Browsing Category Reissues

Michael Rother – Solo

Odds are if you’re familiar with Michael Rother round about 2019, its from his work with Neu! or Harmonia. If you’re digging deep, perhaps from his short stint with Kraftwerk. This month, however, the light gets shown on Rother’s tight but enticing catalog of solo works as his label Groenland issues them in the box set SOLO. The tone in his works always captured a sense of wonder, but with Neu! there was also a feeling of modernity as well. Following his move to the smaller hamlet of Frost, in Northern Germany and his connection with Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius to form Harmonia, there slipped in a bucolic calm, but also (often to Rother’s chagrin) a formless float that wasn’t tethered to the heartbeat hum that had been his bedrock.

In 1976 the members all looked to solo ideas and Rother embarked on Flammende Herzen, which kept the calmer shades and lush atmospherics of his country surroundings but added in a bit more backbone than Harmonia had offered. This could quite rightly be attributed to excellent contributions by producer Conny Plank and Can’s own Jaki Liebezeit, but Rother’s vision was sound even without his ringers. The resulting album revels in natural wonder, working effervescent rhythms and Rother’s dewy guitar leads into an album that’s a soundtrack to the sun.

Surprised by its success Rother dove back in with a renewed confidence and a bigger budget, given that the solo album was outselling any of his previous works at home. Sterntaler follows much of the same feelings as the first LP before he broke new ground with ‘79’s Katzenmusic (inspired by his love of Cats) incorporating a less restrictive beat and a wider palette of instrumentation than before. While the record doesn’t exactly inspire mewling, its another instrumental dip into the blissful end of the pool, albeit now with a looser handle on the sticks and sequences. Quite sadly for audiences, this blissed trip would also be his last with Conny Plank at the controls. As he slid into his last, and quite frankly darkest period for ‘82’s Fernwarme, he’d leave behind his veteran producer in the process.

This last album in the set still retains Rother’s deft hand on the strings and synths, but turns a bit darker and away from his pastoral times, centering more on life in Hamburg than his idyll out in Forst. Jaki remains on the drums, giving the album another rhythmic tie in – looser still like Fernwarme wound up, but the record doesn’t capture the bliss as well as some of the others. The set’s rounded out with new live cuts and remixes, along with some soundtrack work, but its thos core four albums that make up the true meat of SOLO – a complete picture of Rother’s imprint on the guitar world bound up in one fine form. If you’re a fan of any of his other bands, not to mention other German Progressives like Ashra, Manuel Göttsching, Tangerine Dream, then this set seems like a solid place to spend a little time.



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Laaraji & Lyghte – Celestial Realms

In the past few years Laraaji has gone from something of a tightly traded name among New Age heads, experimental aficionados and yoga practitioners to a roundly celebrated artist with a wealth of material seeping back out into the reissue world. With entries into RVNG’s FRKWYS series and a collaboration with Brian Eno and Bill Laswell, he’s not light on stature, but it seems the current hunger for respite has driven the master of the zither further out into the light. There are plenty of points of entry for the curious among a catalog that’s decades deep, and none are more appropriate than his 1986 album with longtime collaborator Jonathan Goodman, aka Lyghte.

The original version of Celestial Realms was released to tape by New Age label Spirit Music, and it gets an upgrade here via Telephone Explosion’s brand-new offshoot Morning Trip. The album is two side-long tracks that delve deep into meditative trance. Lyghte provides the hypnotic bedrock that pins this to the mind – wavering and low, like the slow lap of a river. He leaves the sparkle to his foil Laraaji, who dazzles atop the drones with his Zither, bells, and guitars that predict the coming of Sun Araw’s psychedelic wobble long at a time when Stallones was more into silly putty than psilocybin.

The album is perfect not only for fans of vintage drone or New Age, but for those captivated by the dropout knockouts of more recent times – Emeralds, Kevin Drumm, Stars of the Lid fan take note and listen deep. It’s a great inaugural release for the fledgling label and perks my interest to see when Morning Trip goes from here. Whether you’re already scooping up the new and old issues from this NY legend or just want to unwind, a copy of Celestial Realms might be just the trick to block out the constant clatter of 2019.



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The Telescopes – Early Studio Recordings

While The Telescopes would go on to refine shoegaze into beautifully fuzzy bliss in their later year, the band found their footing far from the restraint that would mark their eponymous Creation classic. From the outset the band found themselves down in the noise trenches chewing the furious punk swagger of the Stooges into feedback folds on par with Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3 and Loop. With such a large and still evolving catalog to tend to, though, those early EPs tend to get overshadowed and lost from the conversation of psych-punk classics. Bang! Records aims to correct that mistake, however, with the issue of Early Studio Recordings which rounds up the band’s pre-Taste EPs on to one thick platter for the feedback freaks.

The collection rounds up completely remastered versions of tracks from their debut single, Kick The Wall, 7th# Disaster EP, The Perfect Needle EP, and To Kill A Slow Girl Walking EP. Rounding up years spent between Cheree and What Goes On, the early recordings weren’t afforded as much cash infusion clarity as their later works and its nice to hear them scrubbed up and sweating like new. The lingering effects of The Telescopes can be felt foaming through the veins of plenty of newcomers looking to claim the psych crown, so best to take the time to rifle through the unabridged history of noise rock. JAMC and MBV will always get the most space on the page anytime some poor schmuck’s rhapsodizing about the volume infected guitar albums that’ll rattle the fillings right out of your head, but for my money The Telescopes should be seated right near the head of the table. Recommended that you pick this up and find out why.



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Superette – Tiger

In the wake of Flying Nun second-gen powerhouse Jean-Paul Sartre Experience’s dissolution around ‘93/’94 the band’s Dave Mulcahy and Greta Anderson picked up hometown pal Ben Howe to round out their new trio, Superette. The album, long overlooked stateside, is powered by moody hooks and a thick layer of grunge fuzz. Produced by Nick Roughan, who also worked on JPSE’s The Size of Food, the record finds itself locked into the sparser end of the ‘90s spectrum, shooting for Albini and Kramer vibes, though skewing a tad more traditional than either producer kicked out at the crack of the grunge era. Like the last wave of JPSE’s output the record embraces less of the idiosyncratic Kiwi-rock and more of their American and UK counterparts, but they hold out some bright spots that keep them from falling into obscurity.

Mulcahy and Anderson were in hunkered down in New York at the time their previous outfit called it quits and they no doubt absorbed all that NY’93 had to offer. There are shades of Sonic Youth and Pixies weaving through Tiger, and while they don’t necessarily make as big a footprint as either of those, naturally, they smash through with “Touch Me” and the clanging “I Got It Clean.” Flying Nun has gone the full measure on this one as well, including the band’s debut EP Rosepig alongside recordings from a planned and scrapped second album. I’d wager than most ‘90s nostalgists on this side of the world are unfamiliar with the trio’s melodic crunch, but with this definitive edition, its worth getting acquainted.



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Simon Finn – Pass The Distance

Superior Viaduct has already been handling a ton of great reissues and overlooked essentials, but with the addition of Antarctica Starts here they’re expanding their labyrinth of sublabels to rope in a bit more fun. ASH specifically mines the ‘60s and ‘70s, though they’re not restricting themselves to any particular genre within that time period, which leaves this endeavor pretty open ended. While it seems like opening up the Viaduct brand to older releases could have been easily accomplished without a new logo and name, I’m all in on the SV folks getting into the vast pool of labels scraping from the ‘60s and ‘70s. As it turns out they’ve chosen a crown jewel of psych-folk for one of their inaugural releases, so we’re off to a good start here.

Alongside the wooded weirdness of Fresh Maggots, Relatively Clean Rivers, Pearls Before Swine and The Incredible String Band, Simon Finn’s 1970 LP Pass The Distance stands as a necessary vision of stream of consciousness, cracked-mirror folk. Finn’s sole album was recorded with producer Vic Keary at his Chalk Farm Studios. Keary had helped Finn record an earlier single, “Butterfly” that was met with solemn indifference from UK labels at the time, but the pair sketched out time for a fuller session to follow, hoping for more success with a fuller vision in tow. Finn had just met guitarist David Toop and percussionist Paul Burwell at a local restaurant a few weeks prior and invited them into the sessions. The serendipitous meeting would help to add to the record’s mystique, with Toop’s sleepy guitar curlicues giving Pass The Distance almost as much shape as Finn’s own lyrical loops.

The record was originally issued on Keary’s own Mushroom Records imprint rather than finding a home among the major contenders of the time, but the label suffered quite a few legal setbacks right around the time of release and Pass The Distance was withdrawn almost as soon as it was issued. Finn then faded from music, teaching karate in Canada and focusing on farming with his wife. The ASH edition is not, however, the first reissue of this gem. David Tibet of Current 93 contacted Finn personally to inform him of the record’s cult status among collectors of ephemeral folk and issued it on CD in 2004, even prompting Finn out of retirement for some shows at the time. Little Big Chief followed in 2014 with a short run LP, but this presents the best chance of getting your hands on a vinyl copy these days. Fans of the aforementioned folk outsiders, or keystone touchpoints of the movement like Skip Spence and Syd Barrett would do well to look into Finn’s fevered folk. Its not the most high marquee name in the genre, but it’s a worthwhile listen to be certain.




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Unusual Sounds

I’m a sucker for a couple of things, compendiums of overlooked music and collections of sleeve art throughout the years. Both come to a delightful crest in Dave Hollander’s book for Anthology Editions, Unusual Sounds. In the book the Texan record collector and filmmaker dips into his vast collection of Library music (one of the largest documented such collections around) to shed some light on what he sees as essential cuts and collections. While its an informative k-hole and a visual delight that’s wrapped up in a book jacket by Robert Beatty, one would assume that a book like this either leads to YouTube overload and keyboard cramps or that it might benefit from some sort of companion album, or ideally three or four.

Seems that Anthology agrees and they’ve rounded up twenty tracks from releases highlighted in the book. The collection spans all the best Library hallmarks, from the gameshow funk of Keith Mansfield to the creamy soul of John Cameron, it’s as much a feast for the ears as the book is for the eyes and mind. The haunted psychedelia twofer from Brainticket founder Joel Vandroogenbroeck is a particularly nice touch as is the creeping synth work of Nagara drummer Klaus Weiss. Library music has always been a genre that requires a studious collector and, in that regard, it’s nice to have Hollander take some of the encyclopedic work off of our plates. For those looking to get into some excellent examples of the film archives, funk collectors and soul savants this is a prime collection of genre gems that aren’t likely on over-dug compilations previously existing. Highly recommended!

The double set is, naturally, also wrapped in a Beatty-designed sleeve that gives it a touch of classic age.



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Fapardokly – Fapardokly

California songwriter Merrell Fankkhauser touched down in severally ‘60s groups, beginning with the surf-bent Impacts before forming the psych group Merrell & The Exiles in 1964. The Exiles would eventually shuck that name to become Fapardokly. The thorny name was the result of combining letters from each of the members’ names, something that probably seemed a better idea at the time. The band held down a residency at the Pismo Beach venue The Cove while laying down songs over a number of years at Glenn Records’ founder Glen F MacArthur’s nearby studio. One of the tracks the band recorded, “Tomorrow’s Girl,” found its way onto Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, which helped turn their hodgepodge of studio tracks into an album for the hometown label.

Since it was recorded over several years, the style on the record evolves alongside the trends that transpired between ’64 and ’67. There are straightforward janglers, baroque ruminations and psych standouts peppered all over their eponymous LP. The record has found its way out before, but rarely in an authorized version. Sundazed worked out a CD a few years back, but this marks the return to vinyl and even boasts some archival photos and liner notes from Fankhauser himself. Its also returns the album’s original cover art, which had been degraded to lesser versions among bootleg issues of the record.

Though it would comprise his most essential recordings, Fapardokly didn’t mark the end for Fankhauser. He’d go on to have some nominal psych success with H.M.S. Bounty, a band that shared much common ground with later period Fapardokly. He’d wander towards a fractured blues in the ‘70s with MU, which saw him reconnect with Beefheart band member Jeff Cotton. Notably, Cotton was also briefly in Merrell & the Exiles, but wouldn’t become a member of Fapardokly proper. Nice to see this little gem back in print. Its probably not the most essential piece of the puzzle from the ‘60s but Fankhauser’s talent deserves a bit of a showcase. Well worth the time for Nuggets aficionados.



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Groundhogs – Blues Obituary

I’m all in for getting the Groundhogs’ catalog back on the shelf and it seems that Fire are rushing to the rescue these days. The UK label digs into the band’s ‘69 release, Blues Obituary. The album provides an essential bridge between the hogs’ early blues covers and the, wilder, freer works of their later albums. Scratching The Surface is populated by standards and classics. Its proof the band can play and deserves to be lifted up among the upper echelons of British Blues. With Blues Obituary, however, The Groundhogs propose that they’re something else – provocateurs, alchemists – rather than journeymen. The songs are still rooted in the groove of blues, but TS McPhee and the boys bury the old notions, as the title might attest, and dive further into freakout and burnt psychedelia than they’d ever dared before.

Though they’d certainly push further in the future. The album precedes their doubled down classics Thank Christ For The Bomb and Split, which could use the reissue treatment as well. If the stars align and Fire’s got it in them, hopefully they’ll see new light as well. Apparently, the shift from the blues was spurred on by good ol’ John Peel, which just makes Blues Obituary that much sweeter in retrospect. Any rec from John is a shove in the right direction. This is McPhee just finding his freakish muse, and, while there are definitely more essential albums both in their catalog and from the same year, this is a perfect fit for heads into Canned Heat, Yardbirds and John Mayall. The label does the release proud with a die cut sleeve and limited color, making this likely the definitive issue of the LP.



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Kicking Giant – “This Being the Ballad of Kicking Giant, Halo: NYC/Olympia 1989 – 1993”

Without invoking to much of a pun, I’m kicking myself for missing this when it first found its way back to press. Not to worry, though as this rather essential reissue from Drawing Room Records remains in print. For the unfamiliar, Kicking Giant formed in 1989 in NYC while mems Tae Won Yu and Rachel Carns were in art school. During their time in the city the band issued a run of tapes, one a year, until their eventual move to Olympia, WA. Those tapes – January, Boyfriend Girlfriend, Secret Teenage Summer, and Present – would all be bound into a CD-only collection called Halo in 1993. Its this collection that is now coming to vinyl at last. Their early works were raw, and saw the band work through a range of styles, picking at punk, shoegaze, riot grrrl, abstract pop and indie. While this was a release meant to exploit the large capacity of CDs, its great to see Drawing Room work this out into a gorgeous vinyl package. It was meant as a mixtape for the uninitiated and its still stands as the best primer to the band’s eclectic sound.

The band signed to K Records in 1994, issuing one proper single and an album for the label. Though they’d also contribute to a number of compilations that pretty much summed up their run. Carns joined the similarly overlooked, but no less intriguing band The Need and issued four albums. Yu would instead transition back to visual art, most notably drawing covers for Built To Spill albums. For fans of lo-fi pop and the wild west indie days of the early ‘90s, this collection can’t come with a higher recommendation.




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Goblin – Profondo Rosso

Waxworks continues their expansive exploration of the scores to Dario Argento films. The last one to appear here was the Tenebrae soundtrack, produced as Goblin shifted from a 4-piece down to a 3-piece. Now it’s back to where the collaborations all began, with Argento and Goblin first working together on 1975’s Profondo Rosso (Deep Red). The Italian horror-thriller was the first to get a heaping helping of progressive psych and jazz work from Goblin and it still stands among their best collaborations with the composer. The score is littered with creeping menace and that odd twist of funk that gives Goblin their hook. They don’t go in for simply working through synth sweeps, Goblin’s charm lies in the hard-knuckled nature of their scores and an ability to keep things constantly in motion. The company has given this the most complete treatment to date, expanding the collection out to a 3xLP in triple gatefold.

What’s been most striking about the Waxworks editions is not only the expanded music but the extensive design, making the soundtracks more art pieces than merely musical accompaniment. Standing alongside editions from Mondo and Death Waltz, the new class of horror soundtracks are becoming curios for ardent collectors. Aside from the essential pickups of Profondo Rosso and Tenebrae in this series, the label has also put forth editions of the Phenomoena score, which while not a Goblin vehicle is worth checking into and boasts the first instance of the film’s completed score on LP. Plus, the artwork on this may be the best of the bunch.

Rounding out the collection is the score to Inferno, which moved away from Argento’s work with Goblin, but kept things in the prog family, partnering instead with ELP’s Keith Emerson. Again, this is wrapped up in deluxe packaging and limited color vinyl. If you’ve been exploring the deep bench of horror soundtracks, these three are a good start outside of your normal Carpenter canon.




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