Babble on an’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s New Biography and Orbscure Recordings Label

It’s a red-letter day at Innerspace Labs! Just arrived from England is a wonderful new treasure – an autographed copy of the newly-published biography on Alex Paterson of The Orb, along with an exclusive 12-track album showcasing music he intends to release on the new record label he’s started to feature up-and-coming ambient artists from around the world!

From The Orb’s official announcement:

New Biography – Babble on an’ Ting

Always steered by Alex Paterson, The Orb were the mischief-making pioneers of the late 80s acid house revolution. Inventing “ambient house”, they took it to the top of the charts, before continuing its idiosyncratic flight path through subsequent decades, battling meteor storms en route.

Published 28th May via Omnibus Press, Babble on an’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s Incredible Journey Beyond the Ultraworld with The Orb, is the first full account of his life story. Written by close friend and music journalist Kris Needs, the book reveals Alex’s astonishing journey from traumatic Battersea childhood through punk, Killing Joke and KLF to starting The Orb in 1988, then the five decade roller coaster that followed. Moving, shocking, hilarious and inspiring, at the heart of this story lies a true survivor doggedly following their musical passion.

First-hand interviews include those with Youth, Andrew Weatherall, Primal Scream, Jah Wobble, Jimmy Cauty and a parade of friends, collaborators and starship mechanics.

“I decided to do a book now as I have reached one full human cycle – 60. Also, to tell my side of stories and to set the record straight on planet Orb,” says Alex. “Working with Kris was seriously brilliant fun. We have been friends and allies for decades now. He’s a beautiful man with a deep knowledge of all things secret and actually lived through some of the stories together.”

The book’s title, of course, is a reference to a Victor Lewis Smith prank call sampled by The Orb on their number one album UFOrb

And of the new record label, they announced:

New Label – Orbscure Recordings

Always keen to collaborate, ever prolific, and with his creativity as flowing as ever, Orbscure Recordings is a new vehicle for Paterson’s impressive quantity of output in different groups which runs parallel to his continued music within The Orb. Set up under the Cooking Vinyl umbrella at the suggestion of label head Rob Collins, Orbscure will also be an outlet for new music from artists from around the world.

“The name is a play on the Obscure label Eno set up on Editions EG in the 1970s. Orbs Cure. Clever parrot-Orbscure! Orbscure! Orbs Cure for all ills. Orbs Cure made 2 chill” states Alex.

Having helmed the Orb collective for over 30 years, releasing music on other people’s labels in partnership with various label managers/A&Rs, Alex now finds himself in the driving seat, coordinating an even wider group of talent. Picking up from his past experience as an A&R for the legendary EG Records, there is already a raft of new releases in the pipeline with three albums set for release this year. The label will feature artists from Uganda, Kenya, Argentina, Japan and America with further collaborative projects to follow.

Paterson’s initial new musical project adopts the moniker, Sedibus with a full-length LP titled, The Heavens. From the official announcement:

The first release on Orbscure Recordings is Sedibus ‘The Heavens’, released 28th May an astonishing collaboration between Alex and original Orb member Andy Falconer who engineered/co-wrote the ambient sides of the Ultraworld album back in 1991. 30 years have passed since that seminal release when the two were last in the studio together.

Kris Needs is a British author and music journalist. The author bio from the official press statement for Babble on an’ Ting notes that Needs started his career writing for the seminal monthly magazine, Zigzag in the 70s, becoming editor while writing for NME and Sounds. The 352-page adventure is issued in paperback by Omnibus Press and special signed copies autographed by Paterson, himself were bundled with the 12-track sampler CD of upcoming tracks from Paterson’s new record label.

The tracklist for the Orbscure Recordings Sampler is as follows:

  1. Intro – Roney FM
  2. Unknowable – Sedibus
  3. Wow Picasso! – OSS
  4. Home – Chocolate Hills
  5. Squirrels In Jumpsuits – Roland & Albert
  6. Shika – Mawe
  7. Latchmere Allotments – The Orb
  8. America Is Unavailable – Transit Kings
  9. Turn Right – Cripps Said Mason
  10. The Librarian – DF Tram
  11. Fara – Nick Neutronz
  12. Here For Beer – High Frequency Bandwidth

Curiously, while the TownsendMusic Ltd website’s copies of the autographed book bundle, priced at just $30 plus shipping, dispatched the day before official public release on May 28, 2021, Amazon’s regular unsigned copies of the book without the Orbscure Sampler album are priced at $24.99 and will not ship until September 9th. Though Americans paid $31.50 in postage for DP US Direct Tracked shipping from the UK, the TownsendMusic Ltd offer was still incredibly alluring, especially for an historic release such as this.

I’m honored to have been able to claim a copy of this special bundle. Paterson is an ambient veteran and pioneer of an immeasurably influential genre of music – one of the most treasured artists in my library. It is a joy to see, even at the age of 60, that Alex still has fresh new ideas and is taking an active role in pushing new and emerging ambient electronic artists from around the globe to the fore.

Orbscure Recordings will be a label to watch in the months and years ahead.

Robert Fripp Completes His Year-Long Pledge to Share Music For Quiet Moments

Robert Fripp of King Crimson, photo via IMDb

It’s been quite a year for English musician, songwriter, and record producer, Robert Fripp and today marks a very special day in his musical journey. Fripp and his wife, Toyah Willcox have actively been posting lighthearted and silly rock song cover performances to Toyah’s YouTube channel each week, while simultaneously Fripp has held fast to his pledge from a year ago to post previously-unreleased weekly installments of his own ambient Frippertronic series entitled, Music For Quiet Moments

The project was initiated on May 1st of 2020 following an announcement on Fripp’s own website. Fripp dedicated himself to release a soundscape every Friday for fifty-two weeks on DGMLive, Youtube, Spotify, Apple Music and all the main online music platforms. In the April 29th announcement, Fripp’s producer, David Singleton remarked:

Hopefully something that will nourish us, and help us through these Uncertain Times. I have certainly enjoyed the peace that comes with editing and mastering them.

Turning a seeming disadvantage to our advantage, a year at home without touring offers the chance to listen for the first time in many cases to existing live recordings. And there are treasures to be found!

The announcement was followed by a brief write-up by Fripp outlining the philosophy and concept he had in mind for the series. Fripp wrote:

Music For Quiet Moments…

I

A Quiet Moment is how we experience a moment: the moment which is here, now and available.

Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet;

and also where we find them.

Sometimes quiet moments find us.

Some places have an indwelling spirit, where quiet is a feature of the space:

perhaps natural features in the landscape;

perhaps intentionally created, as in a garden;

perhaps where a spirit of place has come into being over time, as in an English country churchyard.

Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound;

in a place we hold to be sacred, maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square.

A Quiet Moment is more to do with how we experience time than how we experience sound.

A Quiet Moment prepares the space where Silence may enter.

Silence is timeless.

II

My own quiet moments, over fifty-one years of being a touring player, have been mostly in public places where, increasingly, a layer of noise has intentionally overlaid and saturated the sonic environment.

III

Quiet Moments of my musical life, expressed in Soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.   

Paradoxically, they have mostly taken place in public contexts inimical and unsupportive of quiet.

Some of these Soundscapes are inward-looking, reflective.

Some move outwards, with affirmation.

Some go nowhere, simply being where they are.

Robert Fripp

Tuesday 28th. April, 2020;

Bredonborough, Middle England.

Today marks the publication of the fifty-second and final installment of Fripp’s year-long series. Every Friday, the artist has faithfully shared thoughtful and introspective soundscapes which serve as a meditative medicine for melancholy during these difficult times.

Early on in the project, the ambient radio program Hearts of Space’s producer and presenter, Stephen Hill dedicated a full transmission to showcase the first four installments of the series for programme #1251 broadcast June 19th, 2020.

From the Hearts of Space website for that transmission, Hill wrote:

Through his work with Eno, Fripp developed an analog looping system he called Frippertonics. Looping repeats musical phrases with a delay and layers them on top of themselves, turning musical fragments into continuous streams of sound. When combined with Fripp’s sophisticated guitar technique, Frippertonics has produced a series of refined electronic soundscapes.

On this transmission of Hearts of Space, the sublime soundscapes of ROBERT FRIPP, on a program called MUSIC FOR QUIET MOMENTS. We’ll feature the first four releases in a projected series of 50 weekly installments available online at Fripp’s website DGMLIVE.com for exactly 99 cents each.

These Frippertronic soundscapes flow seamlessly from one track to the next. The complete library of fifty-two pieces clocks in at a total of over 8 hours and 47 minutes of contemplative music, and serves as a magnificent soundbed for work, quiet reflection, or sleep. It’s been quite a year, and at last the series is complete. Music For Quiet Moments is highly recommended as some of the finest ambient music of the pandemic period to date. For anyone who enjoyed Fripp’s prior Frippertronic soundworlds, these are definitely worth your time and exploration.

Published in: on April 9, 2021 at 7:41 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

The Future Starts Here – John Higgs’ Latest Cultural Exploration

This is the third and latest of Higgs’ works on cultural criticism to enter my library, following The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds and Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense of the Twentieth Century and is surely his most exhaustive to date, dedicating nearly 400 pages to examining the first 18 years of the new millennium. 

I discovered the book by chance while hungrily searching for cultural examinations of post-postmodernism / metamodernism and media culture. Higgs’ previous works are some of the most insightful and contextual writings on contemporary culture I’ve ever had the pleasure to read, so the news of a new book was an absolute thrill.

Acquiring this text was a challenge amid the COVID-19 outbreak as at the time the book was only available from UK distributors in its first hardcover run, but thankfully I was able to secure a copy internationally from The Book Depository.

While his KLF book primarily examined culture through the lens of the band, Stranger Than We Can Imagine provided greater insight into global culture as a whole, so the announcement of this new book inspired immediate action on my part. I’d found my eagerness increasing with each successive chapter of Stranger Than We Can Imagine, while Higgs ushered his readers from one decade to the next. By the time I reached postmodernism (expertly described in the context of Super Mario Bros) and the pivotal transition from the hierarchical absolutist worldview to the communal network culture of the millennials, I was on the edge of my socio-cultural seat. It was a brilliant read, and just as satisfying and informative as his book on The KLF.

Eager for information on his latest book, I found that Greg Wilson published a review of it on his blog and noted that Higgs counters “the dystopian narrative that’s generally thrust upon our thoughts of the future by the various media we encounter, in favour of a much more hopeful and holistic tomorrow that makes better sense of the metamodern world in which we reside.”

The first few pages of the introduction outline how, in the 1930s, all visions of the future, like the World’s Fair, depicted a marvelous utopia where mankind is free from work and want. That dream, Higgs explains, ended in the 1980s. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is cited as the last attempt at a utopian vision in mainstream culture. Back to the Future Part 2, The Walking Dead, and Children of Men painted a far more bleak image of what was to come. Higgs notes that films no longer had to preface the audience as to why the world had fallen into disarray, as it became increasingly more believable. Higgs writes:

As the American writer Adam Sternbergh has noted, ‘the biggest problem with imagining dystopia seems to be coming up with some future world that’s worse than what’s happening right now.’

And prophetically, Higgs then states:

If we judge by the stories we’re fed by film and television, then our current civilization can feel like a crime novel with the last page ripped out. We don’t know exactly the identity of the murderer, but we do know that the story is about to come to an end. Perhaps a new antibiotic-resistant disease will erupt into a global pandemic and wipe us from the face of the Earth.

That last sentence was all the more alarming as the book was published just a few months before COVID-19 shook the planet.

Each chapter of The Future Starts Here examines a facet of rapidly-changing culture and technology and frames their impact on psychology and sociology and the human race as a whole. Most of these chapters could stand well on their own as essays on their respective topics, but Higgs is an expert at demonstrating the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate subjects to paint a contextual image of cultural influence.

Much of the text examines the nature of artificial intelligence, but Higgs also dedicates a potent and impactful chapter to a comparative analysis of generational culture. I was fascinated by how he demonstrated the origins of the contrasting value sets of Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Generation Z. This was what I was most looking forward to from his latest book after enjoying the author’s prior comprehensive critique of twentieth-century culture. Higgs effectively outlines the causes and effects of these generational value sets, perhaps best-demonstrated by depicting Gen Z’s reaction to the John Hughes film, The Breakfast Club.

A later chapter surveys both fictional and factual phenomena of space exploration and the conflicting characteristics of various Star Trek series and films, specifically differentiating those sanctioned by and contested by Gene Roddenberry. This chapter also highlights the technological impact of Elon Musk before emphasizing the importance of the universes yet to be explored right here on Earth.

The subject matter is deeply explorative. A chapter beginning with the technological advances in virtual reality quickly reframes the potential consequences of the technology, both positive and negative, and examines it comparatively to phenomena like Skinner boxes, ‘redpilling,’ Gamergate, Russian troll bots, cultural Marxism, tribalism, and other psychological influencers of social imprinting, while also touching upon its potential for medical benefits and its usefulness as a proponent of social empathy. The chapter goes on to reference VR in contemporary cinema, (e.g. WALL-E and Ready Player One), as well as the Oculus VR company and its acquisition by Facebook. The chapter concludes with an examination of augmented reality, Pokemon Go, and Google Glass, and looks ahead to the potential of virtual pets and personal AI assistants, as well as the moral and ethical implications this technology would bear. As always, Higgs’ writing is richly contextual.

Another chapter, fittingly titled, “Psychic Pollution,” cautions against the dire consequences of our collective addiction to social media and the disinformation it so often spreads. Higgs parallels Facebook algorithms to the history of psychologically predatory advertising and twenty four hour alarmist and sensationalist news networks. He outlines the nature of our biological addiction to dopamine and how these phenomena prey on our need for a neurochemical hit.

But not all of the twenty-first century is so dismal and worrisome. The penultimate chapter, “Fixing Things” poses the potential benefits of the American biologist E. O. Wilson’s Half Earth initiative and of implementing Universal Basic Income. Higgs is certainly not without hope. From James Surwillo’s feature on the book:  

Higgs calls for a new pragmatic optimism because history has shown that there is always a new story in the “circumambient mythos” as he calls it, which is different than the one that those of us who grew up in the prior era are able to interpret. That potential is a very real phenomenon of the world of the 21st century. It is the idea that we have matured to the point that it is possible to become “meta”, or to psychically remove ourselves from a time and place and review a new and pragmatic position. This potential frees up post-millennials to introduce a more mature version of meaning itself.

The closing chapter, “More Than Individual” explores American anarchist author Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Immediatism and Brian Eno’s scenius as examples of the interconnectedness of the twenty-first century culture. Higgs concludes his examination of the early years of this new millennium with hope and optimism. He notes that, for much of the twentieth-century, “the job of advancing what it meant to be human fell to the avant-garde and the counterculture.” Contrastingly however, “since the emergence of the internet in the mid-90s,” “…the work of evolving and improving the human experience falls to everyone.”

The Future Starts Here is an engaging and exploratory venture into the culture and mindset of the new millennium. It’s an inspiring, informative, and contextual perspective I’m grateful to have read.

Rest In Beauty: Compiling an Archive in Memory of Harold Budd

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my favorite ambient composer, Harold Budd this month, who we lost to complications due to COVID-19. I’ve always been able to count on his ethereal soundscapes to soothe my nerves and vanquish my anxieties, so the finality of his death was a blow to my musical world.

Budd released an impressive catalog of albums over his 49-year career in music. I maintain a digital archive of 46 of his major album releases including his latest collaboration with his longtime friend, Robin Guthrie titled Another Flower, issued just days before his passing. 

I feel so fortunate to have collected all of Budd’s albums from the 70s and 80s comprising his first eight major releases issued on vinyl before his label switched to the then-popular compact disc format, as well as the three albums he recorded with John Foxx combined into a single deluxe vinyl box set with a signed art print by Foxx.

There is one LP which preceded his first official album, The Pavilion of Dreams – the elusive The Oak Of The Golden Dreams from 1971, copies of which command many hundreds of dollars on the rare occasion that they surface. That recording was realized on the Buchla Electronic Music System at the California Institute of the Arts (then in Burbank) in 1970 and was not an official commercial release.

I’m overjoyed to have collected all of Budd’s early official vinyl releases. There are a few later albums that were issued on vinyl which I would love to own but sadly few if any have resurfaced on the used album market. Collectors purchased them directly from the label and held fast to their treasured copies, all the more so now that Budd has passed away. I watched several listed copies of his first album vanish before my eyes after news of his death spread on social media, so I had to act quickly and decisively, as I don’t expect these albums to get any less expensive and will only become rarer as more time passes. (Pavilion nearly doubled in price the day the news of his death was announced.)

I ordered the LPs I was missing on December 9th. The first hundred dollar package ended up shipping from just a few miles north of my home. Had I known that I would have instead just opted to pick it up myself. Unfortunately, the US Postal Service mis-shipped the package nearly nine hundred miles off course to Alabama, delaying its delivery in the midst of the holiday season. And as insurance was not offered on the purchase, the delay was agonizing, all the more so as a replacement copy would require international shipping and would command a still higher purchase price. After working with my local Consumer Affairs Department, I eventually received the package 19 days later, thankfully intact.

Pictured below are Budd’s first eight LPs, as well as the aforementioned Nighthawks, Translucence And Drift Music autographed box set issued in 2011. These are among the most-treasured LPs in my Archive. They include:

  • The Pavilion of Dreams
  • Ambient 2: Plateaux of Mirror
  • The Serpent (In Quicksilver)
  • Abandoned Cities
  • The Pearl
  • The Moon And The Melodies
  • Lovely Thunder
  • The White Arcades
  • Nighthawks
  • Translucence 
  • and Drift Music

John Diliberto of Echos published a wonderful feature on Budd to celebrate his memory, saying, “Harold Budd Has Left the Planet: Rest in Beauty.”

Published in: on December 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

25 Years In The Making: A New Archival Release From the Masters of Trip-Hop

I’m very excited about the latest release to arrive at Innerspace Labs. Trip-hop/downtempo gurus, Kruder & Dorfmeister have officially issued an archival double LP originally produced during the prime of their illustrious career. 1995, as it’s called, was recovered from an old DAT, after which the production quality was polished and brought new life for a full-length release on 13 November, 2020.

A gatefold double-LP was issued on the duo’s G-Stone Recordings label exclusively in Austria.

From the duo’s official website: 

The truth was, an album had been finished by the spring of ’95 and all recorded onto DAT and placed in a box. K&D pressed up 10 copies and gave 4 away to some suitably eccentric individuals. Then the room’s doors opened and in a tremendously big cloud of smoke time rushed in, K&D rushed out, and the years went rolling by. The days got filled with remixes, touring and life. The tapes had been forgotten. Then in early 2020 that chance moving of a box at the back of a room exposed the DATs and their time transporting properties. As K&D went through them they ended up comfortable and back in the room and that wonderful haze of 1995. The music was transferred from the DATs and K&D painstakingly rebuilt every molecule that made up the original tapes, So as the rooms bass bins are once again turned out towards the cosmos, K&D are happy and proud to release what they thought were lost moments.

The opening track, “Johnson” samples Robert Johnson to a chilling effect. An official video was produced and is available on YouTube here:

Astonishingly, even now, two weeks after its release there is very little press about the album. This is particularly surprising given all of the other 90s revivalism which is so prevalent in the current age so steeped in nostalgia. There’s not even so much as a blip on boomkat, pitchfork, or any other music news site. While I understand that the downtempo genre is no longer the massive cultural phenomena it once was, news of an archival release such as this born in the halcyon days of the genre from two veterans of the industry should surely deserve more attention than it is receiving.

The only two Google search results for articles on the release are from the trusted and always reliable Ambient Music Guide and a review from Magnetic Mag.

Mike G. of Ambient Music Guide speaks positively of the album, saying:

I’m happy to report that it sounds, well, exactly like a very good Kruder and Dorfmeister album made in 1995. It’s of its time, to be sure, but it’s aged well. Like all the best ambient dance music of that heady era, technology has not wearied it.

1995 is a gift, really, and like all the best gifts it’s a surprise, a substantial piece of 90’s chillout I thought I’d never get to hear.

And David Ireland of Magnetic Mag writes:

1995 is an amalgamation of their most pleasing sounds, vibes, and beats for those that love that jazzy, hip hop instrumental, mid-90s trip-hoppy sound.

The loops, the bass lines, the samples, the breakbeats, the reverb, it’s all here, and it’s lovely to hear it again.

Independent reviews are beginning to appear courtesy of members of RYM, where the release title is bracketed with an “Archival” suffix. There the album holds a respectable 3.57 / 5.0 from 63 ratings.

Overall, the album is a sheer delight and a wonderful surprise to close out an otherwise tumultuous year. So kick back and dig this magnificently cool set, chillin’ like it’s 1995.

Published in: on November 28, 2020 at 9:29 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A New Favorite From Steve Roach – Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces

I’ve been spending the past few weeks building and exploring an archive of ambient music veteran, Steve Roach’s vast catalog. So far I have his first 161 major album releases, but Roach has at least 199 credited to his name, 18 of which were released this year alone, so it’s quite an undertaking.

I researched various forum discussions, ambient charts, and album reviews to determine the best point of ingress for such a large discography. Steve Roach is best-known for two particular albums – Structures From Silence from 1984 and Dreamtime Return first issued in 1988. These are Berlin-Schoolesque tribal ambient records which I enjoyed but I was more interested in exploring something along the lines of beatless freeform drones so I dug deeper. I queued up the more noteworthy of his collaborations, namely those produced with fellow-ambient-guru, Robert Rich. This included both Strata and Soma from 1990 and 1992 respectively and both issued on the Hearts of Space label. I also surveyed a number of multi-disc box sets Roach had issued for a sampling of multi-hour-long mixes as soundbeds for sleep.

Initially, because I had queued these albums in the chronology by which they were originally issued, the first several hours of content were rendered inaudible. This was due to the overall mastering volume of the albums increasing as the decades progressed, in line with the loudness war and trends in mastering. Because of this, as I’d set my amplifier volume so that the loudest selections didn’t disturb my rest, for the first few nights I didn’t actually hear some of the albums in the playlist. I decided to repurpose the list as a soundscape for my work day where I could adjust the volume as needed and give the releases proper attention. I’m so glad that I did!

That’s how I discovered the majesty of Roach’s Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces 4CD box set from 2003. Parts one and two of this set were simultaneously issued as separate 2CD releases but they are far-better experienced in the Complete Edition box set. The set clocks in at a total runtime of just over 4 hours and 55 minutes, and is wonderful for both sleep and as a background soundscape for productivity. I’ve been playing the set on repeat daily and nightly for the past week and really enjoying it. 

I researched the details of the release and compiled a few remarks highlighting the merits of the set, where I found others had described its qualities far better than I ever could. I found some information on the Projeckt record label’s website as well as a dedicated discussion thread on headfi dot org.

The official press release for part one of the album from the official Bandcamp page states:

Moving into the majestic realm of pure, non-rhythmic electro-acoustic soundworlds, Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces is a stunning 2-CD release marking a new milestone in Roach’s history as a true artist of sound. His landmark statements – including Dreamtime Return, Magnificent Void and Structures from Silence – are all parts of the uninterrupted flow building to this release. After a recent run of rhythmically fused CDs, Roach moves into awe-inspiring sonic immersion, delving into a spiritual dimension of sound. Nearly 5 years in the making, this release offers a listening experience beyond entertainment and pop culture appeals, creating a new sense of ‘ambient orchestration’ through a constantly shifting flow of sounds and textures that enters a sacred realm of music.

And ambient music guru, John Dilberto of Echoes – The Nightly Music Soundscape radio program wrote upon its release:

After dark descents into the abyss on The Magnificent Void and Midnight Moon, Steve Roach lightens up the textures a bit on Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces . The mood harkens back to his influential 1984 release, Structures From Silence, but the atmospheres are more textured and layered while melody is virtually non-existent. And while Structures had a slow motion pulse, Mystic Chords hangs rhythm free. It floats in a space of richly detailed, but minutely shifting sound constructs that owe more to Gyorgy Ligeti and Mark Rothko than early Roach touchstones like Klaus Schulze and Salvador Dali. Roach is creating a free fall through space, less rooted in the pulsing techno-tribal sound of his 1990s music, and more ecstatic in its evocations of something beyond. He carries you to groaning turgid depths, then lifts you as electric guitar glides and synthesizers gurgle, shudder, and swell in an Aurora Borealis of sound.

I was also glad to see that Stephen Hill of Hearts of Space radio offered a few words on the album as well. He said:

Abandoning all conventional notions of music as melody, harmony and rhythm, Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces allows the listener blissful hours on the high frontier between deep listening music and the spirituality of pure sound.

By any measure, Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces is a masterwork from an ambient virtuoso with a career spanning four decades of musical composition. The box set is an instant favorite for focused or background activity. Curious listeners can check out the Hearts of Space broadcast #665 which originally broadcast on May 30, 2003 and was dedicated to showcasing highlights from this release.

I look forward to exploring the rest of my Steve Roach archive and acquiring the 18 releases he’s issued this year for further listening. 

Building a Library of the Original Sherlock Holmes Canon and Early Adaptations

I’ve had some vacation time on my hands and I wanted to stay productive, so I dedicated some time to refining and expanding my library of materials relating to the original canon of Sherlock Holmes and the early and most treasured adaptations. I’ve always wanted to explore classic detective fiction, and there is undeniably no better place to start than with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

For my physical collection, I began by tracking down an original 1967 first-single-volume-edition of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, comprising the complete texts of the four novels and fifty-six short stories, accompanied by an introduction, notes, maps, diagrams, photographs, and drawings – an indispensable possession for all mystery fans. The book is monstrously oversized in a single mammoth volume, but fortunately I found a mahogany bookcase the exact size of the edition’s slipcase to display it proudly over my fireplace. I secured a digital ebook archive of the complete texts as well to facilitate casual reading on the go and started my perusal.

Here is the book in its bookcase:

Annotated Sherlock Holmes 1of3

And some of the lovely annotations:

Annotated Sherlock Holmes 2of3

Annotated Sherlock Holmes 3of3

Also in the spirit of the canon, I tracked down a high-resolution copy of my favorite illustration from the original adventures published in The Strand Magazine between 1891 and 1892 by Sidney Paget and had it printed and framed for my home.

Sherlock Holmes Framed Illustration

Next it seemed appropriate to secure an exhaustive audio library of all major radio adaptations of the original tales and related materials. My 223-disc Sir Arthur Conan Doyle audio collection includes the following:

– CBS Radio Mystery Theater – The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (83 CD Set)
– The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes BBC Radio Dramas (79 CD Set)
– The Complete Sherlock Holmes Audiobooks 9 Volumes Unabridged (60 CD Set)
– The Immortal Sherlock Holmes – Orson Welles, Mercury Theater 1938-09-25

And for my video library, I’ve acquired the Blu-ray Complete Collection of Basil Rathbone’s portrayals of Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Dr. John H. Watson – fourteen films produced between 1939-1946, which comprises:

– The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
– The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
– The Voice Of Terror (1942)
– The Secret Weapon (1942)
– Sherlock Holmes In Washington (1943)
– Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943)
– The Spider Woman (1944)
– The Scarlet Claw (1944)
– The Pearl Of Death (1944)
– The House Of Fear (1945)
– The Woman In Green (1945)
– Pursuit To Algiers (1945)
– Terror By Night (1946)
– The Secret Code-Dressed To Kill (1946)

Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone Blu-Ray DVD

These sleuthing adventures will be a joy to explore during the remainder of my vacation.

I’ve done my best to survey Wikipedia’s pages of the original canon as well as the wonderful Baker Street Wiki at https://bakerstreet.fandom.com to ensure that nothing was overlooked. Still, if I’ve omitted any other classic materials which one might regard as essential to the original Sherlock Holmes universe, I would welcome suggestions for additional content. But the library outlined above should give me plenty to explore through the chilly winter ahead.

“The game is afoot.”

Rathbone_as_Holmes

Building a Survey of Jazz: A Brief Summary of the Larger Jazz-Related Collections in My Library

I have a decent starter-collection of jazz vinyl, focusing primarily on Miles Davis’ catalog including the 6LP Miles at the Fillmore box set, as well as a selection of the better quality big band box sets on wax. But I’ve been working on building the digital portion of my jazz collection, the larger box sets of which total 1,626 albums. These highlights help me add a sense of order to the 22,000 jazz recordings in my digital library.

To date, my focus has been on essential classics, vocal jazz standards, the crooners, tin pan alley, jazz pop (1920-1960), highlights of avant-garde jazz, the big bands, swing, a bit of ECM, future jazz (in the electronic realm), film noir scores, gypsy jazz / jazz manouche, and their related subgenres. I’ve been in the mood to explore The Great American Songbook, (jazz vocal standards by Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Ellington, etc), so I started doing some research.

I’m no jazz expert, but some preliminary Google searches, list-generators, and review surveys provided me with sufficient information to begin building a respectable personal library. One intriguing release offered for sale on Toronto’s JazzFM website was an astonishingly large 500 CD box set called, The World’s Greatest Jazz Collection. Of course, due to licensing restrictions, the set lacks some of the classic milestone recordings which come to mind when such a title is raised, but the sound quality and sheer volume of the collection warranted its addition to my library.

The 500-CD World’s Greatest Jazz Collection comprises five 100-disc sub sets:

100-CD Bebop Story box set

100-CD The Big Bands box set

100-CD Classic Jazz box set

100-CD Modern Jazz box set

100-CD Swing Time box set

Next I tackled building discographic archives of key figures in the history of classic and modern jazz. Larger jazz artist discographies in my archive include but are not limited to the following:

156-CD Thelonious Monk discography

135-CD Keith Jarrett discography

100-CD RateYourMusic.com’s Top 100 Future Jazz LPs

98-CD Miles Davis discography

78-CD Jimmy Smith discography

75-CD Sun Ra discography

61-CD Ornette Coleman discography

52-CD Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers discography

43-CD Herbie Hancock discography

43-CD Jimmy McGriff discography

40-CD Duke Ellington discography

35-CD Charles Mingus discography

30-CD John Coltrane discography

22-CD Dave Brubeck discography

16-CD Future Sounds of Jazz box set

as well as the 16-CD Diana Krall discography. (My late father was a fan and sparked my interest in her catalog when I was starting college.)

And as I’ve discussed in former features, I worked hard to build analog and digital archives of the finest big band collections ever issued to the public. Some of these were exclusively available from mail order subscription services on vinyl and later on compact disc, but thankfully, archivists around the world have painstakingly digitized the vinyl-exclusive volumes and produced complete digital libraries of these sets at professional archival quality.

In my Big Band Archive I have:

30-LP box set of Time Life: The Big Bands

27-CD Ken Burns Jazz Series and Jazz: The Story of America’s Music (22-CD + 5CD)

11-LP box set of The Great Band Era

10-volume Benny Goodman Collection

7-volume The Big Bands box set

4-CD Smithsonian Big Band Jazz archive

2-disc Glenn Miller Gold Collection

1-CD The Glenn Miller Orchestra Collection

Other smaller and more precisely-focused jazz collections in my library include:

8 CDs from the Jazz Moods series 

6 of the essential albums by The Bill Evans Trio

6-CD Gypsy Jazz / Jazz Manouche box set

5-CD 100 Hits American Songbook box set which includes one hundred standards recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Shirley Bassey, Sammy Davis Jr, and more.

5-CD Film Noir jazz series collection

3-CD Complete Recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong 

and the single-disc Complete Recordings of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong

My collection is leagues away from exhaustive or complete in the vast scope of the world of jazz – an insurmountable task for certain, but I’ve done my best to construct a modest library showcasing the key subgenres I enjoy most. These will provide me with years of listening enjoyment on lazy Sundays and on my afternoon drives queued up in the car from my personal media server.

In an effort to determine the best recordings to sample first, I began compiling various “best-of” lists. Rateyourmusic user erikfish found 22 “top jazz albums of all time” lists in books, magazines and web sites and combined them into one meta-list here. And TheJazzResource.com compiled a similar list of the Top 25 Jazz Albums of All Time. Spinditty published a feature on Ten Coltrane Albums Every Jazz Fan Should Own and NPR put together a similar roster called The Cocktail Party Guide To John Coltrane. I also assembled some of my own lists including Modal Jazz Essentials, Recordings of the First Great Quintet (Davis and Trane in ‘56), as well as 17 Essential Hard Bop Recordings courtesy of critic Scott Yanow and a Top Ten Essentials list of Thelonious Monk LPs.

I would love to hear your recommendations for your favorite titles from the collections mentioned above which deserve priority listening, or your suggestions for other collections which would complement my current library. If I’ve any glaring omissions, please let me know! I’m always eager to learn.

Internet Archive Lawsuit May Have Dire Implications for Lenders and Borrowers Alike: Redefining “Ownership” in the Age of Subscription Services

Open Library

In case the story has escaped your personal social media feed or news aggregator, there is a lawsuit unfolding before our eyes which is unprecedented in the history of librarianship. It has the potential to affect all of us, from students to educators to anyone who supports Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the United States Constitution which grants the enumerated power “To promote the progress of science and useful arts” and what it means to “own a book.”

Maria Bustillos of The Nation published a startling summary of the Archive.org Open Library lawsuit and what it may mean for libraries and borrowers in the future. Several other major news sites have reported about the suit, the trial of which is set for next year in federal court, and initial disclosures for discovery are already under way. I’ll quote from this particular article liberally as it most effectively and contextually frames the significance of the lawsuit and its potential impact better than any other write-up I’ve read to date.

Bustillos begins by framing the circumstances which led to the founding of the National Emergency Library at the onset of the global pandemic.

When Covid-19 struck, hundreds of millions of students were suddenly stranded at home without access to teachers or libraries. UNESCO reported that in April, 90 percent of the world’s enrolled students had been adversely affected by the pandemic. In response, the Internet Archive’s Open Library announced the National Emergency Library, a temporary program suspending limits on the number of patrons who could borrow its digital books simultaneously. The Open Library lends at no charge about 4 million digital books, 2.5 million of which are in the public domain, and 1.4 million of which may be under copyright and subject to lending restrictions. (This is roughly equivalent to a medium-sized city library; the New York Public Library, by comparison, holds 21.9 million books and printed materials and 1.78 million e-books

Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder and digital librarian, wrote in March that the National Emergency Library would ensure “that students will have access to assigned readings and library materials…for the remainder of the US academic calendar.” He acknowledged that authors and publishers would also be harmed by the pandemic, urged those in a position to buy books to do so, and offered authors a form for removing their own books from the program, if they chose.

More than 100 libraries, archives, and other institutions signed on to a statement of support for the program, including MIT, Penn State, Emory University, the Boston Public Library, Middlebury College, Amherst College, George Washington University, the Claremont Colleges Library, and the Greater Western Library Alliance.

…Harvard history professor and author Jill Lepore joined many media observers in praising the National Emergency Library as “a gift to readers everywhere.”

Next she outlined the terms of the suit and the responsive actions which followed:

On June 1, Whitehead’s publisher, Penguin Random House, together with fellow megapublishers Hachette, HarperCollins, and Wiley, filed a lawsuit against the Internet Archive alleging “mass copyright infringement.” The Internet Archive closed the National Emergency Library on June 16, citing the lawsuit and calling for the publishers to stand down. But the plaintiffs are continuing to press their claims, and are now seeking to close the whole Open Library permanently.

what’s really at stake in this lawsuit is the idea of ownership itself—what it means not only for a library but for anyone to own a book.

Her insights on the indispensability of the Internet Archive follow, demonstrating how critical it is to preserve this organization:

The Internet Archive is far more than the Open Library; it’s a nonprofit institution that has become a cornerstone of archival activity throughout the world. Brewster Kahle is an Internet pioneer who was writing about the importance of preserving the digital commons in 1996. He built the Wayback Machine, without which an incalculable amount of the early Web would have been lost for good. The Internet Archive has performed pioneering work in developing public search tools for its own vast collections, such as the television news archive, which researchers and journalists like me use on an almost daily basis in order to contextualize and interpret political reporting. These resources are unique and irreplaceable.

The Internet Archive is a tech partner to hundreds of libraries, including the Library of Congress, for whom it develops techniques for the stewardship of digital content. It helps them build their own Web-based collections with tools such as Archive-It, which is currently used by more than 600 organizations including universities, museums, and government agencies, as well as libraries, to create their own searchable public archives. The Internet Archive repairs broken links on Wikipedia—by the million. It has collected thousands of early computer games, and developed online emulators so they can be played on modern computers. It hosts collections of live music performances, 78s and cylinder recordings, radio shows, films and video.

Equally importantly, Bustillos draws the parallels between traditional and modern digital libraries like the Open Library:

Like a traditional library, the Internet Archive buys or accepts donations of physical books. The archive scans its physical books, making one digital copy available for each physical book it owns. The digitized copies are then loaned out for a limited period, like a traditional library loan. The physical books from which the scans were made are stored and do not circulate, a practice known as “own-to-loan.”

Harvard copyright scholar and lawyer Kyle Courtney has explained this reasoning very clearly. “Libraries do not need permission or a license to loan those books that they have purchased or acquired,” he said at a recent conference. “Copyright law covers those exact issues.… Congress actually placed all of these specialized copyright exemptions for libraries in the Copyright Act itself.”

And it is next that Bustillos expresses the most fundamental concern regarding the suit, and the dangerous implications that it may bear upon the lending market in the future. There is an undeniably growing global trend of media consumers retiring analog media in exchange for cloud-based access to their digital counterparts. But this trade-off comes at an alarming cost.

Physical media libraries continue to diminish as a younger generation is ushered into a subscription-service-based way of life. Music collections are being replaced with Spotify accounts. Video game consoles are being released with no physical disc drives and instead offer digital downloads which have no value should a gamer decide that they wish to explore other systems. DVD collections are becoming less common as viewers opt to curate their “collections” on services like Netflix. And software packages are no longer purchased once physically and owned thereafter – users are instead forced to pay a monthly subscription fee for continued access. 

Could we see the same thing happen with digital books? As a lifelong cataloger and curator, I can’t imagine relinquishing my physical libraries and chaining myself to a perpetual monthly slow-bleed of non-ownership. So much of my identity is embodied in my curation. But if publishers have their way with the lending market and related legislation, we may be forced into just such a reality.

Bustillos explains:

Publishers approve of libraries paying for e-book licenses because they’re temporary, just like your right to watch a movie on Netflix is temporary and can evaporate at any moment. In the same way, publishers would like to see libraries obliged to license, not to own, books—that is, continue to pay for the same book again and again. That’s what this lawsuit is really about. It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that publishers took advantage of the pandemic to achieve what they had not been able to achieve previously: to turn the library system into a “reading as a service” operation from which they can squeeze profits forever.

The Internet is 31 years old, and in those three short decades the virtual world we’ve come to depend on has slowly eroded the idea of private ownership—literally, your right to call your belongings your own. Things you used to buy just once, such as your own private copies of software like Photoshop or Word, your privately owned vinyl discs and CDs, or movies on VHS—have increasingly begun to come through dispensing services you pay for every month, from vendors like Adobe, Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify. And you’ll never stop paying.

“Libraries buy, preserve, and lend,” he said. “That’s been the model forever. [Libraries] actually supply about 20 percent of the revenue to the publishing industry. But if they cannot buy, preserve, and lend—if all they become is a redistributor, a Netflix for books—my God, we have a society that can get really out of control. Because if a publisher maintains control over every reading event, who’s allowed to read it, when are they allowed to read it, if they’re allowed to read it, and be able to prevent anybody, or particular regions, from being able to see something, we are in George Orwell world.

Another journalist, Mike Masnick of Techdirt was equally impassioned and emphatic about the erroneousness and fallaciousness of this lawsuit.

For many years, we’ve said that if the public library were invented today, the book publishers would sue it out of existence. It appears that the big book publishers have decided to prove me right, as they have decided to sue the Internet Archive for lending ebooks without a license.

While many publishers and authors declared this to be “piracy,” that did not square with reality. The Internet Archive was relying on a variety of precedents regarding the legality of libraries scanning books and lending books, as well as around fair use, to argue that what it was doing was perfectly legal. Indeed, the deeper you looked at the issue, the more it looked like the publishers and authors were upset with the Internet Archive for being a library, since libraries don’t need special licenses to lend out books.

Except the identical argument applies to public libraries lending physical copies as well. It does not “grossly exceed legitimate library services.” It makes books it has in its possession available for borrowing. Just like a library. Yes, the books are digitized, but libraries also distribute exact copies of books in their entirety for reading purposes to the public for free. Including voluminous numbers of books that are currently commercially available.

That’s a LIBRARY.

Masnick reiterates this theme of how the Open Library is precisely that throughout his article. He explains:

Books have long been essential to our society. Fiction and non-fiction alike, they transport us to new worlds, broaden our horizons, provide us with perspective, reflect the evergrowing knowledge of humanity in every field, spark our imaginations and deepen our understanding of the world. Yet, books are not self-generating. They are the product of training and study, talent and grit, perseverance and creativity, investment and risk, and untold hours of work.

That’s right: and for tons of people they way they read those books is from a library.

The publishers have been chipping away at “libraries” for years. Before ebooks, libraries could buy books and lend them out. They didn’t need a special license. However, in recent years, publishers have rushed into the opportunity created by ebooks to change that, and to require licenses (crazy, expensive licenses) for ebooks. Just last fall we noted how publishing giant Macmillan (which, somewhat oddly, is the one big publishing house that is not a plaintiff) had gone to war with libraries, using its extreme ebook pricing and licensing terms to basically kill the market for ebook library lending.

But also looking over that list, I see a bunch of books that I know are read in schools — meaning that these publishing houses likely have just screwed over a bunch of teachers and students, many of whom already have physical copies of books, but find them inaccessible for the kids to read while we all still remain under lockdown.

So much for those books being “essential to our society.”

He closes his write-up emphasizing:

…there are very real concerns that this fight could bankrupt the entire Internet Archive.

I do wonder if the authors who spoke out against this really want to shut down such an important institution just so they can sell a couple more books.

I suspect he is quite right, indeed.

Masnick provides numerous links to sources corroborating each of his points, but for a balanced perspective, I also made sure to search for articles challenging the claims made by these writers in an effort to counter their arguments. I could only find one opposing document, penned by Aja Romano, an Internet Culture Reporter for Vox.com. Romano rebukes reporters for the sense of urgency expressed by those wary of the lawsuit’s implications and says the suit is “not as dire as you may have heard.”  

Romano does give credit to The Internet Archive for its achievements, noting that the Wayback Machine comprises a digital collection of roughly 390 billion pages dating back to 1996 – a 10-petabyte collection and the deepest archive of internet history in existence. But she states that “the reporting surrounding [the lawsuit] was hyperbolic and alarmist.” 

Regarding the impact of the suit on the sustainability of The Internet Archive, Romano notes the following:

If the court awards the plaintiffs the maximum amount provided under the law, the most the Internet Archive would have to pay would be $19 million — essentially equivalent to one year of operating revenue, according to IA tax documents. That’s a huge setback, but for the IA, a tech nonprofit that relies heavily on grants and public donations, it’s not the major death blow it might seem to be.

Even if that is the case, Romano fails to address the suggested implications that such a ruling could potentially have on the market as a whole.

So what do you think? Does the Open Library lawsuit set a precedent for all lenders which could potentially transform the library system into a subscription-based “reading as a service” operation? And might these extreme ebook pricing and licensing terms kill the market for ebook library lending altogether?

Hold onto your books, everyone.

Brian Eno Collection Milestone

Today I’ve proudly reached a milestone with my Brian Eno collection. In addition to the dozens of art prints, books, lithographs, 85 digital releases, and other miscellanea I’ve acquired, I’ve now successfully built a sizable library of most major releases issued in the vinyl format by the artist. 

While there are still a number of bootlegs and collaborative efforts, as well as titles from Eno’s catalog originally issued in the 90s now being released for the first time on vinyl, my library comprises 40 of his best-loved works totaling 64 discs of content, including the highly sought-after Music For Installations 9LP limited edition box set.

This feature will showcase the most noteworthy elements of my collection to date. I’ll begin with the LPs, themselves. It was quite a challenge to photograph 40 12” multi-disc releases all in one shot, particularly without photographer’s lamps and other equipment, but I’ve done my best using the trusty digital SLR I received from my family when I first started art college twenty-two years ago.

Here are the LPs:

01 Brian Eno Collage LP Vinyl Collection sm for web

Next, for some art, here is the “Electric Love Blueprint – A History of Electronic Music” theremin schematic created by the Dorothy design collective. The infographic “celebrates over 200 inventors, innovators, artists, composers and musicians who (in our opinion) have been pivotal to the evolution of electronic music, from the invention of the earliest known sound recording device in 1857 to the present day.” Of course, Brian Eno’s name appears typeset in the largest point size of any pioneer cited among the layout.

The 60 x 80 cm art print is printed with metallic silver ink on 120gsm Keaykolour Royal Blue uncoated stock. It was gifted to me by a dear friend and hangs proudly in my listening room.

Next is a limited edition oversized promotional art print for Eno’s 77 Million Paintings exhibition at Moogfest in 2011.

And just for fun, I had a t-shirt printed up with the art from one of the most influential early Eno solo albums, Before and After Science.

I also made sure to track down an original UK pressing of that very album specifically for the large lithographs exclusive to that edition painted by Peter Schmidt. I had the lithographs professionally framed for my dining room.

I also secured both original and remastered pressings of Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks. The Extended Edition includes the For All Mankind bonus LP and I was among the first 250 to order which got me a handsome 42cm x 59cm poster of the Apollo cover artwork which I had framed as well.

I was similarly inspired by Eno’s pioneering ambient effort, Music For Airports, so I prepared a framed print of the sheet music of the album’s score.

Then there is the DVD collecting Eno’s experiments with film, Thursday Afternoon (1984) and Mistaken Memories of Mediaeval Manhattan (1981)

I’ve previously shared my excitement when I learned that Eno had collaborated with one of my other musical heroes, Karl Hyde of Underworld. I framed the pair of postcards included with their two album releases.

There was also an art print included with original pressings of Eno and Hyde’s first collaboration, Someday World, which I’ve framed in my listening room.

And while working as a designer, I independently produced a 24” x 24” oversized PVC-mounted vinyl print of a graphic I designed mapping a chronology of all of Eno’s creative works both as an artist and as a producer. Here is a web-friendly downscaled copy of the artwork with a magnified sample of an area of text.

Of course, what Eno collection would be complete without an edition of the Oblique Strategies oracle deck? 

And finally, here is my library of thirteen books examining the mind and the art of Brian Eno. It was great fun compiling them all, including a copy of Eno’s own diary, A Year With Swollen Appendices.

That is the collection to date. I know that it is far from complete. My research reveals an additional 14 vinyl releases far more rare than anything I have and nearly 2,600 releases with Eno named in the credits, but I made sure to collect all of the titles which were of great significance to me, personally. 

Thank you for permitting me to share my love for great music. Eno and his work are an unparalleled inspiration in my life.