Copy
December 12, 2014

best of 2014

Yesterday we published Other Music's favorite new releases of 2014, and now we follow up with the very best reissues that we heard this year. The modern digital era has been marked with endless excavation of the past, giving unheard gems another chance at the spotlight, as well as revisiting established classics with remastered and expanded editions. And while it's hard to believe sometimes that every stone has not already been turned -- just how many "classic" dub, Afro-funk, psych-rock or folk records can there really be? -- 2014 was awash with amazing reissues from every imaginable genre that clearly deserved some newfound attention. Music culture always builds on what has come before, and featured here are some mighty building blocks that we've been loving in 2014.

announcements

OTHER MUSIC GIFT CERTIFICATES

Available year-round, Other Music Gift Certificates are redeemable for purchases made both in the store and off othermusic.com. We offer our traditional paper Gift Certificates, or you may also choose to have one emailed to you as a PDF file, which you can then pass along to a friend or loved one via email or print it out yourself. Purchase either type of Gift Certificate here on our mail-order site, where you'll see a choice of increments between $15 and $200. (Email orders@othermusic.com if you would like an amount not listed as an option.) When purchasing a Gift Certificate, don't forget to include the recipient's name in the "Additional Comments" box on the checkout page. If you are choosing a traditional paper certificate and would like to have it mailed directly to the recipient, please include that address in the "Shipping Info" section.

DOGFISH HEAD CRAFT BREWERY ANALOG-A-GO-GO NYC 2014

THIS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 14

Eataly: 200 5th Avenue, New York, NY
Analog-A-Go-Go NYC 2014 Event Page
 

We're always excited to get together with our friends from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery for some great music and beer, and after trekking to their Delaware brewery for the last few years for the always awesome Analog-A-Go-Go vinyl market, beer and craft festival, we convinced them to take it on the road and set up shop in New York! This Sunday, December 14, we are hosting a very special party with Dogfish Head and Eataly, featuring rare beers, great food, some amazing handpicked craft vendors, and records! Other Music will be curating a selection of our favorite LPs of the year, as well as a ton of other vinyl goodies. We'll also be DJing some of the best music of 2014, and we invited Steve Gunn to perform too! All the details are listed here and tickets are limited and on sale now. (The 2 to 5 p.m. session is now sold out but there are still a handful of tickets available for the second session from 6 to 9 p.m.) We hope you will join us for this premiere edition of Analog-A-Go-Go NYC!

best reissues of 2014

LES AMBASSADEURS
Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako
(Sterns Africa)

Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako featured some of the most innovative, eclectic, and highly skilled musicians of the 1970s Malian danceband circuit. While many African music enthusiasts in the Western world are familiar with the likes of the Rail Band, few have heard the absolutely heart-wrenching beauty and kinetic romance of Les Ambassadeurs. Sterns Music changed that with this stellar two-CD overview of the group's music; filled with gently spiraling guitar work, percolating percussion, buzzing organ melodies, and robust horns, the band counted amongst its ranks a number of musicians and singers who would go on to dominate the African music scene in later years -- among the participants are guitarists Amadou Bagayoko (later of Amadou & Miriam) and Keletigui Diabaté, and vocalists Ousmane Dia (of the Star Band de Dakar) and Salif Keita, who had left the Rail Band to join forces with Les Ambassadeurs' powerful, elemental all-star group. A rich collusion of highlife and soukous guitars, Afro-Cuban rhythms, Asian and Arabic harmonics, and even nods to Western pop and soul of the era, and featuring musicians with supreme chops and considerable passion throughout, this made for one of the most beautiful, soulful African music reissues we stocked in quite some time.

$18.99 2CD ON SALE


FRANCIS BEBEY
Psychedelic Sanza 1982-84
(Born Bad)

Cameroonian writer, artist and musician Francis Bebey had more of his lovely, homegrown, ethereal yet earthy music compiled by the Born Bad label following 2012's excellent African Electronic Music collection. Where that set focused upon Bebey's experiments with synthesizers and drum machine technology, Psychedelic Sanza spotlighted his work with the African thumb piano, creating an almost inverse portrait of the one painted via the Electronic comp. The songs collected here are built around multilayered, polyrhythmic patterns of thumb piano melodies, minimal percussion, and Bebey's haunting, otherworldly vocals. He brings a ghostly, spectral quality to this music that belies the sanza's reputation as a "primitive" instrument, instead using its buzzing harmonics to craft a sound world that, even amongst the many recordings based around the use of the instrument in Bebey's wake, still remain unique and truly special. These are thick clouds of sound, made up of interlocking layers that tumble and intertwine in ways that parallel the methods used by swarms of contemporary producers, yet this was recorded live by one man, multi-tracking himself into an ensemble of quiet comfort but estimable power. Bebey has long been a storewide favorite here at Other Music, and this collection brought together some of his most beautiful and beloved work.

$17.99 CD
$27.99 2LP


CHARLES COHEN
A Retrospective 
(Morphine)

This two-CD retrospective of elusive Philadelphia-based musician and composer Charles Cohen was, all hyperbole aside, a long overdue and essential treasure trove of his vintage recordings of analogue synthesis. Cohen is one of the few humans ever known to master the Buchla synthesizer, most specifically the Buchla Music Easel, and despite his preferences toward improvisation and live performance, the 22 pieces collected here offered a rare glimpse into the mind of a man who is so in tune with his machines, it is as though they breathe, move, speak, and live as an extension of himself. These pieces were primarily created for modern dance and film projects, and they pulsate with a kinetic energy that resonates even at their most abstract and abrasive. Much of the music throughout mirrors many contemporary innovations in Krautrock, techno, and dance musics, seldom leaning toward brainy obtusions in favor of more visceral urban shapes and patterns. If you have any interest in electronic music as an active landscape of listening, this is pretty much damn near essential.

$26.99 2CD


MIKE COOPER
Trout Steel
(Paradise of Bachelors)


MIKE COOPER
Places I Know / The Machine Gun Co.
(Paradise of Bachelors)

Paradise of Bachelors have been on a tear of late, and the incredible reissue campaign they did this year for British folk icon Mike Cooper was just icing on the cake. We've waited years to see Cooper get his due (as an aside, the first song of Cooper's this blurb writer ever heard was on WFMU the morning he was driving into the city to move to New York in 2000 -- despite never having even visited -- and he instantly knew this was the exact place he wanted to be). Part of the same generation of boundary breaking folk-singer songwriters such as Michael Chapman, Roy Harper, Bill Fay, Bert Jansch, and John Martyn, Cooper is every bit any of their equals, with an expansive and immediate vision that's found him trying on and shedding various forms since the early '60s. The three LPs gathered here, Trout Steel, Places I Know, and Machine Gun Co., may chart his heyday as a songwriter, but he was also a songwriter ultimately bold enough to name his band after one of the most searing free jazz records ever recorded, famed German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann's 1968 album Machine Gun. He has a wonderfully lived-in voice, delivering songs both intimate and epic amidst a fearless deconstruction of folk idioms. Beautiful and groundbreaking in equal measure.

Trout Steel
$13.99 CD
$21.99 LP+MP3

Places I Know / The Machine Gun Co.
$15.99 CD
$26.99 2LP+MP3


NED DOHENY
Separate Oceans
(Numero Group)

Ned Doheny has seen little success and recognition as a songwriter and performer outside of a small but fanatical fanbase of connoisseurs, most of whom are in Japan or forever grooving in some tropical all-night Balearic nightclub. So we were thrilled when the Numero Group released this retrospective of Doheny's early years, featuring choice cuts from his first three albums, as well as a treasure trove of previously unheard studio demos, outtakes, and rare versions of tunes from this 1970s period. Heads will perhaps know "Get It Up for Love" or "To Prove My Love;" those tracks are undisputed deep classics of underground dance and blue-eyed soul, but this collection also shows a side of Doheny seldom heard from his debut LP on Asylum: a blend of Laurel Canyon troubadour folk and subtle groove. Separate Oceans ably serves as both a wonderful introduction to the man's work for the neophyte, while also offering up a heaping portion of rare versions for the heads (it's about an even 50/50 split). If you dig the likes of Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, beachy Balearic dance music, heartfelt and soulful troubadours, and blue-eyed soul, this is straight-up essential listening, folks.

$15.99 CD
$21.99 2LP


ELIA Y ELIZABETH
La Onda de Elia y Elizabeth
(Vampisoul)

Vampisoul's introduction to the dreamy, tropical soul-pop of Colombian group Elia y Elizabeth won over many a listener in our shop this year, offering up a mix of soft harmonies, gentle psychedelia, and entrancing funk and R&B rhythms. Taking the sunshine-pop sounds of Laurel Canyon and hotwiring them with splashes of cumbia, boogaloo, and a bit of Caribbean heat, these two sisters combine their love of classic American and British pop with the music of their homeland. This compilation serves as a lovely introduction to a lost chapter of Latin American 1970s pop, with vibes and melodies that will appeal to fans of the Finders Keepers catalogue, those who dig the sounds of vintage girl groups, and even those who like a bit of exotica in their grooves.

$17.99 CD


FUGAZI
First Demo
(Dischord)

Though still in their early 20s when the band came together, Fugazi's two frontmen, Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto, had both already led hugely influential groups that have had a widespread and lasting impact on modern music -- MacKaye with Minor Threat, Picciotto with Rites of Spring. Fugazi formed as a trio in 1987, with MacKaye on guitar and vocals, Brendan Canty on drums and Joe Lally on bass. After a handful of shows, Picciotto was brought on as a second vocalist, and eventually guitarist, and after a few more shows the quartet headed out to famous scene studio Inner Ear to record their first batch of demos, mostly just to hear for themselves what the band sounded like. The sound quality of this is impeccable, and the material -- original versions of many classic Fugazi tracks that would turn up on their first four official releases -- is all prime stuff. These early takes have a spontaneity and looseness that shows a great band figuring themselves out, making this a must for any committed fan.

$10.99 CD
$13.99 LP+MP3


JEF GILSON
Gilson et Malagasy
(Jazzman)

Jazzman Records issued a stellar box set containing French jazz pianist and composer Jef Gilson's entire collected works with Malagasy, a diverse group of musicians from the island nation of Madagascar, located off the coast of Africa. The three albums released by this innovative collaboration were stunning flights of swinging yet slightly outside spiritual exotic jazz, fusing together Parisian hard bop with strong flourishes of African string harmonics, along with thickets of percussive textures. In addition to the scarce original albums included in this, Jazzman has uncovered another disc's worth of previously unheard material, making this an absolute steal at its price for both the lucky individuals who own originals, as well as neophytes coming to this stuff with fresh ears. Those who like their jazz to have a bit of freedom, yet still want things swinging and bouncing with a strong rhythmic anchor, will find so much to love here.

$25.99 4CD


ROWLAND S. HOWARD
Pop Crimes
(Fat Possum)

While Rowland S. Howard was perhaps best known as the Fender-wielding guitarist in the Birthday Party, he was also a passionate songwriter possessing incredible emotional depth. First released in 2009, two months before his passing from liver cancer, Pop Crimes is the statement of a man reflecting back on his life and expressing himself from a difficult place. An updated reading of "Shut Me Down" (an earlier version appeared on his 1999 solo album, Teenage Snuff Film) features Birthday Party colleague Mick Harvey, whose unmistakable drumming alongside Howard's sense of desperation makes for one of this record's most powerful moments. Pop Crimes is not an entirely mopey affair, however; the title track and "Wayward Man" find Howard climbing toward the similar heights of twisted guitar heroics as some of his previous work in the Birthday Party or Crime and the City Solution, and as leader of These Immortal Souls. HTRK's Jonnine Standish also makes a vocal appearance on "I Know a Girl Called Jonny," and the set is rounded out by personal takes on Talk Talk's "Life's What You Make It" and Townes Van Zandt's "Nothin." How sad then that this would be Rowland S. Howard's last album, however, he left us with one of the finest records in the entire post-Birthday Party canon, and we were very thankful to see this back in print.

$13.99 CD
$16.99 LP


BESSIE JONES WITH THE GEORGIA SEA ISLAND SINGERS
Get in Union
(Tompkins Square)

Tompkins Square's two-disc set of field recordings documenting Bessie Jones and the community of singers from the Georgia Sea Islands consists of some of the deepest rooted, most absolutely exhilarating and soul-crushing African-American group and solo singing we heard all year, if not ever. Pretty much any emotion a human possesses can be summoned by this collection of 51 songs. This selection begins in 1959, when the singers of St. Simons had coalesced around the near-supernatural force that was Bessie Jones (truly one of the greatest voices Alan Lomax ever recorded), and runs through 1966, illustrating a period when Lomax had no doubt tapped one of the richest veins of vernacular folk and blues music he ever discovered throughout his illustrious career.

$26.99 2CD


ARIEL KALMA
An Evolutionary Music (Original Recordings 1972-1979)
(RVNG Intl.)

We've loved French experimental musician Ariel Kalma ever since Beta-Lactam Ring reissued his fantastic Osmose record (made with Richard Tinti) back in 2006, and which we included in that year's Best Of list. There's been a slight trickle of his vintage work rereleased since then, but the good people at RVNG Intl. have presented us with a double album compilation of pieces from Kalma's unreleased archives that has now thrown the floodgates open. A fascinating character and intuitive composer with links to everyone from Don Cherry and Pierre Henry to the mysterious cult group Arica, here he brings us his many and varied explorations into tape reverb and delay, mellow synth patterning, synapse-popping drum machine tracks, and tunes that effortlessly combine ambient soundscapes with what is practically modal jazz. It's exactly the kind of ambitious and listenable experimental music we can never get enough of, and a perfect follow-up to previous RVNG reissue work from Sensation's Fix, Harald Grosskopf, and K. Leimer.

$15.99 2CD
$31.99 2LP


BUNNY "STRIKER" LEE
Full Up
(Pressure Sounds)

Pressure Sounds collections are always worth a listen, and this new compilation gathering early productions from Bunny "Striker" Lee, dating from 1968 to '72, is a great showcase of an era in Jamaican music history in which producers of ska's jazz- and calypso-influenced sound, and rocksteady's slower syncopated rhythms, gradually built the foundation for a genre that is now known as reggae. Like most early reggae producers, Lee's in-house band, the Bunny Lee All Stars, was a tight-knit crew of untutored musicians; Aston and Carlton Barrett led Lee's group, with Glen Adams and Alva Lewis among them. This band also moonlighted for other producers -- the Bunny Lee All Stars would also be known as the Hippy Boys which in turn became Lee Perry's Upsetters, as well as Bob Marley's Wailers, and even the Aggrovators. Across the 21 tracks collected here -- most of them instrumental but with occasional vocal appearances from legends like U-Roy, Stranger Cole, Pat Kelly, Delroy Wilson, and Winston Williams -- Lee and his crew create a vibrant and bouncy backdrop of proto-dub with lots of psychedelic organs and effects. This era in Jamaican music has been dug through many times over the last decade, but this set is solid gold.

$16.99 CD
$24.99 2LP


LEWIS
L'Amour
(Light in the Attic)


LEWIS
Romantic Times
(Light in the Attic)

Well, we certainly called it when we said that Lewis' L'amour would be one of the "most enigmatic, puzzling and yet just absolutely enjoyable and addictive albums you'd hear all year." We also said that Lewis' story is "still shrouded in a great deal of mystery," and it still is, despite a chance meeting with the man himself by the producers of the reissue since its release, along with other fascinating new breadcrumbs since being found along his trail. These breadcrumbs remarkably include entire other records he made that barely anyone even knew existed, such as Romantic Times, whose discovery we blissfully celebrated along with what seemed like the entirety of the internet. Where L'amour was diffuse in the extreme, with a vibe of romantic longing that always bordered on the edge of melancholy (and yet which remained weirdly uplifting), Romantic Times took a more brooding, crepuscular approach, still intimately focused on yearning and love, but from a decidedly more gimlet-eyed perspective. These are two of the most sui generis records of the year, and ones whose mysteries we look forward to unraveling for a long time.

L'Amour
$16.99 CD
$22.99 LP
Romantic Times
$16.99 CD
$22.99 LP


CLAUDE LOMBARD
Claude Lombard
(MPLS)

Despite being an artist primarily known in Europe for a number of Eurovision Song Contest entries, a series of children's albums made throughout the 1970s, and a large body of work as a voiceover artist for animated films, the 1969 debut LP by Belgian singer Claude Lombard was another matter entirely. This album is a gorgeous, startling document of melancholic chanson psychedelia that staggeringly foreshadowed the eerie, incorporeal sci-fi pop of Stereolab and, more specifically, early Broadcast by about 30 years; in fact, about half of the album honestly sounds like some alternate universe where Françoise Hardy is singing the songs on Haha Sound or The Noise Made by People. The instrumentation is primarily guitar, bass, piano and organ, along with some of the most beautifully intricate drumming ever heard on record -- but the secret weapon here is the copious usage throughout of the ondes martenot, an early electronic instrument similar in sonic tone to the theremin. The instrument adds a haunted and nearly occult spectrality to these already beautiful songs, and the results are simply breathtaking. The absurd rarity and prohibitive cost of original pressings of the album made this reissue even more essential. It's a truly special record, seemingly one of a kind, at times warmly familiar and yet startlingly fresh.

$13.99 LP


GIGI MASIN
Talk to the Sea
(Music from Memory)

This collection of deep, soothing, somber electronic minimalism by Italian composer Gigi Masin astonished nearly all who heard it this year. Masin's deeply emotive and hypnotic soundscapes tie together strands found in works as diverse as the lush environments of Brian Eno, the compositional majesty of Roedelius, the melancholic soul-pop of the Blue Nile, and even the elegiac drone loops of William Basinski. Masin's work stands on its own, though, offering a fresh interpretation of the darker, more emotional side of ambient music. That this compilation spans the course of nearly 20 years and yet still flows and commands one's attention as though it were an album proper speaks even more of its power. Talk to the Sea proved to not only be the standout release in the fledgling Music from Memory label's increasingly stellar discography, but it also shined a much-deserved light upon a composer who had been unfairly overlooked until now.

$31.99 2LP


HAILU MERGIA
Tche Belew
(Awesome Tapes from Africa)

The Awesome Tapes from Africa label returned with a stunning second release by Ethiopian keyboard master Hailu Mergia in 2014. While their first record of his music (Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye) was an offbeat and impassioned platter that presented Mergia's dexterous, multilayered keyboard work in a more stripped-down solo setting, Tche Belew moves things away from the drum machines and cosmic overdubs and features a robust, full-band sound. This 1977 album sees Mergia leading a group of Ethiopian jazz musicians into territory that shares aesthetic commonalities with peers like Mulatu Astatke and the intergalactic big-band harmonics of Sun Ra & His Arkestra; in fact, the music throughout comes across as a wonderful fusion of these sounds into one of the most beautiful, heavily swinging, and dreamily melodic slices of African jazz and funk that we'd ever heard. This is one of those rare but special albums that demands the attention of all within earshot each time we play the disc in the shop, and which has been a major storewide favorite amongst our diverse staff.

$13.99 CD
$16.99 LP


AUGUSTUS PABLO
Born to Dub You
(17 North Parade/VP)

You are forgiven for wondering how there could still be substantial "rare and unreleased" material from such an iconic and important reggae artist as Augustus Pablo, but VP Records gained access to producer Gussie Clarke's vaults, and put together this stellar collection of little-heard, and unerringly great tracks. Featuring cuts like the amazing 12" version of "No Entry," the original 7" and King Jammy 12" dub versions of "Classical Illusion," and two distinct takes on Horace Andy's iconic "Skylarking," this set is not to be missed, and proves once again that the master of the melodica was truly one of a kind.

$16.99 LP


PIP PROUD
Adreneline & Richard
(Superior Viaduct)


PIP PROUD
A Bird in the Engine
(Superior Viaduct)

The great West Coast-based Superior Viaduct reissued a couple of the most singular artifacts from the psychedelic era this year, being the first two records by oddball singer-songwriter and cult-figure Pip Proud. Often billed as the "Australian Syd Barrett," these two albums do exhibit a striking similarity to Barrett's peculiar sense of song and logic, and you'd almost be forgiven for thinking Proud had bitten Barrett's style if it wasn't for the fact that both of these LPs were actually released before Barrett's solo debut, The Madcap Laughs. These records are wonderfully cracked, full of delightful wordplay accompanied by near outsiderish guitar strumming, and they exhibit an aesthetic that practically serves as a blueprint for countless DIY movements and maneuvers that were to follow, from Simon Finn to Simon Joyner, the Red Crayola to Beat Happening.

Adreneline & Richard
$22.99 LP
A Bird in the Engine
$22.99 LP


MARSHALL ALLEN PRESENTS SUN RA AND HIS ARKESTRA
In the Orbit of Ra
(Strut)

Sun Ra released something like 100 albums during his brief stay here on Earth, and the only things more startling than the quantity would be the universal quality, and the amazing breadth of sounds he explored. A truly otherworldly personality and musical visionary, he set out on his epic journey leading a (somewhat) traditional swing/big band in the early '50s, and over the next four decades explored his own cosmic take on gospel, boogie-woogie, psychedelic jazz, space disco and much more, crafting one of the most soulful, open-minded and inspirational catalogs in modern music. And while there are a number of recognized classic LPs, no single record could possibly approach Ra's legacy in its totality, until longtime sideman Marshall Allen compiled this incredible double-disc set that spans the entire catalog. We might typically frown on a "greatest hits" record from an artist who made so many near-perfect LPs -- after all, jazz is not really a singles format. But Allen has truly captured both the fine details and the incredible scope of Sun Ra's music, and this set is both a fantastic listen, and a valuable education, for longtime and future fans alike.

$17.99 2CD


JORDAN DE LA SIERRA
Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose
(Numero Group)

The Numero Group gave us another example of their typically excellent work by restoring Jordan De La Sierra's Gymnosphere: Song of the Rose piece to its intended length (it had been unfortunately trimmed and rereleased with inferior packaging in the early '80s), complete with the original artwork and drawings De La Sierra created for it. Originally issued by Unity, one of the first serious new age record labels in the country, it's comprised of two straight hours of "spatial" piano, and it may very well be the single most pertinent release when attempting to bridge the gap between minimalism and new-age music. De La Sierra's music nearly breathes serenity, with pacing that is always supremely fluid, every note perfectly placed, recalling at times the eastern exoticisms of Gurdjieff/De Hartmann, or even the seminal ambient music of Brian Eno, as De La Sierra strategically lets notes gently decay of their own accord. A definite cult classic and a very well-loved LP amongst a certain set of the collecting class for a number of years, its unfolding, measured calmness is a perfect antidote to these hectic days.

$17.99 2CD
$31.99 2LP


SPIKE
Orange Cloud Nine
(Golf Channel)

We were quite taken by this intriguing collection of strange outsider music, home-recorded by a Dutch recluse during the '80s. Influenced by sounds as wide reaching as TV commercials, Afro-pop and Steely Dan, Spike Wolters privately pressed four off-kilter Balearic pop albums, from which these 16 tracks come from. Throughout Orange Cloud Nine, simple and lush pop moves are built from earnest crooning, lots of interesting guitar work, and off-the-shelf drum samples for beats, with tracks ranging from the dark, minimalist downtown funk of "The Golden Eye" (which wouldn't have sounded out of place on the Personal Space compilation) to the acoustic-guitar driven "Can You See Me" and "Your Time Has Come," which bring to mind yacht-rock loners like Nick Nicely and Leon Lowman, or even the Cleaners from Venus. All killer and no filler, upon first listen there was no doubt that this would be landing on our Reissues of the Year list.

$16.99 CD
$21.99 LP+MP3


JONE TAKAMAKI TRIO
Universal Mind
(Arc Light Editions)

This year the excellent Arc Lights Editions label reissued an absolutely beautiful slice of Japanese- and Indian-inflected "spiritual" jazz circa 1982 from this trio led by jazz saxophonist Jone Takamäki. (A classical reedist and true forerunner of the underground, Takamäki's been active in the Finnish experimental scene since the late '70s, a member of ECM-signed Finnish collective Karakatau, and also the co-founder of the groups Otna Eahket and Suhkan Uhka.) Universal Mind is a singular record in its ability to plow headfirst into uncharted territory, with plenty of sax, double bass, harmonium, Indian zither, thumb piano and synthesizer throughout. With its heavy Eastern influences, the album is reminiscent of the deepest sides by the likes of Alice Coltrane, Joe McPhee, Yusef Lateef, or even Don Cherry at his most "out." Universal Mind is meditative, peaceful, slow-moving and beautiful, balancing the line between modal jazz and raga-based improv. It all makes for one of 2014's most pleasant surprises and it should not be missed.

$23.99 LP


TRANSLLUSION
The Opening of the Cerebral Gate
(Tresor)

While in recent years Detroit techno innovators Drexciya have seen much of their groundbreaking work being reissued and compiled, some of their most vital and superlative records still remain unavailable -- music that was released under pseudonyms and oft unrecognized, or viewed as less important than the aquatic sci-fi of the Drexciyan realm proper. That began to change with the reissue of James Stinson's Transllusion project. The Opening of the Cerebral Gate exhibited a surprising step forward for Stinson, as he managed to embrace and emphasize both the aggressive rhythmic force of the Drexciya material with a more slinky, cosmic funk that was at times obscured in Drexciya's complex and dense arrangements. This, the first Transllusion album, is arguably the finest, most concentrated and pure Detroit techno record in that it nods to its roots and influences while synthesizing them into new forms that inspired hoards of followers fortunate enough to have heard them the first time around. His works took the timeless techno-pop melodicism of Kraftwerk and toughened it up for the darkest of urban streets, the depths of the sea, and the outer realms of space.

$15.99 CD


LINO CAPRA VACCINA
Antico Adagio/Frammenti da Antico Adagio
(Die Schachtel)

The always quality Die Schachtel label returns to bring us another essential grail from the 1970s Italian underground, the release at hand being composer and percussionist Lino "Capra" Vaccina's highly anticipated magnum opus, Antico Adagio. Just last year around this time they gave us the marvelous Raul Lovisoni & Francesco Messina record, Prata Bagnati Del Monte Analogo, of which this album is in some ways similar, not least in its complete and utter ravishing beauty. Originally intended to be a double LP, but sadly only issued as a single record at the time, Die Schachtel has recovered the entirety of the sessions for this release, with Vaccina's lush, florid percussive soundscapes now spread across two records as they were originally meant to be. Created with an array of gongs, marimbas, and vibraphones that gently yet insistently pulse with only the barest violin and vocal accompaniment, Vaccina succeeded in creating pillowy sonic landscapes that recall Steve Reich at his most amorphous. It's easily one of the most pleasant albums to find yourself lost in this year, and a late but most necessary addition to this list.

Antico Adagio/Frammenti da Antico Adagio
$21.99 CD
Antico Adagio
$27.99 LP
Frammenti da Antico Adagio
$27.99 LP


VARIOUS ARTISTS
1970's Algerian Folk and Pop
(Sublime Frequencies)

Sublime Frequencies' 1970's Algerian Proto-Rai Underground LP from 2008 (which recently saw reissue on CD) remains one of the crown jewels of the label's myriad releases of thrilling sounds from the other side of the world, and this follow-up of sorts is just as enthralling. Where the previous installment focused on Western Algeria's '70s-era Rai scene, this collection -- as the title implies -- shines a light on the folk, pop and rock of the same time period. Most of these tracks are culled from old 45s, and from the yearning psychedelic jangle of "Abadane" by Freedom (Hourya) to the organ-driven psych-folk of Kri Kri's "Wahdi" to the polyrhythmic, sitar and guitar psychedelia of Rachid & Fethi's "Habit En Ich," you can hear Western influences mingling effortlessly with the traditional melodies and modes in unique ways. There's a somber and nearly mournful tone that runs throughout most of these songs, which certainly reflects the long and bloody Algerian War of Independence that had just concluded a decade before, and which also seems to foretell the next civil war that was to commence not too far in the future. Compiled by Hicham Chadly with detailed liner notes by legendary Algerian DJ Omar Zelig, 1970's Algerian Folk and Pop is highly recommended and the LP (housed in a gatefold sleeve) is dangerously limited!

$15.99 CD
$23.99 LP


VARIOUS ARTISTS
Native North America Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock and Country 1966-1985
(Light in the Attic)

For all the tireless excavating that esteemed Seattle reissue label Light in the Attic has undertaken, their new compilation, Native North America (Vol. 1), may be the most vital and refreshing archival work they've done yet, featuring artists who were thwarted by extremely limited resources and circumstance on their quests to create music on par with the finest produced during the flush recording era of the late 1960s and '70s. Across 34 tracks, we were finally given privy to enter a practically unknown era of protest music by aboriginal singer songwriters from the Canadian provinces and Alaska that had been criminally neglected till now. Bolstered by an extraordinarily researched and in-depth set of liner notes, we glimpse how nearly unsung artists such as Willy Mitchell, Willie Thrasher, Morley Loon, David Campbell, and Willie Dunn transcend youthful imitation of Hank Williams and aboriginal stereotypes to reconstruct new native identities through a prism of blues, rockabilly and the Mystic. A more timely, needed and important document we'd be hard pressed to find this year.

$22.99 2CD


VARIOUS ARTISTS
Parchman Farm: Photographs and Field Recordings 1947-59
(Dust-to-Digital)

Once in a blue moon a reissue set comes along that not only redefines the historical narrative behind a period of musical history, but also serves as a straightforward introduction to a style of music adored by the world over. Call it gospel, blues, folk music, whatever you prefer, but this compilation contains quite possibly some of the most "raw" and rural American recordings ever captured on tape. The story goes that in 1947 renowned folklorist and documentarian Alan Lomax literally went behind the barbed wire of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck. He later returned with a camera. Lomax documented the bleak conditions of the prison, where the black inmates labored "from can't to can't," picking cotton and working slave labor for the state. It's intense stuff, and these uncut recordings do present the listener with human truths. Having these recordings widely available, however, is a major public service, and it is lovingly packaged here, with a 124-page hardcover book containing two CDs, along with essays by Alan Lomax, Anna Lomax Wood, and Bruce Jackson.

$37.99 BOOK+2CD


VARIOUS ARTISTS
Sorrow Come Pass Me Around: A Survey of Rural Black Religious Music
(Dust-to-Digital)

Dust-to-Digital continued doing God's work this year, restoring to print the phenomenal field recordings that Sorrow Come Pass Me Around collected  -- originally issued in the mid '70s by blues label Advent. Subtitled A Survey of Rural Black Religious Music (curiously none of which was actually recorded in a church), it's been a highly coveted LP by folk and blues enthusiasts for quite a few years, and has been notoriously pricey to obtain, if you can even find a copy. Spanning 1965-1973, the performances here can be thrillingly raw and emotive, or deeply affecting in their singular devotion, making even songs you've heard a million times, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" for instance, sound positively brand new. Brilliantly produced and sequenced by Dave Evans, it makes even the most disparate strands of gospel song sound a whole.

$13.99 CD
$24.99 LP


WOO
When the Past Arrives
(Drag City)

While the British duo of Clive and Mark Ives has long been a gently kept secret, the public's awareness of Woo has been steadily growing these past few years, with their strange ambient minimalism gaining a new audience as long-out-of-print albums like their 1981 masterpiece debut, Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong, and 1990's It's Cozy Inside seeing recent reissue. The Brothers Ives often gain comparisons to Cluster and the Durutti Column, and to that you can also add the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Basil Kirchin, Robert Wyatt, and sound library music; however, the way the group combines gently plucked acoustic instruments with synthesizers to create airy, impressionistic moods results in something altogether unique. Although When the Past Arrives, a collection of unreleased material, is less reliant on the percussive qualities that give much of Woo's previously released music its motion, a gentle pulse is nevertheless always present. As such, this might be the most tranquil set we've heard from them yet, and it drifts like some pink cloud in an afternoon daydream. Many pieces here are under two minutes, giving the proceedings an air of the vignette -- beams of sunlight that only stay in the room for a few minutes. Best heard as a continuous stream, When the Past Arrives is, simply put, a pleasure.

$14.99 CD


ALEXIS ZOUMBAS
A Lament for Epirus 1926-1928
(Angry Mom)

As far as producer Christopher King knew, before he traveled to Epirus in Northern Greece in 2012, Epirotic violinist Alexis Zoumbas (b. 1883) had filled the pockets of his "porcine landlord" with stones and tossed him into a well, then fled for the U.S., where he made some rare and beguiling 78-rpm records and was knifed by his mistress on the eve of his first visit back to his homeland. A tantalizing story, begging to be believed, and upon listening to Zoumbas' records -- virtuosic and keening violin solos, backed by lugubrious cimbalom or double-bass, capable of stirring up an almost unbearable, aching sadness -- you want to believe it. Of course the story's too good (or too pat) to be true, as King reveals in his notes to A Lament for Epirus, which are half biography of Alexis Zoumbas (the most complete to date) and half travelogue (which is, par for King's course, half physical and half metaphysical). The collection features a dozen solo records that King selected and remastered (in magnificent fashion) for this album, the first ever devoted to Alexis Zoumbas. It's due time; as King writes, this is some of the most "powerful music the world has scarcely heard."

$14.99 CD
$25.99 LP


the big picture

UPDATE ARCHIVES
VISIT OUR WEBSITE