Best reissues & archival releases: August
Arc Light Editions, Sacred Summits, Bureau B, Fifth Dimension, and EEs’T Records get full marks as Flora Pitrolo runs through the highlights of August’s archival releases.
Bloody brilliant 1989 criminally underheard but long-legendary release from Sacred Summits. Embedded deep in the Dutch techno scene, the Tilburg collective Psychic Warriors ov Gaia put out this now super-rare tape as a demo on Katharos Foundation in 1989. Also a collective, Katharos was one of the short-lived but very very splendid discographic hubs which picked up the glowing early 1980s Dutch baton of fusing dance culture and industrial culture in the most elegant and intelligent of ways. Although labeled varyingly as tribal and EBM at the time, this first tape – now sparsely and evocatively titled 1989 – is what I would label as a kind of ‘industrial carnival’, which shares part of its substance with tribal techno, but also with romantic noise, with early house, with lo-fi experimental new beat, in an astonishingly varied and accomplished range of impressions.
Opening on the heady beat of “Acid Dervish”, orientalism and car horns over slamming metallic rhythms, the tape leads us through a hedonistic way out of bleak post-industrial Tilburg marked by cowbells, out of breath breaths, and what sound like the trumpeting of an elephant call. “War Chant” is an obsessive, liberating saga of dubbed childish voices on a tribal but cold beat and “Intoxication” closes proceedings on two lovely synth lines, one fat and wet, one thin and eerie, ending a rough, buzzy, lo-fi maximalist record on a note of haunting beauty. 1989 will be a transporting listen for anyone interested in the evolution of dance culture, and it’ll keep you dancing, with African beats layered over factory beats, and instructions delivered in broken American English. This little tape is either the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end: ‘get yourself completely out of it’.
Those of us who have been following the love affair between Bureau B and a whole host of German maestros – Schntizler, yes, but also Moebius, Dorau, and the beloved Tietchens – know to keep our ears peeled for what hovers at the next corner of the label’s production. Various legendary works of Schnitzler’s have been put out through Bureau B, but this record is compiled, and that’s important: because Schnitzler’s oeuvre is gigantic and because the compiler is Thomas Fehlmann (Palais Schaumburg, The Orb). While Fehlmann – who was intellect-struck by Schnitzler at the tender age of 22 at a lecture – curates this collection with a certain sense of responsibility towards the neophyte, he appears to do so guided lovingly by his own sensibility, and delivers a personal and very fascinating portrait of this endlessly productive maverick at the dawn of the 1980s.
Including only the canonical material relevant to him (“Das Tier”, “Fata Morgana”) and only some of the classically electroacoustic material (the majestic “Con 3.3”), Fehlmann incorporates the unexpected cinematic suggestions of “Conrad & Sohn 02”, delicate, twisted, video-gamey pieces like “21.8.86” and “Copacabana”, and some of the most diverse pieces from the Contempora series. See the clean low beats of “Contempora 9” and the eerie pulses of “Contempora 13”. While remaining firmly in awe of Schnitzler’s sense of invention above and beyond Tangerine Dream, we also get a glimpse into his humour, into a less conceptual and more narrative Schnitzler. We’re seduced, enveloped, but also winked at and sometimes invited to dance. This is a collection that really works; it illuminates the dark corners of a massive catalogue and remains full of complexity, full of surprises and full of electric interest.
There’s a lot of male kraut-kosmische around, your heart will probably jump at the thought of woman dirtying her hands with the cosmos. Alas Clara ain’t a woman, but oh my is this worth listening to. And maybe there was something behind that choice of pseudonym for late radio director, journalist, and composer Walter Bachauer: perhaps it indicated another way. In between founding the Berlin Meta Musik Festival, working with Philip Glass, recording Buddhist music, Bachauer made three records as Clara, the first two with Klaus Schulze. All of them are glassy, piercing, clever – and this one is the finest and the darkest. They used to call it ‘ethno-electronics’. In space. Sounds geeky, it’s actually sumptuous stuff. The gem opens on a concentrated, nocturama-tropicana piece with a tribal yet thin beat and an almost samba synthline and works its way through to a a closing that sounds like Florian Schneider and Ralf Hütter in a damp, heavily scented, emerald green Amazonian forest.
The whole thing is a highlight, also because the pieces are very different. “Lange Melodie Für Den Countdown” is a dense ambient piece of luminous drones (better at 33RPM), and the gorgeous “Fischer Des Meeres Der Stille” is what I can only describe as some sort of stellar analogue folk (better at 45RPM): twinkling silvery synths shiver, hesitate, and then combine into a melody which electrifies a Renaissance dance. “Landung Bei Vollmond” is an elegant motorik piece which opens up onto perhaps the most mesmerising, and most cosmic suite, “Raga Des Aufgehenden Planeten”. Luna Africana is an exuberant and very tasteful appropriation and distortion of the kosmische canon, in which the panorama changes at every new crater.
Maurizio Bianchi self-reissues 10 of his 1980s works on CD (again), which you can buy either singularly or as a ‘Mectpyo Box’ (read Mestruo, the man likes cyrillic). Not knowing where to start, I’ve chosen the monument: Symphony for a Genocide is a monument, and if you haven’t gone to pray – or cry – at that altar then maybe now is the time. Bianchi’s famed LP initially put out by Nigel ‘Nocturnal Emissions’ Ayers’s Sterile Records in 1981 is a brutal, brutally sad, desolate, awful meander through tracks named after Nazi extermination camps. It moves between rough, buzzing lo-fi textures and steely electronic screams, with a slowness, a sterness, which is horrifying and extremely moving – moments of white fuzz alternate with moments of excruciating industrial bleeps twisted, deformed and deforming. Sometimes through the valleys of pulsating noise something like a melody emerges, always in the form of a downwards whimper.
Sometimes the metallic swarm is interrupted by rattling power electronics, which seem to unravel, like some sort of breaking machine coming apart behind the trembling drones. Voices muffled through the iron-hard hiss. It’s distressing and powerful, but it’s also a few other things: a record without cruelty, with no particular fascination for violence, only a disarming kind of desolate pain. Even a ‘quiet’ noise record: of a still, frozen brutality. It’s also a very accomplished work in terms of the history of those who play with metals, tape loops and synthesizers. Bianchi masterfully joins the dots between the organic and the synthesised, between the industrial movement and goth, minimal synth, brutalist noise, without having to demonstrate anything other than what he can honestly bring as an artist – and in retrospect, he brought a lot.
From Italian nutters to Finnish nutters. Very different feel though. Arc Light Editions present their fourth offering: a bizarre, intense, delicate, difficult-but-not-that-difficult synth-jazz feast from one of the members of 1960s scandalous experimentalist collective The Sperm. A saxophonist by trade, Airaksinen couples his evident virtuosity with his instrument with an equally dexterous but especially inspired use of a Roland 808 and of Yamaha DX7 to self-produce and release a record dedicated to the 999 buddhas (he’s apparently about 100-buddhas in now) which has been gathering wide-eyed enthusiasm since its publication in 1984.
Clearly the result of some sort of solitary, quasi-religious cosmic improvisation, the record is a luminous, busy thing of brilliance, in which corners are turned and entire oceans of new aesthetics appear: though it has the laboriousness and bravura of a free jazz record, the work is toned down by its electronic curiosity, which makes for an oblique, odd record. Complex psychedelic interventions (“Sukirti”) give way to much more concentrated, almost domestic pieces; the handsome bass and modern landscapes of “Ratnasikhinas”, which almost forget about the record’s mystic intent, move into the full-flung futurism of “Kandrasuryapradipa”, epic and epic beyond jazz, psychedelia or space music. Not really a jazz record, and certainly not a new age record, this is one of those pieces of unfiltered electronic joy; a mysterious one-off which will appeal to many appetites, and is guaranteed to mature with each listen.
All selections by Flora Pitrolo