Completing My Penguin Cafe Collection

I am so excited to have achieved a new musical milestone, having assembled a complete collection of all full-length studio releases issued in the vinyl format by The Penguin Cafe Orchestra and their later incarnation, The Penguin Cafe. This includes the first-ever vinyl edition of The Penguin Cafe’s 2011 debut, A Matter of Life, issued by Erased Tapes on May 6, 2022. 

I’ve previously written about my adoration of this fine ensemble back in 2017, where I summed up the beauty of their music thusly: 

The music of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra is tranquil, eclectic, and magically pastoral. The albums are classified as works of minimalism but are impressively dynamic recordings. Rich with subtly and understatedly intricate instrumentation, their music is a seamless and masterful blending of an impressive roster of genres, weaving together classical and contemporary elements. The result is magical and elegantly surreal. 

These records are stubbornly difficult to label or classify. Spanning a broad range of influences from classical to jazz, featuring middle eastern or perhaps Indian inspired drones, as well as Cajan, traditional folk melodies, African rhythms, and more, these elements blend seamlessly into marvelous soundscapes and musical vignettes reminiscent of Moondog’s symphoniques. 

There is a timeless serenity to these recordings, and I’m grateful that I was at last ready to let them into my life at a time when they served as a sensational complement to my headspace of late. 

From start to finish, The Penguin Cafe is a treasure of heady and engaging arrangements, and some of the most peaceful sounds you’ll ever hear. I really enjoyed an observation from a fellow listener named bpnicast who remarked, “The dispassionate, cerebral atmosphere here creates its own unique space that seems to slow time and demand hushed attention – an emotional connection achieved through stillness and abstraction.” 

That is precisely what I enjoy about these albums. It will be a pleasure to play them again and again and to share them with those who bring joy into my life.

Dark Ambient’s Terminus Void Returns with Origins Unknown

I’m thrilled to share the news of the release of Terminus Void’s second album, Origins Unknown. My readers will recall my recent artist spotlight showcasing his debut release, Interstellar. After encouraging the artist to send the album to Stephen Hill of the long-standing radio program, Hearts of Space, he followed my suggestion and was featured on PGM No. 1314, Stellar Quest! We couldn’t be more pleased to have exposure to a global audience of discerning space music listeners!

Given the incredible impact of Interstellar, I had great hope for his second effort. Thankfully, I couldn’t be more elated with the resulting recording. Origins is hauntingly epic, from the opening drones of “Discovery” to the concluding atmospheric majesty of the album’s finale, “Memories of Rain.” Fantastically transportive, the listener is suspended in a state of experiential cosmic serenity for the entirety of the listening journey. Origins is cinematic dark ambient space music at its finest.

With his second effort, Terminus Void brilliantly channels the otherworldly film score work of Vangelis with incredible adeptness and impressively artful proficiency. This is particularly evident with the aforementioned closing selection, complete with Bladerunneresque rainfall, soaring synths, and choral effects employed throughout the track. 

Origins Unknown was mastered in 24-bit hi-res audio, (unlike its predecessor, Interstellar which was mastered at 16-bit), and is officially available in lossless archival FLAC and WAV. Listeners are encouraged to secure the album at the best quality offered and to take it in using their finest listening equipment so that none of the subtly nuanced spatial qualities are lost on this exceptional recording. This is an album that, like Interstellar, rewards dedicated and attentive listening.

The album’s namesake track is masterfully alienesque, brimming with lavish extraterrestrial vitality but sufficiently understated so as not to disrupt the shadowy, spectral quality of the album as a whole. 

“Dark Outpost” paints a vividly ethereal tenebrous expanse – truly an effective soundscape for dark ambient voyages. And surprising cinematic elements are introduced to heighten the excitement of the album-length saga.

Each track effectively adds its own unique properties to the crepuscular ambient odyssey that is Origins Unknown. Nothing is extraneous, wasted, or omitted, making for a most-satisfying musical venture from start to finish. Origins is a triumphant successor to Terminus Void’s debut, and reinforces that he is a potent and compelling figure in the dark ambient scene today.

Check out Terminus Void on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp, Amazon and other online distributors. Or visit https://terminusvoid.com/

Artist Showcase: Terminus Void

I am honored to have the unique privilege of showcasing an emerging and impactful ambient artist operating under the moniker, Terminus Void, who is about to release his second full-length space music album, Origins Unknown. Origins follows the composer’s self-released debut album, Interstellar from 2021 issued in the middle of the global pandemic. The album’s transportive interstellar journey serves as a brilliant offering of experiential escapism to transcend the anxieties and troubles of the modern world.

From the composer’s official one-sheet press release:

Interstellar

The debut album by Terminus Void, Interstellar, is a dark ethereal journey to the deepest reaches of interstellar space with emotional and cinematic undertones.

Interstellar is an immersion for the senses, a gentle glide across an ambient wave of deep undulating bass and atmospheric chords. Haunting instrumentals and an ensemble of choral voices and ancient heraldic horns carry you deeper still on your inward journey. Interstellar is an auditory odyssey of humankind’s journey into the cosmic unknown.

About the Composer

1983 would be a monumental moment when J. Ronald Smith, an American electronic music Composer based in Seattle,Washington, was introduced to the nationally syndicated broadcast, Hearts of Space, created by Stephen Hill. Smith was awe inspired by music composers such as Michael Stearns, Brian Eno, Steve Roach and Evángelos Papathanassíou of Vangelis. Hill’s early broadcasts of these electronic music pioneers instilled a passion for Smith and opened a window of possibilities for him in this new experimental genre of music. In 2021, Smith founded Terminus Void to share this passion that has been nearly 40 years in the making.

I had the pleasure of engaging a dialog with the composer and he shared some of his insights and inspirations for his music project. He said that Interstellar was an enormous learning curve which he has honed and refined for the follow-up Origins Unknown album. But by no means does this suggest that Interstellar is in any way amateur or primitive. Contrarily, Smith demonstrates a magnificent proficiency in ambient soundscape composition from the very first track on his debut.

After only a few communications with Smith, it was instantly apparent that he is no dilettante by any stretch of the imagination. Smith expertly incorporates his penchant for the sciences into his musical efforts. When detailing the inspiration for Origins Unknown, he explained that the title track was inspired from Louis & Bebe Barron’s pioneering works featured in the 1956 film, Forbidden Planet. On this track, Smith incorporated into the baseline modified audible wave instrument recordings from the Juno spacecraft as it passed through the magnetosphere of the Jovian moon, Ganymede on June 7, 2021.

Smith’s passions for science and space exploration have been lifelong. Over twenty years ago, he constructed a radio telescope from a satellite TV antenna, microwave amplifier and a HAM radio receiver. This fact provides a glimpse of the artist’s technical proficiency and celestial-focused scientific intellect, and reveals that the idea to process these auditory frequencies into music had been there for some time. He was kind enough to expound his compositional methodology thusly:

In preparing my second album, I did take into account the interview of BeBe Barron from 1997 by Eric Chasalow. Specifically, her and Louie’s interpretation of Norbert Wiener’s theory of cybernetics as applied to music. I was impressed by the unpredictability and randomness of the electronic notes as they developed and processed the various pitches of the circuits. It was their freeform approach to these new “space sounds” that conducted the purposeful manipulation of circuits to ultimately “self-create” electronic notes. Their musical pioneering is inspiration enough, but then to apply a composition around those sounds that is both enjoyable and exciting in its strangeness, its beauty, and its soothing cosmological feel on the ear is the inspired approach I strive to attain. Like them I feel I am discovering new sounds to manipulate and self-create from the randomness of quite literally, thousands of possibilities of today’s modern synthesizer equipment along with the new discoveries in the astronomical sciences.

As one example, I took the following recording from the Juno spacecraft (https://youtu.be/_09R6jIo74U), slowed the audio and tempo down over 1000% and reprocessed it multiple times using crystallizers, flangers, shimmer modulators, echos and of course massive reverb. In the spirit of Bebe and Louie Barron’s works, the end result is an auditory experience that took on a life of its own. This was then utilized as the central focus of the track as I developed the rest of the piece with traditional and VTS synthesizers.

As Smith mentioned in his artist Bio, the Hearts of Space radio program was an incalculably influential force on his decision to begin creating his own soundworlds. He outlined this inspiration, touched upon some of the equipment he utilized to craft his music, and detailed what he desired to achieve through his composition. Smith explained:

I again can not stress enough the effect Stephen Hill’s broadcasts had as the primary influence for a lifetime’s passion of ambient space music. I was seventeen in the Winter of 1983 when I first experienced HOS. It was ’Transmission’ 11, “Innerspace Realms”. I can only describe the experience as a mind-awakening journey. Regrettably, it wasn’t until this past year that I dedicated myself to my passion as a composer. However, these past few years have given way to introspection. I felt the time was right to step into an auditory space I can share with others and offer a momentary interlude from everyday life.

The goal of my music is to take the listener on a journey by telling an emotional story within each track and expand on that theme through the album as a whole. Many of the themes center on mankind’s sense of exploration and wonder; on one’s hopes and dreams of the future, fears of the unknown and ultimately overcome and carry on.  

The debut album, Interstellar was an introductory sampling of that journey and I feel the second album, entitled, Origins Unknown will exemplify this even more as it will be more auditory focused with a natural sense of organic flow. As for the sound of Terminus Void, I have incorporated  a variety of synthesizers, VSTs, and filters. Some of the more prominent acoustic voices you will hear include the Sequential Prophet 6 and OB6, Moog Sub 37, Roland Jupiter 8 and VP03 along with the Arturia CS-80 V3. 

Following a dedicated listening session with Interstellar, I encouraged Smith to send a promotional copy to Stephen Hill, remarking that his music would sit brilliantly well alongside space music veterans like Steve Roach and Robert Rich. And Interstellar‘s selections, “Lost In Time” and “Arrival Home” capture a serene luxuriance reminiscent of Vangelis’ timeless score for the film, Blade Runner. While ambient music is notoriously difficult to articulate, I’ll do my best to highlight what I enjoyed of Smith’s work with the hope that I can inspire my readers and fellow ambient music lovers to explore this exceptional work.

I should call attention to a difference in the mixing of the material offered on the official Terminus Void YouTube channel and the content on his final albums. Smith explains that, as an incentive to his YouTube subscribers, he uses the channel to publish pre- album release tracks and that they are published as they are composed and recorded. He notes that these are non-mastered tracks and in some instances they are different from the final production in terms of length or tonality. For the truest Terminus Void experience, listeners should seek out and purchase the final mixes.

Check out the pre-mastered version of the title track from Terminus Void’s debut LP, Interstellar below.

I’ll offer a brief examination of Interstellar

“Interstellar” is the title track and lead single for the album. Beatless, though grounded with a few anchoring bass tones, we embark into the inky-black depths of space. There is an elegant timelessness to the piece, just as the absence of day and night in an extraterrestrial journey removes our perception of its passage. The work is brimming with anticipatory excitement of the voyage that lies ahead. It is a perfectly-fitting opener to the album. This serves as an exquisite introductory selection to the artist’s oeuvre.

“Distant World” opens with haunting spectral dissonant tonalities. The sparsely-placed heavenly and alienesque timbres suggest that this may serve as a science-fiction anthem for a yet-unnamed cinematic masterpiece. We are entering a world unknown.

“Arrival Home” features majestically suspended chords and a lone synthesized disembodied vocal. Its seraphic and gossamer quality truly marks our celestial homecoming.

“Beyond Static Tolerance” introduces a fixed low-frequency sequencer pattern beneath the drifting fleeting choral tones occupying the upper register of the spectrum. The track evokes feelings of isolation and suspense as the traveler awaits the climax of their cosmic journey. Expertly-mixed NASA communication samples appear toward the end of selection enhancing the experience.

“Darkness” is dark ambient music at its most superlative. And clocking in at over eleven minutes as the album’s longest track, it rewards careful attention in your finest circumaural headphones. At times I wondered whether futurist role-players might find this album useful to enhance the atmosphere during their gaming sessions. “Darkness” especially might lend itself to such an effort. The best ambient music functions well in both dedicated conscious and background listening, and “Darkness” works fantastically in an array of listening environments and conditions.

“Nothing In The Way” returns the listener to a rhythmic territory with a classic synthesizer pattern and soaring minimalistic melodies. The deep-voiced narration element dramatically complements the suspenseful quality of Interstellar. Whether intended to inspire feelings of weightlessness or timelessness, the theme of space travel is masterfully executed here and throughout the album.

“Lost In Time” is steady and rhythmic, but maintains the empyrean thematics employed consistently in all of Smith’s work. The track conveys a gaze toward the heavens, inviting the listener one final time to leave terra firma behind.

“Distant World – (Epilog Mix)” closes Interstellar. The alien landscapes are carved and charted to remain in our memory long after the album session concludes. The traveler’s odyssey is complete.

Terminus Void’s 2021 debut album, Interstellar

There are countless metaphors for the spacetime journeys offered to us by ambient space music artists like those showcased on Hearts of Space, and all of them are actively employed in each weekly segment of the show, now at over 1,300 episodes and counting. It is so exciting to discover a new musician who himself professes to draw inspiration from those very transmissions, and who successfully crafts soundworlds on par with the greatest veterans of the genre. What Terminus Void succeeds at accomplishing with his transportive music is to highlight the certitude that these impressioned interstellar journeys are, in truth, journeys within. As I said, I encouraged Smith to send his work to Stephen Hill, and hopefully he’ll find new fellow sonic travelers through playback on a future transmission of the program. 

On February 10, 2022, Smith posted a pre-mastered demo of the title track from his upcoming second album, Origins Unknown to YouTube. It is a superb specimen of dark ambient space music, richly-organic, rewardingly nuanced, and introduces the listener to a vast and intricate world of cosmic exploration.

Of the track, YouTuber, Paradigm writes: 

“I love those hidden gems where, once slowed, become something else entirely. Good job! It really encapsulates the beauty, strangeness, and terror that outer space has to offer.”

Tune in to the new demo here:

What I found most captivating about Terminus Void’s ambient style is its balance of classical sophistication and cinematic intrigue. It’s that property which inspires me to return to these songs again and again.

I was absolutely delighted to experience this music. The compositions are magnificently meditative, and certainly reward careful headphone listening. Terminus Void is otherworldly cosmic space music, and it’s the subtle and slowly-unfolding properties which make the works so enjoyable. These are intimately ethereal, transcendent, and heavenly soundscapes. Highly recommended!

Terminus Void’s music is now available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp, Amazon and other online distributors. Or visit https://terminusvoid.com/.

I’ll close with a personal comment from Smith, who concluded a letter with a touching statement about my work as an archivist. I believe it sheds some fantastic light on the mark of his character. Smith remarked:

It has been a pleasure speaking to you over these past few emails and I look forward to staying in touch and reading more from your blogs. I find your collections not only fascinating but also they are an equally important preservation of the cultural arts for future generations of listeners.  And, most importantly, they connect people, as evident in this conversation, in a world that seems to be separating us from one another on a daily basis. Your timing is brilliant!

Thank you, J, for the kind words and for the important music like yours that we need in the world today.

Watch https://terminusvoid.com for an official announcement of the release of Origins Unknown slated for release this April.

UPDATE: I’m delighted to share, after I recommended that J Ronald Smith send his album along with my article to Stephen Hill of Hearts of Space, that he did so and Hill generously featured Terminus Void on PGM No. 1314, Stellar Quest! We couldn’t be more pleased to have exposure to a global audience of discerning space music listeners!

Brian Eno Collection Milestone to End 2021

I’ve made it an astonishingly productive end of the year at Innerspace Labs with one of my most beloved collections!

Recently, I took a trip to my old home town and dropped by a local record shop which had posted some of their latest vinyl arrivals to social media. Among the titles my keen eye spotted My Squelchy Life – one of the few albums missing from my Brian Eno vinyl collection. I didn’t pass up on the opportunity and added it to my library.  

This however, required that I restage and reshoot my photo of the updated collection, which takes exhaustive hours of work to implement. I spent a few days updating my related collection documents and staging the new photo. Then, as my silly luck would have it, the very next day I picked up five more of his albums that I was missing from another shop, and then found myself with a decision to make. 

Every time I add a title to this collection, I’ve needed to update my spreadsheets for the discographic chronology, update my 55-page process guide to make sure nothing is overlooked, gather the LPs from their various filing locations and box sets, sort them in order of release date, un-polybag all releases to reduce camera glare, stage the shot, photograph them, then post-process to correct lens distortion, perspective, white balance, and other properties, update the collection photo in all of my archival documents, then publish and share the results to social media before re-polybagging and re-filing all titles.

As such, to reduce the workload, I took it upon myself to perform an itemized audit of the nearly 200 releases in Eno’s catalog to build as complete a library as possible of the artist and producer’s works issued in the vinyl format before photographing them again. After inventorying his discography and checking the complete release history of every album to see whether each was issued on vinyl, I then checked the resulting set against my own library to see what I was missing and which had the potential to be secured from various marketplaces around the web. Finally, as Eno has collaborated with hundreds of other artists, I examined the tracklist and liner notes for all missing releases to determine how essential each would be for my library, primarily based on how significant Eno’s role was for each given release.

Once I had a final list of missing titles, I secured mint sealed copies of each qualifying release at the lowest price with international shipping for all items and, as of the end of 2021, have satisfactorily constructed as complete a library of Eno’s work on wax as I’m going to be able to build. With that stage of the project complete, I set myself to the task of staging and re-photographing the collection once again, post-processed the raw images and updated all related documents. 

In addition to the dozens of art prints, books, lithographs, 409 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. The vinyl portion of my Eno library now comprises 49 of his best-loved works totaling 77 discs of content, including the highly sought-after Music For Installations 9LP limited edition box set.

It’s a labor of love.

Published in: on December 24, 2021 at 1:49 pm  Comments (2)  
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Thoughts on My Research to Close Out the Year

“If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism, but if you copy from many, it’s research.” — Wilson Mizner

Friends, I’ve been working on writing a book, and I’d like your insight. For the last several years, I’ve been compiling and constructing a vast library of materials on a range of interrelated subjects. These include but are not limited to the following: 

Privacy Rights, Copyright Reform, Copyleft, Open-Source, Creative Commons, Consumer Culture, Propaganda, Social Engineering, Gift Economics, various forms of Anarchism, Digital Abundance, Kopimism, the Access to Knowledge Movement, Mutual Aid, the Moral Economy, Antimarketism, the Free Culture Movement, Open Culture and Remix Culture, the Open Content Project, Free Music Philosophy, File-Sharing (a consumer gift system), Post-scarcity Economics / Digital Abundance, the Information Society / Knowledge Economy, Digital Rights, Crypto-Anarchism / Cypherpunks, as well as Mass-Surveillance and its Impacts on Journalism. 

I’ve constructed a library of several hundred books, essays, documentary films, articles, periodicals, and other resources, and then organized the content with a network of spreadsheets, folder systems, and a notebook of rich-formatted documents linking directly to all content cited in my archive. My organizational strategies have proven useful to aid me in navigating the material. 

I’ve employed a master spreadsheet to track which content I have in physical or digital formats, which ones I’ve consumed and which I have yet to explore, and I’ve used Google Books to dynamically extract critical content I’ve highlighted from those texts into a series of documents with cited excerpts for future reference. I endeavored to secure digital counterparts for all physical materials where available to facilitate content extraction and to automate progress tracking.

This research is supplemental to the work I perform managing my own media library. During the pandemic I produced a media workbook on the cloud comprising over 200 spreadsheets dynamically organizing over 26,000 of my favorite albums and published a year-end survey of metrics from 13,000 albums representing the top 1% of the artists in my archive. Perhaps I can incorporate some of those infographics and analytics into related areas of my research on the aforementioned topics and themes.

Early on in the project, I found myself disheartened that the majority of the published material on these subjects trailed off after the first decade of the new millennium, with little content examining the critical new era where streaming digital media has become the norm. Perhaps to that end I might be the one to write a book to fill that void. I just fear that my efforts as a cultural custodian are rendered moot in this age of on-demand content and that there will be no one left with any interest in my work. There are also the socio-political aspects of the subject matter which might be unwise to publish and associate with my name, so I’ve considered employing a nom de plume. I’d appreciate the insight and perspectives of my readers regarding these considerations. Is this content still relevant? Is it safe? Is there an audience who might find my work to be of merit?

I’ll continue to curate and refine my notes on these materials in the years ahead. It’ll be an engaging and enlightening journey.

Published in: on December 5, 2021 at 7:51 am  Leave a Comment  

“This Is A Journey Into Sound”

Just dropping in for a quick collection update – My holy trinity of 1987. The two singles were featured prominently on mash-up culture mixes and retrospective surveys of early hip hop / dance music. The full-length LP is the rare debut album by The KLF, (Kings of the Low Frequencies / Kopyright Liberation Front), then performing as The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu, and would be impossible to release in today’s litigious music market.

They faced similar challenges in August of 1987, when The Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society ordered The JAMs to recall and destroy all unsold copies of the record. The JAMs made a bonfire in the Swedish countryside and burnt the LPs.

Pictured:

  • Eric B. & Rakim ‎– “Paid In Full (Seven Minutes Of Madness – The Coldcut Remix)”
  • The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu (The KLF) ‎– 1987 What The F***’s Going On?
  • Bomb The Bass ‎– “Beat Dis (Extended Dis)”

Interestingly, both “Beat Dis” and “Seven Minutes” contain samples of “Train Sequence” by Geoffrey Sumner (1958) and “Pump That Bass” by Original Concept (1986). And all three of these releases were first issued in 1987. Furthermore, M | A | R | R | S’ hit, “Pump Up The Volume,” also released in ’87, shares its namesake titular sample with the Coldcut “Seven Minutes” mix, each lifting the spoken-word vocal from Eric B. and Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul” from their debut Paid In Full LP released earlier that same year. Whosampled dot com cites no fewer than 437 songs that went on to sample the classic hip hop track.

The Coldcut Remix is filed under Hip-Hop, “Beat Dis” is House/Breaks, and 1987 is Leftfield/Plunderphonics. Each is a milestone in the history of DJ culture.

#keepthisfrequencyclear

The Return of gmusicbrowser!

Such an exciting day! I happened to visit omgubuntu.co.uk and a headline caught my eye from December of 2020 which read, “GMusicBrowser is Back From the Dead with New GTK3 Port.”

This was thrilling news, as gmusicbrowser was my favorite large music library manager for Linux back in 2015. Back then I’d published an article after discovering the application and had described it as, “a robust utility with impressive handling for libraries in excess of 100,000 tracks, and best of all – a fully-customizable interface.” Sadly, development of the application halted several years ago and the Ubuntu Software Center retired it in favor of the simpler but powerful Clementine application. If you’re curious, Slant.co published a detailed side-by-side comparison of the two applications here.

Searching the web for more news on the release I found an article from March 1, 2021 on Linux Uprising titled, “gmusicbrowser Music Player Sees First Release In More Than 5 Years.”

While not available from the Software Center, installation is manual but fairly simple for Ubuntu users by downloading the .deb package at http://gmusicbrowser.org/download.html

This however was only half the battle for me, as I had painstakingly crafted a custom application layout for gmusicbrowser to let me browse my library by folder structure and by multiple points of metadata all at once. I dove into my archived documentation and was elated to find that I’d taken detailed notes on how to install the custom layout I loved step by step.

From my notes, I saw that the layout mine was based upon was titled “laiteAraknoid2” – one of several layouts included in a package formerly available from vsido.org. Sadly, the download link from 2015 was long-since broken, but ever-the-archivist, I found that I had downloaded and saved the package to my local file system along with an instruction guide I’d written on how to restore it!

I followed my six-year-old instructions to the letter, and was overjoyed when the next launch of gmusicbrowser instantly restored my custom tweaked version of the layout along with all my folder configuration and user settings! The entire process took fewer than five minutes! All that was left to do was rescan the library for all the content I’d added in subsequent years. Three hours and 45 minutes later I was all synced up and ready to go.

Here is a snapshot of the layout with one of my primary audio folders selected. I have a little tidying up to do with some of the metadata but that’s an advantage of this layout scheme, as I can quickly identify and correct stray tags. This will empower me to explore my library anew! Such a great way to begin the fall season!

A Generous Gift: Exquisite Rarities of Harold Budd and Brian Eno

It’s a very special month at Innerspace Labs thanks to a gift from a very generous reader! My followers will recall my sharing my “Brian Eno Collection Milestone” from August of 2020 wherein I showcased photos and details of my Eno collection to date, as well as my “Rest In Beauty: Compiling an Archive in Memory of Harold Budd” post from December of that year where I featured my vinyl discography of the late Harold Budd. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you are well aware that the catalogs of these two iconic veterans of ambient music are among my most-cherished musical treasures. 

In September I was contacted by a reader who, himself, is quite the avid collector. He had amassed an impressively substantial library of Eno and Budd artifacts, both physically and digitally, and maintains documentation cataloging and itemizing all facets of his collection. This fellow kindly offered to share his work with me, gifting me a wealth of releases missing from my humble collection. I was honored!

In all, he gifted me 341 folders of rare album releases I was missing from Eno and Budd’s catalogs, bringing my digital totals for these artists to 409 folders for Brian Eno and 82 folders for Harold Budd, respectively.

I was fascinated to learn of incalculably rare works among his library, such as Budd’s “Untitled Piece (Text-Sound composition)” from the 1969 Source Magazine #6. This release is noteworthy as, prior to its discovery, the earliest documented work by Budd was the markedly rare The Oak Of The Golden Dreams issued by Advanced Recordings in 1971 which last surfaced in 2020 and sold on Discogs for $420. The 38-minute “Untitled Piece” predates this recording by two years, and included with the recording were high-resolution PDF scans of the accompanying periodical summarizing Budd’s early composition. 

Other new-to-me Budd rarities were included such as a Various Artist release, the Chicago ‘82: A Dip in the Lake cassette from Belgium which contains two tracks by Budd. Similarly, The Greetings – Piano Live 1991 is another various artist release, issued in Italy by Materiali Sonori in 1993, and an EP of Glyph Remixes by Hector Zazou & Harold Budd issued by SSR in Belgium in 1996.

A library of lone tracks and rarities were also among the collection, featuring Budd retrospectives on several experimental music podcasts. Also included were a set of unofficial live concert recordings – something I never thought I’d see for an artist of Budd’s quiet and reserved nature!

The Eno library was even more exhaustive, as one might expect from such a prolific and active artist. I took incredible care when developing a folder structure to merge our respective collections, electing to create three primary folders for Official Releases, Unofficial Releases, and Non-Album Content (Apps and Themes). These folders dive deep and reward careful exploration, as nested networks of subfolders reveal a tremendous wealth of carefully-curated content. 

The additions did pose quite a challenge, however, as nearly none of the media had accurately or consistently-applied metadata, which is critical to the navigation of my archive. As such, I devoted many nights’ work to the task of reformatting all the metadata uniformly from scratch for values which were erroneous or missing. I utilized batch processing techniques wherever possible for efficiency, but the inconsistency of the tagged information required a nearly track-by-track analysis and correction. 

I brought it all to as close to an archival standard as I was able by performing digital forensics for the missing or conflicting data and employed semicolon delimiters for multi-value tags like those of artist collaborations, etc. I utilized the aforementioned nested folder structure for the primary categories and for multi-disc content with a date of issue prefix to create a chronological hierarchy to facilitate navigation both by folder and by ID3-based browsing. Thereafter, I had to synchronize all the newly-introduced content with all of my various music library databases, spreadsheets, documents, and other content management systems to incorporate critical data from over 4,000 files relating to these two artists.

As I’ve said previously, I understand that there are collectors with far more vast libraries of these gentlemen’s work. I’m grateful to have been able to compile 64-discs worth of Eno’s primary discography on vinyl, all eight of Harold Budd’s original LPs, and his collaborations with John Foxx on wax as well. I am not a wealthy man but I consider myself quite rich with the beautiful library of soundworks I’ve been able to enjoy in both the digital and physical form.

I want to extend another word of heartfelt gratitude to the reader who so generously reached out and shared the fruits of his research with me. It is a gift which I will enjoy repeatedly for years to come.

Published in: on September 24, 2021 at 7:30 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Exploration of Musical Impressionism: Building a Library of Claude Debussy

I am by no measure well-versed in the realms of classical music. The principal foci of my archive center around minimalism, ambient works, the classical avant-garde, and early milestone compositions of electroacoustic / musique concrète. But with that said, I understand and greatly revere the foundational soundworks which directly inspired much of what came to pass in 20th century music. Paramount among these are the musical impressionism of Claude Debussy, Erik Satie, and Maurice Ravel, (though Debussy, himself staunchly rejected the “impressionist” label). These composers’ use of musical “color,” unique chord combinations, ambiguous tonality, extended harmonies, use of modes and exotic scales, parallel motion, extra-musicality, and evocative titles were together fundamental in inspiring what came to be known as “ambient” music in the West later in the 20th century.

So it seemed only fitting that I obtain for my library the finest and most complete collection of these composers’ works. For the first stage of this endeavor, I selected Debussy as the target of my research. I began by securing collections and compilations and researching the release history of interpretations of Debussy’s work by various performers, and reading up on the mastering and performative quality of each.

 On compact disc I obtained –

  • A multi-volume collection of Alexis Weissenberg’s interpretations of Debussy on Deutsche Grammophon issued in West Germany in 1986
  • The Orpheus Trio’s renditions of Ravel, Faure, Debussy, and Devienne issued by Vanguard Everyman Classics in 1987/1980
  • Four of the five volumes of the 1991/2 EMI Classics France albums comprising unparalleled performances of Debussy by Aldo Ciccolini
  • The London Philharmonic’s performances of La Mer, Prélude à l’aprés-midi d’un Faune, and Jeux conducted by Serge Baudo issued by EMI Eminence in the UK in 1986
  • The Solomon Trio interpreting Ravel, Debussy, and Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Trio issued by Masters Pickwick Group in England from 1992
  • Simon Rattle conducting the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s performances of Debussy’s Images, Jeux, and Musiques pour “Le Roi Lear” issued by EMI Digital in 1990
  • Debussy – Images performed by Simon Trpceski issued by EMI Classics in 2008

Then I collected the following digital releases – 

  • Claude Debussy – The Debussy Edition [17CD+18th bonus disc of historical recordings] box set issued by Deutsche Grammophon in 2012
  • Debussy · Ravel – Orchestral Works [8CD] set directed by Jean Martinon featuring Aldo Ciccolini on piano, recorded by Sale Wagram, Paris, 1973 & 1974 issued by EMI Classics in 2002
  • Claude Debussy – The Complete Works For Piano performed by Walter Gieseking [4CD] set issued in 2006

I found some particularly interesting details about the Gieseking 4CD set.

Cristofori on Amazon reviewing Gieseking’s The Complete Works For Piano stated:

There aren’t many historical/mono classical recordings that I can firmly say have not been bettered by more modern renditions but Gieseking’s Debussy are among a handful that have yet to be surpassed. Gieseking’s use of tones and colors is amazing. Listening to his playing puts you in a dreamlike state. There may be more technically perfect pianists out there but I have yet to hear one that gives the same kind of feel and nuance as does Gieseking’s.

These recordings, made in the mid 1950’s near the end of Gieseking’s death, are his final say on the piano music of Debussy. Many aficionados will point to his 1930’s renditions as superior but truth be told I can’t give an opinion as I haven’t listen to those much. I do know that his first Debussy cycle has always been harder to find and sound quality may be hit or miss depending on who is doing the transfers.

The mid 1950’s mono sound on these recordings actually enhances the listening experience rather then take away from it, giving it a ghostly, ethereal quality that cannot be duplicated today. This new 5CD box by Warner is probably the cleanest these have ever sounded but I actually don’t mind the “haze” on some of the older editions as it adds to the dreaminess of Gieseking’s playing.

Curiously, upon researching this release further, I discovered that the original 1990s CD release was later remastered for Super Audio CD and issued as a hybrid 4xSACD set in Europe in 2012.

Additional commenters on Amazon described the noticeable improvements on the Super Audio edition. Leeber Cohen said:

This is an incredibly wonderful box !!! I learned the Suite Bergamasque and Chidren’s Corner Suite decades ago and I forgot how much I enjoyed Gieseking’s performance which was one of my favorite LPs as a child. Gieseking is a perfect pianist for this music. His range of color and dynamics is very close to perfect. I agree with the other reviewers that the quality of the recorded sound in these CDs is a vast improvement. I compared my 1990s copy of the two books of the Preludes to this CD and the haze is pretty much gone. Please obtain these 5 CDs while they remain available. The box is budget priced and is an incredible bargain.

And Thomas said:

I like this remastered version better than the remastered version of 1992. In this newer version, all the notes are clear and resonant. In the older version The notes sound shallow and muddy.

Also, on vinyl, my library already included the following – 

  • The Debussy – Leonard Slatkin, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra – La Mer • Prélude À L’Après-midi D’Un Faune • Danses Sacrée Et Profane LP issued by Telarc Digital from 1982

  • Tomita – Snowflakes Are Dancing (The Newest Sound Of Debussy), comprising Tomita’s arrangements of Claude Debussy’s “tone paintings” performed on a Moog synthesizer and a Mellotron

Snowflakes was released by RCA Victor in 1974. It was nominated for four Grammy Awards in 1975, including best classical album of the year, and it was NARM’s best-selling classical album of the year.

The release notes for the La Mer Telarc Digital LP state the following about the recording and mastering:

During the recording of the digital masters and the subsequent transfer to disc, the entire audio chain was transformerless. The signal was not passed through any processing device (i.e., compression, limiting, or equalization) at any step during production.

Sampling frequency conversion of Telarc’s Soundstream digital master to the Compact Disc format was accomplished with the Studer SFC-16 sampling frequency converter. The digital information was not subject to any analog intersteps, thus preserving the integrity of the original digital master.

My goal was to acquire as complete a library of Debussy’s work as was available in the vinyl format. I performed a search on the Discogs database for complete box sets of Debussy’s works issued on vinyl and I found the following:

  • Claude Debussy, Werner Haas – Complete Works For Piano Solo • Das Klavierwerk • Œuvres Pour Piano Seul – 5LP (Netherlands) and 6LP (Spain) complete piano solo box set
  • Claude Debussy, Walter Gieseking ‎– L’Œuvre De Piano5LP box set
  • Claude Debussy – Louis De Froment, Orchestra Of Radio Luxembourg – His Works For Orchestra Volume I: La Mer, Prelude A L’Apres-midi D’un Faune, La Plus Que Lente, Le Martyre De Saint Sebastien, Le Triomphe De Bacchus, Le Roi Lear, Marche Ecossaise, La Boit A Joujoux, Excerpts From L’Enfant Prodigue, Berceuse Heroique – 3LP box set of Complete Orchestral Works Vol 1 which is concluded with:
  • Debussy – Orchestra Of Radio Luxembourg, Louis De Froment – His Works For Orchestra (Complete); Vol. II – 3LP box set
  • Debussy*, Peter Frankl – Complete Piano Music Volume 1 & 2 – Volume 1 is 1LP, Vol 2 is 3LPs
  • Claude Debussy – Jörg Demus – Complete Piano Music – 8 single-LP volumes issued by the Musical Heritage Society

My interest was primarily in Debussy’s solo piano works, so my ideal choice of these vinyl editions appeared to be Claude Debussy, Werner Haas – Complete Works For Piano Solo • Das Klavierwerk • Œuvres Pour Piano Seul which was only issued in the Netherlands and in Spain.

When I researched the production history of that particular release further, I discovered that some of those  recordings were issued on two CDs in 2007 by Philips Classics, though reviewers on Amazon make note of the noticeably quiet mastering and subtle hiss present on the CDs.

Listener on Amazon had this to say:

Debussy’s music is not meant to be performed with exaggerations, as many other pianists do in their recordings of his music. Haas offers what is on the page and does it beautifully. The playing is also, from a technical aspect, absolutely perfect. I cant find any “Teutonic” qualities as the other reviewer said. Instead I found much tenderness and subtlety as there should be. There only bad quality I could find is with the recording. Since it is old, from the late sixties, there is a noticeable hiss, especially in the quieter passages. It is, as with the case of all Philips CDs, slightly expensive for the amount of music, but nonetheless still a great purchase. This is a must buy. I only lament that this, along with his equally great recording of Ravel’s works, is all there really is from Mr. Haas. 

This vinyl box set includes an 8-page LP-size booklet with musicological notes in English, German and French. There are a few differences between the Netherlands and Spanish editions, most noticeably the language of the cover text. The Spanish edition also includes a sixth LP, featuring the works for two pianos or piano 4-hands, but I opted for the English packaging to facilitate interpretation of the track listing.

I’ve been performing similar research for the music of Erik Satie and have selected a vinyl box set of his complete piano works but it is an exceedingly rare import so I’ll have to postpone that project for the time being. Still, Haas’ Complete Works For Piano Solo is a wonderful beginning for this journey.

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.