Worthwhile Dilemmas

Today I am delighted to have become the proud owner of a deck of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s infamous Oblique Strategies cards.


Subtitled Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas, these decks were first published in 1975 and are currently in their fifth edition. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists and musicians overcome mental blocks by encouraging lateral approaches to their creative works. The cards feature instructions such as:

  • Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them
  • Towards the insignificant
  • Give way to your worst impulse
  • Tape your mouth
  • Do something boring
  • Make a blank valuable by putting it in an exquisite frame
  • Work at a different speed



Personal photo of my newly-received deck


The letterpress printed cards are housed in a black box with gold reflective lettering. There was also a limited edition of 500 boxes in burgundy rather than black issued in 2013.

While early editions command hundreds or even thousands of dollars on eBay, (there are at present two autographed first edition decks listed for $2,499.00 and $3,299.00 respectively), I was very pleased to find decks of the latest edition available from www.enoshop.co.uk for about $46 including shipping to the United States. It really is a small price to pay for such an influential and inspirational cultural artifact.



Autographed and numbered first edition deck from 1975 currently for sale on eBay


Brian Eno has been one of the most instrumental figures in my creative development. I’ve been following his visual works, his music, multimedia installation pieces, and his philosophy for the entirety of my adult life. In 2009, I created an infographic of his work as a writer, artist, and producer titled, Enography (The Grand Unified Theory of Contemporary Music). It really is a privilege to finally have claimed one of these decks for my own.


A Hundred Days Off Revisited

This evening on a late night drive back to the city, I queued up one of my favorite Underworld albums that I hadn’t spun in some time. I wanted to share it with various music communities online but felt an obligatory responsibility to defend the album, as it received a lot of undeserved heat upon its release.


A Hundred Days Off (2002) was Underworld’s first full-length LP after the departure of Darren Emerson. Darren was a critical contributor to the trademark sound of Underworld Mk2, which spanned the album trilogy of Dubnobasswithmyheadman, Second Toughest in the Infants, and Beaucoup Fish. This chapter of the band concluded with the release of their live concert DVD, Everything Everything Live in 2000.

What followed with A Hundred Days Off and Rick and Karl’s subsequent LPs was a markedly more cerebral incarnation of the duo’s sound. AHDO traded in the floor-stomping anthems and “lager lager lager…” lyricism for more artful explorations of electronic music. Rejected by some of the clubbing community as weak or lifeless, these listeners were too quick to reject the ambient soundscapes, natural percussion, and polyrhythmic intricacies that make A Hundred Days Off such an enjoyable and enduring record.

Call it what you like – “album-oriented techno”, “progressive downtempo”, or “music for aging ravers”… just know that the best of the band’s recordings lie deep in the grooves beyond the club tracks of the late 1990s. And with The RiverRun Project, an array of web-only releases, and their music for both stage and screen, Underworld had an incredible wealth of music to offer after the dance floor had cleared at sunup.

Just in From the Netherlands – An Awesome 1950’s Electronic Music Box Set!

I’ve been on a crazy musique concrete kick lately, buying up classics like Cage’s Cartridge Music and the Panorama of Musique Concrete from ’56.

And just arrived from the Netherlands – Popular Electronics: The Singles Collection

#664/1000, this velvet box set was issued in 2008 by Basta Records – the label which produced the magnificent three-volume Manhattan Research set. This compilation contains faithful reissues of 1950s musique concrete 7″ classics from Dutch electronic music composers Kid Baltan, Tom Dissevelt, and H Badings.

The set contains:

  • Electronic Ballet Music: Cain and Abel (Philips 400 036 AE) (1956)
  • Electronic Popular Music (Philips 315 538 NF) (1957)
  • Electronic Movements (Philips430 736 PE) (1958)
  • and Electronic Music (Philips 430 791 PE) (1961)

Each disc includes the original sleeve and liner notes.

I first got into Baltan/Dissevelt under their Electrosoniks moniker when I found the Philips “Electronic Music” LP from 1962 at my local antique mall. Wonderful stuff!


A Day Full of Wonderful Music!

This morning I took a trip to my old hometown of Rochester and made my routine pilgrimage to my favorite record store – The Bop Shop. The owner, Tom put a record in my hands and told me that I had to own it.

Tom has always been a wonderful source for musique concrete, minimalist works, early experimental electronic recordings and other lovely treasures of the avant-garde. Many of my favorite LPs are original pressings from his personal collection.


The LP he held was John Cage • Christian Wolff, a 1963 album featuring Cage’s side-long “Cartridge Music” – one of Cage’s earliest attempts to produce live electronic music by manipulating turntable cartridges. I’ve known Tom for years and he has never steered me wrong and this latest LP is no exception. Wonderful stuff!

I also spotted a box set in his shop which I snatched up without hesitation. Readers may recall my copy of Cyril Ritchard reading Alice in Wonderland which included a facsimile clothbound hardcover copy of the 1865 first edition with all of the original illustrations. Today in store, I discovered that Ritchard had produced a reading of Through the Looking Glass as well! And it too included a copy of the 1872 hardcover. How could I pass it up?


Upon returning home I was struck by a recollection that a Kickstarter project had been initiated for a first-ever “Earthling Edition” of the historic Voyager Golden Record, (our message to the stars). As the Kickstarter page describes:

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet — birds, a train, a baby’s cry — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called Sounds of Earth. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

The closest I’d come to the Voyager disc was the limited edition “A Glorious Dawn” single from Third Man Records. The single was composed and performed by Symphony of Science and credited to an auto-tuned Carl Sagan singing about the magnificence of the universe. And etched upon the second side of the disc is the image of the Golden Record.


As a tremendous fan of Carl Sagan’s work and his legacy, and as a “cultural curator” of historically significant recordings, this anniversary Voyager project was something I knew I had to support, and to claim a copy for my library if at all possible.


The beautiful box set is being remastered by Timothy Ferris – the original producer of the Golden Record, and will include:

  • A cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay
  • Three translucent gold, heavyweight vinyl LPs in poly-lined paper sleeves
  • Three old-style tip-on jackets, black ink and gold foil
  • A hardback book showcasing the photographs and art featured on the original disc
  • A lithograph of Voyager Golden Record cover diagram, gold metallic ink on archival paper
  • A full-color plastic digital download card for all audio of the record in MP3 or FLAC

What a wonderful way to celebrate our message to space!

And it turned out that my hunch was aptly timed, as I found there were only five days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign, and pledging to the project is the only way to claim a copy of this special release! I pledged immediately and look forward to the album’s launch in 2017.

Check out the short official video for the project and pledge while you still can!

The Innerspace Labs Top 100 Albums

Recently a vinyl community I frequent held a month-long event where members shared their Top 30 LPs. I had a wonderful time coming up with my list and writing small reviews for each title. Unfortunately, I had a terrible time limiting my list to just 30, and it quickly grew to a Top 100. (And even then, I’ve cheated here and there with multi-disc box sets and discographies.)

But it all seemed too good not to share here at Innerspace so please enjoy a gallery of 100 of my favorite albums. Mouse over any thumbnail for artist and title info and click any image to expand and view the full-resolution photograph. All albums are presented alphabetically by artist.

Have I made any glaring omissions? Any indisputable electronic classics? Let me know! Perhaps we’ll have to push it to 200…


Summer’s End and Latest Finds

Greeting, friends! The past several weeks have been brimming with excitement and activity, and I owe you all an update. Please pardon the informality of this post, as it will be more personal and reflective than structured or academic.

It’s been a month of investment in the resources I have neglected in my life. I’ve enjoyed exploring the sound of the aforementioned vintage amp which I finally put to use after all these years in storage and I’ll be empowering my existing gear by upgrading my DAC from a Behringer Ucontrol UCA202 to the Audioquest Dragonfly Red.

I’ve been forging and developing friendships with intellectual peers and with introverted and reclusive contacts of mine from as long as 16 years ago with whom I never took the time during those chaotic college years. I’ve found them to be brilliant and engaging ladies and gents with an incredible command of knowledge in my fields of interest. I’ve had some of the most inspiring conversations of my life with a handful of these friends, and it has filled a void where rewarding relationships were sorely lacking from my social development as an adult.

I’ve also been developing my virtual relationships with fascinating individuals in faraway cities and countries. These musical friendships have brought me joy and inspiration in the form of musical recommendations of works which would otherwise be off my radar. These are beautiful people who I am grateful to have in my life in any form, virtual or otherwise.

My writing has also reached a critical point in its development. I found a mentor and a publisher for my book, but after thoroughly exploring the consequences of publishing a work on subjects as controversial as mine, it quickly became evident that I must keep the work clandestine, or otherwise risk millions of dollars in litigation, or worse – national exile. (If anyone is interested in the details, please contact me directly, as I would still sincerely appreciate the input of my friends and peers.)

My potential new home, should I publish my book – an outpost in the Arctic.

But on to the music!

The first LP is an unfortunate situation. I was at first thrilled to find that this summer, The Avalanches’ unparalleled debut record from 2000 had finally received a proper reissue, making the album accessible and affordable for everyone. My misfortune, however, began with my purchase of the record from a shop in the UK. It arrived damaged from international shipping, and the shop insisted that I ship the damaged copy back to them before they would dispatch a replacement copy. It cost me an additional $40 to return the item, (as I needed to insure the package less I risk losing both the album and the return shipping expense should the copy be lost in transit). Upon receipt of the return, the shop informed me that they hadn’t reserved me a replacement and that the album was sold out. They also refused to reimburse me for my return shipping expense. So now I have no album plus a $40 hole in my account. I’ve ordered a replacement from another seller Stateside and hope to receive it soon.

My misfortune aside, this album is a treasure for any listener interested in sampledelica and in music which pushes the boundaries of copyright. Since I Left You, which comprises an estimated 3,500 samples is, like all good sample-based music, a legal logistical nightmare.

While it is difficult to summarize the unique flavor of this debut, Christian Ward of NME accurately described it as, “a joyous, kaleidoscopic masterpiece of sun-kissed disco-pop.”
Whether you’re a purist who insists that The Original Australian Zomba Promo Mix is the only proper version or you’re just grateful that XL finally released an affordable reissue; Since I Left You is an undisputed classic of the sound of summer.


My next acquisitions were, thankfully, much smoother transactions. I’d recently revisited my copy of the 50th Anniversary edition of John Cage’s SILENCE: Lectures & Writings and was greatly inspired. I owned copies of Indeterminacy, Variations IV, Sonatas and Interludes / A Book of Music, and various compilations, but when I spotted a newly-announced reissue of the legendary 1958 25-Year Retrospective Concert box set on vinyl, I didn’t hesitate for a moment and ordered a copy straight away.


The musique concrète trend concluded beautifully with a visit to my favorite record shop from my old hometown. The owner knows precisely the sort of stuff I’m after, and many of my 20th-century avant-garde LPs are from his personal collection. The trip was most rewarding, as I took home two essential classics –

The World of Harry Partch (May, 1969)


and A Panorama of Musique Concrete (DTL93090 1956)


Also while I was in the shop, I spotted a collector’s dream on the shelf – an original 1970 copy of Rodriguez’ Cold Fact with the disc is astonishingly mint condition! It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but I sadly had to leave it behind. If you’d like the copy for your own, he’s listed it on his shop’s official Discogs page here.


I’ve two more treasures pre-ordered for this fall –

The Orb’s 25th Anniversary concert performance of The Orb’s Further Adventures Live 2016 3 colored LP + concert DVD


and Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas series complete box set


Happy autumn, everyone! And thanks for tuning in!

Published in: on September 24, 2016 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Music for Spaceports

For the last two weeks, I’ve been listening again and again to the latest two promo albums from M.Ward’s ‘Recovered & Remastered’ series and the new 10 CD ‘X-Series’.

The first specimen I ingested was the monumental 10th Anniversary Overhaul of 4ORBIDDEN MISSION.

Ten years ago, M.Ward’s remix project was privately circulated and limited to an estimated 22 copies. Bootlegs eventually surfaced and were exchanged for large sums of money, but the originals seldom changed hands and the music was lost for a decade.

This new 2CD edition is unmixed, vastly superior in sound quality, and a fantastic overhaul of the original 4OM recording. The tracks have all been lovingly tweaked, with any quality issues finally resolved, providing a gorgeous listening experience. There was also a 3rd disc with the original 4OM which included a 54-minute mix of ‘Huge Ever Growing…’ This mix was only ever meant for that set. There is a possibility that this mix will also get the 10th Anniversary Overhaul treatment and appear somewhere in the future?

05 4ORBIDDEN MISSION (10th Anniversary Overhaul) [Promo].JPG

The 40M Overhaul is brilliant, and if you’re a die-hard fan, you already know that you need this mix in your life.

But it was the second double-disc promo which intrigued me the most. The set arrived, like 4OM, in a modest cardboard 2CD sleeve, stamped with the title:


As a tremendous fan of the original TINWSIA single CD promo, (cat# KLF MINUS-SIX), I couldn’t wait to survey this deluxe and expanded edition. I set aside some serious time for interstellar travel. No lights, minimal external stimuli, just me and my passive noise cancelling circumaural monitors.

03 This is Not What Space is About Full Length Unmixed 2CD Promo (Cardboard Sleeve).JPG

Listening to this expanded edition of Space was like settling in for a screening of 2001. Man has several rituals which must be performed to prepare himself for the journey which awaits him. Secure in my sleep chamber, I slowed my breathing and heart rate and engaged the auditory systems which initiated the listening sequence of Disc 1.

Looking back, my memory is foggy from that initial experience. There were so many sensations – moments of elation and of anticipation… but like all of the most gripping and affecting events of our lives, the exact moments blur into a vaporous and intangible haze. But it’s just as well – the incorporeal recollection is befitting of the ethereal magnificence of the recording, and enhances its metaphysical transportive effect.

The printed insert from the TINWSIA 2CD

Upon the conclusion of Disc 1, I opened my eyes, slowly, and reacquainted my body with the sensations and properties of the physical world. I needed a cerebral and sensory palate cleanser after the first leg of the voyage, so I shook off the space dust and had a little walk about the house.

Thirty minutes later, I felt stable and tranquil enough to complete the mission. I returned to my listening pod and initiated Disc sequence 2. This time, the musical events seemed more tangible and distinctly formed. Perhaps Disc 2 was more eventful than the sparse drone openness of the introduction. Or perhaps the human mind simply requires a certain duration of preliminary exposure to adapt to a sensory foray of this nature. Whatever the case, I had a heightened sense of awareness and elucidation concurrent with the events of the second recording and I enjoyed it all the more for this revelation.

To describe the particular events of the album would be unproductive, as the very thing which makes the experience so fantastic is that so much of what transpires will be the conjurings of each listener’s own imagination. The soundstage is filled with curious and distant sounds, as well as familiar fragments from the original source recording. And every bit of it is a thrill.

There have been numerous attempts to re-envision milestone recordings of ambient music as a contemporary response to the vision of the original composer. There have been countless trance and ambient tributes to The Dark Side of the Moon, alternative, remixed, and reimagined scores for classic films like Blade Runner and Nosferatu, and (perhaps most notably), The Black Dog’s Music For Real Airports served as a modern interpretation of Eno’s seminal ambient masterpiece.

jimmy-cauty-spaceThe original Space LP (1990)

To speak concretely and critically of this recording, I can say with great certainty that it rivals not only M Ward’s original This Is Not What Space Is About mix, but that it more compellingly captures the essence of interstellar travel than did Cauty, himself in 1990 with Space. Do not misunderstand me – J. Cauty’s record is, in and of itself, a milestone of both the KLF’s legacy and of the history of ambient music as a whole. For its time, it was the best and defining realization of its genre. But the Full Length Unmixed 2CD Promo of This Is Not What Space Is About is the most effective fulfilment of Cauty’s vision. Every ambient music listener should cash in their worker units and buy a ticket for this incredible cosmic journey.

It’s one hell of a ride.

Some Love For My Neglected Albums

It happens to just about every collector – you reach a point where you realize you’ve acquired more albums than you’ll be able to listen to in your lifetime. Or, in the earlier stages, you may find yourself with hundreds of albums you’ve purchased… you know you’ve listened to for maybe for one initial spin… but then they were shelved as you refocused your energies on your next acquisitional conquest.

I’ve arrived at that realization several times over the past year, and in an effort to right that wrong I began a running list in Google Keep of albums I need to revisit or those deserving of a focused and dedicated first-listen. Unfortunately, the list quickly outgrew the app and became cumbersome to navigate, so this morning just after midnight I took a few hours to reconstruct the list as a uniformly-formatted spreadsheet for easier reference. All catalog numbers are noted beside each artist and title, and all entries are vinyl unless otherwise stated.

Below is a roster of the top 125 neglected albums and box sets that I’ve purchased but not taken the time to enjoy in 2016. My goal is to curb my investments in additional material for a while and to really dig into these classic titles that I already have.

So for the remainder of the summer, this is what I’ll be spinning…

A Winged Victory For The Sullen – A Winged Victory For The Sullen (Kranky,Kranky – KRANK 157, KRANK157)
Amon Düül II – Phallus Dei (Revisited Rec. – SPV 304181 LP)
Aphex Twin – Selected Ambient Works Volume II (1972 – if11)
Archie Shepp – The Magic Of Ju-Ju (Impulse!, Universal Music – A-9154, B0016005-01)
Brian Eno – Lux (Warp Records – WARPLP231)
Cage, Varèse, Cowell, Ussachevsky, & others – Sounds of New Music (Folkways FX 6160)
Can – Ege Bamyasi (United Artists Records – UAS-29414)
Can – Future Days (United Artists Records – UA-LA213-F)
Can – Peel Sessions (Strange Fruit – SFRLP-135)
Can – Tago Mago (United Artists Records (2), United Artists Records (2) – UAS 29 211, UAS 29 211 X)
Charles Dodge – Earth’s Magnetic Field (Nonesuch – H-71250)
Charles Wuorinen – Time’s Encomium (Nonesuch – H-71225)
Cluster – Cluster II (Lilith ‎– LR335)
Cluster & Eno – Cluster & Eno (4 Men With Beards – 4M 141)
Duke Ellington And Count Basie – First Time! The Count Meets The Duke (Columbia – CL 1715)
Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong – The Duke Ellington – Louis Armstrong Years (Roulette – 9045-108)
Edgar Froese – Epsilon In Malaysian Pale (Virgin, Virgin – V 2040, v2040)
Eno – Another Green World (Island Records – ILPS 9351)
Eno – Moebius – Roedelius – After The Heat (4 Men With Beards – 4M163)
Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) (Island Records – ILPS 9309)
Eno, Moebius, Roedelius, Plank -Begegnungen II (Sky Records – SKY 095)
Frank Zappa – Hot Rats (Bizarre Records,Reprise Records – RS 6356)
Fripp & Eno – Evening Star (Editions EG – EGS 103)
FSOL – Lifeforms 2CD (Astralwerks ‎– ASW 6113-2, Virgin ‎– 7243 8 39433 2 6)
George Harrison – Electronic Sound (Apple Records, Zapple – EAS-80696, ZAPPLE 02)
Harmonia – Complete Works Box Set – Deluxe (LPGRON150)
Harmonia – Complete Works Box Set – Documents 1975 (LPGRON150)
Harmonia – Complete Works Box Set – Live 1974 (LPGRON150)
Harmonia – Complete Works Box Set – Musik Von Harmonia (LPGRON150)
Harmonia & Eno – Complete Works Box Set – Tracks and Traces (LPGRON150)
Herbie Hancock – Empyrean Isles (Blue Note, Blue Note, Blue Note, Blue Note – ST-84175, 84175, B0022238-01, BST 84175)
Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygene (Polydor,Polydor – PD-1-6112, 2310 555)
John Carpenter – Lost Themes (Sacred Bones Records – SBR123LP)
John Carpenter – Lost Themes II (Sacred Bones Records ‎– SBR-150)
Karl Hyde – Edgeland (Universal – 3729832)
Klaus Schulze – “X” (Sechs Musikalische Biographien) (Brain, Brain – 0080.023-2, 0080.023)
Klaus Schulze – Body Love – Additions To The Original Soundtrack (Island Records – ILPS 19510)
Klaus Schulze – Body Love (Metronome, Metronome – 0060.047, 60.047)
Klaus Schulze – Irrlicht ‎(Brain 0001 077 , 1077)
Klaus Schulze – Mirage (Brain – 60.040)
Klaus Schulze – Timewind (Brain, Brain – brain 1075, 0001.075)
Klaus Schulze – Trancefer (Innovative Communication, Innovative Communication – KS 80 014, KS 80014)
Klaus Schulze, Pete Namlook – The Dark Side Of The Moog Vol. 1-4 (MIG – MIG 01382)
Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk (Crown Records- CR 0423-1)
Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk 2 (Crown Records – CR 0424-1)
Kraftwerk – Ralf & Florian (Vertigo – VEL-2006)
Louis and Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet (Poppydisc, Rev-Ola – POPPYLP012)
Miles Davis – ‘Round About Midnight (Columbia – CS 8649)
Miles Davis – A Tribute To Jack Johnson (Columbia – KC 30455)
Miles Davis – Agharta (Columbia – PG 33967)
Miles Davis – Big Fun (Columbia – PG 32866)
Miles Davis – Birth Of The Cool (T-762)
Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (Columbia – GP 26)
Miles Davis – Black Beauty / Miles Davis At Fillmore West (CBS/Sony – SOPJ 39-40)
Miles Davis – In A Silent Way (Columbia – CS 9875)
Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue (CS 8163)
Miles Davis – Miles At The Fillmore (Music On Vinyl – MOVLP1051)
Miles Davis – Miles Davis (Prestige, Prestige, Prestige – PR 24001, P 24001, 24001)
Miles Davis – Miles Davis At Carnegie Hall (CL 1812)
Miles Davis – Milestones (PC 9428)
Miles Davis – Porgy And Bess (CS 8085)
Miles Davis – Sketches Of Spain (Columbia – CS 8271)
Miles Davis – Somethin’ Else (BLP 1595, 1595, B0020156-01)
Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’ (Prestige – P 24034)
Miles Davis ‎– Miles At The Fillmore 6LP Box Set (Music On Vinyl ‎– MOVLP1051)
Miles Davis Quintet – Jazz Tracks – The Original Soundtrack Recording From “Frantic” (Columbia Special Products – JCL 1268)
Miles Davis Sextet – Jazz At The Plaza Vol. 1 (CBS – C 32470)
Morton Subotnick – Silver Apples Of The Moon(Nonesuch – H-71174)
My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (Creation Records – crelp 060)
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts I-IV (FLAC)
Pink Floyd – Meddle (Harvest – SMAS-832)
Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds (Harvest – ST-11078)
Raymond Scott – Manhattan Research Inc. (Basta – 30-9045-1)
Robert Fripp – Exposure (EG ‎– EGLP 101)
Robert Fripp – God Save the Queen & Under Heavy Manners (FLAC)
Robert Fripp & Andy Summers – I Advance Masked (SP-4913)
Sigur Rós – () (XL Recordings ‎– xlcd611)
Sigur Rós ‎– Ágætis Byrjun (FatCat Records ‎– FATLP11)
Silver Apples – Silver Apples (Kapp Records – KS-3562)
St Germain – St Germain (Warner Music France, Parlophone – 0825646121984)
Stan Getz / Eddie Sauter – Focus (Verve Records – V6-8412)
Stereolab – Aluminum Tunes: Switched On Vol 3 3LP (Drag City ‎– DC159)
Stereolab – Dots & Loops (FLAC)
Stereolab – Emperor Tomato Ketchup (FLAC)
Steve Reich – The Desert Music (Nonesuch,Nonesuch – 79101, 9 79101-1 F)
Sun Ra – Space Is The Place (Blue Thumb Records, The Verve Music Group – BTS 41, 06007 53627631)
Sun Ra – Space Is The Place (Sutro Park – SP1004)
Sun Ra And His Intergalactic Research Arkestra – It’s After The End Of The World (Live At The Donaueschingen And Berlin Festivals) (MPS Records, BASF – 20748, BASF 20748)
Tangerine Dream – Alpha Centauri (Relativity – EMC 8066) 6LP In the Beginning… box set
Tangerine Dream – Atem (Relativity – EMC 8066) 6LP In the Beginning… box set
Tangerine Dream – Electronic Meditation (Relativity – EMC 8066) 6LP In the Beginning… box set
Tangerine Dream – Zeit (Relativity – EMC 8066) 6LP In the Beginning… box set
Terry Riley – Songs For The Ten Voices Of The Two Prophets (Kuckuck – KUCK 067)
The Black Dog – Music For Real Airports (Soma Quality Recordings – Soma TBD003)
The J.B.’s – Doing It To Death (People Records, People Records – PE 5603, 2391 087)
The Orb – Moonbuilding 2703 AD (Kompakt – KOMPAKT 330 SE)
The Orb Featuring David Gilmour – Metallic Spheres (Columbia – 886977604416)
Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes (Landgrab – GRAB001)
Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats (FLAC)
Tom Waits – Alice (Anti- – 86632-1)
Tom Waits – Big Time (Island Records – 90987-1)
Tom Waits – Blood Money (Anti- – 86629-1)
Tom Waits – Blue Valentine (Asylum Records – 6E-162)
Tom Waits – Bone Machine (Island Records- ILPS 9993)
Tom Waits – Closing Time (Asylum Records – SD5061)
Tom Waits – Foreign Affairs (Asylum Records – 7E-1117)
Tom Waits – Franks Wild Years (Island Records – ITW 3)
Tom Waits – Glitter And Doom Live (Anti- – 87053-1)
Tom Waits – Heartattack And Vine(Asylum Records – 6E-295)
Tom Waits – Mule Variations (Anti-, Epitaph – 86547-1, 86574-1)
Tom Waits – Nighthawks At The Diner (Asylum Records – 7E-2008)
Tom Waits – Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards 7LP Box Set (Anti- – 86677-1)
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs (Island Records, Island Records – 7 90299-1, 90299-1)
Tom Waits – Real Gone (Anti- – 86678-1)
Tom Waits – Small Change (Asylum Records – 7E-1078)
Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones (Island Records – 90095-1)
Tom Waits – The Heart Of Saturday Night (Asylum Records – 7E-1015)
Tom Waits – Tom Waits Live Glitter And Doom Tour (Anti- – 87018-7)
Vangelis – Blade Runner (Audio Fidelity (3) – AFZLP 154)
Various – Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center (Columbia Masterworks – MS 6566)
Various ‎– Die Welt Ist Klang: A Tribute To Pete Namlook 8CD Deluxe Box Set (Carpe Sonum Records ‎– SEIZE-I)
Walter Carlos – Sonic Seasonings (Columbia – KG 31234)
White Noise – An Electric Storm (FLAC)
William Basinski ‎– The Disintegration Loops 9LP+5CD+DVD Box Set (Temporary Residence Limited ‎– TRR194)
Zappa / Beefheart / Mothers – Bongo Fury (DiscReet – DS 2234)

It should be a good time.



Published in: on July 23, 2016 at 1:16 am  Comments (1)  
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On the Merits and Caveats of Audio Formats and the Misconstrued Myths of Inferiority


SliderSliders on TL Audio VTC (1), Metway Studios by Jeremy Keith is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As audio formats have risen and fallen from favor, there have always been a segment of audiophiles there to fly the flag of their favorite format and to shun the supposed failures of those they oppose.

Truly, each format has its respective merits and caveats. The choice of one format over another is mostly preferential based upon one’s circumstances. The favor for portable digital formats is most often made for convenience, and those listening from their mobile devices while commuting are seldom concerned about the quality of the device’s internal DAC or of the lossy compression which leads other audiophiles to write their congresspersons in fits of anger and audio activism. Pragmatically speaking, (respectable fringe circumstances aside), portable listening environments, given the significant white noise and distraction of passersby, reduce the need for performative excellence in audio signal reproduction as much of the nuanced perfections of a given recording are lost in the chaotic shuffle of human transport.

CDs are a sufficient marriage of quality and convenience for many listeners. They lend an optimum sound quality for properly-mastered and mixed recordings, are a widely-supported format, and can readily be converted to lossless EAC or lossy MP3 for added portability.  They suffer the usual limitations of physical media – entropic decay, limited capacity forcing albums to restrict runtime, and jewel case hinges which are frustratingly breakable. Title availability is often limited to commercially-viable recordings, which may or may not be an issue depending on your genres of interest.

There appears to be a curious consensus that the many of the earliest discs (roughly 1981-1989) are inferior in their sound quality. Listeners often complain that these discs sound “tinny”, “bright”, or “thin”. However, a quick search reveals intriguing opposing views, suggesting that the supposed poor sound quality of early discs may be a myth after all. It is important not to mistake earlier, quietly-mastered CDs as inferior. Podunk from the quartertothree forum offers the following:

“…mastering techniques have changed a lot since the 80’s and early 90’s. The most significant change is the tendency of mastering engineers to apply a lot of compression or hard limiting to final mix, which greatly decreases the dynamic range of a recording but makes it sound really loud and punchy. Recordings from even the early 90’s sound much quieter than modern recordings because of this practice. The advantage to that kind of aggressive compression is that our ears initially percieve loud recordings as sounding generally better, bassier, punchier, etc. Also, a loud recording will reveal fewer of the weaknesses of a cheap cd player/receiver/etc, because you don’t have to turn it up until you start to hear the background noise from your system. The disadvantage to that sort of mastering is that listening to a recording with very little dynamic range is fatiguing, but at first blush, that is probably the #1 reason that a new CD would sound better than an old one: at the same volume level, a new one will sound much louder and punchier.”

Ethan Winer of Music Player Network agrees, stating that some early CDs were poor due to improper mastering, but that these are the exception rather than the norm. During the early days of CDs some engineers directly used …”master tapes meant for vinyl records, with treble added to counter the known high-frequency loss of LPs.” Alan Cross published an article on 10 of the Worst-Sounding CDs of All Time, which includes the terribly hissy My Aim is True by Elvis Costello. But you’ll find that each of the early albums on his list is an example of shoddy production work at the hands of the studio and not limitations of the format or its technology.

Another factor to consider is that early 80s music itself is characteristically bright and tinny, further contributing to the perceived poor sound quality in comparison to post-loudness-war era recordings. Personally, I delight in the sound of early synth-pop albums and their characteristic brightness, and if I elect I can simply adjust the equalization to taste – far better than having to deal with the over-compressed dialed-up-to-eleven victims of the loudness war!

Cassettes rival other formats in two primary regards – their portability, and more importantly, the participatory factor of the mixtape – a cultural phenomenon which permitted the listener to contextualize and identify with their music and to share it with others. Music became far more socially interactive with the birth of the cassette. This also created an environment for DIY home recorded genres like punk and were critical to the development of independent music.  This, of course, continued with the democratization of CD burning technologies some years later.

Even as a devout record collector, it is important to state that the format’s allure is largely fetishist and a placebo effect. Young listeners born in the era of digital music enjoy discovering the retro format as it provides a tactile and real-time listening experience and it gives a (literally) substantial value to music they would otherwise perceive as common, elemental, and as plentiful as air and water. Gatefold artwork is often breathtaking and elegant. Sound quality is dependent on a combination of the source audio, the mastering process, the condition of the disc, and the playback equipment utilized. To various degrees of impact, the selection of tables, tonearms, cartridges, interconnects, preamps, power amps, and speakers each play a role in the resulting sound. However, the nostalgic “warmth” described by many vinyl lovers is simply a distortive property of the medium – a characteristic of playback altering the true audio signal of the artist, producer, and engineer, just as the crackles and pops of a well-worn and well-loved LP add a vitality and character to the music representing its history as a badge of honor, like the scratches and scars on the face of a dedicated soldier.

One important additional characteristic of the vinyl format is that there are tens of thousands of titles issued on LP which will never be made commercially available in a digital format. Thankfully, listeners have risen to this challenge and through online music journals and sites like Archive.org, have come together to digitize worlds of music which would never see the light of day without their efforts. In fact, the very same has been happening in the cassette community, both in the audio and video realms.

MP3 offers the convenience of compression and shareability and was the first widely successful non-physical format. They offered the same flexibility as mix tapes with the added bonus of storage tens of thousands of tracks on a small drive, plus the post-scarcity economic quality of being infinitely replicable at no cost to the user. There was a brief “dark age” of digital music in the early days of Napster with no bitrate standard and file exchange systems based on tracks instead of albums or discographic archives of artists or record labels, but this quickly passed as technology progressed to appease more discerning listeners who demanded standardization of formatting and v0 compression.

Still, some listeners prefer archival quality audio and have no use for single-track exchange networks. This is where archival lossless digital audio factors in. Private FLAC-based trackers offer an incredible value to users with meticulously-structured and uniformly-extracted FLAC+.CUE + .log packages for all available libraries. Complete discographic archives are instantly accessible whether showcasing a single artist or composer or an entire record label or musical theme. Finally, a format had arrived which offered a truly contextual listening experience, complete with catalog numbers and uniform metadata for well-organized archival libraries and with enhanced accessibility.

Best of all, these communities offer vastly larger libraries of content than commercial channels which focus only on licensed recordings. FLAC communities offer artist demos, developmental works in progress, live performances (whether sourced from soundboard or field), and an array of other non-commercial recordings not available to the public at any price.

Streaming services have grown incredibly popular of late, given their convenience and accessibility, though more discerning listeners collectively deride the technology as being painfully inadequate for their own listening needs. The disdain is three-fold.  Firstly, the services are limited to commercial recordings for which they can secure licensing, which instantly reduces the available catalog to a tiny fraction of the world of recorded music. Secondly, inferior lossy compression rates have turned many off from using these services.  Finally and perhaps most importantly, there is the principle behind the service’s greatest flaw – namely that listeners never own any of the music they hear on these services. There have already been instances of titles being remotely deleted from user libraries, hinting at the dangerous potential for media censorship at the hands of the content distributor. The EFF and other open culture organizations caution consumers that collectively relinquishing ownership of creative works is incredibly dangerous for a society.  Fortunately, a percentage of listeners still hold fast to the concept of personal libraries and elect to retain the public’s control of our art.

What is to come of these formats in the years ahead?  Vinyl will retain an audience of collectors who desire a tangible connection to their music and a lust for magnificent artwork. CDs will experience a nostalgic retro-renaissance as all things do approximately 20 years after their era. Cassette culture is already on the rise, albeit a niche, (though the same was said about vinyl just a few years ago). Each format excels in areas which appeal to their respective fan base. It will be interesting to see what transpires with non-physical digital audio. As storage cost continues to plummet, we’ve reached a threshold where compression and storage are non-issues. And as accessibility (in both legal and non-legal forms) continues to become refined and democratized, we may approach a day where every user can possess a personal copy of the Library of Congress, readily accessible for their perusal, research, and literacy. As open culture explains, this has the potential to usher in a new age of artistic enlightenment.

I hope I’m around to see that day.


Published in: on July 16, 2016 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Underworld: A Guided Tour

Underworld has been producing music, art, and film for nearly 40 years.With over 500 albums, EPs, and singles, newcomers to their work might find their catalog daunting. If you are just such a listener, this is for you.  So you know “Born Slippy (Nuxx)” from Trainspotting, but are wondering where to venture next.

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Many listeners might be inclined to snatch up one of their compilations or anthologies. In 1999 they released a 3CD Singles Box Set, but it is not an ideal entry point as it focuses too heavily on Darren Emerson’s contributions and is heavily saturated with alternate mixes which do not showcase the band’s true talents.


The next compilation issued was in 2012. A Collection’s opening track is a strange choice – a song by High Contrast featuring Tiesto and Underworld, which few fans associate with Underworld. And track 03, “Bebop Hurry” is a collaboration between Karl Hyde and Brian Eno taken from the Underworld vs the Misterons’ Athens LP.

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 Unfortunately neither function well as introductory material, nor are they representative of their artistic style. Still, the other tracks on this compilation are the meat and potatoes of the band. The majority of their biggest hits are here, but for the sake of constricting it to a single disc, all of the tracks have been edited down to radio-friendly durations, sacrificing the ethereal and progressive characteristics which occupy the minutes which have been trimmed away. New listeners would benefit far more if they were to take in the tracks in their original form.


That same year, a 3-disc collection was issued called, The Anthology: 1992 – 2012.  Interestingly, this set does not serve as an off-the-shelf hits collection but instead is comprised of b-sides and odd tracks which act as snapshots of the band’s development. This made it a rewarding purchase for fans who already owned all of their major LPs.  It also presents the content in a chronological setting. Disc 1 is material from their Mk 2 phase around the recording of their massive breakthrough hit album, Dubnobasswithmyheadman. Disc 2 showcases recordings from around the Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish era, including their non-album mega-hit, “Born Slippy (Nuxx)”.  The fan-favorite concert closer, “Moaner” is here as well.  Disc 3 offers more rarities like “The Hump”, “Minneapolis”, and “Why Why Why”, and includes a few uptempo selections from the series of non-radio, meditative EPs released exclusively via Underworldlive.com during the early 2000s.  

So without an easily-digestible compilation, how is a new listener to approach the band’s staggeringly large discography? Underworld is best experienced in album form. They are not a singles artist. Each record adds a contextual value to the tracks which each stand well as a packaged project of their own. My advice is to begin with Dubnobasswithmyheadman. The record marked the second incarnation of the band after its synthpop beginnings in the 80s (and a one-off garage punk single in ‘79). Dubnobass was incredibly progressive given the sound of techno and house in 1994. It contains eternal hits like “Cowgirl” and “Dark and Long”.


If you like what you hear on this album,  explore their evolution into their next two records which complete the Darren Emerson trilogy before he parted from the group. These albums are Second Toughest in the Infants and Beaucoup Fish, best known for singles like “Pearls Girl”, “Cups”, “King of Snake”, and the aforementioned epic, “Moaner”. But it’s their more explorative tracks which reveal the most about the band. The opener to Second Toughest is “Juanita: Kiteless : To Dream of Love” – a monumental piece which engages the listener for over 16 minutes. And the mellow, downtempo rhythm and effect-laden vocals of “Winjer from Beaucoup Fish will never see radio airplay, but is a fantastic and atmospheric tune.



This era concluded with Everything Everything Live: The Definitive Underworld Experience.  Pick up the DVD – it captures the incredible energy of the band performing live at the peak of their popularity in 2000.


If you’re interested in going deeper to explore their more intimate and cerebral work, it began in 2002 with A Hundred Days Off.  Every track contributes something unique to the set. “Two Months Off” was the radio A-side but the deeper cuts are far more rewarding.

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At this point in their career, the duo embarked on a side project of web-only albums dubbed, “The Riverrun series”.  These include:

(2005) Lovely Broken Thing
(2005) Pizza for Eggs
(2006) I’m a Big Sister, and I’m a Girl, and I’m a Princess, and This is my Horse


Filed under ambient techno and progressive trance, these artful projects reveal a more intimate and contemplative side of the band.  And a series of singles from this series offer even more experimental b-sides worthy of listening.

2007 marked their return to the commercial market with Oblivion With Bells. This album features the hit, “Beautiful Burnout” and the startlingly ambient “To Heal” which was redubbed “Capa Meets the Sun” for the film, Sunshine.


The 2010 album, Barking is their least popular record. “Always Loved a Film” and “Bird 1” saw some airplay and there was an art film of video vignettes for each track. Not their most essential work, but even Underworld’s worst ain’t bad.


For years thereafter there was silence. Rick released his first solo album, Bungalow with Stairs in 2010. Karl soon followed with his own solo debut, Edgeland in 2013. It was wonderful stuff. Then he surprised and delighted fans by releasing not just one but two collaborative albums with fellow genre-defining artist and producer Brian Eno in 2014. The artists had worked together a few years earlier as members of the improvisational concert project, This is Pure Scenius!  “DBF” from their first collaboration titled, Someday World was energetic and complex and instantly fascinating.  Their follow-up, High Life further refined the duo’s sound with an album full of brilliant tracks. As a dedicated fan of both gentlemen’s work, these records were a dream come true.


In 2014, the band released a special anniversary edition box set of Dubnobasswithmyheadman, newly remastered and featuring all of the odds and ends from the era, some of which were issued on The Anthology. Another remastered box set appeared the following year, this time of Second Toughest in the Infants.  And further anniversary remasters are expected in the years ahead.

Then in 2016, Underworld released their first new album as a band in six years. It was an absolute triumph of a record, proving to the world that these aging ravers still had what it takes to produce rich and exciting new sounds nearly 40 years into their career. With each new listen to the album, Barbara Barbara We Face a Shining Future, it becomes more and more rewarding an experience.


So there you have it – a brief tour through the catalog of Underworld. Of course, not everything worth sampling is mentioned above.  With 510 releases, as well as a library of short films, art installations, and publications for both print and web from their art collective, Tomato, it would be impossible to highlight them all. But hopefully, this guide will serve sufficiently as an introduction to their work.

Happy listening.