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

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

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

From the duo’s official website: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And David Ireland of Magnetic Mag writes:

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

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

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

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

Published in: on November 28, 2020 at 9:29 am  Comments (1)  
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A New Favorite From Steve Roach – Mystic Chords & Sacred Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the book in its bookcase:

Annotated Sherlock Holmes 1of3

And some of the lovely annotations:

Annotated Sherlock Holmes 2of3

Annotated Sherlock Holmes 3of3

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

Sherlock Holmes Framed Illustration

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

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

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

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

Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone Blu-Ray DVD

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

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

“The game is afoot.”

Rathbone_as_Holmes

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

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

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

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

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

100-CD Bebop Story box set

100-CD The Big Bands box set

100-CD Classic Jazz box set

100-CD Modern Jazz box set

100-CD Swing Time box set

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

156-CD Thelonious Monk discography

135-CD Keith Jarrett discography

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

98-CD Miles Davis discography

78-CD Jimmy Smith discography

75-CD Sun Ra discography

61-CD Ornette Coleman discography

52-CD Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers discography

43-CD Herbie Hancock discography

43-CD Jimmy McGriff discography

40-CD Duke Ellington discography

35-CD Charles Mingus discography

30-CD John Coltrane discography

22-CD Dave Brubeck discography

16-CD Future Sounds of Jazz box set

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

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

In my Big Band Archive I have:

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

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

11-LP box set of The Great Band Era

10-volume Benny Goodman Collection

7-volume The Big Bands box set

4-CD Smithsonian Big Band Jazz archive

2-disc Glenn Miller Gold Collection

1-CD The Glenn Miller Orchestra Collection

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

8 CDs from the Jazz Moods series 

6 of the essential albums by The Bill Evans Trio

6-CD Gypsy Jazz / Jazz Manouche box set

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

5-CD Film Noir jazz series collection

3-CD Complete Recordings of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong 

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

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

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

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

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

Open Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bustillos explains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s a LIBRARY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

He closes his write-up emphasizing:

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

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

I suspect he is quite right, indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hold onto your books, everyone.

Brian Eno Collection Milestone

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

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

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

Here are the LPs:

01 Brian Eno Collage LP Vinyl Collection sm for web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The KLF Collection: 2020 Update

Just a quick check-in today. I’m grateful to have received an incredible gift this weekend of several UK import KLF and related singles from a wonderfully generous friend who was thinning out their personal record collection. He knew that no one in the city would appreciate them more than I. With the new titles added, it seemed fitting to take an updated photograph of the collection to date. Here’s what I have so far, including Drummond’s Silent Protest deck of cards, (the tiny black item toward the lower right), a rare first-edition of The Manual, the Stadium House Trilogy VHS, and several titles from the exquisite Recovered & Remastered series, (highly recommended!)

My KLF collection now comprises 45 physical LPs, CDs, books, and other ephemera. The digital portion of my KLF library includes 164 albums, EPs, and other releases totaling over 109 hours of music and 93 films clocking in at 19 hours of rare video footage and interviews.

I understand that there are collectors with far larger KLF libraries, but I’m pleased with what I’ve built so far. Special thanks to my very generous friend! 

KLF Collection Updated 07-05-2020 sm

Friggin’ Here Comes to the Internet Archive

WITR 897 Logo

I’m delighted to announce the completion of an historic archival project at Innerspace Labs! 

When I was a young man growing up in Rochester, NY, I routinely spent my weekends tuning in to the city’s comedy/novelty radio programme titled, Friggin’ Here. The show was broadcast on The Rochester Institute of Technology’s radio station, WITR 89.7FM in the 1990s. Friggin’ Here filled the comedy void of not having The Dr Demento Show in Rochester and featured many local and regional comedy artists who went on to national acclaim on Dr Demento’s show. And during the time these episodes were airing, co-host Devo Spice made it to #1 on The Dr Demento Show with his hit, “South Park Junkie,” recorded with his band, Sudden Death, and landed Dr. Demento’s Funny #1 of the Year three times in the years that followed. This was definitely a piece of history that deserved to be archived.

I taped 27 of the shows in my basement studio in the mid-90s, and recently considered the possibility of digitizing and making those recordings available online for fans around the world to revisit and enjoy. Tragically, despite my painstaking efforts at organization, I was unable to locate those old cassettes. Undeterred, I reached out to the members of an online community celebrating comedy music and inquired as to whether or not anyone else had recordings of the local programme from my youth.

As fate would have it, Devo Spice and a few of the show’s guest artists were members of that community, and the administrators tagged them in response. Astonishingly, I received a reply that Devo Spice had personally taped nearly all of their shows during his participation with the programme. Not only that, but he had wisely positioned the deck in the station’s studio with the signal going to the tape deck before it went out over the air, so the sound is as good as it can be! Best of all, just two years ago he had sent those very tapes to a friend named Dr Don who performed the laborious task of digitizing over 97 hours worth of analog audio content. Unfortunately however, the co-host had stored the resulting digital audio on a since-failed PC, and retrieving them was an undertaking.

There were a few weeks of baited breath, but at last he responded confirming that the tracks were safely recovered and he transferred the files to me. Examining the library, I found his tapes were vastly superior to my own home-taped cassettes. I ran the files through a spectral waveform analyzer and verified that they had been ripped using the Hydrogenaudio “Insane” preset of -b 320 – a constant bitrate of 320kbps, which is the highest possible audio compression standard for MP3 and is demonstrably indistinguishable from lossless audio. Evidently, Dr Don took every measure to ensure the very best quality for his digitization process. There is audible aging to the cassettes, themselves but every effort has been made to preserve them as best as possible. And in addition to the superior pre-broadcast sound, where I had omitted selections, (whether they be duplicate songs or just tracks I didn’t particularly fancy), the co-host’s archive was nearly complete with all shows unabridged from his years with the programme.

I immediately went to work analyzing the audio data, tagging, and uniformly-formatting the library. Once they were prepped for a satisfactorily archival standard, I embarked on the task of uploading each broadcast to The Internet Archive and attaching each programme’s track list and relevant metadata. After the entire library was uploaded, I drafted a summary and submitted a request to The Internet Archive to format the set as an official Collection. With that request now fulfilled, the archive is readily-accessible for listeners around the world to enjoy. It’s a small but important way for me to give back to the artists who filled my teenage years with laughter.

For those curious about the origin of the show’s title, Devo Spice provided the details on his official website’s biography at Devospice.com:

In 1997 Tom’s friend from college Tim Winkler (known affectionately as TWINK) managed to get a slot on RIT’s radio station WITR and devoted his entire show to comedy music. He had a two-hour slot, originally on late Thursday/early Friday from 1-3am, that he kept getting erased from. Finally one day he wrote “TWINK! FRIGGIN’ HERE!” on the white board, and that’s how the show got its name. At some point he invited Devo to co-host the show with him, mostly because he wanted access to Devo’s music collection. While Tom was never officially a member of the radio station (he had tried freshman year and had gotten the runaround) he co-hosted this show with TWINK until he left Rochester in late 1999. 

Check out the completed archive collection here!

https://archive.org/details/friggin-here?tab=about

50 Skidillion Watts of Slightly Dated New York Weirdo Hipster Novelty Humor

Bongos Bass & Bob - Never Mind the Sex Pistols 05-09-2020 sm

I have a decent collection of novelty records, from the first “break-in” 7-inch, Buchanan and Goodman’s “Flying Saucer Pts I & II,” to a fish-head-shaped picture disc of Barnes & Barnes classic, “Fish Heads,” to the full-scale replica of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s accordion housing vinyl remasters of his entire 40-year career in the industry. (I even had the good fortune of getting Dr. Demento, himself to sign my 1953 debut 10″ of Songs By Tom Lehrer!) So when I discovered that the hilarious Bongos, Bass, and Bob had put out a record featuring many of my favorite Demented hits, I tracked down a copy right away.

The band recorded one album with Penn Gillette and produced by Kramer in 1988 titled, Never Mind The Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, and Bob (What Were They Thinking???) on Jillette’s label, 50 Skidillion Watts, (written out as 50,000,000,000000,000,000,000 Watts Records), Catalog # 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,003.

The album includes favorites like:

  • Oral Hygiene
  • Walkin’ in the Park
  • What’s Your Name, Babe?
  • Clothes of the Dead
  • and Thorazine Shuffle (a cover of the single by Modern Entertainment)

The album is a comedic mishmash of genres, including folk, world music, country, jazz, rock, doo-wop, punk, and calypso, as well as lo-fi, noise, and avant-garde musical styles. 

The trio is a self-proclaimed “speed Mariachi” band composed of Penn Jillette on bass, Dean Seal on bongos, and Rob Elk on guitar. Several tracks were featured on The Dr. Demento Show, and an alternate sans-Jillette take of “Oral Hygiene” recorded under the name “Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal” was featured on WITR’s Friggin Here radio show in the 90s. It also appeared as track #2 on Dr. Demento’s Basement Tapes Volume 01.

I’d spent those halcyon summers painstakingly taping 27 weeks worth of broadcasts of Friggin Here and entering the complete set lists into a word processor to print on my dot matrix printer, (this was 1995 after all), so it was a real treat to claim the songs I so fondly remembered on wax.

It’s offbeat, humorous, and original stuff.

From Allmusic:

The bongos come courtesy of Dean J. Seal, the bass is via Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame), and the Bob is derived from guitarist Rob “Running” Elk on this funny, eclectic record overseen by producer Kramer. There are 16 songs on Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, Bob! (What on Earth Were They Thinking?), and about as many musical styles, including punk, calypso and doo-wop; the acute and amusing lyrics target oral hygiene, Thorazine, girls with guns and thrift shopping (“Clothes of the Dead”). Much more musically competent than expected, this is a superior musical-comedy record, and one that holds up to repeated listenings.

And Wikipedia notes:

Kramer is a musician, composer, record producer, and founder of the New York City record label Shimmy-Disc. 

Kramer played on tour with Butthole Surfers, Ween, Half Japanese, The Fugs, and John Zorn and other improvising musicians of New York’s so-called “downtown scene” of the 1980s.

Kramer produced Galaxie 500’s entire oeuvre, and discovered and produced Duluth slowcore band, Low. He also produced for White Zombie, GWAR, King Missile, Daniel Johnston, and Urge Overkill.

Rutlesriki.fandom.com adds that the group also recorded a cover version of The Rutles’ “Number One” for the tribute album, Rutles Highway Revisited, released in 1993.

Of “Thorazine Shuffle,” G Zahora writes:

“Thorazine Shuffle” is a Modern Entertainment piece, but BB&B’s rendition is particularly brilliant; the bass and bongo arrangement is ultra-spartan jazz-via-Velvet Underground, the vocals quiet and businesslike (except for the freakout choruses, where Penn goes a bit nuts himself). 

Zahora closes their review noting:

It’s not for everyone, but if you dig slightly dated New York weirdo hipster novelty humor, are a rabid Penn and Teller fan or just a colored vinyl lover, Never Mind the Sex Pistols…Here’s Bongos, Bass and Bob is worth tracking down.

There’s an incredibly exhaustive write-up on the record archived on Popsike here for anyone interested, which includes transcripts of articles on the album from Playboy in 1996 and the rest of G Zahora’s album notes. 

Related projects of note include John S. Hall & Kramer (Hall is the vocalist from King Missile)’s Real Men LP and Captain Howdy (Penn Jillette w Kramer) who produced “The Best Song Ever Written” b/w “Dino’s Head” which I own on 45. But Bongos, Bass, and Bob remain a stand-out favorite from the best of the Dr. Demento era.

There is a playlist of a vinyl-rip of the album on YouTube, though a few tracks are cut in the wrong places, (track 2, “Clothes of the Dead” for example is mistakenly cut short at a moment of silence before the final chorus which resumes at the beginning of video #3). Still, it provides a taste of the comedic madness and irreverence of this record. 

Transitioning the Seasons with Spirit of Eden

I’m admittedly a latecomer to this seminal and influential work, but it’s better late than never. And it’s thrilling to know that despite my exhaustive hours of daily music surveys and research that there are still reflective, beautiful gems still waiting to be discovered.

And so it is with Talk Talk’s 1988 LP, Spirit of Eden. The album is critically-lauded as a progenitor of the genre which would come to define the decade that followed. Wikipedia’s article on Talk Talk’s co-founder and songwriter, the late Mark Hollis calls attention to the fact that, “While they were commercial failures in their own time, these albums have come to be seen as early landmarks of post-rock music.

Two quotes from Hollis resonated deeply with my own philosophies of music and composition. In an interview with Danish TV, 22nd February 1998, Hollis said:

“Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note. And don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it.” 

And in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Richard Skinner around the release of their next album, Laughing Stock, Hollis adds:

“The silence is above everything, and I would rather hear one note than I would two, and I would rather hear silence than I would one note.”

Wikipedia’s entry for Spirit of Eden offers some insight into the album’s composition:

The album was compiled from a lengthy recording process at London’s Wessex Studios between 1987 and 1988. Often working in darkness, the band recorded many hours of improvised performances that drew on elements of jazz, ambient, blues, classical music, and dub.

But it was the praise-filled Pitchfork article on the album which inspired my first-listen, where the album was rated a perfect 10/10 score. The lengthy article offers a much-deserved contextual examination of the album and a few key remarks caught my attention:

In interviews, he would point to Miles Davis and Gil Evans’ orchestral jazz masterpiece Sketches of Spain, or the zen experiments of John Cage, or Vittorio De Sica’s avant-garde film The Bicycle Thieves as touchpoints for his inspiration. 

The thrill of this music is the same thrill of listening to some of the great works of jazz, classical, and pop: the soul of Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way, the obtuse landscapes of Morton Feldman, the production and patience of Brian Eno. Today, this coming together of spirit and sound still feels like a radical and mysterious feat of popular music.

This was unequivocally an album I needed to hear.

And The Guardian described the album as a blend of “pastoral jazz, contemporary classical, folk, prog rock and loose blues into a single, doggedly uncommercial musical tapestry” which would be labeled “post-rock.”

Whatever label one elects to apply, this is an exquisite specimen of sound-art, and warrants repeated listenings on reflective winter evenings such as this.

And a dear friend and ambient composer offered an insightful remark on the album, saying, “What especially impresses me is how fluid and organic it is in evading any traditional sense of ‘rock music’ at all — and this is especially apparent in much of the soft dynamics. Any sense of music at all is almost not there, as if the music is on the verge of dissipating into silence.”

RateYourMusic files the album under the categories of jazz-rock, chamber jazz, art rock, and chamber music, and its user-base charts the album as #2 for its original release year, hot on the heels of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. And the site offers no shortage of poetic descriptors of Hollis’ style, calling it “atmospheric, passionate, peaceful, religious, introspective, meditative, lush, soothing, spiritual, bittersweet, lonely, sparse, sentimental, pastoral, soft, ethereal, melancholic, progressive, calm, uplifting, and hypnotic.”

Hypnotic indeed. I immediately tracked down a copy of the UK-issued 180g 2012 remastered edition with a companion 96kHz/24bit stereo DVD. It’s the perfect soundtrack to usher in the spring.

Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden 180g 2012 2LP remaster with 96kHz 24bit stereo DVD + bonus track

Published in: on March 14, 2020 at 9:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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