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

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

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

Original concept illustration for the set:

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Audio Tracklisting:

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

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

Concept illustration for the box set extras:

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From the official Kickstarter page:

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

Concept illustrations for the tip-on jackets:

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

Exploded concept graphic of the vinyl edition:

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

Concept illustrations for the companion book:

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

Concept image of the lithograph:

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

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

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

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

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Here is the final version of the slipmat.

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

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

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

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From OzmaRecords.com:

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

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

 

Published in: on September 9, 2017 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Avant-Pop… and Space Ghost

I took a trip out to my city’s antique mall this afternoon for the first time this year. When I arrived I was surprised to find two They Might Be Giants singles featuring exclusive tracks which were only otherwise available on the 1997 oddities compilation, THEN: The Earlier Years. (The set is fantastic – an absolute essential tour of the duo’s earliest recordings.)

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But the greatest value of my trip was, as always, my conversation with my favorite vendor, Bob the Record Guy. He always knows what titles to pull for me. I chatted him up for his knowledge about the music scene between 1976 and 1984, particularly the better parts of new wave, essentials of no wave, post-punk, avant/art-pop, and gothic/ethereal wave classics. He was happy to make a number of recommendations and sent me home with a few albums to get me started.

I confess that many of the artists and albums listeners take it as read that I would know are entirely new to me at present. Born in ’81, I was a touch too young for it all the first go-round and by the time I hit the age of history-combing musical discovery in college, the all-consuming craze was experimental electronic, ambient, and post-rock music. So while I’m well-versed in late-60s/early-70s synth music and 90s indie pop, my knowledge of that seminally developmental decade in between is limited to my memories of MTV flashback syndication and of dollar bin comp cassettes of 80s radio pop. (And damn it, I’m sick and tired of “Always Something There to Remind Me.“)

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Terrible cassette I purchased at a Lechmere department store in 1992.
From what Bob had immediately available, he sent me home with Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s 1984 LP, Junk Culture, (with a startlingly-clearly labeled one-sided 7″ single). While the band’s first four LPs showcase OMD at the best, I was happy to pick up anything for starters.

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But it was the next record I was given which became my favorite discovery of the day. While discussing no wave and other manic, atonal music of the 80s, Bob pulled out a copy of Lounge Lizards’ Big Heart – Live in Tokyo (1986). He explained that, while the album is certainly a far cry from the aggressive dissonance of albums like No New York, that it might serve as a fitting introduction to 80s exercises in what Ornette Coleman termed, harmolodics.

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For those unfamiliar, wiki says, “Harmolodics may loosely be defined as an expression of music in which harmony, movement of sound, and melody all share the same value…” resulting in music which “…achieves an immediately open expression, without being constrained by tonal limitations, rhythmic pre-determination, or harmonic rules.” While I am well-acquainted with standards of free/avant-garde jazz, (I have many of the essentials in my record library), what I didn’t realize was how this philosophy had been embraced by Sonny Sharrock and utilized in his composition of the theme to Adult Swim’s Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Bob brought up the track as an example of harmolodics and spun several tracks from Big Heart which sounded quite similar to the theme. While the first two selections from Big Heart fall a bit flat, those patient enough to go deeper into the record will find that it is arguably the best effort of their catalog.

Home from our outing, I’m surveying my finds of the day and looking forward to more discoveries of albums I should have listened to ages ago. Bob also recommended that I explore the cassette-only label, ROIR (Reachout International Records) founded in 1981 for more great music. Thanks, Bob!

Introductory Nomenclature

Just arrived from Ann Arbor’s Ghostly International label – the sky blue limited edition reissue of Telefon Tel Aviv’s majestic debut, Fahrenheit Fair Enough. Fahrenheit was originally issued by Chicago’s Hefty Records, and fit smashingly alongside their other downtempo and IDM recordings.

Ghostly International is home to Tycho, Gold Panda, Com Truise, and other crafters of what Sundae Club playfully dubbed “Technostalgic Tunes”. And Fahrenheit is no exception. Here, Telefon Tel Aviv expertly weaves together sparse melodic fragments and the occasional jazzy licks with intricately complex abstract glitch patterns. What results is a marriage of the warm, nostalgic instrumentation one would expect from a band like Boards of Canada seamlessly fused with the atonal mechanical rhythmic constructions of Richard D. James. It is a wonderfully satisfying record which warrants repeated listenings both active and subliminal.

This limited edition release also includes a digital download which features additional Archive ’99 material capturing more of the best sounds the artist has to offer.

A review from the BBC called the album, “Gorgeous, yet completely devoid of cliché… a quiet, unpretentious beauty of a record.” Fahrenheit Fair Enough is certainly some of the finest downtempo IDM music released this year.

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On the Merits and Caveats of Audio Formats and the Misconstrued Myths of Inferiority

 

SliderSliders on TL Audio VTC (1), Metway Studios by Jeremy Keith is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As audio formats have risen and fallen from favor, there have always been a segment of audiophiles there to fly the flag of their favorite format and to shun the supposed failures of those they oppose.

Truly, each format has its respective merits and caveats. The choice of one format over another is mostly preferential based upon one’s circumstances. The favor for portable digital formats is most often made for convenience, and those listening from their mobile devices while commuting are seldom concerned about the quality of the device’s internal DAC or of the lossy compression which leads other audiophiles to write their congresspersons in fits of anger and audio activism. Pragmatically speaking, (respectable fringe circumstances aside), portable listening environments, given the significant white noise and distraction of passersby, reduce the need for performative excellence in audio signal reproduction as much of the nuanced perfections of a given recording are lost in the chaotic shuffle of human transport.

CDs are a sufficient marriage of quality and convenience for many listeners. They lend an optimum sound quality for properly-mastered and mixed recordings, are a widely-supported format, and can readily be converted to lossless EAC or lossy MP3 for added portability.  They suffer the usual limitations of physical media – entropic decay, limited capacity forcing albums to restrict runtime, and jewel case hinges which are frustratingly breakable. Title availability is often limited to commercially-viable recordings, which may or may not be an issue depending on your genres of interest.

There appears to be a curious consensus that the many of the earliest discs (roughly 1981-1989) are inferior in their sound quality. Listeners often complain that these discs sound “tinny”, “bright”, or “thin”. However, a quick search reveals intriguing opposing views, suggesting that the supposed poor sound quality of early discs may be a myth after all. It is important not to mistake earlier, quietly-mastered CDs as inferior. Podunk from the quartertothree forum offers the following:

“…mastering techniques have changed a lot since the 80’s and early 90’s. The most significant change is the tendency of mastering engineers to apply a lot of compression or hard limiting to final mix, which greatly decreases the dynamic range of a recording but makes it sound really loud and punchy. Recordings from even the early 90’s sound much quieter than modern recordings because of this practice. The advantage to that kind of aggressive compression is that our ears initially percieve loud recordings as sounding generally better, bassier, punchier, etc. Also, a loud recording will reveal fewer of the weaknesses of a cheap cd player/receiver/etc, because you don’t have to turn it up until you start to hear the background noise from your system. The disadvantage to that sort of mastering is that listening to a recording with very little dynamic range is fatiguing, but at first blush, that is probably the #1 reason that a new CD would sound better than an old one: at the same volume level, a new one will sound much louder and punchier.”

Ethan Winer of Music Player Network agrees, stating that some early CDs were poor due to improper mastering, but that these are the exception rather than the norm. During the early days of CDs some engineers directly used …”master tapes meant for vinyl records, with treble added to counter the known high-frequency loss of LPs.” Alan Cross published an article on 10 of the Worst-Sounding CDs of All Time, which includes the terribly hissy My Aim is True by Elvis Costello. But you’ll find that each of the early albums on his list is an example of shoddy production work at the hands of the studio and not limitations of the format or its technology.

Another factor to consider is that early 80s music itself is characteristically bright and tinny, further contributing to the perceived poor sound quality in comparison to post-loudness-war era recordings. Personally, I delight in the sound of early synth-pop albums and their characteristic brightness, and if I elect I can simply adjust the equalization to taste – far better than having to deal with the over-compressed dialed-up-to-eleven victims of the loudness war!

Cassettes rival other formats in two primary regards – their portability, and more importantly, the participatory factor of the mixtape – a cultural phenomenon which permitted the listener to contextualize and identify with their music and to share it with others. Music became far more socially interactive with the birth of the cassette. This also created an environment for DIY home recorded genres like punk and were critical to the development of independent music.  This, of course, continued with the democratization of CD burning technologies some years later.

Even as a devout record collector, it is important to state that the format’s allure is largely fetishist and a placebo effect. Young listeners born in the era of digital music enjoy discovering the retro format as it provides a tactile and real-time listening experience and it gives a (literally) substantial value to music they would otherwise perceive as common, elemental, and as plentiful as air and water. Gatefold artwork is often breathtaking and elegant. Sound quality is dependent on a combination of the source audio, the mastering process, the condition of the disc, and the playback equipment utilized. To various degrees of impact, the selection of tables, tonearms, cartridges, interconnects, preamps, power amps, and speakers each play a role in the resulting sound. However, the nostalgic “warmth” described by many vinyl lovers is simply a distortive property of the medium – a characteristic of playback altering the true audio signal of the artist, producer, and engineer, just as the crackles and pops of a well-worn and well-loved LP add a vitality and character to the music representing its history as a badge of honor, like the scratches and scars on the face of a dedicated soldier.

One important additional characteristic of the vinyl format is that there are tens of thousands of titles issued on LP which will never be made commercially available in a digital format. Thankfully, listeners have risen to this challenge and through online music journals and sites like Archive.org, have come together to digitize worlds of music which would never see the light of day without their efforts. In fact, the very same has been happening in the cassette community, both in the audio and video realms.

MP3 offers the convenience of compression and shareability and was the first widely successful non-physical format. They offered the same flexibility as mix tapes with the added bonus of storage tens of thousands of tracks on a small drive, plus the post-scarcity economic quality of being infinitely replicable at no cost to the user. There was a brief “dark age” of digital music in the early days of Napster with no bitrate standard and file exchange systems based on tracks instead of albums or discographic archives of artists or record labels, but this quickly passed as technology progressed to appease more discerning listeners who demanded standardization of formatting and v0 compression.

Still, some listeners prefer archival quality audio and have no use for single-track exchange networks. This is where archival lossless digital audio factors in. Private FLAC-based trackers offer an incredible value to users with meticulously-structured and uniformly-extracted FLAC+.CUE + .log packages for all available libraries. Complete discographic archives are instantly accessible whether showcasing a single artist or composer or an entire record label or musical theme. Finally, a format had arrived which offered a truly contextual listening experience, complete with catalog numbers and uniform metadata for well-organized archival libraries and with enhanced accessibility.

Best of all, these communities offer vastly larger libraries of content than commercial channels which focus only on licensed recordings. FLAC communities offer artist demos, developmental works in progress, live performances (whether sourced from soundboard or field), and an array of other non-commercial recordings not available to the public at any price.

Streaming services have grown incredibly popular of late, given their convenience and accessibility, though more discerning listeners collectively deride the technology as being painfully inadequate for their own listening needs. The disdain is three-fold.  Firstly, the services are limited to commercial recordings for which they can secure licensing, which instantly reduces the available catalog to a tiny fraction of the world of recorded music. Secondly, inferior lossy compression rates have turned many off from using these services.  Finally and perhaps most importantly, there is the principle behind the service’s greatest flaw – namely that listeners never own any of the music they hear on these services. There have already been instances of titles being remotely deleted from user libraries, hinting at the dangerous potential for media censorship at the hands of the content distributor. The EFF and other open culture organizations caution consumers that collectively relinquishing ownership of creative works is incredibly dangerous for a society.  Fortunately, a percentage of listeners still hold fast to the concept of personal libraries and elect to retain the public’s control of our art.

What is to come of these formats in the years ahead?  Vinyl will retain an audience of collectors who desire a tangible connection to their music and a lust for magnificent artwork. CDs will experience a nostalgic retro-renaissance as all things do approximately 20 years after their era. Cassette culture is already on the rise, albeit a niche, (though the same was said about vinyl just a few years ago). Each format excels in areas which appeal to their respective fan base. It will be interesting to see what transpires with non-physical digital audio. As storage cost continues to plummet, we’ve reached a threshold where compression and storage are non-issues. And as accessibility (in both legal and non-legal forms) continues to become refined and democratized, we may approach a day where every user can possess a personal copy of the Library of Congress, readily accessible for their perusal, research, and literacy. As open culture explains, this has the potential to usher in a new age of artistic enlightenment.

I hope I’m around to see that day.

 

Published in: on July 16, 2016 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Department of Records – A True Piece of Internet History

Over the past several months I’ve taken a considerable interest in Copyright Reform, Fair Use, Free Culture, and the fight for Internet Freedom.  I purchased a copy of Prof. Lawrence Lessig’s cornerstone text, Free Culture and have been reading papers on the subject at every opportunity.

This returned my attention to one of the most prophetic and cautionary pieces ever written on collective freedom – John Perry Barlow’s A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.  Written during the infancy of the internet in 1996 by the co-founder of The Electronic Frontier Foundation, The Declaration warned readers to be ever-vigilant, warning that the governments of the industrial world would continuously work to erode and destroy the liberties afforded to us by the world wide web.  At the time of its drafting, Bill Clinton had just signed the Telecommunications Reform Act into law – an act which perpetuated the merging of the largest corporations in the communications industry  granting them even greater control of information than ever before.

Barlow has the distinction of being the only person to be inducted into both The Internet Hall of Fame and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  And his short but incredibly relevant paper is a pivotal piece of internet history.  That’s why I am so honored to have claimed this latest addition to my library.

While poring over the EFF’s deep links, I came upon an article from December of 2014 describing a special limited release from The Department of Records.  DOR’s homepage describes its mission, “to preserve cultural artifacts for the collective memory in both the physical and digital worlds.”  And the first historical work for their catalog is a recording of John Perry Barlow reading his Declaration.

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This special vinyl edition was limited to just 500 copies worldwide and distributed directly by DOR.  The 180g album sports a smart minimalist black cover with the title of the work embossed at the center of the jacket.

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The gatefold sleeve contains a transcript of the original document and information about the three recordings on the album.

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Side A Track 1 features A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace as spoken by John Perry Barlow

Side B Track 1 is A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace (ft. John Perry Barlow) by Dražen Bošnjak 

Side B Track 2 is an Instrumental version of A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace by Dražen Bošnjak.

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DOR kindly offers the album’s contents free to all courtesy of The Internet Archive.

When I discovered that DOR still had copies remaining for sale, I purchased it for my own archive without a moment’s hesitation.  It instantly became the most significant artifact of my cultural custodianship.

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You can watch the recording session below.  Tune in for an incredible moment of our culture’s history.

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Recollection GRM – Classics of Musique Concrete

A friend from one of the vinyl communities I frequent kindly recommended that I explore the Austrian Recollection GRM sublabel – a series of reissues of records and archival recordings from Groupe De Recherches Musicales, produced by Peter Rehberg in coordination with Christian Zanési & François Bonnet at GRM under the parent label, Editions Mego. They contain fantastic specimens of experimental electronic / Musique Concrète and certainly right up my alley.

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I compiled a complete v0 label archive last night in order to survey their recordings and was surprised to find that a few of the albums are reissues of another favorite sublabel of mine – France’s Philips Prospective 21c siecle. (Certainly indicative of their quality!)

Here is the Discogs index, featuring recordings from Bernard Parmegiani, Iannis Xenakis, Jean-Claude Risset, Pierre Schaeffer and others.

And as my friend kindly noted, this is the only way you’ll find Luc Ferrari’s “Presque Rien” in its entirety in a vinyl format.

Thanks my man for tuning me in!

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Collectors and Sellers – Your Discogs Wish Is Granted!

Quite recently I came upon an announcement from Andreas Dahl on Reddit about the latest revision of an Android mobile app for Discogs.com which he’d independently developed.  I’d tried a few of the unofficial Discogs apps in the past but had really found little use for them.  Still, I was curious and downloaded his app – Discographer, to check it out.  I am thrilled that I did! The official Discogs app is still in beta on the iOS platform and Android users have not yet received an official release, but I can say with great confidence that the need for such an app has been 100% fulfilled by Dahl’s independent project.

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The app was initially released in September of 2015 and Dahl has steadily been improving the app, actively responding to the input from his user base.  As of February 14, 2016 the app has reached version 1.3.4 and is stable and fully-functional.  I’ll outline a few of the features below.

The Welcome Panel

The Welcome Panel displays a quick-reference summary of Discogs general statistics.  This includes the total number of releases and catalog percentages of its Most Popular Genres, Styles, and Formats.

Your Collection

Android users have been waiting for a quality and fully-functional mobile means of accessing their album collections.  Discographer’s Collection feature is the solution we’ve been waiting for.  From this menu, you can view your collection as a graphical grid of album covers with artists and titles, or as a list with album cover thumbnails.  A quick menu option beside each entry lets users remove titles, move them to subfolders, add to their seller inventory, and view the artist/label page.  You can also dynamically sort your collection by a wide range of criteria – title, artist, year, format, label, Cat #, newest added, rating, or by a specific collection field such as notes or condition.  Combined with the search function, this makes navigating large collections of thousands of titles a breeze.  I was also happy to see a Manage Folders option to browse and modify the sub-categorization of my collection.  This feature was missing from other independent Discogs apps I’d tried in the past.

TIP: For sellers with particularly large inventories, if you’ve indexed the location of the titles in your library using the Notes field of your Discogs Collection, this app can tell you exactly where to retrieve the album for sale and provides every possible piece of data about your copy, right in the palm of your hand!

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Vinyl Hub Integration

A most welcome feature, Discographer includes Vinyl Hub’s searchable Google map of user-contributed record stores worldwide.  From within Discographer you can search the globe, tap to call, and open stores’ addresses in Google maps – excellent for the traveling vinyl hound.  For advanced features like the Vinyl Hub forum, there is a View on Vinyl Hub button.  This integration adds excellent value, encapsulating all your album shopping needs into one fantastic app.

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The Search Feature

The Main Menu’s search function puts all of Discogs.com’s powerful search capabilities in a single, easy-to-use panel.  And as with all of the app’s other functions, Andreas Dahl has done an outstanding job of building every menu into an impressively mobile-friendly layout.  The search feature lets the user easily search by Release, Master, Artist, Label, and Stores without the frustrating interface of a drop down menu or having to open a secondary search config settings cog.  Just tap the arrows at the upper left and right of your screen and the search heading will change to indicate the category of your search query.

Best of all, the search menu includes a camera function so that the user can snapshot album barcodes, making collection-building an absolute snap!

User Summary Panel

Once logged in to your Discogs account, Discographer will display a complete summary of your profile.  Everything is here, from contact info to collection stats to recent activity and Discogs recommendations.  

In earlier versions there was difficulty logging in to a user’s account from multiple mobile devices, but as of the latest release this has been resolved with a pair of in-app security codes which you will be prompted to enter on the second device at login.  This gives users increased accessibility while protecting the security of their account.

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Album Summary Panel

The album summary panel is a stand-out feature of incredible value to Discogs.com users. Below the album art, the panel is divided into a series of organized sections. The first presents all the basic info you’ll need to verify you’ve accessed the correct pressing – the album cover art, title, artist, label and catalog #, release date, genre and style. The next pane displays info about the user’s copy of the album, including rating and condition, folder, and notes.  This is followed by a summary of Discogs suggested pricing based on various states of condition quality, (a fantastic quick-reference for crate diggers in the wild!), and below that, a list of copies currently for sale in the Discogs marketplace.  Further panels provide track listing and album credits, Discogs catalog numbers, and barcode and matrix information.  There are also buttons to view the release on Discogs.com, to share the entry, and to explore user reviews.

Every feature offered from the desktop Discogs.com website appears to be fully accessible from this app, and its clean and well-organized interface make finding the information you need easier than ever from your tablet or smartphone.

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The Marketplace

The Marketplace menu is divided into three primary screens with a navigator at the top of each.  The first details all of your Orders, including all related communications and details.  The next screen contains Purchases, and the last a mobile-friendly Inventory of all titles you have listed for sale in the Discogs Marketplace.  A search panel is featured at the top of each of these menus, so any title you need to recall is only a few taps away.

Additional Features

The Main Menu also includes buttons to browse the marketplace, view and modify your Wantlist, and to build public Lists. If there are any other features you’d like to see integrated into this wonderful app, please contact the developer.  Dahl has done an outstanding job and been great at responding to community feedback and requests.  I absolutely recommend supporting future developments by purchasing the ad-free version for just $2 from the Settings menu of the app.

It’s all right, Discogs team.  You don’t have to worry about developing an official app for the Android platform.  Dahl has got us covered!

Download Discographer here!

Published in: on February 14, 2016 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K

Ladies and gentlemen, I am writing to you in a state of pure euphoria.  I am awestruck by the explosion of recent musical events.  So much, in fact, that I must present the latest news to you in three parts.

These three posts will come once every five days as I do my best two maneuver about the chaos that is relocating my audio lab.  In just four days, I will take command of a new home with a dedicated audio engineering and listening space, in the company of my beloved lady and fellow music critic.  These are exciting times, but all my own excitement pales before the news that greeted me upon returning home from work this evening.

ENO & HYDE 2014

The words stared back at me from my monitor, and it took several self-checks to ensure that I had, in fact correctly deciphered and interpreted the Roman glyphs before me.  The article which followed confirmed the headline, and I found myself slipping into a Zen-like ancient ancestral hunter-gatherer trance.  In a few swift motions I seized my credit card, connected to UnderworldLive, converted GBP to USD and locked in my pre-order.

The day has finally come.

After Karl Hyde collaborating with Brian Eno for This is Pure Scenius in 2010, producing acoustic-ambient-art-rock for the masses, and after the release of Hyde’s first solo record, Brian and Karl teamed up again in late 2013 and have just publicly announced the pending release of their first collaborative record – Someday World.

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The 2LP is scheduled for release May 5th, 2014, but those who reserve their copies in advance will receive downloads of 2 pre-release tracks, the first of which will post March 4th.  The gatefold double-LP is sure to be a milestone of music history, perhaps the first of its kind since Byrne and Eno released My Life in the Bush of Ghosts.  In fact, an article on the official UnderworldLive website described Eno and Hyde discovering a mutual love of afrobeat… so there may be a hint of Ghosts detectable in the DNA of the new release.

Shipping included from the UK, Stateside buyers will secure a pre-order for just over $49 USD – a small price to pay for such a piece of history.

And UnderworldLive has kindly offered a high-res promotional wallpaper shot of the gents for you to gaze upon while you count the seconds until your copy arrives.

I honestly cannot express my excitement at learning this news – Hyde was the first piece of music I heard in my life which was not from a top 40 radio playlist, and Eno is responsible for initiating me into the world of cerebral, contemplative sound art.  And now, they’ve cut a record together.

See you in 5.

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MASSIVE Experimental Music Haul!

This past week I was bitten by the avant garde bug and dropped a few hundred on all the milestone recordings I had read about in my travels. It was excellent timing as I was surprised along the way when several rare but essential discs landed at my local antique mall and at the outstanding record shop in my old home town.

Morton Subotnick - Silver Apples of the Moon
Morton Subotnick – Silver Apples of the Moon (1967)

This was one of the first early electronic records I heard back in college and I suddenly decided that I needed it and everything like it. At that point the only New Music recordings in my library were Charles Dodge – Earth’s Magnetic Field and a few works by John Cage.

Morton Subotnick - A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur

Morton Subotnick – A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur (1980)

While youtube browsing Subotnick’s other recordings I found “A Sky of Cloudless Sulphur” which is a virtual assault on your table’s cartridge. It’s a ceaseless rapid-fire onslaught of quick, staccato mechanical tones described as “a ghost score – gesture sketches on magnetic tape.” This beautiful disc turned up at the antique mall that very weekend beside a selection of John Cage and Iannis Xenakis works and I snatched it up instantly.

Steve Reich Music for 18 Musicians
Steve Reich – Music for 18 Musicians (1974)

This album goes without saying. It is one of the most widely recognized minimalist pieces, on par with Riley’s In C from 1968.

League of Composers - Electronic Music Winners

Electronic Music Winners – First Recordings of the League of Composers – ISCM International Competition (1976)

(From the cover: ) In the autumn of 1974, the League of Composers-International Society for Contemporary Music organized an International Electronic Music Competition, the first undertaken by the organization. Tapes of electronic music compositions were solicited from the composers and electronic music studios all over the world. A distinguished panel agreed to select the winners.

When I dug deeper for information I discovered that parts of the Lansky and Krieger pieces were sampled by Radiohead in “Idioteque” on Kid A!

Electrosoniks - Electronic Music
The Electrosoniks – Electronic Music: A New Concept of Music Created by Sonic Vibrations (1962 PROMO Stereo)

This is the single most phenomenal experimental work I’ve ever encountered in my travels. It has everything – glorious explorations of bizarre, alien noise and free jazz (such as “Twilight Ozone”), Cage-like treated piano works (particularly the finale, “Pianoforte,”) and hints of synthesized melody that recalls the short “bleep bloop” playfulness of Perrey and Kingsley. It’s out there, but enjoyable at the same time. The only copies I found online were listed at over $200 but I happily swung this clean promo from an antique dealer’s collection for $30.

When I got it home and dropped the needle on it for the first time I discovered something even more exciting.  As the second track, “Moon Maid” began I found myself singing “The Martian Hop” by The Ran-Dells.  I stopped the record and cued up the novelty hit and sure enough, the entire opening of the song was lifted directly from the first thirty seconds of “Moon Maid.”  I scoured the internet, the Wikipedia and the Ran-Dells official webpage and it appears that for the last 50 years the sample has been credited to the Ran-Dells as “the first pop record to use additive synthesis from sine wave generators.”  I promptly revised the Wikipedia entry to acknowledge the work of Tom Dissevelt and Dick Raaymakers, (aka Kid Baltan) – The Electrosoniks!

Stockhausen - Electronic Music

Stockhausen: Electronic Music – Gesang der Junglinge & Kontakte (1962)

Produced by the electronic studios of West German Radio, Cologne, 1962

When I walked into my hometown’s finest record shop and inquired about Stockhausen, the owner turned to me and asked, “Do you have any yet?”

I confessed that I didn’t.

It was like a red alert went off. He looked up and called out, “Hey, he doesn’t know Stockhausen! Get the West German Radio Recordings!”

As I prefer strange electronic sounds I remembered Kontakte and Gesang der Junglinge being two memorable tracks from youtube and the 75 LP-rip megatorrent I picked up of his work. This was an original German pressing in unplayed condition so I didn’t pass it up!

The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit - Plugged in Pop

The Copper Plated Integrated Circuit: Plugged in Pop (1969)

This was a novelty recording produced by Sear Music Productions, Inc and released on the Command label. I already own Dick Hyman’s Age of Electronicus and Electric Eclectics (both released that same year on Command) so I trusted that the label wouldn’t let me down.

Can - Tago Mago (ltd colored vinyl edition)

Can – Tago Mago 2LP (1971)

Limited edition heavy colored wax reissue on United Artists. One of Can’s most experimental adventures. “Peking O” is a wild standout track.

Can - Future Days

Can – Future Days (1973)

Limited edition reissue on colored wax

Here Can journeys into proto-ambient territory with a lengthy and memorable title track. This is the album that introduced me to Can.

Can - Peel Sessions

Can – Peel Sessions 2LP (recorded 1973 – 1975)

Ltd edition colored vinyl reissue

These improvised recordings from John Peel’s studio are affectionately referred to as “the lost Can album.”   Thank you, John Peel for the hundredth time.

Can - Ege Bamyasi

Can – Ege Bamyasi (1972)

Yet another limited colored vinyl reissue

Features “Vitamin C” and “Spoon,” which I believe are some of their most famous tracks.

Each of the Can reissues are out of print but I was able to pick them all up at once from a single seller, each at cost and all with free shipping!  You can’t pass up an offer like that.

Terry Riley - A Rainbow in Curved Air

Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air (1972)

Spectacular melodic ambient minimalism. Each track is a side-long. Side B, “Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band” has turned up on a number of psychedelic compilations.

Perrey & Kingsley - The In Sound from Way Out

Perrey-Kingsley – The In Sound From Way Out!: Electronic Pop Music of the Future (1966)

As soon as this appeared on my record shop’s Facebook page I raced to the phone and asked them to hold it for me. It actually came in with a pile of early synth albums.

The In Sound is officially the first electronic pop recording. (1966) If you liked the humor and fun of Raymond Scott’s Manhattan Research, Inc you’ll LOVE Perrey & Kingsley.

There is a compilation set called The Out Sound From Way In which is much easier to come by, and it includes Moog Indigo which features the classic synth track, “E.V.A.”

Jean Jacques Perrey - The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sounds of

The Amazing New Electronic Pop Sound Of Jean Jacques Perrey (1968)

This was right behind The In Sound and I wasn’t about to miss my chance to take them both home. Again Discogs currently lists copies of this album for $53 but I got both titles for a total of $35.  Even better, the money went to support my favorite record store.

Pierre Henry and Spooky Tooth - Ceremony

Spooky Tooth / Pierre Henry – Ceremony: An Electronic Mass (1969)

While digging for avant garde albums the store owners handed me this gem and said they were confident I’d be taking it home. They were right. They explained that this collaboration ended the career of Spooky Tooth. It is, indeed, OUT THERE.

And finally, right up there with The Electrosoniks for explorations of the bizarre, I ordered this last but critically essential album.

Louis and Bebe Barron - Forbidden Planet

Louis And Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet (1956) – 2012 National Record Store Day green vinyl ltd ed reissue

After previewing just the first minute online and reading that it was the first completely electronic score ever produced for a film, I just had to have Louis And Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet (1956).  The original pressing was limited and most copies were signed by the musicians.  I quickly learned that the 2012 reissue reportedly cleaned up much of the surface noise that was experienced with the original PLANET label pressing.  To my surprise the copy I picked up turned out to be the limited edition 2012 transparent green Record Store Day issue; only 500 copies worldwide!

These eighteen classics are a wonderful start to my experimental music collection.  My new McIntosh pre-amp and power amp will arrive soon, and I’ll be sure to post an update testing my finest LPs with my new Ortofon 2M Red.

Psychedelic Sunday

I had a fantastic day antiquing with friends today!

You come across some unique characters at flea markets and antique shows and today I learned that the man I always see with a table full of archived science fiction radio broadcasts is a good friend of Mark Evanier and has personally met Sergio Aragones on numerous occasions!  This man has encyclopedic knowledge of all his archived programs including all 26 seasons of Doctor Who.  When I asked him if he had any of the rare merchandise of the 1960s The Prisoner series, he smiled and replied, “you mean the three paperbacks?  No… but the third one is the best.”  This blew my mind because few Americans I’ve met have heard of The Prisoner, let alone read the books.

But on to the records of the day…

A sealed limited edition colored vinyl landed on my doorstep last night.  After verifying the catalog number I promptly re-sealed the packaging and shelved it away until the end of June.  It’s going to be a little birthday gift to myself.   Stay tuned for my birthday post where I’ll unveil the album.

The first table I hit at the antique market was a routine stop, and this time I found not one but two Miles Davis LPs from his electric period.

The first, Big Fun is one I’d seen at the local annual record show just a week prior.  The copy at the show was $30 so I couldn’t pass up the double-LP for the $4 it was marked this time around.  Big Fun is a collection of outtakes, but as a Miles Davis record even the outtakes shine.  The standout track is the 20 minute, “Great Expectations.”  The Allmusic guide calls it a disc for fans, because it fills in the puzzle of what was happening between 1969 and 1970.

I was delighted when I read the closing sentence of their review which stated that others should look to Bitches Brew, In A Silent Way, Jack Johnson, or Live Evil as starting points.  This rang especially true for me as my in-progress introduction to Davis followed that precise path of albums, with Live Evil as the next on my list.

Miles Davis - Big Fun

The other Miles Davis record was one I’d been eying at the market for the past 4 weeks and luckily, no one had purchased it.  A Tribute to Jack Johnson is a wonderfully funky album.  Herbie Hancock had been passing through the building where the jam session was taking place and ended up sitting in on the Hammond organ.  I later learned that the first twelve minutes of the second side revolves around a single bass riff lifted from James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

Before leaving the vendor’s booth, he noticed the album had a very minor seam split on one corner.  He taught me a great fix – you first place a 12″ fitted poly bag around the album jacket with the open end on the same edge as the open end of the jacket.  The tight fit holds the seam together rendering it unnoticeable and prevents further tearing.  You then slide it into a 12.5″ poly bag with the open end at the top of the album.  Finally, insert the disc and dust jacket vertically into the outer sleeve.  The disc can now be easily accessed and the album back cover is still visible.  Soon you’ll forget all about the seam split.  This is just one of the many reasons I love the markets I visit.

Miles Davis - Tribute to Jack Johnson

The cement statue vendor I was looking for was away for an estate sale this weekend, so I continued on to another booth where I found a table of LPs all in poly bags.  I instantly spotted Pink Floyd’s A Nice Pair which is a double album of their first two LPs.  The copy has the generic “dentist” sticker at the upper right instead of the original ” W. R. Phang’s dental surgery” photo, and the nude center image is covered by the round pink “A Nice Pair” sticker, so I believe this is the more common version of the disc.  Still, it is a temporary remedy for not owning a vinyl copy of “Piper…” so I picked it up.

I did however discover that there are a few differences in the audio between the original releases and the US pressings of A Nice Pair.  The most disappointing change is the substitution of the live version of “Astronomy Domine” from the Ummagumma LP instead of the original recording from Piper at the Gates of Dawn.  As that was one of the tracks I was most looking forward to, I will likely be putting this double LP up for sale once I secure an original pressing of their first album.

Pink Floyd - A Nice Pair

Pink Floyd – A Nice Pair (original cover uncensored)

Pink Floyd - A Nice Pair (Dentistry sticker)

Pink Floyd – A Nice Pair (Nude Sticker and Dentistry sticker)

I’ve also just ordered two Funkadelic recordings – one which has been missing from my P-Funk library for too long and the other will serve as a replacement for a copy I bought at a record show which has significant needle wear.

More to come, thanks so much for tuning in!

UPDATE: I made a few additional discoveries about the Miles Davis recordings which I would hate to leave out of this post.

In the year 2000, Columbia Records released a double CD version of Big Fun, catalog #C2K 63973.  This version featured four additional tracks which did not appear on any of the prior releases.  I researched the bonus tracks and discovered that originally appeared on the 1998 four CD set titled The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions (C4K 65570).

One of these tracks is a beautiful near-ambient piece titled, “Recollections” which nearly 20 minutes in length.  If you enjoyed a single moment of In a Silent Way, you should give this track a listen.

The other track I discovered is quite different from “Recollections.”   I had been further exploring Davis’ electric period and came upon a live album titled Agharta from 1975.  The lengthy opening track, titled “Prelude” was unlike anything I’d heard before.  The Allmusic Guide stated simply that Agharta is “the greatest electric funk-rock jazz record ever made — period.”

Turn your speakers up and check out Pete Cosey’s guitar solo.  Start viewing at the 7 minute mark of this clip.  During the next sixty seconds the band falls silent and Cosey goes absolutely wild.   Enjoy this outstanding minute of music.

I am already on the hunt for an original copy of Agharta.  I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks again!