Modern Classical Highlights of 2016

A fellow listener mentioned last night that 2016 was a fantastic year for modern classical and its related subgenres. As a tremendous fan of the genre who has sadly neglected its exploration for the last several years, I instantly set myself to the task of righting this wrong.

A quick RYM custom chart instantly revealed new titles from modern classical mainstays which I know I’ll have to pick up – Iceland’s Jóhann Jóhannsson’s nineteen album discography, (most recently the Orphée album and the film scores to Arrival and Sicario), Ólafur Arnalds’ Island Songs, Max Richter’s Sleep Remixes, and Nils Frahm / Ólafur Arnalds’ Trance Frendz. Library Tapes’ Escapism also sounded good from a brief sampling, as well as the 2015 album Yume by an old favorite, Helios (and his latest work titled Sometimes performing under his Goldmund moniker). Both projects are long-standing favorites of mine.

In about 4 minutes, this friend’s comment inspired an entire weekend of exploratory listening. And this will be much-needed medicine for melancholy working through all that I have going on at present. Tune in with me if you’d like. It’s wonderful stuff. I’ll embed a few highlights below. Many of these are complete album playlists. Enjoy!

Best Soundtrack to the Worst Movie of All Time!

ATTENTION fellow MSTies! The moment I learned that this existed, I tracked down the tiny record label and snatched up a copy for myself!

Here’s the cover art for the red and black swirl vinyl limited edition soundtrack to the worst film ever made – MANOS: The Hands of Fate!

idgn6mdl

Produced from the original 35mm soundtrack negative, restored to all its craptastic glory by Steve Addabbo at Shelter Island Sound in New York City; this is the definitive audio edition of MANOS!

manosposter

Only $18 from a crazy tiny label called ShiptoShore PhonoCo in Brooklyn, the MANOS soundtrack LP is the ultimate cult keepsake for any vinyl collector who grew up with MST3K.  Order your copy here!

It’s so wonderful to see the great care taken to restore and re-release this bizarre 1966 cult film, written, directed by, and starring a fertilizer salesman from El Paso, Texas.

The film remained largely unknown for nearly 30 years until it was featured on what became one of the most beloved episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 in 1993. And after the original 16 mm work print was discovered in California in 2011, a Kickstarter project led to the production of a vastly superior Blu-Ray edition and this terrible soundtrack!

BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE!

The HD restored Soundtrack of Fate is available in its entirety in multiple formats on Bandcamp for any price you like via a Creative Commons license! The site accepts donations to the restoration project, and in addition to the soundtrack offers special edition posters and t-shirts as well as the restored Blu-Ray release of this bafflingly awful film!

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Visit their official Bandcamp page and name your price for the score to this stinking cinematic suppository.

hslqtsil

“The Master will approve!”

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!

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.

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.

Fraggle Rock Raritites

I’ve got a new treasure for my ever expanding collection of children’s 80s records – this one is the more elusive UK version of the original Fraggle Rock soundtrack.

When I was about eight years old I remember having two Fraggle Rock albums – Perfect Harmony and a 7 inch long play disc in a paper sleeve called Fraggle Rock released by Weekly Reader Magazine.  These high-res cover scans were stolen from a fantastic blog – muppetmusique.blogspot.com.  Check them out!

Fraggle Rock - Perfect Harmony

Fraggle Rock – Perfect Harmony (C 40774 1986)

Fraggle Rock - Weekly Reader LP front
Fraggle Rock Weekly Reader LP back

Fraggle Rock – Weekly Reader 7″ #2072, 1983

Years later I was fortunate enough to pick up the 3CD Fraggle Rockin’ Collection which is a compiled re-issuing of “Fraggle Rock” (1983), “Perfect Harmony” (1986) and “Music and Magic” (1993).

Fraggle Rockin' Collection (2007)
Then, this past winter I discovered the 1984 German issue of the original Fraggle Rock album.  In addition to the different (and better, IMO) cover image the German disc includes two additional tracks – an instrumental of the song, “Workin” on side 1 and “Traveling Matt” on side 2.  The German issue also includes the Gorg’s “Dum of a Son of a Gun” which was not included on the 1987 Columbia reissue or on the Fraggle Rockin’ Collection.

MLP 1200 - Fraggles, The – Jim Henson's Muppets Present Fraggle Rock

Fraggles, The - Fraggle Rock US back

The US version of Fraggle Rock (MLP 1200, US 1983) w standard non-gatefold cover

Fraggles, The - Fraggle Rock (Germany)
Fraggles, The - Fraggle Rock (Germany) Gatefold

Fraggles, The - Fraggle Rock (Germany) Back

The UK gatefold version of the same album w additional tracks (PL 70221, 1984)

And for you Fraggle Rock collectors out there – there is also a version of the same album sung entirely in French and released that same year which reuses the cover photo from Weekly Reader 7″ #2072.

Fraggle Rock PL 70581 France, 1984

Fraggle Rock (PL 70581, France 1984)

I also have a tin lunchbox with thermos (thank you Hilary!), a Hasbro Gobo plush from 1985 and a 2004 Wembly from Sababa toys w tag.  While I usually opt for the earliest available versions of everything I collect (like first pressing LPs) the first Fraggle dolls which were manufactured by Tomy in 1983 are rather ugly with disproportionately small heads, so I’m happy with the ones I’ve got.

1984 Fraggle Lunch Box w Thermos
Hasbro Gobo (1985)
Sababa Wembly (2004)
And here’s my favorite Fraggle tune, this one from Music and Magic, performed by Cantus and the Minstrels.