Browsing Category Reissues

Zann – Strange Ways / Inside Jungle

I may have mentioned its been a pretty great year for reissues. Not only have some essentials found their way back to fold, but some of the off-grid oddities have gotten a second life via diggers with far better noses than I. Case in point, Isle of Jura, an Adelaide Australia label has been digging into the experimental, disco, dub, and electronic bins for releases I didn’t even know I needed. They’ve brought new life to a private press odditiy from German band Zann. The band grew out of live experiments as a 7-piece, under the direction of ex-Konec member Udo Winkler. Winkler was looking to push further from the boundaries of post-punk and with Zann he’d done just that. The record embraces many of the same ideals as post-punk proper – a highly attuned sense of rhythm, dub textures, and instrumentation that might not fit within the rock ideals. It ditches for the most part, however, traditional song structure and floats into bouts of airy woodwinds and the LED blink of synth lights on many tracks. Zann in many ways bridges the divide between the worlds of Krautrok, Prog, and post-punk, finding itself at home in none of them, but tangential to all.

The record was laid down in a home studio with Winkler’s pal Hjalmer Karthaus and due to having not legitimate commercial concerns with the album, the pair saw no reason to pen themselves in stylistically. Though the initial live experiments that would touch off Zann began as far back as 1982, recording didn’t progress until 1988 and completion would find the band far out of fashion with the sounds of 1990 when it was finally finished. They’d pressed it themselves and sold it direct to fans interested in oddities at record fairs, but now thanks to Isle of Jura this record is back in the arms of a wider audience again. The record meanders, as might befit the kind of sessions that don’t seek approval or editing, but when the pair hit on Kosmiche Nirvana, it’s a beautiful thing.



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The Springfields – Singles 1986-1991

Its absolutely fitting that The Springfields compilation should come out on Slumberland. The label had long attempted to release a single from the band, but their tenure ended before the connection could ever come to fruition. With Slumberland as the epicenter of a sound that long looked to the indiepop wave across the sea, The Springfields would have proven their quintessential band. They were American indiepop rooted deep in English sounds — not a common commodity in the timeframe of 1987-1991 as documented here. he Springfields were the first U.S. act to snag a single on that hub of UK pop activity, Sarah Records, with 1988’s “Sunflower.” They’d follow it up with releases on short-lived US levels Picture Book and Seminal Twang, but despite reaching out to UK fans and even Australia with a Sumershine release, they didn’t become part of the Slumberland family until now. Essentially, its just nice to see two American conduits of jangled joy coming together after all these years.

To some the band is also the polar half of Choo Choo Train, which served as the training grounds for much of Matthew Sweet’s circle of collaborators. Choo Choo Train was home to songwriters Paul Chastain and Rick Menck, but most of the same band members in CCT would come to release music withThe Springfields. The idea was that in Choo Choo Train the songwriting fall mostly to Chastain (and occasionally Sweet) and the The Springfields would become Menck’s banner, chasing the same influences that drove his favorite UK pop bands. Sweet rears his head again in The Springfields, documented here on the b-side “Are We Gonna Be Alright?” Mostly, though, this is a celebration of Menck’s output before the core would crumble and he’d go on to work under Sweet and Chastain would form Velvet Crush. In that regard, this is the flashpoint for so many power pop and indie pop points of origin. That alone makes it absolutely amazing to have these singles back in print and collected for the masses that haven’t heard them (of which, there are undoubtedly many).

The collection also winds up as a bit of a love letter to quite a few other bands that didn’t get their due on the first pass in The States, with quite a few of the b-sides winding up covers of bands that Menck enjoyed. The collection here contains covers of an unreleased Primal Scream track, (“Tomorrow Ends Today”), The Clouds (“Tranquil”), and The Pastels (“Million Tears”). Menck does each one justice and hopefully send listeners scrambling into the arms of those bands as well. There’s a Hollies cover thrown in as well, but they didn’t necessarily need the push the others did. There are hundreds of reissues sliding down the belts these days, but this one’s ranking pretty high on the necessary scale. Any jangle pop fan should have pushed ‘purchase’ around that first paragraph.



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Curt Boettcher – Looking For The Sun

I’d mostly become familiar with the name Curt Boettcher a bit backwards He was a conduit for lush, sunshine pop from the 1960s — namely under The Sagittarius and Millennium headings along with Gary Usher — but those checking the production notes on any assorted dozen sunshine-psych tracks are likely to find his name among the studio set. He’s credited with a good swath of hits by The Association, and contributed recognizable work to Gene Clark, The Beach Boys, Tommy Roe, Elton John, Eternity’s Children, Emmitt Rhodes, and Paul Revere & The Raiders catalogs. In this role Boettecher shone as a producer who could use every tool in the rack to bring a pillowy softness to his songs. There’s an invisible thread among productions touched Curt’s hand, they share a sense of melancholy, wonder, and a telltale swooning sensibility that could only have come from the mind of Curt. Looking For The Sun highlights the singles that Boettcher produced that may have gotten lost between the cracks, the artists that weren’t as marquee as those previously mentioned, but songs that standout just the same.

There are twenty-one tracks from Cindy Malone , Sandy Salisbury , Gordon Alexander , Keith Colley, Summer’s Children, Jonathan Moore , Ray Whitley , Eddie Hodges , The Bootiques , Action Unlimited on this comp that highlight the man behind the boards. Though they’re brought together from different backgrounds, they all ease into the clouds that Curt cultivated and dig in the sunshine that he spread. There’s a track from Sagittarius included as well, a band that has long been storied for its inclusion of an ace backing band made up of members of The Music Machine, The Ballroom and Crabby Appleton. Not included in this set, but also of note is Curt’s ace solo LP. He dropped one ’T’ out of his name and released one solo gem that, despite Elektra backing, may have gone even more unnoticed some of these. Along with a handful of singles it remains the only one under his name.

For any fan of sunshine psych, this will likely prove an indispensable collection tied together by the watchful production that Boettcher brought to all his endeavors. The songs are all sourced from the original master tapes and have been presented in a clarity that does them justice. The reissue font has been overflowing this year and there’s still time to squeeze in a few more essentials.



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Jim Sullivan – If The Evening Were Dawn

Light In The Attic has done much to preserve the legacy of Jim Sullivan. The artist has a storied past. He hung with a counterculture crowd – had a bit part in Easy Rider, spent time crawling bars with Harry Dean Stanton and disappeared from mysterious circumstances in New Mexico in 1975. He recorded two albums, though neither did well to carry him forward at the time. His debut was a haunted folk record dotted with extra-terrestrials, lonesome nights, and endless stretches of road. It featured the legendary Wrecking Crew as his backing band. His second, eponymous album was picked up by Playboy’s fledgling record label but their inept promotion mechanisms let it down. That along with the connotations associated with Playboy at the time scared off quite a few listeners who would have sunk deep into its mahogany rich grooves and evening air. It stands as a true shame, because both albums are well worth a listen. LITA is thankfully bringing both of these record back to life, but they’ve included on more bit for good measure.

The collection of songs on If The Evening Were Dawn strips away any backing band that fleshed out Jim’s songs. There’s no embellishment, just the barest of essentials and it casts his songs in a spare, but blissfully austere light. The album is culled from a 1969 session with just Sullivan alone, giving some inklings of his work around L.A. bars at the time. It captures exactly what’s magic about Sullivan. His voice is weathered but hopeful. There’s still that lonesome resolve in his songs, but they’re given an unfussed elegance with this cap on his career. There’s crossover between this and the other two albums, but the collection works well as neither a live trinket or a scratch demo. The songs feel like they take on a new life here and this comes into its own as Sullvan’s final album – part retrospective, part document of a moment in time that may have dispersed like smoke from the end of an unattended cigarette were it not for the forgiving souls at LITA. This is an essential companion piece for any fan of Sullivan’s works, and a damn fine inroads for the uninitiated.



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The Kiwi Animal – Music Media / Mercy

Digital Regress revive a pair of often overlooked New Zealand records from the duo of Brent Hayward and Julie Cooper, better known as The Kiwi Animal. Brent had roots in a couple of other NZ bands, most notably Shoes This High before he and Cooper brought their vision forward their unique take on acoustic pop in 1982. In antithesis to some of their contemporaries, the band didn’t adopt the jangled or bent punk styles that were more popular, but instead found footing in an emotionally bare, often politically leaning folk style that was both gentle and bracing simultaneously. Comparisons to The Vaselines are not without warrant, though The Kiwi Animal don’t often find themselves as cheeky as Kelly and McKee might.

Digital Regress packs up both the band’s debut, Music Media and its follow-up Mercy. The first embraces movement as well as experimentation, sliding from the radio-static dirge, “Radio One” into the sprightly (by their standards certainly) “Every Word is a Prayer.” Cooper has a way of hitting the listener in the heart, tugging at the bittersweet sighs on “Blue Morning.” The record is split between its impulses, but the band manages to pull it off without sounding scattered. Mercy finds itself in a starker place than its predecessor, creeping through the shadows and edged with an anxious energy that ditches notions of catchiness for art house experimentation that would mirror Brent’s foray into film, which would go on to include low-key releases Mudslinging (1984), Beat It (1986), Slick (1989), and his long simmering The Confessions of Johnny Barcode.

Both albums have been out of print for many years, with late ‘90s / early ‘00s editions showing up on German label Sonic Squid. Digital Regress has issued these in editions of 500 copies, with 100 of each on colored vinyl. Truly a portion of the Kiwi underground that needs to be revitalized and reissued. Get them while you can. Highly Recommended!



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Peter Ivers – Becoming Peter Ivers

There’s every chance that, even if you’re a fan of New Wave and punk, the name Peter Ivers has never crossed your lips. Even if you’re a David Lynch fan, Ivers’ involvement in Eraserhead may have escaped your attention. Ivers was more often known as a proponent of music than a writer of music. He had, in fact, recorded several albums – 1976’s Knight of the Blue Communion, 1974’s Terminal Love and 1976’s eponymous affair. Despite this, he was best known as a TV host, presenting the utterly essential cult classic New Wave Theater until his tragic death in 1983. The first album bears little resemblance to the songs on Becoming Peter Ivers. His first outing was threaded with jazz and blues, building to something more idiosyncratic in the future. Those other two albums were headed toward the New Wave he championed through a valley of singer-songwriterdom that was rumpled in the vein of Moon Martin or Warren Zevon.

Many of the songs here would wind up on those latter two albums, but here they’re stripped of any gloss. Demos seems a crude label, because it gives the impression that they weren’t up to snuff, but if anything the version of the songs on Becoming prove that even in private and without the intention of these versions finding their way to the audience, Ivers was still an undeniable charmer. Given his predilection for more outre visions on his show, its always been a bit at odds that Ivers’ own records were more in a lounge singer vibe, but he gives that genre a proper Lynchian feeling – the singer wrapped in plastic, alone at the piano, while a cadre of regulars ignore the emotional exfoliation going on upon the stage. The moments here feel private, like we’ve wandered into a closed session with Ivers. Its almost conceivable that we’re all intruding, until Ivers whirls around and gives a wink, letting us all in on the voyeurism for hire that he’s peddling.

Ivers was a singular entity, part Lou Reed, part Max Headroom. This era of music has been scoured and repackaged, but somehow there’s still a hole where Ivers once stood. His musical voice is a worthwhile addition to the strange bedfellows made of punk, pop, post-punk and ultimately new wave boiling under Los Angeles’ sanded soul. I’m eternally grateful that RVNG has made this available. Now someone issue New Wave Theater in its entirety for a viewing audience in need of a licorice strip search.



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The Ivytree – A Pillar of Clouds

It’s been an embarrassment of riches this year from the Ivytree camp. Following the excellent, if not to say essential, collection that Glenn put together for Recital earlier in the year covering unreleased recordings from 2001-2004, Tall Texan has a new collection going even further back into the archives. The extremely limited offering covers Donaldson’s works as Ivytree from 1999-2004, picking up some overlooked covers like “Blind River,” which appeared on a Tom Rapp tribute compilation put together by Jeff Alexander of Dire Wolves. The cover appears there under the name shift The Olivetree, though it’s unmistakably an Ivytree treatment at heart. It slots alongside nicely with a (sadly) timely Ivytree cover of the Hunter/Garcia track “Rosemary” from Aoxomoxoa.

There’s an alternate cut from the split with Chris Smith, but the rest of this material remains pretty much unheard and, as with the last collection, it’s nice to tumble down the rabbit hole of Glenn’s long simmering minidisc archives to slip back into the early aughts fog of psychedelic folk that enveloped The Ivytree. Repeated listens endear these tracks as deeply as early gems from Glenn, and if you’re looking to paint the full picture of The Ivytree/birdtree songbook then this one should already feel essential. As mentioned before, this one is even more limited than the previous collection (ltd. 100 on blue vinyl) so probably best not to mull the pickup too long on this. The cool temps are coming, and despite its West Coast birth, this is perfect for the smoke-curled hours that lie ahead.




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Bill Direen – A Memory of Others

In the lore of New Zealand rock, Bill Direen is a mythical figure. More than just a songwriter (though he’s a hell of one to be sure) Direen also served as a literary guide at the head of Percutio Magazine and he’s written as extensively on the page as he has in his songs. This new volume from Sophomore Lounge acts as a bit of a musical accompaniment to his life and works. Simon Ogston has directed a documentary about Direen — Bill Direen: A Memory of Others — and this serves as a companion piece to the film. It’s not a soundtrack, since the film itself doesn’t pull strictly from the recorded versions of Bill’s work, but the songs themselves are as integral to getting to know Direen as the film itself.

Direen kicked through several early bands in his youth – forming (the) Vacuum in 1980 along with soon to be members of The Pop Group. His band The Urbs laid the groundwork for The Builders (or Bilders depending what year it is.) The group’s debut Beatin’ Hearts still stands as an essential of pre-Flying Nun primal New Zealand rock and has cemented Direen in the roots of a sound that would continue to expand and explode in and around Christchurch in the years to come. The album, covers his time in The Builders and beyond, but this is no chronological arc. The record skips scattershot between periods and players, giving a three-dimensional picture of Direen’s work.

The songs move from early, fuzz-caked but brilliant pop nuggets to arid and affecting poetry backed by more organic and quieter players. Direen traversed post-punk to folk while making it all seem like one long spectrum. Like the film that portrays him, the album is euphoric and melancholic, hallucinatory and revelatory. Direen’s name should always be among those being discussed in the formation of the Kiwi sound, but more than that, he should be among the best of those seeking to shove pop from its ivory pedestal – a punk in the truest sense of the term. He’s a peddler of pain and a seeker of light. His music and art deserve to be brought to the surface worldwide. I highly recommend checking out Ogston’s film to get some insight into Direen’s arc with some great commentary from a litany of fellow NZ players, and picking up this anthology of South Hemi bedrock.






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Sun City Girls – Dawn of the Devi

The brothers Bishop and Charles Goucher already have the noise-psych guitar-burn street cred to keep them locked atop the manual of how to fully explore the roasted-soulburn side of the psychedelic spectrum, but it’s good to remember how they got there. The majority probably found their way in through Torch of the Mystics. It’s a common point of egress. I know that’s where I found foothold. While that greased platter has plenty of sharpened corners, it also has plenty of soft spots to let listeners in easy. For those who might not be fully immersed in the ectoplasmic splatter of cultural upheaval, it’s a gateway drug to what’s what in the disorienting universe of SCG. The tale’s been told now and the paths are known, but for those finding that album in 1990 the next year’s Dawn of the Devi was more than likely a slap in the face — rug burn n’ cigarette ash worn over the ears for fun and little profit.

The record began a run of barbed and disorienting sojourns through the trio’s acrid musical methods. Though its a bit further into their catalog (album #5), and by no means formative, Devi is the launchpad for some of their most biting works. Without Devi there’s no Valentines for Matahari, no Kalliflower. It’s brutal and barnacled. It’s a dim bulb swaying in a room letting the listener slowly see how surrounded with sewage and sin they truly are. As such it’s also a touchstone for bands looking to touch fully the oracle of carcinogenic psychedelic slop. Sun City Girls, for many, serve as the guiding light down a path not towards euphoria, but towards a permanent dive of bad trip bliss. The record is bent and bowed, rusted and reeking and gloriously so. The record hasn’t been in print on vinyl since its original 1991 release, but now Abduction is putting it back in the hands of the devout followers of bile and blown speakers. Probably goes without saying that you need this, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway.


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The Apryl Fool – S/T

Seems like over the past couple of years, the house of (Haruomi) Honso has been rebuilt reissue by reissue. His solo records have been getting a good shout, Happy End got some (far too limited) reissues in the last couple of years and even some tangential works that he was involved in like Minami Masato’s The Tropics have found their way back to the table. This, however, is where it all started. The Apryl Fool were more straightforward than any of his works, but Honso’s bass anchors their simmering vision of blues rock in 1969 and gives it some great dimension. The band only really laid down one album, their eponymous debut, though a collaboration with Japanese musical theater group Tokyo Kid Brothers exists in a scant pressing around the same time as well. That single isn’t as indicative of their style, though and this LP remains the most complete overview of The Apryl Fool at the time.

Aside from Honso, other members would spread through the burgeoning Japanese psychedelic channels with members popping up in Shinki Chen & His Friends, Food Brain, The Floral, and Happy End. The record is rooted in the kind of British Blues that were dominant around the time, but occasionally also skews towards the psychedelic, especially on the more outre “The Lost Mother Land (Part 1) which came to the attention of many Western fans through the compilation Love, Peace & Poetry: Asian Psychedelic Music at the crack of the Aughts. This album proves that, while that track is an excellent example of effects-indulgent psych, the band had way more to offer. The band quit the day the record was released, and even while it was issued on a Japanese subsidiary of Columbia at the time, that spelled disaster for this music reaching enough ears. Survival Research ensures that this gem doesn’t get lost to the winds forever.


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