The Summer Search for Rare Wax

While re-visiting some of my classics from artists like múm and Mark Kozelek, I found myself really enjoying The Album Leaf’s In a Safe Place.  It’s a wintery, sparse record that merits repeated listening.

A quick bit of research revealed that Jimmy LaValle (the lone member of The Album Leaf) had collaborated with Jón Þór Birgisson, Kjartan Sveinsson, and Orri Páll Dýrason (most of the members of Sigur Rós) and Gyða Valtýsdóttir (formally of múm) at Sigur Rós’ Sundlaugin studio for the album.

It’s no wonder the record is so enjoyable.

And what was even more surprising was that one year later, in 2005, LaValle mixed his next record with the help of Jón Þór Birgisson and Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv.

With the hands of so many great artists in this music, and the sounds of a Rhodes piano and a Moog synthesizer in the mix, The Album Leaf has a sound which is just as enjoyable a decade later, and will continue to provide listening pleasure in the decades to come.

If you’ve been following this blog since June of this year you’re quite aware of my love of Black Swan, (drone for bleeding hearts.)

Black Swan continues to operate shrouded in mystery.  I’ve recently acquired 2012’s Aeterna and Heaven as well as 2013’s Redemption (swan plague).  Each is darker and more minimal than the disc which preceded it, and every title is magnificent.  Like all Black Swan releases, this is music for your best headphones.  Sadly these three titles have not yet seen a vinyl release.  I would contact the label, Ethereal Symphony but there is just as little information about the label as there is about the artist.  Clearly these are self-releases, as the titles are only available on CD-R or FLAC and the only (8) releases on the label are those of Black Swan, so the mystery continues.

Here is the opening track from Aeterna – “A Lesson in Slow Flight.”

My hunt continues for a copy of Popol Vuh’s Hosianna Mantra (featured in August 20th’s This Week’s Listening – Early Krautrock, Proto Ambient, and Musique Concrete)

Sales of the original German pressing from 1972 (Pilz 20 29143-1) average around $72.  There is currently a NM gatefold copy for sale, (in the USA, no less!) but it is marked at $120 and I’m saving my vinyl cash for something else at the moment.

Pilz ‎– 20 29143-1 1972
But what was truly staggering was the revised album art which appeared on the Celestial Harmonies (CEL 004) US pressing in 1981.

Gone was the ornamental, silver foil spiritual cover – and in its place was a hyper-minimal, post-modern painting of a circle, (or a sun, perhaps?)

Celestial Harmonies ‎– CEL 004 1981
Fortunately, the German Think Progressive label restored the original art for their 1998 reissue of this lovely recording.  (TPLP 1.803.023)  The TP issue can be picked up for around $45.

Here again is Hosianna Mantra.

But pricier records aside, I joined a few fantastic friends for a day of gallivanting at my local Antique World, where my favorite record dealer gave me a wonderful West German early ambient/drone record by Peter Michael Hamel.

Hamel was altogether new to me but I quickly learned that he is a veteran minimalist associated with the late-1970s New Simplicity movement.

The album is titled, “Bardo” – a Tibetan word meaning “intermediate state” or “in-between state,” a term which aptly describes the cycling organ tones throughout the two side-long recordings of the record.

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This elegantly minimal album is lush with the warm sounds of the pipe organ, electric organ and analog synthesizers, performed by Hamel and Ulrich Kraus.

It’s always exciting when your record dealer knows you well enough to provide you with something wonderful that you’ve never heard. A delightful addition to my library – especially for only $8!

The opening track, “Dorian Dervishes” runs 21:47.  Here is the opening 6 minutes.

I will close this post with two absolutely essential early-electronic gems, both from Germany.

The first is Cluster’s self-titled debut release from 1971. Roedelius, Moebius and Plank produced a proto-ambient milestone which should be required listening of anyone interested in the history of electronic sound.

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Time practically stands still when you tune in to this beatless masterpiece.  The three untitled tracks run just over 44 minutes but when the record ends the listener may feel disoriented and unsure whether minutes or hours have passed.

Have a listen to the closing track.

The other LP I’m after is Manuel Göttsching’s E2-E4.  Recorded at the height of synth pop, this experimental record was a pioneering electronic album which pre-dated the house/techno-era that would follow.

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And 31:13 into the single-track album of relentless, unyielding loops and minimal percussion, Göttsching begins noodling jazzy guitar riffs over the rhythmic loops, taking the listener’s trance to an even deeper level.

The album’s title is the most common opening move in a game of chess.

Enjoy!

Attack of the 50 foot Mixtape

It’s been an intense week of genre-hopping and crate digging, (over 50 new albums in all) and I’m just going to lay it on you.

The most exciting find is easily the new Paul McCartney 12″ bootleg – Balearic Rarities.  Comprised of Paul’s forgotten 80s experiments with dance music and what might be labeled as early techno, it’s a far cry from the McCartney we know and love.  Similar tracks appeared on an older double LP bootleg titled, The Lost McCartney II Album.  Here’s “Check My Machine.”

Another bootleg I found was from Beck around the Midnight Vultures era which includes a Bruce Haack cover.  If you’ve never listen to Bruce, check out Electronic Lucifer and The Way Out Record for Children.  You may remember the clips of Haack’s appearance on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood which I featured on my old blog.

Along the same vein as Beck’s idiosyncratic musical styling, I’ve finally completed my Cornelius discography, consisting of 36 albums, singles and EPs.  Cornelius has often been tagged as “the Japanese Beck.”  Here’s a classic favorite, “Star Fruit Surf Rider” from his Fantasma album, which Matador records released as his American debut.

Also lovin’ new tunes from It is Rain In My Face, (the solo work of Matt Jones from Brooklyn.)  Delicious chillwave.

If you’re into lo-fi/bedroom pop like the tune above, mark your calendars for July 5th.  Trevor Powers aka Youth Lagoon will be releasing his first 10″ album and from the free singles he’s posted on the Web, it’s one to watch for.  Check out “Cannons.”

I can’t say enough wonderful things about Jimmy LaValle’s solo project.  Jimmy was originally the guitarist for Tristeza, but over the last 12 years he’s toured and released a number of albums as The Album Leaf.  In a Safe Place was recorded in Sigur Rós’ Sundlaugin studios with the help of Jón Þór Birgisson (of Sigur Ros) and Joshua Eustis (of Telefon Tel Aviv).  His song “Micro Melodies” appeared in the documentary film, Moog – a must-see for all analog synthophiles.

The Album Leaf’s earliest recordings were similar to Brian Eno’s Music For Airports.  Over the course of the next few releases, he ventured further into ambient post rock territory.

In early 2010, The Album Leaf released A Chorus of Storytellers, this time with a full band.  Like his past efforts, Storytellers is comprised almost entirely of instrumentals.  Still, “Falling From the Sun” is a song which dispels any notion that lyrics might impede upon his near-perfect formula for songwriting.

Then there are those quazi-novelty records that I buy more for the cover art than anything else.  Funky Entertainment was a flea market find, the last hurrah from the 70s disco funk band, Brainstorm.

It turns out Soul Coughing wasn’t the first band to use a 50s girl in a space suit for album art.

You may have seen Tara Busch’s videos on Youtube.  You may also know her from Analogsuicide.com. Tara is best known as “the chick on the Web who sang ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ backwards.”

The Crazy CD packaging of the year award goes to Tara for her limited edition Pilfershire Lane box set. The CD comes with a stainless steel pop up model, interchangeable face plates, a recordable circuit, Polaroid 600 photo, and a splice of 16mm film.  Check out the assembled model in the clip below.

One last spaced-out treat for you, courtesy of goldenrecord.blogspot.com.  Listen to “Hang On Sloopy” by The Brooks Arthur Ensemble Featuring Kenny Karen released in 1971.  Golden Records likened it (quite accurately) to the bands Suicide and Spacemen 3.  I could easily see J Spaceman performing this live!

Brooks Arthur Ensemble – Hang on Sloopy 1971