SPECIAL FEATURE: Pieces—A Thousand Albums At The End Of America

Bill Boulden - Pieces - A Thousand Albums At The End Of America (Vinyl Rip - Each of 1000 Copies is Unique)

I’m honored to share an extraordinarily unique recording for this installment at Innerspace Labs. This is Bill Boulden’s (aka Spruke’s) innovative project, Pieces—A Thousand Albums At The End Of America.

From his Kickstarter page:

Spruke’s previous Kickstarted ambient music album Music To Die Alone In Space To featured the same album being rerecorded 310 times with unique variations for every backer. On Pieces, he will expand on this concept by adding an innovative new system of distributed storytelling.

This follow-up project tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic near future – a story spread over 96 LPs. Boulden partnered with Meep Records, a single-run lathe-cut vinyl manufacturer, to make it possible for the first time to own literally the only copy of an album in existence.

Boulden describes the album-within-an-album concept he employed for this record:

When America falls, the musicians of the time period don’t sit around and let it happen. These albums contain fragments of the music of this alternate future. They appear in fits and starts between other tracks; ten seconds as a lead-in to a piano piece, or a thirty-second interlude between two tracks, or maybe fifteen seconds of radio static between ambient passages where you can hear a radio station almost tuning into this song but not quite finding it.

I’ve hired hip-hop artists, barbershop quartets, folk singers, grrl garage punk, country singers, and more from this hypothetical future that may never come to pass, to come back in time and put their songs in tiny pieces on this album.

[The album presents a dystopia where] America is broken and abandoned. Relics from humankind’s brief stay are slowly being reclaimed by nature, and one damning question lingers: What happened here?

Boulden explains “Distributed Storytelling” thusly:

Cassettes. Handheld recorders. Radio broadcasts. Voicemails. When Americans saw their country dissolve around them, they left all of these and more lying everywhere, and you’ll hear fragments of them as you move through a unique copy of the album… but never the whole story.

He leaves it up to the backers of the project to collaborate and piece together the full narrative. The LPs are not numbered, so there is no official chronology or oversight of the 96 segments. They were engineered through Boulden’s generative compositional process, and once the rules were set in motion the story unfolded on its own. The unique one-off discs were priced at $80-110 apiece and all copies sold out to the original backers of the project.

The social participatory factor here is exciting. Some of the backers shared their uniques on twitter as #BitsOfPieces. You can search that hashtag to find people swapping uniques and new material comes up on every copy.

The canonical edition was a randomly selected copy from the series, (Boulden believes it to be #36 or so), that was the copy chosen to print en masse and put on Spotify, iTunes, etc. Approximately 200 LPs were pressed of this edition.

The opening minutes of the canonical (wide-release) edition of the record set the stage with disembodied beeps and somber off-key sour synths. We are quickly introduced to curious smatterings of disconnected conversations about the dismal chaos that has come of America. These fractured dialogues are fast-forwarded and rewound from dusty old cassettes and fade in and out from distant radio signals on an imagined archaic analog tuner. We are wandering through the smoldering aftermath seeking signs of survival in a bleak 1980s vision of a dark near-future.

Musique concrète with a beat, this album offers captivatingly voyeuristic post-apocalyptic field recordings and static-laden AM / Ham / shortwave radio broadcasts with a bizarre displaced out-of-time personae.

Pieces… is richly hauntological and brimming with digitally-processed but authentic sounding artifacts of characteristically analog phenomena, including radio broadcasts, snippets of sorrowful minor-key piano melodies, retro television commercial segments, station-tuning and detuning, vinyl crackling, and tape wow and flutter. It features an impressively wide dimensional soundstage ranging from distant and lonely vocal echoes to vintage answering machines to in-your-face distorted guitar shredding, with looming drones and sustained synths to tie it all together with brilliantly seamless finesse. And the mastering quality is top-notch with a zero noise floor to let the artistry take front and center stage.

Pieces… is a work of 21st century studio wizardry richly in the spirit of classic Musique concrète and Eno’s generative methodology. (I also can’t resist its recollection of perhaps a Gothic incarnation of The Firesign Theater’s Bozos LP, particularly reminisced with the clapboard opening and fractured radio adverts.) And there is undeniably a hearty dose of John Carpenter’s desolate and foreboding 80s synths present here. But the record isn’t just the score to such a film. With all the scattered original vocal samples it effectively conjures the visual of an unmade motion picture as well.

There are no verses or choruses. There is only the persistence of the constantly-shifting ambient foci with strange new sounds vying for the listener’s attention at every turn. The album is a highly-engaging dystopian dramatization reminiscent of War Of The Worlds with the enhancement and magic of modern production which rewards dedicated listening. Pieces… is easily the most fascinating and impactful recording I’ve heard this year.

Five stars for its progressive concept, for its vision, for its implementation, for its production, for its social participatory element, and for music that truly deserves some attention.

The Voyager Golden Record 40th Anniversary Edition – A Gift to the Cosmos

On September 20, 2016, a Kickstarter project was launched in celebration of the Voyager Golden Record. The response was tremendous. 10,768 backers pledged $1,363,037 to help bring this project to life. And Ozma Records met their goal – shipping the result of the project to its contributors on September 5th, 2017 – 40 years to the day of the original 1977 Voyager launch.

Ozma Records did a magnificent job in producing the first-ever “Earthling edition” of this historic gift to the cosmos. The Voyager Interstellar Record may be the last vestige of our civilization after we are gone forever, and this 40th Anniversary Edition is a wonderful tribute to humanity and our place in the universe.

Original concept illustration for the set:

Concept 1

Audio Tracklisting:

  1. Greeting from Kurt Waldheim, Secretary-General of the United Nations
  2.  Greetings in 55 Languages
  3. United Nations Greetings/Whale Songs
  4. The Sounds of Earth
  5. Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047: I. Allegro (Johann Sebastian Bach) – Munich Bach Orchestra/Karl Richter
  6. Ketawang: Puspåwårnå (Kinds of Flowers) – Pura Paku Alaman Palace Orchestra/K.R.T. Wasitodipuro
  7. Cengunmé – Mahi musicians of Benin
  8. Alima Song – Mbuti of the Ituri Rainforest
  9. Barnumbirr (Morning Star) and Moikoi Song – Tom Djawa, Mudpo, and Waliparu
  10. El Cascabel (Lorenzo Barcelata) – Antonio Maciel and Los Aguilillas with Mariachi México de Pepe Villa/Rafael Carrión
  11. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry
  12. Mariuamangɨ – Pranis Pandang and Kumbui of the Nyaura Clan
  13. Sokaku-Reibo (Depicting the Cranes in Their Nest) – Goro Yamaguchi
  14. Partita for Violin Solo No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: III. Gavotte en Rondeau (Johann Sebastian Bach) – Arthur Grumiaux
  15. The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte), K. 620, Act II: Hell’s Vengeance Boils in My Heart (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart) – Bavarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus/Wolfgang Sawallisch
  16. Chakrulo – Georgian State Merited Ensemble of Folk Song and Dance/Anzor Kavsadze
  17. Roncadoras and Drums – Musicians from Ancash
  18. Melancholy Blues (Marty Bloom/Walter Melrose) – Louis Armstrong and His Hot Seven
  19. Muğam – Kamil Jalilov
  20. The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps), Part II—The Sacrifice: VI. Sacrificial Dance (The Chosen One) (Igor Stravinsky) – Columbia Symphony Orchestra/Igor Stravinsky
  21. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II: Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major, BWV 870 (Johann Sebastian Bach) – Glenn Gould
  22. Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67: I. Allegro Con Brio (Ludwig Van Beethoven) – Philharmonia Orchestra/Otto Klemperer
  23. Izlel e Delyu Haydutin – Valya Balkanska
  24. Navajo Night Chant, Yeibichai Dance – Ambrose Roan Horse, Chester Roan, and Tom Roan
  25. The Fairie Round (Anthony Holborne) – Early Music Consort of London/David Munrow
  26. Naranaratana Kookokoo (The Cry of the Megapode Bird) – Maniasinimae and Taumaetarau Chieftain Tribe of Oloha and Palasu’u Village Community in Small Malaita
  27. Wedding Song – Young girl of Huancavelica
  28. Liu Shui (Flowing Streams) – Guan Pinghu
  29. Bhairavi: Jaat Kahan Ho – Kesarbai Kerkar
  30. Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground – Blind Willie Johnson
  31. String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Opus 130: V. Cavatina (Ludwig Van Beethoven) – Budapest String Quartet

Each Voyager Golden Record 40th Anniversary Edition vinyl box set includes a high-quality enamel pin of the Golden Record diagram and a custom turntable slipmat featuring NASA/JPL-Caltech’s heliocentric view of the Voyager spacecrafts’ trajectories across the solar system!

Concept illustration for the box set extras:

slipmat.artprint.pin

From the official Kickstarter page:

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet — birds, a train, a baby’s cry — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called Sounds of Earth. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.  (To hear those greetings and Sounds of Earth and see a handful of the images, visit NASA/JPL-Caltech’s Voyager site!)

Concept illustrations for the tip-on jackets:

jacket 1jacket 2jacket 3

An exquisitely-designed objet d’art, this limited edition Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition vinyl box set was available exclusively through this Kickstarter. It was described as “the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package.”

Exploded concept graphic of the vinyl edition:

exploding graphic.jpg
True to the Kickstarter’s proposed description, the cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay houses three, heavyweight translucent gold vinyl LPs protected by poly-lined paper sleeves. The LPs contain all of the same magnificent music, greetings, and sounds as contained on the original Voyager Golden Record – nearly two hours of audio. The LPs slip into old style tip-on, black ink and gold foil jackets. And accompanying the music is a beautifully-designed hardbound book of captivating images from the original interstellar message, glorious photos of the planets returned to Earth from the Voyager probes, compelling essays, and ephemera from the project’s history.

Concept illustrations for the companion book:

book 1book 2book 3

The set also features a plastic digital download card with a code to access all of the audio in MP3 or FLAC format. A lithograph of the iconic Golden Record cover diagram, printed with gold metallic ink on archival paper, high-quality enamel pin of that same diagram, and a custom turntable slipmat featuring NASA/JPL-Caltech’s heliocentric view of the Voyager spacecrafts’ trajectories across the solar system complete the box set.

Concept image of the lithograph:

lithograph
Incredible attention was paid to ensuring that the audio content was the best it could be. Timothy Ferris, the original producer of the Golden Record, worked with the production team to remaster the audio for vinyl, drawing from the highest-quality sources available.

Below are actual photos of the completed box set which just arrived at my doorstep.

DSC09128

Of the 8,815 backers who pledged enough for the vinyl set, I received copy #00018. (I wasted no time pledging the moment this release was announced!)

DSC09137

The set is of exceptional quality – you can feel in your hands how impressively sturdy the whole package is.

DSC09142DSC09143DSC09147

Here is the final version of the slipmat.

DSC09149

And the beautiful hardcover book brings the breathtaking photographs from the record to life…

DSC09152DSC09156DSC09157DSC09160DSC09161

The discs, dust jackets, and sleeves are just as impressive as the extras. No corners were cut on this production project.

DSC09163DSC09170

And finally – the enamel pin. I’ll wear it proudly!

DSC09171

From OzmaRecords.com:

It was a gift from humanity to the cosmos. But it is also a gift to humanity. The record embodies a sense of possibility and hope. And it’s as relevant now as it was in 1977. Perhaps even more so.

The Voyager Interstellar Record is a reminder of what we can achieve when we are at our best—and that our future really is up to all of us.

 

Published in: on September 9, 2017 at 6:38 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

A Day Full of Wonderful Music!

This morning I took a trip to my old hometown of Rochester and made my routine pilgrimage to my favorite record store – The Bop Shop. The owner, Tom put a record in my hands and told me that I had to own it.

Tom has always been a wonderful source for musique concrete, minimalist works, early experimental electronic recordings and other lovely treasures of the avant-garde. Many of my favorite LPs are original pressings from his personal collection.

Cage.JPG

The LP he held was John Cage • Christian Wolff, a 1963 album featuring Cage’s side-long “Cartridge Music” – one of Cage’s earliest attempts to produce live electronic music by manipulating turntable cartridges. I’ve known Tom for years and he has never steered me wrong and this latest LP is no exception. Wonderful stuff!

I also spotted a box set in his shop which I snatched up without hesitation. Readers may recall my copy of Cyril Ritchard reading Alice in Wonderland which included a facsimile clothbound hardcover copy of the 1865 first edition with all of the original illustrations. Today in store, I discovered that Ritchard had produced a reading of Through the Looking Glass as well! And it too included a copy of the 1872 hardcover. How could I pass it up?

Alice.JPG

Upon returning home I was struck by a recollection that a Kickstarter project had been initiated for a first-ever “Earthling Edition” of the historic Voyager Golden Record, (our message to the stars). As the Kickstarter page describes:

The Voyager Golden Record contains the story of Earth expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad cultures and eras, from Bach and Beethoven to Blind Willie Johnson and Chuck Berry, Senegalese percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. Dozens of natural sounds of our planet — birds, a train, a baby’s cry — are collaged into a lovely audio poem called Sounds of Earth. There are spoken greetings in 55 human languages, and one whale language, and more than one hundred images encoded in analog that depict who, and what, we are.

The closest I’d come to the Voyager disc was the limited edition “A Glorious Dawn” single from Third Man Records. The single was composed and performed by Symphony of Science and credited to an auto-tuned Carl Sagan singing about the magnificence of the universe. And etched upon the second side of the disc is the image of the Golden Record.

carl-sagan-a-glorious-dawn-by-symphony-of-science-single-sided-7%22-reverse-etched-with-the-image-of-the-voyager-golden-record

As a tremendous fan of Carl Sagan’s work and his legacy, and as a “cultural curator” of historically significant recordings, this anniversary Voyager project was something I knew I had to support, and to claim a copy for my library if at all possible.

52ec60cbb8aca6cc973150672cd04763_original.jpg

The beautiful box set is being remastered by Timothy Ferris – the original producer of the Golden Record, and will include:

  • A cloth-covered box with gold foil inlay
  • Three translucent gold, heavyweight vinyl LPs in poly-lined paper sleeves
  • Three old-style tip-on jackets, black ink and gold foil
  • A hardback book showcasing the photographs and art featured on the original disc
  • A lithograph of Voyager Golden Record cover diagram, gold metallic ink on archival paper
  • A full-color plastic digital download card for all audio of the record in MP3 or FLAC

What a wonderful way to celebrate our message to space!

And it turned out that my hunch was aptly timed, as I found there were only five days remaining in the Kickstarter campaign, and pledging to the project is the only way to claim a copy of this special release! I pledged immediately and look forward to the album’s launch in 2017.

Check out the short official video for the project and pledge while you still can!