This Week’s Listening – Early Krautrock, Proto Ambient, and Musique Concrete

Many discographies have been added to the Archive since the last post, so I’ll dive right in and highlight some of the more memorable recordings I’ve heard as of late.  I’ve been exploring my library of over 100 Nurse With Wound albums and singles, and especially enjoyed Shipwreck Radio Vol 1, which was recorded in Lofoten, Norway between June and July of 2004.

The opening track is a slow build of metallic clamor with a few melodic notes and minimal percussion which gradually become lost in the cloud of noise.  It’s beautifully rhythmic atonal music which I grooved along with for the full 15 minutes of the track.  Great stuff.

Next I finally added Jean Michael Jarre’s classic [1978] Equinoxe and [1976] Oxygene LPs to the digital side of my library.  I hadn’t played his albums in at least five years and it was wonderfully refreshing to hear them on my new Denon rosewood turntable, particularly as my Focal floor speakers perform better in the new, smaller space.  Deep sawtooth waves reverberated from my concrete walls and created a lovely bass pocket right in front of my velvet sectional.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.
I’m still building my Jean Jacques Perrey collection, which began with my acquisition of Perrey and Kingsley’s The In Sound From Way Out.  Moog Indigo is another classic I’m after, featuring the hit, “E.V.A.”  And Perrey recorded a musique concrete electronic album in 1963 – Musique Electronique du Cosmos which I’d love to pick up as well.

On to more modern recordings – I’ve loved the first two LPs by minimal drone artist, Black Swan since their release in 2010 and ’11.  Black Swan composes what are perhaps the finest modern classical works I’ve ever heard.  Quite sadly, the Wikipedia, allmusic, rateyourmusic, and discogs offer absolutely no information about the artist.  And the Black Swan official homepage presents little more than snapshots of their minimal but breathtaking album covers.

Fortunately, a user review from Discogs sums it up nicely:

The anonymity of this New York-based artist has an effect on the listening experience. The music is given the right to exist on its own, as if it had always existed. It stakes its claim in the mind, making the listener a collaborator in a seductive narrative-noire that travels through a hall of horrors and memories, an escort to a final resting place. One might encounter spirit animals, forgotten lovers, faceless apparitions, leviathan rifts, or a cozy blanket of stars. It is easy to become comfortable in the soothing darkness, and when it seems like eternity has arrived, Black Swan pulls the plug.

And so I was absolutely floored when the artist posted a first-ever listen to a pre-Black Swan double album they, (he? she?) produced all the way back in 2001.  The previously-unreleased album is called Alone Again With the Dawn Coming Up: A Tribute to the KLF.

It took a moment for the sheer awesomeness to fire across my synapses.

BLACK SWAN… POSTED A 12-YEAR OLD TRIBUTE RECORD… TO THE KLF.

In its entirety.  For free.  Complete with album art (a la Chill Out.)

Once you’ve scooped your cerebral matter off the back wall of your room, head over to swanplague.com/ and download it NOW before it disappears.

AloneAgainWithTheDawnComingUp_WEB

The moment Black Swan decides to release this gem on vinyl, I plan to hire a private detective, discover the true identity of the band, drive to their house in NYC and order a copy in person.

It’s that good.

And the Chill Out tribute serves as a perfect segue into our next featured rare recording – The KLF Recovered & Remastered EP -4.

“Oh,” you say, casually.  “You mean the [2012] 6 EP limited edition set of the KLF Recovered & Remastered which you featured in your previous post?”

It’s actually one mark better than that – as this is from the new series-in-progress of “MINUS” releases.  The first came out in August of 2012 – KLF MINUS-ONE featuring four new mixes of “It’s Grim Up North.”  You can order it here.

The latest disc in the series is [2013] MINUS-FOUR (The KLF Remix Project Part III).  Watch this link for copies to surface.

I’m through the first three tracks at the time of this posting and have loved every second of it.  Just as with KLF 006 RE (Live From the Lost Continent), this is a disc that requires that you:

1. Turn off all the lights
2. Put on you finest circumaural studio monitors
and
3. Turn it up to eleven.

Cheers to Mr. Ward for your magnificent work keeping the KLF alive into the new millennium.

The next minimal techno masterpiece to land on my doorstep was Pantha Du Prince’s
[2007] This Bliss [DIAL LP09].  Have a listen to “Walden 2.”

And just a few days later – Aphex Twin’s legendary [1994] Selected Ambient Works Vol.2 (2012 3LP reissue) was waiting for me when I got home from work!  Here is “Blue Calx.”

Other ambient space music treasures of the week include Tangerine Dream’s [1985] In the Beginning 6LP Box Set (COMP), which includes:

[1970] Electronic Meditation
[1971] Alpha Centauri
[1972] Zeit
[1973] Atem
[1973] Green Desert (Released 1986)

This is, by far the most affordable way to pick up all the early (pre-sequencer) Tangerine Dream  for under $75.

699255

And finally, I must highlight a few early krautrock records which approach Berlin School space music territory.

The first is Cosmic Jokers’ [1973] jam session – The Cosmic Jokers.  This is the krautrock super-group that never was, and an album that never should have been.  Thankfully, it was captured to tape and commercially released, so track this baby down and order a copy!

The next gem is Popol Vuh’s [1972] Hosianna Mantra – the most spiritual German ambient album ever conceived.  I’ll let the album speak for itself.

Also featured this week is Mr. Klaus Schulze.  Schulze worked on the first Tangerine Dream record and the first Popol Vuh LP before setting off on his own legendary solo career.

My favorite album from his extensive discography is his first record – the proto-ambient/proto-drone, Irrlicht from 1972.

I’ve also picked up [2000] The Ultimate Edition 50 CD Box Set and will report my findings once I’ve put a considerable dent into the collection.

And finally, after hearing what is quite possibly the greatest Kraftwerk live concert of all time (K9 Radio Bremen, Germany 1971), I was astounded to find the limited-edition Russian clear double LP in a record shop ACROSS THE STREET FROM MY APARTMENT this afternoon.  Here’s the full show, and remember – this is Kraftwerk before synthesizers and sequencers became their trademarked sound.

That’s This Week’s Listening!  And as always, I welcome my readers’ own recommendations for similar recordings.

Thank you.

The Birthday Vinyl is in!

Hello again!

While I am still anxiously awaiting my limited run reissue of Cinematic Orchestra’s Motion (ordered back in early March!) I can at least report that some special favorites turned up for my birthday and have arrived safely at my new apartment.

I had a beacon out for a copy of the Orb’s legendary Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld in case a copy ever turned up in the United States.  This 1991 ambient house-concept debut album marked the official transition from works by The KLF (and Jimmy Cauty’s ambient project under the moniker “Space”) into what became The Orb.

If you ever track down this milestone album for yourself, you’ll want the original UK pressing, as the first US pressing was edited down from the double-disc 109:41 minute UK release down to a one disc 70:41 minutes – a crime against the world of ambient music.

Orb - Orb's Adventures Ultraworld
The album is best-known for the track, “Little Fluffy Clouds,” but should truly be enjoyed in its double disc glory.

It was an absolute joy to finally own this LP, but what I stumbled upon next really floored me.

I had been itching for the most memorable ethereal post-rock records of the late 90s and early 2000s.  I put together a list of my favorites – albums which immediately come to mind years after I first heard them.  Then I poured over my favorite web sources for hard-to-find wax.  On my second day of searching, I was delighted to find one seller on a particular site who had three of the six records I was looking for!  Better still, they were in the USA, and would ship any number of LPs for a total of $5!

Then I realized what seller I was dealing with – it was The Lakeshore Record Exchange in my old home town of Rochester, NY.

I immediately grabbed my phone and called the owner of the shop.  He had just sold one of the discs but said that he’d already re-ordered a store copy and would ship all three as soon as it came in.

What a treat it was, 5 days later to receive three elusive albums from my first years in college all from the shop where I spent some of my earliest vinyl-purchasing days!  (This, by the way, was the shop where a very beautiful record clerk played me Lemon Jelly for the first time and lead me on a 100-album binge for their complete recordings!)  Thank you, Marta.

Here are the three albums which arrived last night –

The first is múm’s first release on FatCat Records from 2001, Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today is OK.

mum - Yesterday was Dramatic

The next disc was another essential FatCat LP from Iceland –  Sigur Rós’ Ágætis Byrjun. Recorded in 1999, this is the 2013 UK DMM Remaster from Abbey Road on 180gm vinyl.

Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun Ltd Ed RSD 2013 (stickered version)

And the third record was the wonderful collaboration between Adam Wiltzie (Stars of the Lid) and Dustin O’Halloran (who released his Lumiere LP on FatCat in 2011).

A Winged Victory For The Sullen was released on Kranky Records that same year.

A Winged Victory - A Winged Victory

The remaining three albums from my Contemporary Ambient list are Telefon Tel Aviv’s Fahrenheit Fair Enough, The Album Leaf’s In a Safe Place, and Pantha Du Prince’s This Bliss from Germany.

Hopefully I’ll pick them up by Christmas time.

Thanks for listening and THANK YOU, Lakeshore!