Thanks to the graft of reissue labels and canny collectors, there’s an embarrassment of neglected, forgotten or misunderstood material being unearthed week by week
The volume of new-old music doesn’t outpace new-new music, of course, but it’s not too far behind either. With so many more archive releases turning up on shelves, we’ve worked though the stacks to pick our 10 favourite reissues and retrospectives of the last month.
On the agenda in June: Indonesian psych-folk, Madlib at his kookiest, and some Halloween shoegaze coming back from the dead. Prepare to greet some old acquaintances, and make a few new ones to boot.
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HALF DEAD GANJA MUSIC
French psychedelic drone outfit Vox Populi! are set to get a whole lot more attention this year, thanks to a bumper reissue drive from Vinyl On Demand. First, though, comes this stunning vinyl reissue of 1987 cassette Half Dead Ganja Music, courtesy of ex-Skater (and superfan) Spencer Clark and his Pacific City label. It’s one of those strangely-seasoned stews that brings all manner of associations to mind: Wolfgang Voigt’s churning soundscapes on ‘Gole Maraim’, Vessel’s metal-meets-metal ambient on ‘De La Cohorte Mystique; and Eski wheeze on ‘Fossle’. If you cop one reissue this month, make it this woozy delight.
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CELESTIAL SOUL PORTRAIT
According to Iasos, Celestial Soul Portrait is a sonic encomium to a benign transdimensional cosmic being called Vista. In practice, that means a brocaded collection of synthesizer pieces and proto New Age compositions from the Bay Area producer. Laid down between 1975-1985 on Iasos’ houseboat, this 2xLP bundles previously unheard tracks and early works with an in-depth essay on his canon at large. Away with you, Vangelis!
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Or, the backroom boy has his day. Craig Leon’s biography will tell you that he earned his keep producing the likes of Talking Heads, Suicide, Blondie, and Ramones, but he also snuck out two cult solo albums in the 1980s, with 1981’s Nommos proving the keeper. Nommos is a hall-of-mirrors reflection of his contemporaneous production work, scuzzing up the post-punk sound he’d helped define and pushing austere elemnts (synth drones, tonal music, processed electronics) to the fore. Superior Viaduct’s edition, remastered from the original tapes, is the definitive version of this forbidding set.
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A YOUNG PERSON’S GUIDE TO THE AVANT GARDE
Everything you wanted to ask about Erik Satie but were too afraid to ask. LTM’s 26-track compilation offers a whistlestop tour of 20th century art music, blistering through Modernism, Futurism and Dadasim along the way: Schwitters, Duchamp, Ligeti and Cocteau all feature. Very much one for the greenhorns, but, as CGP-style primers go, it’s about as good a selection as we’ve encountered (even an hour spent reading the website blurbs will leave you much improved).
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Yessir Whatever, the sort-of-new collection from Madlib’s Mike Teavee-voiced alter ego, is a great listen, but it’s also fairly straight-down-the-line compared to Quasimoto’s first two LPs. For Lord Quas at his weirdest, you need to turn to 2005’s The Further Adventures Of Lord Quas – a spiralling rabbit hole of psychedelic boom-bap, soused electro and see-what-sticks collage. Stones Throws’ instrumental platter gives the album’s zonked productions a chance to shine on their own terms – and shine they do.
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Finders Keepers’ cerebral Cacophonic label has debuted in style with releases from Michel Magne and Karel Goeyvaerts, but their reissue of pioneer composer Harry Partch’s The Bewitched is their highest-profile acquisition. The first Partch work written exclusively for dance and mime, The Bewitched pulls from classical forms (Greek tragedy) and exotic idioms (Bali, Africa) to produce an involving piece of portentous unearthly sonic storytelling. Originally available on Partch’s own Gate 5 label, Cacophonic’s remaster offers an exact replica of the first 1957 performance , plus little-seen documents and photos.
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Mid-1970s Indonesian psych-folk? We’re there. Hounded and banned by the Shuko government, Kelompok Kumpungan deployed self-built instruments and a pastoral sensibility to make rich East-meets-West folk music – think The Incredible String Band with a higher gong count. Strawberry Rain’s limited reissue comes packaged with an essay from Indonesian music writer Denny Sakrie and a stash of photos, and makes for the most revelatory of this month’s global rediscoveries.
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The dark ambient album of the decade, 2001’s Imperial Distortion is a seriously important record for FACT – so much so, in fact, that we’ll be assessing its influence in a special feature next month. For now, then, let’s just say that noise pin-up Drumm’s first ambient effort is a record you seriously need to hear – and, considering Hospital’s long-overdue remaster has been put out in a limited edition of 200, one you’d better snaffle quickly.
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DARK ROUND THE EDGES
(MACHU PICCHU RECORDS)
First issued on private press in 1972 in a teeny run of 50 copies – and intermittently reissued on numerous occasions since – Dark Round The Edges isn’t particularly dark or particularly edgy, but it is a wicked set of incense-swathed psych-rock with some fantastically fuzzy interludes and lyrics about Michael Caine. For those looking to learn more about the short-lived Northampton group, the remaster comes packaged with comprehensive sleeve notes from Dark chief Steve Gilles. Very special.
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Between the red neon-lit synth lines, schlocky artwork and carefully cultivated air of hopelessness, Troller are taking more than a few cues from SALEM. Still, souped-up Goth will always pluck at our heartstrings, and this full vinyl repress of the Texas band’s self-titled 2012 debut broods with the best of them. Spooky, freaky, gloomy, lovely.
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