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!

Die Welt ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook (Revisited)

Recently I revisited a lossless archive I’d picked up of the 8CD box set, Die Welt ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook. (Readers may recall my introducing the set when I discovered it in January of 2015). The re-visitation was an effort to remedy my terrible neglect of the many large collections I’d acquired but never given the proper, dedicated listen that they each deserved.  

As I surveyed the list of artists who’d contributed to the project, It quickly became evident that I had done a particular disservice both to the collection and to my own ears for having passed over something so significant.

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Die Welt ist Klang is a tribute to Peter Kuhlmann, aka Pete Namlook. Namlook was a prominent ambient and electronic-music producer and composer, and the founder of the German record label FAX +49-69/450464. During the span of his career, Namlook and his label release 135 wonderful albums. Namlook also famously collaborated with Klaus Schulze for the monumental 11-volume series, The Dark Side of the Moog.

After Namlook’s passing in 2012, artists from his label and his fans banded together to produce a tribute album in his memory. This included artists like Bill Laswell, Dr. Atmo (of Silence), and F.U.S.E. (an alias of Richie Hawtin), as well as ambient veterans like Spacetime Continuum, Higher Intelligence Agency, Biosphere, and Oliver Lieb.

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Die Welt ist Klang is the result of their efforts.  The set comprises four discs of 47 tracks contributed by FAX +49-69/450464 alumni, and four additional CDs of 44 tracks from their fans.  About half of the tracks were never before released and several were composed specifically for the set.  Die Welt ist Klang is handsomely packaged in a custom wooden box and includes a 24-page booklet.  

The set was released by Carpe Sonum Records and distributed by EAR/Rational Music. EAR/Rational was the official North American distributor for the FAX label and Carpe Sonum was created to keep the ambient spirit alive, beginning with this wonderful tribute collection.

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From their official website:

Carpe Sonum’s goal in the coming years is to make the CD (and hopefully vinyl) a cherished and valuable commodity for you in this digital age and have the way we handle music dubbed “the Carpe Sonum treatment”. In everything we do, in every detail, we think about Pete and if he would be proud of what we do as well.

There have been three runs of the tribute set produced to date.  There was an initial run of 500 copies sold via bandcamp.com followed by two smaller runs of 100 copies each. Proceeds from the sale of the release go to Namlook’s family.

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I wasted not another moment’s hesitation and secured one of the remaining copies from the label for my own. Some might call it an irrational purchase, as I don’t even own a device with which to play these CDs.  But sometimes music is more than the physical object. This collection is an objet d’art – a symbol of the celebration of a lifetime of music – and a collaborative triumph between artists and their fans.  It’s precisely the sort of album I want in my library.

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As of the writing of this article, EAR/Rational Music is offering the unsold copies from the third run for auction on eBay.  It is a wonderful piece of ambient history and a fitting tribute to a man who did so much for the genre.  I’m proud to have added it to my collection.

RIP, Peter Kuhlmann 25.11.1960 – 08.11.2012

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NOTE: All of the images above are official photos from the Pete Namlook Tribute Bandcamp page.  Support great music and order your own copy of this box set while they’re still available!

Holy Smoke: Explorations in Dub

Playlist of the evening – settling down with Holy Smoke: Explorations in Dub.

This was a smaller introductory list I built earlier on in my research. Focusing on just 60 key artists, the list explores standards of the genre like The K&D Sessions, Laswell’s dub contributions to the FAX label, and works by Jah Wobble.

I’ve several days of work ahead for my music library; this will provide a nice sound to groove to into the night.

Holy Smoke

Published in: on September 5, 2015 at 9:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slow Music for Fast Times

This morning saw the conclusion of our latest archival project.  The world’s longest-running ambient radio program, Hearts of Space began broadcasting slow music for fast times back in 1973.  The original program was a 3-hour set, shortened to its present 1-hour format when the show began public radio syndication in 1983.

Hearts of Space

Since syndication Heats of Space has aired 1080 hour-long episodes showcasing quality ambient music each week for over 30 years.  Innerspace has successfully compiled a complete archive of the show’s broadcasts and will continue to add new episodes as they are aired.

We’ve made sure to uniformly name and tag each program and to include the original broadcast date and a companion track listing with the metadata for each episode.

Beginning next week I’ll be moving into a larger office and wanted to create a downtempo chill-out library as a relaxing ambient soundscape for my work day.  The Hearts of Space broadcasts will be added to a rotation along with other complete label archives, such as:

– the six phases from the late Pete Namlook’s ambient FAX +49-69/450464 label

Fax-tribute-poster-web

– the intelligent d’n’b sounds of LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records and its companion projects

LTJ Bukem

– the first ~150 records on the Ninja Tune label for some jazzy, downtempo electronic music

Ninja Tune Beats & Pieces

– a wonderful 330-hour audio archive of psybient albums from Simon Posford and other prominent figures of the scene

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– and an additional 72-hour collection of quality psybient mixes by Spacemind

Spacemind - Light Reactions (Remastered Edition)

The majority of these selections are not offered by any of the major streaming networks or from current commercial markets, but Innerspace Labs has got it covered.

And you can check out Spacemind’s mixes on Youtube.  Here’s Light Reactions (Remastered)

Arctic Ambient (or) Ambient House at 30,000 Ft

I’ve really been enjoying my copies of Gas’ Nah Und Fern vinyl set and the deluxe edition 9LP set of William Basinki’s epic Disintegration Loops. It seemed long-overdue that I retrace my musical steps to the summer of 2009 when I’d first crossed paths with a fellow music-lover and ambient guru who introduced me to Gas in the first place.

Gas - Nah Und Fern

He’d mentioned several similar artists which I briefly sampled but never fully-explored.  There’s no better time than the present to remedy that mistake.

This friend had a particular affinity for Nordic-based “arctic-ambient” music – frigid soundscapes of isolation and desolation. Still these recordings had a cerebral and meditative quality that really draws the listener in and that’s something I really need in my life at present.

So I began my re-visiting of 2009 with an artist whose name happened to surface in one of my online vinyl communities. (Call it a sign if you’d like.) Biosphere is Geir Jenssen – a Norwegian musician specializing in ambient electronic music. It was while researching him that I first-encountered the term, “arctic-ambient” and I just had to hear more. In 2001 users of the online rave community, Hyperreal voted his Substrata LP as the best all-time classic ambient album. It was this very album which surfaced in the vinyl community and inspired my rediscovery of the genre, and I was truly impressed by the transportive quality of the record.

Another artist I recalled as having worked with Biosphere was HIA. Higher Intelligence Agency is the music project of Bobby Bird of Birmingham, UK. I was instantly excited to learn that he had released two ambient glitch albums on Pete Namlook’s brilliant FAX +49-69/450464 label of which I make frequent mention.

HIA collaborated with Biosphere on two live recordings, namely the frigid Polar Sequences in 1996…

…and the more temperate Birmingham Frequencies in 1999.

These are wonderfully expansive, atmospheric recordings and make for excellent headphone listening.

But stripping things down to the very shell of ambient music I found the next half-forgotten memory of the summer long-passed.  Deathprod is Norwegian artist Helge Sten. (I envision Norway as being absolutely overrun with ambient laptop musicians.) If you only buy one Deathprod album, get the self-titled Deathprod box set. (Not cheating – box sets are okay in my book.) The 4-disc set comprises Morals and Dogma, Treetop Drive (a long-deleted album from 1994), Imaginary Songs From Tristan Da Cunha from 1996, and “Reference Frequencies” (a disc of previously unreleased, rare and deleted tracks). Better-still, Deathprod Collaborated with Biosphere in 1998 on the album, Nordheim Transformed.

Christian Fennesz (performing simply as “Fennesz”) of Vienna, Austria has produced a number of albums in the same stark, ambient-electronic vein. Highlights include his 2004 album Venice,

Endless Summer from 2001

and Black Sea released in 2008.

I also enjoyed his collaborations with ambient veteran, Ryuichi Sakamoto – Cendre (2007)

…and Flumina (2011).

Fennesz creates white-noise washes of modified guitar loops very much in the spirit of the Frippertronic tape works of Fripp and Eno and Sakamoto adds a refined touch of modern-classical solo piano.

Deaf Center is the last major piece of this dark ambient puzzle.  Norway’s Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland produce epic and theatrical minimal soundscapes.  To steal a beautifully-concise description from RYM user, Son_of_Northern_Darkness – Deaf Center is, “a nice soundtrack to the construction of your own snow-coffin.”

Neon City was an impressive first-outing for the duo, but their first full-length LP released the following year, Pale Ravine stands as their most cohesive work thus far.

Neon City

and the haunting, Pale Ravine

To close with something a bit more lively, Sweden’s own Carbon Based Lifeforms leans more in the direction of psybient music, with their heavy usage of melodic loops, echoes, and steady rhythms. This is ambient music with a vibrant pulse. Check out World of Sleepers

So thank you, my old friend for sharing such wonderful music with me.  I’m sorry it’s taken me all these years to really explore it, but better late than never!

Die Welt ist Klang: A Tribute to Pete Namlook (Carpe Sonum)

Just when I’ve sworn off my compulsion for collecting albums, something beautiful turns up that and makes me reconsider.  I’d promised myself that I’d exercise greater selectivity in my album purchasing – opting only for the crème de la crème for my library.  Today’s featured box set is exactly the kind of album I’m talking about.

After the untimely passing of Pete Namlook in 2012, Carpe Sonum Records was formed by EAR/Rational Music, (the North American distributor of FAX and related labels) and issued a handsome limited edition 8-disc box set celebrating his music.  The first four discs explore the 20-year history of Namlook’s legendary FAX +49-69/450464 record label.  The label featured ambient electronic artists, many of whom collaborated with Namlook on their FAX releases.

The remaining four discs feature exclusive recordings submitted by fans of the label.  Released in two limited runs in 2013, the box set has since sold out.  However I am pleased to announce that Carpe Sonum is now accepting donations and pre-orders for a reissue of the set AND are considering a 10LP edition!  All sales proceeds will go to Namlook’s family.

You can subscribe to their mailing list for updates, contribute your own tracks to the project, or simply offer a financial contribution to help make the release happen.  Visit Carpe Sonum for more information!

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Space Music (Literally)

If you had to sum up what Earth is like, what would you say?

“Sounds of the Earth” – The Voyager Golden Record was Earth’s message to the stars in 1977.  It recently exited our solar system in September of 2013 with the Voyager I space probe, and carries greetings in 55 languages, and sounds ranging from a child’s laughter, to whales singing, to a Brandenburg Concerto and Blind Willie Johnson playing the blues.

Voyager Golden Record

Sadly, only two copies were pressed, and each affixed to the Voyager I and II.  In fact, the copyright owners for the images and music on the actual record signed agreements which only permitted the replay of their works outside of the solar system.

Fortunately for we Earthlings, CD copies of the images and recordings of the Voyager Golden Record were included with Murmurs of Earth – a deluxe hardcover book detailing the contents of the historic LP.  Warner New Media would eventually release a CD-ROM version of the album in 1992.  And thankfully, each of these releases surface with some regularity on Amazon and eBay.

Murmurs of Earth Hardcover
Here is the complete LP:

But to take space music one step further – in 1993, Brain/Mind Research and LaserLight Digital ‎released a 5-disc set titled, Symphonies of the Planets.  These recordings were based on electromagnetic data of the outer Solar System, as recorded by instruments on board the Voyager I and II.

Symphonies of the Planets

The result is over two and a half hours of low-end drone frequencies.  Wonderful study-music and a great way to make your listening room feel ten times its actual size.

Disc One of Five:

And what entry on the subject of Space Music would be complete without the soundtrack to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage?

The Music of Cosmos
The Music of Cosmos (1981 LP)

This will forever be the sound I associate with space, and I’m sure the same goes for the millions of others who grew up watching Sagan’s Personal Voyage.  More than any Tangerine Dream album, more than  Tomita’s reimagining of  Debussy’s work on the Snowflakes Are Dancing LP, and more than any Fax/Namlook/Schulze record… the Cosmos soundtrack is an album for the ages.

But on to the present day, the space music that everyone is talking about today is Alan Silverstri’s score to the new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey.

Cosmos: A Space Time Odyssey
Here is a track from Vol 1 of 4, now available on iTunes.  Silverstri is known for his work conducting and composing film scores, such as the memorable soundtracks for the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump,  but perhaps most importantly it was his score to Carl Sagan’s Contact film from 1997 that made him the ideal composer for this, the latest project made in Carl Sagan’s memory.

We’re crossing our fingers for a 4LP box set when the series completes.

An Evening of Ambient Trance Classics

I had a quiet evening to myself, and I took advantage of the free time and finally sat down to explore Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook’s Dark Side of the Moog 12-disc series.

Each of the track titles play off of classics from Pink Floyd’s catalog, such as “Wish You Were There,” “A Saucerful of Ambience,” “Obscured by Klaus,” and “Careful with the AKS, Peter.”

From Dark Side of the Moog I moved on to Pete Namlook’s solo efforts and quickly discovered that he had founded a record label, Germany’s Fax +49-69/450464 (and yes, that is his fax number.) Nearly 450 releases premiered on the label from 1992 until his death in November of 2012, and additional research revealed that Namlook, himself was performing with the ~40 artists and under various monikers which comprised the label’s catalog. FAX earned a reputation for ahead-of-the-curve, timeless electronic ambient music, which still sounds fresh today unlike many of the 90s fad electronic artists who came and went over the decade.

Unfortunately, Namlook released only 500–1000 copies of the majority of the titles on his label.  Then I found a 17 LP retrospective of FAX’s finest work called the Final Vinyl Collector’s Box Set. Sadly, there were only 25 copies produced worldwide.  The set was meant to be officially released, but at that time Fax changed to a non-vinyl distributor and so the boxsets have never been officially released. However, Pete Namlook confirmed that this is an original Fax release. The last copy to surface sold for $550 in 2010.


While scouring the web for more information, I cued up what I had of Namlook in my library, beginning with his 4CD set performing as “Air” from 1993-1996, which was released as a box set in ’97, and then on to 2003’s Ten Years of Silence – a 5CD set of his tribal ambient work as Silence.

Most of my experience with 90s electronic music had been limited to the major downtempo releases from the decade, and the Air Collection inspired me to look deeper into the psychedelic ambient genre.

I quickly found two noteworthy compilations on Namlook’s label titled The Ambient Cookbook volumes I and II.

The first was a 4-disc box set from 1995 which highlighted various artists from the FAX archive.  The second volume, released in 2002, introduced four more discs demonstrating how the ambient genre had evolved over the decade.

If you’re exploring Fax +49-69/450464 Records for the first time, these collections are an excellent place to begin.

Moving onward, ambient trance music led me to psytrance, which I then narrowed further to the psybient subgenre. This was the 90s incarnation of slowbeat space music, described by a RYM user as “Gas on uppers.”

I entered the term “psybient” into youtube and several 1 – 10 hour playlist results populated.  The first track I heard was Russian artist, Cell’s “Audio Deepest Night.”

I loved the minimal beats and sparse, echoey vocal samples. Looking up the artist, I found that the track appeared on disc 4 of a 7-volume series called The Fahrenheit Project on Ultimae Records, released between 2001 and 2011.  The series featured various Russian and French deep techno artists and was released simultaneously in both countries.

I am working my way through the series and enjoy everything I’ve heard thus far.

So ended a productive night of exploration.  The 36 discs described above will keep me busy for the rest of the weekend.  I welcome any recommendations for further listening that you may have to offer.

Additionally, two more rare LPs arrived in the post this week.  Stay tuned for details.

The Sound of a Barking Dog on a Loop

I took a few days off this week and dove deep into a pool of ambient exploration.

The ambient kick was jump-started by my discovery of several William Basinski releases I found which were missing from my collection.  After tracking down copies of these albums and split seven inch records, I now have the following in my library: (please let me know if I’m missing anything)

1998 & 2007 – Shortwavemusic
2001 – Watermusic I
2002 – The Disintegration Loops I
2002 – The River
2003 – The Disintegration Loops II
2003 – The Disintegration Loops III
2003 – Untitled 7inch [w Andreas Martin & Christoph Heemann]
2003 – Watermusic II
2004 – Silent Night
2004 – The Disintegration Loops IV
2004 – Variations – A Movement In Chrome Primitive (Die Stadt)
2005 – Melancholia
2005 – The Garden of Brokenness
2006 – Variations For Piano and Tape
2007 – El Camino Real
2008 – The River (Alternative Mix)
2008 – The River [Alternative Mix]
2008 – Untitled 1-3 [with Richard Chartier]
2009 – 92982
2010 – Vivian and Ondine
2011 – A Red Score In Tile

There is also a new album pending release, titled Hymns of Oblivion.  You can preview a full track on the label’s website, but I implore you – do not look it up.  Basinski has changed his sound significantly and sometimes… change isn’t a good thing.  I’ll sum up his new project in a few short words which should effectively dissuade you from pursuing it any further.  Dreadlocks.  Leather pants.  Shirtless.  And High-Pitched Wailing.  He had a solid 10 year run, and we’ll leave it at that.

William Basinski - Hymns of Oblivion
Fortunately a newer artist was there to pick up the torch with some impressive drone work I discovered from an ambient blogger.  Black Swan has recorded two full length LPs to date.  Black Swan (in 8 Movements) in 2010 and The Quiet Divide in April of 2011.

Black Swan (in 8 Movements)

Black Swan - The Quiet Divide
Both were released by Experimedia and make for a most satisfying listen.  A word of caution, however – this is not blissful easy-listening ambience.  Black Swan is dark and melancholy, but hauntingly beautiful.

Another collection I’d been meaning to acquire for a few years now is the Dark Side of the Moog series.  Pete Namlook, Klaus Schulze (and Bill Laswell on select albums) collaborated to produce 10 albums between 1994 and 2005, each with a title playing off the recordings of Pink Floyd.

After securing the 10 album set, along with The Evolution of The Dark Side of The Moog (a “best-of” disc) I discovered that in 2008 Namlook released an 11th volume of the series.  It is available in both stereo and 5.1 surround formats.  I picked it up immediately.

Pete Namlook & Klaus Schulze
I also watched three of the KLF’s films – Waiting, The Rites of Mu and The Stadium House Trilogy.  I’ve watched The White Room before and will get to Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid in the coming weeks.

Waiting was a 42 minute ambient recording venture on the Isle of Jura.  It was filmed in 1990 and was available via mail order from the K Foundation.  Elements of Chill Out and their other recordings are clearly audible all throughout the film.  A ltd. ed. soundtrack was available (mis-labeled as Waiting For The “Rights” of Mu) which features the audio from both films.  After watching the movie I dug through my KLF archive and was surprised to find I already had a copy.

If you dig minimal ambient electronic music you should definitely pick up a copy of this last album.  The minimal cover art intrigued me so I queued it up and instantly fell in love.  The LP is available from Discogs for under $15 so I’ll have it soon enough.  Listen to Pantha du Prince’s album, This Bliss.