Further Adventures in Vinyl Heaven

INTERSTELLAR OVERDRIVE: The Shindig! Guide to Space Rock

It’s been a wonderful week of research and first-listens.  I’ve also been enjoying the special edition INTERSTELLAR OVERDRIVE: The Shindig! Guide to Space Rock.

I must apologize for my delay in featuring the much-anticipated collaborative release from Brian Eno and Underworld’s Karl Hyde. It was a record which demanded careful reflection, and it took some time to form a conclusive perspective of their first commercial effort together.

Eno & Hyde Album Shot 1

Eno and Hyde have actually know each other and worked together for many years. Their last collaborative performances were the Pure Scenius concerts – three live improvised performances in Sydney featuring Eno, Australian improv trio The Necks, Hyde, Jon Hopkins and guitarist Leo Abrahams.

My first exposure to the new LP was the demo of track 1 – “The Satellites” which admittedly left me less than impressed. The track heavily features canned synth horns which seemed out of place for a recording from these two artistic pioneers. An album trailer soon followed on enoweb, which successfully re-invigorated my anticipation of what madness might be contained within the grooves of this mysterious new disc.

Two copies of the deluxe edition of Someday World arrived in the post – the first mangled within its flimsy overseas envelope, and the second two weeks later. These special edition pressings, limited to 750 copies worldwide, included a photo postcard and a glossy print reminiscent of the art Tomato was producing at the end of the millennium.

Eno & Hyde - Someday World Print

It was only after I had experienced the album in its entirety, along with a few television and radio performances and interviews that I truly appreciated the album as a whole.

Eno & Hyde performed the album’s clear A-side on Later with Jools Holland on BBC Two. This particular track, “Daddy’s Car” is one of the better implementations of the aforementioned synths blended with Eno’s trademarked polyrhythmic percussion and pop sensibility.

The energy is heightened in the album’s two longest cuts – “Mother of a Dog” and “When I Built This World,” the latter of which is perhaps the best example of Eno’s brand of avant-garde rock. The second half of the track is a slow build of multiple synth lines which crescendo to an apex at the finale – highly recommended for headphone listening in a darkened room.

But it was their 45 minute live music and interview set on BBC 6music that really secured my love of the record.   The interview was quite revealing and the enhanced perspective has left me with a greater understanding and appreciation of this strange new LP from my two greatest inspirations. Eno stated that many of the tracks were culled from fragments of “beginnings” he had collected over many years of composition. In hindsight, I detected many sounds as being sourced from past albums like Nerve Net, The Drop, Small Craft, Headcandy, Spinner and even from the Japanese 77 Million AV Installation CD compilation. There’s even a bit of noise-guitar-plus-spoken vocals a la “Blank Frank” if that’s what you’re looking for. And the lyric, “strip it down / make it simple / useless words” from “Strip It Down” might have been lifted right from a card in the Oblique Strategies deck.

Eno & Hyde - in the studio

In all, the album is a mix of strengths and weaknesses, but I perceive the record as more of a collaborative stepping stone than a milestone. On Someday World, Eno & Hyde are simply experimenting together. In the 6music interview, Eno commented that he had initially set out to make a dark electronic record, and was surprised by how “happy” it turned out.

To be absolutely honest I find it difficult to review this album objectively.  As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, Karl Hyde’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman was the very first record I heard which exposed me to a world outside of top 40 radio rock. His brilliant design work with John Warwicker in Tomato’s mmm…skyscraper: A Typographical Journal of New York directly inspired my career in the field of graphic design. And Eno’s Music for Airports seeded my lifelong love of all things ambient and drone. To witness these two men working together is a dream come true, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Eno & Hyde Album Shots 2

[UPDATE] Eno has now released an augmented reality app for Someday World!

On the subject of ambient music – I came to a stark realization yesterday. As much as I love ambient and early synth compositions, I had miraculously managed to live 32 years without listening to Vangelis’ film score to Blade Runner.

The most complete edition available is the unparalleled Esper ‘Retirement’ Edition – 25th Anniversary Culmination – a 5CD bootleg, but far more faithful to the actual score than any commercial release. (Think of it as the Dr. Ebbetts or the Purple Chick edition.) 8-minutes into my first listen I was searching for a copy on vinyl.

BRERE25AC - Blade Runner Esper Retirement Edition CD Case (Front)

As you likely know, the soundtrack had a rough history. It began with the New American Orchestra’s Orchestral Adaptation of the score, released in the UK and throughout Europe in 1982.

New American Orchestra - Blade Runner Soundtrack LP 1982

The actual original soundtrack release was delayed for over a decade, until 1994. The 1989 compilation Themes included some tracks from the film, but it was not until two years after the 1992 Director’s Cut premiered that the proper score saw an official release.

The first official Vangelis soundtrack was a CD released on Atlantic/BMG in 1994. An LP was issued in Brazil that year but I cannot verify whether or not it was a legitimate release. Similarly, a vinyl bootleg surfaced in 2003 but is not of consequence.

This 2013 Audio Fidelity remastered 180g virgin vinyl translucent red pressing is the first-ever official worldwide release of Vangelis’ soundtrack on vinyl and was limited to 5000 copies. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to add this to my library.

Blade Runner Ltd Ed Red Transparent Vinyl (Front)

Blade Runner Ltd Ed Red Transparent Vinyl (Gatefold)

Blade Runner Ltd Ed Red Transparent Vinyl (Disc A)

Blade Runner Ltd Ed Red Transparent Vinyl (Disc B)
I was surprised by the album’s packaging – it has one hell of a UV gloss coat and the gatefold sleeve is beautifully heavy.  I really appreciate quality packaging when I see it.

As I was on a bit of a roll I decided it was time that I owned a copy of The Velvet Underground & Nico in its original format.  (It’s just one of those LPs that everyone on the planet should have.)  After a brief search through discogs I thought it would be fun to pick up the banana-yellow vinyl edition from 2000. Though only 500 copies were pressed it is surprisingly affordable and surfaces regularly on discogs.com. I ordered two copies so that my lady-friend can enjoy it as well.

Velvet Underground & Nico - Banana yellow vinyl pressing

And finally – I acquired one more classic-collaboration this week. Cluster & Eno was released in 1977 – the same year as Before and After Science. Music For Airports would follow the next year, but Cluster & Eno stands strongly on its own as an essential milestone in Eno’s ambient family of albums.

Cluster & Eno - Cluster & Eno LP

The cover photograph has grabbed my attention every time the record surfaced but I was never quite “ready” for the album.  Now that I’ve properly-digested hundreds of classic krautrock albums, I feel daft for not having picked it up sooner.

I suppose this fantastic haul makes up for my leaving the spring record show empty-handed.

And I’m already hard at work on next week’s post – a special in-depth exploration of how to manage large digital music libraries.  When I reached 77,000 recordings, I quickly realized that it was time to re-evaluate my music management system, and I’m happy to share my strategies with the listening community.

Stay tuned!

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.

WARP249-Packshot_1400-1024x1024

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.

Eno-Hyde-2014_Credit-Perou_Web