The KLF Collection: 2020 Update

Just a quick check-in today. I’m grateful to have received an incredible gift this weekend of several UK import KLF and related singles from a wonderfully generous friend who was thinning out their personal record collection. He knew that no one in the city would appreciate them more than I. With the new titles added, it seemed fitting to take an updated photograph of the collection to date. Here’s what I have so far, including Drummond’s Silent Protest deck of cards, (the tiny black item toward the lower right), a rare first-edition of The Manual, the Stadium House Trilogy VHS, and several titles from the exquisite Recovered & Remastered series, (highly recommended!)

My KLF collection now comprises 45 physical LPs, CDs, books, and other ephemera. The digital portion of my KLF library includes 164 albums, EPs, and other releases totaling over 109 hours of music and 93 films clocking in at 19 hours of rare video footage and interviews.

I understand that there are collectors with far larger KLF libraries, but I’m pleased with what I’ve built so far. Special thanks to my very generous friend! 

KLF Collection Updated 07-05-2020 sm

50 Skidillion Watts of Slightly Dated New York Weirdo Hipster Novelty Humor

Bongos Bass & Bob - Never Mind the Sex Pistols 05-09-2020 sm

I have a decent collection of novelty records, from the first “break-in” 7-inch, Buchanan and Goodman’s “Flying Saucer Pts I & II,” to a fish-head-shaped picture disc of Barnes & Barnes classic, “Fish Heads,” to the full-scale replica of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s accordion housing vinyl remasters of his entire 40-year career in the industry. (I even had the good fortune of getting Dr. Demento, himself to sign my 1953 debut 10″ of Songs By Tom Lehrer!) So when I discovered that the hilarious Bongos, Bass, and Bob had put out a record featuring many of my favorite Demented hits, I tracked down a copy right away.

The band recorded one album with Penn Gillette and produced by Kramer in 1988 titled, Never Mind The Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, and Bob (What Were They Thinking???) on Jillette’s label, 50 Skidillion Watts, (written out as 50,000,000,000000,000,000,000 Watts Records), Catalog # 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,003.

The album includes favorites like:

  • Oral Hygiene
  • Walkin’ in the Park
  • What’s Your Name, Babe?
  • Clothes of the Dead
  • and Thorazine Shuffle (a cover of the single by Modern Entertainment)

The album is a comedic mishmash of genres, including folk, world music, country, jazz, rock, doo-wop, punk, and calypso, as well as lo-fi, noise, and avant-garde musical styles. 

The trio is a self-proclaimed “speed Mariachi” band composed of Penn Jillette on bass, Dean Seal on bongos, and Rob Elk on guitar. Several tracks were featured on The Dr. Demento Show, and an alternate sans-Jillette take of “Oral Hygiene” recorded under the name “Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal” was featured on WITR’s Friggin Here radio show in the 90s. It also appeared as track #2 on Dr. Demento’s Basement Tapes Volume 01.

I’d spent those halcyon summers painstakingly taping 27 weeks worth of broadcasts of Friggin Here and entering the complete set lists into a word processor to print on my dot matrix printer, (this was 1995 after all), so it was a real treat to claim the songs I so fondly remembered on wax.

It’s offbeat, humorous, and original stuff.

From Allmusic:

The bongos come courtesy of Dean J. Seal, the bass is via Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame), and the Bob is derived from guitarist Rob “Running” Elk on this funny, eclectic record overseen by producer Kramer. There are 16 songs on Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, Bob! (What on Earth Were They Thinking?), and about as many musical styles, including punk, calypso and doo-wop; the acute and amusing lyrics target oral hygiene, Thorazine, girls with guns and thrift shopping (“Clothes of the Dead”). Much more musically competent than expected, this is a superior musical-comedy record, and one that holds up to repeated listenings.

And Wikipedia notes:

Kramer is a musician, composer, record producer, and founder of the New York City record label Shimmy-Disc. 

Kramer played on tour with Butthole Surfers, Ween, Half Japanese, The Fugs, and John Zorn and other improvising musicians of New York’s so-called “downtown scene” of the 1980s.

Kramer produced Galaxie 500’s entire oeuvre, and discovered and produced Duluth slowcore band, Low. He also produced for White Zombie, GWAR, King Missile, Daniel Johnston, and Urge Overkill.

Rutlesriki.fandom.com adds that the group also recorded a cover version of The Rutles’ “Number One” for the tribute album, Rutles Highway Revisited, released in 1993.

Of “Thorazine Shuffle,” G Zahora writes:

“Thorazine Shuffle” is a Modern Entertainment piece, but BB&B’s rendition is particularly brilliant; the bass and bongo arrangement is ultra-spartan jazz-via-Velvet Underground, the vocals quiet and businesslike (except for the freakout choruses, where Penn goes a bit nuts himself). 

Zahora closes their review noting:

It’s not for everyone, but if you dig slightly dated New York weirdo hipster novelty humor, are a rabid Penn and Teller fan or just a colored vinyl lover, Never Mind the Sex Pistols…Here’s Bongos, Bass and Bob is worth tracking down.

There’s an incredibly exhaustive write-up on the record archived on Popsike here for anyone interested, which includes transcripts of articles on the album from Playboy in 1996 and the rest of G Zahora’s album notes. 

Related projects of note include John S. Hall & Kramer (Hall is the vocalist from King Missile)’s Real Men LP and Captain Howdy (Penn Jillette w Kramer) who produced “The Best Song Ever Written” b/w “Dino’s Head” which I own on 45. But Bongos, Bass, and Bob remain a stand-out favorite from the best of the Dr. Demento era.

There is a playlist of a vinyl-rip of the album on YouTube, though a few tracks are cut in the wrong places, (track 2, “Clothes of the Dead” for example is mistakenly cut short at a moment of silence before the final chorus which resumes at the beginning of video #3). Still, it provides a taste of the comedic madness and irreverence of this record. 

40 Years of Underworld – The Innerspace Collection

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a tremendous fan of the electronic duo Underworld.

At age 15, their album Dubnobasswithmyheadman was my very first exposure to the world beyond Top 40 radio pop, and its award-winning typographical packaging created by the band’s critically acclaimed Tomato design collective directly inspired my pursuit of a design degree and an 18-year career in the field.

Checking my latest stats, my Underworld collection now comprises 77 physical releases and artifacts, memorabilia, subway posters, books, prints, magazine articles, DVDs, VHS tapes, etc, as well as over 600 digital albums, EPs, mixes, concerts, and other materials – over 8100 tracks including concert videos. With new material being released every week, they’re showing no sign of slowing down, and they continue to expand my scope of musical appreciation with each new release.

Here is the physical portion of my collection to date. (For scale, the green print at the center is a subway poster from the UK measuring five feet in height.)

Underworld Physical Collection Complete 02-22-2020

Below is an itemized inventory of the physical collection. The 8100-track digital library is too large to post here but is itemized in the Innerspace Labs Workbook previously published in this journal.

Artist Title Format
Screen Gemz Teenage Teenage b/w I Just Can’t Stand Cars 7″ single (sleeve reproduction) 7″, Single
Freur Matters Of The Heart 7″
Freur Get Us Out Of Here LP, Album
Freur Look In The Back For Answers 12″
Freur Doot Doot CD
Freur Doot-Doot 7″, Pic
Freur Doot-Doot 12″
Freur Doot-Doot 12″
Freur Runaway (Dun Difrunt) 12″
Freur Doot-Doot LP, Album
Underworld Going Overground Melody Maker Magazine January 22, 1994 Magazine
Underworld Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future LP, Album
Underworld Spikee / Dogman Go Woof 12″, Single
Underworld Beaucoup Fish 2xLP, Album
Underworld A Hundred Days Off 2xLP, Album
Underworld A Hundred Days Off 2xLP, Album
Underworld Born Slippy 12″, Single
Underworld Dark & Long 12″, RE
Underworld Two Months Off 12″
Underworld Second Toughest In The Infants 2xLP, Album
Underworld Rez / Cowgirl 12″
Underworld Stand Up 12″, Maxi
Underworld Glory! Glory! 12″, Single
Underworld Underneath The Radar Cassette
Underworld Underneath The Radar 7″, Single
Underworld Change The Weather LP, Album
Underworld Long Slow Slippy / Eventually But 12″, Ltd, S/Edition
Underworld Barking 2xLP, Album
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman 5CD Box Set
Underworld Underneath The Radar LP, Album
Underworld Underneath The Radar LP, Album
Underworld Cowgirl / Rez 12″, Ltd, Whi
Underworld Pearl’s Girl 12″
Underworld Jumbo 12″, Single
Darren Emerson Global Underground 020: Singapore 2CD
Darren Emerson & Tim Deluxe Underwater, Episode 1 2CD
Underworld Videos 1993-97 Footwear Repairs By Craftsmen At Competitive Prices VHS
Underworld tomato: onyx pearls DVD
Underworld Underworld Live – Everything Everything DVD
Underworld Barking (Super Deluxe Edition 2CD+DVD+book+autographed print) 2CD+DVD Box Set
Underworld 1992-2002 2CD
Underworld Born Slippy CD
Underworld Change the Weather CD
Underworld Dinosaur Adventure 3D (US) CD
Underworld Dinosaur Adventure 3D (JAPAN) CD
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman CD
Underworld A Hundred Days Off CD
Underworld King of Snake CD
Underworld Pearl’s Girl CD
Underworld Second Toughest in the Infants CD
Underworld Underneath the Radar CD
Underworld Underworld Singles Box Set 3CD Box Set
Underworld Limited Edition Barking Art Print (Hand numbered #64/650) Art Print
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman A2 sized Promo Poster Poster
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman Concert Tour Memorabilia Keyring Keyring
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman T-Shirt (unofficial) T-Shirt
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman Coffee Mug (unofficial) Coffee Mug
Underworld Dubnoboasswithmyheadman Custom Chromebook Skin and Keyboard Inlay Laptop Skin (Custom)
Underworld Everything Everything 150cm x 100cm UK Subway Poster Poster
Underworld Underworld Press Photo Photo
Underworld Rowla/Juanita 12″
Underworld Oblivion With Bells 2xLP, Album
Underworld Dubnobasswithmyheadman 2LP, Album
Underworld Second Toughest in the Infants Remastered Super Deluxe Edition 4CD Box Set
Underworld Beaucoup Fish Remastered Super Deluxe Edition 4CD Box Set
Underworld and Iggy Pop Teatime Dub Encounters LP, EP, Limited Edition, Clear
Underworld Drift Series 1 7CD+Blu-Ray DVD Box Set
Tomato mmm.. skyscraper i love you: A Typographical Journal of New York Art Book
Tomato Process: A Tomato Project Art Book
Eno • Hyde Someday World 2xLP, Album, S/Edition
Eno • Hyde Someday World 2xLP, Album, S/Edition
Eno • Hyde High Life 2xLP, Album
Eno • Hyde Someday World 12″ x 12″ Art Print Art Print
Eno • Hyde Brian Eno and Karl Hyde with Flowers in Vase Against White Background Postcard Postcard
Eno • Hyde Brian Eno and Karl Hyde on Stage Before a Concert Postcard
Karl Hyde Edgeland 2xLP, Album, 180
Karl Hyde Personal Live Photograph Photograph

Supplemental Note:

Following the acquisition of the final four Underworld multi-disc super-deluxe box sets for my archival project, I found that my collection had outgrown its space in my record room and I wanted a storage solution which would blend seamlessly with my vintage decor. I took careful measurements and trekked to my city’s antique mall and found a large antique wooden crate the exact dimensions (to the very inch!) that I was hoping to find.

It’s a perfect vintage solution to house my collection of nearly eighty Underworld releases! The sturdy wooden crate features weathered stamping for 120lbs of (Ben) Franklin brand sugar. Here it is in my home, fitted appropriately beneath a framed promotional print of my favorite album by the duo.

Ben Franklin Wooden Crate with Underworld Collection Inside 02-22-2020

Enography: The Collected Writings of (and about) Brian Eno

I’ve been reading texts on artist, producer, and self-proclaimed “non-musician” Brian Eno for years, and thought it might be a good idea to start tracking all of the books examining his work in my library. I extracted a list of all Eno-related texts from moredarkthanshark.org and added a few other rare titles from my own archive. Referencing data from my Goodreads account I built a spreadsheet to catalog which texts I’ve read, which I have in physical form, as well as the ones I have as ebooks. I then used an aggregate book search engine to secure physical copies of most of the texts I was missing to build as complete a library as I was able. There are three titles I’ve yet to claim, but they command higher prices than I was ready to import to the States for this first stage of the project.

Pictured below are thirteen of my favorite titles on the subjects of Eno’s work, and ambient and generative music in general. There was a week delay in the project after book #13 was lost in the post and I had to order another copy, but at last I have them all.

I was particularly excited to secure a copy of Sound Unbound published by MIT Press, which compiles essays on sample/mashup/remix culture collected by Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), and which features a Forward by Cory Doctorow, my favorite essayist on the subjects of digital rights activism and copyleftism. And like the Moondog book I recently ordered, it is packaged with a companion compact disc of the works discussed.

Pictured are the following:

Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports by John T. Lysaker
Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music by Christoph Cox
Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds by David Toop
A Year With Swollen Appendices by Brian Eno
Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond by Michael Nyman
Brian Eno: His Music And The Vertical Color Of Sound by Eric Tamm
The Ambient Century by Mark Prendergast
Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture by Paul D. Miller
On Some Faraway Beach: The Life And Times Of Brian Eno by David Sheppard
Another Green World (33 1/3 Series) by Geeta Dayal
Brian Eno: Visual Music by Christopher Scoates
Brian Eno: Oblique Music by Sean Albiez
Music For Installations (companion book to the ltd ed. 2018 9LP vinyl box set) by Brian Eno

as well as the official Oblique Strategies deck Eno produced with artist, Peter Schmidt.

Also read but not pictured: 

Music Beyond Airports – Appraising Ambient Music by Monty Adkins

I really look forward to diving into the yet-unread titles from this indispensable collection. These books will be wonderful company through the chills of winter and shall serve as an intellectually stimulating start to 2020!

02 Brian Eno Book Collection (sm for web)

An Ambient Milestone – The First-Ever Vinyl Issue of Oliveros’ Deep Listening

Exciting news to start off the new year! A classic recording of the ambient genre has been issued for the very first time on vinyl by Important Records. The Massachusetts-based label has issued special releases from artists including Daniel Johnston, Boris, Coil, and Japanese noise musician Merzbow and specializes in indie rock, electronica and avant-garde music.

The label’s official website posted the news in early December and quickly sold out of the gold edition on the evening of Wednesday, December 18th. The official release date is January 31, 2020 but pre-ordered copies shipped January 6th to arrive well in advance of the official date. (This copy arrived Friday, January 10th.)

From their announcement:

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Deep Listening, we offer you the definitive double LP combining the classic, complete original 1989 release with selected tracks from the Deep Listening Band’s 1991 album The Readymade Boomerang.

This elegant double LP is packaged in a gatefold sleeve with original and updated recollections from the performers, the recording engineer and a mesostic from John Cage, to which these recordings are inextricably linked.

Recorded in a cistern, this double LP reverberates with brilliant sonic clarity and masterfully improvised performances combining live electronics, vocals, trombone and accordion. Deep Listening is a classic in the fields of improvisation, minimalism, ambient/drone and modern classical.

Listen with attentiveness, listen while lying down, listen with headphones – as recording engineer Al Swanson entices the listener to become a virtual performer in selecting the many different ways to perceive these phenomenal tracks. Whatever you do, listen deeply.

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A quick summary for those not already familiar with the band – 

Deep Listening Band was founded in 1988 by Pauline Oliveros (accordion, “expanded instrument system”, composition), Stuart Dempster (trombone, didjeridu, composition) and Panaiotis (vocals, electronics, composer). Oliveros was a central figure in the development of experimental and post-war electronic art music and a founding member of the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Wikipedia notes that:

[Oliveros] coined the term “deep listening,” a pun that has blossomed into “an aesthetic based upon principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. This aesthetic is designed to inspire both trained and untrained performers to practice the art of listening and responding to environmental conditions in solo and ensemble situations”

Pauline’s mantra, exquisitely realized on this recording, was to “Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening”. 

Deep Listening Band recorded the album in the 2-million-US-gallon Fort Worden Cistern in Port Townsend, WA on October 8, 1988. The cistern has a 45-second reverberation time. AllMusic describes the unique sonic characteristics of the recording as follows:

The unlikely instruments — primarily accordion, trombone, didjeridu, and voice — produce sustained tones that are subtly modulated by the extraordinary acoustics, making it often seem as if there were more instruments present, or as if this music has been electronically processed — neither of which is the case. All the music was improvised on site, with the musicians banging on metal pipes and found objects on the final track. The effect is remarkable, immersing the listener in a hypnotic field of shifting resonance, in a truly profound experience of deep listening.

This pivotal and iconic recording was originally only issued on compact disc in the US on New Albion records in 1989 so it is a great honor to finally have it receive the double-LP vinyl treatment just in time for the album’s 30th anniversary. The bonus selections from The Ready Made Boomerang and the mesostic from John Cage are wonderful additions for this special release and an exciting way to begin 2020!

Pauline Oliveros - Deep Listening 2LP 01-10-19 01.JPG

Pauline Oliveros - Deep Listening 2LP 01-10-19 02.jpg

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Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas Has Arrived!

EmmetOtter

I’m quietly celebrating the holidays with a new addition to my vast Jim Henson library – this is the Record Store Day exclusive limited edition picture disc of the music from Henson’s 1977 television special, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. The soundtrack was issued for the very first time for Record Store Day in 2018 and was limited to 2000 copies worldwide. This year a picture disc version was issued in a run of 2,500. Both editions were issued by the soundtrack record label, Varèse Sarabande.

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas RSD 2019 Picture Disc 12-17-19

All versions of the soundtrack feature 15 tracks from the TV special, a previously unreleased song called “Born in a Trunk” that didn’t make it to air, as well as extended liner notes featuring interviews with the film’s puppet performers, and more.

The film was Jim Henson’s most complex endeavor to date. As Dave Goelz reflected in 2011:

“We built a 55-foot-long river that was about 10 feet wide and went all the way across the stage, and they built a radio-control rowboat for Emmet. It was so lovely and lyrical to see Emmet rowing his mom down the river. The idea that there was life along the river and that it was all interconnected was a great metaphor for people.”

The soundtrack features all of Paul Williams’ music from the special, including the fan-favorite, “Riverbottom Nightmare Band” and the heartwarming, “Where the River Meets the Sea,” the latter of which was featured on the classic John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together LP in 1979.

Though I was too young to have seen the original television broadcast in ’77, I had the great pleasure of seeing Emmet Otter along with The Bells of Fraggle Rock together in the theater when they were featured by Fathom Events on December 16, 2018.

henson-poster-2142187e35d61bbcec9e971e701f5200.jpg

Now I’ve added the picture disc to my library of 60+ Jim Henson-related LPs. (There’s one more Henson holiday disc I hope to secure, but as it has almost never surfaced on the resale market I’m going to keep it under wraps until one appears or a reissue is released.)

Happy holidays, everyone!

Robert Rich – Premonitions 1980-1985 4LP Set

Just arrived at Innerspace Labs – hand-numbered copy #114/500 of Robert Rich’s Premonitions vinyl box set.

A veteran of the minimal drone genre, Robert Rich has been a major figure in the ambient music scene for forty years. I maintain a complete discographic archive of Rich’s 63 full-length releases totaling 72 discs of content in lossless archival FLAC including the seven-hour Somnium and eight-hour Perpetual: A Somnium Continuum sleep concert DVDs. However, very little of Rich’s extensive catalog has ever been available in the vinyl format. 

In an interview with Anil Prasad for the web-based music magazine, Innerviews Rich remarked that he wanted to work beyond the ~20-minute limitations of an album side so he gravitated toward cassette releases early in his career and later to DVD-audio. Presently, the only two of his releases currently listed for sale on Discogs’ used record marketplace in the vinyl format are Numena from 1987 and Stalker (with Brian Lustmord) from 2018. So I was absolutely delighted to discover the Premonitions 1980-1985 collection offered on vinyl directly from Rich, himself!

In a letter to Rich’s listeners on his official website, he writes:

Here’s one for the folks who keep asking me whether I’ll release an album on vinyl. Four discs of music from my formative years, most of it never before released. It also contains the strongest sections of the 1984 “Live” cassette, and the cyclic introduction from the original “Inner Landscapes.” I made new 24/96 digital transfers from original master tapes. It’s coming out in Germany on the label Vinyl On Demand (VOD122), and I’ll import 40 copies for listeners here in the USA. International shipping will be expensive for this, as it’s big and heavy, so I request to my European, Asian and Canadian listeners that they go directly to VoD to order the set. It’s at this link: http://www.vinyl-on-demand.com/-1-402-472.htm 

If you are in the USA and you want to reserve one of these 40 copies of “Premonitions”, for purchase through our order form, you can use the CONTACT link up above on this site, and let me know your name, email, and shipping address. I’ll contact you when the records arrive. The price will be around $75 plus shipping. If more than 40 of you want to reserve a copy, I might be able to import more, but it will help me to know how many because they are a bit expensive. Thanks for listening! – Robert

And from the Notes section of the compilation’s entry at Discogs:

This 4LP box set focuses on Rich’s early stage of composition and performance,1979–1985. Most of this music is previously unreleased, or came out on limited cassettes from the UK Auricle Label or Swedish Psychout Productions, which later became Multimood, and released his album “Numena” in 1986. Edition of 500 copies.

Discogs member, Richard Gurtler drafted a contextual review of the set which is also featured on the official Bandcamp Page for the release as well as on Robert Rich’s website. In his introduction he writes:

This amazing sonic document was released at the end of April 2014 on German Vinyl-On-Demand label run by Frank Maier, who passionately focuses on releasing various limited vinyl editions, which are mainly taken from various rare tape releases or feature unpublished material. VOD’s catalog includes huge list of artists from industrial, noise, avantgarde, ambient… scene and each release with its packaging is a true piece of art. “Premonitions 1980-1985”, released as a 4LP Box Set in limited edition of 500 copies with extensive liner notes about each track and including an official hand-numbered certificate card for each customer, is no exception, a pure visual bliss awaits after its unwrapping!

But the most in-depth details on this fantastic release are provided by the Vinyl-On-Demand site linked in Rich’s letter. It offers Rich’s own liner notes on every selection featured in the set –

Selene & Ether 27:05

Recorded in summer of 1980 with Paia modular, newly acquired Prophet 5 and homebuilt Radio Shack analog delay, recorded direct to cassette at home. Unreleased until now. This was my first recording that ever got radio airplay, from “Music From The Hearts of Space” on KPFA in Berkeley, CA. I think that was around my 17th birthday. A note to myself inside the cassette case reads, “The sound first dwells in darker figures that sometimes inhabit dreams, then slowly lifts, collecting energy from harmony. The last is a sea of time, the atmospheric pillow.” An almost Vangelis-like grandiose middle section was a rare departure for me. Until I got the Prophet 5 I could never attempt a sound like that. 

A little story about this synthesizer: I was still 15 years old when I made friends with a college DJ named Rick Huber, who also worked at synth company Sequential Circuits. I wanted to start a band making noisy improvisations, so Rick introduced me to his co-worker Rick Davies. (We remained life-long friends, and made some rather embarrassing musical experiments with co-conspirator Jon Spencer.) Sequential’s Prophet 5 was the first polyphonic synthesizer with digital memory, and it was very expensive in 1978. Unfortunately the first version of the Prophet was quite fragile and broke constantly, almost impossible to calibrate, and plagued by catastrophic component failures. Sequential offered an upgrade to their early customers, offering to exchange (for a fee) any Rev.1 Prophet 5 for an improved Rev.2. Then they sold the fragile Rev.1’s to their employees (the only people who could keep them running) with a promise not to re-sell. The company never wanted to see them again. My friends at Sequential purchased a handful of these lemons, and kindly snuck one into my hands. Selene and Ether was one of the very first things I recorded with it.

Collage for Low Tones 18:35 1980

Recorded summer of 1980 direct to cassette, an improvisation with analog delay and Paia modular. I had completely forgotten about this recording until I started going through archives for this release.

I built the analog delay from a circuit board sold through Radio Shack, called the “Electronic Reverb” kit. Nineteen years later (1999) I began to get back into analog modular synths after meeting Paul Schreiber, who had recently started a new modular company called Synthesis Technology. As Paul and I became friends, I learned that he once worked for Tandy Corporation, designing kits for Radio Shack. Paul had in fact designed the analog delay kit that I used so heavily during these early years. The instructions suggested modifications to allow feedback into self-oscillation, and a switch to slow down the clock, creating a very grungy echo. These modifications turned the delay into a crazy oscillator, one of my main instruments for creating noisy pieces like this one.

Ghosts 8:42 1980

Inside the cassette box where I found this recording, my notes say: “Ghosts is a sound collage consisting of many layers of randomly tuned sinusoidal frequencies, whose amplitudes were also randomly chosen. The sound was inspired by multiple resonances of the wind through a certain cave in the Sierra foothills.” I think I was being a bit coy, as it sounds to me like an improvisation with Prophet 5 and Paia modular synth using resonant filters imparting different pitches from a pink noise source.

Clouds  26:15 1983

I remember being quite happy with this drone improvisation when I recorded it, but I never officially released it because some other pieces around that time felt more like a breakthrough. Apparently I made cassette copies for a few people to hear, as I have seen pictures of handmade tapes with this on them, called simply “Modal Improvisation.” This performance employs a resonant all-pass filter using a Curtis chip that I built onto a blank circuit board, responsible for the shimmering stepped tones of the low drone.

Nocturne 25:40 1983

I remember working for several weeks to prepare the elements for Nocturne. I did not have a multitrack recorder at the time, but I had two cassette decks and a reel-to-reel. I assembled extra layers onto cassette, in order to mix to 1/4″ reel while performing live instruments. I remember this piece being much harder to create than others at the time, and it felt less satisfying to me when finished. The original tape is 40 minutes long, and I wanted it to feel completely calm and stable, yet slowly changing around the steady drone, a sort of infinite music, acting in a certain way upon the mind only when played for very long durations. Alas, in the thirty years since attempting this sort of trancelike effect in very slow music, my attention span has gotten shorter, and I am rather surprised to look back at my youthfully obsessive attention to microscopic details.

Live in Monterey CA September 15, 1983 25:30

These are the beginning and ending sections of a two hour ambient concert performed at an art exhibit opening by painter Todd Friedlander. Most of the performance consisted of nature recordings combined with very quiet drones. The closing section was an interpretation of the piece “Nocturne” that I had recorded the previous month, but that piece sounded different each time I played it.

Live at Stanford University CA, March 13 1984 25:27

This “concert” actually took place in my dorm room at the co-op house where I lived during my third and fourth years at university. I recorded most of Trances and Drones here (when I probably should have been studying.) My roommate Miguel Helft patiently tolerated my pile of electronics that cluttered the room. A few friends asked me if they could listen to me play, so I made this casual home concert for three or four people, and recorded it to my new Revox B77. The 90 minute recording turned out better than expected. 

Early in my efforts to release my own music, I made friends with an ardent listener in Köping, Sweden named Hans Fahlberg. After he discovered my first release Sunyata, Hans began writing me letters with funny cartoon illustrations of laughing heads prancing around naked on tiny legs. After I released Trances and Drones, Hans wrote me asking if I had any unreleased music, as he wanted to start a cassette label. This would be his first release. I didn’t feel that my earliest experiments were suitable, so I sent him edits of the two live recordings that appear here. These became Robert Rich Live, catalog 001 on Psychout Productions. Hans soon changed his label name to Multimood Records and released my first LP Numena, and many excellent albums by artists including Peter Frohmader, Roedelius, O Yuki Conjugate, Paul Schütze, Jeff Greinke, and others.

In the late 80s, the Freeman brothers in the U.K. replicated small quantities of Live and Inner Landscapes for their Auricle label. Among my early releases, Live was the only one that I did not remaster for CD, because I felt that it would not hold up to digital scrutiny. This vinyl version is the first official reprinting since those cassettes.

3A Guitar Drone 8-15  14:46  1983

I don’t actually remember playing this. I discovered it while digging through the archives. I found several pieces from the summer of 1983, all untitled and described as “guitar drone” or “guitar rhythm.” Most of them sound similar to each other. It appears I was aiming for a certain relationship between the echoed strumming and the cloudy loops made from brushing guitar strings lightly. I recorded two of those attempts to reel-reel tape, so I presume those were more “serious” or premeditated, while this version only shows up on a cassette master, like a practice version or an afterthought. Among the different attempts, this may be the most interesting, although perhaps not the highest fidelity.

CCRMA Voices  7:22 1984

This is one of the few computer compositions that I finished while taking the computer music course at Stanford’s CCRMA, the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. It uses Bill Schottstaedt’s PLA language to create a simple two-operator FM voice, with random pitch, duration and inflections within the range of a human voice. 

Inner Landscapes Introduction 9:12 1985

This comes from a live concert performed in Berkeley, CA, later released as the 90 minute live cassette Inner Landscapes. In the late 1990s, Mike Griffin at Hypnos approached me about remastering some of my early work for CD. Inner Landscapes and Sunyata seemed worthy candidates at the time. I had to remove some material from Inner Landscapes to get it to fit onto CD. Except for this sequencer improvisation at the start, the remainder of that concert was deep and very slow; so I decided to cut this piece and keep the CD consistently deep and atmospheric. This intro remained an orphan until now. 

Manna 17:15  1980

Here’s another piece that I forgot about. It comes from the burst of recordings I made as soon as I got the Prophet 5 in 1980. This uses a patch technique called “random arpeggio” where each voice fades in and out at different rates by its own modulations, sounding a bit like tape loops. The bleepy tones come from the Paia modular, with tape echo adding its telltale warble. 

Robert Rich @ 2007 Nearfest

This historical artifact offers a rare glimpse at an ambient master’s earliest work, composed using his first synthesizers at the age of 17 while attending Stanford University. In his Interview For Ambient Visions in January of 2005 Rich described how, at the age of 13, he used his savings from two years of paper routes and gardening money to purchase and construct PAiA modular synths, and eventually graduated to a Revox B77 half-track 1/4″ reel-to-reel, a pawn shop lap steel guitar, and a Sequential Prophet 5 rev 1. In the interview Rich states that he began to experiment with alternate tunings as he was inspired by Harry Partch and Terry Riley. The recordings from this set explore Rich’s development as an artist during this pivotal period.

How could I pass it up? 

Time Life: The Big Bands Collection

I’ve always had a soft spot for 1930s big band music, born out of my fond memories of my late father taping FM rebroadcasts during the 1990s of original Your Hit Parade transmissions from 1935 to 1953. I touched upon this in July of 2018 in a feature titled, Gettin’ Sentimental Over You when I acquired my first big band vinyl box set.

At the time my big band library also included 181 LP-rips and broadcast archives I’d compiled into a playlist affectionately dubbed, Shirt Tail Stomp: Swing & The Big Bands. This collection includes a chronology of Benny Goodman’s complete discographic catalog spanning 1928-1949, a library of 89 radio performance broadcasts, the six-volume big bands series from Archive.org, both the Glenn Miller and Glenn Miller Gold Collection releases, as well as the four-disc Smithsonian – Big Band Jazz: From the Beginnings to the 50s box set.

Hungry for more great sounds, I performed some additional research this week and was overjoyed to discover a colossal archive of some of the best-mastered big band music ever issued. It began when my search led me to a discussion on the Steve Hoffman audiophile forum where a member inquired about a big band mail order series of LPs issued by Time Life in the 1980s. A few members chimed in that it was one of the best series available for the genre and provided a brief history of the releases. A detailed summary of the complete 29-volume series and tracklists is available here.

Here is the original television advert for the series:

I was absolutely floored to discover than an independent archivist calling himself gary34 had set himself to the task of compiling a digital lossless archival hybrid of the complete analog and digital releases from this Time Life series, complete with uniform tagging, album artwork, and transcription details in an accompanying document. He wrote:

In 1991 Time-Life issued a subscription set of (Mono) CDs, using material which had already been transcribed for their original ‘Big Bands’ LP series almost a decade earlier. One of the first commercial DSP noise removal systems was used in the production of the CDs, to remove the worst of the imperfections inherent on the original mechanical media, (as captured on the master tapes used to make the LPs).

Unfortunately for subscribers, the CD set wasn’t quite as complete as the original LP series. True, tracks were the same as those on the LPs, but the CD booklets had less information about the artist and the music than the excellent liner sheet included with each of the original LP sets. As well, only the big name bands made it to CD. The seven excellent compilations of less well-known material and groups did not.

This library comprises not only the 29 original volumes, but also includes the compact disc given out as a bonus from Time Life under catalog #TCD-134 which was a variation with an alternate track list from the original cat #STBB-28 titled, The Big Bands: World War II.

This hybrid collection brings together 100% of the recordings issued by Time Life in all formats which have been out of print and unavailable commercially for nearly 40 years and is a magnificent specimen for anyone who appreciates big band music and quality sound.

The Ultimate Index v3.0 – The Innerspace Labs Media Exploration Master Workbook is LIVE!

It’s been a magnificently productive day at Innerspace Labs and we’ve reached what is to date our most prestigious milestone. I published a feature last March about the evolution of my life-long list-making of sound works, cinema, and literature that I’ve been meaning to explore. These lists also served to touch upon some of the special collections in my archive.

In the previous article I described how this process began with leather pocket journals, and as the scale of my library grew I began to publish annual print editions itemizing large collections.

Innerspace Labs Archive Index Books 2013

Innerspace Labs 50 Top Artists Book

These efforts were radically transformed several years ago when I migrated to Google Drive. But as the years passed and spreadsheets and documents multiplied, it rapidly became apparent that I needed to consolidate all of these various lists into a single, deep searchable index otherwise countless lists would be forgotten and disappear into the digital void of my Google Drive.

Thus began the Innerspace Labs Master Workbook project this past spring. Though this venture posed several new dilemmas. As the workbook grew to nearly 200 tabs, I received this error stating that Google Workbooks are limited to 5 million or fewer cells.

Google Error 5 Million Cells Spreadsheet Workbook.png

And it quickly became evident that navigation of all those tabs was painfully arduous in the mobile environment, as was its loading time. Thankfully, after careful research into various potential solutions, I’ve implemented a system of scripts and formula expressions which make navigating this large workbook a snap and its interactive response time nearly instantaneous.

By combining over 200 named ranges, and incorporating a primary dynamic drop-down and a dependent secondary drop-down field, along with an “=INDIRECT(CONCATENATE” expression calling named ranges based on user input, I’m now able to hide and lock all but one master sheet and made the entire workbook navigable from that single homepage.

The home sheet offers the user a primary drop-down of LITERATURE, SOUND, or VIDEO, which in turn controls a secondary dependent drop-down to populate and auto-alphabetize a list of all related content for that category.

I’ve also employed a script which is triggered by Google Clock to rescan the entire workbook for newly-added lists and to automatically incorporate them into the search fields alphabetically and by category as the workbook continues to grow.

I understand that it may not have significant value to anyone other than myself, but it’s intended to serve as a reference document along with the over 200-pages of archive summaries I’ve drafted in a companion Google Doc. With this easy-to-reference Workbook, I can pull up a list in seconds and start exploring. My hope is that the project helps introduce me to some spectacular content and that it helps me rediscover forgotten areas of my library.

The next phase of the project is to apply uniform formatting to all lists, as these were drafted independently over the course of nearly a decade, so I apologize for the crudity of its present format. And of course, there may be errors or omissions among the lists. But you know that I’ll work tirelessly to make this project as accurate and accessible as I can.

Here is a link to a copy of the latest version. It showcases and attempts to organize ~26,000 of the most noteworthy elements of my personal library and related subjects of interest. All cells are locked for editing except the two dynamic drop downs, which is sufficient for general users to explore and interact with the document. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a labor of love that I will continue to work on and which I hope will enrich my life as it continues to expose me to some of the greatest works of the ages.

SPECIAL FEATURE: Pieces—A Thousand Albums At The End Of America

Bill Boulden - Pieces - A Thousand Albums At The End Of America (Vinyl Rip - Each of 1000 Copies is Unique)

I’m honored to share an extraordinarily unique recording for this installment at Innerspace Labs. This is Bill Boulden’s (aka Spruke’s) innovative project, Pieces—A Thousand Albums At The End Of America.

From his Kickstarter page:

Spruke’s previous Kickstarted ambient music album Music To Die Alone In Space To featured the same album being rerecorded 310 times with unique variations for every backer. On Pieces, he will expand on this concept by adding an innovative new system of distributed storytelling.

This follow-up project tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic near future – a story spread over 96 LPs. Boulden partnered with Meep Records, a single-run lathe-cut vinyl manufacturer, to make it possible for the first time to own literally the only copy of an album in existence.

Boulden describes the album-within-an-album concept he employed for this record:

When America falls, the musicians of the time period don’t sit around and let it happen. These albums contain fragments of the music of this alternate future. They appear in fits and starts between other tracks; ten seconds as a lead-in to a piano piece, or a thirty-second interlude between two tracks, or maybe fifteen seconds of radio static between ambient passages where you can hear a radio station almost tuning into this song but not quite finding it.

I’ve hired hip-hop artists, barbershop quartets, folk singers, grrl garage punk, country singers, and more from this hypothetical future that may never come to pass, to come back in time and put their songs in tiny pieces on this album.

[The album presents a dystopia where] America is broken and abandoned. Relics from humankind’s brief stay are slowly being reclaimed by nature, and one damning question lingers: What happened here?

Boulden explains “Distributed Storytelling” thusly:

Cassettes. Handheld recorders. Radio broadcasts. Voicemails. When Americans saw their country dissolve around them, they left all of these and more lying everywhere, and you’ll hear fragments of them as you move through a unique copy of the album… but never the whole story.

He leaves it up to the backers of the project to collaborate and piece together the full narrative. The LPs are not numbered, so there is no official chronology or oversight of the 96 segments. They were engineered through Boulden’s generative compositional process, and once the rules were set in motion the story unfolded on its own. The unique one-off discs were priced at $80-110 apiece and all copies sold out to the original backers of the project.

The social participatory factor here is exciting. Some of the backers shared their uniques on twitter as #BitsOfPieces. You can search that hashtag to find people swapping uniques and new material comes up on every copy.

The canonical edition was a randomly selected copy from the series, (Boulden believes it to be #36 or so), that was the copy chosen to print en masse and put on Spotify, iTunes, etc. Approximately 200 LPs were pressed of this edition.

The opening minutes of the canonical (wide-release) edition of the record set the stage with disembodied beeps and somber off-key sour synths. We are quickly introduced to curious smatterings of disconnected conversations about the dismal chaos that has come of America. These fractured dialogues are fast-forwarded and rewound from dusty old cassettes and fade in and out from distant radio signals on an imagined archaic analog tuner. We are wandering through the smoldering aftermath seeking signs of survival in a bleak 1980s vision of a dark near-future.

Musique concrète with a beat, this album offers captivatingly voyeuristic post-apocalyptic field recordings and static-laden AM / Ham / shortwave radio broadcasts with a bizarre displaced out-of-time personae.

Pieces… is richly hauntological and brimming with digitally-processed but authentic sounding artifacts of characteristically analog phenomena, including radio broadcasts, snippets of sorrowful minor-key piano melodies, retro television commercial segments, station-tuning and detuning, vinyl crackling, and tape wow and flutter. It features an impressively wide dimensional soundstage ranging from distant and lonely vocal echoes to vintage answering machines to in-your-face distorted guitar shredding, with looming drones and sustained synths to tie it all together with brilliantly seamless finesse. And the mastering quality is top-notch with a zero noise floor to let the artistry take front and center stage.

Pieces… is a work of 21st century studio wizardry richly in the spirit of classic Musique concrète and Eno’s generative methodology. (I also can’t resist its recollection of perhaps a Gothic incarnation of The Firesign Theater’s Bozos LP, particularly reminisced with the clapboard opening and fractured radio adverts.) And there is undeniably a hearty dose of John Carpenter’s desolate and foreboding 80s synths present here. But the record isn’t just the score to such a film. With all the scattered original vocal samples it effectively conjures the visual of an unmade motion picture as well.

There are no verses or choruses. There is only the persistence of the constantly-shifting ambient foci with strange new sounds vying for the listener’s attention at every turn. The album is a highly-engaging dystopian dramatization reminiscent of War Of The Worlds with the enhancement and magic of modern production which rewards dedicated listening. Pieces… is easily the most fascinating and impactful recording I’ve heard this year.

Five stars for its progressive concept, for its vision, for its implementation, for its production, for its social participatory element, and for music that truly deserves some attention.