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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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.

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

Robert Fripp of King Crimson, photo via IMDb

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

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

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

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

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

Music For Quiet Moments…

I

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

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

and also where we find them.

Sometimes quiet moments find us.

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

perhaps natural features in the landscape;

perhaps intentionally created, as in a garden;

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

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

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

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

A Quiet Moment prepares the space where Silence may enter.

Silence is timeless.

II

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

III

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

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

Some of these Soundscapes are inward-looking, reflective.

Some move outwards, with affirmation.

Some go nowhere, simply being where they are.

Robert Fripp

Tuesday 28th. April, 2020;

Bredonborough, Middle England.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

An Ambient Milestone – The First-Ever Vinyl Issue of Oliveros’ Deep Listening

Exciting news to start off the new year! A classic recording of the ambient genre has been issued for the very first time on vinyl by Important Records. The Massachusetts-based label has issued special releases from artists including Daniel Johnston, Boris, Coil, and Japanese noise musician Merzbow and specializes in indie rock, electronica and avant-garde music.

The label’s official website posted the news in early December and quickly sold out of the gold edition on the evening of Wednesday, December 18th. The official release date is January 31, 2020 but pre-ordered copies shipped January 6th to arrive well in advance of the official date. (This copy arrived Friday, January 10th.)

From their announcement:

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Deep Listening, we offer you the definitive double LP combining the classic, complete original 1989 release with selected tracks from the Deep Listening Band’s 1991 album The Readymade Boomerang.

This elegant double LP is packaged in a gatefold sleeve with original and updated recollections from the performers, the recording engineer and a mesostic from John Cage, to which these recordings are inextricably linked.

Recorded in a cistern, this double LP reverberates with brilliant sonic clarity and masterfully improvised performances combining live electronics, vocals, trombone and accordion. Deep Listening is a classic in the fields of improvisation, minimalism, ambient/drone and modern classical.

Listen with attentiveness, listen while lying down, listen with headphones – as recording engineer Al Swanson entices the listener to become a virtual performer in selecting the many different ways to perceive these phenomenal tracks. Whatever you do, listen deeply.

03 DLB6_large.jpg

02 DLBA_large.jpg

A quick summary for those not already familiar with the band – 

Deep Listening Band was founded in 1988 by Pauline Oliveros (accordion, “expanded instrument system”, composition), Stuart Dempster (trombone, didjeridu, composition) and Panaiotis (vocals, electronics, composer). Oliveros was a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic art music and a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Wikipedia notes that:

[Oliveros] coined the term “deep listening,” a pun that has blossomed into “an aesthetic based upon principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. This aesthetic is designed to inspire both trained and untrained performers to practice the art of listening and responding to environmental conditions in solo and ensemble situations”

Pauline’s mantra, exquisitely realized on this recording, was to “Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening”. 

Deep Listening Band recorded the album in the 2-million-US-gallon Fort Worden Cistern in Port Townsend, WA on October 8, 1988. The cistern has a 45-second reverberation time. AllMusic describes the unique sonic characteristics of the recording as follows:

The unlikely instruments — primarily accordion, trombone, didjeridu, and voice — produce sustained tones that are subtly modulated by the extraordinary acoustics, making it often seem as if there were more instruments present, or as if this music has been electronically processed — neither of which is the case. All the music was improvised on site, with the musicians banging on metal pipes and found objects on the final track. The effect is remarkable, immersing the listener in a hypnotic field of shifting resonance, in a truly profound experience of deep listening.

This pivotal and iconic recording was originally only issued on compact disc in the US on New Albion records in 1989 so it is a great honor to finally have it receive the double-LP vinyl treatment just in time for the album’s 30th anniversary. The bonus selections from The Ready Made Boomerang and the mesostic from John Cage are wonderful additions for this special release and an exciting way to begin 2020!

Pauline Oliveros - Deep Listening 2LP 01-10-19 01.JPG

Pauline Oliveros - Deep Listening 2LP 01-10-19 02.jpg

Published in: on January 11, 2020 at 12:34 pm  Comments Off on An Ambient Milestone – The First-Ever Vinyl Issue of Oliveros’ Deep Listening  
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