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

The Innerspace Labs Top 100 Albums

Recently a vinyl community I frequent held a month-long event where members shared their Top 30 LPs. I had a wonderful time coming up with my list and writing small reviews for each title. Unfortunately, I had a terrible time limiting my list to just 30, and it quickly grew to a Top 100. (And even then, I’ve cheated here and there with multi-disc box sets and discographies.)

But it all seemed too good not to share here at Innerspace so please enjoy a gallery of 100 of my favorite albums. Mouse over any thumbnail for artist and title info and click any image to expand and view the full-resolution photograph. All albums are presented alphabetically by artist.

Have I made any glaring omissions? Any indisputable electronic classics? Let me know! Perhaps we’ll have to push it to 200…

Enjoy!

Echowaves: Intergalactic Radio – Legends of Krautrock

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

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

Echowaves: Intergalactic Radio

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

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

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

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

Cosmic Jokers - Cosmic Jokers

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

DEEP DISTANCE: The Musical Life of Manuel Göttsching

Six years in the making, Author Christian Wheeldon’s magnificent account of The Musical Life of Manuel Göttsching is now available to the public.  Weeldon takes the reader on a journey through the rebirth of German music in the 1970s, the fusion of rock, minimalism and electronics, and through all of the pioneering music that followed.

Gottsching 2 sm

Wheeldon’s is the first proper book to examine the life of Manuel Göttsching, and is an absolute triumph at the task.  From the back cover:

[The book provides] previously unpublished interviews the author conducted with members of Ashra, as well as correspondence with other key personalities and selective historic sources.

But even more effective are Wheeldon’s rich and impassioned analyses of each of Göttsching recording sessions.  He provides an historic account of the socio-cultural circumstances surrounding each album’s production, and descriptions of the music which will undoubtedly inspire readers to seek out and enjoy these albums for themselves.

A few examples from the opening chapters of the book –

On Ash Ra Tempel’s self-titled record from 1971:

Ash Ra Tempel’s first track is freeform and as untamed as any open, mud-spattered festival jam ever hammered out.  A musical locomotive underpinned by the impressive, primal rumble of Hartmut Enke’s bass, there is a sense that Amboss could derail at any one of several moments as a result of its own pile driving brute force.  After a brief atonal guitar impasse the band steam back into action, finally rattling and clanging towards a furious, exhausted climax after 20 sweat-soaked minutes.

On The Cosmic Jokers’ self-titled LP from 1974:

Soothing guitar work from Manuel introduces the final part of the original first side. The waters of a gently lapping chemical ocean gradually become more turbulent and as proceedings gather pace we plummet beneath the surface into a swirling wormhole, hurtling towards some far corner of the universe at breakneck speed.  Schulze’s booming synthesizer suggests myriad multi-colour fragments of giant rock colliding in an asteroid field and a rather kitsch intergalactic voice confirms that we are now charting the far reaches of the great beyond.

I repeatedly found myself putting the book down to scribble notes for future listening.  A book exploring the incredible impact of Manuel Göttsching music is long-overdue, and thankfully Wheeldon’s guided tour of his catalog will spark a renaissance of listenership and musical discoveries for both long-time fans and for young listeners eager to develop a better understanding of the foundations of ambient and electronic sound.

The book was printed in a short run, so don’t miss your chance to claim a copy for your music library. Find out more at http://manuelgottsching.blogspot.co.uk/.

Author Christian Wheeldon with his, the first-ever
publication celebrating the music of Manuel Gottsching

An Exploration of Kosmische Musik Essentials (2 of 2)

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

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

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

Can - Tago Mago

 Can – Tago Mago (1971)

Can - Ege Bamyasi

Can – Ege Bamyasi (1972)

Can - Future Days
 Can – Future Days (1973)

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

 Popol Vuh - Hosianna Mantra 07 Seven Inch Sleeve

Popol Vuh – Hosianna Mantra (1972)

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


Manuel Gottsching - Inventions for Electric Guitar

Manuel Göttsching – Inventions for Electric Guitar (1975)

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

Manuel Gottsching - E2-E4

Manuel Göttsching – E2-E4 (1984)

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

Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht

Klaus Schulze - Irrlicht

Klaus Schulze – Irrlicht (1972)

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

Klaus Schulze - X

Klaus Schulze – X (1978)

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

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

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

Steve Hillage - Rainbow Dome Musick

Steve Hillage – Rainbow Dome Musick (1979)

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

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

Public Service Broadcasting - Inform Educate Entertain

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

Public Service Broadcasting – Inform Educate Entertain

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

Gas - Nah Und Fern

Gas – Zauberberg (1997)

Gas – Königsforst (1999)

Gas – Pop (2000)

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

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

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!

Modern BBC Docu-Rock and Ambient Space Treasures

Friends, I have some very special records in store for you, and many more in the post on their way.

Recently I was exploring related-artist lists for long-standing favorites Sundae Club and Lemon Jelly on a number of music services.  One result had quite an intriguing name, so I gave them a listen.

Public Service Broadcasting is a project of J. Willgoose and Wrigglesworth from London.  The association with Jellyheads and fans of Sundae Club is instantly apparent – their music is electronic, but with a uniquely organic (and perhaps an emotive) element that separates it from the countless electro-pop artists of the day.

PSB uses samples from old public information films, archive footage and propaganda material, which fits well in a playlist of Found Sound Orchestra and Future Loop Foundation recordings.

The result, when paired with their minimalist geometric album packaging, is a krautrock-flavored mechanical sort of BBC documentary music, if you can imagine such a thing.

I enjoyed their INFORM • EDUCATE • ENTERTAIN LP, but was most impressed by THE WAR ROOM EP.  Just one look at the album jacket and anyone who follows my blog with any frequency will instantly understand why I just had to acquire this glorious disc.

 

Here is your new desktop wallpaper.  You're welcome.

Here is your new desktop wallpaper. You’re welcome.

See if you can detect traces of the metronomic percussion of Neu!’s “Hallo Gallo” in PSB’s music, or a touch of Kraftwerk inspiration in the packaging of INFORM • EDUCATE • ENTERTAIN.

Public Service Broadcasting - Inform-Educate-Entertain

On to other treasures, I had perused the Record Store Day list for April 2014 but no items particularly grabbed me so I sat the holiday out and saved my cash for the seasonal record show that followed.

In the days after the holiday, I stumbled upon a redditor who ran an independent record store in the States offering limited edition RSD items at store-price to those who couldn’t make it that day.  He listed an album that had entirely escaped my radar – a condensed and remastered 50-minute distillation of the epic 24-hour “7 Skies H3” by Flaming Lips.

Available exclusively for RSD, this was most fans’ only opportunity to own a piece of the notorious track, of which 13 copies were produced and sold on a hard drive encapsulated in a real human skull.

Flaming Lips - 24hrskull - 7 Skies H3
The offer was extended to fellow redditors at 11am on the morning of Easter Sunday, and I didn’t hesitate for a single second.  To make the situation even more exciting, I discovered that I had just sold a record I had received for free for the exact price of the Flaming Lips album, which chalks up to getting it for free!

Flaming Lips 7 Skies H3 and KLF MINUS SIX

I should caution fans who acquire this record, however – The album ships with a download code from Warner Music, but the file is not what it appears to be.  There are no options for MP3 quality (or for a FLAC download) – the album automatically downloads a set of files marked as 256 CBR.  I was a tad suspicious of Warner Music so I tested the file and it appears to be only a paltry 128kbps MP3.

If anyone can verify this I would love to hear from you, but I was extremely disappointed that this rare recording was essentially presented in the sonic equivalent of a Napster file from 1999.

"I'm telling you... realplayer is going to be HUGE."

“I’m telling you… RealPlayer is going to be HUGE.”

Regardless, best to focus on the positive – like that mysterious KLF item from the Lips’ photo above!

I cannot express the level of my excitement in finally hearing this special recording.  You may well recall my featuring of Disc 6 and of The KLF Remix Project Part III in earlier entries.

This new disc was to be the ninth in the series of unofficial reworkings of the KLF’s catalog – masterfully engineered and easily one of the finest ambient recordings of the year. Sadly, due to issues beyond the producer’s control, the disc will not be released to the public.

The disc contains a 2014 72-minute epic rework of the original Space LP created 24 years ago, originally as a collaboration between Dr. Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty – the original line-up of The Orb.

For those who aren’t familiar with the outstanding KLF: Recovered & Remastered unofficial releases from my past entries, let me bring you up to speed.

1987. British acid house. Drummond. Cauty. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu. The Timelords. The JAMs. One World Orchestra. 2K. The Stadium House Trilogy. Doctorin’ the Tardis. Anarchism.   The White Room. The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Top of the Pops. America: What Time is Love? The Manual. A lost road movie. The K Foundation. Extreme Noise Terror. Why Sheep? Waiting. The Rites of Mu. Chill Out. The birth of Ambient House. Burning a million quid on the Isle of Jura. Abandon all art now. And Space.

There. That about sums it up.

20 years into the silence that followed the K Foundation’s exit from celebrity a man surfaced who set himself to the task of recovering and remastering the KLF’s catalog to fill the void left in Cauty and Drummond’s absence.

The first six releases, catalog #KLF 001 RE – KLF 006 RE were brilliant, and the sixth release, Live From The Lost Continent 2012 presented listeners with a 77-minute stadium-packed concert that never was.

Following this triumph, two more released emerged – KLF MINUS-ONE and KLF MINUS-FOUR, each better than the EP before.

But our hero had one last stupendous project up his sleeve. And in April of 2014, it was complete.

A message from its creator revealed that MINUS-SIX was to be:

“…a 72 minute remodel of the classic SPACE release, sounding like a cross between ‘Silence’ (from Pete Namlook’s legendary Fax +49-69/450464 label), SPACE, and classic ambient drone releases. It’s almost like Trainspotting for KLF fans.”

The original Space LP (1990)

The original Space LP (1990)

The final piece is a monumental achievement – a new Music for Airports, or perhaps a new Selected Ambient Works Vol II.  It effectively unites sparse white-noise drones with all of the familiar elements of the original Space record which made it so memorable.  It is brilliantly subtle, while simultaneously making the sounds of simulated space flight an exciting and dramatic experience.

Then came the crushing news – the MINUS SIX project had suddenly been halted, and there were to be no more releases in the series.

I make no exaggeration when I state that, with this loss, the ambient music audience is experiencing its own Nick Drake, or more accurately – its own SugarMan.

searching-for-sugar-man-poster

At least this dude got his own movie.

Worse yet – because Rodriguez had a nation celebrating his work for generations an ocean away from his quiet daily life, and at least Nick Drake experienced posthumous success – becoming a household name in the years which followed his untimely demise.

But production of MINUS-6 has been cancelled. Quite sadly, the millennium’s ambient and drone audience and the millions of listeners who grew up with the KLF may never hear this record.

Its legend is shroud in mystery. Will KLF fans ever know the engineer’s name?  Why the sudden cease just before unveiling his holy grail?

But perhaps it is the legend and the mystery that adds a touch of vitality to the series.

And I still have hope. The K Foundation announced a 23-year moratorium on all projects beginning November 1995. Perhaps, in honor of the 2018 reformation of the KLF, our mysterious friend will emerge.

My sincerest hope is that the man behind these nine fantastic EPs one day receives the recognition (and listenership) that he deserves.

If you’re out there – Bring the beat back.

The+KLF

 

The Summer Search for Rare Wax

While re-visiting some of my classics from artists like múm and Mark Kozelek, I found myself really enjoying The Album Leaf’s In a Safe Place.  It’s a wintery, sparse record that merits repeated listening.

A quick bit of research revealed that Jimmy LaValle (the lone member of The Album Leaf) had collaborated with Jón Þór Birgisson, Kjartan Sveinsson, and Orri Páll Dýrason (most of the members of Sigur Rós) and Gyða Valtýsdóttir (formally of múm) at Sigur Rós’ Sundlaugin studio for the album.

It’s no wonder the record is so enjoyable.

And what was even more surprising was that one year later, in 2005, LaValle mixed his next record with the help of Jón Þór Birgisson and Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv.

With the hands of so many great artists in this music, and the sounds of a Rhodes piano and a Moog synthesizer in the mix, The Album Leaf has a sound which is just as enjoyable a decade later, and will continue to provide listening pleasure in the decades to come.

If you’ve been following this blog since June of this year you’re quite aware of my love of Black Swan, (drone for bleeding hearts.)

Black Swan continues to operate shrouded in mystery.  I’ve recently acquired 2012’s Aeterna and Heaven as well as 2013’s Redemption (swan plague).  Each is darker and more minimal than the disc which preceded it, and every title is magnificent.  Like all Black Swan releases, this is music for your best headphones.  Sadly these three titles have not yet seen a vinyl release.  I would contact the label, Ethereal Symphony but there is just as little information about the label as there is about the artist.  Clearly these are self-releases, as the titles are only available on CD-R or FLAC and the only (8) releases on the label are those of Black Swan, so the mystery continues.

Here is the opening track from Aeterna – “A Lesson in Slow Flight.”

My hunt continues for a copy of Popol Vuh’s Hosianna Mantra (featured in August 20th’s This Week’s Listening – Early Krautrock, Proto Ambient, and Musique Concrete)

Sales of the original German pressing from 1972 (Pilz 20 29143-1) average around $72.  There is currently a NM gatefold copy for sale, (in the USA, no less!) but it is marked at $120 and I’m saving my vinyl cash for something else at the moment.

Pilz ‎– 20 29143-1 1972
But what was truly staggering was the revised album art which appeared on the Celestial Harmonies (CEL 004) US pressing in 1981.

Gone was the ornamental, silver foil spiritual cover – and in its place was a hyper-minimal, post-modern painting of a circle, (or a sun, perhaps?)

Celestial Harmonies ‎– CEL 004 1981
Fortunately, the German Think Progressive label restored the original art for their 1998 reissue of this lovely recording.  (TPLP 1.803.023)  The TP issue can be picked up for around $45.

Here again is Hosianna Mantra.

But pricier records aside, I joined a few fantastic friends for a day of gallivanting at my local Antique World, where my favorite record dealer gave me a wonderful West German early ambient/drone record by Peter Michael Hamel.

Hamel was altogether new to me but I quickly learned that he is a veteran minimalist associated with the late-1970s New Simplicity movement.

The album is titled, “Bardo” – a Tibetan word meaning “intermediate state” or “in-between state,” a term which aptly describes the cycling organ tones throughout the two side-long recordings of the record.

R-230287-1177961913

This elegantly minimal album is lush with the warm sounds of the pipe organ, electric organ and analog synthesizers, performed by Hamel and Ulrich Kraus.

It’s always exciting when your record dealer knows you well enough to provide you with something wonderful that you’ve never heard. A delightful addition to my library – especially for only $8!

The opening track, “Dorian Dervishes” runs 21:47.  Here is the opening 6 minutes.

I will close this post with two absolutely essential early-electronic gems, both from Germany.

The first is Cluster’s self-titled debut release from 1971. Roedelius, Moebius and Plank produced a proto-ambient milestone which should be required listening of anyone interested in the history of electronic sound.

R-262961-1363962650-6521
Time practically stands still when you tune in to this beatless masterpiece.  The three untitled tracks run just over 44 minutes but when the record ends the listener may feel disoriented and unsure whether minutes or hours have passed.

Have a listen to the closing track.

The other LP I’m after is Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4.  Recorded at the height of synth pop, this experimental record was a pioneering electronic album which pre-dated the house/techno-era that would follow.

R-303333-1290356604
And 31:13 into the single-track album of relentless, unyielding loops and minimal percussion, Göttsching begins noodling jazzy guitar riffs over the rhythmic loops, taking the listener’s trance to an even deeper level.

The album’s title is the most common opening move in a game of chess.

Enjoy!

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.

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!