More Minimal Ambient Classics

A visit to the legendary Bop Shop in my old home town of Rochester, NY yielded two delightful surprise acquisitions. The first was one of the three of Harold Budd’s 1970s and 80s classic output missing from my vinyl collection – Abandoned Cities. (I now need only The Pavilion of Dreams and The White Arcades to complete my collection.)

Harold Budd - Abandoned Cities

The other was an equally unexpected but similarly important work of early ambient music – a German import from Grönland Records combining two classic recordings of Can’s co-founder, Holger Czukay with the great David Sylvian.

Plight & Premonition / Flux & Mutability is a double reissue and remaster of their late-80s collaborations experimenting with abstract ambient soundscapes which are sparse, sombre, and atmospheric. Pitchfork contributor Robert Ham remarked that these recordings laid “the groundwork for years of ambient music that would follow.”

David Sylvian & Hogler Czukay - Plight & Premonition and Flux & Mutability

“Each feature two long instrumental works built around drones from a synthesizer or guitar interrupted by random shortwave-radio intrusions and occasionally disorienting tape edits.”

The first disc, Plight & Premonition, originally released in March of 1988, comprises drones of harmonium, synthesizer, piano, and guitar. The second disc, Flux & Mutability followed in 1989. Allmusic describes its ambience as “deep, expansive atmospheres with eerie samples and vacuous walls of sound” and calls the album “an important selection for fans of electronic minimalism.”

Both the Budd classic and this new remaster from Grönland are exquisite additions to my library of pioneering early ambient music. My next ambition is to secure a copy of the Editions EG 1981 reissue of Budd’s debut on Eno’s magnificent Obscure Records label in 1978. The Pavilion of Dreams is ethereal, holy, and exquisitely beautiful and has been a long-standing favorite recording of mine in the realm of the genre’s origins.

Cluster: Shaping the Sound of Germany

Cluster

Moebius,  Roedelius, and Plank, who performed together as Cluster, were each instrumental figures in the krautrock scene whose influence cannot be overstated. Between the three of them, they had their hands in the composition and/or production of over 300 albums of ambient and experimental electronic music that defined the German scene throughout the 1970s.

Hans-Joachim Roedelius has produced 115 releases to date with a new soundtrack pending. One notable work is his earliest recording finally issued in 2008 – Live at the Zodiak – Berlin 1968 which is a rare surviving example of work from the highly-influential West Berlin live music venue, Zodiak Free Arts Lab.

Conny Plank contributed to 122 albums during his lifetime, including influential releases by Kraftwerk, Can, Cluster, Guru Guru, Harmonia, Eno (for the ‘Berlin Trilogy’), Neu!, La Düsseldorf, and other major figures in krautrock.

Dieter Moebius was another principle artist of the scene. Moebius studied in Brussels and Berlin where he met Roedelius and Conrad Schnitzler to found Kluster in 1969, and later Cluster and Harmonia with Michael Rother of Neu!. Moebius is connected to 65 releases I’ll outline below.

I’d previously compiled a similar extended discography for the 178 releases by Tangerine Dream and its associated members’ solo projects, but this archive seems like it will offer a more dynamic range of sounds and shall make for most rewarding listening.

Hans-Joachim Roedelius Extended Discography (115-Release Catalog)

In Bands

In Human Being

2008 : Live at the Zodiak – Berlin 1968 (live album)

In Kluster

1970 : Klopfzeichen (studio album)

1970 : Zwei-Osterei (studio album)

1971 : Eruption (live album, originally released as Kluster und Eruption)

In Cluster

1971 : Cluster ’71 (studio album)

1972 : Cluster II (studio album)

1974 : Zuckerzeit (studio album)

1976 : Sowiesoso (studio album)

1979 : Großes Wasser (studio album)

1980 : Live in Vienna (live album)

1981 : Curiosum (studio album)

1984 : Stimmungen (compilation album)

1990 : Apropos Cluster (studio album, credited to Moebius + Roedelius)

1994 : One Hour (live album)

1997 : Japan 1996 Live (live album, credited to Roedelius Moebius on some editions)

1997 : First Encounter Tour 1996 (live album)

2008 : Berlin 07 (live album)

2009 : Qua (studio album)

In Harmonia

1974 : Musik Von Harmonia (studio album)

1975 : Deluxe (studio album)

2007 : Live 1974 (live album)

In Aquarello

1991 : Friendly Game (studio album, credited to Roedelius, Capanni, Alesini)

1993 : To Cover The Dark (studio album)

1998 : Aquarello (live album, credited as Roedelius solo album)

In Global Trotters (Kenji Konishi, Susumu Hirasawa, Alquimia, David Bickley, Felix Jay, Alex Paterson)

1999 : Drive (studio album)

1999 : GLOBAL TROTTERS PROJECT volume I – DRIVE (remix album)

In Qluster

2011 : Fragen (studio album)

2011 : Rufen (live album)

2011 : Antworten (studio album)

2013 : Lauschen (studio album)

2015 : Tasten (studio album – three pianos project)

2016 : Echtzeit (studio album)

Solo Work

1978 : Durch die Wüste (studio album)

1979 : Jardin Au Fou (studio album)

1979 : Selbstportrait (studio album)

1980 : Selbstportrait – Vol. II (studio album)

1980 : Selbstportrait Vol. III “Reise durch Arcadien” (studio album)

1981 : Lustwandel (studio album)

1981 : Wenn Der Südwind Weht (studio album)

1981 : Offene Türen (studio album)

1982 : Flieg’ Vogel fliege (studio album)

1982 : Wasser im Wind (studio album)

1984 : Auf leisen Sohlen (compilation album)

1984 : Geschenk des Augenblicks – Gift of the Moment (studio album)

1984 : Begegnungen (compilation album)

1985 : Begegnungen II (compilation album)

1986 : Wie das Wispern des Windes (studio album)

1987 : Momenti Felici (studio album)

1989 : Bastionen der Liebe – Fortress of love (studio album)

1990 : Variety of Moods (studio album)

1991 : Der Ohrenspiegel (studio album)

1991 : Piano Piano (studio album)

1992 : Cuando… Adonde (studio album)

1992 : Frühling (studio album) later re-released as Romance in the Wilderness

1993 : Tace! (studio album)

1994 : Sinfonia Contempora No. 1: Von Zeit zu Zeit (studio album)

1994 : Theatre Works (studio album)

1995 : Selbstportrait VI: The Diary of the Unforgotten (studio album)

1995 : Vom Nutzen der Stunden – Lieder vom Steinfeld Vol. I (studio album)

1995 : 61sechzigjahr (compilation album, released privately)

1996 : Sinfonia Contempora No. 2: La Nordica (Salz Des Nordens) (studio album)

1996 : Pink, Blue And Amber (studio album)

1999 : Selfportrait VII: dem Wind voran – ahead of the wind (studio album)

1999 : Amerika Recycled by America Inc (studio album)

1999 : Vom Nutzen der Stunden – Lieder Vom Steinfeld Vol.II (studio album)

2000 : Roedeliusweg (studio album)

2001 : Roedelius 2001 – Orgel Solo (studio album)

2001 : Das Verwirrte Schaf – Wort-Klang Collage zum Aschermittwoch (studio album) 2002 : Selbstportrait VIII – Introspection (studio album)

2003 : American Steamboat (studio album)

2003 : Counterfeit (studio album)

2003 : Lieder vom Steinfeld Vol.III (studio album)

2003 : Roedelius 1969–2002 (compilation album)

2006 : Works 1968–2005 (compilation album)

2007 : Snapshots/Sidesteps (studio album)

2008 : Back Soon (compilation album)

2010 : Ex Animo (studio album)

2016: Manchmal (1 track on 4 tracks compilation EP “past forward”, vinyl release only

2017 Release of Roedelius’ autobiography “Roedelius – Das Buch”

2017 Music for the soundtrack of Nick Cave for the film “War Machine”

2018 Music for the film “Symphony of Now” to be released February 14th

2018 Music for the film “Die Rueden”from director Connie Walther ( not yet released )

Collaborations

With Brian Eno, Dieter Moebius and Michael Rother

1997 : Tracks and Traces (credited to either Harmonia ’76 or Harmonia and Eno ’76)

2009 : Harmonia & Eno ’76 Remixes (remix album)

With Brian Eno and Dieter Moebius

1977 : Cluster & Eno (credited to Cluster & Eno)

1978 : After the Heat (studio album)

1985 : Old Land (compilation album) (credited to Cluster and Brian Eno)

With Brian Eno and Dieter Moebius on Eno’s solo album

1977 : Before and after Science (studio album)

Track: “By This River”

With Alexander Czjzek

1987 : Weites Land (studio album)

With Aqueous

1994 : Grace Notes (studio album)

1997 : Meeting The Magus (studio album)

With Richard Barbieri and Chianura

1998 : T’ai (studio album)

With Alquimia

2000 : Move and Resonate

With Tim Story (sometimes collectively referred to as Lunz)

2000 : The Persistence of Memory (studio album)

2002 : Lunz (studio album)

2005 : Lunz-Reinterpretations (remix album)

2008 : Inlandish (studio album)

With Conrad Schnitzler

2001 : Acon 2000/1 (studio album)

With Fabio Capanni, Felix Dorner, Hirishi Nagashima and Robin Storey

2001 : Evermore

With Lynn

2001 : Act of Love (studio album)

With Nikos Arvanitis

2002 : Digital Love (studio album)

With Noh 1

2003 : Imagine Imagine (soundtrack album, released as Roedelius and Fratellis)

2009 : Fibre (studio album)

With Morgan Fisher

2005 : Neverless (studio album)

With David Bickley

2008 : Bonaventura (studio album)

With Kava

2008 : The Gugging Album (studio album)

With Tim Story and Dwight Ashley

2008 : Errata (studio album)

With Alessandra Celletti

2009 : Sustanza di cose sperata (studio album)

With Christopher Chaplin

2012 : King of Hearts (studio album)

With Andrew Heath and Christopher Chaplin

2017 :Triptych in Blue (live album)

With Lloyd Cole

2013 : Selected Studies Vol. 1 (studio album)

With Leon Muraglia

2015 : Ubi Bene (studio album)

With Mateo Latosa and Cesar Gallegos (aka TKU Tecamachalco Underground)

2016 : Latitudes (music installation for photography exhibition, 2014/studio album release, 2016)

 

Conny Plank (122-Release Extended Discography)

Plank was involved with the following chronological list of albums, either as a direct contributor or because his studio facilities were used. The dates refer to the year of first release.

1969

The Living Music (Alexander von Schlippenbach)

Tone Float (Organisation)

1970

Just A Poke (Sweet Smoke)

Klopfzeichen (Kluster)

Kraftwerk (Kraftwerk)

1971

Zwei-Osterei (Kluster)

Legend (Parzival)

Eloy (Eloy)

Cluster (Cluster)

1972

BaRock (Parzival)

Mournin’ (Night Sun)

43 Minuten (Os Mundi)

Kraftwerk 2 (Kraftwerk)

Neu! (Neu!)

Cluster II (Cluster)

Echo (A.R. & Machines)

Lonesome Crow (Scorpions)

Kan Guru (Guru Guru)

Together (Jane)

I Turned to See Whose Voice it Was (Gomorrha)

Kollektiv (Kollektiv)

Supernova (Ibliss)

1973

Guru Guru (Guru Guru)

Neu! 2 (Neu!)

Ralf und Florian (Kraftwerk)

1974

Autobahn (Kraftwerk)

Zuckerzeit (Cluster)

Free Improvisation (Wired)

1975

Neu! ’75 (Neu!)

Andy Nogger (Kraan)

La Leyla (Ramses)

Hoelderlin (Hoelderlin)

Let It Out (Kraan)

Bröselmaschine (Bröselmaschine)

Mani und Seine Freunde (Guru Guru)

1976

Sowiesoso (Cluster)

Clowns & Clouds (Hoelderlin)

You Won’t See Me (Helmut Koellen)

La Düsseldorf (La Düsseldorf)

1977

Before and after Science (Brian Eno)

Cluster & Eno (Cluster and Brian Eno)

Flammende Herzen (Michael Rother)

Pompeii (Triumvirat)

Rockpommel’s Land (Grobschnitt)

1978

After the Heat (Eno, Moebius, Roedelius)

Ambient 1: Music for Airports (Brian Eno)

Flyday (Kraan)

Durch Die Wüste (Roedelius)

Question: Are We Not Men? Answer: We Are Devo! (Devo)

Out of Reach (Can)

Liliental (Liliental)

Sterntaler (Michael Rother)

Systems of Romance (Ultravox)

Welcome (SBB)

1979

Katzenmusik (Michael Rother)

Selbstportrait (Roedelius)

1980

Crann Ull (Clannad)

Rastakraut Pasta (Moebius & Plank)

Die Kleinen und die Bösen (DAF)

Three into One (Ultravox)

Hunger (The Meteors)

Tournee (Kraan)

Vienna (Ultravox)

Luminous Basement (The Tourists)

1981

Material (Moebius & Plank)

Phew (Phew, with Holger Czukay, Conny Plank & Jaki Liebezeit)

Alles Ist Gut (DAF)

Gold und Liebe (DAF)

Les Vampyrettes (Conny Plank and Holger Czukay)

Stormy Seas (The Meteors) Dutch band

In the Garden (Eurythmics)

Rage in Eden (Ultravox)

Der Ernst des Lebens (Ideal)

Edelweiß (Joachim Witt)

1982

Revelations (Killing Joke)

Latin Lover (Gianna Nannini)

Strange Music (Moebius & Beerbohm)

Für Immer (Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft)

1983

Zero Set (Moebius, Plank, and Neumeier)

The Fireman’s Curse (Hunters & Collectors)

Listen (A Flock of Seagulls)

Schlagende Wetter (Kowalski)

1984

Der Osten ist Rot (Holger Czukay)

Belfegore (Belfegore)

Begegnungen (Eno Moebius Roedelius Plank)

Les Rita Mitsouko (Rita Mitsouko)

The Collection (Ultravox)

Puzzle (Gianna Nannini)

Should Have Been Greatest Hits (The Tourists)

The Jaws of Life (Hunters & Collectors)

1985

Humpe Humpe (album) (Humpe Humpe)

Begegnungen II (Eno Moebius Roedelius Plank)

Tutto Live (Gianna Nannini)

Old Land (Cluster and Brian Eno)

Dein ist mein ganzes Herz (Heinz Rudolf Kunze)

Company of Justice (Play Dead)

1986

U-Vox (Ultravox)

Profumo (Gianna Nannini)

1987

The Prophecies of Nostradamus (Bollock Brothers)

Rome Remains Rome (Holger Czukay)

Savage (Eurythmics)

Mein Schatz (Heiner Pudelko) = his final production; finished by Annette Humpe

Posthumous

Laugh? I Nearly Bought One! (Killing Joke, 1992)

Box II (Brian Eno, 1993)

If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox (Midge Ure and Ultravox, 1993)

Rare, Vol. I (Ultravox, 1993)

Rare, Vol. II (Ultravox, 1994)

En Route (Moebius & Plank, recorded 1986, released 1995)

Space Ship (The Best Of, Part 1) (Guru Guru, 1996)

The Best of Ax Genrich (Ax Genrich, 1997)

Greatest Hits (The Tourists, 1997)

Guru Guru & Uli Trepte (Guru Guru and Uli Trepte, 1997)

The Michael Schenker Story Live (Michael Schenker, 1997)

Chronicles, Vol. 1 (Michael Rother, 1998)

Ludwig’s Law (Moebius, Plank, Thompson, recorded 1983, released 1998)

Music For Two Brothers (Rolf & Joachim Kuhn, 1998)

Best (Scorpions, 1999)

The Very Best of Guru Guru (Guru Guru, 1999)

La Luna (Holger Czukay 2000, expanded 2007)

Into The Arena 1972–1995 [Highlights and Overtures] (Michael Schenker, 2000)

Pioneers Who Got Scalped (Devo, 2000)

More Nipples (Peter Brötzmann Group, 2003)

Dieter Moebius Discography (65-Album Map)

As Cluster

Studio albums

1971 Cluster

1972 Cluster II

1974 Zuckerzeit

1976 Sowiesoso

1977 Cluster & Eno (with Brian Eno)

1978 After the Heat (by Eno, Moebius and Roedelius)

1979 Grosses Wasser

1981 Curiosum

1991 Apropos Cluster (by Moebius and Roedelius)

1995 One Hour

2009 Qua

Live albums

1980 Live in Vienna – Recorded with Joshi Farnbauer

1997 Japan 1996 Live

1997 First Encounter Tour 1996

2008 Berlin 07

2015 USA Live

Compilation albums

1984 Begegnungen (with Brian Eno, Conny Plank)

1984 Stimmungen

1985 Begegnungen II (with Brian Eno, Conny Plank)

1985 Old Land (with Brian Eno)

2007 Box 1 (boxed set)

As Kluster

1970 Klopfzeichen (studio album)

1971 Zwei-Osterei (studio album)

1971 Eruption (live album)

2008 Vulcano: Live in Wuppertal 1971

2008 Admira

2008 Kluster 2007: CMO (studio album)

2008 Kluster: 1970-1971 (Box Set)

2009 Kluster 2008: Three Olympic Cities Mix (studio album)

2009 CMO 2009: Three Voices (germany-usa-japan) (studio album)

2011 A unique remix of the material from Kluster 2007 featured in the Compilation CD VOL K compilation by Zelphabet Records.

2011 Kluster CMO 2010 (studio album)

As Harmonia, with Michael Rother and Hans-Joachim Roedelius

1973 : Musik Von Harmonia

1975 : Deluxe

1997 : Tracks and Traces (recorded 1976 with Brian Eno)

2007 : Live 1974 (Previously unreleased works)

As Cosmic Couriers, with Mani Neumeier and Jürgen Engler

1996 : Other Places

2014 : Another Other Places

With Brian Eno and Hans-Joachim Roedelius

1977 : Cluster & Eno

1978 : After the Heat

With Liliental

1978 Liliental

Solo albums and collaborations

1980 Rastakraut Pasta (with Conny Plank)

1981 Material (with Conny Plank)

1981 Strange Music (with Gerd Beerbohm)

1982 Zero Set (with Conny Plank and Mani Neumeier)

1983 Tonspuren

1983 Double Cut (with Gerd Beerbohm)

1986 Blue Moon (Original Soundtrack)[7]

1990 Ersatz (with Karl Renziehausen)

1992 Ersatz II (with Karl Renziehausen)

1995 En Route (with Conny Plank; recorded in 1986, additional mix in 1995)

1998 Ludwig’s Law (with Conny Plank and Mayo Thompson)

1999 Blotch

2002 Live in Japan (with Mani Neumeier)

2006 Nurton

2007 Zero Set II (with Mani Neumeier)

2009 Kram

2011 Ding

2012 Moebius & Tietchens (with Asmus Tietchens)

2014 Snowghost Pieces (Moebius, Story, Leidecker)

2014 Nidemonex

Posthumous Albums

2017 Musik Für Metropolis

2017 Familiar (Moebius, Story, Leidecker)

2017 Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (Live) (12″) (Moebius, Schneider)

 

And for those interested in the aforementioned Tangerine Dream library, you can peruse the index below.

 

Tangerine Dream (178-Disc Catalog)

 

Bootmoon Series

2004 – Aachen – January 21st 1981 – 2CD

2005 – Brighton – March 25th 1986 – 2CD

Studio Albums

1970 – Electronic Meditation

1970 – Electronic Meditation/Electronic Meditation

1971 – Alpha Centauri

1972 – Ultima Thule (2008) – 2CD

1972 – Zeit

1973 – Atem

1975 – Rubycon

1976 – Stratosfear

1978 – Cyclone

1979 – Force Majeure

1981 – Exit

1982 – White Eagle

1983 – Hyperborea (2008 HQCD)

1985 – Dream Sequence – 2CD

1985 – Le Parc

1986 – Green Desert

1986 – Underwater Sunlight

1987 – Tyger

1988 – Optical Race

1989 – Destination Berlin

1989 – Lily on The Beach

1990 – Melrose

1992 – Quinoa

1992 – Quinoa (2009)

1992 – Rockoon

1993 – Dream Music (the movie music of Tangerine Dream)

1994 – Tangents 1973-1983 (BOX) – 5CD

1994 – Turn of the Tides

1995 – The Dream Mixes – 2CD

1995 – TimeSquare Dream Mixes II

1995 – Tyranny Of Beauty

1996 – Goblin’s Club

1997 – Towards The Evening Star (Orb Remix)

1998 – Ambient Monkeys

1998 – The Analogue Space Years 1969-1973 – 2CD

1999 – Atlantic Bridges

1999 – Atlantic Walls

1999 – Dream Encores

1999 – Mars Polaris

1999 – The Hollywood Years Vol 1

1999 – The Hollywood Years Vol 2

2000 – Antique Dreams

2000 – The Seven Letters From Tibet

2001 – Dream Mixes III

2002 – Journey Through a Burning Brain – 3CD

2003 – The Bootleg Box Set Vol 1 – 7CD

Set 1 – Sheffield – Oct 29th 1974 – City Hall

Set 2 – London – April 2nd 1975 – Royal Albert Hall – 2CD

Set 3 – Live at Croydon Fairfield Halls – 23rd October 1975

Set 4 – Bilbao – Jan 31st 1976 – Pabellion de la Casilla – 2CD

Set 5 – Electronic Rock at the Philharmonics – Berlin – June 27th 1976

2004 – Dream Mixes IV

2004 – Purgatorio – 2CD

2005 – East

2005 – Jeanne D’Arc

2005 – Space Flight Orange

2006 – Blue Dawn

2006 – Metaphor

2006 – Nebulous Dawn [The Early Years] – 3CD

2007 – Booster – 2CD

2007 – Canyon Cazuma (2009)

2007 – Cyberjam Collection

2007 – Madcap’s Flaming Duty

2007 – One Times One

2007 – Silver Siren Collection

2007 – Springtime In Nagasaki

2007 – Summer In Nagasaki

2007 – Tangines Scales

2008 – Autumn In Hiroshima

2008 – Booster Vol 2 – 2CD

2008 – The Anthology Decades

2008 – Views From A Red Train

2009 – A Cage in Search Of A Bird

2009 – Flame

2009 – Plays Tangerine Dream

2009 – Winter In Hiroshima

Live Albums

1982 – Pergamon (Live)

1984 – Poland (Live)

1988 – Live Miles (Live)

1993 – 220 Volt (Live)

1998 – Tournado (Live)

1998 – Valentine Wheels (Live)

1999 – Sohoman (Live)

2000 – Soundmill Navigator (Live)

2002 – Inferno (Live)

2003 – Rockface (Live) – 2CD

2004 – Live in America (Live)

2005 – Rocking Mars (Live) – 2CD

2006 – Paradiso (Live) – 2CD

2007 – Bells Of Accra (Live)

Soundtrack Albums

1977 – Sorcerer (OST)

1981 – Thief (OST)

1983 – Risky Business (OST)

1983 – Wavelength (OST)

1984 – Firestarter (OST)

1984 – Flashpoint (OST)

1985 – Heartbreakers (OST)

1985 – Legend (OST)

1987 – Near Dark (OST)

1987 – Three O’Clock High (OST)

1988 – Shy People (OST)

1989 – Miracle Mile (OST)

1990 – Dead Solid Perfect (OST)

1991 – Canyon Dreams (OST)

1991 – Rumpelstiltskin (OST)

1991 – The Park Is Mine (OST)

1994 – Catch Me If You Can (OST)

1996 – Zoning (OST)

1997 – Oasis (OST)

1997 – The Keep (OST)

1999 – Great Wall of China (OST)

1999 – Transsiberia (OST)

1999 – What A Blast (OST)

2003 – Mota Atma (OST)

Solo Artists

Christopher Franke

1991 – Pacific Coast Highway

1992 – The London Concert

1992 – Universal Soldier

1993 – New Music for Films – Vol 1

1994 – Enchanting Nature

1995 – Klemania

1996 – Perry Rhodan – Pax Terra

1996 – The Celestine Prophecy

1999 – Epic

Peter Baumann

1979 – Trans Harmonic Nights

Johannes Schmoelling

1986 – Wuivend Riet

1988 – The Zoo of Tranquillity

2009 – A Thousand Times

Edgar Froese

1974 – Aqua

1975 – Epsilon In Malaysian Pale

1979 – Stuntman

1983 – Pinnacles

1995 – Beyond The Storm – 2CD

2003 – Ambient Highway Vol 1-4

2003 – Introduction To The Ambient Highway

2004 – Dalinetopia

Singles

2007 – One Night In Space (CD-Single)

2007 – Sleeping Watches Snoring In Silence (CD-Single)

2008 – Choice (CD-Single)

2008 – Das Romantische Opfer (CD-Single)

2008 – Fallen Angels (CD-Single)

2008 – Purple Diluvial (CD-Single)

Remasters

1974 – Phaedra (1995 SBM Remaster)

1975 – Ricochet (1995 SBM Remaster)

1977 – Encore (Live)(1995 SBM Remaster)

1979 – Force Majeure (1995 SBM Remaster)

1981 – Thief (1995 SBM Remaster)

1982 – Logos (1995 SBM Remaster)

1982 – White Eagle (1995 SBM Remaster)

1983 – Hyperborea (1995 SBM Remaster)

2000 – Axiat (2009 Remaster)

2007 – Hollywood Lightning (2009 Remaster)

2007 – Mars Mission Counter (2009 Remaster)

Just Keep Spinning – Reflections on Music Collecting

A friend kindly recommended my latest film screening – So Wrong They’re Right, a low-budget indie VHS documentary on offbeat 8-track collector culture and the 8-Track Mind zine. I’ve been exploring UK hauntological music and art lately so the retro subject matter fit right in. It was great to hear Wally Pleasant’s “Rock n’ Roll Yard Sales” on the soundtrack.

And serendipitously, while watching the film a related short appeared in my social media feed – an informational demo film to educate consumers about the upcoming compact disc format produced in 1982.

And WFMU just shared that Atlas Obscura published a feature yesterday called, “Inside the World’s Best Collection of Unintentionally Funny VHS Tapes” with this hilarious short!

Much like the VHS culture documentaries, Rewind This and Adjust Your Tracking, the 8-track film made me reflect on my own music collector hobby and how in the past year I’ve really put the breaks on my vinyl habit. Unlike vinyl, most 8-tracks are practically given away and as interviewees of the film profess, they’ve had to plead with Goodwill store managers just to get them to put their 8-track stock on the sales floor. (There are exceptions, of course. Discogs currently offers over 8,000 8-tracks in its marketplace, the second-most-expensive of which is a mint tape of Trout Mask Replica presently priced at $1,500.00.)

Captain Beefheart - Trout Mask Replica 8-Track Tape

But conversely, with vinyl, I’ve reached a point in my collecting where all the remaining titles on my wish list command $80-$550 apiece. And the days of scoring elusive original pressings of releases you’re after at your local VoA are long gone after the store’s inventories have been thoroughly picked over by eBayer resellers or by hipster employees who pull all the good stuff before it has a chance to hit the floor. And for my personal tastes, thrift shops have never been a good resource for the kind of content I seek.

Thankfully a lot of the rare early electronic, drone, and import tape music of the last century, and even of the 90s during vinyl’s darkest days, are being remastered and reissued by Dutch, German, and UK specialty labels, but with shipping you’re still looking at $60 minimum per release so I’ve resolved to reel in my habit and to spend more conservatively this past year.

It’s left me to wonder what the future holds for my hobby. I really enjoy the research and the unconventional subcultures surrounding the format, I just don’t know to what degree I can continue to participate in the acquisition and trade of the albums, themselves. And vinyl has been a significant part of my identity for many years, so I question how I’ll continue to occupy myself beyond this bizarre little pastime.

Thankfully, I have more music at present than I could experience in a lifetime, so at the very least I can kick back and enjoy exploring my archives. And I can continue to supplement my web-based research with more contextual studies from books specializing in my favorite genres. My next read will be Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music by David Stubbs and should provide hours of reading enjoyment and hopefully an intimate understanding of a century of electronic sound.

Whether as a collector or just a researcher, this is indeed the finest time to be alive. Sites like Discogs and RYM provide instantaneous access to release data and listener reviews which previously took days or weeks of calls and form submissions to the LoC to obtain, and every day more and more fans upload thousands of hours or rare and exotic content from their collections to YouTube and file-sharing networks. It’s a curious phenomenon because when everything is accessible, nothing is rare. So, arguments for the paradox of choice aside, this is the greatest time in history for the inquiring listener. I plan to keep reading and listening, and maybe one day score a few of my remaining white whales.

Whatever your preferred format, be it 8-track, LP, cylinder, cassette, CD… just keep spinning.

Reflective Music – Learning How To Listen All Over Again

It began with a revisitation to Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel / Why Patterns? album. Headphones fit cozily around my ears, I’d decided to disappear from my office environment one Sunday afternoon and explore the more thoughtful headspace afforded by Feldman’s tranquil piano melodies. I was instantly transported, and the record prepared me for some reflective and solemn music to while away the hours at my desk. Resultantly, I soon found myself compiling a list of essential listening I was keen to either revisit or to explore for the first time in the spirit of that mood.

Rothko Chapel

Morton Feldman – Rothko Chapel / Why Patterns?

The list would be a survey of key recordings of German ambient music both classic and contemporary. Berliner ambient essentials including:

  • Nils Frahm – Wintermusik and the post-minimalist Felt LP
  • Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds collaborative work, Trance Frendz
  • British-German composer Max Richter’s 8.5-hour post-minimal ambient opus, Sleep, as well as his critically-acclaimed Memoryhouse and The Blue Notebooks LPs
  • Thomas Köner (a member of Porter Ricks and Kontakt der Jünglinge) – Permafrost
  • Cluster & Eno’s self-titled 1977 album recorded in Cologne
  • Eno/Moebius/Roedelius – After the Heat, featuring the haunting album-closers, “The Belldog”  and “Tzima N’Arki”  
  • Alva Noto – Xerrox Vols I & II (the sound of desolation, itself)
  • Highlights from Wolfgang Voigt’s recordings under the Gas moniker – Pop, Königsforst, Zauberberg, and his triumphant latest effort, Narkopop
  • Popol Vuh’s choral classic, Hosianna Mantra
  • Klaus Schulze’s space music debut epic, Irrlicht from 1972
  • Hans Zimmer’s score to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar
  • Favorites from Tangerine Dream – the albums Zeit and Phaedra
  • And for a taste of ambient darkjazz, Bohren & der Club of Gore’s Black Earth LP

I was awestruck by the listening experience of the first three recordings, so much in fact that I remained with them for the duration of the week. I spent days and nights immersed in Richter’s Sleep, never tiring of the fundamentally succinct central theme which carries throughout the entire opus. And even now, six days later, I am still reveling in the gentle elegance of Frahm and Arnalds’ pastoral melodies.

But more importantly, I found that I was not engaging these works as I had so often approached 20th-century music. I confess that I’ve routinely engaged recordings in an overtly-academic fashion. I obsessed over structure, form, and socio-cultural context. I preoccupied my mind with where each composition fell in relationship to the artist’s other works. I examined music so critically, that I failed to experience it emotionally.

There were notable exceptions to this standard – particularly those ambient recordings I chose to engage through music meditation. When consuming specific works of consequence for the first time, (and again thereafter if they became beloved favorites), I would don my circumaural cans, swaddle myself in blankets, extinguish all lamps, lay still in bed, and let the music fill me. The most recent album to receive this treatment was Brian Eno’s monumentally intimate album, The Ship from 2016.

What I found so arresting about these contemporary releases from the top of my list was that they explored the ambient genre differently than by their vintage predecessors. I quickly surveyed the albums and discovered that I had developed an affinity for post-minimalism. Borne of a reactionary movement to the impersonality of minimalist works in the 1960s, these artists aimed to resolve minimalism’s often cold and over-intellectual nature by introducing more expressive qualities, often evoking the body and aspects of sexuality. The resulting works are intimately affecting, soothing, and serene with more organic sonic textures than the mechanics of traditional minimalism.

It was that very quality which inspired in me such a novel and emotional response. Frahm’s Felt LP exquisitely embraced these organic elements, captured in its unique compositional process.

Felt.jpg

From the ErasedTapes label’s website:

Having recorded his last album live in a large, reverberant church, Nils Frahm now invites you to put on your headphones and dive into a world of microscopic and delicate sounds – so intimate that you could be sitting beside him.

Recorded late at night in the reflective solitude and silence of his studio in Berlin, Frahm uncovers a new sound and source of inspiration within these peaceful moments:

Originally I wanted to do my neighbours a favour by damping the sound of my piano. If I want to play piano during the quiet of the night, the only respectful way is by layering thick felt in front of the strings and using very gentle fingers. It was then that I discovered that my piano sounds beautiful with the damper.

Captivated by this sonic exposition, he placed the microphones so deep inside the piano that they were almost touching the strings. This brought a host of external sounds to the recordings which most producers would try their hardest to hide:

I hear myself breathing and panting, the scraping sound of the piano’s action and the creaking of my wooden floorboards – all equally as loud as the music. The music becomes a contingency, a chance, an accident within all this rustling. My heart opens and I wonder what exactly it is that makes me feel so happy.

It is his emphasis of those very sounds, which in traditional recording would be trimmed away as nuisance rather than beauty, which make Felt such an intimate and captivating listen. To quote a card from Eno’s Oblique Strategies deck – “Emphasise the flaws.” I found myself holding my breath so as not to miss the curious “non-musical” sounds present in the recording. I permitted the music to create a space for pure experience, rather than considered analysis, which I found immeasurably rewarding and satisfying.

And it is that exemption from quantification – the absence of left-brained cognitive study which freed my mind to just enjoy the music.

I don’t feel compelled to pore over academic texts examining post-minimalism. I feel no urge to read critical papers from music journalists on the merit or inferiority of works of this musical category. I just want to experience it. And that is wonderful.

 

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!