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

A Momentous Discovery and a Wish Fulfilled

The last two weeks of January have been beautifully inspiring.  A further exploration of choral works at the recommendation of a fantastic fellow classical connoisseur led me to revisit Arvo Pärt’s Da Pacem.

Harmoni Mundi - Arvo Part - Da Pacem

I was instantly enamored by the sacred sounds of The Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the fantastic production quality of the recording.  And I was duly delighted by the discovery that the release was issued by the Harmonia Mundi label (from which I’d recently acquired the 20-volume CENTURY I and II early music catalogs).  This remarkable music set the stage for a brilliant musical revelation – one that carried with it emotive and intellectual majesty I’ve not experienced since my first listen to Eno’s Airports.

serveimage.jpg

The revelation arrived in the form of a fated discovery of Germany’s Harmonia – the supergroup of Dieter Moebuis of Cluster (synthesizer, guitar, electronic percussion, nagoya harp, vocals), Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster (organ, piano, guitar, electronic percussion, vocals), Michael Rother of Neu! (guitar, piano, organ, electronic percussion, and vocals), and eventually, Brian Eno (synthesizer, bass, vocals).

Their small but influential discography was produced by Conny Plank, who produced works by Neu!, Cluster (almost becoming a member of the band), Ash Ra Tempel, Can, and Guru Guru.

In December of last year, Larry Crane interviewed Michael Rother for TapeOp.com and discussed the formation of Harmonia, their work, but it was an article published January 20th of this year in The New Yorker titled, The Invention of Ambient Music that first introduced me to Harmonia.  The article cites a video interview from 1997 in which Bowie named some of his influences, including Kraftwerk, Neu!, and Harmonia.

An inspiration good enough for the Thin White Duke is certainly one worth exploring, so I wasted no time in queuing up Harmonia’s first album, Musik von Harmonia, released in 1974 on the classic Brain label.

serveimage (1)

Instantaneously I knew I’d found something exceptional.  The tracks were united in a consistent theme – instrumental exploration of subtle, ever-shifting sonic textures – an electronic realization of Satie’s vision of furniture music.

On the surface the work might initially appear uneventful, dull, and lacking in focus or direction.  There are no lead vocals and no primary melodic structure. However these seemingly detrimental characteristics are precisely what contributed to their greatness and lasting-influence in the world of ambient music and beyond.  

Eno has stated that Harmonia was “the world’s most important rock band” in the mid ’70s.  Daniel Dumych elaborates in his article for hyperreal.org: “Perhaps Eno’s reason for praising Harmonia so highly was that their music fit the requirements of ambient rock. Its music was equally suitable for active or passive listening. The careful listener found his/her attentions rewarded by the musical activities and sounds, but Harmonia’s music was also capable of setting a sonic environment.”

In John Cage’s classic Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music (Folkways FT 3704, 1959), he observes:

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

INDETERMINACY.jpg

Cages words accurately describe a first-listen to Harmonia’s music, (only I was instantly receptive to the “subtle, ever-shifting sonic textures” to which I alluded above.)  Headphones donned and eyes closed, I laid in bed and soaked in every note of the Harmonia catalog.  By its conclusion, I’d scoured the web for information on available recordings in a vinyl format and was astounded and elated to learn that only three months prior (to the day, in fact), a massive deluxe 6LP box set celebrating Harmonia’s complete recordings had just been issued by Grönland Records in Germany!

The teaser video for the set:

The set, titled Complete Works, contains all the released material from 1973 to 1976, including their 1976 collaboration with Brian Eno and four unreleased tracks (Documents 1975).  Also included are a 36-page booklet, a concert poster, a pop-up, and a digital download code.

harmonia set
Overcome with excitement at this fateful cosmic alignment of circumstance, I sprang from my bed, and quickly dialed my contact for German import vinyl and limited edition recordings.  The set was not intended for distribution in the US, and copies had already sold out from the Grönland Records website.  Thankfully, my contact came through for me and within a matter of minutes I’d secured a copy for my library.  It just arrived in the States and I couldn’t be more delighted.  

Below is a video of the unboxing of this wonderful box set.

It’s truly remarkable to experience this sort of exhilaration over a newly-discovered artist.  As an archivist with well over 100,000 recordings in my library, there are moments when I fear I’ve exhausted the 20th century of all its surprises.  But, like I was by my first experience listening to Harry Partch, I am once again awakened to the magnificence of our greatest century of cultural artistry.

Harmonia 01

Harmonia 02Harmonia 03Harmonia 04Harmonia 05Harmonia 06Harmonia 07Harmonia 08Harmonia 09Harmonia 10Harmonia 11

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!

This Week’s Listening – Early Krautrock, Proto Ambient, and Musique Concrete

Many discographies have been added to the Archive since the last post, so I’ll dive right in and highlight some of the more memorable recordings I’ve heard as of late.  I’ve been exploring my library of over 100 Nurse With Wound albums and singles, and especially enjoyed Shipwreck Radio Vol 1, which was recorded in Lofoten, Norway between June and July of 2004.

The opening track is a slow build of metallic clamor with a few melodic notes and minimal percussion which gradually become lost in the cloud of noise.  It’s beautifully rhythmic atonal music which I grooved along with for the full 15 minutes of the track.  Great stuff.

Next I finally added Jean Michael Jarre’s classic [1978] Equinoxe and [1976] Oxygene LPs to the digital side of my library.  I hadn’t played his albums in at least five years and it was wonderfully refreshing to hear them on my new Denon rosewood turntable, particularly as my Focal floor speakers perform better in the new, smaller space.  Deep sawtooth waves reverberated from my concrete walls and created a lovely bass pocket right in front of my velvet sectional.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.
I’m still building my Jean Jacques Perrey collection, which began with my acquisition of Perrey and Kingsley’s The In Sound From Way Out.  Moog Indigo is another classic I’m after, featuring the hit, “E.V.A.”  And Perrey recorded a musique concrete electronic album in 1963 – Musique Electronique du Cosmos which I’d love to pick up as well.

On to more modern recordings – I’ve loved the first two LPs by minimal drone artist, Black Swan since their release in 2010 and ’11.  Black Swan composes what are perhaps the finest modern classical works I’ve ever heard.  Quite sadly, the Wikipedia, allmusic, rateyourmusic, and discogs offer absolutely no information about the artist.  And the Black Swan official homepage presents little more than snapshots of their minimal but breathtaking album covers.

Fortunately, a user review from Discogs sums it up nicely:

The anonymity of this New York-based artist has an effect on the listening experience. The music is given the right to exist on its own, as if it had always existed. It stakes its claim in the mind, making the listener a collaborator in a seductive narrative-noire that travels through a hall of horrors and memories, an escort to a final resting place. One might encounter spirit animals, forgotten lovers, faceless apparitions, leviathan rifts, or a cozy blanket of stars. It is easy to become comfortable in the soothing darkness, and when it seems like eternity has arrived, Black Swan pulls the plug.

And so I was absolutely floored when the artist posted a first-ever listen to a pre-Black Swan double album they, (he? she?) produced all the way back in 2001.  The previously-unreleased album is called Alone Again With the Dawn Coming Up: A Tribute to the KLF.

It took a moment for the sheer awesomeness to fire across my synapses.

BLACK SWAN… POSTED A 12-YEAR OLD TRIBUTE RECORD… TO THE KLF.

In its entirety.  For free.  Complete with album art (a la Chill Out.)

Once you’ve scooped your cerebral matter off the back wall of your room, head over to swanplague.com/ and download it NOW before it disappears.

AloneAgainWithTheDawnComingUp_WEB

The moment Black Swan decides to release this gem on vinyl, I plan to hire a private detective, discover the true identity of the band, drive to their house in NYC and order a copy in person.

It’s that good.

And the Chill Out tribute serves as a perfect segue into our next featured rare recording – The KLF Recovered & Remastered EP -4.

“Oh,” you say, casually.  “You mean the [2012] 6 EP limited edition set of the KLF Recovered & Remastered which you featured in your previous post?”

It’s actually one mark better than that – as this is from the new series-in-progress of “MINUS” releases.  The first came out in August of 2012 – KLF MINUS-ONE featuring four new mixes of “It’s Grim Up North.”  You can order it here.

The latest disc in the series is [2013] MINUS-FOUR (The KLF Remix Project Part III).  Watch this link for copies to surface.

I’m through the first three tracks at the time of this posting and have loved every second of it.  Just as with KLF 006 RE (Live From the Lost Continent), this is a disc that requires that you:

1. Turn off all the lights
2. Put on you finest circumaural studio monitors
and
3. Turn it up to eleven.

Cheers to Mr. Ward for your magnificent work keeping the KLF alive into the new millennium.

The next minimal techno masterpiece to land on my doorstep was Pantha Du Prince’s
[2007] This Bliss [DIAL LP09].  Have a listen to “Walden 2.”

And just a few days later – Aphex Twin’s legendary [1994] Selected Ambient Works Vol.2 (2012 3LP reissue) was waiting for me when I got home from work!  Here is “Blue Calx.”

Other ambient space music treasures of the week include Tangerine Dream’s [1985] In the Beginning 6LP Box Set (COMP), which includes:

[1970] Electronic Meditation
[1971] Alpha Centauri
[1972] Zeit
[1973] Atem
[1973] Green Desert (Released 1986)

This is, by far the most affordable way to pick up all the early (pre-sequencer) Tangerine Dream  for under $75.

699255

And finally, I must highlight a few early krautrock records which approach Berlin School space music territory.

The first is Cosmic Jokers’ [1973] jam session – The Cosmic Jokers.  This is the krautrock super-group that never was, and an album that never should have been.  Thankfully, it was captured to tape and commercially released, so track this baby down and order a copy!

The next gem is Popol Vuh’s [1972] Hosianna Mantra – the most spiritual German ambient album ever conceived.  I’ll let the album speak for itself.

Also featured this week is Mr. Klaus Schulze.  Schulze worked on the first Tangerine Dream record and the first Popol Vuh LP before setting off on his own legendary solo career.

My favorite album from his extensive discography is his first record – the proto-ambient/proto-drone, Irrlicht from 1972.

I’ve also picked up [2000] The Ultimate Edition 50 CD Box Set and will report my findings once I’ve put a considerable dent into the collection.

And finally, after hearing what is quite possibly the greatest Kraftwerk live concert of all time (K9 Radio Bremen, Germany 1971), I was astounded to find the limited-edition Russian clear double LP in a record shop ACROSS THE STREET FROM MY APARTMENT this afternoon.  Here’s the full show, and remember – this is Kraftwerk before synthesizers and sequencers became their trademarked sound.

That’s This Week’s Listening!  And as always, I welcome my readers’ own recommendations for similar recordings.

Thank you.

Non-Commercial Highlights of the Week

This month I’ve picked up some absolutely outstanding non-commercial releases (which I prefer over “bootlegs,”) and I wanted to take the opportunity to differentiate between the two terms.

When I hear the word, “bootleg,” I picture a DVD-R in a paper sleeve with the word, “TITANIC” written in black sharpie across the disc.  Bootlegs are what people try to sell you for a fiver in a gas station parking lot.

China

“Bootleg”

When instead I use the term “non-commercial” or “unauthorized”  release, I have in mind something much different.  A wonderful example is the KLF Recovered & Remastered Ltd Ed EP series I highlighted in my last entry.  These are painstakingly and skillfully remastered works engineered by dedicated fans who fill the void left when the official label has left recordings ignored and unreleased for decades.

Two such LPs just arrived in the mail yesterday.

Crown Records issued unauthorized versions of Kraftwerk’s first two (sadly, forgotten) albums, I and II in 1994, albums which had not been available on vinyl since 1970 (other than a short run by Philips Records’ Japanese division in 1979.)  What made the Crown releases even more fun was that for the first time these LPs were issued on red and green wax matching their Warhol-esque cover art.

Crown - Kraftwerk I

Crown - Kraftwerk II
These two albums sound nothing like the electronic wizardry of their better-known recordings.  Here is a sample of side 1, track 1 – “Ruckzuk.”

But then, this week, I got my hands on an absolute gem – a remarkable example of a proper fan-produced album.

The Syd Barrett – Have You Got It Yet? box set produced by The Laughing Madcaps is a work of art.

This 22-disc box set includes over 200 rare and unreleased audio tracks with a total running time of over 13 hours.  But it doesn’t stop there.   The set is complete with deluxe fan-designed packaging and 8 bonus VCD discs including Syd’s First Trip from 1966, TV promotional footage from Sydney and Belgium, a complete collection of video interviews, the VH1 Legends special, a disc of rare photo galleries, PDF scans of books like The Pink Floyd Songbook, and so much more.

Box for A3 printing
Each disc comes with matching artwork and detailed production liner notes.  Many of the tracks are presented as OOPS (Out Of Phase Stereo) mixes.

From the liner notes:

These are fan-created remixes and NOT session outtakes. OOPS is a process by which a home user can remix a stereo track, thus revealing musical details that were less evident in the commercial mix.

Furthermore, every OOPS and mono track on discs 8-10 was rendered as a dual-signal expansion: one channel is a mirror image of the other. For the listener, this means a richer sound field and a more natural ambiance than could be expected from pure mono, yet without any obvious attempt at a stereo result from a mono source.

spines

The spines of Volumes 1 – 10

For the Pink Floyd fans out there unfamiliar with the phrase, “Have You Got It Yet?” the story goes like this:

Initially, the song, “Have You Got It Yet?” seemed like an ordinary Barrett tune. However, as soon as the other members attempted to join in and learn the piece, Barrett changed the melodies and structure, making it impossible for the others to follow.  For the chorus, Barrett sang, “Have You Got It Yet?” while the rest of the band answered “No, no!”.

Roger Waters was later interviewed about the incident and said that upon realizing that Barrett was deliberately making the song impossible to learn, he reportedly put down his bass, left the room, and never attempted to play with Barrett again.

Waters called it “a real act of mad genius”.

I will not endorse buying bootlegs.  But fan-remastered and remixed recordings of rare and unreleased 40-year old archival material?  Fine by me.

The First 800 Albums of 2013

I’ve been all over the ambient and experimental map these first two months of the year.  I recently revisited Boards of Canada’s extended catalog – 6 LPs, 4 compilation albums, 6 EPs, and two live sets (the Warp 10th Anniversary Party from ’99 and All Tomorrows Parties in 2001) and fell in love with the sound of early downtempo all over again.

For years I’ve loved Peter Gabriel’s fourth LP (in particular the tribal percussion on the track, “Rhythm of the Heat”) as well as the Birdy and Passion soundtracks from ’85 and ’89.  I decided it was finally time to acquaint myself with the rest of his discography, so I picked up a digital archive of his 14 studio albums, 17 singles, 11 remastered recordings, 6 official compilations and 6 live albums.  I have I-IV on vinyl, as well as the Birdy OST, and this archive will be the perfect way for me to identify which LPs to order next.

Also this past month I decided to explore the birth of IDM.  A quick bit of research uncovered the Artificial Intelligence series on the Warp label, which was the definitive collection of early intelligent dance releases.  The series included 8 discs issued between 1992-1994.  The selection below is by Link, which is one-half Tom Middleton who I remember from the Cosmic Fury DJ face-off  between Middleton and Fred Deakin of Lemon Jelly.

And after months of researching krautrock’s greatest recordings, I finally picked up 11 albums by Faust.  And thank god, because the search led me to the 1973 masterpiece collaboration of Faust and Tony Conrad titled Outside the Dream Syndicate.  This stripped-bare, minimalist record puts you into a trace and you slowly begin to feel the subtle nuances of the droning violin and the relentless percussion.  A most rewarding listen!  I promptly added Conrad’s debut LP to my shopping list.  It’s around $100 when it surfaces, so it appears I’m not the only fan out there.

Popol Vuh was another German 70s artist I discovered and enjoyed this past month.  I tried out their 27 LP catalog spanning 1970 – 1999 and (as usual) was most fond of their debut album – Affenstunde.  The album is a solid 40 minutes of droning proto-synth sounds and natural percussion.  Unlike the later work of Tangerine Dream, the album never sounds artificial or sequenced.  It remains organic from start to finish.  I’ll be looking for this album at the record show next month.

Just before the month began I went through the complete discography of Tangerine Dream chronologically by date of release to identify which albums from their vast catalog would best fit my library.  I picked up 206 discs, including all studio albums, all remasters, live LPs, soundtracks, singles, and solo projects by each member of the band.  A week into listening and reading I knew exactly what I wanted.  Their first four records were much more experimental and organic than the sequencer-based ambient work that they are best known for.  Long before they inspired the new age genre they were making crazy avant garde German music not unlike Popol Vuh.

Unfortunately, original pressings of these early albums would set me back $50 apiece and $100 for a clean copy of their debut LP.  After two days of research, I found the answer.

In 1985, Relativity Records pressed 3000 numbered copies of a box set called In the Beginning… which included their first four albums, uncut, and the previously unreleased Green Desert LP.  All of the original album art is included in the set along with a ten page book about the band.  Best of all – I secured a copy for a mere $25.  This was the PERFECT solution for my situation!

tangerinedream2

While I was on a German kick I decided to put the finishing touches on my Kraftwerk library.  I already had Radioactivity and Autobahn on vinyl so I picked up their first 17 albums digitally to see where I wanted to go next.  I instantly fell in love with Kraftwerk I and Kraftwerk II.  These were the experimental LPs they produced before Ralf & Florian secured their signature electronic sound.  Many reviewers write the first two albums off as “for-completists-only.”  I strongly disagree.  While of course these are no Autobahn, they are beautiful free-form experiments and I had to have them on wax.  After two days of exploring I settled on the Italian Crown label bootleg pressings which came with red vinyl and green marbled vinyl discs.  I found one seller with both albums so I saved on shipping and took the plunge.  They’ll be in the mail this week.

The other German group I had neglected for far too long was the band, Neu!  I’m listening to the six LPs they released between 1972 and 2010 (the most recent being a recording from 1986.)  I think I’ll have to agree with the majority of fans that their first two records from ’72 and ’73 are their best work.  I’ll be looking for original pressings at the record show as well.

I also picked up the fan-produced bootleg series of EPs titled, The KLF Recovered & Remastered.  The 6 EPs and 7th Special Remixes disc include magnificent independent remasters from the KLF’s deleted catalog.  These EPs are on par with the work Dr. Ebbetts and The Purple Chick did with the Beatles’ recordings.

KLF Remastered

The best disc by far is EP 6 – Live From the Lost Continent 2012, which is a simulated live stadium concert in which the KLF take the listener on a tour through their entire career.  It opens with the Rites of Mu and closes, appropriately with the KLF collaboration with Extreme Noise Terror at the February 1992 BRIT Awards.  This was the legendary performance where they fired blanks into the audience, declared that they’d left the music business, and dumped a sheep carcass at the doors of the building.  The sampled screams of the audience all throughout this hour-and-17-minute “performance” is true to form to what the KLF, themselves did with their Stadium House Trilogy and the entire concert is an absolute triumph.  Best of all, it lets long-time fans take part in one last show decades after Drummond and Cauty left the biz behind.

I have over 88 KLF albums and singles in my library, and EP #6 RE now ranks #1 on my list.  And thanks to EP #1, I’ve added the America, What Time is Love LP single to my shopping list.

Always on the hunt for more experimental music, I finally took the advice of my favorite record store owner and listened to Soft Machine’s first four albums.  I had discovered the Canterbury Scene.  More of a journalistic term than anything else, (like krautrock) it referred to a group of musicians around Canterbury who worked together in several bands around the time that the Berlin School was born in Germany.

I researched a list of essential artists and picked up their discographies.  This included Soft Machine, Matching Mole, Egg, Steve Hillage, National Health, Khan, Ash Ra Tempel/Ashra/Manuel Gottsching, Gong, Caravan and Henry Cow.

The organ work on Egg’s first LP is brilliant, and warranted repeated listenings.  I also enjoyed their post-break-up release, The Civil Surface from ’74.  Both have been added to my record show list.

Out of the 17 albums in Gong’s library, I found the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy to be the most memorable.  Released between 1973 and 74 these were finally re-pressed in Italy in 2002 and have sold online for about $45 apiece for the re-issues.  Angel’s Egg (Radio Gnome Invisible Pt 2) seems to be their strongest record.

I was similarly floored by Ash Ra Tempel’s first two LPs.  If you like post-psychedelic drone, their early stuff is really worth picking up.  I’m going through the 49 LPs they released between 1970 and 2007 but so far Ash Ra Tempel (1971) and Schwingungen (1972) are my clear favorites.

The unfortunate thing about many of the Canterbury and krautrock artists is that there were no pressings made after their original releases in the early 1970s.  This means a listener may have to shell out one or two hundred dollars per album, which is why I’ve no reservation about familiarizing myself with their catalog digitally before making that kind of investment.

On to more contemporary sounds, I’ve been following the Electronic Supper Club series which is a great collection of live dj sets.  Of the thirty three hours of material available thus far, hour 30, “Set 2” is a memorable favorite – lots of deep house grooves which are great for both the dancefloor or the living room.  Click here if you’d like to watch the set.

That got me in the mood for more quality IDM, so I picked up 47 albums and singles by Aphex Twin.  I’m still trying to warm up to the fan-favorite, Selected Ambient Works Vol 2 which inevitably surfaces in conversations about all-time-greatest ambient releases.

I may also invest in a vinyl copy of Powerpill (the Pac-Man techno single) to add to my ridiculously large collection of Pac-Man Fever merchandise.  The Aphex Twin library is just over 41 hours worth of material so I’m sure I’ll find a few classic releases to order on wax.  (“Bucephalus Bouncing Ball” from Clint Mansell’s Pi soundtrack comes immediately to mind.)

Ever since I sampled Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach vinyl box set during my last pilgrimage to my hometown record shop I’ve wanted to learn more about his work.  I have 53 of his discs in my archive and I’m slowly making my way through the collection.  He seems consistent in his approach to music and his focus on short, repeated patterns gives it an almost drone-like quality.  Thus far the Einstein on the Beach 4LP set is my favorite so I will likely pick it up from the shop.  I only wish there were vinyl issues of the short pieces he composed for Sesame Street in 1979 for the animated shorts, The Geometry of Circles.  He wrote them while developing Einstein on the Beach, which is probably why that album remains my favorite so far.

I watched the stunning space madness film, Moon from 2009 this month.  Imagine a two-hour film with only one actor… and you’re on the edge of your seat the entire time.  What was most memorable about the film was the score – a simple oscillation of two notes on a piano that sticks in your head hours after the film has ended.  After researching the film I read that the melody was a metaphor for the conflict between the main character and his clone (both played by the same actor.)

I was surprised to learn that the score was written by the aforementioned Clint Mansell, the former guitarist for Pop Will Eat Itself.  He has written the scores for many films, including Black Swan (2010), Doom (2005) and the soundtrack I mentioned earlier – Pi (1998).  His more recent works have entered into modern classical territory, and I’m enjoying it very much.  I picked up all 19 of his scores and my vinyl copy of Moon arrived in the mail last week.

At the beginning of the month I was researching an old CD I remembered from 2000 – LTJ Bukem’s Journey Inwards.  I had recently heard tracks by Big Bud which had the same Intelligent D’n’B feel as Journey Inwards.  Sure enough, I learned that they were produced on the same label.  I quickly picked up the complete 94 disc catalog which included all of the Good Looking Records/Earth/Soul/Logical Progression/Looking Back/etc releases and I absolutely loved what I heard.  Shortly after listening to this collection I added Big Bud’s Late Night Blues LP to my shopping list.  The album plays like a live show in a small space-jazz club, and is great music to wind down to.

My exploration of space-jazz led me to a Various Artists collection called The Future Sounds of Jazz.  This series compiles the best electronic “future jazz” singles from 1995 – 2012 in a wonderful 21 disc set.  Nightmares on Wax became a fast-favorite of mine, and I will likely be purchasing their first two LPs – Caraboot Soul and A Word of Science.

The last new entry in my library this month was the result of my research into contemporary ambient sound.  I have approximately 830 ambient albums beginning with Erik Satie’s The Gymnopédies from 1888 and ending with Ulrich Schnauss’ A Long Way to Fall from 2013, but the majority of my ambient collection is what you would call “classic ambience.”

To get a better feel for more contemporary ambient recordings I researched a long-time favorite artist – Wolfgang Voigt.  He founded an ambient label in Cologne, Germany in 1993 and released collections of his favorite minimal and microhouse works on his label each year.  I picked up the 13 disc Pop Ambient set which began in 2001 and published their latest release last month.   It makes for a fantastic playlist, and is inspiring a number of future vinyl purchases.

So there you have it – the first 819 albums of 2013.  The year is off to a great start.  My research has yielded a list of must-have LPs which I’ve passed on to a record dealer who is traveling to Germany this week in preparation for the upcoming record show.  He promised to bring me back some great original pressings.  I’m looking forward to it!

Beefheart and More

It’s been a productive weekend for crate digging.  I started off at a local estate sale where I found a 1957 Harman Kardon PC-200 “Prelude” mono amplifier.

Harman Kardon Prelude PC-200

With the amp they let me throw in a few records, so I took home a Kraftwerk compilation called Exceller 8 and an early Hanna Barbera LP.  Exceller 8 features selections from the first four Kraftwerk albums, including the 3:09 edit of Autobahn which was popular on the radio at the time.  (The full version of Autobahn runs 22:30 as side 1 of the album of the same name.)  I already have the Autobahn and Radioactivity LPs, so this will serve as a nice intro to their earlier work.

Kraftwerk - Exceller 8

The Hanna Barbera album turned out to be among their first four records each released back in 1959 and the very first to feature the Quick Draw McGraw character.  The disc is titled Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound – TV’s Favorite Cartoon Stars.  A mint copy has a Goldmine value of $150.

Quick Draw McGraw and Huckleberry Hound LP

The next morning at the local flea market I found an excellent copy of Steve Reich’s most famous record – Music For 18 Musicians.  Sadly, I was about a dollar fifty short of the $5 price tag, so I’ll have to pick it up the next time I find a copy.

Sunday I went to the antique mall and came across a number of discs I would have liked to have purchased.  First there was a double LP from Donovan I had not seen before, and then one of the few Leon Redbone discs I don’t already have – titled No Regrets.    My $2 instead went to Captain Beefheart’s Mirror Man LP.

Captain Beefheart - Mirror Man

In the last year I’ve passed up opportunities to buy original pressings of Beefheart’s Unconditionally Guaranteed and Strictly Personal albums.  I’ve also held all three volumes (6 LPs which never occupy the same room) of the Grow Fins collection in my hands but didn’t buy them, either.  So even though I had half of Mirror Man’s tracks on the Music in Sea Minor 10″ I couldn’t say no this time.

Captain Beefheart - Music In Sea Minor
I picked this one up in New York last year with an original copy of Trout Mask Replica

For images and detailed information about the 3 volume Grow Fins set on vinyl, visit the Captain Beefheart Radar Station here.  If you piece together the set online, it should run you just under $200.00.