The Innerspace Labs Top 100 Albums

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

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

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

Enjoy!

Vinylmania! Night in Buffalo, NY!

I had an absolute blast at the local Vinylmania record show last night!  I went to the event hoping to get some Klaus Schulze LPs (but honestly was not expecting to find any). I was blown away that one killer table hooked me up with several of his albums on the Brain label, all in fantastic condition!

I also took home The Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Sessions, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy vol 2 LP, and J.R.R. Tolkien Reads & Sings The Lord of the Rings (all from that same table.)

We also picked up an original Roxy Music tee for my fiance.  An excellent way to celebrate my birthday!

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DEEP DISTANCE: The Musical Life of Manuel Göttsching

Six years in the making, Author Christian Wheeldon’s magnificent account of The Musical Life of Manuel Göttsching is now available to the public.  Weeldon takes the reader on a journey through the rebirth of German music in the 1970s, the fusion of rock, minimalism and electronics, and through all of the pioneering music that followed.

Gottsching 2 sm

Wheeldon’s is the first proper book to examine the life of Manuel Göttsching, and is an absolute triumph at the task.  From the back cover:

[The book provides] previously unpublished interviews the author conducted with members of Ashra, as well as correspondence with other key personalities and selective historic sources.

But even more effective are Wheeldon’s rich and impassioned analyses of each of Göttsching recording sessions.  He provides an historic account of the socio-cultural circumstances surrounding each album’s production, and descriptions of the music which will undoubtedly inspire readers to seek out and enjoy these albums for themselves.

A few examples from the opening chapters of the book –

On Ash Ra Tempel’s self-titled record from 1971:

Ash Ra Tempel’s first track is freeform and as untamed as any open, mud-spattered festival jam ever hammered out.  A musical locomotive underpinned by the impressive, primal rumble of Hartmut Enke’s bass, there is a sense that Amboss could derail at any one of several moments as a result of its own pile driving brute force.  After a brief atonal guitar impasse the band steam back into action, finally rattling and clanging towards a furious, exhausted climax after 20 sweat-soaked minutes.

On The Cosmic Jokers’ self-titled LP from 1974:

Soothing guitar work from Manuel introduces the final part of the original first side. The waters of a gently lapping chemical ocean gradually become more turbulent and as proceedings gather pace we plummet beneath the surface into a swirling wormhole, hurtling towards some far corner of the universe at breakneck speed.  Schulze’s booming synthesizer suggests myriad multi-colour fragments of giant rock colliding in an asteroid field and a rather kitsch intergalactic voice confirms that we are now charting the far reaches of the great beyond.

I repeatedly found myself putting the book down to scribble notes for future listening.  A book exploring the incredible impact of Manuel Göttsching music is long-overdue, and thankfully Wheeldon’s guided tour of his catalog will spark a renaissance of listenership and musical discoveries for both long-time fans and for young listeners eager to develop a better understanding of the foundations of ambient and electronic sound.

The book was printed in a short run, so don’t miss your chance to claim a copy for your music library. Find out more at http://manuelgottsching.blogspot.co.uk/.

Author Christian Wheeldon with his, the first-ever
publication celebrating the music of Manuel Gottsching

An Exploration of Kosmische Musik Essentials (1 of 2)

Right around the new year, I set myself to the task of compiling my favorite German experimental LPs of the late 1960s and early 70s for a feature on essential kosmische musik.  Quite sadly, founding member of Tangerine Dream Edgar Froese passed away last month, and a showcase of music he composed or inspired is the least I can do in his honor.  Electronic and ambient music would surely not be where it is today without the contributions of this fantastic musician.

The feature will be presented in two parts, and the conclusion will feature some special recordings you may not have heard of so be sure to tune in for both installments.

Additionally, I intend for this to be a one-click introduction for those interested in exploring highlights of kosmische musik, so I will include embedded full-album YouTube videos for every album that I can so that listeners can read about and listen to each artist I present.

Both general krautrock and the Berlin School rose to prominence in the late 1960s and early 70s and each produced a number of influential records which helped shape the music of the decades that followed.

 
Amon Duul II - Phallus Dei

Phallus Dei by Amon Düül II was arguably the first proper krautrock record, but personally, I prefer pensive and cerebral space music to brilliant uninhibited freak-outs.

Amon Düül II – Phallus Dei (1969)

 And so, fittingly, I’ll begin with the aforementioned Tangerine Dream.  This is the “In the Beginning…” box set released on Relativity in 1985 which contains their first four albums – Electronic Meditation, Alpha Centauri, Zeit, and Atem, as well as the then-unreleased Green Desert LP.

Tangerine Dream - In the Beginning...

Dubbed “the pink years” for the pink ear on the original Ohr labels, these were early explorations in ambient music, and with each release they ventured further from traditional rhythms and meter into the outer reaches of space music.

All four titles are staples of the genre, and fortunately each was recently reissued on 180g vinyl in a gatefold sleeve in the UK by Esoteric Reactive.  I’m considering trading the set in for these new pressings.

Tangerine Dream – Electronic Meditation (1970)

 Tangerine Dream – Alpha Centauri (1971)

 Tangerine Dream – Zeit (1972)

 Tangerine Dream – Atem (1973)

 Tangerine Dream – Green Desert (recorded 1973)

Of course there were many other excellent TD titles released in the years that followed.

Universally-acclaimed classics include Phaedra, Ricochet (a live album), Rubycon, Stratosphere, Cyclone, and Exit.  These recordings of their first 10 years of activity were their finest and most exploratory works.

Cluster - Cluster IICluster II (1972) is another staple of the genre.  Phillipe of ProgArchives.com accurately summarized the album as “industrial and chaotic… a sonic meditation… and a pleasant cerebral massage,” an excellent summary of this album’s sound.  As Cluster II is more accessible than the mechanical noise of their debut LP, this is a great introduction to Cluster.  (But once you’re hooked you’ll need to go back and pick up their debut from 1971.)

Cluster – Cluster II (1972)

If you prefer a more organic flavor of ambient music, seek out Cluster & Eno from 1977.

Cluster & Eno

More sparse and delicate than the collaborations between Fripp & Eno just a few years earlier, Cluster & Eno is reflective, late night music.  Put it on and ponder your very existence in a vast and expansive universe.

Cluster & Eno – Cluster & Eno (1977)

 A follow-up collaboration was recorded in 1978, this time credited to Clusters’ members by name.  After the Heat is a rewarding experience for the patient ear.  It has a slow but steady pace and concludes with two outstanding tracks with vocals by Brian Eno.  “The Belldog” is a must for fans of any period of Eno’s music, and the closing track (whose title I will not even attempt to pronounce) features the lyrics to “Kings Lead Hat” played backwards… and it WORKS… because Eno.

After the Heat

Eno/Moebius/Roedelius – After the Heat (1978)

Kraftwerk, of course, played a critical role as krautrock’s mechanized ambassadors to the world. But before they developed their trademark sound with Autobahn and Radioactivity, they released Kraftwerk I and II (1970-72) These early records are much more organic and free-form than the Futurist sounds of their better-known LPs.  The albums feature multi-dubbed flutes, an organ, tape-music noise and drone soundscapes.  If you dig experimental tunes, these are classics.

 Crown - Kraftwerk I

Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk (1970)

Crown - Kraftwerk II

Kraftwerk – Kraftwerk II (1971)

These are the Crown label bootlegs on red & green vinyl.  The jackets are quickly identifiable by the really shoddy low-res prints of the original art but that aside, they’re an affordable way to get your hands on some early Kraftwerk. 

Ralf und Florian

Ralf and Florian (1973) was their 3rd LP (not including Organisation’s Tone Float) and features much of the same sounds heard on 1 and 2 but with a more structured and polished sound.

Kraftwerk – Ralf und Florian (1973)

 As I tend to gravitate toward more abstract music I don’t play this record as often as the others, but its historical importance and impact on the music which followed can not be overstated.

 Ralf and Florian was followed by the records for which they are best-known –

Kraftwerk – Autobahn (1974)

Kraftwerk - Autobahn

Kraftwerk - Radio-Activity

Kraftwerk – Radio-Activity (1975)

Kraftwerk - Trans Europa Express

Kraftwerk – Trans Europa Express (1977)

and the electro-pop staple, The Man-Machine.

Kraftwerk - The Man-Machine

Kraftwerk – The Man-Machine (1978)

I’ll end this segment appropriately with a solo selection from Tangerine Dream founder, Edgar Froese.  He released three primary solo recordings between I’ve seen this title turn up multiple times in the Youtube Vinyl Community.  Epsilon in Malaysian Pale is Edgar Froese’s second album, recorded in 1975.  The album consists of two side-long pieces – the first featuring the Mellotron and the second a rhythmic wash of ambient synths.  If you’ve been meaning to get into Froese’s solo work, this is certainly the place to begin.

Edgar Froese - Epsilon in Malaysian Pale

Edgar Froese – Epsilon In Malaysian Pale (1975)

These classics will serve as an excellent introduction to the genre.  Stay tuned next week for more fantastic essentials!