Introductory Nomenclature

Just arrived from Ann Arbor’s Ghostly International label – the sky blue limited edition reissue of Telefon Tel Aviv’s majestic debut, Fahrenheit Fair Enough. Fahrenheit was originally issued by Chicago’s Hefty Records, and fit smashingly alongside their other downtempo and IDM recordings.

Ghostly International is home to Tycho, Gold Panda, Com Truise, and other crafters of what Sundae Club playfully dubbed “Technostalgic Tunes”. And Fahrenheit is no exception. Here, Telefon Tel Aviv expertly weaves together sparse melodic fragments and the occasional jazzy licks with intricately complex abstract glitch patterns. What results is a marriage of the warm, nostalgic instrumentation one would expect from a band like Boards of Canada seamlessly fused with the atonal mechanical rhythmic constructions of Richard D. James. It is a wonderfully satisfying record which warrants repeated listenings both active and subliminal.

This limited edition release also includes a digital download which features additional Archive ’99 material capturing more of the best sounds the artist has to offer.

A review from the BBC called the album, “Gorgeous, yet completely devoid of cliché… a quiet, unpretentious beauty of a record.” Fahrenheit Fair Enough is certainly some of the finest downtempo IDM music released this year.

Telefon Tel Aviv - Fahrenheit Fair Enough.JPG

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!

St Germain is BACK with a refreshingly creative project!

Ludovic Navarre, aka St Germain’s first album in 15 years is an exciting interweaving of downtempo electronic and deep house, jazz, folk, African, world, & country music.

St Germain is perhaps best-known for his downtempo singles, “So Flute” and “Rose Rouge” from his Tourist LP from 2000.  I confess, when I read that the artist was releasing his first album in over a decade I was skeptical whether or not his best years were behind him. Thankfully, Navarre quickly dispelled my doubts as soon as I tuned in to the opening track.

Here are “So Flute…”

…and “Rose Rouge.”

For the album’s promotion, St Germain commissioned Urban Art creator Gregos, known for his smiling and frowning faces stuck on walls throughout Paris and Europe, to create a series of masks painted with the flags of the nations of the world. Navarre then traveled the globe covertly installing the masks in public spaces. His website features a map with mask markers indicating in which countries they have been found. Sending his listeners on a global treasure hunt, those who find the mask for their country receive the double LP for free.

Artists take note – This brilliant, heady music and the creator’s unique promotional project are precisely the stuff that will make an album successful in the digital age.

Check out video for the first single which includes footage of the mask installations below.

UPDATE: Delighted to find that my local indie record shop had a copy in stock!

Published in: on October 25, 2015 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Playlist of the day – Kelly Watch the Stars: Downtempo Classics

Playlist of the day – Kelly Watch the Stars: Downtempo Classics.

Over 700 of the best downtempo albums ever recorded. The list includes several large discographies like the 108 albums and EPs by Lemon Jelly and 56 funky jazz break LPs and mixes by DJ Food. Several NinjaTune artists are featured, as well as a number of downtempo compilations like Hi-Fidelity Lounge, Cafe del Mar, and an archive of WRUR Rochester’s Plasmonic Lounge broadcasts.

Music to beat the heat.

Kelly Watch the Stars

Slow Music for Fast Times

This morning saw the conclusion of our latest archival project.  The world’s longest-running ambient radio program, Hearts of Space began broadcasting slow music for fast times back in 1973.  The original program was a 3-hour set, shortened to its present 1-hour format when the show began public radio syndication in 1983.

Hearts of Space

Since syndication Heats of Space has aired 1080 hour-long episodes showcasing quality ambient music each week for over 30 years.  Innerspace has successfully compiled a complete archive of the show’s broadcasts and will continue to add new episodes as they are aired.

We’ve made sure to uniformly name and tag each program and to include the original broadcast date and a companion track listing with the metadata for each episode.

Beginning next week I’ll be moving into a larger office and wanted to create a downtempo chill-out library as a relaxing ambient soundscape for my work day.  The Hearts of Space broadcasts will be added to a rotation along with other complete label archives, such as:

– the six phases from the late Pete Namlook’s ambient FAX +49-69/450464 label

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– the intelligent d’n’b sounds of LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records and its companion projects

LTJ Bukem

– the first ~150 records on the Ninja Tune label for some jazzy, downtempo electronic music

Ninja Tune Beats & Pieces

– a wonderful 330-hour audio archive of psybient albums from Simon Posford and other prominent figures of the scene

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– and an additional 72-hour collection of quality psybient mixes by Spacemind

Spacemind - Light Reactions (Remastered Edition)

The majority of these selections are not offered by any of the major streaming networks or from current commercial markets, but Innerspace Labs has got it covered.

And you can check out Spacemind’s mixes on Youtube.  Here’s Light Reactions (Remastered)

An Incredible Grail, and Outstanding Good Fortune

Once in a while, for no particular reason, the stars in your world align and an outstanding bit of good fortune befalls you.   I was the recipient of just such a fortune this afternoon.

Every day I try to take a few minutes to explore potentially rewarding sounds that had somehow previously avoided my radar.  Often I’ll review the universally-acclaimed album charts for a given genre as an interest-of-the-week on rateyourmusic.com.   Sunday morning’s theme was the peak of the downtempo scene – late 1990s utlra-chilled choons filled with trip-hop rhythms, mellow minimal melodies,  jazz-infused horn riffs and the sparse and fragmented fills from a Fender Rhodes.

This was music generally associated with hip, urban cafes in the 90s and found widespread mainstream popularity through Ministry of Sound’s chillout compilations of the cool sounds of Ibiza.

Ministry-Of-Sound-Chillout-Sessions-Classics-rip_it_up1

These compilations are fine if you just want an atmospheric bed of sound for your late night laptop adventures or for small gatherings, but none of these are particularly memorable.  I was on the hunt for an ultra-chilled tour de force – an anthemic masterpiece of critical acclaim.  That album, as I quickly learned, is Kruder & Dorfmeister’s K&D Sessions.

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Originally released in 1998, both the 4LP set and the double-CD versions of the album were issued exclusively in Germany.  The album has since become a holy grail for lovers of dub and downtempo classics.  I was disappointed to find that, bootlegs aside, the album only had one proper release 17 years ago.

But that’s when I stumbled upon wonderful news – it just so happened that the album was newly-remastered by Bernie Grundman for a special 5LP audiophile edition released in March of this year!

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Most of the major distribution channels were sold out, with sellers in the USA asking $110-$169 for copies of the album.  Thankfully, I was able to get my hands on a copy locally this afternoon for $15 and I couldn’t be happier.

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The audiophile edition also comes with a download code for a 24-bit digital archive of the remastered set.  What an incredible addition to my electronic music library!

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Dial the lights down low and let this do its thing.

The Illectrik Hoax – Waking up from a Lifelong Retromusical Hibernation

I’m feeling incredibly inspired.  It’d been a week of stagnation; I’d looked at my record collection and had said to myself, “wow… I’ve successfully built an autobiographical library of the greatest examples of each niche genre I love – downtempo electronic, avant-garde jazz, the Berlin School… and many others.  But NOW what do I do?

With the purchase of Underworld’s 20th anniversary deluxe edition of their masterwork, Dubnobasswithmyheadman, I’d come full circle to the album which first-inspired my life-long musical journey.  But something was missing.

Dubnobasswithmyheadman 20th Anniversary Edition

The 20th Anniversary Box Set of Dubnobasswithmyheadman

The majority of my knowledge of electronic music focuses on early revolutionaries of the genre – the tinkerers and innovators of monstrous noise machines.  I’ve archived classic milestones from the grating clamor of Luigi Russolo to the soothing sounds of 20th century ambient music, concluding with Basinski’s soundtrack to 9/11.

But I’d really lost touch with modern music, instead obsessing over the rich and vibrant sounds of 1969-1973.  Thankfully, a siren sound lured me to the official website of DJ Food in the last few weeks, and, on a whim, I compiled an archive of his 35 Solid Steel Radio shows, and with the entire weekend ahead of me pledged to dedicate some serious listening time to these programs.

Solid Steel Radio

These would be the first “modern” recordings I’d heard since the dream pop halcyon revival of the late 90s and first years of the new millennium.  And with the opening minutes of the very first set, my ears piqued and I was swept away.

His “A Weird World Reader” mix is described as a trip through the recent EP ‘One Man’s Weird Is Another Man’s World’ featuring tracks, samples and influences that make it what it is.  The first track is a 17 minute tour de force collaboration with The Amorphous Androgynous – a track called, “The Illectrik Hoax.”  10 minutes passed in a single breath and as the track concluded and I returned to the physical world, I leapt from my listening chair.  Locating my girlfriend and fellow music junkie, I fit my studio monitors firmly upon her ears and cued the track up a second time.  Her eyes closed and her head began to groove with the rhythm.  I paused the track asking what she thought, but her only response was a whine of discontent translating to, “play more!”

A Weird World Reader

The wonderfully weird “Weird World Reader”

Minutes later I had the full album playing in my studio and was absolutely enamored by the mysterious, sci-fi soundscapes of the record.  Best-absorbed in its entirety from start to finish – this is a concept record of infectious rhythms and strange sounds which successfully transport the listener to the “Weird World” Food alluded to in the Reader mix.  Long before the end of the album, I’d searched Discogs.com for a copy and phoned my local shop to order one for my library.

The Search Engine is a 4LP set of 45RPM discs housed in a magnificent quad-gatefold sleeve.  True to DJ Food’s usual form, it features eye-popping artwork that is best-viewed in its proper 12″ format.

Search Engine 1

Search Engine 2

Search Engine 3

Search Engine 4

Search Engine 5

Discogs classifies the record as “Abstract, Breakbeat, Broken Beat, Downtempo, Experimental, Hip Hop, Leftfield music.” – effectively a mishmash of all my very favorite words.  Thank you, DJ Food for breaking me of my pretentious retomusical fanaticism, and for initiating me into the music of the now.

UPDATE: New findings reveal that the 17-minute mix is exclusive to the 2012 Record Store Day smokey psychedelic vinyl edition, limited to 1500 copies worldwide.  I’ve just tracked down a sealed copy and it’s on its way to me now.

Here’s the complete track – “The Illectrik Hoax (A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Mix by the Amorphous Androgynous.)”

RSD Edition AA Single

The Merits of Nostalgia and a Cozy Placebo Effect

And so it came to pass that my beloved McIntosh C39 pre-amp was not made happy by replacing the volume pot.  I’d decided in advance that if that didn’t fix it, I would cut my losses and consider, for the first time in my 30+ years, to explore the possibility of a brand new pre-amp/power amp combo.

My first McIntosh - a MAC 4280.  RIP 2013.

My first McIntosh – a MAC 4280.

I am fully aware of the tried-and-true code of the audiophile – quality vintage gear will generally out-perform and out-last newer contemporaries dollar-for-dollar.  But after repeatedly battling oxidation, bad resistors, and a few bad volume pots for the better part of three decades, I was ready to consider something new.

The Next Generation: My McIntosh C39 Pre-Amp (RIP 2014)

The Next Generation: My McIntosh C39

My life-long trusted audio adviser and best-friend tossed a few suggestions my way, namely the emotiva xsp-1, some newer Rotel models, and the most alluring of his suggestions – the Parasound Halo p3.  But for the interim, I had a local hi-fi shop tune up my Yamaha CR-840 – the first real amp I ever had.  Years ago channel A stopped working, and oxidation built up rending the amp nearly-unusable, but I’d never given it up, as it was a very special gift.  Thankfully the shop returned it to me the next day in PERFECT working condition!

I’d forgotten how great it sounded.  Please understand – I know it’s not remotely in the same class as some of the finer amps I’ve used, but the warm and familiar tone of this amp transports me back to college and all the memories attached to those years.  I completely acknowledge that this nostalgia trip is in no way a measure of the amp’s technical performance.  It is of no quantifiable measure an amp comparable to my MACs or, likely, to the Parasound amp.  But I will fully-embrace the head-trip it brings and am more than satisfied to use it until the right upgrade comes along.

Next up? Parasound Halo P3

Next up – Perhaps the Parasound Halo P3

To make the amp-swap official, I chucked the eyesore of a component rack that I’d picked up from a thrift shop.  30-seconds of Craigslist searching produced a nifty 60s record shelf for only a few bucks to serve as both a surface for the amp and as additional record storage.  Better still – the funky elderly couple selling it were ridiculously adorable and had mirrored-and-velvet-patterned wallpaper with matching decor all about their home.

Not kidding.  This... with mirrored panels.

Not kidding. This… with mirrored panels.

The shelf has a very “college” feel to accompany the amp, and the space was PERFECT to relocate all my LPs pressed between 1995 and the present.  All my favorites are in here – DJ Food, Boards of Canada, Lemon Jelly, DJ Shadow, The Orb, Underworld, Stereolab, Spiritualized, The KLF, St Germain, Bonobo, Aphex Twin, Cinematic Orchestra, Sigur Ros, Pantha Du Prince, Low, Beck, The FLips, with just enough room to sneak in nearly all of Brian Eno and Tom Waits’ albums.

The Nostalgia Corner

The Nostalgia Corner

This is as good a time as any to resolve to listen to more of my records in 2015 – to enjoy what I have instead of always searching for the next grail.

And there you have it – an objective and meticulous audiophile reduced to a nostalgic dolt by his trust old amp.  Think what you will, but I’ll be happy here, spinning some great tunes.

Eno & Hyde Postcards from their first two LPs

Eno & Hyde Postcards from their first two LPs

Treasures From Vinyl’s Dark Days – 1997-2005

As promised, this week I’m featuring the latest LP treasures added to my library.

Once I secured a copy of the pink vinyl numbered original master recording release of Beck’s magnum opus, Sea Change on Mobile Fidelity records, I knew that there was still one Beck beast I had to capture.

Sea Change is the must-own LP for every fan of Beck Hansen’s music.  Hailed universally by critics as his greatest achievement, surpassing the sample-wizardry of Odelay in its hi-fidelity mastery, Sea Change is the Sgt. Peppers of Beck’s discography.

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But my favorite Beck record for all time is the somber, lo-fi masterpiece – Mutations.

Released in 1998, the album suffered an unfortunate fate.

From Wikipedia:

Before beginning the recording sessions, Beck gained permission from the major label he was under contract with, Geffen, to release Mutations on the small indie label Bong Load Records. However, when Geffen executives heard the album, they reneged on their agreement and released the record. This led to a lawsuit filed by Beck against Geffen. As the record was in a markedly different style than the multi-platinum Odelay, Geffen’s marketing effort suggested that the album was not an “official” follow-up.

The limited press swept the release under the rug, and I only discovered the album by chance in a local CD shop.

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The best-selling single from the LP is “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” features sitar, tambura, and esraj, giving the track a haunting atmosphere.

 

I jumped on a $60 mint copy of the LP which surfaced online, complete with the original bonus 7″.  The single shipped in a six-panel foldout sleeve with artwork and lyrics.  This album was pressed only once back in ’98, so if you see a copy in the wild, grab it.

According to the liner notes, the background artwork, composed of small intenstines, is a detail shot from a piece of art titled, Wallchart of World History From Earliest Times to the Present.

No high-res copies of the 7″ sleeve art were available on the web so I’ve seamlessly tiled both sides of the sleeve each as as a 12″ x 75″ jpg.  Magnify and enjoy.

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Next up, a favorite musician of mine from London posted a wonderful vinyl surprise to Facebook.  This remix of Sundae Club’s “Angels in the Sky” was limited to just 50 white-label copies.  It was originally released and sold out in 2005… Or so they thought.

Recently, Sundae Club announced that they found an unopened box of these white-label rarities, and decided they would flog them off as an additional fund-raiser for Haiti’s Earthquake relief.

From their site:

This is a two-speed promo 12″ (30cm) vinyl record in a plain white cover and a plain white label. One side was designed to be rotated at 33.333rpm and contains two chilled tracks, the other side is a 45rpm cut with massive compression and sounds great in a club. Loud.

I thought I had missed my opportunity back in ’05 so I didn’t hesitate when I saw the post.  And a few weeks later, my copy arrived, with the recording speed info penned in by Mr. Ridware and a special “Thank you, James!” added to the sleeve.

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Highly recommended for fans of Lemon Jelly, or general downtempo bliss.

You can check out the tracks for yourself on Sundae Club’s bandcamp page here.

The third and final treasure of the week was another delightful impulse purchase – one I found posted to a record forum on reddit.

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F♯ A♯ ∞ is the first official full-length LP from Montreal’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor, originally released in 1997.

There have been various vinyl issues of the album, each with minor differences but on the whole each includes the following:

The band name, album title and image frame is debossed on the album jacket.

The cover has a print glued in place, (first editions including an actual photograph).

And a cross and the catalog # are hand-drawn beside the Constellation Records logo stamp on back cover.

Several inserts were included with the release – An etching illustration of a locomotive and a manilla envelope containing the credit sheet, a handbill from a previous show, a blueprint of “faulty schematics for ruined machine”, a Constellation spring 2000 merchandise flyer and a Canadian penny flattened by a train.

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The LP itself is black with black labels, with the track titles etched in the runouts.

The tracklist on the LP version is particularly interesting.  CD and MP3 copies of the album feature the following track list:

‘The Dead Flag Blues’ (16:27)

1.1                          The Dead Flag Blues (Intro)         6:40
1.2                          Slow Moving Trains         3:30
1.3                          The Cowboy…   4:19
1.4                          (;outro)…             1:59

‘East Hastings’ (17:58)

2.1                          “…Nothing’s Alrite In Our Life”/Dead Flag Blues (Reprise)              2:17
2.2                          The Sad Mafioso…           10:01
2.3                          Drugs In Tokyo/Black Helicopter                5:40
‘Providence’ (21:26)
3.1                          Divorce&Fever…              2:45
3.2                          Dead Metheny…              8:15
3.3                          Kicking Horse On Brokenhill         5:40
3.4                          String Loop Manufactured During Downpour…   4:46
3.5                          Silence 3:39
3.6                          J.L.H. Outro        4:48

While the LP lists the tracks as:

Side 1: Nervous, Sad, Poor…

1.            “The Dead Flag Blues (Intro)”     6:09
2.            “Slow Moving Trains”     3:23
3.            “The Cowboy…”               4:16
4.            “Drugs in Tokyo”              3:29
5.            “The Dead Flag Blues (Outro)”                   1:52
6.            Untitled               1:34

Side 2: Bleak, Uncertain, Beautiful…

No.         Title       Length
1.            “…Nothing’s Alrite in Our Life…” / “The Dead Flag Blues (Reprise)”           2:00
2.            “The Sad Mafioso…”      5:33
3.            “Kicking Horse on Brokenhill”     5:37
4.            “String Loop Manufactured During Downpour…”              4:26

What this reveals is the origin of the record title – F♯ A♯ ∞.  The first movement, “Nervous, Sad, Poor…” is F#, “A Bleak, Uncertain,
Beautiful…” is A#, and the closing track, “String Loop…” is in fact a locked groove which effectively plays forever, hence “Infinity.”

Another intriguing fact about the vinyl version of this album is that it features an entirely diffent master than that of the CD release.

To quote Discogs.com user, Gecks from April 4, 2005 –

“What I find interesting about this LP version when compared to the later CD release (and indeed the rest of their material), is the almost complete lack of crescendos. It is important to note that the CD release is remixed, re-sequenced and includes two new movements that brought it closer to the familiar GYBE! sound of build-build-buld…crescendo! This LP predominantly features GYBE!’s more droney sound – something that featured less and less in future releases. My guess is that the style shift was a result of their much-lauded early live performances showing a more intense side, which they wanted to document. That’s not to say this release is anything less than utterly engaging, and provides an interesting counterpoint to the whole Post Rock movement which so often relies on pure dynamics.”

As a fan of ambient drone music, this was wonderful news and made the purchase all the more satisfying.

I have had a framed screenprint of the “faulty schematics for ruined machine” graphic on my wall for years, and was very happy to make F♯ A♯ ∞ my first Godspeed purchase.

Here is the memorable, bleak opening to the album – “Dead Flag Blues.”

Poets, Collage Music and Masters of Downtempo

I found two Shel Silverstein LPs at the same antique shop today.  Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball was under Rock-S and A Boy Named Sue was on the floor in the dollar bin.

I searched the rest of the shop on the off-chance that I’d find his other albums.  I was specifically looking for his first LP – Hairy Jazz or the one simply titled Fuck ‘Em which features adult-themed tracks such as “Dope” and “I Love My Right Hand.”

Freakers Ball is similar to Fuck ‘Em with songs like,  “I Got Stoned and I Missed It,” “Polly in a Porny,” “Masochistic Baby,” and of course its famous title track.

Lyric:

All the fags and dykes they boogy’n together
Leather freaks dressed in all kinds of leather
The greatest of sadists and the masochists too
Screamin’ “please hit me and I’ll hit you”

(This ain’t The Giving Tree.)

Track 3, however will be recognized and loved by adults and children alike – it’s “Sahra Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out.”

In 1999, the album was re-issued on CD with bonus tracks, including a fun tune called “26 Second Song”

All the DJs keep complainin’ tunes run much too long
So I’ve gone and wrote myself a 26 second song.
~The End~

While these next few albums are not new to my collection I definitely wanted to make mention of them as they’ve been in heavy rotation as of late.

Future Loop Foundation is an electronic artist that completely captured my attention but was soon lost in a pool of new arrivals.  I recently querried the members of the Lemon Jelly Forum who are well-versed in the world of blissful electronic music and I promptly received a response identifying the half-forgotten track that was tumbling around in my brian.

This song alone was enticing enough to make me hunt down 18 other discs from FLF’s catalog and to complete the puzzle game on the artist’s website to unlock additional tracks.  “Sunshine Philosophy,” along with the rest of The Fading Room album was constructed using interviews with the elder members of Mark Barrott’s family which had been committed to tape during his childhood.

And for a second helping of tasty ambience here is “The Sea and the Sky.”

This final track, titled “Another English Summer,” was specifically recommended by a member of the Forum for it’s particularly Jellyesque quality.

All three of the above songs were released as singles/EPs between 2008 and 2009.  If you’ve already got The Fading Room, I recommend the Scratch & Sniff EP as your next FLF disc.

Another similarly mellow track that has been stuck in my head ever since I acquired a promo copy of the album is “Sing,” the opener from  People Like Us’ 2011 album, Welcome Abroad.

I’ve been humming the Perry Como sample that comes in around 1:35 for several days.  Wonderfully addictive.

Sundae Club is another delightful duo I discovered through the Lemon Jelly forum.  Technostalgia, British Summer Time, and Sea-sides are well worth a listen.

Check out one of their most popular tracks – Angels in the Sky.

My last Jelly-friendly artist for this entry is The Found Sound Orchestera.

For their current project, titled 52 Weeks they post a new track to their website each week.  You can download them all at http://www.foundsoundorchestra.com.