Electronic Love

I’ve just received the most WONDERFUL Christmas gift from one of my oldest and dearest friends. If every you’ve asked yourself, “what is the perfect gift for the audiophile who has everything?” this is precisely the sort of gift you should consider.

This is the Electronic Love Blueprint: A History of Electronic Music by the Dorothy design collective – an electrical schematic of a theremin mapping 200 inventors, innovators, artists, composers spanning the entire history of recorded sound. Key pioneers featured include Léon Theremin, Bob Moog, Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Brian Eno, Kraftwerk and Aphex Twin.

It loosely groups genres, from the obscure Musique Concrète (Pierre Schaeffer) to the better known Krautrock (Kraftwerk, Can, Tangerine Dream, Neu!, Faust, Cluster, Harmonia and Amon Düül II) Synthpop (Gary Numan, Human League, Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Pet Shop Boys) and Electronica (New Order, The Prodigy, Massive Attack, LCD Sound System and Daft Punk). There are also references to the experimental BBC Radiophonic Workshop and favourite innovating record labels Mute and Warp.

This metallic silver screen print on 120gsm Keaykolour Royal Blue uncoated paper measures 60 x 80cm and will be the pride of my listening room.

I’ve ordered a UK frame and can’t wait to display it!

dorothy-104-electric-love_b-webdorothy-104-electric-love_2-webdorothy-104-electric-love_4-webdorothy-104-electric-love_3-webdorothy-104-electric-love_h-web

Echowaves: Intergalactic Radio – Legends of Krautrock

Sunday Playlist of the day – Echowaves: Intergalactic Radio – Legends of Krautrock.

450 of the greatest kosmische musik albums from 77 German artists.

Echowaves: Intergalactic Radio

Spanning 1969 to the present, personal favorites among the list include discographies from:

  • Can
  • Faust
  • Kraftwerk (particularly the pre-Ralf und Florian LPs)
  • Amon Duul I&II
  • Neu!
  • Popol Vuh
  • Harmonia
  • Tangerine Dream
  • Klaus Schulze
  • Manuel Gottsching
  • Cluster
  • Ash Ra Tempel
  • Embryo
  • La Dusseldorf
  • The Cosmic Jokers
  • and A.R. & Machines

The list also includes modern artists who celebrate and revive the genre, like London’s Public Service Broadcasting.

Album now-playing: Cosmic Jokers’ s/t – the band that never was.

Cosmic Jokers - Cosmic Jokers

Their albums were acid party jam sessions recorded and released without the supergroup’s knowledge. Participants included Manuel Göttsching and Klaus Schulze of Ash Ra Tempel, Jurgen Dollase and Harald Grosskopf of Wallenstein, and Dierks. Regardless, it’s wonderful stuff!

An Exploration of Kosmische Musik Essentials (2 of 2)

Welcome to the conclusion to my 2-part feature on kosmische essentials.  First, an apology to readers who expected to see Neu’s first two albums, La Dusseldorf, Faust, and Harmonia.  I fully recognize the importance and grand influence of these artists, however they’ve thus far been absent from my collection.  They will surely be added in due time, but for now we’ll begin with another essential – Germany’s Can.

Can recorded three milestones of krautrock between 1971 and 73 – namely, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi, and my favorite – Future Days.  Fans may argue that their debut album Monster Movie was a far more important record, but these three albums feature some of the most mind-blowing tracks I’ve ever heard.  This is effectively the opposite of Kraftwerk.  Instead of Ralf and Florian’s polished industrial mechanized music, Can offers chaotic, psychedelic tunes and spontaneous lyricism that made them icons of the genre.

These are the United Artists marbled vinyl pressings from around 2009.  I’m uncertain whether or not these are authorized reissues, but no corners were cut on the quality of either the heavyweight gatefold jackets or the quality of the colored vinyl.  Absolutely essential.

Can - Tago Mago

 Can – Tago Mago (1971)

Can - Ege Bamyasi

Can – Ege Bamyasi (1972)

Can - Future Days
 Can – Future Days (1973)

Popol Vuh is another artist with a dauntingly extensive catalog of albums.  I’ll highlight my personal favorite – Hosianna Mantra – minimal choral music from Germany recently reissued by a small independent record store in Spain.  The pressing restored the original album art (after the 1980s American issue replaced the gorgeous cover with a boring large yellow circle).  Better still, the disc shipped with a bonus 7″ single and a poster, limited to 500 copies worldwide.  Wah Wah Records continues to release long out-of-print titles and is a label well-worth exploring.

 Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra 07 Seven Inch Sleeve

Popol Vuh – Hosianna Mantra (1972)

Another essential deep into the territory of Berlin School ambience is Manuel Gottsching’s Inventions for Electric Guitar from 1975.  This, in my humble opinion, is space rock perfection.  An expert’s blend of guitar, trance inducing rhythm, and delay and echo effects.  There’s really very little else happening on this record, but Gottsching transports the listener to the furthest reaches of outer space.  This is music for interstellar travel.


Manuel Gottsching - Inventions for Electric Guitar

Manuel Göttsching – Inventions for Electric Guitar (1975)

And Inventions became the precursor to Gottsching’s most important work – E2-E4 from 1984.  Allmusic was spot-on when they described the record as sounding like the house music of the 20 years that followed its release.  Gottsching focuses all his energy on the delicate interplay between guitar loops, drum synths, and sparsely-interjected tones from an accompanying synthesizer.  This is pure trance… from 1984.

Manuel Gottsching - E2-E4

Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4 (1984)

But perhaps no individual had as expansive a solo and collaborative catalog in the Berlin School than Klaus Schulze.  Irrlicht (1972) was Schulze’s first official solo album, recorded just a month before Zeit.  This is cerebral, classically-influenced cosmic music – a magnificent milestone of the genre.

Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht

Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht

Klaus Schulze – Irrlicht (1972)

If you buy only one Klaus Schulze record, (and there are well over 100), please consider the massively successful double LP – X from 1978.  X is hypnotic and entrancing modern classical music and is universally acclaimed as one of Schulze’s finest efforts.  The album is subtitled, “Six Musical Biographies” as each track is named after one of Schulze’s greatest inspirations.  This is not passive listening – these songs, many in excess of 20 minutes in length, are engaging explorations of synthesized sound.

Klaus Schulze - X

Klaus Schulze – X (1978)

Also recommended are Schulze’s 12-volume collaboration with Pete Namlook – The Dark Side of the Moog series, and for the fan who has everything-Schulze, I encourage you to look into The Ultimate Edition – a 50-disc collection of box sets featuring numerous live and non-album recordings.  It clocks in at 65 hours of material and I love cuing it up at work to transform my 9-5 into a calm and meditative atmosphere.

Here I’d like to touch quickly upon a non-German record that was really in the spirit of what Schulze and his fellow Berlin-schoolers were up to in the late 70s.  Steve Hillage, one of the primary figures of the Canterbury scene in the UK recorded Rainbow Dome Musick for the Festival for Mind-Body-Spirit in 1979.  While not geographically qualifying as “Berlin School,” it is most definitely of the same caliber as its German counterparts.

The album features Hillage on guitars, the Fender Rhodes, and ARP and Moog synthesizers.  A smattering of Tibetan bells and the sound of a running stream make the album approach the then-budding territory of New Age music, but Hillage’s musicianship and penchant for the avant-garde exempt the album from the flood of forgettable New Age music of the era.  If you like Schulze’s solo work, you really should check out Rainbow Dome Musick.

Steve Hillage - Rainbow Dome Musick

Steve Hillage – Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

 I always end my multi-album features with something unique – and this is no exception.

Public Service Broadcasting is a London-based duo who create retro-futuristic electronic music much in the spirit of classic krautrock.  They use samples from old public information films, archival footage and propaganda material, to (quote) ‘teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future’.  PSB combines classic synths with banjo, ukulele, sax and trumpets all propelled by a nearly-motorik beat.

Public Service Broadcasting - Inform Educate Entertain

Both their album art and their music bear the streamlined magnificence of the Futurists.  My two favorite selections are The War Room EP and their first full-length release, Inform, Educate, Entertain.  I’ve also just pre-ordered their exciting new record scheduled for release this February.

Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain

But to close with a proper German record, I can’t leave out my recent acquisition from December of 2014 – GAS.  Wolfgang Voigt’s legendary titles released under the Gas moniker were combined in an abbreviated double LP, Nah Und Fern in 2008 on the Kompakt label.  Recorded between 1996 and 2000, Gas is perhaps the ultimate vision of the Berlin School’s musical philosophy.  To recap the brilliant descriptions from critics upon its release – zero-gravity club music, tunes for lucid dreaming, underwater techno, or as Wire put it, “an outdoor rave, heard floating through the air from a neighbouring village.”  This is precisely the sound of Gas.

Gas - Nah Und Fern

Gas – Zauberberg (1997)

Gas – Königsforst (1999)

Gas – Pop (2000)

My next German music purchases will likely include the first Cosmic Jokers LP, Schulze’s Timewind, and Froese’s solo debut – Aqua on the Brain label.

I hope these featured essentials are helpful to anyone venturing into kosmische music for the first time.  Have I left out any of your own favorites?  Let me know!

MASSIVE Experimental Music Haul!

This past week I was bitten by the avant garde bug and dropped a few hundred on all the milestone recordings I had read about in my travels. It was excellent timing as I was surprised along the way when several rare but essential discs landed at my local antique mall and at the outstanding record shop in my old home town.

Morton Subotnick - Silver Apples of the Moon
Morton Subotnick – Silver Apples of the Moon (1967)

This was one of the first early electronic records I heard back in college and I suddenly decided that I needed it and everything like it. At that point the only New Music recordings in my library were Charles Dodge – Earth’s Magnetic Field and a few works by John Cage.

Morton Subotnick - A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur

Morton Subotnick – A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur (1980)

While youtube browsing Subotnick’s other recordings I found “A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur” which is a virtual assault on your table’s cartridge. It’s a ceaseless rapid-fire onslaught of quick, staccato mechanical tones described as “a ghost score – gesture sketches on magnetic tape.” This beautiful disc turned up at the antique mall that very weekend beside a selection of John Cage and Iannis Xenakis works and I snatched it up instantly.

Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians
Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians (1974)

This album goes without saying. It is one of the most widely recognized minimalist pieces, on par with Riley’s In C from 1968.

League of Composers - Electronic Music Winners

Electronic Music Winners – First Recordings of the League of Composers – ISCM International Competition (1976)

(From the cover: ) In the autumn of 1974, the League of Composers-International Society for Contemporary Music organized an International Electronic Music Competition, the first undertaken by the organization. Tapes of electronic music compositions were solicited from the composers and electronic music studios all over the world. A distinguished panel agreed to select the winners.

When I dug deeper for information I discovered that parts of the Lansky and Krieger pieces were sampled by Radiohead in “Idioteque” on Kid A!

Electrosoniks - Electronic Music
The Electrosoniks – Electronic Music: A New Concept of Music Created by Sonic Vibrations (1962 PROMO Stereo)

This is the single most phenomenal experimental work I’ve ever encountered in my travels. It has everything – glorious explorations of bizarre, alien noise and free jazz (such as “Twilight Ozone”), Cage-like treated piano works (particularly the finale, “Pianoforte,”) and hints of synthesized melody that recalls the short “bleep bloop” playfulness of Perrey and Kingsley. It’s out there, but enjoyable at the same time. The only copies I found online were listed at over $200 but I happily swung this clean promo from an antique dealer’s collection for $30.

When I got it home and dropped the needle on it for the first time I discovered something even more exciting.  As the second track, “Moon Maid” began I found myself singing “The Martian Hop” by The Ran-Dells.  I stopped the record and cued up the novelty hit and sure enough, the entire opening of the song was lifted directly from the first thirty seconds of “Moon Maid.”  I scoured the internet, the Wikipedia and the Ran-Dells official webpage and it appears that for the last 50 years the sample has been credited to the Ran-Dells as “the first pop record to use additive synthesis from sine wave generators.”  I promptly revised the Wikipedia entry to acknowledge the work of Tom Dissevelt and Dick Raaymakers, (aka Kid Baltan) – The Electrosoniks!

Stockhausen - Electronic Music

Stockhausen: Electronic Music – Gesang der Junglinge & Kontakte (1962)

Produced by the electronic studios of West German Radio, Cologne, 1962

When I walked into my hometown’s finest record shop and inquired about Stockhausen, the owner turned to me and asked, “Do you have any yet?”

I confessed that I didn’t.

It was like a red alert went off. He looked up and called out, “Hey, he doesn’t know Stockhausen! Get the West German Radio Recordings!”

As I prefer strange electronic sounds I remembered Kontakte and Gesang der Junglinge being two memorable tracks from youtube and the 75 LP-rip megatorrent I picked up of his work. This was an original German pressing in unplayed condition so I didn’t pass it up!

The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit - Plugged in Pop

The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit: Plugged in Pop (1969)

This was a novelty recording produced by Sear Music Productions, Inc and released on the Command label. I already own Dick Hyman’s Age of Electronicus and Electric Eclectics (both released that same year on Command) so I trusted that the label wouldn’t let me down.

Can - Tago Mago (ltd colored vinyl edition)

Can – Tago Mago 2LP (1971)

Limited edition heavy colored wax reissue on United Artists. One of Can’s most experimental adventures. “Peking O” is a wild standout track.

Can - Future Days

Can – Future Days (1973)

Limited edition reissue on colored wax

Here Can journeys into proto-ambient territory with a lengthy and memorable title track. This is the album that introduced me to Can.

Can - Peel Sessions

Can – Peel Sessions 2LP (recorded 1973 – 1975)

Ltd edition colored vinyl reissue

These improvised recordings from John Peel’s studio are affectionately referred to as “the lost Can album.”   Thank you, John Peel for the hundredth time.

Can - Ege Bamyasi

Can – Ege Bamyasi (1972)

Yet another limited colored vinyl reissue

Features “Vitamin C” and “Spoon,” which I believe are some of their most famous tracks.

Each of the Can reissues are out of print but I was able to pick them all up at once from a single seller, each at cost and all with free shipping!  You can’t pass up an offer like that.

Terry Riley - A Rainbow in Curved Air

Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air (1972)

Spectacular melodic ambient minimalism. Each track is a side-long. Side B, “Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band” has turned up on a number of psychedelic compilations.

Perrey & Kingsley - The In Sound from Way Out

Perrey-Kingsley – The In Sound From Way Out!: Electronic Pop Music of the Future (1966)

As soon as this appeared on my record shop’s Facebook page I raced to the phone and asked them to hold it for me. It actually came in with a pile of early synth albums.

The In Sound is officially the first electronic pop recording. (1966) If you liked the humor and fun of Raymond Scott’s Manhattan Research, Inc you’ll LOVE Perrey & Kingsley.

There is a compilation set called The Out Sound From Way In which is much easier to come by, and it includes Moog Indigo which features the classic synth track, “E.V.A.”

Jean Jacques Perrey - The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sounds of

The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound Of Jean Jacques Perrey (1968)

This was right behind The In Sound and I wasn’t about to miss my chance to take them both home. Again Discogs currently lists copies of this album for $53 but I got both titles for a total of $35.  Even better, the money went to support my favorite record store.

Pierre Henry and Spooky Tooth - Ceremony

Spooky Tooth / Pierre Henry – Ceremony: An Electronic Mass (1969)

While digging for avant garde albums the store owners handed me this gem and said they were confident I’d be taking it home. They were right. They explained that this collaboration ended the career of Spooky Tooth. It is, indeed, OUT THERE.

And finally, right up there with The Electrosoniks for explorations of the bizarre, I ordered this last but critically essential album.

Louis and Bebe Barron - Forbidden Planet

Louis And Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet (1956) – 2012 National Record Store Day green vinyl ltd ed reissue

After previewing just the first minute online and reading that it was the first completely electronic score ever produced for a film, I just had to have Louis And Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet (1956).  The original pressing was limited and most copies were signed by the musicians.  I quickly learned that the 2012 reissue reportedly cleaned up much of the surface noise that was experienced with the original PLANET label pressing.  To my surprise the copy I picked up turned out to be the limited edition 2012 transparent green Record Store Day issue; only 500 copies worldwide!

These eighteen classics are a wonderful start to my experimental music collection.  My new McIntosh pre-amp and power amp will arrive soon, and I’ll be sure to post an update testing my finest LPs with my new Ortofon 2M Red.