The Merits of Nostalgia and a Cozy Placebo Effect

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

My first McIntosh - a MAC 4280.  RIP 2013.

My first McIntosh – a MAC 4280.

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

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

The Next Generation: My McIntosh C39

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

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

Next up? Parasound Halo P3

Next up – Perhaps the Parasound Halo P3

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

Not kidding.  This... with mirrored panels.

Not kidding. This… with mirrored panels.

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

The Nostalgia Corner

The Nostalgia Corner

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

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

Eno & Hyde Postcards from their first two LPs

Eno & Hyde Postcards from their first two LPs

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

 

Treasures From Vinyl’s Dark Days – 1997-2005

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

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

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

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

Released in 1998, the album suffered an unfortunate fate.

From Wikipedia:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

From their site:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘The Dead Flag Blues’ (16:27)

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

‘East Hastings’ (17:58)

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

While the LP lists the tracks as:

Side 1: Nervous, Sad, Poor…

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

Side 2: Bleak, Uncertain, Beautiful…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Finest Examples of Where Music Meets Design (2 of 3)

Coming in second place for my all time favorite album designs is Lost Horizons, also by Lemon Jelly.  (Don’t worry – I promise I’ve saved the #1 slot for another wonderful duo.)

Upon hearing a track from this album playing in an indie record shop back in 2002, I promptly purchased both of their CDs.  Over the next ten years I’d pick up 90 of their live shows, 7″ singles, and now finally the two albums that got me started, on vinyl (at last!)

The triple gatefold artwork was originally available as a beautiful 50″ print suitable for framing.  I hope to one day have it on my wall.

For a taste of their style both musically and graphically check out Airside’s video for the song I heard in the shop – “Nice Weather For Ducks.”

Click here to view my photos of the album’s glorious packaging.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Finest Examples of Where Music Meets Design (1 of 3)

I wanted to present three albums which not only have outstanding music but also feature exceptional design concepts in their packaging.

Coming in third in my all time favorite album designs is Lemonjelly.ky.

I’ve been after this record for years and today it’s finally mine!

After the release of Lemon Jelly’s first three EPs, Lemonjelly.ky debuted in 2000 as their first proper album.   A declarative sticker on the cover proclaimed, ” if you already own these EPs there is NO REASON for you to buy this product.”

Reviewers often compare their blissful electronic sound to the likes of Zero 7, Boards of Canada and Mr. Scruff, but what separates Lemon Jelly from other groups is their creative edge and the fact that you just can’t stay in a bad mood when listening to them.

The packaging for every one of their albums and singles were designed by Fred Deakin (half of Lemon Jelly) and his award-winning design company, Airside.  Their colorful style is instantly recognizable wherever it appears, from print ads to music videos.

Below are a few tracks from the album.

Click here to view my photos of the album’s glorious packaging.

Published in: on February 24, 2012 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Mysterious Frank Eddie

Just after Christmas two more rare vinyl treasures arrived at my doorstep.

Fred Deakin, (half of the beloved former band Lemon Jelly) has been quietly releasing remixes under the name Frank Eddie on his Impotent Fury (XL Recordings) label.  I imagine it’s again due to uncleared sampling, as was the case with Soft Rock and Rolled Oats – neither of which had any artist information anywhere on the sleeve or label.

There are 6 forecast singles, and each is limited to just 500 copies worldwide.  In the fine tradition of all things Jelly, these singles have die cut hand screen printed packaging, just what we would expect from the boys at Airside.

I ordered two of the first releases after seeing the incredible videos the Airside graphics team put together to promote the A-side tracks.

The debut “Frank Eddie” track is called “Let Me Be The One You Call On” and is a reworking of the song “Fix” by Blackstreet from 1996.  Samples from both the original mix and the remix which featured Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Slash are detectable throughout this new version, with the lead vocal pitch shifted to sound female.

Frank Eddie - Let Me Be The One You Call OnFrank Eddie – “Let Me Be The One You Call On”

Check out the AWESOME video below (and let it build.)

The video for the other single, “Stay Another Day” was offered as a farewell from Airside, as they announced they will be closing their doors this March.  The video features highlights from many of their favorite design projects.  And no one can turn a cheesy brit pop tune into a Balearic anthem the way Fred Deakin can.  (Well, Marsha Gee’s “Peanut Duck” comes close…)

Frank Eddie - "Stay Another Day"Frank Eddie – “Stay Another Day”

Here’s Fred’s glorious goodbye.

As my quest for great vinyl never ends, I’ve just put an order in for two VERY special LPs, one of which I never thought I’d own in my lifetime.  Stay tuned for some incredible music and unparalleled album packaging!

Poets, Collage Music and Masters of Downtempo

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

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

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

Lyric:

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

(This ain’t The Giving Tree.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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