Ghana again, Shimkovitz finally found the man responsible, and issued a remastered edition of Ata Kak’s Obaa Sima, the album that sparked his enterprise and which developed a feverishly devoted cult following among adventurous DJs, producers, and beatheads alike.

Recorded in 1993, Obaa Sima doesn’t sound like any other hip-hop, hip-house, or hiplife record of the era, at times it leaning closer to a funhouse-mirrored reflection of ragga, or the raw machine minimalism of early Miami bass, flirting with the same ‘by any means necessary’ approach but at the same time subverting it with carefree abandon and enthusiasm. The album certainly may not be to everyone’s taste, but its positive shine, relentless energy, and alien earworm choruses are wholly infectious, while the ingenuity of Atta-Owusu’s production moves beyond its primitive means to create what feels like a portal to an alternate reality, where the sounds of South Africa’s Shangaan electro, Mali’s Balani Show, Syria’s dabke, British grime, and Portuguese kuduro all sweat together.

There’s truly nothing else quite like it in the world, and its incredible story is further documented here, for those curious to learn more. All that you really need to know, though, is that the album stands as a message in a bottle (or in this case, a cassette box) written in a language that took 20 years to find a translation. That its revitalized energy found so many revelers in 2015 stands as testament to the positive power of the internet and its capabilities to find audiences for even the most esoteric sounds.

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